Mary Rowell: The Mavericks Are Coming!

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The mavericks are coming! The mavericks are coming! There was a day when hearing that cry would make people run for cover because they knew that a stampede of unbranded cattle – probably owned by rancher Sam Maverick – was going to run through town. But weʼre not really talking about runaway cows right now, promise!

The term "maverick" has been incorporated into the English language to mean unorthodox and/or independent. It's a perfect fit when used in the context of describing a certain strand of American composition. Some other synonyms associated with maverick are: individualist, nonconformist, free spirit, unorthodox person, original, eccentric, rebel, dissenter, dissident, enfant terrible, cowboy and loose canon. Can you imagine any of these adjectives describing any of this yearʼs festival composers? Be careful... that is a trick question!

The American Mavericks Festival is bringing into focus the innovative spirit of the men and women who have had the courage to experiment and explore beyond accepted current musical conventions. Though weʼre mostly focusing on composers, there are performers among us who have stepped up to the plate to collaborate with these composers and to help develop and perform their innovative new ideas.

We have evolved our techniques over the years because of what we have been asked to do with our instruments. As we have looked for ways to create a sound that imitates nature or machinery or at least not anything ever accepted as idiomatic, we have learned new things about what our instruments can do, and what music-making can be. And then there is being able to properly render vernacular styles of playing - something that has become more prominent in todayʼs concert music.

One thing Iʼve noticed over the years is that the boundaries where one style or genre begins and another ends have become more and more permeable over time. Itʼs common to talk about groove and feel in a rehearsal of an Ivy League composerʼs newest piece. Itʼs normal to use Italian terms like pizzicato or sul pont in a rock band. The boundaries are collapsing, and I canʼt help but think that itʼs because of the mavericks! Yay! 

I look forward to spending time with you this month sharing music of some of my favorite American Mavericks, both young and old. So tune in to Mad Maryʼs mix of March Madness! 

Starting March 8, Hear Mary Rowell weekdays from 12-2 pm and 9-11 pm on Q2 Music. For more information on American Mavericks, visit