From the Podium: Hugh Wolff

Maestro Hugh Wolff is among the leading conductors of his generation. He has appeared with all the major North American orchestras and is in much demand throughout Europe. Wolff was Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, as well as Principal Conductor and then Music Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Born in Paris to American parents, Wolff spent his early years in London and Washington DC and holds degrees from Harvard and Peabody Conservatory. Wolff and his wife, Judith Kogan, have three sons and live in Boston where he is the Director of Orchestras and Chair of Orchestral Conducting at the New England Conservatory.

Hugh Wolff

USUO: What are you looking forward to regarding the program (Copland Symphony No. 3/Fanfare for the Common Man and Beethoven Emperor Concerto)? What should the audience listen for?
 The two Copland pieces are related.  After the great success of the Fanfare for the Common Man, written in 1942 as part of a patriotic, wartime effort, Copland used it as the basis for the last movement of his Third Symphony, finished in 1946.  One of the most striking moments in the symphony is when the music of the Fanfare emerges very quietly from the end of the slow movement.  It is not the brass but the flutes, clarinets and harps who first play this familiar music in the symphony.  From there, the brass take over and the Fanfare proper is heard in full.  I like to program the Fanfare at the beginning of any concert where I conduct the Third Symphony, so the audience hears this great music twice, first at the beginning and then just before the end of the concert.

USUO: Have you worked with Watts before?
André Watts and I have performed together many times over the years, but it has been quite a while since the last time.  I always look forward to working with him and am excited about seeing him again at these concerts.

USUO: Do you approach concertos differently than other orchestral works when studying and preparing for a performance?
I believe the conductor’s role in any concerto is to serve the soloist.  I work to make the soloist’s experience as comfortable and as successful as possible, even if I disagree with the soloist’s ideas.  But with André, I expect to have a real meeting of the minds and hearts.  We have performed this concerto together before.

USUO: How many batons do you bring with you to any given performance?
 I travel with two batons.  They are both made of carbon fiber and seem pretty indestructible.  I haven’t broken one in years.

USUO: Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
 I eat in the mid-afternoon (protein and carbs) and then not again until after the concert.  A nap follows, then some quiet study.

USUO: Do you have anything else planned for your visit in Salt Lake City?
 I may visit the Family History Library again.  I am a typical American: one-quarter German Jewish, one-quarter Ulster Scot, and one-half Italian!  In past visits, I was excited to find the ship manifests of two of my grandparents’ journeys to Ellis Island.

USUO: You’ve spent a significant amount of time conducting professional orchestras, what drew you to working with students at the New England Conservatory?
 After many years of traveling and giving concerts all over the world, the idea of working in one place with younger, aspiring musicians was very attractive.  I think it is natural at a certain age, to think about the next generation and what you can do to help them achieve their potential.


USUO: Do you have any hobbies?
 I enjoy cooking, reading, and playing Scrabble with my wife.  She’s a writer as well as a musician and a terrific Scrabble competitor!

USUO: Any pets?

USUO: What was the last piece/band/composer you listened to? What do you listen to outside of the classical music realm?
 My three sons occasionally introduce me to an Indie group that I like, but my musical head is pretty full, so I don’t often listen to music to relax.

 USUO: Do you have any advice for aspiring conductors?
 The repertoire for conductors is vast.  Work tirelessly to master as much of it as possible and then work some more!  Go to rehearsals and concerts and watch orchestras and conductors in action.  If you can, prepare for these rehearsals as though you were going to conduct them, and see if the conductor and orchestra do what you would have done.  You may learn both what to do and what not to do!


To see Hugh Wolff in action, check out his upcoming performances with the Utah Symphony and guest pianist André Watts. March 6-7 at 8 p.m. at Abravanel Hall.  For more information and tickets visit the Utah Symphony webpage.


Becoming a Professional: Travis Peterson

The road to becoming a professional musician can take many unexpected turns. The journey is filled with both triumphs and failures, and each musician has a success story of their own. In this series, members of the Utah Symphony share the ups and the downs of their personal journey to becoming a professional musician and what it takes to win an orchestral audition.

“I wasn’t interested in orchestra,” said Travis Peterson, who grew up on a dairy farm in Milaca, Minnesota where he and his cousins would buzz on the rubber hoses like a trumpet mouthpiece above the milking parlor. “I really wanted to be a band conductor. I didn’t want to perform.” Travis picked up the trumpet at the age of 10 and dove into the world of music. He was the top chair trumpet in the highest band in school, played tenor sax in another band and sang in the show choir. Along with his school marching band and pep band, Travis participated in Drum Corps, a semi-professional marching band of sorts in Madison, WI for 6 years. “I was obsessed with band. I was in the band room before school, ate my lunch in there, and then I would go there after school to practice and hang out. That was like my domain.”

