Bryan Schumann is one of three winners of Zeitgeist’s 18th annual Eric Stokes Song Contest. The Eric Stokes Song Contest is sponsored by Zeitgeist in memory of late composer Eric Stokes; the contest was designed to encourage and celebrate amateur composers throughout the Twin Cities. Bryan's winning composition "Nothing Avenue" will be performed on Zeitgeist's Playing it Close to Home concert series Feb. 22-24. We asked Bryan a few questions to learn more about his music and his process of composing.

You perform as an improviser with Those Who Make Sound and The Eclectic Ensemble. How does your experience as an improviser impact you as a composer?

By playing a very large amount of improvisation over the past few years, and playing with numerous different artists with electronic, non-traditional, and even homemade instruments, I have discovered hundreds of amazing new sounds that I have begun to employ in classical, written-out compositions. Also, I am now more open to the idea of letting the performer take more liberties when it comes to performing my music. I used to make sure that every note was marked with exact articulation, dynamic, and phrase markings; I was a micro-manager. Now I have come to realize that great performers are going to give great performances regardless. The whole experience has been very freeing. One of my newest works, Sunday for solo electric guitar, uses looping software and a number of FX pedals, and allows the performer to start and stop each new phrase whenever they so desire creating an expandable form. I've elaborated on this extensively in my blog at
“Nothing Avenue” was released on your debut album “Everybody Wants to Know.” How did this project come to be and what was the process like?
The songs on the "Everybody Wants to Know" album were written over a period of about 3 years (from 2006 through 2008). When I began writing these songs I was studying music at Augsburg College and collaborating in writing music and playing electric guitar in the rock band The Art Heist; I thought it would be fun to write a song or two for just voice and classical guitar. About a year later, when I was over 5 songs in, I began playing the songs in coffee shops around the Twin Cities for fun. It was shortly thereafter I started jamming with my friend Bjorn Villesvik who plays upright bass and my girlfriend Kate DeVoe Schumann (now wife), who plays trumpet. In the fall of 2008 I approached my friend Michael Lannier and asked if he would be interested in helping me record and produce an album of 10 songs. He ended up playing percussion, synthesizer, and singing harmonies on a number of the songs. In the spring of 2009 I was awarded the American Composer Forum subito Grant to press and release the album. Writing those songs, collaborating and performing with my friends, and releasing the album was an absolutely amazing experience that really changed my life.

Zeitgeist: Playing it Close to Home
February 22-24
Tickets and more information at: