Composer Steven Stucky sits down with CIM's Head of Composition, Keith Fitch, to discuss the effect that being an orchestral musician has on his compositional decisions.
Recorded Date: 23-03-2012
Keith Fitch currently heads the composition department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he holds the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition and also directs the CIM New Music Ensemble. Called “gloriously luminous” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, his music has been consistently noted for its eloquence, expressivity, dramatic sense of musical narrative, and unique sense of color and sonority. Reviewing a performance of his work Totem by Wolfgang Sawallisch and The Philadelphia Orchestra (chosen by Maestro Sawallisch to celebrate the orchestra’s centennial), The Wall Street Journal praised “the sheer concentration of his writing, and its power to express a complex, unseen presence shaping the course of musical events.” His works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan by such ensembles as The Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and new music ensembles around the country. Additionally, his music has been heard at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the June in Buffalo Festival, the Midwest Composers’ Symposium, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Milwaukee PremiereFest, New York’s Carnegie and Merkin Halls, and in university settings nationwide. Highlights of recent seasons include the premieres of ’Tho Night Be Falling (commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Colorado String Quartet); Midnight Rounds, written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Da Capo Chamber Players; and Mean Fiddle Summer, composed for the acclaimed violinist Lina Bahn. The 2012-13 season brings the premieres of Knock on Wood (for the harp/guitar duo of Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux); Cascade, a fanfare commissioned by Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the inauguration of their new building; and In Memory, a new chamber orchestra work commissioned by the League of Composers Orchestra (NY).
A native of Indiana, Keith Fitch (b. 1966) began composing at age eight and began formal musical training on the double bass at age eleven. While still in high school (age sixteen), he received his first professional orchestral performance. Subsequently, he attended the Indiana University School of Music, where he completed his Doctorate in 1995. At Indiana, he studied composition with Frederick Fox, Eugene O’Brien, and Claude Baker, double bass with Bruce Bransby and Murray Grodner, and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky, founder of the Borodin Quartet. He also counts Donald Erb and Joan Tower among his compositional mentors. Among his many awards are the annual Dean’s Prize for Composition at Indiana (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994), the Kate and Cole Porter Memorial Fellowship at Indiana (1993-1995), three ASCAP Young Composer Awards (1988, 1989, 1993), the ASCAP-Raymond Hubbell Scholarship (1988), three National Society of Arts and Letters awards (1990, 1992, 1993), an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), and a Fromm Foundation Commission (2005). He has enjoyed multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony (1998, 2001) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007), as well as at The Charles Ives Center for American Music (1991), and the Atlantic Center for the Arts (1989), and he has twice served as Resident Composer and faculty at the Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East (2002, 2006). He has also served as guest composer at California Summer Music (2010) and at the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University (OH, 2010). Most recently, he was the recipient of a 2012 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.
Highly regarded as a teacher, chamber music coach, and conductor of new music, he has taught at Indiana University (2001), Bard College (2005-2006, 2007-2008), and for eleven years served on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in New York (1997-2008), where he founded the new music ensemble, CIRCE. His students regularly win awards from such prestigious organizations as ASCAP, BMI, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as attending leading summer festivals around the world. Students interested in studying with Dr. Fitch are strongly encouraged to contact him at The Cleveland Institute of Music (www.cim.edu) prior to auditioning.
His music is published by Non Sequitur Music (www.nonsequiturmusic.com).
Steven Stucky is one of America’s most highly regarded and frequently performed living composers. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra, he is a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher.
An active teacher and mentor to young composers, Stucky has served on the Warsaw jury of the Witold Lutoslawski Competition for Composers. His highly-esteemed expertise on the late composer’s music has been recognized with the Lutoslawski Society’s medal and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his critical biography, Lutoslawski and His Music (1981). He is consultant to the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer in London.
As conductor, Stucky has frequently led the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group and Ensemble X, a contemporary music group he founded in 1997. With the former, he led soloist Michala Petri in the US premiere of his recorder concerto, Etudes (2002), and conducted world and regional premieres of works by many of his contemporaries, such as Donald Crockett, Jacob Druckman, William Kraft, Witold Lutoslawski, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Phibbs, and Judith Weir.
Stucky was Composer-in-Residence of the Aspen Music Festival and School in 2001 and 2010, director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble in 2005, and the first Barr Institute Composer Laureate appointed at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Among his other honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bogliasco Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the ASCAP Victor Herbert Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His first Concerto for Orchestra was one of two finalists for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Stucky has taught at Cornell University since 1980, chaired the Music Department from 1992 to 1997, and now serves as Given Foundation Professor of Composition. He has been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music and Ernest Bloch Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Born on November 7, 1949 in Hutchinson, Kansas, Stucky was raised in Kansas and Texas. He studied at Baylor and Cornell Universities with Richard Willis, Robert Palmer, Karel Husa, and Burrill Phillips.