(Santa Rosa, Calif.) — Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS), in partnership with Eugene Symphony, will launch the First Symphony Project in the fall of 2019. Four acclaimed American composers have been co-commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony, Eugene Symphony and nine patron households including Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, to write their first symphony, to be premiered and given second performances between the two symphony orchestras over the next four years.

Increasing the scope of the project, the orchestra performing the world premiere will also perform a shorter work by that composer earlier in the same season. Additionally, each of the composers will be Composer-in-Residence for both performance weeks, participating in community outreach activities.

SRS Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, who is also Music Director of the Eugene Symphony, proposed this unique project to shift the commissioning paradigm to a collaborative and interactive process between the commissioners, performers, composers, and their communities. Lecce-Chong selected American composers whom he knows to be open to collaboration and feedback during the composition process.

“Our art form relies on the creative vision of today’s composers,” says Lecce-Chong. “In the large-scale form of a symphony, these composers will be able to create a musical world that is both deeply personal and powerfully universal. Just as importantly, the multiple residencies will allow us to not only celebrate these new creations, but bring us closer to their creators.”

Commissioned composers and season of their first symphony world premiere:

Matthew Browne – 2019-2020

Gabriella Smith – 2020-2021

Angelica Negrón – 2021-2022

Michael Djupstrom – 2022-2023

Said Matthew Browne, the first composer to premiere his first symphony, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be present in the Eugene and Santa Rosa communities throughout the creative process. So often composers are shut in our studios writing music, only to send it off with minimal contact. It is refreshing and so important for us composers to be present and available throughout the process, not only to the musicians but also to the community as a whole.”

Gabriella Smith, whose commissioned work will be premiered during the 2020-2021 season said, “The reason this project is so exciting to me is that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to write an orchestral work of this scope. I have always been attracted to long, continuously developing musical arcs, and a work of this scope will give me the opportunity to develop this sense of trajectory and evolution to a much fuller extent than I have ever been able to in the past.”

Angélica Negrón, commissioned composer of the 2021-2022 season, commented, “Undertaking such a large-scale work is a stimulating challenge as well as a creative opportunity to take risks and explore what it means to write a symphony in the 21st century. With my new piece, I am hoping to reimagine this tradition, considering the orchestra as an ever-evolving and expanding sonic palette with infinite possibilities. I am interested in submerging myself in this long form to discover new sonic spaces that make room for fresh perspectives that reflect what it means to be a composer in today’s complicated landscape.”

The final commissioned composer, Michael Djupstrom, said, “It was orchestral music that first really sparked my interest in classical music. I am still in love with orchestral music today.  I have written for several works for the medium, but I have never had the chance to compose something large-scale. These opportunities are extremely rare today, and I’m very excited to take part in this project.”

Lecce-Chong wanted the commissioning support to be locally based, so as to strengthen community engagement during the compositional process. Moreover, his commitment to this project extends to his being one of the nine donors, unusual for a music director. Thus, four local patrons of the Santa Rosa Symphony and four from the Eugene Symphony, as well as Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, provide support for this project. All nine donors will be listed on the music scores as co-commissioners. Santa Rosa Symphony patron donors are Emeritus Board Members: Nancy and David Berto, Chuck and Ellen Wear, Creighton White and current board member Gorden Blumenfeld.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be patrons, to support Francesco and the four composers by investing in these new major works. We look forward to hearing these commissioned pieces played by our symphony,” commented donors Chuck and Ellen Wear.