Saturday, February 28, 2009

3/25/2009 @ 6:15 p.m.: Tony Steve

Tony Steve
60 Years of Music for Solo Marimba

Jacksonville University Professor of Percussion and Composition in Recital

Program Selections
Clair Omar Musser (1901–1998)
  Etude in C Major, Op. 6, No. 10 (1948)
Alfred Fissinger (b. 1925)
  Suite for Marimba (1950)
    I. Mist -- II. Rendezvous In Black
Akira Miyoshi (b. 1933)
  Torse III. (1968)
    I. Thèse -- II. Chant -- III. Commentaire -- IV. Synthèse
Gordon Stout (b.1952)
  Three Etudes for Marimba (1975 – 1976)
    Etude No. 1 -- Etude No. 6 -- Etude No. 14 “Basically Broke Blues”
  Mexican Dance no. 1 (1977)
Paul Smadbeck (b. 1955)
    Etude No. 1 (1980)
Jacob Druckman (1928-1996)
  Reflections on the Nature of Water (1986)
    1. Crystalline -- 2. Fleet -- 3. Tranquil -- 5. Profound -- 6. Relentless
Tony Steve (b. 1959)
  Another Moving Violation (2009) -- World Premiere Performance

About Tony Steve

In addition to his responsibilities at Jacksonville University's College of Fine Arts, Division of Music, percussionist and composer Tony Steve has performed as a percussionist with the Jacksonville Symphony (member 13 years), Israeli Festival Orchestra, Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, North Eastern Pennsylvania Symphony, Greenwich Symphony, and Bridgeport Symphony. He toured with A Chorus Line in Europe, appeared in Korea as marimba soloist with the Brooklyn Percussion Ensemble, and performed as percussionist at Madison Square Garden for A Christmas Carol. In addition, he has worked with Henry Mancini, Lou Rawls, Sheri Lewis and The Xavier Cugat Orchestra.

Tony Steve is a Mike Balter Mallet Artist and has appeared on numerous recordings. His latest project is The Guaraldi Sessions produced by horn soloist Aaron Brask. Tony also can be found performing the music of Robert Moore with Karen Adair on her solo release of Sonnets from Assisi, for marimba and soprano in three movements, as well as Release with Free Range and Midnight Clear with Bob Moore.

In October of 2005 Professor Steve's Concerto for Vibraphone was premiered at Jacksonville University. The Blue Jay Opuscule, his collaborative work with graphic artist Barry Wilson, combined the world of printmaking and music into a vehicle for live performance, and was part of a Community Foundation Grant in the Art Ventures program. Additional collaborations with choreographer Cari Martin-Coble have produced works for dance and chamber group. Tony's works are published by Media Press, Keyboard Publications and Percussion Arrangers, and he has won numerous ASCAP writers awards for his compositions, which are performed in America as well as in Europe and Asia. His degrees include a Bachelor of Music from Jacksonville University, and a Master of Music from Ithaca College.


Program Notes by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

Clair Omar Musser As a young teenager Clair Omar Musser (1901–1998) heard a marimba band from Honduras at the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco, and following this discovery he developed into one of history's most influential mallet artists, with tremendous successes as performer, teacher, and instrument manufacturer. Generally credited with introducing the instrument to American audiences, Musser formed a marimba orchestra that gained international fame, and as a percussion professor at Northwestern University his revolutionary innovations in mallet technique were passed on to future generations. Musser's Etudes were written to help his students overcome specific performance problems, and the Etude in C Major, Op. 6, no. 10, one of his best-known works, provides an early example of the use of four-mallet technique.

