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Hsueh-Yung Shen, Composer with "Sensuous Ear" Wins Whitaker Commission

2000 Reading Sessions Set for April 3 & 4

Hsueh-Yung Shen, a composer The New York Times said has, "a sensuous ear for sound" and the Washington Post called, "a spectacular talent with very considerable potential for future growth," has been named winner of the 1999 Whitaker Commission, an honor that includes a $15,000 prize and premiere performance by American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Chosen from among seven finalists in one of this country's most coveted opportunities for emerging composers, Shen won top prize of the Whitaker New Music Reading Sessions with his evocative orchestral essay entitled Changing Hues and Cries.

Mr. Shen is currently an Associate Professor at Southwestern University, Texas. He earned his Doctorate from Stanford University and his Masters from Harvard. Among his recent teachers are Leon Kirchner, Arthur Berger, John Chowning, Leland Smith and Lukas Foss, who calls Shen, "a brilliant, highly professional young composer." Yet, at age 47, Shen is one of the oldest composers to participate in Reading Sessions. His studies extend back to the 1960's when, as a high school student, he had the opportunity to study with the famed Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau, France and Darius Milhaud at the Aspen Festival.

Reminded of his own late-blooming as a composer, ACO's President, Francis Thorne said, "development of a composer can't be measured with a calendar--it is the lifetime accumulation of study and experience, perceptions and influences. It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I decided to devote myself to composition, after a career as a jazz pianist. I am pleased that the Whitaker Reading Sessions have helped this extremely talented composer move to the next level in his career." Recently, Shen has gained some important new champions, including renowned cellist Leslie Parnas and violist Raphael Hillyer, both of whom have recently commissioned chamber works from him.

Held in New York this past June, under the direction of Resident Conductor Paul Lustig Dunkel and Artistic Advisor/composer Robert Beaser, the eighth annual Readings attracted over 100 submissions from emerging composers around the country. Made possible by a grant from the Helen F. Whitaker Fund, the Readings provide an invaluable opportunity for developing composers to experience a full orchestral rendering of their work, receive the reactions of conductors, composers and performers, and obtain a professional quality tape to assist in their advancement. Over the years, some thirty-eight composers have received crucial career-development through ACO's Whitaker Readings. Composers serving as mentors for the 1999 Reading Sessions included Samuel Adler, Sheila Silver, and George Perle.

Finalists in this season's readings were: Felicia Sandler, a Doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, where she has studied with Michael Daugherty, William Bolcom, and Bright Sheng. Her selected work was entitled Seven; Arlene Sierra, a University of Michigan alumna, whose Aquilo employs Latin American rhythms she picked up during a residence with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Lima, Peru; Robert Gross, currently a student of Richard Danielpour and David Noon at Manhattan School of Music, who was represented by his Halcyon Nights; Ken Ueno, who now studies at Yale as a student of Martin Bresnick and Bun-Ching Lam. His Saturation and Purge showed a strong jazz influence; Carter Pann, last year's recipient of the New York Youth Symphony's "First Music" commission, impressed with his whirlwind tour-de-force Slalom. The Reading Sessions concluded with Panegyric by Sophia Serghi, who did her graduate work at Columbia University.

The next Whitaker New Music Reading Sessions will be held on April 3 and 4, 2000 in New York City. Submissions are now being accepted; the application deadline is November 24, 1999. Contact Daniel Brodney, operations manager, at 212-977-8495 x202 for submission guidelines and application, or view guidelines online.


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