UVU Music Presents

Khemia Ensemble

Concert Hall

March 22, 2022 | 7:00 PM



Pivotal moments in our lives, the choices we make, the people and experiences we meet, all show us intersections previously unknown. They show us what’s at stake, but also what we are capable of. Intersections invites you to meditate on new beginnings and endings, the hope and grief that can accompany those events, and the intersections that mark our paths forward.


Interlude* (2022)

Regan Batten (1997)
UVU Commercial Music Major

Nocturne* (2022)

LaChelle Hansen (1985)
UVU Commercial Music Major

“Earth” from Songs of Persephone* (2020)

Stefan Freund (b. 1974)
Text by Carina Freund (b. 2007)

Interlude* (2022)

Charlie Han (1990)
UVU Commercial Music Faculty

Bite!* (2021)

Phillip Sink (b. 1982)

Meditation* (2022)

Cameron Bridston (1991)
UVU Commercial Music Major

Little Cloud* (2021)

Nicolas Lell Benavides (b. 1987)

Truth in the Well* (2022)

Maridenne Williams (1999)
UVU Commercial Music Major

Don’t Beat a Word* (2021)

Nina Shekhar (b. 1995)

Interlude* (2022)

Jared Ramos (1998)
UVU Commercial Music Major

in a field of stars* (2021)

David Biedenbender (b. 1984)
Text by Robert Fanning

I. Box with a door
II. this world of rooms
III. of endless selves
V. ever-swallowing dark


*Commissioned by Khemia Ensemble

with Emily Nelson, Guest Soprano

This performance is generously supported by the Utah Valley University School of the Arts High Impact Practice Funding Award.


About Khemia

/’khémia/ n.

1. derived from the the etymology of “chemistry” & the Ancient Greek word χημεία meaning "cast together”
2. a contemporary chamber music ensemble based in the United States

Hailed by the Columbia Daily Tribune as adding a “fresh dimension” to the concert experience, Khemia Ensemble is dedicated to reflecting broader perspectives in contemporary classical chamber music by presenting engaging performances, commissioning new works, and mentoring the next generation of musicians.

Khemia has been featured in venues and festivals including National Sawdust, the Mizzou International Composers Festival (Columbia, MO), Strange Beautiful Music (Detroit, MI), New Music Gathering, Latin IS America (East Lansing, MI), the Missouri Summer Composition Institute, and the Biennial New Music Festival (Córdoba, Argentina). As passionate artist educators, Khemia has held residencies at more than a dozen universities in North and South America including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Missouri, Tufts University, University of Arkansas, the National University of Bogotá, and the National University of Córdoba.

Committed to expanding the mixed chamber music repertoire, Khemia has commissioned and premiered over 60 works by professional, collegiate, and high school composers. Recent collaborators include Nicolas Lell Benavides, David Biedenbender, Stefan Freund, Phillip Sink, and Nina Shekhar. Khemia’s first album, Voyages, can be streamed on BandCamp.

Khemia Ensemble is Amy Petrongelli (soprano), Mary Matthews (flute), Thiago Ancelmo (clarinet), Er-Gene Kahng (violin), Eli Lara (cello), Annie Jeng (piano), Shane Jones (percussion), & Chelsea Tinsler Jones (percussion).

Note: Khemia’s name is pronounced CHEM-ee-uh, like the beginning of the word chemistry


Co-Artistic Director
Er-Gene Kahng

Co-Artistic Director
Amy Petrongelli

Director of Operations
Chelsea Tinsler Jones

Director of Production & Finance
Shane Jones


Program Notes


Stefan Freund’s Songs of Persephone is based on poetry written by his adolescent daughter, Carina, from the perspective of Greek mythology’s Persephone as a young girl and her conflicted relationship with her mother, Demeter. Stefan explains, “The poems capture the schizophrenic nature of adolescence through quickly shifting moods and attitudes. At some moments Persephone seems to contradict what she says immediately after stating it (e.g. “If I’m lucky, Well, not lucky.”). The music imitates these bipolar feelings by shifting from lush lyric lines in one moment to explosive exclamations the next. I’m used to dramatic shifts like this since I live with an adolescent girl and her mother. Sometimes I would hear arguments in my own home while I was writing about conflict in the piece. In another autobiographical element of the piece, the performers take on certain personalities that are associated with people in my family.”


Text by Carina Freund

I go to earth. 
No one usually sees me…
But, if anyone did see me, 
I would say I was a mortal. 
Just like the people, 
Who live down on earth. 

