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A call for composers: Allentown Symphony seeking submissions for new music concert

Miller Symphony Hall
Jay Bradley
Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Does the new year have you feeling your inner Mozart?

Allentown Symphony Orchestra is on the hunt for new composers to feature this spring.

The symphony is asking composers in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area to submit works for string quartet or any combination of traditional string quartet instruments.

The deadline is Feb. 6. Scores can be submitted here.

  • Submissions are open for the Allentown Symphony's New Music Chamber Concert
  • Submissions from Lehigh Valley and surrounding area composers for string quartet or any combination of traditional string quartet instruments will be considered
  • The concert is set for March 28, with a score submission deadline of Feb. 6

The second New Music Chamber Concert is set for March 28 at the Miller Symphony Hall.

Preference will be given to composers who can attend rehearsals and the concert.

The program for the concert will be curated and selected from among the submissions by Allentown Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence Chris Rogerson.

Composer Consortium

The contest is part of the orchestra's Composer Consortium — an effort to support developing composers with reading sessions, collaborations and events like the new music concert.

The first concert in the series took place in October in the Rodale Community Room at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown.

It featured compositions written by consortium members Dr. Scott Watson and Pete Deshler, students Ryan Anderson and Amal Shokr, and area composers Pierre Bohemond, Charles Peck and Ava Bloomfield, with additional pieces by Chris Rogerson, Aaron Kernis, and Jennifer Higdon.

Silagh White, director of education for Allentown Symphony, said it's a great opportunity for composers to have a back-and-forth discussion with professional musicians to help grow their writing.

"They're realizing the wonderful opportunity of having Allentown Symphony players play their pieces," White said.

"As a creator, to have somebody encourage you to do something instead of talking about it — that's big, right?"
Silagh White, director of education with Allentown Symphony

"What's really cool is listening to the musicians respond because the composers come to rehearsal. And so if they have any questions about the part, the composer is right there to answer it and [the composers'] minds are blown by the opportunity to have a part talk back to them."

Interaction is key

White said the idea for the Composers Consortium came from symphony Music Director Diane Wittry, with efforts having begun just before the coronavirus pandemic began.

White said she hopes such programs can help build an appetite for new orchestral works and urged composers to submit one even if they don't feel experienced enough.

"As a creator, to have somebody encourage you to do something instead of talking about it — that's big, right?" White said.

She said that a submission will allow the orchestra to stay in contact with applicants to alert them of future opportunities for composers.

"We're building this really lovely supportive group of composers," White said. "There's an opportunity for composers to be able to work with musicians directly and musicians to be able to say, 'All right, this is what I would advise, is this what do you really want this melody to say, or how do you want this arc to work?'"

The initiative interacts with musicians and composers at local schools and colleges as well as composers in the community.

Composers: 'Feeback invaluable'

Ava Bloomfield, a recent graduate from Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, was a featured composer in the October concert.

She said the consortium's events such as this and the live reading sessions are great opportunities.

"The coolest thing is not just being able to hear them play it, but also being able to hear what they have to say about it," Bloomfield said. "So the amount of feedback that I've gotten has just really built up my confidence because they're able to tell me so many things about their instrument in particular."

Bloomfield said the Allentown Symphony and having opportunities to learn and make connections there have been big parts of getting her where she is right now as she grows her piano studio and takes online classes from Berklee College of Music in Boston.

"It's such a nice thing to be able to have this kind of thing in our area because you know, usually for this you'd have to go to Philly or New York or something," said Pete Deshler, a Lehigh Valley composer, music educator and consortium member who also was featured in the October concert.

"That kind of feedback is really invaluable because it's difficult sometimes to get people together to play your music for you."

He said he appreciated the opportunities to interact with leading professional composers and get to see how pieces develop after feedback.