nienteForte is an contemporary music concert series founded in 2011 by Mendel Lee, co-directed by Mendel Lee and Max Dulaney.

In the first semester of my masters degree, I was in a graduate-level contemporary music class with about 30 graduate students. I remember the class vividly because aside from the small handful of composition majors, almost everyone – the teacher included – had a high disdain for contemporary music. Musical examples played would be laughed at. Twelve-tone analysis would be glossed over because “who cares about this noise?” John Cage’s music was passed off as ravings of a lunatic.

The suppressive atmosphere of that class was heavy on my spirit. Becoming a composition major saved my undergraduate career, and I was excited about going to a graduate school program where I could share my newly discovered passion and enthusiasm for all music with my peers. Instead, my life path was brutally stomped on by my classmates with music educations degrees, some with masters degrees. I remember thinking to myself, “These are future high school and college teachers that will have a lasting impression on their students who could subsequently have lasting impressions on their students decades later.”

It was one of the best classes I could have taken. Because I stopped being a mere contemporary music creator and supporter and I became a contemporary music advocate.

The seeds planted from that class is nienteForte’s true origin story: a concert series based on my personal belief that contemporary music of all shapes and sizes has the the ability to resonate with a diverse populace and that the gap between contemporary art and its audience can be bridged with an open and inviting mindset on both sides. It is my sincere hope that by coming into these concerts as a disparate and diverse group of performers, composers, and listeners, we will all walk away at its conclusion as a more unified community that believes that contemporary music and art may have its work that we individually love or hate, but regardless it is something that belongs to all of us collectively and is therefore deserving of our acceptance, respect, and love.