Travis Peterson

His “musical but not musician” parents were supportive and encouraging of Travis’ trumpet playing. And would drive him to lessons with Robert Dorer, Second Trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, but he was still not interested in an orchestral career. His band conductors and directors challenged and pushed Travis to get a performance degree in college. At the time he recalls, “not really understanding that you could have a career as a performing musician” and wanted to be a band director. “My middle school band director and high school band director were really inspirational and I just really looked up to them. For it being a small town I had really great…mentors and teachers… they encouraged me and challenged me and pushed me in ways that I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself.” Senior year came along and Travis was accepted into all four schools he applied to. His top choice was St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts school, but after discussing with his parents he landed at Indiana University in the Jacobs School of Music, which ended up being a great fit.

Travis “was in his element” participating in marching band and pep band and attending every football and basketball game all four years. “I still miss doing that stuff. It was just fun. You get to be a part of this really fun energy at games…I wish that there were adult pep bands!” He studied with Edmund Cord, coincidentally former principal trumpet of the Utah Symphony, the same position that Travis would win years later. He pushed Travis but, “I just didn’t have an interest in orchestra… I liked all that unconventional, not classical type playing.” The biggest turn off of orchestral playing for him was transposing. “If I’m playing Bb trumpet and a C is on the page I’m reading it as a Bb. So everything is a step lower. I was so frustrated [with transposing] and didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t interested in it. I wasn’t engaged in that.”

Travis Peterson

After four years, Travis graduated with a degree in Music Education but in his last semester during student teaching he realized he did not want to be a teacher. “It didn’t have the appeal to me that I thought it was going to.” So Travis moved to Lubbock, Texas to be with his now wife, Andrea, and started looking into the performance route. He waited on tables in a Mexican restaurant while he applied and auditioned for graduate schools that spring.

Travis was accepted into two of the five music schools and conservatories he applied to: New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory. “I really wanted to go to the University of Maryland. But I didn’t get in there… I was heartbroken about University of Maryland, but I got into NEC and Boston Conservatory.” Andrea and Travis moved to Boston that fall where He earned his Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory of Music studying with Ben Wright and Tom Rolfs, both members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who “whipped me into shape.” Tom Rolfs was fresh off the audition circuit having recently won Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet position. “If it weren’t for the time and attention that Tom gave me, I don’t think that I would have been as successful as I have been.” Travis was launched into the world of orchestral music through listening to recordings. Ben Wright gave Andrea, Travis’ wife, “a big list of great recordings of pieces that I should know – all the great brass pieces.” Andrea gave all of them to Travis for Christmas and he started listening nonstop. “Being exposed to that helped turn me on to orchestral playing. I still listen…all the time. On the bus today I was listening to Mahler 3. I listen to all kinds of stuff. I use it as inspiration to keep rooted in why I love what we do.”


Post grad school, Travis and Andrea stayed in Boston. He attended summer music festivals including Tanglewood Music Center and National Repertory Orchestra, and free-lanced with many local orchestras around Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  All these were stepping stones leading to his career as a principal trumpet player.  Travis worked various jobs at restaurants and grocery stores while musically he jumped into orchestral playing whole-heartedly. “A person’s best bet is just getting in there and playing. Not being told what to do. Just get in there and get your feet wet and just play. Those have been the most beneficial experiences I’ve had in my growth from student into professional.”  Travis entered into a “whole new ball game” as he started taking auditions for professional orchestras. “It’s like a solo recital but you are playing orchestral excerpts…everything is on display just like a solo recital would be. But there’s a lot more at stake.”

Travis advanced to the semi-final round in the fall of 2009 at the audition for associate principal trumpet in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “I was just floored about that. Just to have that as a vote of confidence means a ton. Something like that helps everything.” The winner of the audition at that time was a current member in the New World Symphony and left a vacancy that Travis was invited to fill.

Andrea and Travis drove down the coast to Miami in January 2010 looking forward to their next adventure. New World symphony helped Travis get his “feet wet with a lot of repertoire” and helped him make connections in an environment that fostered a higher level of growth than his alma maters. This proved to be a turning point in Travis’ quest to win an orchestra job. Through NWS Travis worked with Don Greene and Dr. Noa Kageyama regarding performance anxiety and sports psychology. “I skyped with Noa once or twice a week. He helped me learn how to handle my nerves at auditions. I worked with him all summer. He had me keep a journal and write down a practice log with what I was feeling about stuff. I kept diligent notes…I was just reading it the other day. They are still valuable to review.” That following fall Travis had his first opportunity to implement these knew performance psychology practices in an actual audition.

Travis Peterson

He advanced to the finals for the San Francisco Section Trumpet chair. “That was the beginning for me for throwing down at auditions.” Travis was only two years away from winning Principal Trumpet in Utah.