When I go down to earth, 
I get flowers, for mother. 
To make her hair look pretty. 

I go there
To fetch water, 
From the well, 
For her drinks. 

I fetch her asphodel 
From the meadow 
For her food. 

I even pour wheat on the fields 
So she won’t have to. 

But the reason why I go down there, 
Is to get away from her insults. 
From her tantrums. 
From her tantrums. 
From her complaining. 

And I pick flowers, for me

Stefan Freund is a Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri and holds composition degrees from Indiana University and the Eastman School of Music. Freund is the recipient of prizes from BMI, ASCAP, MTNA, MU, and the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has received commissions from the Barlow Endowment, Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Lincoln Center Festival, the New York Youth Symphony, Town Hall Seattle, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Sheldon Concert Hall, among others. His music has been performed by ensembles such as the St. Louis Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Copenhagen Philharmonic. Freund is the founding cellist of the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, described by the New York Times as “the future of classical music.” In addition, he serves as the Artistic Director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative and the Music Director of the Columbia Civic Orchestra.



Phillip Sink’s Bite! captures his personal experiences with microaggressions growing up in the Southern United States. He explains, “Words can bite. Most of us have experience being told something or receiving unsolicited advice that comes across as insulting. The comments can come from anyone—friends, family, and coworkers, strangers in seemingly polite conversation. The hard truth is that people in marginalized communities are frequently on the receiving end of these types of comments. Bite explores the nuances of simple words and phrases that can get under your skin—like a pesky mosquito surreptitiously landing on your arm to feed. You don’t notice them at first until after the itchy welt forms , and you become aware of their presence in the environment.”


Text by Phillip Sink

Words can bite
like mosquitoes
landing on bare skin
digging their parasitic tendrils
underneath the flesh
bite after bite.

Now, these words come in many different forms like casual comments, questions, backhanded compliments, and unsolicited advice. In the next few minutes, we are going to examine several of these microaggressions starting with the common example:

“Where are you from?” - “Here.”
“Where are you from?” - “The United States.”
“No. Where are you really from?”

It is undeniable that the addition of the word “really” in “Where are you really from?” completely changes the context of the question to mean: You do not belong here.

Now imagine resigning to the inevitable of being seen, yet not seen; transparent, invisible.

Let’s look at several more examples:

“You look so pretty when you smile.”
“You are so courteous - you are so articulate. You don’t sound like a gay person!”
“You should smile more.”
“Do you work here?”
“You shouldn’t eat that.”
“Do you have kids?”
“Why don’t you have a girlfriend? You haven’t found the right woman yet!”
“You should smile more.”
“You shouldn’t eat that.”
“Have you tried the Keto diet?”
“You speak English so very well!”

No one can measure the weight of words,
the lingering sting may fade
but the accumulation of scars never seem to go away. 


Phillip Sink composes vocal, instrumental, and audiovisual works for video and electronics. He seeks to combine the expressive power of timbre and texture with an eclectic approach to harmony and form, which is born from his interests in classical and popular music styles. His music embraces themes of social awareness, human experience, and science. He received many awards including the Hermitage Prize awarded by the Aspen Music Festival, the Best Music Submission Award at the 2015 International Computer Music Festival, and three Indiana University Dean’s Prizes. He has also presented many electroacoustic works at major conferences. He earned a Doctorate of Music in Music Composition at the Jacobs School of Music. He is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he serves as the head of the Composition and Technology Area.



Nicolas Lell Benavides’ Little Cloud is a lullaby to Lalo, his newborn son born in early 2021. He describes the conception of the piece, “Growing up in New Mexico I always admired the century old Rio Grande Cottonwood trees in my parents’ yard. I loved their leaves, their twisted trunks, their imposing bark, and most of all, the flurries of cotton covered seeds they dropped in the summertime. Just before Lalo was born, I planted a Rio Grande Cottonwood tree for him. The trees I loved so dearly as a child were planted decades before I was born. Planting any tree is a gift to those that come after, but planting an alamo (Cottonwood tree) with its size considerations, cotton seeds, and time to maturity is a statement of hope that there will be a future in which children will see a natural world as healthy as the one we grew up in. Is there a better metaphor for parenting? We must plant seeds and care for things that will be in their prime long after we’re gone.”

