"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Tomorrow night, the Philidor Percussion Group will premiere Atmosfouric by Michael Ahrens. Mike is a fascinating guy: he’s in his third year in the Master’s program here, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him in our weekly lessons. He’s taught me a lot about African rhythms, and his background as a drummer for pop bands gives him a great perspective on Classical traditions. I’ll always remember the enthusiastic awe he expressed upon hearing his first live performance by a professional string quartet (it was Miró), admiring how the music got everyone’s full attention, allowing the pieces to filter into respectful silence, instead of losing the endings in the din of audience noise.

A little background: When I found out last spring that Philidor was going to play here, I asked them if they would sponsor a friendly competition for our composers. They agreed enthusiastically, and gave us some loose parameters. The students began working on their compositions in September; the performers chose Mike’s piece just a few weeks ago. Not only will they play it here tomorrow night, they’ll repeat the performance at UNC-Greensboro on February 2nd (Some of you may know that the UNC system has sixteen campuses throughout the state – it’s one of the stronger state university systems in the country).

There were two runner-ups in the competition: works by freshman Alicia Santee and grad student Tom Brennan. They’ll be performed by our student percussion ensemble in April.