Hilary Purrington receives American Composers Orchestra commission

Hilary Purrington

Composer Hilary Purrington ’17MMA has been awarded the American Composers Orchestra’s 2017 Underwood Emerging Composer Commission, “bringing her a $15,000 commission for a work to be premiered by ACO in a future season,” according to a press release issued by the organization. Purrington was one of six finalists to participate, in late June, in the ACO’s Underwood New Music Readings, during which the orchestra played her 2016 piece Likely Pictures in a Haphazard Sky. More than 250 composers submitted work to the annual program.

Derek Bermel, the ACO’s artistic director, was quoted in the press release as saying, “Hilary Purrington’s music spoke in a highly personal voice … Her work unfolded assuredly, revealing an orchestral palette at once austere and lyrical.”

“The Underwood New Music Readings were beyond anything I expected or anticipated,” Purrington was quoted as saying. “I learned so much from our mentor composers, conductor George Manahan, and the extraordinary musicians of the American Composers Orchestra. I’m honored and thrilled to receive the Underwood Commission, and I’m very excited to compose for these incredible and fearless musicians!”

The mentor composers who participated are Libby Larsen, David Rakowski, and Trevor Weston.

“Founded in 1977,” the press release reads, “American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose.”

School of Music alumnus Andy Akiho ’11MM was awarded the ACO’s 2014 Underwood Commission.

PRESS RELEASE
HILARY PURRINGTON

Published July 11, 2017
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This young rising star from Philly just got the call-up of a lifetime

Kensho Watanabe

The Philadelphia Inquirer | By David Patrick Stearns

Kensho Watanabe can barely fathom the turn of events that found him on stage leading the Philadelphia Orchestra last weekend — with three hours’ notice.

 “I know what happened,” Watanabe said in an interview this week. “But my brain is still processing it.”

Surreal is one word that comes to mind, he said. Watanabe was notified at 5 p.m. Saturday that music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin had come down with a virus and could not conduct the 8 p.m. program at the Kimmel Center.

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Published June 29, 2017
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Rachel Cheung ’13MM reaches finals, wins Audience Award at Van Cliburn Competition

Rachel Cheung performs with Leonard Slatkin and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in the final round of the Van Cliburn Competition. Photo by Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn

School of Music alumna Rachel Cheung ’13MM was one of six finalists at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which took place May 25 through June 10 in Fort Worth, Texas. She took home $12,500 in cash prizes — $10,000 for reaching the final round and $2,500 for earning the Audience Award. As a finalist, Cheung also received a promotional package, which includes photos, additional marketing materials, and media training.

In the course of the competition in Fort Worth, Cheung, who studied at YSM with Peter Frankl, performed three different recital programs, a piano quintet with the Brentano String Quartet — YSM’s quartet-in-residence — and two concerti.

YSM alumna Sun-A Park ’16AD ’17MMA, who studied at YSM with Boris Berman, also participated in the prestigious competition, performing a recital in the preliminary round and taking home a $1,000 cash prize.

Of the 290 pianists who applied, 140 were selected for live auditions. Cheung auditioned in Seoul, in January, and Park auditioned in New York, in February. Only 30 pianists, including Cheung and Park, were invited to compete in Fort Worth.

Sun-A Park performs during the preliminary round of the Van Cliburn Competition. Photo by Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn

According to its website, the Van Cliburn Competition, which is held every four years, is widely recognized as “one of the world’s highest-visibility classical-music contests” and has been responsible for launching the careers of some of the world’s most prominent pianists.

Related:
PIANISTS SUN-A PARK AND RACHEL CHEUNG TO PARTICIPATE IN VAN CLIBURN COMPETITION

Published June 12, 2017
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Achievements celebrated at annual Honors Dinner

Carol Colburn Grigor, recipient of the Samuel Simons Sanford Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Samuel Simons Sanford Award winner Carol Colburn Grigor, and Robert Blocker

The Yale School of Music held its annual Honors Dinner on Sunday, May 7, welcoming students and alumni, faculty and staff, and distinguished guests to the Yale Commons for an evening of celebration. After thanking recently retired staff members for their service and acknowledging the University officers who were in attendance, YSM Dean Robert Blocker presented Carol Colburn Grigor ’69MMA CBE with the School’s highest honor, the Samuel Simons Sanford Award. Grigor, Blocker, said, “is one of America’s most generous … most thoughtful philanthropists.” Composer and former Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills congratulated Grigor via video.