I give my thanks to Khemia Ensemble for giving me the space to write something that meant so much to me. Writing this while learning to be a parent has been humbling, and their patience and support has been so appreciated. I am deeply grateful to Maggie, who has become the most dedicated mother to Lalo and who I love all the more for it. Most of all, I send my love to mijito Lalito, for whom this song is dedicated.
-- Nicolas Lell Benavides


Text by Nicolas Lell Benavides

Little dreams on little clouds
Are falling from the trees
Little seeds as light as air
Caught in a summer breeze

Little dreams on little clouds
Are floating down to earth
One to kiss you on the nose
To celebrate your birth

Each Cottonwood was once a little dream:
Improbable as snowfall in the summer.
I planted one to dream with you, and
Guide you home when I am gone.
Each Cottonwood was once a little dream.

Little dreams on little clouds
Are falling from the trees
Little seeds as light as air
Caught in a summer breeze

Little dreams on little clouds
Make pillows in the grass
And if you want one for your nap
All you have to do is ask.

Each Cottonwood was once a little dream:
Improbable as snowfall in the summer.
I planted one to dream with you, and
Guide you home when I am gone.
Each Cottonwood was once a little dream.

So dream of the impossible
A blanket made of summer snow
Your tree will grow and so will you
A little dream come true. 


Nicolas Lell Benavides’ (Ben-ah-VEE-des) music has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and cooking up a “jaunty score [with] touches of cabaret, musical theater and Latin dance.” (Tim Smith, OPERA NEWS). He has worked with groups such as the Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, New Opera West, West Edge Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Friction Quartet, Khemia Ensemble, and Nomad Session.

He was a fellow at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab and the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. Nicolas was the first ever Young Artist Composer in Residence at The Glimmerglass Festival and has been a fellow at the Del Mar International Composers Symposium. Nicolas has studied at Santa Clara University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.



Nina Shekhar’s Don’t Beat a Word is sonically and personally influenced by her experience as a first-generation Indian-American with influences of Bollywood melodies and American pop music sensibilities. The last stanza of her lyrics reads, “I wash the grit, bleach the stains, shrink the fit, my color fades, zip my lips, this is who I ‘ought to be.” In a recent conversation about the work, Nina described her struggles to find the best way to present herself in different environments as she often feels “too brown” or “too Indian”. Don’t Beat a Word is an assertion of being true to her identity despite other people’s perceptions. Simply stated in her score, “this is not a breakup song”.


Text by Nina Shekhar
hush my heart
don’t beat a word
don’t let it burn
still my lung
don’t breathe the bait
don’t let it brown
murmur unheard
a lethal whisper
to your ghostly drum
pounding away
how can I stay
when I’m round
on a flat earth

I peel it off
this dirty shell
rip the threads
hair by hair
bald and bare
the way you want to see
I wash the grit and bleach the stains
shrink the fit
my color fades
zip my lips this is who I ought to be


Nina Shekhar explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works.  Described as “vivid” (Washington Post) and “surprises and delights aplenty” (LA Times), her music has been performed by Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Albany Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The Crossing, and Alarm Will Sound.  Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Library of Congress. Current projects include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Grand Rapids Symphony. She is currently serving as Composer-in-Residence of Young Concert Artists.



David Biedenbenders’ in a field of starsexplores the processing of the composer’s grief during the pandemic. He writes, “Physical spaces help mark events in our memory—the smell, the feel, the look of a place is as integral to our memory as the thing we are trying to remember. It has been so peculiar to occupy the same physical spaces for such long periods of time—working, cooking, cleaning, playing, sleeping, creating in the same few rooms for months. As a result, in some ways, I feel like my memory of this time is jumbled, an endless series of experiences in self-similar rooms, and I cannot quite grasp its architecture.”


Text by Robert Fanning
1. Box with a door 
Box with a door
so being curious
you enter
not knowing eternity waits to find you
Beyond me, beyond you

2. this world of rooms 
if we believe
we are not captive
in this world of rooms
in this world of dreams
in what holds us
inside the mirror

3. of endless selves
what will we make of forever
in a field of endless selves
of stars
we may still harvest
inside the mirror
if we believe
in this world of rooms
in what holds us
ever open

5.  ever-swallowing dark 
[inside the mirror
the ever-swallowing dark]


David Biedenbender has written music for the concert stage as well as for dance and multimedia collaborations. He has had the privilege of collaborating with and being commissioned by renowned performers and ensembles, including Alarm Will Sound, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, the Stenhammar String Quartet, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band, Philharmonie Baden-Baden (Germany), VocalEssence, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble, among others. He is currently Associate Professor of Composition in the College of Music at Michigan State University, and he holds degrees in composition from the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University.


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