  • Watch a performance of Etude in C Major on YouTube

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    When Chicago composer Alfred Fissinger (b. 1925) wrote his Suite for Marimba in 1950, four-mallet technique was still in its infancy, so for three of the work's original four movements he basically composed independent, polyphonic lines as one might write for a string quartet. Each movement is inspired by the composer's experiences during World War II, and the following recounts Fissinger's own description of the work's first two movements: "To some people, the quiet of an early morning mist is a dreary thing; but perhaps others will think of it as I do: a period of complete solitude which affords one many peaceful moments of contemplation. Rendezvous in Black depicts a motorized patrol at midnight through the heavily wooded mountains of Luxembourg. It was pitch black and bitter cold, but the men on the patrol were in good spirits. As the patrol progressed, however, the seriousness and the danger was realized. The rather fast passage work at the end of the movement indicates the speed in which the patrol returned to its base upon completing the mission."

  • Listen to Suite for Marimba at

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    Akira MiyoshiThe works featuring marimba by Japanese composer Akira Miyoshi (b. 1933) are directly inspired by the playing of Keiko Abe, the Japanese virtuoso who introduced a more percussive approach to the marimba during the 1960s. From 1955-57 the Tokyo-born Miyoshi studied at the Paris Conservatory, and in Torse III he utilizes disjunct melodic motion and extreme register placement typical of contemporaneous French avante-garde composers, but previously unheard in marimba music. The work also introduces new mallet techniques, such as independent one-handed rolls, which showcased the extraordinary talents of Ms. Abe.

  • Watch a performance of Torse III on YouTube

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    Gordon Stout Since 1980, Gordon Stout (b.1952) has been Professor of Percussion at the School of Music, Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.). He studied composition with Joseph Schwantner, Samuel Adler and Warren Benson, and percussion with James Salmon and John Beck, and as a recitalist and recording artist he has premiered both his own compositions and works by other composers. Many of his compositions for marimba have entered the standard repertoire and receive frequent performances internationally, and his two Mexican Dances are among the most popular pieces ever written for the instrument.

  • Listen to Mexican Dance No. 1 at

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    Born and raised in Manhattan, Paul Smadbeck (b. 1955) earns his livelihood primarily as a fourth-generation realtor, and he is active in family services organizations. But with both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music from Ithaca College he also has earned distinction as a performer and composer specializing in the marimba, and his minimalist Rhythm Song (1984) has become a standard repertoire piece recorded numerous times by different artists. With his mesmerizing Etude No. 1 Smadbeck tests the player's control of small interval rotation.

  • Listen to Etude No. 1 at

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    Jacob DruckmanJacob Druckman (1928-1996) was a leading American composer who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Windows, his first of many works for large orchestra. He was composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic for four years, and composed commissioned works for other major symphony orchestras as well, including those of Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, his home town. Among his numerous teaching positions was an appointment at the Juilliard School (his alma mater), and he headed the composition and electronic music programs at Yale for the twenty years prior to his death from lung cancer. Reflections on the Nature of Water for solo marimba fulfilled a 1986 commission from William Moersch, who premiered the work in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center that same year. The suite has been described as a series of etudes, with shimmering effects that seem to conjure images of the Far East. Druckmam himself observed, "Reflections on the Nature of Water is a small payment towards a very large debt. There were primarily two composers, Debussy and Stravinsky, whose music affected me so profoundly during my tender formative years that I had no choice but to become a composer. It is to Debussy that I doff my hat with these reflections of his magical preludes."

  • Listen to Reflections on the Nature of Water at, performed by the composer's son, Daniel Druckman

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  • Thursday, February 12, 2009

    3/3/2009 @ 6:15 p.m.: Trio Florida

    CLICK HERE to download 11"x17" pdf of poster (1MB)

    The newly formed Trio Florida is the first faculty ensemble in residence at the University of North Florida.

    The trio is dedicated to performing the masterpieces of the piano trio repertoire with an additional emphasis of performing works by the great American composers. The members include Dr. Simon Shiao (violin), Dr. Gary Smart (piano), and Dr. Nick Curry (cello). All three members are dedicated fulltime faculty members at UNF.

