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First Symphony Project

Four composers commissioned to write their first symphonies to be premiered over the next four years

Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS), in partnership with Eugene Symphony, will launch the First Symphony Project in the fall of 2019. Four acclaimed American composers have been co-commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony, Eugene Symphony and nine patron households including Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, to write their first symphony, to be premiered and given second performances between the two symphony orchestras over the next four years.
 
Increasing the scope of the project, the orchestra performing the world premiere will also perform a shorter work by that composer earlier in the same season. Additionally, each of the composers will be Composer-in-Residence for both performance weeks, participating in community outreach activities.
 
SRS Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, who is also Music Director of the Eugene Symphony, proposed this unique project to shift the commissioning paradigm to a collaborative and interactive process between the commissioners, performers, composers, and their communities. Lecce-Chong selected American composers whom he knows to be open to collaboration and feedback during the composition process.
 
"Our art form relies on the creative vision of today's composers," says Lecce-Chong. "In the large-scale form of a symphony, these composers will be able to create a musical world that is both deeply personal and powerfully universal. Just as importantly, the multiple residencies will allow us to not only celebrate these new creations, but bring us closer to their creators."
 

Commissioned composers and season of their first symphony world premiere:

2019-2020 | Matt Browne
2020-2021 | Gabriella Smith
2021-2022 | Angélica Negrón
2022-2023 | Michael Djupstrom

Lecce-Chong wanted the commissioning support to be locally based to strengthen community engagement during the compositional process. Moreover, his commitment to this project extends to his being one of the nine donors, unusual for a music director. Thus, four local patrons of the Santa Rosa Symphony and four from the Eugene Symphony, as well as Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, provide support for this project. All nine donors will be listed on the music scores as co-commissioners. Santa Rosa Symphony patron donors are Emeritus Board Members: Nancy and David Berto, Chuck and Ellen Wear, Creighton White and current board member Gordon Blumenfeld.
 
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be patrons, to support Francesco and the four composers by investing in these new major works. We look forward to hearing these commissioned pieces played by our symphony,” commented donors Chuck and Ellen Wear.

Meet the Composers

 

 

 

 



Matt Browne

World Premiere | March 2020

Biography

New York-based composer Matt Browne (b. 1988) strives to create music that meets Sergei Diaghilev’s famous challenge to Jean Cocteau: “Astonish me!”, through incorporating such eclectic influences as the timbral imagination and playfulness of György Ligeti, the shocking and humorous eclecticism of Alfred Schnittke, and the relentless rhythmic energy of Igor Stravinsky.  His music has been praised for its “unbridled humor” (New Music Box) and described as “witty” (The Strad) and “beautifully crafted and considered” (What’s On London).
 
Matthew has had the privilege to collaborate with such ensembles as the Minnesota Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Albany Symphony, Harold Rosenbaum and the New York Virtuoso Singers, New Jersey Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, the New England Philharmonic, the Villiers Quartet, the Donald Sinta Quartet, the Tesla Quartet, the PUBLIQuartet, and SEVEN)SUNS.
 
Recently, Matthew’s music has received honors such as winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize (2017), an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers award (2014), a BMI Student Composer award (2015), a residency at the Mizzou International Composers Festival, fellow at CULTIVATE Copland House (2017), winner of the New England Philharmonic Call for Scores (2014), a residency at the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute (2016), winner of the American Viola Society’s Maurice Gardner Composition award (2014), and a residency at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s First Annual Composers Institute (2013). Matthew holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Composition from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Previous teachers include Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, Carter Pann, and Daniel Kellogg. www.mattbrownecomposer.com

Artist Statement

I'm so excited to get this opportunity to work with the Eugene and Santa Rosa Symphonies, and to get another chance to work with the wonderful Francesco Lecce-Chong. It is a dream of mine, as well as for so many composers, to write large-scale works for orchestra that tell bigger and broader stories. Several years ago at the New York Historical Society I discovered a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole called The Course of Empire that depicts the same beautiful landscape throughout the rise and fall of a great empire. The stories told in the five paintings range from grandiose all the way down to the tender, and to me provides fertile ground for the creation of a large orchestral work. One of my favorite orchestral composers, Gustav Mahler, made use of the orchestra in every way imaginable, from elongated chamber music sections to massive walls of sound. This is the kind of versatility and opportunity I am excited to exploit in the creation of this work. In addition, I am also very thrilled to have the opportunity to be present in the Eugene and Santa Rosa communities throughout the creative process. So often us composers are shut up in our studios writing music, only to send it off with minimal contact. It is refreshing and so important for us composers to be present and available throughout the process, not only to the musicians but also to the community as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Gabriella Smith

