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The Bard College Conservatory of Music Presents "Music Alive!" on Sunday, September 20th

Concert Features New Works of the 20th and 21st Centuries Directed by Blair McMillen and Grammy Award Winner Joan Tower

Eleanor Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Bard College Music Program and Bard College Conservatory of Music present “Music Alive!” on Sunday, September 20 at 3:00 p.m. in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater. The suggested ticket donation is $20; the minimum donation is $5. All ticket sales benefit the Conservatory’s scholarship fund. For ticket information contact the Fisher Center Box Office at or call 845-758-7900.

Grammy Award winner Joan Tower and pianist extraordinaire Blair McMillen direct a dynamic mix of new works and 20th–century classics, including Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”; Béla Bartók’s “Romanian Dances”; Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasilieras No. 5 with Mary Bonhag, soprano, and Qizhen Liu, principal cello; and Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood, ” with Blair McMillen, Wui-Ming Gan, Shun-Yang Lee, Matthew O’Koren, and John Boggs. Excerpts from John Adams’s Road Movies will be performed by Yang Li, violin, and Blair McMillen, piano; and George Tsontakis’s “Knickknacks” will feature Luosha Fang, violin, and Shuangshuang Liu, viola. Two Conservatory composers will present new works: Heidelberg,” by Yiwen Shen, with Ariadne Greif, soprano, and Frank Corliss, piano; and “Cloud Forest,” by Conor Brown, with Fanny Wyrick-Flax, flute; Conor Brown, clarinet; Caitlin Majewski, violin; Emma Schmiedecke, cello; Blair McMillen, piano; and Matthew O’Koren, John Boggs, and Shun-Yang Lee, percussion. The orchestra will feature more than 40 musicians and outstanding soloists from the Conservatory. 

This is the fourth year that Joan Tower, one of America’s preeminent composers and Asher B. Edelman Professor in the Arts at Bard, has organized “Music Alive!” concerts, which feature performers and composers drawn from the College’s Music Program and the Conservatory of Music. “Our Music Alive! ensembles concentrate on music taken from the 20th and 21st centuries, which include a mix of living composers and masterpieces drawn from the repertoire,” says Tower. 

Hailed as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time” in the New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower was the first woman to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. She was inducted in 1998 into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004. She was the first composer chosen for the ambitious new Ford Made in America commissioning program, a collaboration of the League of American Orchestras (at that time, the American Symphony Orchestra League) and Meet the Composer. In October 2005, the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Tower’s 15-minute orchestral piece Made in America which was followed by performances of 65 orchestras in 50 states. The Nashville Symphony and conductor Leonard Slatkin recorded Made in America, Tambor, and Concerto for Orchestra for the Naxos label. The top-selling recording won three 2008 Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Tower has added conductor to her list of accomplishments, with engagements at the American Symphony, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Scotia Festival Orchestra, Anchorage Symphony, Kalisto Chamber Orchestra, and another eight of the Made in America orchestras, among others. Since 1972, Tower has taught at Bard College. She recently concluded her 10-year tenure as composer in residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a title she has held at the Deer Valley Music Festival in Utah since 1998, as well as at the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival for eight years. Other accolades include the 1998 Delaware Symphony’s Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composer, the 2002 Annual Composer’s Award from the Lancaster Symphony, and an Honorary Degree from the New England Conservatory (2006). “Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music” (Detroit News).

Blair McMillen has established himself as one of the most sought-after and versatile pianists today. His repertoire spans from late-medieval keyboard manuscripts to the 21st century. Recent performances include solo appearances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Albany Symphony/Dogs of Desire, Miller Theatre’s 15th-anniversary “Piano Revolution,” Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Caramoor, CalArts, the Institute for Advanced Study, and “Music for the New Century” at Columbia University. His first CD, “Soundings” featuring music of Debussy, Scriabin, Liszt, and Bolcom, was released to wide critical acclaim. Other recent solo recordings include Powerhouse Pianists on Lumiere, Concert Music of Fred Hersch on Naxos, and Multiplicities: Born in ‘38 on Centaur. Mr. McMillen recently made his Carnegie Hall debut as soloist, under the baton of David Robertson. A founding member of the ensemble counter)induction, and pianist for the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players; Mr. McMillen plays regularly with New York City’s downtown–based Avian Orchestra, Locrian Chamber Players, and American Modern Ensemble, among others. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School, Oberlin College, and the Manhattan School of Music. An active educator, improviser, and self-taught jazz pianist, he serves on the piano faculty at Bard College.

The Bard College Conservatory of Music is an innovative, five-year, double-degree program guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. While training and studying for the bachelor of music degree with world-class musicians and teachers and performing in state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Frank Gehry–designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard Conservatory students also pursue a bachelor of arts degree at Bard, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. In addition, the conservatory offers graduate programs in Vocal Arts, led by renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw, and in Conducting, led by Harold Farberman, as well as a Post-Graduate Collaborative Piano Fellowship, directed by Frank Corliss. For more information call 845-758-7196, or e-mail

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This event was last updated on 09-09-2009