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University Symphony to Spotlight Skillful Students

Winners of a concerto competition and a graduate composer will help bring the UCSB season to a close.

Graduate composer Bahram Osqueezadah’s revised Concerto for Santur and Orchestra will make its world premiere at Wednesday’s Symphony Orchestra concert.

The UCSB Symphony Orchestra will play its final concert of the 2007-08 academic year at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

Violist Shannon McCue is a chip off the old Bloch.

Richard Rintoul will conduct student winners of the Annual Concerto Competition: Jaimie Lee in the Flute Concerto in G Major (1st movement) by W. A. Mozart and Shannon McCue in the Asian-influenced Suite for Viola and Orchestra (4th movement) by Ernest Bloch. The evening also will witness the world premiere of graduate composer Bahram Osqueezadah’s revised Concerto for Santur and Orchestra, with the composer as soloist, along with Terres Llemosines, a Catalan rhapsody by Salvador Brotons. They conclude with Johannes Brahms’ ode to higher education – the Academic Festival Overture.

Osqueezadeh began his musical training at age 14, earned his bachelor’s degree in composition and performance at the University of Tehran, his master’s degree from UC Irvine in 2001, and now is completing the work for his doctorate at UCSB, where he has studied with Karen Tanaka and Joel Feigin. While still at UCI, he wrote the original version of the Concerto for Santur and Orchestra, and it premiered in 2001 with Stephen Tucker as the conductor and Osqueezadeh playing the santur (an Iranian dulcimer-like instrument, played with hammers). The concerto has been considerably revised from 2001.

Flautist Jaimie Lee makes the most of a Mozart movement.

In point of fact, the idea that a musician should earn a Ph.D. as a credential for taking up composing for a career is a relatively recent development in the music world. Indeed, the idea that classical music is all but the exclusive providence of academia is itself an odd notion that took hold in the 20th century.

Brahms began his career at 15, playing honky-tonk piano in a brothel, and was self-educated, for the most part, until he moved in with Robert and Clara Schumann, who made a great composer out of him. Nevertheless, Brahms was a German and a conservative – politically and musically – and he had the Germans’ exaggerated respect for anybody with “professor” or “doctor” before a name. He longed for a doctorate – not as a license to write music, but as a badge of respect for the music he already had composed.

The University of Cambridge in England was the first to offer him one, in 1876, when he was 43. He reportedly would have had to pick it up in person, and he couldn’t put the journey together. In 1879, the University of Breslau awarded him a doctorate in absentia, so long as he wrote them a little something – “a symphony, or at least a festive song” – as a return honor.

This little stipulation seems to have provoked Brahms, because the piece he wound up writing for Breslau, the Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80, is quite a boisterous, cheeky affair – more a medley of student drinking songs than a hymn to the scholarly life. He used his biggest orchestra to that point and spilled out the most uproarious and headlong piece he ever composed.

Tickets to Wednesday’s concert are $15 for general admission and $7 for students, and will be sold at the door. For more information about musical events at UCSB, call 805.893.7001 or visit the Music Department online at

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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