This special concert celebrates the 50th birthday of Augusta Read Thomas, a former NHSO Composer-in-Residence and founder of the NHSO’s Young Composer Project. She’ll have a world premiere of her own when the renowned Frederick Hemke performs her Hemke Saxophone Concerto (Prisms of Light). Also joining the orchestra will be acclaimed soprano Tony Arnold, who will perform Thomas’ Absolute Ocean, and the Elm City Girls’ Choir, who will perform Two e. e. cummings songs, by Thomas.
When Ben learned about the program, he wanted to surprise his mentor with something really special. He composed a new work especially for Ms. Thomas as a special birthday surprise. She does not yet know that the Symphony will perform the work as an encore at the concert Thursday night.
Ben began his work with Ms. Thomas while still a student at the Hopkins School in New Haven. “Having Augusta as my mentor during her residency with the NHSO was one of the greatest things to happen to me,” said Mr. Scheer. “She helped me discover new devices for my composition, and was the first person to recommend that I apply to Eastman. She was extremely helpful in the process of finding my compositional voice. Her teaching philosophy is to protect the unique qualities of all of her students, and I can say that each of her students have developed their own styles, all incredibly different.”
Ben’s piece is a meant to be a cheerful, celebratory work, which pays tribute to some of the whimsical, effervescent qualities of Ms. Thomas’ music. It is dance-like, to capture the importance of movement in her compositional style. Mr. Scheer says that he is “honored to be able to express artistic gratitude to Augusta for all she has taught me. I would never be in the situation that I am in now, were it not for her guidance. I am studying to be a contemporary classical composer in one of the greatest conservatories for new music, and I am writing music that I am truly excited about. She continues to serve as a wonderful role model for me, someone whose enthusiasm captivates the audience and stirs excitement about new music.”
The NHSO Young Composer Project is an exciting and rare opportunity for select high school students to engage in a two-year program focusing on theory and composition, granting students access to NHSO musicians, guest artists, and some of America's foremost composers (2009-2011 Augusta Read Thomas, 2012-2014 Christopher Theofanidis). Students participate in group and individual lessons, compose new works, and their pieces are premiered by NHSO musicians. It is one of only three such programs at orchestras in the United States.
For tickets to the Ben Scheer and Augusta Read Thomas premieres, or any New Haven Symphony Orchestra concert, visit www.NewHavenSymphony.org