Willie Ruff, recipient of the Nathan Hale Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Nathan Hale Award recipient Willie Ruff, and Robert Blocker

Dean Blocker, with University President Peter Salovey and Yale Provost Benjamin Polak at his side, presented longtime YSM professor Willie Ruff ’53BM ’54MM, who will retire at the end of the semester, with the University’s prestigious Nathan Hale Award. “He’s changed all our lives,” Blocker said, before attendees were shown a video tribute to Ruff’s life and work. In a nod to the man who indirectly inspired him decades ago to study at YSM, Ruff said, “I thank, most of all, Charlie Parker.” The jazz office in the Yale School of Music’s Adams Center for Musical Arts was recently named in Ruff’s honor.

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award winner Warren Lee, and Robert Blocker

Blocker presented the Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award to pianist Warren Lee ’00MM and the Cultural Leadership Citation to retiring Yale Collection of Musical Instruments curator William Nicholas Renouf ’71MMA. The Collection’s director, William Purvis, accepted the Citation on behalf of Renouf, who was unable to attend the Honors Dinner. Before presenting student prizes, Blocker referenced an impressive number of awards and successes earned and realized this year by students, faculty, and staff. He recognized longtime YSM faculty pianist Peter Frankl, who plans to retire in the fall, for his dedication to the School community.

At the end of the evening, Blocker told the students in attendance, “Claim the future. It belongs to you. You will make us better.” What follows is a list of the student prizes awarded during YSM’s 2017 Honors Dinner. MORE

Published May 9, 2017
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Willie Ruff retires having given “conservatory without walls” a home at Yale

By Lucile Bruce

Willie Ruff

Willie Ruff was born in 1931 in Sheffield, Alabama, a rural town on the south side of the Tennessee River. As a child, he showed an aptitude for music and immersed himself in the musical resources of his community. A neighborhood boy shared his drum set with young Willie and they became lifelong friends. The pianist at church became his piano teacher. But the best music he heard was the drumming in the African Pentecostal church half a block from his house. “We would sit on the ground outside the church and listen to the people playing those drums,” Ruff recalled. “It was the most exciting, the most moving music. I heard them in my sleep.”

Across the river from Sheffield stands Florence, the hometown of W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues.” Handy visited Ruff ’s elementary school classroom, played for the children, and accompanied their singing. “W.C. Handy was a big presence in my world,” Ruff recounted. “When I saw him on stage in my school, talking about the importance of our musical heritage, I said, ‘I want to do that.’ I think I have.” MORE

Published May 1, 2017
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Katherine Balch named composer-in-residence at California Symphony

Composer Katherine Balch ’16MM was recently named the California Symphony’s Young American Composer-in-Residence. Over the course of a three-year residency, which begins in August, Balch will work closely with the ensemble and its music director, Donato Cabrera, to premiere and record three new large-scale orchestral works.

“My residency with the California Symphony will entail both the commissioned new works and outreach,” Balch said. “I’ll be writing three pieces for the orchestra of increasing size and scope over the course of three seasons. The first season, I will write a concert opener for the season finale concert in May. The second season, I’m hoping to write a concerto for a longtime collaborator and friend, and we are dreaming big for the third season.”

Balch, whose orchestral works have been performed by such prestigious ensembles as the Minnesota Orchestra and American Composers Orchestra, described her approach to writing for orchestra. MORE

Published April 20, 2017
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Acclaimed chamber ensembles A Far Cry and Roomful of Teeth to perform works by Caroline Shaw and Ted Hearne

Caroline Shaw ’07MM

The Michigan Daily | Dayton Hare

At its heart, public music making is about the way in which we exist in the same time and place as other people. It’s about how we communicate with and relate to one another. The playing of music is a conversation of sorts, an interaction undertaken between the musicians and the listeners, each member of the dialogue giving something and taking something away. It’s not a coincidence, then, that some of the most interesting and engaging music composed both throughout history and today comes from a wellspring of mutually supportive and inspiring relationships between musicians. On Wednesday night, concert goers at Rackham Auditorium will have the chance to witness the fruits of some of these relationships in a joint concert by the contemporary music ensembles A Far Cry and Roomful of Teeth.