World Premiere | Spring 2021

Biography

Gabriella Smith is a composer from the San Francisco Bay Area whose music is described as “high-voltage and wildly imaginative” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “bold, original and suggests exciting new directions for American music” (Giancarlo Guerrero), and “You really get the Pacific Ocean, man!” (Cabrillo Festival audience member). Her music has been performed throughout the U.S. and internationally by eighth blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, PRISM Quartet, Aizuri Quartet, and yMusic, among others. This season’s highlights include the world premiere of a new work for Roomful of Teeth and Dover Quartet at Bravo! Vail Music Festival, and performances of Tumblebird Contrails by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January 2019, conducted by John Adams.
 
During the 2016-17 season, Gabriella was the Nashville Symphony’s inaugural Composer Lab & Workshop Fellow. Other recent residencies include two months as an artist fellow at Instituto Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, Brazil and a Copland House Residency at Aaron Copland’s home in Cortlandt Manor, New York.
 
She has received commissions from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition for a new work for yMusic, the People’s Commissioning Fund for Bang on a Can’s Field Recordings project, the Pacific Harmony Foundation for the 2014 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the New York Youth Symphony as part of their First Music program, Tucson Symphony, yMusic, the Barnes Foundation for the opening of their 2015 exhibition Order of Things, Friction Quartet, One Book One Philadelphia in celebration of their 2012 book selection Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival for their 2012 season opening concert, Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble for their 9th Annual Young Composers Concert, the Rock School of Ballet in Philadelphia, and Monadnock Music in collaboration with poet Marcia Falk, among others.
 
Gabriella is a recipient of a BMI Student Composer Award (2018), the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award (2014), three ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, a winner of the American Modern Ensemble Ninth Annual Composition Competition (2015), the Theodore Presser Foundation Music Award (2012), and the First Place Prize in the 2009 Pacific Musical Society Composition Competition.
 
She is currently a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, where she has studied with Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dan Trueman, Dmitri Tymoczko, Donnacha Dennehey, and Ju Ri Seo. She received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon, and Richard Danielpour. After graduating, she returned to the Curtis Institute of Music as an ArtistYear Fellow for the 2015-16 season, dedicating a citizen-artist year of national service in the Philadelphia region.
 
When not composing, she can be found backpacking (playing trail songs on her ukulele along the way), birding, playing capoeira, and recording underwater soundscapes with her hydrophone.

Artist Statement

When Francesco proposed this project to me, I was immediately thrilled by it for two reasons in particular: First of all, I'm really looking forward to working with the Eugene and Santa Rosa Symphonies, especially since I am from the West Coast. It will also be fantastic to work with Francesco again. He conducted two of my orchestral works when we were students at Curtis together, and I was struck by the attention, care, and understanding that he put into the music. Another reason this project is so exciting to me is that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to write an orchestral work of this scope. I have always been attracted to long, continuously developing musical arcs, and a work of this scope will give me the opportunity to develop this sense of trajectory and evolution to a much fuller extent than I have ever been able to in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

Angélica Negrón

World Premiere | Spring 2022

Biography

Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring”. Angélica has been commissioned by the Albany Symphony, Bang on a Can All-Stars, A Far Cry, MATA Festival, loadbang, The Playground Ensemble and the American Composers Orchestra, among others. Her music has been performed at the Kennedy Center, the Ecstatic Music Festival, EMPAC, Bang on a Can Marathon and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial and her film scores have been heard numerous times at the Tribeca Film Festival. She has collaborated with artists like Sō Percussion, The Knights, Face the Music and NOVUS NY, among others and is a founding member of the electronic indie band Balún. Angélica is currently a doctoral candidate at The Graduate Center (CUNY), where she studies composition with Tania León and focuses on the work of Meredith Monk for her dissertation. She's a teaching artist for New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composers Program and Lincoln Center Education working with learners of all ages on creative composition projects. Angélica is currently an artist in residency at National Sawdust working on a lip sync opera titled Chimera for drag queen performers and chamber ensemble exploring the ideas of fantasy and illusion as well as the intricacies and complexities of identity. She is the composer in residence for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2018-2019 season.

