Carnegie Mellon University
August 20, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic To Premiere Original Work Sept. 16

Contacts: Dana Casto / School of Music / 412-268-4921 /
Pam Wigley / Media Relations / 412-268-1047 /

PhilharmonicPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music kicks off its 2012-2013 season at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 16, at Carnegie Music Hall with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic's world premiere of "Centennial Suite," a new work in honor of the school's 100th anniversary. Commissioned by the Carnegie Mellon School of Music, this piece was composed by Leonardo Balada, Nancy Galbraith, Marilyn Taft Thomas and Reza Vali — all members of the Carnegie Mellon composition faculty. Maestro Ronald Zollman will be conducting.

Each faculty composer wrote one movement of "Centennial Suite," showcasing each person's unique compositional style.

"On the occasion of its centennial it's certainly appropriate to look back over the rich history of the CMU School of Music, but so is a look forward," said Denis Colwell, head of the Music School. "I thought one way of celebrating where we have arrived and, more important, where we are going, is to cause new music to be created.

"I approached CMU composition faculty members Balada, Galbraith, Vali and Thomas and asked them to collaborate on a suite that the CMU Philharmonic would premiere as part of our continuing birthday celebration. I gave them very little guidance in terms of what or how to write, only that I hoped they would keep the school in mind as they conceived of their portion. They graciously agreed, and the result will be heard for the first time on the Sept. 16 concert," Colwell said.

Thomas wrote the first movement of the suite, titled "Celebration." Thomas has been a member of the composition faculty since 1981, and the Associated Press has cited her innovative teaching methods. She has won prizes from the National Federation of Music, the National Harvey Gaul Competition and has received nine awards in composition from ASCAP. Thomas describes "Celebration" as light-hearted, infused with jazz-like rhythms and laced with solo lines for the talented members of the orchestra.

"Memories No.1, Barcelona 1938" is the second movement of the suite, written by Balada, a longtime faculty member who joined CMU in 1970. His successful compositions have been commissioned by the likes of the San Diego Opera and the National Orchestra of Spain. Born in Barcelona in 1933, his Centennial Suite composition stems from childhood memories of the war-torn city, including folk songs that were sung by the many international volunteers. This first movement is a very personal exploration of Balada's early life, combining elements of hope and despair.

Galbraith's music has been praised for its rich harmonic texture, rhythmic vitality, emotional and spiritual depth, and wide range of expression. Her works have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony, including two premieres under the baton of Gennady Rozhdetsvensky and Mariss Jansons. Her intention when writing "Euphonic Blues" for Centennial Suite was to compose a predominantly melodic work using polychords and lush diatonic harmonies - both reflecting a somewhat bluesy and nostalgic sound.

Vali, an Iranian composer, wrote the final movement of the suite, "The Darkness of Fury." A contemplation of the brutality of war, the piece is particularly inspired by the many wars that have occurred in the Middle East since 1948. Vali, a member of the CMU composition faculty since 1988, has had an extensive composition career with commissions from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Kronos Quartet, among others.

General admission tickets are $5 for the concert. For more information, go to