Technology Takes Center Stage at the College of Performing Arts
Levy Lorenzo has taught engineers how to build instruments and musicians how to code, enabling them to create new music and performances with technology. A self-proclaimed artist-engineer, Lorenzo regularly invents new instruments, composes, performs electronic music, plays percussion, and designs interactive electronic art installations.
This fall, Lorenzo joined the College of Performing Arts (CoPA) as an assistant professor of creative technologies. Lorenzo will spearhead the effort to bring together the growing number of faculty members and students who are using technology in their performances and teaching, with the aim of shaping this area of practice into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
“I’ve always envisioned an academic position where I could teach technology practice to performers, so that I could help empower their creativity with technology,” says Lorenzo. “The CoPA students are virtuosos already, but with technology, we can enable them to expand their pathways.”
During his first semester on campus, Lorenzo has been immersing himself in the CoPA environment by researching the College’s current academic offerings, including William Cusick’s creative technology courses at the School of Drama; creating proposals for new classes; conducting listening tours with faculty members and students; substitute teaching courses; and attending concerts, events, and final presentations. In spring 2020, Lorenzo will teach two new courses that have been developed for students from all 3 schools within CoPA: Beep Lab Ensemble, in which students will learn to create handmade electronic sound instruments for live performance, and Electronic Composition Lab, which will focus on design for custom electronic sounds and processing.
“I hope to use creative technologies as a unifying agent to build connections and collaboration between the three CoPA schools,” says Lorenzo. “All of the students at Jazz, Drama, and Mannes are storytellers with their own specific vocabulary, so I’ll use hardware and software tools to extend their voices.”
Since the creation of CoPA in 2015, the school has been training artists and musicians and other performers to succeed in a rapidly evolving musical landscape. New programs have been developed to address artists’ need for business and entrepreneurial skills, including the Master of Arts in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship and the Performer- Composer Master of Music, which launches in fall 2020. With a greater emphasis on creative technologies, there will also be more opportunities for collaborative projects between CoPA and the broader New School community as well.
“The leadership at CoPA and its three schools rely heavily on a particular question when we make changes to programs: what do our graduates need to know, understand, and be able to do in the real world upon graduation,” says Richard Kessler, dean of Mannes and executive dean of CoPA. “What is clear to us is that the broad use of technology is growing in myriad ways and professional performing artists need to have knowledge and skills in order to be successful. We see technology as a core value and are super excited by the prospect of every CoPA student having basic skills and knowledge, with many going way beyond the basics to embrace the use of technology as part of their core artistic process.”
By leading CoPA’s efforts to develop new courses that blend technology and performance, Lorenzo hopes to open up new artistic opportunities and career options for performers and musicians who might not have realized how they could incorporate technology into their practice. As someone who started his own career as a classical percussionist but also received formal training as an electronics engineer, Lorenzo knows firsthand how technology and performance can be combined to create a unique voice.
“All modern artists should have practical exposure to this medium in the form of fundamental skills as well as opportunities to explore more specialized methods of coding and handmade electronics,” he says. “We are giving students an opportunity to stand out with their music, which will allow them to find something only they can do.”
Lorenzo is also a core member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, one of the world’s leading contemporary music groups. The Ensemble recently announced a new educational partnership with CoPA, where the group will develop new programs and curricula that give CoPA artists the tools and resources to bridge the gap between the collegiate and professional worlds.
“I think CoPA is the only school that had the vision to wholistically integrate technology into their performance curriculum, and is supporting and developing the work necessary to create change,” says Lorenzo. “I’m so excited to support a new generation of technology-empowered artists and performers.”