Four Eastman School of Music composers had an opportunity to hear their orchestral works read on Feb. 23 and 25.

Two Eastman composers participated in an orchestral workshop with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Feb. 23. The BPO is a professional orchestra and holds an annual competition for composition students to have their orchestral works read during this workshop.

Graduate student Ching-Mei Lin heard her piece “Abysmal Cry” read for the first time under the direction of conductor Ron Spigelman.

The orchestral workshop is designed to give young composers the opportunity to hear their works and receive feedback from the conductor and orchestral musicians.

The workshop was divided into two separate reading and feedback sessions. During the second session the orchestra read junior Jonathan Graybill’s work entitled “Nightscape” for string orchestra.

Graybill’s piece was performed previously by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under Jeff Tyzik’s direction on Jan. 5.

During the feedback sessions, the conductor and ensemble members focused primarily on the clarity of the score and parts for reading purposes. Comments included mundane topics such as page turns, but the musicians also were clear about their opinions of the musical merit of the works they read.

Ron Spigelman specifically mentioned that the Eastman composers that participate in the workshop have consistently presented advanced musical compositions.

Graduate conducting major Daniel Black conducted the Eastman Philharmonic in orchestral readings of works by graduate students Sarana Chou and Jacob Bancks on Feb. 25.

Chou’s piece, “Speaking Without Words,” was for string orchestra. I was struck by the juxtaposition of lyrical melodies and dissonant textures. The composer mentioned Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” as an influence in her new work.

While there was no formal feedback session, Black gave the musicians an opportunity to voice concerns about their parts.

After rehearsing the piece in small sections he left time for two run-throughs of the piece, giving the composer and other listeners an extra opportunity to absorb the work.

The Philharmonia read the first movement of Bancks’ “Chamber Serenade.” Due to missing personnel, I had the opportunity to participate in the reading as second horn. Hornist Donna Yoo, who took over the bass clarinet part, should be congratulated for sitting in last minute.

The “Chamber Serenade” was very enjoyable to read as well as listen to – the wind writing in particular was very idiomatic.

Both Bancks and Chou had positive experiences with the readings.

“I really appreciated working with the conductor, Dan Black,” Banks said. “He was very professional and committed to doing my work justice. The players were excellent and very flexible.”

Ideally, there would be more time to spend on each piece in the readings.

However, conductor Daniel Black and the Philharmonia did an excellent job in the given time.

Perhaps in the future, a more formal feedback session, similar to that of the BPO, could be scheduled to enhance the experience even further for composition students.

Aresty can be reached at

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