BWW Interviews: Composer Michael Daugherty on 'Reflections On the Mississippi For Tuba and Orchestra'


Michael Daugherty is one of America's most successful modern orchestral composers. Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, he has also been an NEA and Guggenheim Fellow, among other fellowships, and has been Composer-in-Residence for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Pacific Symphony as well as several others. The composer of "Metropolis Symphony" (1988), inspired by Superman, he has been influenced by such diverse inspirations as popular culture - his opera, "Jackie O" (1997) - and Georgia O'Keefe in his orchestral work "Ghost Ranch" (2005).

We caught up with him shortly before the premiere of his new work, "Reflections On The Mississippi For Tuba and Orchestra", to be performed in Philadelphia by the thrice-Grammy-nominated Temple University Symphony Orchestra with soloist Carol Jantsch, principal tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center on March 24, 2013.

BWW: You're from a musical family, as so many musicians are. Can you tell us about your family's musical background?

MD: My father was a drummer. Our household was surrounded by popular music, and we grew up watching Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason. I didn't grow up with classical music, but that's true of many composers. I wound up writing for orchestra and wind ensembles because I love the timbre.

BWW: You're from the Midwest, and you live and teach in the Midwest. Do you find that affects your sensibility, as opposed to being an entrenched New York or Los Angeles composer?

MD: I live in the middle of America, so I have all American influences hitting me simultaneously. It's the best of all worlds. It's only an hour flight to New York from Detroit. I have instant access to what I need.

BWW: When I think of your work, "Metropolis Symphony" immediately comes to mind. This new work has a completely inspiration.

MD: Yes, I hope so. That was twenty years ago. What you do when you're fifty-eight is different from when you're twenty-five, for actors and for composers. This piece is a reflection on my growing up - good memories of it. Some composers focus on bad memories but there's enough of that in the world.

And when I wrote "Metropolis", most orchestral music was atonal and non-melodic so it was shocking at the time.

More From This Author

Marakay Rogers America's most uncoordinated childhood ballet and tap student before discovering that her talents were music and writing, Marakay Rogers finally traded in her violin for law school when she realized that she might make more money in law than she did performing with the Potomac Symphony and in orchestra pits around the mid-Atlantic.

A graduate of Wilson College (PA) with additional studies in drama and literature from Open University (UK), Marakay is also a writer, film reviewer and interviewer as well as a guest lecturer at various colleges, and is listed in Marquis' "Who's Who in America". As of 2014, she serves as Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Beaux Arts Society, Inc. of New York and a member of GALECA (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association). Marakay is senior theatre critic for Central Pennsylvania and a senior editor for BWWBooksWorld as well as a classical music reviewer. In her free time, Marakay practices law and often gets it right.

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