Internationally renowned composer Joseph Schwantner will be a composer-in-residence at Brown University from Thursday, March 12, through Sunday, March 15, 2009. While here, the Brown University Orchestra will première his new work, entitled Chasing Light….

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Joseph Schwantner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer, will be in residence at Brown University from Thursday, March 12, through Sunday, March 15, 2009. During his stay, the Brown University Orchestra will perform the Rhode Island première of Schwantner’s new work, Chasing Light… Schwantner will also deliver a public lecture and take part in a workshop with Community MusicWorks. All events are open to the public.

The Brown University Orchestra is one of 58 orchestras across the United States that jointly commissioned Chasing Light… The program, sponsored by Ford Made in America, is the largest orchestral commissioning consortium in American history. By pooling resources, the consortium allows smaller-budget ensembles to première a new work by an established American composer of national repute and brings music by a living composer to audiences nationwide. The program is spearheaded by the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer. Schwantner is the second Ford Made in America composer.

“It is an honor for Brown to host a composer of such international prominence,” said Paul Phillips, conductor of the Brown University Orchestra and senior lecturer in music. “For Brown’s faculty and students to interact with leading figures in the field of music is energizing and inspiring.”

Schwantner based Chasing Light… on a poem inspired by the intense early morning sunrises of rural New Hampshire, where he lives. “Chasing Light… draws its spirit, energy, and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination,” he has said. [Listen to Chasing Light ...]

Schwantner will deliver a lecture about his work on Thursday, March 12, 2009, at 4 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall. The Brown University Orchestra will perform Chasing Light…, under the direction of Phillips, on Friday, March 13, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 15, 2009, at 2 p.m. in Sayles Hall. The program will also feature Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite and Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor by Piotr Tchaikovsky, featuring the 2008 Concerto Competition winner, sophomore Bryan Chu. Tickets will be available beginning Monday, March 9, in the Orwig Music Building, Room 101, during business hours and at the door one hour before the performance. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $2 with a Brown I.D. For more information, call (401) 863-3234.

Additionally, Schwantner will take part in an educational event with Community MusicWorks on Friday, March 13, 2009, at 5:15 p.m. at the Met School, Peace Street Campus, 362 Dexter St. The interactive workshop will involve as many as 80 Community MusicWorks students, aged 7-18, and 10 Brown Orchestra members who currently serve as instructional mentors for the program. The presentation is open to the public, but please call (401) 861-5650 in advance to attend. 

Joseph Schwantner

Born in Chicago in 1943, Joseph Schwantner received his musical and academic training at the Chicago Conservatory and Northwestern University. While developing a profile as a leading American composer, he also served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music and the Yale School of Music, simultaneously establishing himself as a sought-after composition instructor.

Schwantner’s compositional career has been marked by numerous distinctions and awards. His early accolades include three BMI Student Composer Awards, the Bearns Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and many other awards, grants and fellowships. In 1979 his orchestral composition Aftertones of Infinity won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1985 his life and music were the focus of a television documentary entitled Soundings, produced by WGBH in Boston for national broadcast. That same year his work, Magabunda “Four Poems of Agueda Pizarro,” recorded on Nonesuch Records by the St. Louis Symphony, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “Best New Classical Composition.” His A Sudden Rainbow, also recorded on Nonesuch by the St. Louis Symphony, received a 1987 Grammy nomination for “Best Classical Composition.” Schwantner is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Schwantner’s Percussion Concerto, among the most often performed of contemporary concert works, was commissioned for the 150th anniversary season of the New York Philharmonic. He has also been commissioned by numerous other leading orchestras and organizations including the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Chamber Music America, Fromm Music Foundation, Naumburg Foundation, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, among many others.

Schwantner has enjoyed particular success in the orchestral world. After winning the Pulitzer Prize for Aftertones of Infinity, Schwantner composed New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom on words from Martin Luther King Jr. for narrator and orchestra, which has since entered the standard repertory of orchestras nationwide. His music is noted for its deft implementation of luminous color and fluctuating rhythms. Schwantner’s recent work, Morning’s Embrace, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23, 2006. His music has been championed by such conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, Andrew Litton, Hugh Wolff and artists including Evelyn Glennie, Sharon Isbin and Anne Akiko Meyers, among many others.

Schwantner’s music is published by Schott Helicon. More information on his work, including brief samples, is available at fordmadeinamerica.org/video.html