The School of Music Centennial Celebration will include the world premieres of seven newly commissioned works written specifically for our school’s students and faculty. This list represents a wonderful group of composers that pays tribute to our school’s roots as an institution for women, is diverse, and will provide substantial new works to the repertoire.
Click on a photo below to learn more about each composer and reserve tickets to attend the premiere of their new work.
Steven Bryant’s music is chiseled in its structure and intent, fusing lyricism, dissonance, silence, technology, and humor into lean, skillfully-crafted works that enthrall listeners and performers alike. His seminal work Ecstatic Waters, for wind ensemble and electronics, has become one of the most performed works of its kind in the world, receiving over 250 performances in its first five seasons. Recently, the orchestral version was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra to unanimous, rapturous acclaim. The son of a professional trumpeter and music educator, he strongly values music education, and his creative output includes a number of works for young and developing musicians.
John Corigliano states Bryant’s “compositional virtuosity is evident in every bar” of his 34’ Concerto for Wind Ensemble. Bryant’s first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, hailed by composer Samuel Adler as “orchestrated like a virtuoso,” was premiered by The Juilliard Symphony and is featured on a CD release by the Bowling Green Philharmonia on Albany Records. Alchemy in Silent Spaces, commissioned by James DePreist and The Juilliard School, was premiered by the Juilliard Orchestra in May 2006. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series featured his brass quintet, Loose Id, conducted by Cliff Colnot, on its 2012-13 concert series.
Notable upcoming projects include an orchestral work for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (April, 2018), an evening-length dramatic work for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, a choral work for the BBC Singers (July, 2017), a work for FivE for Euphonium Quartet and wind ensemble (2019), and a large work to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois Bands. Recent works include a Concerto for Alto Saxophone for Joseph Lulloff and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony (winner of the 2014 American Bandmasters Sousa Ostwald Award), and a Concerto for Trombone for Joseph Alessi and the Dallas Wind Symphony. Other commissions have come from the Gaudete Brass Quintet (Chicago), cellist Caroline Stinson (Lark Quartet), pianist Pamela Mia Paul, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet (funded by the American Composers Jerome Composers Commissioning Program), the University of Texas – Austin Wind Ensemble, the US Air Force Band of Mid-America, the Japanese Wind Ensemble Conductors Conference, and the Calgary Stampede Band, as well as many others.
Steven studied composition with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School, Cindy McTee at the University of North Texas, and Francis McBeth at Ouachita University, trained for one summer in the mid-1980s as a break-dancer (i.e. was forced into lessons by his mother), was the 1987 radio-controlled car racing Arkansas state champion, has a Bacon Number of 1, and has played saxophone with Branford Marsalis on Sleigh Ride. He resides in Durham, NC with his wife, conductor Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant (Duke University).
Given the occasion for these works, a celebratory mood was clearly required, so I searched for textures and motives that felt that way to me. I read through the UNCG Alma Mater and ended up selecting a line as the title for one of the works—‘A Chorus Loud and Strong.’ I hope the audience walks away feeling energized and enthralled. I love eliciting a visceral response with my music, so I hope that occurs in at least a few of the listeners.
DAI WEI (MM ’15)
Dai Wei is originally from China. Her musical journey navigates in the spaces between east and west, classical and pop, electronic and acoustic, innovation and tradition. She often draws from eastern philosophy and aesthetics to create works with contemporary resonance, and reflect an introspection on how these multidimensional conflict and tension can create and inhabit worlds of their own. Her artistry is nourished by the Asian and Chinese Ethnic culture in many different ways. Being an experimental vocalist, she performs herself as a Khoomei throat singer in her recent compositions, through which are filtered by different experiences and background as a calling that transcends genres, races, and labels.
She recently awarded CANOA Commission (Composing a New Orchestra Audience) from the American Composer Orchestra Underwood New Music Reading to compose a new orchestral work which will be premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2022/23 season. She was commissioned by Bang on a Can to write a piece for solo violin and electronics——Song for Shades of Crimson, which was premiered by violinist Todd Reynolds at Bang on a Can 2020 Marathon in May.
Wei served as Young-Composer-in-Residence at Music from Angel Fire and Composer Fellow at Intimacy of Creativity in Hong Kong. She has received commissions and collaborations with Utah Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Curtis 20/21 Ensemble, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Merz Trio, and the Rock School of Ballet in Philadelphia. Her compositions were broadcast by WRTI, Performance Today, WHYY, Radio Television Hong Kong, and Qinghai Television.
