Copland House Sponsors Music Premiere at UCHS

Posted: Thursday, June 13th 2019


UCHS's premiere performance of "Dancing Ink"

Not many high school students get to premiere a new musical work, and even fewer get to work with the composer to prepare the for the premiere. University City High School band students had a chance to do just that this spring, when they premiered “Dancing Ink,” a new work from local composer Yihsien Chen.

With support from the VAPA Foundation, University City High School partnered with Copland House, a not-for-profit foundation in New York. The Copland House began as the historic residence of famous American composer Aaron Copland, and now houses composers-in-residence. The organization provides public musical performances, visual exhibitions, master classes, lectures, and on-site tours; its education arm supplies in-school performances and workshops, coaching for student musical ensembles, as well as its renowned “What’s the Score” program.

In “What’s the Score”, Copland House commissions a composer to collaborate with middle school or high school students to create a new piece of music together. Over the course of the year, students read through drafts of the composition and provide feedback to the composer, culminating in a public performance by the student ensemble of the new co-designed work. “What’s the Score” is a 2015 winner of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award, which recognizes partnerships between professional music organizations and public school music programs.

The composer for the University City High School project, Yihsien Chen, is a doctoral student in composition at UC San Diego. Mr. Chen has a connection to and interest in visual art, often creating his music to be an aural representation of the elements, materials, and themes in a work of art. His vibrant multi-movement instrumental composition developed for University City High School, “Dancing Ink”, was initially inspired by several paintings he admires. During the premiere performance at a concert on May 1 at UCHS, the paintings were projected on a screen as the students played the music. The professionalism of the young performers combined with the visual art connection was inspiring for many in attendance. Brandon Corenman, director of music at University City High School, said that his students learned a lot from the process and the collaboration.

The premiere was attended by SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten and VAPA Director Russ Sperling, as well as the Education Director for Copland House, Paul Mesches, and the composer, Yihsien Chen. Copland House's “What's the Score?” program partnership with University City High School was made possible by generous support from the VAPA Foundation and the Friends of Copland House. 

Pictured above: In rehearsal, composer Yihsien Chen works with the University City High School band and their director Brandon Corenman 

Pictured above: Mr. Chen applauds the University City High School Band and Mr. Corenman at the premiere

Pictured above: VAPA Director Russ Sperling, Paul Mesches from Copland House, Brandon Corenman of UCHS, and composer Yihsien Chen

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