From February 16 to 18, 2012, Carnegie Hall is partnering with Young People’s Chorus of New York City™ (YPC) to produce the Transient Glory® Symposium. This three-day workshop will give eight selected conducting fellows the opportunity to work closely with the composers of new works for children’s chorus as well as top choral conductors in the field and Francisco J. Núñez, YPC’s founder and artistic director. Transient Glory (TG) is YPC’s long-standing program of commissioning new works from an all-star group of contemporary composers. One of the conductors from YPC's first TG Symposium in 2005, Dominick DiOrio, is also returning to this year’s workshop. We asked him to share some of his reflections from his first experience with Transient Glory.
At the first TG Symposium in 2005, I worked with Bright Sheng, conducting his piece "Boatmen's Song" for treble voices, percussion, and harp. As a composition major at Ithaca College, I remember studying some of Sheng's music, so the opportunity to work with him felt like a move to the world of serious music-making. He was very passionate about his work, and he helped me to interpret the score with great insight. And, of course, Francisco Núñez is a visionary. The Transient Glory commissioning series is so unique and so successful because of John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Paquito D'Rivera, and the other "prime-time" composers who take part.
I've participated in master classes, competitions, and symposia for conductors in the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Houston, and San Francisco through organizations as diverse as Chorus America, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Rikskonserter. Without a doubt, Transient Glory is one of the best in the world. The faculty and guest composers are first-rate. The music is exceptional. The opportunity to conduct in major New York venues and receive attention from the New York press is unparalleled. And most importantly, the Young People's Chorus of NYC is one of the finest choirs anywhere. Francisco brings out the natural gifts and talents of these beautiful young people through his inspiration, dedication, and vibrantly musical personality.
When I attended the TG Symposium in 2005, I was still a very young conductor. I was very fortunate to have first studied conducting with Janet Galván—one of the guest conducting faculty at the Symposium and my choral ensemble director at Ithaca College—and she encouraged me to apply for the first TG Symposium. When I arrived in New York, I wasn't prepared at the time for the shock of the "big leagues." Transient Glory marked a turning point for me—I began to think of myself as a consummate professional musician, not simply a student of music. While I will always be learning in my craft, this shift in perspective was vastly important and has continually informed my teaching and my passion for the art.
I conduct all periods of music with my choral ensembles at Lone Star College in Houston, but new music has a special place for me in my work because of my own experience as a composer. I find nothing more revelatory than the opportunity to prepare a piece of new music with the composer in attendance at the rehearsals and performances. This is vitally important to our art. We need to hear the voices of today's composers. We need to hear their reactions to our time. And, perhaps most importantly, it is critical that audiences today are exposed to living, breathing composers, not just those who are long-dead Europeans.
I've never been one to worry too much about which activities are appropriate for the trajectory of one's career. In 2005, I would have said that the Transient Glory Symposium was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but here we are! I am immensely grateful to have the chance to do it all again! I learned so much about conducting the first time when I was still a freshly-minted undergraduate. I can only imagine that I will learn newer and deeper lessons this time, returning as a mid-career professional. And, I would be a fool to turn down an opportunity to collaborate again with the YPC. These young people are some of the most amazing musicians in New York City—of any age—and every accolade they've received is richly deserved.
Francisco Núñez has been a constant and affirming presence in my professional life. He helped to support my application to the Yale School of Music for my graduate work. He has offered advice to me as a composer and conductor. And he taught me one of the greatest lessons I had to learn as a burgeoning conductor: When those lights come on and the show begins, there's no room for error. Every performance must be inspirational, musical, fabulous. And even more than that, Francisco continues to provide the best possible model for how to be an artistic director of an arts organization. He cares deeply and profoundly about these young people and the work the YPC does to cross cultural divides. This clarity of vision and purpose is requisite for any artistic director, and I will remember that concretely as I think to my own future in the world of music.
Seven years ago, I was vastly intimidated. These young people were singing circles around music more meaty and complex than anything I had ever attempted as a performer. The discipline and commitment to musical excellence that they exhibit is second-to-none. Returning now to conduct the YPC again, I finally feel ready to meet them as a musical equal. We will collaborate together this time at (Le) Poisson Rouge and at Zankel Hall on Paquito D'Rivera's "Tembandumba." This piece is so cool. It brims and pulses with kinetic energy and rhythmic drive. It's going to be fabulous.
The Transient Glory SymposiumEvent: February 16, 2012 at (Le) Poisson RougeEvent: February 17, 2012 at 92nd Street YEvent: February 18, 2012 at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall Choral Conductors: Apply to Work with Francisco J. Nuñez, MacArthur Fellow