News / USA

    Conductor Marks Decade Nurturing New American Music

    Under Robert Spano's direction, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is world class

    Robert Spano opens the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 2010-2011 season with The Star Spangled Banner.
    Robert Spano opens the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 2010-2011 season with The Star Spangled Banner.

    When Robert Spano took over the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 10 years ago, it was still trying to recover from tough times, including a musicians' strike and a contentious relationship with their previous conductor. But Spano managed to turn the orchestra into a world-class ensemble as well as an incubator for new American music.

    Spano grew up in a musical family, composing and playing flute, violin and piano. As conductor, he's made it his mission to showcase new music in Atlanta while also championing the music of a group of composers now known as the Atlanta School.

    "We had the idea, not to have a composer-in-residence, but rather to work with a few composers regularly over time and not play just one work of theirs, but to play existing music of theirs, second, third, fourth performances," says Spano. "Also, to commission and do premieres of their music, to record it, to repeat it, to make them part of our musical life, our musical family."

    Robert Spano conducts the world premiere of Christoper Theofanides' 'Une Certaine Joie de Vivre' at the Atlanta Symphony's season opening night concert in September 2010.
    Robert Spano conducts the world premiere of Christoper Theofanides' 'Une Certaine Joie de Vivre' at the Atlanta Symphony's season opening night concert in September 2010.

    One of the members of the family is Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. She's had six works performed and recorded by the orchestra, including "City Scape," a musical portrait of Atlanta.

    "You know, for a composer, that sort of an experience is the complete dream," says Higdon. "I mean, it's just incredible to have a phenomenal orchestra with a really committed music director who believes enough in a piece to record the work on a major label and get it out there in the world. I don't think it gets any better than that, to be quite honest."

    Higdon remembers that when Spano first got the job, there were doubters.

    "They said, you know, 'Atlanta is a Southern town, it's conservative, it's a social scene at the orchestra, new music isn't gonna fly.' And I remember talking to him about this. I'm like, 'How do you feel about them saying this?' And he said, 'Not a problem. I know what to do. I'm gonna go in. I'll be convincing on the podium, you know?' He says, 'This is journey we all need to take together.' And, he was already, right off the bat, planning, kind of, long-term."

    Robert Spano confers with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon.
    Robert Spano confers with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon.

    Spano knows his audience and doesn't want them just to appreciate these composers, but to love their music. Before new pieces, he presents videos and gives talks. And concerts featuring work by the Atlanta School of Composers are regularly filled almost to capacity. While these composers have different personal styles, they write in an accessible musical language. And Spano says there's one thing they all share.

    "They're interested in tunes. They use tonality and they're all interested in either popular or world music or both. And that influences their writing and is part of their musical language."

    An internationally-recognized artist, Spano has led many major orchestras in the U.S and abroad over the course of his 20-year career. He remains in demand as a guest conductor. He's also a dedicated teacher, and spent five summers heading the conductor training program at the Tanglewood Music Festival. That's where he met Argentine-born composer Osvaldo Golijov. The two are frequent collaborators and Spano has presented a dozen of  Golijov's works in Atlanta.

    In his 10 years at the helm, Robert Spano has turned the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra into a world-class ensemble.
    In his 10 years at the helm, Robert Spano has turned the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra into a world-class ensemble.

    Golijov believes working with Spano makes him a better composer. "I feel that Robert is not just the conductor for my music, but he's a great editor. He's someone that challenges me in sometimes very provocative ways. Like, he doesn't take the text as sacred, he elevates me, he questions me."

    Spano says his proudest accomplishment over the past 10 years has been to foster, nurture and record new work.

    "I get excited about being part of a process where the person who's writing the music is also going through a voyage of discovery in their own musical life and in terms of what they're writing, what they're writing for, what forces. And to be part of that is just exhilarating."

    He expects that sense of exhilaration to continue. Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra just announced they've created a new record label - ASO Media - so that they can continue to record new work.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora