Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11: Troy Peters

My strongest feeling in the wake of 9/11 was numbness. The immediacy and impact of what happened were so powerful that I found myself exhausted for weeks. When Steve Klimowski, who directs the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, asked me to write a piece for a 9/11 memorial concert, I knew I wanted to be involved. I struggled, however, to begin working.
At the same time, the Vermont Youth Orchestra (where I was the Music Director) was completing a huge building project, renovating a historic U.S. Army Cavalry drill hall to create the Elley-Long Music Center.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, we held our opening ceremony on a Saturday morning, before a full house of community leaders. Among the guests at this event was Senator Patrick Leahy, who spoke eloquently of how the inspiring spectacle of a community investing so much to share music with its youth was the perfect antidote to the anguish we had all been going through as a nation. Senator Leahy's comments energized me, sending me back into conducting and composing with a new commitment and energy. In the end, the world is (and always has been) a dangerous place. All of us, however, can do our best to spread joy and beauty to our families, our communities, our audiences.
And what about the 9/11 piece Steve Klimowski had asked me for? I decide to write about my feelings in the immediate wake of the attacks. In the cello solo which opens Lament — 9/11/01, I tried to capture my sense of being emotionally lost. The cello mulls over its sorrow and doesn’t know where to go with it, turning in circles. When the cello finally exhausts itself, the voice enters with a brief song of mourning to this text by Abu Al-ala Al-ma’arri, an 11th century Arab poet from what is now Syria:

The soul driven from the body
Mourns the memory it leaves behind.
A dove hit in flight sadly turns
Its neck and sees its nest destroyed.

Listen to Lament — 9/11/01

Troy Peters
Troy Peters has been a popular and acclaimed guest conductor with orchestras including the San Antonio Symphony, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and Vermont Mozart Festival. He became Music Director of YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) in August 2009, after 14 years in Vermont, where he was Music Director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Middlebury College Orchestra, and Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. His work has been the subject of national media attention from CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, and The New Yorker. He has gained international attention for his orchestral collaborations with rock musicians, including Jon Anderson (of the band Yes) and Trey Anastasio (of the band Phish), with whom he worked on two albums on Elektra Records.
Peters conducted the world premiere recording of Daron Hagen's Masquerade with violinist Jaime Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Among the other soloists with whom he has collaborated are Midori, Horacio GutiƩrrez, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), and Soovin Kim. Vermont Governor James Douglas recognized his contribution to the state's cultural life by proclaiming April 17, 2005, as "Troy Peters Day" in Vermont, and he was also awarded a Vermont Arts Council Citation of Merit in 2009. He has been honored with seven ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Among Peters' other past conducting positions are posts with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, the Pacific Chamber Soloists, and Perpetuum Mobile. He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Pennsylvania.
Peters is also active as a composer, where his work ranges from orchestral and chamber music to a large body of songs and an opera for hand puppets. Among his honors are the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and grants from Meet the Composer and the Rockefeller Foundation. His music has been commissioned by many groups, including the Philadelphia Singers, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Saint Michael's College, Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Social Band. His primary compositional mentors were Ned Rorem and George Crumb. A versatile instrumentalist, Peters not only plays the viola, but has also performed on tenor banjo and electric guitar with symphony orchestras. Born in 1969 in Greenock, Scotland (of American parents), Peters grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and lives in San Antonio with his wife and two children.

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