Joan Tower: From Sea to Shining Sea

Joan Tower: From Sea to Shining Sea
Joan Tower
© Noah Sheldon
What do you get when you combine a brand new work with a group of community orchestras from each of the 50 United States? Joan Tower’s 15-minute MADE IN AMERICA — a major highlight that spans the 2005-2007 orchestral seasons starting with four time zone premieres this autumn. The first occurs on 2 October in the Eastern Time Zone as Charles Peltz conducts the Glens Falls Symphony (NY), followed by the Pine Bluff Symphony’s (AR) Central Time performance on the 15th. The West Coast gets its Pacific Time premiere on 22 October by the Reno Chamber Orchestra (NV), and audiences in Mountain Time tune in to the Las Cruces Symphony (NM) on 5 November.

Sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund, Ford Made in America is the result of an innovative partnership between the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer. The partnership helps small budget orchestras pool their resources and share in a collaborative network, which then enables them to commission and perform a major new work by a nationally recognized American composer. ASOL president Henry Fogel notes, "In my travels to orchestras in communities of all sizes across the country, I can say without hesitation that this project will leave all the participants — musicians and audiences — richer for having embraced a new work and having played a part in the creative process." Heather Hitchens, MTC president, adds, "[Our] participation in Ford Made in America is an important realization of our mission to bring audiences in contact with living composers and the music of their time." 65 orchestras have committed to this project. And, with over 15 performances scheduled within the first two months of the premiere, 18 sets of parts were created to ensure that each ensemble could present the work in its community.

So, how did Tower feel about her inaugural efforts? "I am truly honored to be the first composer for this ambitious program. I thought the idea of writing for community orchestras was very interesting, because it seems to be an exciting prospect for them to be able to commission and perform a new work by a living composer. This is an important grass-roots movement that will hopefully continue to be supported by others as well." Tower incorporated the beloved tune "America the Beautiful" into the fabric of the piece. As the theme, it is continually "challenged by more aggressive and dissonant ideas…but ‘America the Beautiful’ keeps resurfacing in different if to say ‘I’m still here, ever changing, but holding my own.’ "

As performances continue throughout both seasons, Tower herself conducts four concerts: the Williamsport Symphony (PA), Civic Orchestra of Tucson (AZ), Reno Chamber Orchestra (NV), and the Grand Junction Symphony (CO). She adds, "I would love to go on an Alaskan dogsled tour [to the Fairbanks and Juneau Symphonies]; however, I’m a little old for that now. But, if I were 30 years younger..."

Duration: 15'
Commissioned by the Ford Made in America Consortium

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