Composer Spotlight Series
Key ingredients to the success of any performing arts organization:
I have long believed that while variety is key when programming, it is simply impossible for even a devoted patron to keep track of the multitude of composers that we perform from season to season. The lawyers, grandparents, teachers, bank tellers, etc. can’t be expected to necessarily know the difference between Haydn and Mozart, Higdon and Adams, or Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, and yet we are often disappointed when the audience doesn’t seem to appreciate the appearance of certain composers in a season.
In an effort to build trust with our patrons, improve the quality of performances by allowing the orchestra to have repeated contact with certain composers during a season, and allow for creative, interdisciplinary opportunities around the series, I created the Composer Spotlight.
Through any given season, the audience would have an opportunity to get to know three composers in more detail. My hope is that when any of these composers’ names is on a future program, certain attributes will come to the patron’s mind and make them feel more confident about buying a ticket even if they don’t know the specific piece. For example, when they see Shostakovich in a season listing, I would like for a patron to think of bold orchestra music that is tuneful yet full of satire. When they see Jennifer Higdon’s name I want them to associate her music with a fresh, clean American sound that emphasizes brass and percussion and makes all sections of the orchestra shine.
I always ask the composers to come at least once during the season so our audience and orchestra can get to know them personally.
The format is simple.
One “Big B” composer – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and by extension Mozart and Mendelssohn
One “Known, but not as often played” composer – Bernstein, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich
One “Living composer” – Rouse, Golijov, Higdon, Adams, Corigliano
I program four to six works of each through the season trying to highlight significant works from their early, middle and late (or latest for living composers) periods. I have found that this number allows for good exploration without overwhelming the entire season with just three composers.