Today’s Special Guest: 2010 Composer Steven L. Rosenhaus

David Johnston

We’re running a series of Today’s Special Guest blogs featuring previous Con Edison Composers-in-Residence.  We kick off the series with Steven L. Rosenhaus, a 2010 Composer-in-Residence at Flushing Town Hall. 

Steven L. Rosenhaus


I’ve been asked by the kind folks at Exploring the Metropolis to write a guest blog about how my 2010 Composer Residency at Flushing Town Hall has affected my career, and what I’ve been up to lately.

First of all, the residency itself was amazing. The Hall was built at the start of the Civil War and opened two years later. Since then it served as a mustering site for Union soldiers, a bank, a jail, a grand ballroom, and probably a few other things. In the 1990s it became what it is today, a multicultural arts center. From my musician‘s perspective it’s a wealth of possibility in my own “backyard.” The big hall upstairs, with seating up to around 300, has marvelous acoustics and no bad sightlines. The “L” shaped art gallery on the main floor can seat up to 100 and again has great acoustics. Each space has a grand piano (the hall’s being a concert 9-footer).

Both spaces were made available to me during my residency (which one was determined partly by my schedule and that of my co-resident, the incomparable jazz composer/pianist Helen Sung, and by FTH’s other events). I was given free rein to compose, and compose I did. I intended to compose what was to become Accordances (Symphony No. 2) that had been commissioned by the New York Repertory Orchestra. I did work on that, completing the first and third movements there and sketching out most of the second, fourth, and fifth movements as well, but I also wrote an entirely different piece, A Blue Iris, for trombone and organ, which trombonist Keith Johnston had commissioned. Needless to say, it was a productive time.

My wife has reminded me on occasion that once I finish writing a work it no longer belongs to me. This is true, but once in a while I get to “take it back” when I conduct something I’ve written. As partial fulfillment of the residency I instigated two concerts, one by the fabulous pianist Laura Leon, in the gallery, and another (in the big hall) by the U.S. Navy Band Northeast under the leadership of LTJG Scott Mythen. Leon, along with the aforementioned Keith Johnston performing a trombone-and-piano version of A Blue Iris and soprano Wendy Hill singing MeNASHerie (a song on Ogden Nash poems), did a beautiful job of introducing my solo and chamber music to the Flushing community with an all-Rosenhaus program (my first ever!). Mythen did a more traditional program but still included three of my works — Fanfare, The Brave and the Bold, and Variations on a Neapolitan Theme — and even gave me the honor of conducting the latter two pieces. We had great audiences and a lot of fun at both events.

This year – 2011 – one year after my residency, has been incredible. I have had good years in the past but this has been the best; it will be a tough act to follow.

One result of my residency, specifically of the solo/chamber music concert in May, is that trombonist Keith Johnston and Sacred Heart University (where he is the Director of Bands) have commissioned me to write a concerto for trombone and band to be premiered in April 2012. The other Johnston-initiated piece, A Blue Iris, has recently been published through Music-Print Productions and is distributed by LudwigMasters Publications.

At the moment I am not composing anything beside the trombone concerto, but I am contemplating several possibilities. I’m back to composing at home, and while there is some comfort in that, I miss working in the wonderful spaces at Flushing Town Hall. It’s good to have a flexible and useful work space, without the inevitable distractions one finds at home.

Find out more about Steven L. Rosenhaus.


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