Similar to throwing himself into marching band, playing, and listening, Travis threw himself into auditioning. He decided to take every full time orchestra audition that came up. “For me… the only way to get more comfortable with the audition process is to take as many as I can. You are not going to get the same feeling in a mock audition because nothing is riding on a mock. You’re not going to feel the same tugs and pulls you would feel sitting on the stage in Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco sitting in this room playing for some of your friends. It’s just not the same.” He auditioned all over America – Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, among others. He became frustrated with doing so well, advancing to finals and being named runner up, but never succeeding.

“The most frustrating moment was June 2012” when Travis auditioned for Seattle Symphony Associate Principal in an invitation only audition. It came down to Travis and one other candidate. The committee was equally split on votes so the decision lay in the hands of the Music Director who picked the other auditionee. “At that point I just thought the odds were never going to work out…I remember talking to Andrea on the phone just after that happened. I wasn’t ready to quit or throw in the towel…but something had to give. When was it going to stop? I was so sick of getting so close and being on the cusp of winning a job but it just wasn’t happening.” Andrea happened to be in SLC with her parents on a trip and encouraged Travis to focus on Utah and thought he would really enjoy living in this beautiful city. “I didn’t want to hear that and I didn’t know anything about Utah.” That summer Andrea and Travis celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and traveled to Minnesota and Europe for a few weeks and took some time off. Travis began preparing for Utah and the leading up to the audition he had several lessons with Tom. Travis recalls one lesson late at night where he wasn’t feeling his best and Tom said, “You know Travis, I don’t want to be here either. But sometimes you just have to put a little bit of effort into it and get through something regardless of if you want to do it or not…you just have to bear down and do it. You can’t let these outside things get in the way of you trying to accomplish something.”

September 17, 2012 Travis took his 33rd audition. He recalled his “chops didn’t feel great” but he followed Tom’s words of wisdom and bore down and did it. After three rounds Travis won his current position as Principal Trumpet of the Utah Symphony. “The odds finally worked out in my favor.” After the decision was announced Travis met the audition committee and Thierry Fischer and was finally able to share his fantastic news with Andrea. He called Tom who had already heard, and his mother with the best birthday present from her son.

Travis Peterson

Travis is now a tenured member of the orchestra and he and Andrea are “in love with Utah.” Some of his favorite Utah Symphony performances have been Mahler’s Fifth Symphony last spring, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony last year, the second performance of Mahler’s First Symphony this year, and Mahler’s Second Symphony. “It’s one of those pieces that I’ve always dreamed of playing. It was just transformative. [Mahler’s] music in general, to me, is music that I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of playing. It’s difficult to play but rewarding at the same time.” For Travis “it’s important to stay grounded in listening and finding the enjoyment because I don’t want to become a cynical musician. I don’t want to lose sight of the love of what we do. Because sometimes it is just a job. It is what it is…There have been a handful of days that I don’t want to play. My chops feel like crap or I’ve had too much salt the night before and my chops feel all puffy. Those are days that I don’t care for it, but that’s why I think it’s important to stay grounded in listening to music and enjoying it and finding the enjoyment in it all the time.”


EOS: A Ballet for Orchestra

EOS: A Ballet for Orchestra


Map of EOS by Augusta Read Thomas


(A dialogue between Utah Symphony Principal Librarian Clovis Lark and composer Augusta Read Thomas)

I first encountered Augusta Read Thomas’s music in April 1996 while I was Ensembles Librarian at Indiana University.  For a concert in April of that year, we prepared her Sinfonia for chamber orchestra.  Not long after that, while in Chicago, I happened to visit the Shedd Aquarium, a wonderful location for marine life on the edge of Lake Michigan, where a feature exhibit devoted to seahorses had Augusta’s Seahorse Symphony playing as background to the displays – and a CD of the Symphony, as performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was for sale in the Aquarium gift shop.

My next encounter with her music was as a guest of Pierre Boulez for rehearsals and a performance of a MusicNow concert (MusicNow is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new music series which was imagined, established, led, and was also programmed by Augusta when she was Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1996-2007).  Mr. Boulez was very excited about her new work In My Sky at Twilight, for soprano and chamber orchestra that was being premiered.  I sat in on the CD recording session and subsequent performance and later discussed the work with Mr. Boulez, which I felt was quite significant.  Boulez agreed enthusiastically. It was at this concert that I finally met Augusta and began our friendship.

Shortly after I joined the Utah Symphony, we invited Cliff Colnot, director of the Chicago MusicNow series, to conduct a concert of contemporary music with the Utah Symphony.  He and I both agreed that it would be a wonderful idea to include a premiere by Augusta on that program.  Augusta composed for us a new work entitled Terpsichore’s Dream which was first performed at the Rose Wagner Theater on October 18, 2007.  Now, just over seven years later, the Utah Symphony has commissioned and is premiering EOS a ballet for orchestra, Augusta’s latest composition for full orchestra.  This premiere is the first of three premieres by American composers that the Utah Symphony will be performing during 2015 as part of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary celebrations (A percussion concerto by Andrew Norman and a new work by Nico Muhly follow in November and December, respectively).

Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony Music Director, spent considerable time over several years reviewing recent works by Augusta that I gave him before he found what “clicked” for him in her music.  This is one of the fascinating aspects of art.  One can look at many works, never getting the right sense of where one wants to go.  Suddenly, that key is found in a certain work and the rest all follow!  For Thierry, that key was Augusta’s 30-minute Cello Concerto No. 3 premiered by the Boston Symphony with Lynn Harrel as cello soloist with Christoph Eschenbach conducting.

Augusta was kind enough to speak with me about the upcoming premiere of EOS, which the Utah Symphony is performing February at Abravanel Hall February 20-21:

CL: Gusty, it is a real pleasure to be able to discuss your work, I thought we might find out about your career as a composer leading up to EOS. What inspired you to choose composition as a career and means of expression?

ART: Thank you, Clovis!  I am thrilled to be working with you, Maestro Fischer, and the Utah Symphony and look forward to our February world premiere!

From age 4 to 14, I took piano lessons and from age 8 all the way through college, I played trumpet and enrolled as a trumpet performance major in the Music School of Northwestern University.  Composing, singing in choir, and playing guitar were also part of my musical life and training.  Gradually, over about 20 years, I started to find composition more interesting than playing. I thought it was more fun to make everything up out of thin air rather than sit and play my one part. Steadily my composing evolved and bloomed.  I guess you could summarize by saying that my childhood was akin to a big, musical river morphing me into a composer as a result of twenty years of dedicated writing, practicing, performing and singing.  It was a natural, organic development into a life spent composing.  Since age 20, I have been composing every day with passion and dedication.

CL:  Certainly entering such an artistic discipline seems daunting from the outside. Did you have mentors or other composers who served as models as you refined your compositional voice?

ART: My gut reaction is to say, with a huge smile of gratitude on my face, that I have at least 1,000 mentors.  Music itself is definitely the most vital and sobering influence on my music. By that I mean that music of many periods and by different composers has fascinated and nurtured me since I was a child. I love deeply the music of J.S. Bach for its precision, amazing invention, it’s elegance, and the nobility and grandeur of its emotional spectrum. The musics of Byrd, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Debussy, Webern, Stravinsky, Ravel, Berio, Chopin, Bartok, and many kinds of jazz are all important to me. Also music of many, varied contemporary composers, writing in all styles. I listen a lot and the accomplishments of these predecessors and contemporaries of mine keep me focused and humble at the same time as they inspire me with confidence to think creatively.

I have learned a great deal from Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Barenboim, and countless musicians with whom I have collaborated.

Literature, especially poetry, and the visual arts are also important sources of influence. Nature of course, is a real teacher.

CL:  You’ve written for a number of different sized ensembles. How does your approach differ when composing for a single instrument, as opposed to, say, a quartet, chorus, concerto or orchestral work?

ART: Fundamentally, to compose in any and all genres of music, the truly creative act springs from deep necessity. That welling up, inside, of musical ideas is so urgent. The first sensation is like a spark or lightning bolt – like lighting a match – and suddenly, poof, there’s an illumination, an inspiration, if you will. This glitter of energy might evoke a chord, a rhythm, a motive of a tune, which I will sing and ponder in relation to structure, form, synthesis etc. From there a macro-image and plan starts to emerge and one must understand how the musical idea unfolds and where it’s potential must lead.  A chamber or solo work requires different materials than, for instance, an orchestral work.

When writing for solo flute, or piano trio, or brass quintet, orchestra, or chorus, composers seek musical materials that “fit” the specific instrumentation.  Harmony, counterpoint, harmonic rhythm, color, flow, register, rhythm, dynamics, and so forth are all taken into aural imagination and consideration.

When one composes for orchestra, there is an inspiringly large palette of colors and possibilities.  I love it!!  How to keep the music clean and organized (and not sounding like a jumble of ideas thrown forth in a pile) depends on the quality and clarity of the initial musical ideas, their grace, and the skill and experience of the composer/orchestrator.

One very simple example: when writing for orchestra, a composer can cast wide, vast and rich harmonies, chords that span the whole range of a piano.  Such harmony could not be played by any soloist or duo.  On the other hand, the intimacy of a duo, one person per part, has a different feel than composing for orchestra where, for instance, we might hear 26 violins all playing the same line of music in unison.

As far as I’m concerned, “it is all good.”  I love to compose music for all kind of ensembles.  Composing is my life.

One of my great joys is to be building a varied catalogue of published compositions.   I like to compose for orchestra, then to compose a work for solo piano and then one for girls choir and then a huge cello concerto and then a work for mixed quintet.  — Keeps it all very fresh to vary to genres from piece to piece.

CL: You were Mead Composer-in-Residence from 1997 to 2006.  What did that entail and how has it influenced your work since?

ART: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra inspired, helped, and influenced me and being Mead Composer-in-Residence was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Working with Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra strengthened and encouraged my ever-continuing search for deeper musical understanding and sensitivity. Both men have steadfastly championed the music of our time. They seek the truth, essence, and soul of each composition, always with a supremely musical, sensitive technical skill.

While I was Mead Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra commissioned and premiered 9 orchestral works; I presented about 45 pre-concert lectures each year; and I founded, curated and led the MusicNOW Series with my friend Cliff Colnot.  It was a very busy decade!

CL: The Utah Symphony is extremely proud that you accepted Thierry Fischer’s request to write a commission, our first U.S. Commission to be performed under his music directorship. There were really no limits, other than our ensemble’s size imposed upon you. So how did EOS arise?

ART: When Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony offered me this commission, I was smiling ear to ear.  –Very happy day!!  –I had a very rewarding 10 months composing the score!

For many years I have admired Maestro Fischer and, having had the chance to work with the Utah Symphony back in 2007, when I composed for them TERPSICHORE’S DREAM a ballet for chamber orchestra, I was delighted for the opportunity to make a new orchestral composition.  EOS (Goddess of the Dawn): a Ballet for Orchestra is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Thierry Fischer and each member of the Utah Symphony and is in honor of Pierre Boulez.

The Utah Symphony prescribed duration and instrumentation, though the concept of our new work was left completely open to my imagination, which I appreciated deeply.

Writing for orchestra has been a 35-year passion for me so this commission reaches me at my core.

I was compelled to compose a second “Greek-themed” ballet, EOS (in seven sections played seamlessly) “painting the picture” of early dawn, the sun rising, and the shimmerings of a lively day.

Speaking very generally, EOS is in the form of a 17-minute crescendo.








CL: You are calling EOS a “Ballet for Orchestra”.  How does that differ from a ballet versus, say, a tone poem?

ART: EOS is a ballet and orchestral concert work.  Most composers these days are not lucky enough to have the equivalent of Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes to commission large orchestral works that will be danced, staged, costumed, and lit, which compositions paint clear poetic and or dramatic pictures.

The early Ballets of Igor Stravinsky (which are mostly played as concert works) have changed my life and have affected every note I have ever composed.  EOS reflects my knowledge of early Stravinsky (and many other Ballet composers) and reiterates my desire to work with dancers.

CL: Your remarks about ballet are so true.  Next season, we do Debussy’s ballet, Jeux, with the Ballet West.  However, virtually no ballet company has the pit facilities to engage the orchestra Debussy wrote for.  So Jeux has become primarily a concert work.

Clarity and detail abound throughout EOS.  I wonder if you could elaborate how you’ve picked your orchestral colors, techniques and highlights for the various sections of the piece.  What might a listener expect to hear?

ART: Thanks Clovis! – Yes, my scores are highly detailed and nuanced, every note having a dynamic, articulation and/or adjective. The notation explains exactly what I heard.  To give you an example, if I were rehearsing with a musician I might say, “This should be majestic” or “play here with a lightness of touch…” So why not write those down on the manuscript?

I feel responsible to present a commissioner with a lucid, nuanced artwork, not an amorphous blob. If I want the crescendo on the second beat, then I should notate it there. They’ll play it and they can also feel why the crescendo had to be right there – same with articulations and other nuances. It’s akin to a beautifully punctuated poem where you know exactly what the poet wanted and meant.

I like my music to be sculpted, skillfully edited and clean.  If I can present artists with an eloquent, fluent poem, then, with their sublime expertise, musicianship, years of training, they can take the sounds to a higher level. We start our journey together with a persuasive text and, with their technical instrumental brilliance, performers can spin and weave their inspired magic and make the music theirs – ‘tis not mine anymore.  Proofreading carefully is essential.

To the second part of your question, which is a huge and marvelous inquiry but might take me pages and pages to answer, let me summarize by saying that I compose by ear and that the orchestral colors are immediately present in my hearing and are deeply integrated in my thinking.  I do not “orchestrate” after the fact.  Rather I hear all the notes, rhythms and harmonies in color.  EOS is a very kaleidoscopic score, with solos for many players, shifts in rhythmic syntax, shifts in harmony and harmonic rhythm, with distinct sections that have unique moods.  There is, for instance, a playful section full of pizzicati in the strings and related sounds.  This section could never be confused with other sections.  Likewise, each section of this ballet has its own aura.

CL: As a follow-up question: Your works are very detailed and yet sound spontaneous….

ART: Thanks!  nuance – transformation – spontaneity – gestalt are four keywords that apply to all my music.

Although highly notated, precise, carefully structured, soundly proportioned, and while musicians are elegantly working from a nuanced, specific text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled – on the spot.  As if we listeners are overhearing a captured improvisation.

My music, which is organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections, should be played so that the inner life of the different rhythmic, timbral and pitch syntaxes are made explicit and are then organically allied to one another with characterized phrasing of rhythm, color, harmony, counterpoint, tempo, keeping it alive – continuously sounding spontaneous.