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Published April 11, 2017
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YSM composers win American Academy of Arts and Letters awards

Hilary Purrington

Three YSM alumni composers and one current student have received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the organization announced last month. Awardees were selected by a committee of Academy members including Yehudi Wyner ’50BA ’52BM ’53MM, Martin Boykan ’53MM, YSM faculty composer Aaron Jay Kernis, Samuel Adler, Sebastian Currier, Stephen Jaffe, Tobias Picker, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Sixteen composers in all received awards this year from the Academy.

Carl Schimmel ’99MM earned a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, which is awarded to two composers each year. The fellowship, which comes with a $15,000 prize, was created in 1978 with an endowment from the CBS Foundation in memory the former Columbia Records president, who had died a year earlier.

Andrew Norman ’09AD received a $10,000 Arts and Letters Award in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement. The Academy established the award in 1941 to encourage creative work in the arts. Each year, five artists, eight authors, four composers, and four architects receive the prize. Composers receive an additional $10,000 to facilitate a recording of their work.

Katherine Balch ’16MM and current YSM student Hilary Purrington ’17MMA each received a $7,500 Charles Ives Scholarship, which is given to composition students of “great promise.” The scholarship was created when Ives’ widow, Harmony Ives, bequeathed the royalties from her husband’s music to the Academy of Arts and Letters. Two fellowships of $15,000 and six scholarships of $7,500 are awarded each year to composers.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts,” according to language on the organization’s website. Each year, the Academy honors more than 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. The Academy also presents exhibitions of art, architecture, and manuscripts and organizes readings of new musicals.

CARL SCHIMMEL
ANDREW NORMAN
KATHERINE BALCH
HILARY PURRINGTON
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

Published April 6, 2017
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Farkhad Khudyev wins third prize in Solti International Conducting Competition

Farkhad KhudyevFarkhad Khudyev ’10MM was named the third prize-winner in the 8th annual Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition on February 16, 2017. Khudyev was one of 22 aspiring young composers selected from a pool of nearly 300 applicants to participate in the live rounds of the competition, and his 3rd place finish earned him the opportunity to conduct the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in addition to cash prizes.

“It felt incredible conducting one of the best orchestras in Europe and performing for the German audience,” Khudyev said. “I could strongly feel the traditions and the culture of the orchestra.”

Khudyev’s performance of Weber’s Oberon Overture in the final round was praised by the Frankfurter Neue Presse as “graceful, very sensitive, with almost magically bright winds.”

Khudyev has been the recipient of the “Best Interpretation Prize” at the 1st International Taipei Conducting Competition in Taiwan, the Grand Prize and Gold Medal at the 2007 National Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and the recipient of the Glenn Miller Competition Prize and the Neil Rabaut Prize. He has performed around the United States, Europe and Asia at world-class venues and festivals including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy, the Alte Oper Great Hall and the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festpiele in Germany. MORE

Published March 23, 2017
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A Chelsea Manning-WikiLeaks Opera, Seen in a New Light

Ted Hearne

Ted Hearne

The New York Times | By Zachary Woolfe

When you make art about current events, there’s a catch: Events change.

The SourceTed Hearne’s slippery, stunning opera about Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks, had its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The year before, Ms. Manning had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret material on the Iraq war and other American military and diplomatic activities. Many on the left viewed WikiLeaks with wary sympathy for publishing her revelations.

Since then, of course, WikiLeaks has become a liberal pariah for publishing hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s political advisers. And Ms. Manning, who transitioned from male to female in prison, will be freed in May since her sentence was commuted by President Obama just before he left office.

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Published February 22, 2017
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