Composers Festival spotlight: Celka Ojakangas

Resident composer Celka Ojakangas comes to the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival from Los Angeles, CA, where she currently is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, while also serving as a part-time professor of music at Occidental College.

The festival also will be a homecoming of sorts for Ojakangas, a Missouri native who was raised in Springfield and earned her bachelor’s degree at Drury University before heading west.

Active as a composer, conductor, and performer, Ojakangas (pictured) creates music that “plays with hybridism and recontextualization, intentionally exploring and blurring the boundaries between culturally-defined genres for a resultant fun and eclectic palette of textures, rhythms, and grooves.”

Gleaning musical ideas from her collaborative work as a violist in symphonies, new music ensembles, jazz groups, and rock bands, Ojakangas composes “with the intention of bringing creativity and play to the forefront of the listener’s and performer’s experiences.”

For the MICF, she has written a new work titled “Sploopy,” which will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the “World Premieres I” online concert on Tuesday, July 27.

Ojakangas’ compositions have been premiered and commissioned by artists including yMusic, Hocket, Kaufman School of Dance, the Raleigh Symphony, Portland State University Opera, New Opera West, Blackhouse Collective, Bantam Winds, Thornton Symphony Orchestra, and Thornton Wind Ensemble.

In addition to being selected for the MICF, she also has collaborated with musicians at the Oh My Ears! Festival, and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium. Other honors include the Thornton School’s Hans J. Salter Endowed Music Award, Opera America’s Discovery Grant for Female Composers, the American Prize for Wind Band, the IAWM Alex Shapiro Prize Honorable Mention, and multiple finalist awards in ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer’s Competition.

You can hear samples of Celka Ojakangas’ music on her SoundCloud page and in the embedded video windows below.

“Revival” premiered February 20, 2019 by the USC Thornton Symphony with Dr. Donald Crockett conducting.

“Bellman Strut,” recorded by Blackhouse Collective during their 2019 SoCal Intermedia Workshop, featuring Kimberly Dunning (clarinets), Daniel Lemer (flutes), Hunter Long (recorders), Kenken Gorder (trumpet), Jacob Elkin (bass trombone), Jordan Curcuruto (percussion), Joanna Chen (percussion), John Smigelski (percussion), Zoe Hartenbaum (viola), Dustin Seo (cello), and Rebecca Lawrence (bass),

“HOCKET Joined the Meeting,” recorded by Hocket Ensemble as part of “#What2020SoundsLike,” a project of miniature commissions with a quick turnaround time.