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.

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stephenson music top 10 2014 list

Magnificat – Evanston Symphony; December

Lawrence Eckerling, conductor, with the North Shore Choral Society. Evanston, IL.

Stephenson Music Top 10

Little did I know when attending this performance of my Mag, by an all-volunteer orchestra and chorus, that I would be so moved. There is something about watching such a large group of people who are there working so diligently purely for the joy of it. They sang and played with such passion, and the performance was tremendous. My congratulations to Larry for such a successful undertaking amidst his busy schedule.

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stephenson music top 10 2014 list

Three successive CBDNA + ABA band conferences; March

Boston, Muncie, Reno, Montgomery

It's About Time, Stephenson Music Inc James Stephenson

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Guilty as charged for lumping several performances into one listing; however, as a relative newcomer, I am continually impressed at the dedication to new music in the wind-band world. Also thrilling to me is the opportunity to share my music with young and eager minds. Performed at these conferences were: It’s About Time – for 2 trumpets and winds – featuring my college trumpet teacher, Charles Schlueter, and Marvin Stamm, with Bill Drury conducting the NEC winds (Boston); The Devil’s Tale – for L’histoire ensemble – performed brilliantly by the commissioners, the WIU faculty ensemble, under the direction of Mike Fansler. (Muncie). Also at this conference was my trumpet concerto, so well executed by Brittany Hendricks under the direction of Thomas Caneva. I was unable to attend Dodecafecta (brass quintet concerto), as performed out in Reno under the direction of Diane Soelberg. I’m continually thrilled when this difficult work gets repeat performances. Lastly, I was fortunate to enjoy yet another stellar performance of my Three Bones Concerto, by Joe Alessi, Pete Ellefson and Jon Whitaker, as conducted by Ken Ozzello. (Montgomery).

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stephenson music top 10 2014 list

Over 70 orchestras performing my Christmas arrangements; December

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Again guilty of lumping together… but this represents my “other” life – my arranging career. I am so delighted when orchestras – including Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto, National, St. Louis, NY Pops (thank you Steve Reineke!), and many more choose to highlight my charts on their special holiday concerts. And when conductors such as Bruce Briney, Stuart Chafetz and Matthew Savery have faith in me to commission new ones instead of resorting to old standards. Special thanks to Maestros Pasquale Laurino and Vladimir Kulenovic for featuring concerts solely of my arrangements for their respective concerts with the Racine Symphony and Utah Symphony.

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stephenson music top ten 2014 list

Sydney, Australia – Composer-in-Residence; July

stephenson music top ten list sydney australia

International Brass Festival, with Steve Rosse. Sydney is fast-becoming one of my favorite destinations! When you combine natural beauty with top-notch musicians and people, it’s hard to beat. I had many works played at the festival, including my new Hanging by a Thread, (trumpet/tuba + wind ensemble), premiered by Rex Richardson and Steve Rosse under the direction of the always-delivering Steve Williams, with his stellar high school group (SWE). I can’t wait to go back!

stephenson music top ten 2014 list

Bassoon Concerto – Dialogue of Self and Soul; all year

a consortium spearheaded by Craig Kirchhoff.

stephenson music top ten list

Craig and I go back to 2007, when I met him while visiting with the MN Commissioning Club (more on them later). He put together a group of schools to fund a new concerto for bassoon, and the resulting performances thus-far in 2014 have been a real treat to take in.
These include:

Norbert Nielubowski – U of MN; Craig Kirchhoff (world premiere) (May)

Tim McGovern – U of IL; Linda Moorehouse (May)

Jeff Lyman – U of M; Michael Haithcock (also recorded for CD release) (September)

David Pierce – Eastern Michigan; Mary Schneider (October) (pictured)

Kristin Wolfe Jensen – U of Texas; Jerry Junkin (November)

Abi Arnold – Merit School of Chicago; Bryan Polacek (December)

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Trumpet concerto #1 – Midwest Clinic, Chicago; December

stephenson music top ten list Again performed by my friends of the Australian wind ensemble (SWE) under Steve Williams’ baton! This time featuring LA Philharmonic principal trumpeter Thomas Hooten, whose flawless performance of a most difficult work will not soon be forgotten!

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stephenson music top ten 2014 list

A Three-Way Tie

Devils Tale Top 10 list for 2014

Why a three-way tie? Because I got to experience each in a unique way in one calendar year: In one case, Devil’s Tale went un-conducted by Chicago Symphony players at the CSO summer home of Ravinia. John Yeh spearheaded this effort, and the result was a most memorable evening. It was such a relief to hear from many audience members (and not just ones I knew!) that mine stood up just fine to its predecessor – The Soldier’s Tale (Stravinsky). Added to that the performance by my hometown orchestra members, and it was all a thrill. Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to have the piece masterfully performed by the commissioning ensemble (WIU faculty ensemble/Mike Fansler), with my wife, Sally, as guest violinist. I sat in the audience and enjoyed it all. Yet earlier in the year was a version conducted – by ME! To be so directly involved, at the request of festival organizers Lisa Leonard and Marc Reese, in bringing this work to life was most rewarding.

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stephenson music top ten 2014 list

Violin concerto #1; November

Jennifer Frautschi, with the Lake Forest Symphony, under the direction of David In-Jae Cho

stephenson music top ten list This work was initially commissioned by the aforementioned MN Commissioning Club, a tireless group of new-music lovers and sponsors. The premiere was with the Minnesota Orchestra, back in 2012, with Osmo Vänskä. Jennifer, who also did the premiere, brought her passionate music-making and technical wizardry to the audiences in Lake Forest, where I am composer-in-residence, performing the new revised version (for smaller orchestra) with both vigor and subtlety. It is a very personal work to me, and I was happy to share it with the hometown audience. I am continually grateful to the LFS for their annual presentations of my works.

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stephenson music top ten 2014 list

and… #1… goes to…

Compose Yourself!

– a symphonic introduction for young-audiences; February-December

2014 has included performances in Yakima, Atlanta, Charleston, Wyoming, Racine, Lake Forest and Chicago.

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While choosing the other 9 was very difficult, #1 was easy. It will never be lost on me the satisfaction and joy I feel and seeing young children light up and smile at the sounds of the symphony orchestra. When that is combined with the fact that my piece is all original new music which they’re “not supposed to like”, then that satisfaction is multiplied exponentially. I love traveling around and doing this work; orchestras love it, kids love it, even the older audience members love it. If my music can play a small part in helping to create a new generation of classical music-lovers in any sense, then I am proud to have been a cog in that large wheel. A huge THANK YOU to those who shared my vision and programmed this work for their young audiences!

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Thank You To Everyone For A Great 2014!

We’re Looking Forward To Our Continued Partnerships in 2015.

Jim Stephenson