Eugene Symphony’s “First Symphony” project is an ambitious four-year endeavor in partnership with Santa Rosa Symphony that will support and celebrate brand new long-form orchestral work by four modern American composers. As the first of its kind nationwide, the project is co-commissioned by the Eugene Symphony, the Santa Rosa Symphony, and nine patron households, including Francesco Lecce-Chong – who serves as Music Director & Conductor of both Eugene Symphony and Santa Rosa Symphony.
Lecce-Chong’s goal of the project is to shift the commissioning paradigm to a process that is both collaborative and interactive between the commissioners, performers, composers, and their communities.
"The classical music art form relies on the creative vision of today's composers," says Lecce-Chong. "In the large-scale form of a symphony, these composers will be able to create a musical world that is both deeply personal and powerfully universal, all the while bringing new creations for classical music lovers to enjoy for generations to come.”
Composers will write their first symphony, each to be world-premiered between the two symphony orchestras over the next four years. In addition to the symphonic length work, additional shorter compositions by each composer will also be included in the Eugene Symphony’s repertoire.
Increasing the scope of the project, each of the composers will be Composer-in-Residence during the weeks of their performances, participating in community engagement and music education outside the concert hall.
“The importance and impact of these projects go far beyond the concert hall and each organization. The multiple residencies within our local communities will allow us to not only celebrate these new creations, but also bring us closer to their creators and the meaning behind their music," says Lecce-Chong.
Learn more about the composers:
New York-based composer Matt Browne (b. 1988) strives to create music that meets Sergei Diaghilev’s famous challenge to Jean Cocteau: “Astonish me!”, through incorporating such eclectic influences as the timbral imagination and playfulness of György Ligeti, the shocking and humorous polystylism of Alfred Schnittke, and the relentless rhythmic energy of Igor Stravinsky. His music has been praised for its “unbridled humor” (New Music Box) and described as “witty” (The Strad) and “beautifully crafted and considered” (What’s On London).
Matt has had the privilege to collaborate with such ensembles as the Minnesota Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, PRISM Quartet, Albany Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Eastman Wind Ensemble, PUBLIQuartet, New York Virtuoso Singers, New Jersey Symphony, New England Philharmonic, and the Villiers Quartet. Recent projects include his Symphony no. 1 ‘The Course of Empire’ commissioned the Santa Rosa and Eugene Symphonies, States of Mind for percussion quartet, and a collaboration with Opera Omaha’s Poetry and Music.
Recently, Matt’s music has received honors such as winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize (2017), first prize in the 2020 New Classics International Competition of the Moscow Conservatory (out of 2,000 submissions in 84 countries), a BMI Student Composer award (2015), a residency at the Mizzou International Composers Festival, fellow at CULTIVATE Copland House (2017), winner of the New England Philharmonic Call for Scores (2014), a residency at the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute (2016), winner of the American Viola Society’s Maurice Gardner Composition award (2014), and a residency at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s First Annual Composers Institute (2013). Matt holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Composition from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Previous teachers include Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, Carter Pann, and Daniel Kellogg.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be present in the Eugene and Santa Rosa communities throughout the creative process. So often composers are shut in our studios writing music, only to send the final work off with minimal contact. It is refreshing and so important for us composers to be present and available throughout the process, not only to the musicians but also to the community as a whole.”
Matt's first symphony, Symphony No. 1, "The Course of Empire", saw its Pacific Northwest Premiere at our Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto on May 26, 2022.
We also performed Matt's Barnstorming Season as part of our Mahler's "Titan" concert on October 17, 2019.
Gabriella Smith is a composer and environmentalist. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area playing and writing music, hiking, backpacking, and volunteering on a songbird research project. Whether for orchestras, chamber ensembles, voices, or electronics, Gabriella’s music comes from a love of play, exploring new sounds on instruments, building compelling musical arcs, and connecting listeners with the natural world. Recent highlights include the premiere of her organ concerto, Breathing Forests, written for James McVinnie and LA Phil, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; and the release of her first full-length album, Lost Coast, with cellist Gabriel Cabezas, named one of NPR Music’s “26 Favorite Albums Of 2021 (So Far)” and a “Classical Album to Hear Right Now” by The New York Times. Currently she is working on a version of Lost Coast for cello and orchestra, to be premiered by Gabriel Cabezas and LA Phil in May 2023, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
“The reason this project is so exciting to me is that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to write an orchestral work of this scope. I have always been attracted to long, continuously developing musical arcs, and a work of this scope will give me the opportunity to develop this sense of trajectory and evolution to a much fuller extent than I have ever been able to in the past.”
