INTERLOCHEN, Mich.—The Interlochen Arts Academy Band is leading a commissioning consortium of nearly 10 national universities in the creation of a new viola concerto written by famed composer James Syler. The work will premiere in the fall of 2016.
The idea to commission a new work for viola began in 2015, when the Interlochen Arts Academy Band performed Mr. Syler's "Storyville." Afterward, through several discussions on his work and artistic process between Syler, Interlochen Band Director Matthew Schlomer and Syler's longtime friend Renee Skerik, Instructor of Viola at Interlochen, the conversation turned to creating a new concerto expressly for viola.
"I was thrilled with the idea," Schlomer said. "Creating a new work like this is especially exciting for viola and wind ensemble because both are hungry for new repertoire."
Once the idea solidified, Schlomer worked to include as many universities as possible in on the project. "I immediately began contacting colleagues from across the country," he said, "and they were just as fascinated with the concept as I was."
Schlomer and his colleagues formed a consortium to contribute to the commission. As a part of the consortium, each university will have one year to perform the work following Interlochen's premiere. Some of the schools involved include University of Georgia, University of Wisconsin, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Texas, Kingsley, and the University of North Carolina. Other schools are currently in negotiation to join the group.
Skerik is eager to perform the commissioned work by her friend Syler. In comparison with many existing works for viola, the new concerto is to be much more considerable and significant in its size and complexity. "Composing new works is essential for a living art form to flourish," said Skerik, "and this will be a substantial work, roughly 15 minutes in length. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this project with Jim and Matt. This concerto, without a doubt, will be a wonderful and important addition to the viola concerto repertoire."
In addition to providing new repertoire for the musical landscape, this collaboration has great value to Interlochen itself. "This commission puts Interlochen on the map as an institution at the forefront of the artistic community," Schlomer said. "This will be an important piece in the wind ensemble repertoire and for solo viola repertoire."
James Syler's compositions have been noted for their lyricism and drama, and have included orchestral, wind ensemble, choral and chamber forms. His works have been said to communicate and resonate with diverse audiences.
"It is an honor to be working with Mr. Syler and Ms. Skerik on a project that will expand the wind ensemble and viola repertoire in a profound way," Schlomer said. "I am eager to discover what Mr. Syler creates this summer."