The Astoria Symphony, Diane Wittry, and the International Conductor’s Institute Workshop

Allen and maestro Huff chatting with the audience before the concert.

Last week, I had the good fortune of having my latest work for orchestra (Walamboltz) performed by the Astoria Symphony, under the baton of maestro Silas Huff. The symphony did a great job, and I was pleased with the performance. I’ll be uploading a soundclip to my works list page as soon as they can get me the recording. Thank you Silas and all the great players of the Astoria Symphony!

As nice as it was to have a piece premiered by an orchestra here in NYC,  that was not the whole experience. In the week preceding the concert, my work was used as part of a workshop for conductors. Along with Walamboltz, the conductors studied and worked on conducting problems in the Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 and the Mozart Violin Concerto #3. The workshop consisted of master classes led by the talented and generous Diane Wittry (conductor of the Allentown Symphony, composer, and author of the best-selling book Beyond The Baton). One of the classes was a close discussion between Diane and me, as we worked through some of the issues in my piece. Diane’s study of my score was intense and thorough. It was a real treat to have my music given such care and concern–while personally being put in the hot seat and made to answer for a few errors and mistakes in my score! They were picayune errors (a missing dynamic mark in one line that was present in the others), but, still, having to work out problems and discuss errors in front of the conducting workshop participants was quite an experience.

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The composer’s score in the workshop.

The workshop attendees worked with the Astoria Symphony in both rehearsal exercises and conducting exercises. Sometimes, my work was used as a teaching and learning device. It was a strange experience to take part in, because I knew that the focus in those sessions would not be on rehearsing my music, itself, but in the problems conductors would face in rehearsing my piece.

Diane and Silas made the experience very fruitful for me. Both of them were gentle and supportive, questioning and free with advice, hard-working and generous. I hope I get the chance to do this again some time.

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