Artist Statement

I'm extremely honored and excited to be a part of the First Symphony Project. Undertaking such a large scale work is a stimulating challenge as well as a creative opportunity to take risks and explore what it means to write a symphony in the 21st century. With my new piece I'm hoping to reimagine this tradition considering the orchestra as an ever evolving and expanding sonic palette with infinite possibilities. I'm interested in submerging myself in this long form to discover new sonic spaces that make room for fresh perspectives that reflect what it means to be a composer in today's complicated landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Djupstrom

World Premiere | Spring 2023

Biography

The work of composer and pianist Michael Djupstrom (b. 1980) has been honored with first prizes in the international composition competitions of the UK’s Delius Society, the American Viola Society, the Chinese Fine Arts Society, and has been further recognized through awards and grants from institutions such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles Ives Fellowship, Charles Ives Scholarship), Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (Pew Fellowship), New Music USA, S&R Foundation (Grand Prize, Washington Awards), Meet the Composer, the American Composers Forum, the Académie musicale de Villecroze, and the Sigurd and Jarmila Rislov Foundation, among many others. The Music Teachers National Association named him its 2005 MTNA-Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year.

Recent commissions have come from the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Tanglewood Music Center, the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program, Music From Angel Fire, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, International Opera Theater, the Lyra Society, the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, and the Cavatina Duo, among others.

Djupstrom’s music continues to receive local Philadelphia performances by Network for New Music, Dolce Suono, and Lyric Fest, by ensembles across the country including Music from Copland House, the Definiens Project, Dinosaur Annex, Juventas, Sounds New, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and has been heard abroad at concerts and broadcasts in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Chile, Colombia, Taiwan, China, and Japan. In recent seasons, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, Symphony in C, Shasta Symphony, and International Opera Theater have presented his works for larger forces.
As a pianist, Djupstrom has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia-based new music ensemble Relâche. His interest in chamber music led to national tours as a founding member of the Phoenix Trio and concerts for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, the British Library, S&R Foundation, Astral Artists, and many other presenting organizations. His festival appearances include Hong Kong’s “Intimacy of Creativity,” Music From Angel Fire, Tanglewood, Brevard, and the Académie musicale de Villecroze, and he has performed in major metropolitan cities throughout the world, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington DC, Houston, Atlanta, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Tokyo, Shenzhen, Montréal, and Aix-en-Provence. He has recorded for American Public Media's "Performance Today," Radio Television Hong Kong's Radio 4, and the Equilibrium, American Modern, and Meyer Media labels.

An active and committed educator, Djupstrom teaches the composition seminar and is Coordinator of the composition department at the Curtis Institute of Music. He previously taught piano at Settlement Music School, theory and orchestration for Boston University, and ear training at the University of Michigan and has been a guest teacher and presenter at Rice University, Westminster Choir College, Montana State University, Rowan University, Shasta Community College, the International School of Brussels, the Paris Conservatory, and Yichao Music Training Center in Shenzhen, China.

Djupstrom received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, where he studied with composers Bright Sheng, Susan Botti, William Bolcom and Karen Tanaka. Djupstrom pursued further studies in Paris with Betsy Jolas, whom he later worked for as assistant. He also holds an Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he was a student of Jennifer Higdon and Richard Danielpour.

Artist Statement

"It was orchestral music that first really sparked my interest in classical music.  When I was a teenager, an uncle visiting from abroad stayed with my family for a few weeks, and because classical recordings were much more expensive where he lived, he stocked up on CDs while in town.  He never played them at our house, though, and I became extremely curious to know what the music sounded like.  One day, when he was out with my parents, I broke into his bedroom (actually my room) and spent the entire afternoon devouring Ravel, Stravinsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov.  Although I had played the piano since I was a young child, that day permanently changed my relationship with classical music.

I am still in love with orchestral music today.  I have written for several works for the medium, but I have never had the chance to compose something large-scale.  These opportunities are extremely rare today, and I'm very excited to take part in this project."

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