When the Reno Chamber Orchestra (RCO) performs the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner’s Chasing Light… this weekend, it will present a special tribute to Andrea Lenz. The composer dedicated the piece’s third movement to Lenz, the orchestra’s principal oboist and chair of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Music and Dance.
In fact, the dedication is even noted on the sheet music that will be played by orchestral musicians across the country.
“I’ve had a couple of composers write with me in mind, but this is incredibly exciting,” said Lenz, an associate professor of music. “I am really touched.”
“I think you can safely say that having a world-renown composer dedicate a movement of one of his works to an individual instrumentalist in an orchestra is not something that happens everyday,” said Larry Engstrom, director of the University’s School of the Arts. “What a nice tribute to Andrea. She is a wonderful musician, and it is great that she has been recognized in this way.”
Schwantner’s piece was commissioned – and will be performed – by 58 orchestras in all 50 states through Ford Made in America, a partnership program of the League of American Orchestras, Meet the Composer and the participating orchestras.
The RCO was selected to give the premiere performances, which will take place at the University’s Nightingale Concert Hall in the Church Fine Arts building on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 21 at 2 p.m.
It was at a League of American Orchestras conference that Schwantner and Lenz first met. The 1979 Pulitzer winner was impressed by Lenz’s commitment to teaching and performing world-class music. When Schwantner learned that the Reno orchestra would premiere his composition for the Ford Made in America project, he asked RCO Executive Director Scott Faulkner to send him recordings of several performances by the group. Schwantner listened until “the orchestra’s sound was in my ear.”
“We are honored to be the lead orchestra in the largest commissioning consortium in the history of American orchestras,” noted Faulkner. “It is a rare honor for the RCO and a wonderful opportunity for our community to experience the birth of a piece of music by one of the world’s great composers.
“Thanks to the Ford Made in America program, on Saturday and Sunday, the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Nightingale Concert Hall will be at the center of the orchestral universe, and the canon of symphonic music will have a wonderful new piece added to it.”
Schwantner will attend the RCO rehearsals and performances, and will participate in activities in the community and at the University. Wednesday afternoon he will conduct a masterclass with University music composition students, and Thursday he will have lunch with music faculty members.
“Masterclasses by composers and artists such as (Schwantner) are extremely valuable experiences for our students,” said Lenz. “They get personal contact with someone, other than their professors, who has actually ‘made it’ in their chosen fields. Even if their advice is the same as ours, it comes from a different perspective and means a great deal to the students.”
In addition to Chasing Light…, the orchestra’s program will include Schwantner’s New Morning for the World, featuring texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. that will be read by Andrew Green, City of Reno finance director. The performance, which is the opening concert of the RCO’s 2008-09 season, will conclude with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
General admission tickets are $40; seniors (65+) are $35; student tickets are $15 with free admission available to those 18 and younger. As the event is expected to sell out, tickets should be purchased in advance by calling the orchestra’s office at (775) 348-9413 or visiting the Reno Chamber Orchestra website.
Ford Made in America is made possible by the Ford Motor Company Fund. For more information, visit their website.