    RACHMANINOFF Trio élégiaque no. 1
    BEETHOVEN Allegro moderato (“Archduke” Trio)
    SMART Fancy (in memoriam Joe Venuti) --
    Lil’s Hot Fancy -- Bright Eyed Fancy

    Simon Shiao, a versatile performer who has appeared at Carnegie Hall as a recitalist and with both string quartet and orchestra, has played concerts around the world, including at the Museum of Oceanography in Monte Carlo, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, A Winter Festival in Jerusalem, and the Heidelberg Schloss Festspiele in Germany. Other career highlights include appearances at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, and on broadcasts of CNN's Science and Technology program and Public Radio's Live on WGBH. He has performed as soloist with Miami’s New World Symphony, and as that orchestra’s co-concertmaster Dr. Shiao has led performances at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas and John Adams. Dr. Shiao currently performs with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Wyoming. At the University of North Florida he teaches violin and viola and is Director of Orchestral Studies, and he has adjudicated the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competitions and the UNF String Competition. Simon has presented lecture-recitals and master classes at numerous universities and conservatories in the U.S., Belize, Taiwan, and China, and he is currently the chair of the solo competition for the Florida Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Dr. Shiao holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and both Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

    Trio Florida

    The career of Gary Smart has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. Always a musician with varied interests, he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar and keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. A true American pluralist, Dr. Smart’s compositions reflect an abiding interest in Americana, jazz, and world music, as well as the Western classical tradition, and he has received support from the Ford and Guggenheim foundations, the Music Educator's National Conference, the Music Teachers National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smart’s works have been performed in major U.S. venues, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as in venues in Europe and Asia, and his Concordia for orchestra won the Concordia jazz composition award and was premiered at Lincoln Center. Dr. Smart's compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone, and Albany labels, including The Major’s Letter, featuring songs for voice and piano, and American Beauty – a Ragtime Bouquet, both released by Albany Records. Forthcoming CD projects include Turtle Dreams of Flight, with works for solo piano performed by the composer, and Hot Sonatas, a collection of jazz-influenced chamber music prepared in collaboration with members of the UNF music faculty. Dr. Smart spent residencies in Japan at Osaka University and Kobe College, and taught in Indonesia as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz. He was head of the music department at the University of Wyoming from 1978-1999, and from 1999-2003 he served as Chairman of the UNF Music Department, where he currently is the Terry Professor of Music.

    Trio Florida

    Nick Curry is the recently-appointed Cello Professor at the University of North Florida. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Dr. Curry was the Professor of Cello at the University of South Dakota and the cellist in USD’s Rawlins Piano Trio. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a student of David Starkweather from the University of Georgia. Nick received his Bachelor of Music degree from Vanderbilt, where he studied with Grace Mihi Bahng and also was her teaching assistant, and where he received the Jean Keller Heard Award for Excellence in string playing. While earning his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Northwestern University, Dr. Curry served as Hans Jorgen Jensen's teaching assistant for five years, and he also was Jensen’s assistant at the Meadowmount School of Music for four summers. During this time Nick appeared as soloist with the Northwestern Philharmonic Orchestra, and won the Northwestern Chamber Music Competition. He has played in master classes for Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirschbaum, Paul Katz, David Geber, the Emerson String Quartet, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Blair String Quartet, and has studied privately with Harvey Shapiro, David Finckel, and John Kochanowski. Dr. Curry has played concerts in Taiwan and all over the United States, and in 2006 he performed as a soloist on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, where he played the King Amati cello.

    Trio Florida


    by Ed Lein and Dr. Gary Smart

    Although for a time some critics foolishly dismissed him as old-fashioned, the lush harmonies and sweeping melodies that characterize the music of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) assure him a continuing place in the world’s concert halls. Astonishingly, he had what might be called a "phonographic" memory in that upon hearing virtually any piece he could play it back at the piano, even years later—and if he liked the piece it would sound like a polished performance! Rachmaninoff wrote his first Trio élégiaque when he was only 19 years old, and through the course of its single, sonata-form movement he transforms the opening theme (Lento lugubre) into various passionate guises, concluding with its appearance as a funeral march.
          [Listen to it at]
          [Download the score (PDF) from]

    Trio Florida

    The music of the transcendent German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) formed the culmination of the Classical style and the foundation of the Romantic, and his revolutionary masterworks still provide benchmarks other composers strive to attain. Completed in 1811, Beethoven himself played the piano part of his Piano Trio No. 7, Op. 97 (“Archduke”), for the premiere of the work, but his deafness was already so advanced that it proved to be his last public performance as a pianist. The “Archduke” is Beethoven’s last piano trio, and it is among 14 works he dedicated to his pupil, patron and friend, Archduke Rudolph of Austria (1788-1831)—hence the trio’s nickname. The captivating Allegro moderato is the first of the work’s four movements.

