Commissioned Composer

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

March 29, 1996

Composer Series at 30th Anniversary

By Jaime Larson
UW-RF News Bureau

The founder of the UW-River Falls Commissioned Composer series, former music Professor Conrad De Jong, will premiere a new composition dedicated to the University celebrating the project's 30th anniversary.

The concert will be performed by the UW-RF concert choir at 8 p.m. on May 2 in Abbott Concert Hall of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building on the UW-RF campus. The performance is free and open to the public.

The commissioned composer project began in 1967 and has since featured internationally known composers such as John Cage, Leslie Bassett, William Albright and Fisher Tull. UW-RF music Professor Robert Brownlow, the faculty adviser for the commissioned composer project, said Tull's composition for the University, "Quodlibet," is frequently performed by brass ensembles and has been recorded by nationally known brass artists.

The commissioned composer is chosen by students and the faculty adviser for the project. They try to commission works for the different performing groups on campus each year. Last year's work was a chamber piece, and Brownlow said next year's piece will probably be written for the wind ensemble.

The performances involve mainly students, but faculty members may be called upon to fill in holes. Occasionally musicians from outside the University will perform.

De Jong titled the piece he composed for the University "Earth Songs," and it includes four songs based upon poetic works: "This We Know," by Chief Seattle; "Indian Woman," by Tom McKeown; "This is What You Shall Do," by Walt Whitman; and "Heaven and Earth," a Haiku by Buson and Hashin.

De Jong received his bachelor's degree in music from North Texas State University in 1954 and his master's degree at Indiana University in 1959. He joined the UW-RF music department in 1959 and taught at the University until his retirement in 1990.

He has published 30 compositions, and his music has been performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Town Hall in New York City and on NBC's television show "Today." His works have also been performed in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Australia and Japan, and his "Variations on the Spanish La Folia" was recorded by the Dorian Wind Quintet on the Summit Records CD "American Premieres."

De Jong's visit will include a three- to four-day residency as part of the project. Commissioned composers typically give lectures and master classes and attend music classes during their stays at UW-RF, Brownlow said.

These lectures play an important role in the commissioned composer project because they expose students to the life of a modern composer, Brownlow said. He compared the importance of knowing what's taking place in the music world to keeping up with the latest technology in computers.

"This is really cutting edge," Brownlow said. "They're exposed to what's going on in the music scene today."

The commissioned composer project also provides visibility for the entire University. The composer that UW-RF hopes to commission next year receives mention in ASCAP, an internationally circulated music publication, each time he or she premieres a new piece. A new work composed for UW-RF receives the same recognition.

"People all over the world will see that," Brownlow said.

For more information on the commissioned composer project and concert call the UW-RF music department at 715/425-3183.

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