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ASU Orchestras announce new season, reimagined orchestra

An orchestra performing on stage.

ASU Symphony Orchestra

September 13, 2023

The 2023–24 ASU Orchestras concert season features world-renowned guest conductors, guest artist collaborations, winners of the ASU concerto and composition competitions, and ASU conducting faculty.

“This year’s season is filled with exciting concerts,” said Julie Desbordes, ASU Orchestras conductor and music director of ASU Philharmonia. “Our season opener is a festive concert alongside special guests Mariachi Garibaldi and the ASU Mariachi Ensemble. Then, we feature two trailblazer guest conductors, JoAnn Falletta and Jonathan Rush, guest narrator Jamie Bernstein (daughter of Leonard Bernstein), and a new music concert in the spring.”

Desbordes said each concert’s programming was crafted around the school's vision of excellence and equitable visibility to make sure every voice can be heard.

“We want to make sure there is as much representation as possible while respecting how the students can grow, and at the same time providing a season that is really exciting,” Desbordes said.

The symphony’s first concert, “¡Viva México!” on Sept. 16 features a collaboration with the ASU President’s Office of Government and Community Engagement, ASU Gammage, the Office of Culture and Access in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre in celebration of Mexican Independence Day. Featured guest artists include Los Angeles-based Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar and the ASU Mariachi. Each group will perform pieces by composers that honor the culture and music of Mexico. The grand finale is a performance of “Son de La Negra,” often referred to as Mexico’s second national anthem, with all three ensembles. 

A post-concert celebration will take place across from ASU Gammage at the Music Building lawn area with food trucks, snacks, a live DJ, arts and crafts projects, and lawn and table games. 

In addition to the concert, Jaime Cuellar, music director of Mariachi Garibaldi, will conduct a masterclass for the ASU Mariachi ensemble at 5 p.m. Sept. 15 in ASU Gammage 311 that is free and open to the public.

“The ASU Mariachi ensemble is excited for this collaboration with Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar as well as the ASU Symphony Orchestra and Julie Desbordes,” said Scott Glasser, ASU PhD student and director of the ASU Mariachi ensemble. “It is the hope of all involved in the planning of this event that we build community, and celebrate the music and culture of Mexico.”

“Picturesque” on Oct. 26 features the ASU Symphony with JoAnn Falletta, multiple Grammy-winning conductor and music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Highlights also include ASU alumnus Carlos Zarate's 2021–22 winning composition and 2022–23 concerto competition winners Michelle Pérez, a graduate student in music performance, and bassoonist Bradley Johnson, a graduate student in music performance. The evening concludes with Falletta leading the symphony through an interpretation of Mussorgsky‘s “Pictures at an Exhibition."

The Nov. 30 symphony concert, “American Portraits,” features guest artist and writer Jamie Bernstein, oldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein, as the narrator for “Lincoln Portrait.” Graduate conductor Kara Piatt will conduct Bill Banfield’s Symphony No. 6 “Four Songs for Five American Voices.” Desbordes will conduct Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” narrated by Bernstein followed by Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story.”       

Jamal Duncan, assistant professor and associate director of ASU Wind Bands, will conduct the Feb. 11 and 13 symphony concerts featuring Edward Elgar’s "Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36," a large-scale theme and variations in which Elgar dedicates each movement to a close member of his circle. The concert also includes 2022–23 concerto competition winner and pianist Moyi Liu, an ASU music performance graduate student, performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43” with graduate student Sergio Freeman conducting. The concert will be presented at the Jim & Linda Lee Performing Arts Center at Yavapai Community College and at ASU Gammage.   

On March 23, the ASU String Orchestra collaborates on a new music concert at the Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center in Mesa, which features guest composers, ASU composition faculty and student composers presenting new works centered on climate and environmental changes. The concert will be co-curated by faculty members Gabriel Bolaños and Daniel Roumain. Kara Piatt conducts and serves as co-music director with Julie Desbordes.

The season closes with an April 22 symphony conducted by Jason Caslor, associate professor and director of ASU Wind Bands, and guest conductor Jonathan Rush, associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Caslor collaborates with Miki Aoki, assistant professor of collaborative piano, performing Amy Beach's “Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, Op. 45.” Jonathan Rush leads the orchestra in a performance of Florence Price’s “Symphony No. 1.”      

Desbordes said the ASU Philharmonia season is one filled with collaborations.

For example, “Colorful Sound” on Oct. 3 is a collaboration with the ASU Maroon and Gold Band and features the compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the contemporary vibrancy of Reena Esmail and the innovation of Darius Milhaud.

The Nov. 28 collaborative concert, “Tales,” features the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestras performing works by Ernst Toch and Ottorino Respighi and the ASU Philharmonia performing a piece by Antonín Dvorak. The concert concludes with the combined orchestras performing a work by Tchaikovsky.

Philharmonia also collaborates with the ASU Maroon and Gold Band for a Feb. 27 concert and with the ASU Wind Ensemble for an April 16 concert.

The ASU Studio Orchestra will perform a fall concert and a spring concert in ASU’s Katzin Concert Hall.

For ASU Gammage events, tickets are available for $12 in person at the ASU Gammage box office or can be purchased online at Ticketmaster (fees apply). ASU students and Herberger Institute faculty and staff are eligible for complimentary tickets through the ASU Gammage box office.

2023–24 ASU Orchestras season

¡Viva México! 
5 p.m. Sept. 16
ASU Symphony Orchestra, Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar and ASU Mariachi
ASU Gammage

“Colorful Sound “
7.30 p.m. Oct. 3
ASU Philharmonia and ASU Maroon and Gold Band
Tempe Center for the Arts

7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
ASU Symphony Orchestra with JoAnn Falletta, guest conductor
ASU Gammage

ASU Studio Orchestra
7:30 p.m. Nov. 7
ASU Katzin Concert Hall

7:30 p.m. Nov. 28
ASU Philharmonia and Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra Philharmonic Orchestra
ASU Gammage

“American Portraits”
7:30 p.m. Nov. 30
ASU Symphony Orchestra with Jamie Bernstein, guest narrator
ASU Gammage

ASU Symphony Orchestra
3 p.m., Feb. 11, 2024
Jim & Linda Lee Performing Arts Center
Yavapai Community College, Prescott, AZ

ASU Symphony Orchestra
7:30 p.m. Feb. 13, 2024
ASU Gammage

 ASU Philharmonia and ASU Maroon and Gold Band
7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2024
ASU Gammage

ASU  String Orchestra
7:30 p.m. March 23, 2024
MIX Center, Mesa

ASU Studio Orchestra
7:30 p.m. April 12, 2024
ASU Katzin Concert Hall

ASU Philharmonia and ASU Wind Ensemble
7:30 p.m. April 16, 2024
ASU Gammage

ASU Symphony Orchestra with Jonathan Rush, guest conductor
7:30 p.m. April 22, 2024
ASU Gammage

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