Composition contest winners to be pictured in ASO concerts
As Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, I am always looking for new projects we can do and ways that we can partner with other arts organizations in the Lehigh Valley.
Creating new music for today’s audiences is one of my passions, and is one way that we can reflect our times and leave a legacy of music for future generations.
It is challenging for composers today to have their works performed by a symphony orchestra, and so we created the 2018 Composer’s Contest with several age categories to create opportunities for their music to be heard.
The composers were instructed to select a painting or piece of art from the Allentown Art Museum’s permanent collection and to write a three-minute piece for an orchestra that captured that work of art.
This is similar to what the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky did when he wrote “Pictures at an Exhibition” for solo piano in 1874 after visiting an art exhibit of works by his good friend Victor Hartmann.
The new pieces were submitted to an adjudication committee of Ted Wiprud, Education Director of the New York Philharmonic; Larry Lipkis, composer in residence at Moravian College, and myself. The categories were grades K-8, High School, College, and Adult.
From the contestants’ entries, we selected seven winners and 19 honorable mentions. The seven winning pieces were seamed together into a larger composition with a segue, “Promenade,” created by Larry Lipkis. The completed work will be performed by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra as the opening piece for the “Pictures at An Exhibition” concerts, 7:30 p.m. March 10 and 3 p.m. March 11, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
During the two weeks preceding the concert, the artwork and winning composers’ midi sound files will be available for people to view and listen to at the Allentown Art Museum, Fifth and Court streets, Allentown.
I find it fascinating how a composer can take a visual idea and then capture it in music. The choice of instruments and the way the composers wrote was all so different. Two of the winners even selected the same painting, but they each portrayed it in totally different ways.
Here is a list of the winners and the art work that they selected as inspiration for their compositions:
K- 8 Winner: Yanfei (Sophie) Wen
Artwork: Mary Hilda Ruth Bauermeister, “Untitled”
Sophie We, 12, a seventh grade student at Southern Lehigh Middle School, Center Valley, Upper Saucon Township, has won national composition competitions of NAFME in 2015, NFMC in 2016, and was a finalist of the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards in 2015-2017.
High School Winner: Yash Pazhianur
Artwork: Edward Moran, “The Sinking of the Cumberland by the Merrimac”
Yash Pazhianu, 14, a ninth grade student at Princeton Day School, Princeton, N.J., is in his second-year as a student at The Juilliard School pre-college, majoring in composition under Dr. Ira Taxin and minoring in piano with Elisha Abas.
College Winner: Colin Worrich
Artwork: Colin Campbell Cooper, “Columbus Circle, New York”
Colin Worrich is a recent graduate of The University of Hartford Hartt School of Music, where he studied trombone with John Rojak and Haim Avitsur. The native of Bethlehem he grew up playing music in the Moravian church and community ensembles.
Adult Winners: (Listed alphabetically by last name)
Composer: Nathan Ball
Artwork: Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, “Adoration of the Shepherds”
Nathan Ball is pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studies with Kevin Puts. He has studied with Michael Gandolfi at the New England Conservatory, where he received a Master of Music; Thomas Oboe Lee at Boston College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts, and Robert Aldridge at the Brevard Music Center.
Composer: Ben Goldberg
Artwork: Edward Moran, “The Sinking of the Cumberland by the Merrimac”
Ben Goldberg, based in New York City, studied composition at Berklee College of Music, where he received the Film Scoring Achievement Award. He’s Composer-in-Residence for the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. His compositions have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Central Ohio Symphony, and Reno Philharmonic Youth Strings Symphonia.
Composer: Jorge Sosa
Artwork: Hans Moller, “Sunrise”
Jorge Sosa, a Mexican-born composer, is an Associate Professor of Music at Molloy College, composer in residence with NYUNME during the 2015-2016 concert season and a guest artist at the Difrazzione Festival in Florence, Italy, in 2017.
Composer: Heeyoung Yan
Artwork: Ando Hiroshige, “Shono, haku-u” (“Driving Rain”)
Heeyoung Yang, originally from South Korea, received a Doctor of Musical Arts and a Masters of Music in music composition from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, working with Joel Hoffman, Michael Fiday, and Mara Helmuth, and a Masters of Music and Bachelors of Music from the Yonsei University in South Korea, studying with Chan Hae Lee.
The 19 composers who received honorable mentions are:
Harold Black, Bethlehem; Daniel Cho, Wyncote, Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County; Derek Cooper, New York, N.Y.; Charis Bean Duke, Philadelphia; Isabella Dussias, Hillsborough, N.J.; Jonathan Graybill, Willow Street, Lancaster County; Michelle Grosser, Gettysburg; Lars Halldin; Norristown; Kevin Laskey, Philadelphia; Craig Levesque, Bloomsbury, N.J.; Beata Moon, Forest Hills, N.Y.; Craig Morris, New City, N.Y.; Patrick Oswald, Bethlehem; Peter Paulsen, West Chester; Steve Reisteter, Bethlehem; Chatori Shimizu, Pittsburgh; Spencer Snyder, New York, N.Y.; Roger Stubblefield, Glen Ridge, N.J., and Rhys Williams, Emmaus.
Many of the composition winners are expected to attend the Allentown Symphony March 10 and 11 concerts.
The concert program includes the First Place winner for the ASO 2017 National Schadt String Competition, Tengyue Zhang, performing “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaqun Rodrigo on classical guitar.
Tengyue Zhang, originally from China, has won numerous international competitions on the guitar. He is a Masters candidate at the Juilliard School, New York City. His fluid technique and beautiful sound have attracted rave reviews wherever he performs.
The program’s second half features Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” with the East Coast premiere of an animated film by faculty and students of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
With all of these things happening in the same concert, the concerts will be an event that will change the way you listen to and think about music.
“Meet the Artist” with Allentown Symphony Music Director-Conductor Diane Wittry, Schadt Competition winner classical guitarist Tengue Zhang, and ASO conducting fellow Ismael Sandoval, noon-1 p.m. March 9, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. The talk is free and open to the public. Bring your own lunch to enjoy during the talk and question and answer session.
Diane Wittry is Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Ridgewood Symphony, N.J., and author, “Beyond the Baton” and “Baton Basics” (both, Oxford University Press).
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall Box Office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715. Free student tickets are available for Allentown Symphony Orchestra concerts.