‘Tales’ from the rehearsal room: a chat with Jason Bergman

In the 2016-17 season, we’re bringing the Stephenson Music blog back to life by catching up with performer advocates playing Jim’s music around the country. First up is Jason Bergman, Assistant Professor of Trumpet at the University of North Texas, who will perform Jim’s Devil’s Tale on September 13. Jim will also conduct a three-day residency at UNT surrounding the performance.

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Jason, why did the faculty ensemble at UNT decide to program Devil’s Tale? What excited you about this piece?

The UNT College of Music asked the faculty for ideas about a concert we could do at the Dallas City Performance Hall. I proposed a concert that would feature Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale along with Devil’s Tale. The anniversary of the Stravinsky is in September, and I’ve wanted to pair these pieces since Devil’s Tale premiered. Needless to say, the proposal was selected and we’re giving the performance on September 13.

The performers are all faculty members of the UNT College of Music and exceptional musicians. It’s been exciting to hear them bring this piece to life.

What are the challenges of preparing this piece? How are rehearsals going?

We started rehearsing the second day of our new Fall semester. The challenge that has perplexed us the most is getting all the very productive and busy faculty members to find common time to rehearse! However, we’ve gotten that taken care of and are enjoying the piece. My colleagues are such wonderful and experienced musicians that the piece has come together quite well and rather quickly.

Tell us about the people involved in this performance. Do you all perform together often?

Each person on this list is highly regarded in their field, and a top-level artist. I have loved every minute performing with them. This is the first time that we have performed together in this configuration. I wish we could perform this way all the time!

The personnel for this performance are: Eugene Corporon, conductor (Director of Bands at UNT); Nathan Olson, violin (Co-concertmaster, Dallas Symphony and adjunct professor of violin); Jeffery Bradetich, bass (Professor of Bass); Kimberly Cole Luevano, clarinet (Professor of Clarinet); Kathleen Reynolds, bassoon (Professor of Bassoon); Tony Baker, trombone (Professor of Trombone); Christopher Deane, percussion (Professor of Percussion); William Joyner, narrator (Professor of Voice), and myself on trumpet.

When tenor William Joyner isn’t playing the role of the Devil, he can certainly sing like an angel! Here he is performing Wagner with the UNT Symphony Orchestra. 

 

What does it mean to you to perform the work of living composer, and Jim’s music specifically?

I have always been a big fan of Jim’s music. His story is inspirational, and I look forward to performing his works as often as I can. In fact, I think I’ve performed at least one piece every year since 2007, and most years it’s been several pieces! I first heard his music at the 2007 International Trumpet Guild Conference and have been hooked since.

I am very supportive of new music and try to perform it as often as possible. I have recorded two albums and each one features new works for trumpet. I’m really committed. Jim music is approachable to the audience and gratifying to perform as a musician. It’s not always easy, especially for trumpet players! But it’s really well written and exciting to play.

Jason performs Jim’s L’esprit de trompette with the UNT Symphonic Band.

Stephenson Music’s Top Ten List of 2014

Stephenson Music's Top 10 List

Top 10 moments for Jim Stephenson’s music

( Stephenson Music’s Top 10 List )

As with all such lists, it is very difficult to narrow things down, because, for a composer, every performance has such great meaning. I apologize in advance to those not on the list. I assure you, it is nothing personal! The list that follows highlights those performances that stood out either for representing new heights for me in achievement, and/or for personal significance surrounding the performance. The order is somewhat random; these could be juggled around to be in any order, and would still hold true. In reality, I could pretty much grab any performance from the year and add it to this list!

stephenson music top 10 2014 list

Trumpet Sonata #2; November

Joseph Nibley, trumpet. Tallahassee, FL.

Stephenson Music Top 1013 years after the completion of my first trumpet sonata, which was a big step in jump-starting my composition career, Joe decided to make his doctoral thesis a study in commissioning new music, and chose me as his composer. The sonata was a personal study for both of us: on the one hand, an intense and emotional 4-movement work depicting Joe’s life-struggles and affirmations; on the other, a reflection on my own career as composer during that span.

View Trumpet Sonata

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Randy Casey Article

JAMES STEPHENSON AND HIS MUSIC
by Randy Casey

When a composer declares that he will compose a concerto for a childhood chum, words such as “contrived, campy, and cute” could come to mind.Happily, none of the above applied when Lake Forest Symphony Composer-In-Residence James Stephenson composed a trumpet concerto for his long-time friend Jerey Work. Rather, words such as “classy, comprehensible, challenging, and charming” come calling.

I have seen James Stephenson at other Lake Forest Symphony concerts and actually encountered him during an intermission at a performance in Orchestra Hall in Chicago.In addition, I was at the pre-concert lecture when Jim Kendros spoke with the composer prior to the playing of his trumpet concerto.Stephenson’s music is “classy and charming” because those same words apply to the composer himself.I hesitate to use the word “charming” because it might have an insincere connotation. James Stephenson is genuine and down-to- earth, and as a composer wants his audience to “get” his music.

One assumes that because Stephenson is a former trumpeter his piece is idiomatic to the instrument.  In the hands of his very talented friend the work sounds as natural for the trumpet as an idiomatic piece normally does. One also assumes that the composer created very challenging sections to test his friend, knowing full well that he could rise to the occasion.

The harmony of the orchestra part of Stephenson’s trumpet concerto is distinctly modern at times without being crass.e rhythm is uneven now and then to complement the contemporary harmony.  The rhythm is even jazzy at times, but also has its straightforward moments.  The rest movement is intentionally lyrical while the second is bravura in contrast.  The differences between them create an elective whole.

Clearly the relationship between James Stephenson and the Lake Forest Symphony is mutually beneficial. Considering the many perils of being a composer, one would presume that Stephenson would welcome being a “composer-in-residence” in almost any situation.at his “situation” is with a respectable symphony in the Chicagoland area is most attractive.at the Lake Forest Symphony has a contemporary composer who actually lives in Lake Forest and writes such pleasing music is a boon of seemingly boundless proportions to the symphony itself.In a word, the Lake Forest Symphony can honestly say that it is playing modern music that is not driving people from its performance hall, but rather making its listeners smile.

One observes few young audience members at the concerts of the Lake Forest Symphony.For the organization to have a long-term existence, something must be done to generate listeners under 40 years of age. e relationship with James Stephenson is a signicant step in the right direction. Lakre Forest Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence, James Stephenson