This November, the Duke University Wind Symphony will welcome renowned composer Frank Ticheli to guest conduct a concert of his own works in Baldwin Auditorium. Ticheli is currently a Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Previously, he was a Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony. He received the 2012 “Arts and Letters Award” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
“I have known Frank for many years, since he came to Austria and was part of the music festival that my family organized,” said Professor Mösenbichler-Bryant, Director of the Duke University Wind Symphony and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Music. “Every other year, we try to bring a renowned guest conductor or composer to Duke’s campus, and Frank is one of the most renowned in the wind ensemble world.”
Ticheli’s wide range of work is suitable not just for professional symphonies, but also for high school and middle school symphonies with beginner or novice performers.
“I first encountered Ticheli about 18 to 20 years ago when I began to perform his music with younger students,” said Phillip Riggs, Director of the North Carolina School of Science and Math Wind Ensemble. “Many professionals have difficulty writing for kids with limited abilities, but he seems to bridge that well.”
Accordingly, it only seems appropriate that the North Carolina School of Science and Math Wind Ensemble would be invited to perform alongside the Duke University Wind Symphony.
“Phillip has been a very dear colleague to me. We have been trying to figure out a partnership between Duke and the North Carolina School of Science and Math for quite some time,” said Mösenbichler-Bryant. “I want to try to expose Ticheli to as many students as possible during his short time here visiting, and Riggs was also very eager to get on board, so we decided to do a joint concert.”
The concert will feature sections in which each wind symphony will have a chance to perform on their own, then a section in which they perform together. Mösenbichler-Bryant said they plan to perform pieces from across his catalogue, like “Vesuvius” and “Blue Shades.”
“His music draws you in, not just as an active performer, but also as a listener,” said Mösenbichler-Bryant. “His catalogue is very diverse. Some pieces are very joyous, like "Vesuvius," and other pieces are lyrical, passionate, or quiet pieces. You get both ends of the spectrum and anything in-between.”
“It seems he can take any idea and make it beautiful. He can make it light, or there can be complex chords involved with tension and resolve, or just slower music,” said Riggs. “At the same time, like the last movement of "Apollo Unleashed," his music can be powerful and have lots of energy. Just as he is able to write across multiple levels of musical ability, he is also able to write in many different styles.”
Even for those who are unfamiliar with Ticheli’s compositions, both Mösenbichler-Bryant and Riggs promise that the concert will be enjoyable and accessible.
“Some classical music you have to study and listen to before you go to a performance or else it is not very interesting to someone who doesn’t know how to listen to it. But his music is very lyrical, it is easy for a novice listener to grasp what he is trying to say musically, unlike some other contemporary composers.”
During the concert, the audience will have a chance to hear from Ticheli himself about his pieces, as well as meet him in person.
“As a conductor, we really want to make sure we do the piece and the composer justice when performing music, so I am curious to hear what he thinks when I’m conducting,” said Mösenbichler-Bryant. “What will be his interpretation against my interpretation of the notes on the page?”
Riggs agreed with Mösenbichler-Bryant’s sentiment. “It is exciting and intimidating all at the same time,” said Riggs. “I think that’s the only way we can continue to grow as musicians is to put ourselves in situations where we are right there with the composer. The next time I do a piece of his, I can share more firsthand knowledge of his intentions and what he is trying to convey. It helps our students grow as musicians, but it also helps us grow as educators.”
Duke University Wind Symphony will welcome guest conductor and composer Frank Ticheli on Nov. 19, 2014 at 8 p.m. in Baldwin Auditorium. General admission is $10, but student admission is free. Find more information at http://music.duke.edu/ensembles/wind-symphony/concert-schedule .