A man stands on stage and addresses a crowd in front of him.

Clay Gonzalez presents on stage.

Clay Gonzalez is a composer and music director based in Southeast Michigan. He founded and developed Regenerate!a project dedicated to producing site-specific “regenerative immersions” that welcome people of varying backgrounds to participate in communal sound-making. Through this work, he has developed a new system of notating, composing, orchestrating, rehearsing, and presenting music in ways that enact and promote the ensemble’s humanist values. His immersions have been presented by the University Musical Society, The Third Place [MUSICFEST], and Strange Beautiful Music (New Music Detroit.). Clay was a Monson Arts Resident in November of 2023.

1) What was the best part for you about being at Monson Arts? And what, if anything, did it teach you about your own creative process? 

For me, the best part of my time at Monson was getting to know the other artists. My cohort had a wonderful blend of folks at different stages of life and their careers, and as someone who’s just starting out in the professional world, hearing about everyone’s experiences gave me a lot of inspiration and perspective. I left the residency feeling very excited about all the possibilities that come with a life in the arts, with a renewed sense of purpose. 

Winter sunsets over Lake Hebron were a close, close second.

2) Did you start a project while in residency and/or were you able to “complete” or wrap-up a work during your time here? What’s been your focus since you left Monson Arts? 

I finished one big project at Monson and started another. I completed an essay about my main creative project, The Regenerate! Orchestra, outlining the values and practices that guide it. This was the largest piece of writing I’ve ever completed, and I know I would have never gotten it done without dedicated time to focus on it. 

I also had a side project in residence, where every day I’d look at the view out my studio window and notate an entry in an “orchestral weather diary,” where I’d try to capture the view in sound. After I left, I spent the next three months intensively working them into a cello concerto that I premiered in March. The piece is a bit of a love letter to the town of Monson and its environs; those curious can listen to it here: https://theregenerateorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/stick-season.

3) Name 3-5 writers, poets, artists, books, musicians, or visual works that continue to inspire you.

Julius Eastman, Woody Guthrie, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, and Laurie Anderson.