    Trio Florida

    Composer Gary Smart (b.1943) wrote Fancy – in memoriam Joe Venuti (Margun Music, 1978) "in heartfelt homage" to Joe Venuti (1903-1978), the great jazz violinist. Beginning in the mid-1920s Venuti performed with many leading jazz artists, including such greats as Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman—and he also was a legendary cut-up and practical joker. The composer observes that his Fancy "features the violin playing abstracted Venuti-isms with the support of an abstract ‘stride piano’ accompaniment. The piece closes in serene meditation with the open strings of the violin (G-D-A-E) echoing on the piano."

    Joe Venuti

    Both Lil’ Hot Fancy and Bright Eyed Fancy were performed in February 2009 at a concert at the University of North Florida. The following comments are taken from the composer’s notes for that occasion.

    "My Lil’ Hot Fancy, written in 2007 for my friend and colleague Simon Shiao, is a companion piece to the first Fancy of thirty years earlier. This fancy is fast, brilliant and short, a sort of avant-garde encore piece. It is inspired by a cartoonish image I have of an angelic Joe standing on a cloud, happily playing hot licks for his fellow angels. Almost all of the piano part is written in the treble clef, giving it a surreal, toy-piano quality. The ‘three time ending’ is a kind of cliché-joke. The music ascends to the very highest notes of both instruments, keeping the solid beat intact as it slowly fades into another dimension." —Gary Smart

    About Bright Eyed Fancy "On the first page of the score of this one movement trio for violin, cello, and piano I quote the English poet Thomas Gray: ‘Hark, his hands the lyre explore! Bright Eyed Fancy, hov’ring o’er.’ This quote is taken from Gray’s The Progress of Poesy (1754), which the celebrated Christian mystic and poet-artist William Blake (1757-1827) illustrated some thirty years later. My Bright Eyed Fancy was inspired both by Mr. Gray’s words and Mr. Blake’s watercolor. Blake’s picture depicts an angelic muse hovering over a working musician who strums his lyre, while the muse, sitting on a rainbow, pours forth a cornucopia of musical ideas. … My trio, then, is a portrait of angelic visitation, written in homage to Mr. Blake. It is often exuberant, even ecstatic, but is also at times profoundly solemn, sometimes quite simple and lyrical. I hope to have evoked here some of the strange truth that Blake proclaimed. My choice of musical materials is not unusual, though perhaps the way I mix materials is. Much of the harmonic language of this piece is modal and/or polytonal. I make some use of jazz gestures and style, but I also have made free use of folk music’s modal melody and other more abstract textures. As would seem appropriate, I let ‘form follow fancy’ in this work. The opening is bright and enthusiastic, full of light. A second section presents a solemn, timeless chorale. A florid ensemble section with shades of modal jazz improvisation closes the exposition. These three ideas are then developed. A cello solo, presenting the piece’s one real tune, is labeled Song of the Angel. After more free development the solo piano recapitulates the tune. The last section of the work opens with the solo cello playing a motive (A-B-D-C#) over which I have written the syllables Al-le-lu-ia. I have no succinct explanation for these extra-musical markings, except that they may inspire the players in some way—and it seemed important that they be included in the score. The program of the work is partly a mystery to me too. The climax of the work is simple, almost minimalistic in its ecstatic repetitions. The Angel’s Song rings out triumphantly above grandiose piano flourishes. The piece closes playfully, with no great show of emotion. Perhaps the angel simply disappears with no fanfare. The visitation is over. Make of it what you will." — Gary Smart

    Trio Florida