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New York State of Mind

Daily Arts Writer
Published February 25, 2005

“This is sort of like our Rose Bowl,” exclaimed Michael Haithcock, conductor of the University Symphony Band, to describe how his band views their performance at Carnegie Hall which takes place tonight. The invitation to play at the College Band Directors National Association convention in New York City reaffirms the Symphony Band’s status as one of the country’s best college wind ensembles.

Angela Cesere
School of Music freshman Charissa Barger plays the harp during the Hill Auditorium performance. (PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily)
Angela Cesere
Music junior Lauren Gross and Music sophomore Sarah Wolfgram perform as part of the flute section during the Feb. 11 concert. (PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily)
Angela Cesere
Music Prof. Michael Haithcock conducts the Symphony Band at their concert at Hill Auditorium on Feb. 11. (PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily)

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Every year the CBDNA convention includes a festival of concerts that highlight the different ensembles from around the country. This year, the competition to play Carnegie Hall was fierce. Only five groups were chosen to perform: wind ensembles from New England Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas — along with the University’s Symphony Band. Despite this competition, Haithcock said he knew deep down that his group deserved a place along with groups from these top schools. After he submitted the live concert recordings that were required, a panel of professional musicians chose the University Symphony Band as one of the top five ensembles, and they were on their way to Carnegie Hall.

Haithcock’s next challenge was deciding what pieces to play at such a prestigious concert. He addressed this question in a letter to Symphony Band’s members at the beginning of the fall semester: “The repertoire selected will demonstrate your wonderful talents, showcase members of our outstanding composition faculty, illustrate how the School of Music and (the University’s) band program are interfacing with musical organizations beyond our campus and feature one of the most acclaimed recent graduates.”

Drawing on its traditional repertoire, Symphony Band will play Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy and Chester by William Schumann. To highlight the University’s involvement in the contemporary music world, they’ll also perform a number of pieces from different School of Music professors: Bright Sheng’s LA’I (Love Song) for Orchestra without Strings, Susan Botti’s Cosmosis and Michael Daugherty’s Brooklyn Bridge. Because University professors composed these pieces, this concert is truly a University affair — even though it’s happening in New York. “One of the greatest things about this concert is that every piece is very different,” Haithcock said. Besides showcasing stars of the School of Music’s composition faculty, “(The program) shows the virtuosity of the band and what a wonderful collection of students we have here.”


About a Composer

Sheng’s LA’I (Love Song) begins tonight’s program. The piece was co-commissioned by the Symphony Band and the Philharmonics Orchester of Dortmund, Germany; the Carnegie Hall performance will be its U.S. premiere.

Sheng was born in Shanghai, China in 1955. His musical career began when he started studying piano at the age of four. In 1982, Sheng moved to New York to attend Queens College, then City University of New York and Columbia University where he received his Doctorate of Music. During his education, Sheng studied under such legendary figures as Leonard Bernstein, George Perle, Hugo Weisgall and Chou Wen-Chung. Today, top ensembles worldwide perform his music.


Seeing the City

Besides showcasing world-renowned composers such as Sheng, this concert will also serve as the world premiere for Daugherty’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Explaining the inspiration behind his work, Daugherty said: “The idea is that (the piece) is four views from the Brooklyn Bridge — north, south, east and west. The view to the east is Brooklyn, and the view to the south is the Statue of Liberty. The view to the west is Wall Street, where the (World Trade Center) towers used to be. The view to the north is the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building — sort of the old New York. I really love the Brooklyn Bridge, and I love to walk across it, and every time I go to New York I try to do that.”

Brooklyn Bridge features a solo clarinet and wind band. “What’s exciting about the clarinet is that it is really a crossover instrument. It’s used in jazz and it’s used in classical music,” Daugherty commented. “So, for some reason, when I thought of the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought of the clarinet. It seems to be an instrument that comes to mind when you think of all of the immigrants that have lived in New York and crossed that bridge.”