Wei has also collaborated with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia under the direction of Dirk Brossé for two consecutive years. As the opening of Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s 2017/18 season concert at Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, she was commissioned and performed herself as the vocalist of the chamber orchestra work dedicated to Bernstein’s 100th anniversary. She has also performed her own compositions in various venues, such as New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, International Computer Music Conference, World Saxophone Congress, and North American Saxophone Alliance.
Being active as a Mandopop songwriter and singer. She was the National Top 15 of My Show, Season 4, a reality TV singing competition in China. After that, she received her exclusive songwriter contract with Linfair Records Limited in Taiwan. Her music has been recorded and released on labels including Universal Music, Sony Music, Rock Records, and Ocean Butterflies International. Her works have been performed throughout China and internationally at venues including Sydney City Town Hall, Le Shadok in France, Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, Nanjing Olympic Stadium, Dalian Sports Center Stadium, Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou and Spring Cocoon Center in Shenzhen.
Wei is currently pursuing her doctorate in Music Composition at Princeton University as a Naumburg Fellow. She holds Artist Diploma at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studies with Jennifer Higdon, David Ludwig, and Richard Danielpour. She earned an M.M. in Music Composition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied with Mark Engebretson and Alejandro Rutty. She earned her B.A. in Music Composition at the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in China.
Jocelyn Hagen composes music that has been described as “simply magical” (Fanfare Magazine) and “dramatic and deeply moving” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis/St. Paul). She is a pioneer in the field of composition, pushing the expectations of musicians and audiences with large-scale multimedia works, electro-acoustic music, dance, opera, and publishing. Her first forays into composition were via songwriting, still very evident in her work. The majority of her compositions are for the voice: solo, chamber and choral. Her melodic music is rhythmically driven and texturally complex, rich in color and deeply heartfelt.
In 2019, choirs and orchestras across the country are premiering her multimedia symphony The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vincithat includes video projections created by a team of visual artists, highlighting da Vinci’s spectacular drawings, inventions, and texts. Hagen describes her process of composing for choir, orchestra and film simultaneously in a Tedx Talk given at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, now available on YouTube. Her dance opera collaboration with choreographer Penelope Freeh, Test Pilot, received the 2017 American Prize in the musical theater/opera division as well as a Sage Award for “Outstanding Design.” The panel declared the work “a tour de force of originality.”
In 2013 Hagen released an EP entitled MASHUP, in which she performs Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” while singing Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team.” She is also one half of the band Nation, an a cappella duo with composer/performer Timothy C. Takach, and together they perform and serve as clinicians for choirs from all over the world.
Hagen’s commissions include Conspirare, the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Choral Directors Associations of Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut and Texas, the North Dakota Music Teachers Association, Cantus, the Boston Brass, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the St. Olaf Band, among many others. Her work is independently published through JH Music, as well as through Graphite Publishing, G. Schirmer, Fred Bock Music Publishing, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Boosey and Hawkes.
‘Standing Side by Side’ is inspired by many things but probably, most importantly, the joy in performing music again. Being able to stand side by side with other singers, to make beautiful sounds, and to communicate with the audience is a luxury I don’t think anyone will take for granted again. This work is also a practice in acknowledging gratitude. We are happier human beings when we make time to recognize the things we are grateful for.
Standing Side by Side
November 21, 2021, 5:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, 617 N. Elm St.
James Lee III
Called a “gifted young composer” (Cincinnati Enquirer) whose “bright, pure music” (Washington Post) is “tonal but highly complex” (South Florida Classical Review) and “vibrant [and] richly layered” (Baltimore Sun), James Lee III composes in every medium ranging from orchestral and band works, to chamber ensemble, sacred choral and vocal pieces, and works for solo piano. Born in 1975 in St. Joseph, Michigan, he cites as his major composition teachers Michael Daugherty, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Betsy Jolas, Susan Botti, Erik Santos and James Aikman. As a composition fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summer of 2002, he added Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gandolfi, Steven Mackey and Kaija Saariaho to his roster of teachers, and studied conducting with Stefan Asbury.
Premieres and performances of his music include Papa Lapa by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins conducting, in 2001; the premiere of Sympathy, for flute, percussion, harp and chorus, given by the Leigh Morris Chorale in St. Paul in 2002; and A Place for God’s People, an orchestral work premiered at Andrews University in 2002. In 2002 Dr. Lee had two premieres at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Those premieres included The Appointed Time for string quartet and Psalm 61 for members of the Boston Symphony Chorus.Through the Eyes of Time for orchestra was commissioned by the Alabama All-State Festival Orchestra and introduced in Mobile under Anthony Elliott in 2004. Recently, Maestro Leonard Slatkin has begun to champion Dr. Lee’s work.