All of this, hopefully, working toward the fundamental goal: to compose a work in which every musical parameter is allied in one holistic gestalt.

CL:  EOS is dedicated to Thierry Fischer and to each musician of the Utah Symphony.  There is another honoree, Pierre Boulez, who is celebrating his 90th birthday just 5 weeks after the premiere of EOS on 26 March.  You’ve already mentioned your connection to him while you were Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  I’ve known Boulez as well since the late 1970’s, an incredible composer and visionary with an ability to absorb new music instantly.  I also remember that when you presented him with the piano etude “On Twilight – Homage to Boulez” he asked to see the score while it was played.  At the end, he flipped back to the first page, pointed to a note and said, “Shouldn’t that be a G#?”  And you looked over his shoulder, quite surprised, and agreed.  He chuckled. “I saw the pattern and knew it was a G#.”  Hans, his valet, leaned over to me and said, “He did that to Stravinsky too.” My response, “and…?” Hans, said, “He was right.” (You can see this encounter as a brief episode at minute 31 in the Stravinsky documentary on YouTube.)

ART:  This is exactly as I remember it too!

CL: Such an amazing ear and keen wit… Tell me about your relationship with Boulez.

ART:  For my whole life I have revered Mr. Boulez’s music, conducting, citizenship, humanity, grace, intellect, writings, and generosity.  He is a great person.

With the Chicago Symphony, Mr. Boulez conducted the world premiere of my WORDS OF THE SEA for orchestra; CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA “orbital beacons” for orchestra; and IN MY SKY AT TWILIGHT for soprano and chamber orchestra all of which are released on commercial CD by Nimbus Records as performed by Mr. Boulez and the CSO.

He also programmed IN MY SKY AT TWILIGHT in Lucerne and he programmed HELIOS CHOROS III for orchestra with the Orchestra of Paris on a Boulez Festival.

His support of my work inspires me to keep working hard and I am forever and ever indebted to Mr. Boulez.  He is a very kind, gentle, refined, visionary, committed, and musical person.  His resolve for things in which he believes is vivid and is vastly influential worldwide.

CL: Boulez certainly has been more than a seminal composer and first class conductor.  He has always had time to mentor, teach and compassionately listen to others, offering clear, concise advice.  I note you have an extremely hectic schedule; you are on the road pretty much non-stop and we’ve been holding this conversation in between your numerous engagements.  What are your upcoming projects?

ART: Thank you for asking.  Yes, my schedule is always active and demanding.  I feel grateful to be so busy.  For the love of music, rising at 4 AM and working from 4:30 AM until 9:30 PM brings me joy each day; working vigorously for music is an honor and a privilege.

Selected immediate forthcoming projects and concerts include:

March 5, 2015: WORLD PREMIERESELENE for percussion quartet and string quartet, will be performed by JACK Quartet and Third Coast Percussion on a “Portrait Concert” at Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

April 10, 2015: WORLD PREMIERE HELIX SPIRALS for string quartet premiered by the Parker Quartet at Harvard University.

July 7, 2015: WORLD PREMIERE NEW WORK for Aurora Orchestra with Claire Booth, soprano commissioned by Wigmore Hall with the support of André Hoffmann, president of the Fondation Hoffmann, a Swiss grant-making foundation.

February 20, 2015: The BBC Singers are performing JUGGLER OF DAY at St Paul’s Knightsbridge in London. The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 at 7:30pm UK time — it will be available to stream live on the BBC Radio 3 website.

On March 22nd, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Third Coast Percussion will perform RESOUNDING EARTH, a composition scored for approximately 300 pieces of metal, featuring 120 bells from a wide variety of cultures and historical periods.

May 8 and 9, 2015: CELLO CONCERTO #3, Lynn Harrell, cello, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu, conductor

July 9, 2015: EUROPEAN PREMIERE World Saxophone Congress – Strasbourg, France: HEMKE CONCERTO “PRISMS OF LIGHT” for alto saxophone and orchestra, Timothy McAllister, soloist with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

CL: And you have a significant new administrative project as well…

ART:  Yes, and this really is important. I am spearheading EAR TAXI FESTIVAL.  A 4-day-long new music festival celebrating the vital new music scene in Chicago. It incudes performances by the city’s amazing new music ensembles and musicians, and features the music of the city’s composers. The festival is made possible, in part, by major support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. Assuming leadership of this new festival has already consumed about 3 hours each day over the past year.

CL:  Gusty, this conversation has been a real pleasure.  And thank you for taking time away from your work to share your thoughts.

ART: Thank you!

The Lives of Everyday Heroes

Heroes exist beyond the realms of Greek gods and legendary figures. More often, heroes touch our lives in small ways without the hero even realizing that they are doing anything heroic.

