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VPA inaugurates Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series with residency by Pulitzer Prize winner John Harbison, culminating in two free public performances
VPA inaugurates Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series with residency by Pulitzer Prize winner John Harbison, culminating in two free public performances November 01, 2006Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) will inaugurate the Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series in the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music with a residency by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison Nov. 14-15. The residency will culminate with two free public performances.
The Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series was endowed using a portion of a gift from entertainer Billy Joel. VPA was one of seven East Coast institutions awarded gifts in fall 2005 as part of Joel’s long-term commitment to music education and newly established music education initiative.
Harbison is a composer best known for his operas and large choral works. Among his principal compositions are the cantata “The Flight Into Egypt,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and the opera “The Great Gatsby,” commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera to celebrate Maestro James Levine’s 25th anniversary with the company and premiered to great acclaim in 1999. In 2006, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance for his composition “Mottetti di Montale.” One of Harbison’s prime interests is furthering the work of young composers, and during his residency at the Setnor School he will work with composition students.
“John Harbison is one of the most significant American composers of the last 30 years, and has a unique compositional language. He has a lot on his mind and has crafted a musical style that can handle all of it,” says Andrew Waggoner, Setnor faculty member and chair of the composition department. “Harbison is a wonderful teacher and mentor — especially to younger composers — of enormous, almost mind-boggling generosity. We are very fortunate to have him in residence at the Setnor School.”
Harbison will work with students and faculty in preparation for two free public performances of his music. The first will take place Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. in the main auditorium of The Warehouse, 350 W. Fayette St. On- and off-street parking is available in areas adjacent to The Warehouse. The second performance is Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium, Crouse College. Free parking is available in Irving Garage.
The programs will include Harbison’s recent chamber, orchestral and wind music. Featured works include “Three City Blocks” for wind ensemble, conducted by Setnor faculty member John Laverty; orchestral overtures “Remembering Gatsby” and “Darkbloom,” conducted by Setnor faculty member James Tapia; “Suite for Solo Cello,” performed by cellist and Setnor affiliate artist Caroline Stinson; song cycle “The Rewaking,” performed by soprano and Setnor affiliate artist Janet Brown with the Cassatt String Quartet, SU’s quartet-in-residence; and several chamber and vocal works performed by Setnor students.
Harbison studied at Harvard University and holds an M.F.A. degree from Princeton University. He is currently Institute Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has written for every type of concert performance and is a gifted commentator on composition. Much of his violin music has been composed for his wife, violinist Rose Mary Pederson. Together, they serve as artistic directors of Wisconsin’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.
Harbison has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Tanglewood, Marlboro and Santa Fe chamber music festivals; and the American Academy in Rome. His music has been performed by many of the world’s leading ensembles, and more than 30 of his compositions can be heard on Nonesuch, CRI, New World Records and Harmonia Mundi, among other music publishers.
As a conductor, he has headed leading orchestras and chamber groups, including the St. Paul and Scottish chamber orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony and the Handel and Haydn Society. And he serves as principal guest conductor of Boston’s Emmanuel Music.
Among Harbison’s many awards are the Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities, the Distinguished Composer award from the American Composer’s Orchestra, the Harvard Arts Medal, the Kennedy Center Friedheim First Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship. He holds four honorary doctorates and serves on the boards of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Koussevitzky Foundation.
For more information on the Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series, contact the Setnor School of Music at (315) 443-5892.