In a delayed celebration of the College of Music’s 100th anniversary, the CU Symphony Orchestra will perform a specially commissioned work by renowned composer Christopher Theofanidis.
Theofanidis, a professor at Yale University, is a Grammy-nominated composer who has written music for acclaimed ensembles around the world, including the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the American Ballet Theater.
Originally commissioned by the college in 2020, the debut of Theofanidis’ work was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that in-person performances have resumed, Theofanidis’ “On the Bridge of the Eternal” will debut in Macky Auditorium on April 26. The event is free and open to the public.
“In some ways, the piece is about mystery,” Theofanidis says. “It has this feeling you might get when looking at the Grand Canyon, or the night sky—that no matter what’s passing in front of you, there’s always a bigger picture.”
Inspiring the next generation
As a composer-in-residence and co-director of the composition program at the Aspen Music Festival, Theofanidis spends his summers in Colorado and has maintained close professional and personal relationships with several College of Music faculty members, including Composition Chair Carter Pann.
Pann, who met Theofanidis during their time at the Eastman School of Music, hoped to make the most of his visit by inviting his old friend to campus for a nine-day residency. Theofanidis will work one-on-one with students and faculty—coaching chamber groups, teaching masterclasses and answering questions students have about his experience as a professional composer.
“A composition career is really tough to sustain,” Pann notes. “And Theofanidis represents somebody who’s not only succeeded at it, but also remained humble, kept a smile on his face and took every opportunity to connect with other musicians and students.”
During his graduate studies, Theofanidis received countless prestigious fellowships, including a Fulbright fellowship to study at Ircam—a French music institute focusing on avant garde and electro-acoustical art music. He went on to compose for some of the world’s top orchestras and symphonies, all while maintaining a teaching career.
Having taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, and Juilliard School, Theofanidis believes inspiring the next generation of musicians should be every composer’s goal.
“Being personally connected with other musicians is the way that you transmit positive energy, and keep it alive,” he says. “The way that I can do that, in my small world, is to be a coach and a cheerleader for these students.”
To students seeking a career in composition, Theofanidis has one piece of advice: Don’t chase success.
“You can only do so much in terms of your career, and success will inevitably be unsatisfying,” he says. “The one thing you can do is create something that represents you—a musical poem that you leave behind for others to enjoy and perform.”
During his stay on campus, Theofanidis will also get to enjoy one of his shorter pieces performed by the CU Wind Symphony, alongside their premiere of “The Battle for the Ballot” by Stacy Garrop on April 19 in Macky Auditorium. Garrop’s piece, also commissioned by the college in 2020, celebrates the centenary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
- CU Boulder violist Richard O’Neill wins Grammy: O’Neill, the newest member of the College of Music’s string faculty, won a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for his performance of Christopher Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra.
- Associate Professor of Guitar Nicolò Spera performs in Christopher Theofanidis’ “Door Out of the Fire”