WMU News

Music professor wins important foundation commission

Feb. 14, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The Fromm Music Foundation of Harvard University has awarded a coveted commission to a Western Michigan University music professor to create new works for piano.

Dr. Curtis Curtis-Smith, winner of a recent commission from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition as well as more than 20 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Awards, will receive $10,000 from the foundation to compose a set of 24 preludes for piano.

In addition to the commission, the foundation also provides funds to premiere the work. New York pianist Bruce Levingston plans to premiere the compositions at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall during the 2002-03 season. The venerable concert hall is becoming a regular staging ground for Curtis-Smith's work. On April 1, 2002, Levingston will perform four of Curtis-Smith's recently composed "Twelve Etudes for Piano" in the hall, while WMU associate professor of music Dr. Lori Sims premiered seven of the etudes there in September 2000 in her Lincoln Center debut.

"The competition for these grants is keen," Curtis-Smith says, "and applicants are drawn from across the United States, with one winner from France. They have left it open for me to write, more or less, what I want."

Curtis-Smith says Levingston asked him to write a new set of piano pieces for him to perform. Curtis-Smith envisioned a continuation of the writing of shorter, interconnected forms that he found so appealing in composing his "Twelve Etudes."

Since their completion, the etudes have been enthusiastically received. A group of four etudes were among pieces selected for performance by last year's Van Cliburn competitors in Fort Worth, Texas. Sims' performance of seven of the etudes in her Lincoln Center debut led New York Times critic Bernard Holland to warmly praise Curtis-Smith's composition.

The Fromm Music Foundation singled out 13 composers from more than 200 applicants to receive commissions. The awarding of commissions represents one of the principal ways in which the foundation fulfills its mission "to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary music closer to the public."

The foundation was founded by the late Paul Fromm in the 1950s and has been located at Harvard University since 1972. It has commissioned more than 300 new compositions and sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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