As part of this weekend’s concerts, we gave you the opportunity to nominate someone in your life who has been a hero. Here are the winners (who have four VIP tickets to a concert this weekend).


Scott Evans

Scott Evans

“I nominate my husband, Scott Evans, who is my hero. He is so kind to everyone around him and would do anything for anyone. He is constantly serving neighbors, friends, church members, family members, and co-workers. He works full-time and often works overtime on the weekends for his company. He is also going to school part-time to finish his bachelors degree in computer science. Along with his many responsibilities, he  finds time to coach our son Matthew’s (who has special needs) Jr. Jazz team. He also teaches my daughter’s Primary class and is often making cookies for the class. He is an amazing example to me and my children of how to be a selfless person and make a difference in the world we live in.” - Juleen Evans



Wendy Chandler

Wendy Chandler


“My mom, Wendy, is a hero and survivor. When I was 9 years old, I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. She took such good care of me and always made sure I was doing well. She always helps and takes care of others. She was a certified nurse’s assistant and did hospice care. She took care of and loved her patients until they passed away. I know she was a big hero to her patients’ families. In 2010, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She fought hard through 52 rounds of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries while still taking care of other people. She has survived and is going strong! She is my hero for fighting cancer head on, for always helping others, and for never thinking of herself first. She definitely deserves this night!” - Camille Hunt



Davis Grant Dye

Davis Grant Dye

“I choose my son, Davis Grant Dye. He has been my hero since he was born, but when he turned 16 he did something nobody else could have or would have done back then for me. I was ill for 14 years and 12 of that mostly bedridden. When he turned 16, he had a car he had worked and saved up for, and as soon as he could drive, he became independent. However, he always thought of others first. A lady in my church loaned us a wheelchair because she had heard there was a need for me. As soon as my son saw that I had a wheelchair, he began driving me to places I wanted to go to so badly and would push me in and around. He started to do this for me each week, and soon it became more frequently. He will never know the great love and hope that kindled in my heart and life from this selfless act of service he performed! He was such a blessing in my life and has grown into a wonderful and fine man. He’s married now, and he and his wife will be having their first child this spring. I know he’ll be a wonderful father, dad and husband to his new family. I know this because he was a wonderful son to me! I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s been and done for me! I love him so much! He is, my son and ‘My Hero!’” - Sheri Dye



RaDean Meyers

Chelle Leyva

“She was my teacher in high school. She’s changed countless lives through her career as a music teacher, and I know no one who deserves a reward like this more than her. She is my inspiration for wanting to become a music teacher myself.”

- Mitchell Atencio



Billy Palmer

Billy Palmer

“I nominate my hero, Billy Palmer. I first met Billy when I interviewed him on the radio show for the 20th Anniversary of the film, “The Sandlot.” He previously worked in film locations and boom microphone. He’s since moved on from working in film, but he is an upright man who consistently works to better the community in Salt Lake City. He is the Vice President of the Board of Directors for NeighborWorks Salt Lake and The Chair of the Youth Works program as well as a graduate from 1988. He grew up in not the best area of Salt Lake, with not the best circumstances, in fact I’m putting that in the nicest words possible. He has been through some crazy situations and counsels youth to gain a perspective on and know how to get out of hard situations. He continues to serve the community and to help so many youth in really rough circumstances to see that there are other options than becoming involved in a gang or in criminal activity. He’s my hero because he works and has a family and children, yet he still makes time to serve and give with various foundations and to do what he can to make the city of Salt Lake so much better. He gives, and it continually gives me motivation to give back and do all I can to be the best me. He loves the symphony, and this would be wonderful if he could win the VIP tickets to Strauss’ A Hero’s Life and take his children.“

- Cate Allen


“Candy is a phenomenal woman. She is a certified counselor but commits her talents and time to counseling women for free. She helped me and countless other women through difficult times with sage and constructive advice. It has been years since I’ve seen Candy as a counselor, but will always remember how she helped me and really changed my life’s course to a positive direction. There is a wait list for her services. I only wish there were more like her. She fills a real need.” - Kim Drury



Leslie Williams

Leslie Williams

“I know everyone says this, but my hero is my mom. I could talk so much about what she’s done for me, but I won’t. I know how much she struggled as a single mom, and how she went without certain things so that I could have what I wanted and needed. But, that’s not why she’s my hero. When I was 18, my mom became a professional parent, a highly specialized foster parent to children with disabilities. She took two boys into her home who were four and eight. Both of them had disabilities, and she knew that only the surface of their struggles had been diagnosed. On top of their physical disabilities, they come from a history of severe abuse. The older boy has significant developmental delays and has autism. She fought to ensure he had the services he needed through school and that he is treated as fairly as possible everywhere he goes. The younger boy has an extremely rare bone disorder. He has had multiple major surgeries throughout his life so far and will continue to need them. He has hearing loss and chronic pain related to his bone disorder. He recently had neurosurgery to repair a malformation that could have caused paralysis or even death. She has been beside him every step of the way in his recovery from surgery. They became part of our family 15 years ago, and my mom has fought for them ever since. They are her children. I admire so much the work she has done for them and the fights she has taken on to make sure their needs were met and that they are not taken advantage of. She is a musician and teaches elementary school band. She deserves something special and I know how much this would mean to her.”

