WMU News

Zupko's 'Life Dances' gets New York premiere

Oct. 1, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- "Life Dances," by Ramon Zupko, a WMU professor emeritus of music, will be given its New York premier by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on the evenings of Oct.12 and 13.

"Life Dances" is a large work for orchestra in three movements, "Rain Dance," "Sun Dance" and "Life Dance." Conducting the New York performances will be Robert Spano, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and a former student of Zupko.

Says Zupko, "The Brooklyn Philharmonic had planned this concert far ahead of the recent disaster in New York. The program now takes on special meaning, because all of the works on it, including Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring,' were chosen for their celebration and affirmation of rebirth and life."

Zupko's "Life Dances" was originally commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and the Berkshire Music Center and premiered at the Tanglewood Festival in the summer of 1981, Gunther Schuller conducting.

In the early 1980's, Zupko became interested in native American folklore, songs, chants and lyric poetry. He employed some or all of these as both inspiration and source material for a number of works, including the three movements of "Life Dances"

Ramon Zupko

Ramon Zupko is professor emeritus of composition at Western Michigan University, where he also directed the Studio for Electronic and Computer Music during his distinguished career. Born in Pittsburgh, he began his musical studies at an early age, eventually receiving composition degrees from Juilliard. He studied further at Columbia University, and in Europe, where he lived for several years. His principal composition teacher was Vincent Persichetti.

Zupko joined the music faculty at WMUin 1971 and retired following 26 years of service effective June 1997. He was named a Distinguished Faculty Scholar at the University for 1983-84.

He has composed more than 100 works, many of which include the electronic medium as well as theatrical elements. His numerous composition awards include a Guggenheim, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Koussevitzky Foundation, Kennedy-Friedheim, and American Composers Alliance Recording Award, a Berkshire Music Center Commission, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Zupko's compositions have been performed at New York's "Composer's Forum," Carnegie Recital Hall, Alice Tulley Hall, Borden Hall, and at various festivals and college campuses throughout the country, as well as in Europe. His orchestral works have been performed by the Detroit, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, Curtis Institute, Tanglewood Festival, National Orchestral Association, Grand Rapids, and American Composers orchestras.

Media contact: Kevin West, 616 387-4678, kevin.west@wmich.edu

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