Gabriella's first symphony, Symphony No. 1, ONE for Orchestra, saw its Pacific Northwest Premiere at our Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto on March 16, 2023.
We also performed Gabriella's Field Guide at our Beethoven's Ode to Joy concert on December 10, 2022.
Listen to more of Gabriella's compositions here.
Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles, orchestras, choir, and film. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise.” Negrón has been commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kronos Quartet, loadbang, Prototype Festival, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Sō Percussion, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, the Louisville Orchestra and the New York Botanical Garden, among others. Angélica received an early education in piano and violin at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico where she later studied composition under the guidance of composer Alfonso Fuentes. She holds a master’s degree in music composition from New York University where she studied with Pedro da Silva and pursued doctoral studies at The Graduate Center (CUNY), where she studied composition with Tania León. Also active as an educator, Angélica is currently a teaching artist for New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program. She has collaborated with artists like Sō Percussion, Lido Pimienta, Mathew Placek, Sasha Velour, Cecilia Aldarondo, Mariela Pabón & Adrienne Westwood, among others and is a founding member of the tropical electronic band Balún. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at WNYC’s The Greene Space working on El Living Room, a 4-part offbeat variety show and playful multimedia exploration of sound and story, of personal history and belonging. She was the recipient of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize. Upcoming premieres include works for the Seattle Symphony, LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic Project 19 initiative and multiple performances at Big Ears Festival 2022. Negrón continues to perform and compose for film.
“Undertaking such a large-scale work is a stimulating challenge as well as a creative opportunity to take risks and explore what it means to write a symphony in the 21st century. With my new piece, I am hoping to reimagine this tradition, considering the orchestra as an ever-evolving and expanding sonic palette with infinite possibilities. I am interested in submerging myself in this long form to discover new sonic spaces that make room for fresh perspectives that reflect what it means to be a composer in today's complicated landscape.”
Angélica's first symphony, Sinfonía Isleña, saw its World Premiere at our Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on February 16, 2023.
We also performed Angélica's Me he perdido on Opening Night of our 2022/23 season on October 8, 2022.
Listen to more of Angélica's compositions here.
Composer and pianist Michael Djupstrom’s work has been recognized through honors and awards from institutions such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, MacDowell Colony, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, New Music USA, S&R Foundation, the UK’s Delius Society, the Académie musicale de Villecroze, and the Chinese Fine Arts Society, among many others. In recent years, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, National Cherry Blossom Festival, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Tucson Friends of Chamber Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music are among the many organizations that have awarded him commissions for new works. Other notable performers of his music include the American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, and chamber ensembles such as Dolce Suono, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Music from Copland House, and the New Fromm Players at Tanglewood. As a pianist, Djupstrom has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadelphia-based new music ensemble Relâche, and his great interest in chamber music has led to concerts in metropolitan cities throughout the world. He has recorded for American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” Radio Television Hong Kong’s Radio 4, and the Equilibrium, American Modern, and Meyer Media labels. In recent seasons, his special interest in Romanian classical music led to performances in Montreal and Bucharest and to the pursuit of advanced language study with the assistance of a Romanian government scholarship. Djupstrom received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and an Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music. Other training included fellowships at the Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, and the Brevard Music Center, as well as private studies in Paris with composer Betsy Jolas, whom he later worked for as assistant.
"It was orchestral music that first really sparked my interest in classical music. I am still in love with orchestral music today. I have written for several works for the medium, but I have never had the chance to compose something large-scale. These opportunities are extremely rare today, and I'm very excited to take part in this project."
Michael's first symphony, Symphony No. 1, will see its World Premiere at our Dvořák’s Cello Concerto on February 1, 2024.
We will also perform his composition, From the Northern Wilds, at our Opening Night concert, Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on September 21, 2023.
Listen to more of Michael's compositions here.