- Andrea Balla



RaDean Meyers

RaDean Meyers

“My mom is my hero. She is dealing with  kidney and back problems, and her second brain tumor, and recently, she had major shoulder surgery. If you met her, you’d never know she has any health issues. She has a smile on her face and a huge heart. She is always willing to help anyone. She loves playing with her 14 grandchildren, and she won’t let these problems keep her down. I wish I was more like my mom. She is my hero.” - Brynne


These wonderful heroes all deserve our thanks and applause for making our world a little bit better and easier to live in. We hope they all enjoy the concert.

Baiba Talks Berg: An Interview with Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride

Baiba Skride is a violinist from Latvia (a small country in Eastern Europe between Lithuania, Estonia, and Belarus). Baiba is coming to Abravanel Hall this weekend to play Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Alban Berg composed the Violin Concerto after the death of 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler (once Gustav Mahler’s wife) and Walter Gropius. This concerto was dedicated by the composer “To the memory of an angel.”

Alban Berg

Alban Berg

Baiba offered the following thoughts on this composition:

It is a very touching, very deep, extremely intelligent and emotionally charged piece. Alban Berg wrote this piece to the memory of Manon Gropius, who was the daughter of Alma Mahler and died at an early age. There is a lot of sadness in the music, but there are many very important and interesting levels to this music. The most amazing part of this concerto for me is the end of the piece where Berg uses Bach’s Choral “Es ist Genug“ and slowly brings every instrument in an indescribable culmination. It’s just one of the most emotional moments in the whole violin repertoire.

For Berg’s Violin Concerto I think it is important to come with an open mind to hear this somewhat different music. It is relatively contemporary, but really, it is the most beautiful and most important concerto of the 20th century.

Like many of Berg’s pieces, this work is written in a twelve tone technique, which means that instead of using a chord (in a more classical sense of composition), Berg uses the twelve tones of the chromatic scale (or every key, including the black ones, on the piano between C major up to the B major) . The technique is frequently called serialism and often called “atonal” because of the different way it sounds (though composers who use the twelve tone technique don’t like calling it that).

Twelve tone technique is where our interview starts.

USUO: I have been studying twelve tone music for the last couple of weeks, and I’m writing an informative post about that. How do you feel about twelve tone music?
Baiba: Twelve tone music can sometimes be a bit complicated to hear for the first time, but Berg’s Violin Concerto is so well written that it is accessible to the audience right away. I think this violin concerto is extremely emotional, deep on so many levels and very fascinating in its musical language.

USUO: Have you played Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto before? What do you like about it?
Baiba: I have played it many times and while you play it, it doesn’t seem to be specifically twelve tone music, rather it gives you a very natural, very flowing feeling and it tells you a story.

I think writing in twelve tones for Berg was much more diverse and free than for example – Schönberg, he uses the method to get to the emotional level, and the music doesn’t focus on the means of how it’s achieved.

USUO: Are there other twelve tone compositions that you have played or like or want to play?
Baiba: I have played some Weber and some Schönberg music, but I do feel the most connected to Berg.

USUO: Does your heritage influence your music? In what ways?
Baiba: I think everyone’s roots somehow influence you and your work. And it should. I am very proud to come from the small, beautiful and very musical country Latvia, where people enjoy singing so much and have a very strong feeling of where they come from. As a small people, we are very aware of our heritage. Also because for most of our country’s history we were oppressed by one or another country. But by now almost half of my life I have lived in Germany and I have very much profited also from German culture and musical possibilities.

USUO: In all your travels, what is your favorite food? What is your favorite place to eat?
Baiba: Very often on my travels I end up eating in the hotel I am staying, just because it’s more convenient. But I love to find a good sushi place or especially in America, a great steak. I try, if possible, to find some local specialties if they are not too crazy.

USUO: What music do you listen to?
Baiba: A lot of time when I am traveling I am listening to pieces I need to learn or discover. At home, it varies very much from classical music to current hits which come on the radio.

USUO: What else do you enjoy doing besides violin? Do you play other instruments?
Baiba: I used to learn piano as a second instrument, but haven’t played one in maybe 13 years. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for any other instrument or a hobby. I have 2 boys at home so when I am at home I spend my time with and for them. Occasionally, if on holiday, I love to do scuba diving, but that doesn’t happen more than once a year.

For more information about the concert, including the program, program notes, and artist biographies, please visit this page.

Fortunately for us, this is not the only time we will have the opportunity to hear Baiba play. She will also be playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Feb. 20 and 21 here at Abravanel Hall.