UI Symphony Orchestra presents first female conductor and celebrates 100th anniversary
The orchestra’s Wednesday night concert will usher in a year of musical diversification and honor the progress of the symphony.
The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the season takes place tonight, a festive kickoff that will mark its 100th anniversary. In addition, it will also be conducted by the Parisian-born conductor MÃ©lisse Brunet, who will make her debut as the first female conductor of the symphony orchestra.
Brunet was hired by UI last spring as director of orchestral activities. She said this year’s anniversary celebrations will honor the symphony’s progress and changes throughout history, all presented in the symphony’s exciting and eclectic repertoire.
Since joining the UI faculty, Brunet said she was pleasantly shocked by the receptivity, creativity and passion to learn from UI students.
Brunet said that instead of limiting the symphony to a specific musical theme for her 100th year, she believes it is her responsibility as an instructor to broaden the students’ experience and their exposure to the music of different countries and genres.
The concert will begin with a piece by composer Joan Towers, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman”, a cheeky response to Aaron Copeland’s famous classical score, “Fanfare for the Common Man”.
Brunet tells him that the opening piece signifies the change of epoch. The piece will mark the first time Voxman audiences will hear the IU Symphony Orchestra perform a piece not only composed by a woman, but also conducted by a woman.
“What I want to bring for this 100th season are meaningful pieces for the community, and also changes”,
said Brunet. âSo, for example, at our second concert in October, we perform a piece by a black composer – a woman, black composer – which is even more difficult for them to get their music to play, and she is still alive. . So every time, I’m going to bring new things that haven’t really been played yet, as well as a repertoire that makes sense to the community.
The final piece of the evening will be “Symphony No. 7”, by Antonin Dvorak, a bohemian composer who lived for a year in Spillville, Iowa, where Brunet said he wrote some of his greatest music. She said Dvorak’s piece will resonate with audiences as much of his music has been inspired by the people and landscape of Iowa.
Brunet’s teaching assistant, Megan Maddaleno, said that in addition to the visible progress the symphony has made in musical skills this year, the orchestra has progressed in inclusiveness since its inception in 1921.
âI saw pictures in our library archives of what exactly it looked like at the start, and I mean, just to compare that to now, it’s just exciting to see how the orchestra has grown, how it’s completely diversified in terms of where people come from, âMaddaleno said. “It’s really great to see all these people from all over the world come together to make music, in Iowa, from all places.”
Maddaleno also noted that there are now more women occupying the historically male dominated estate. Brunet is Maddaleno’s first female music instructor and, because of this, came up with ideas that were not previously available to the future professional, including new ways to prepare, practice, interact and d ‘evolve as a musician.
After a year of small ensembles, 20-person orchestras and soloing, UI Symphony lead violist Fatima Gassama said the return together is a source of hope for the group.
âWe just happened to have this period where – musicians in particular – weren’t sure what was going to happen in the future. And so just to celebrate, I’m kind of assuming this reopening of the symphony concert, and then for it to happen on the 100th anniversary, I just think it’s such an interesting coincidence, âGassama said.
For the remainder of the year, the spirit of change and expansion will be a driving force for the UI Symphony Orchestra. Brunet said it would be “wonderful” to have an audience.
âThe students, when they play this music, they give so much emotion. That’s what was fascinating to me, is how I forgot how beneficial it is to play music together, âshe said. âBut for them and me to have all these emotions, you know – the symphony is 37 minutes, you have the emotion of anger, sadness, happiness, power, joy. And it lets them show it all through the music, and you have no idea how happy and healing it has been to them. “