My work ‘Solar Testimonies: Symphony for Band’ is inspired by various aspects of the history of UNCG, its student traditions, and various elements of the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro. The symphony is organized in four movements, which include the titles ‘Dreams and Traditions,’ ‘Collegial High-Jinks,’ ‘and they asked, How Long?,’ and ‘by the word of their testimony.’ If the audience listens carefully, they will be able to hear a quote of a prominent song that was sung during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.I am hoping that the audience will be moved by the musical journey that tells a story of aspirations, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
University of South Carolina
Penn State University
University of Colorado Boulder
Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Solar Testimonies: Symphony for Band
February 18, 2022, 7:30 PM, UNCG Auditorium
Works by Shosatkovich, León, Bolcom, Tower, Holst, and Lee
Hilary Purrington is a living composer of chamber, vocal, and orchestral music. Her work has received recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP); the International Alliance for Women in Music; and the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC), among others.
Purrington’s orchestral and chamber works have been performed by many distinguished ensembles, including the Peabody Modern Orchestra, the American Modern Ensemble, Voices of Change, and the Chicago Harp Quartet. Her orchestral work Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky, premiered by the Yale Philharmonia, has been read by the Philadelphia and American Composers Orchestras and performed by the Minnesota Orchestra. Recent commissions include new works for the New York Youth Symphony and American Composers Orchestra, and upcoming projects include commissions for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. For the 2018–19 season, Purrington was named the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra’s Composer of the Year and served as composer-in-residence for the Musical Chairs Chamber Ensemble. She is a 2020 recipient of an orchestral commission from the League of American Orchestra’s Women Composers Readings and Commissions program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Purrington has also composed several works for dance. Most recently, the Albany Symphony commissioned Patterns, a new work for chamber orchestra. Inspired by the life of fashion arbiter Ellen Louise Demorest, the piece featured the Albany Berkshire Ballet with choreography by Mary Talmi. In 2018, Purrington participated in Periapsis Music and Dance’s Emerging Artist Residencies and created a new work with choreographer Annalee Traylor, which premiered in May 2019. While attending The Juilliard School, Purrington collaborated with choreographer Stephanie Terasaki to create a new work for brass quartet and dance.
Also an accomplished vocalist, Purrington has developed a reputation as a skilled composer of solo and choral music. Her song For your judicious and pious consideration was premiered by mezzo-soprano Adele Grabowsky on the 2016 NY Phil Biennial’s New Music New Haven concert. In 2015, the Eric Stokes Fund commissioned Purrington to compose a new song cycle about the devastating effects of climate change. The resulting work, A Clarion Call, was premiered at the 2017 Conference for Ecology and Religion hosted by the Yale Divinity School. Recent vocal commissions include new works for the Melodia Women’s Choir of NYC, Yale Glee Club, inFLUX, and the Bowers/Fader Duo. In April 2019, C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective premiered John Eason Stops Preaching, a new work with words by contemporary poet Julia Bouwsma.
A versatile collaborator, Purrington recently worked with children’s author Mo Willems and composed an original piece to appear in the book Because (Hyperion Books for Children, 2019). Illustrated by artist Amber Ren, Because tells the story of a young girl who devotes herself to studying music and grows up to become a professional conductor and composer. The book reached The New York Times’ Best-Seller List and continues to charm and inspire young readers across the world.
Originally from western Massachusetts, Purrington lives and works in Durham, North Carolina. She holds degrees from the Yale School of Music, The Juilliard School, and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.
Two things really inspired ‘as firmament to fin’—the Centennial and the students themselves. A few years back, I worked with Dr. Kevin Geraldi (Professor of Conducting) on my piece ‘Extraordinary Flora.’ The students performed it beautifully, and I was astounded by the talent and artistry of the musicians here at UNCG. I wanted to write a piece to showcase their strengths. I also wanted to compose an uplifting, forward-looking work to celebrate and honor the spirit of this milestone. This will be the first work of mine that I’ve heard live and in person since the start of the pandemic. I can’t begin to describe how excited I am and can’t imagine a more special way to return to music.
Michigan State University
Illinois Wesleyan University
Central Washington University
Ball State University
Oklahoma City University
as firmament to fin
November 22, 2021, 7:30 PM, UNCG Auditorium
Works by Brahms, Purrington, and Still