Albany Symphony to Present 'The American Music Festival: Migrations'

The Albany Symphony and Music Director David Alan Miller are proud to announce the fourteenth annual American Music Festival, a celebration of great new music by living American composers. This is the culminating event of the Albany Symphony season, and showcases more than 20 new and recent works, including 18 world premieres. The live music experience will take place from May 14, 2015 to May 16, 2015 at EMPAC, located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

The centerpiece of the 2015 festival is Derek Bermel's "The Migration Series" for 16-member jazz band embedded in a full symphony orchestra. The work was created for and premiered by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. When Bermel was a child, his mother took him to view the 60 paintings of "The Migration Series" by the seminal Harlem Renaissance painter Jacob Lawrence, which Lawrence had created in 1941 at the age of 23. The series is a portrayal of the Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans moved from the rural South to the North after World War I. When the series was shown in 1943, it was the first exhibition by a major New York gallery devoted entirely to the works of an African-American artist, and brought Lawrence major national recognition. Thirty paintings were purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the other 30 by The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. For the first time in over 20 years, The Museum of Modern Art is currently displaying all 60 images of the collection in a major exhibition that opened on April 1st. Maestro Miller said, "This year's American Music Festival will be a powerful exploration of the theme of migration. We are excited and fortunate to be able to share Derek Bermel's extraordinary piece, which tells a powerful story about art through music, with our community. Like Lawrence's powerful paintings, it tells the story of the African-American experience in the mid-twentieth century through a searing, beautiful, life-affirming exploration of classic jazz music. It is like nothing else you've ever heard. We are so proud to be partnering with the brilliant young musicians of the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and their inspired director, James Burton. The other works on our Festival Orchestra Concert also explore aspects of migration, most notably our Andrew W. Mellon Mentor Composer Michael Daugherty's Flute Concerto, 'Trail of Tears,' about the forced migration of the Cherokee Nation during Andrew Jackson's presidency." The Albany Symphony is very proud to be recording both Bermel's and Daugherty's works during the festival for future release on the NAXOS and Albany Records labels.

The Albany Symphony has been working closely with the Museum of Modern Art on the festival, and is planning a special excursion to MoMA on May 7, 2015 for symphony patrons to attend a private curator-led tour of the Lawrence exhibit. A chartered bus will bring the group to New York City for the day. Seating is limited.

The Festival Concert will feature the great American flutist and pedagogue, Amy Porter, professor at the University of Michigan, as soloist in the Daugherty concerto. Ms. Porter will also give a community master class during the week at the College of St. Rose. Two world premiere compositions also exploring the theme of migration will fill out the Festival Orchestra Concert: Clint Needham's "We Are All from Somewhere Else" and Andrea Reinkemeyer's "Liquid Heart."

The Festival "Reading Session" will take place on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 7:30PM at EMPAC, and is free and open to the public. The reading session is one of the most exciting and fun events of the Festival, a rare opportunity to see the orchestra bring brand new compositions to life. The full orchestra will rehearse and present new works by three gifted young composers, selected through its national competition. The composers are: Justin Ralls who composed "Tree Ride," Michael Lee who composed "Amped" and Baljinder Sekon, the composer of "Civil Variations." "The pieces from our three young composers are filled with excitement, passion, and personality. The reading sessions are a great vehicle for our audience to see and hear how we bring new pieces into the world. At the end of the reading session, we all sit around on stage, audience, orchestra members and composers, to discuss and critique each work," said Miller.

Dogs of Desire, the orchestra's unique 16-member new music ensemble, will perform on Friday, May 15 at 7:30pm. This year's performance is a special cabaret evening, created by the six composers of the collective Sleeping Giant for the extraordinarily versatile and fabulous GRAMMY-nominated jazz singer and composer, Theo Bleckmann. Sleeping Giant, in residence with the Symphony this season and next through a grant provided by New Music USA, created a wildly creative, much-discussed version of the Mozart Requiem, which the orchestra performed in March. The Dogs concert will feature new songs and standards, all newly composed and arranged for the ensemble by the composers of Sleeping Giant. Dogs of Desire is unique in the world of American orchestra music. It performs only new works by America's best young composers, exploring all that is wild and wonderful in American pop culture, with dazzling multimedia works and freewheeling, fabulous creations and collaborations. After the performance, audience members are invited to Evelyn's Café at EMPAC for an after-concert party. The Juilliard Jazz Trio will entertain, and the café will remain open serving coffee, wine and dessert.

2015 Festival Lineup:

Private Tour of Lawrence Paintings at MoMA: Thursday, May 7, 2015, 12:00pm to late evening (MoMA):

Charter Bus Departs at 12:00pm from Crossgates Commons Parking Lot (rear entrance to Walmart). Light dinner will be served at MoMA Cafe 2. Tour begins at 6:00pm with curator. Bus departs from MoMA at 8:00pm. Seating is limited. Guests should call 518-694-3300 to reserve a ticket. Cost is $150 per patron.

Amy Porter Master Class: Wednesday, May 13, Time TBD (College of St. Rose):

Flutist Amy Porter will host a community master class. The event is free and open to the public.

Composer to Center Stage Reading Session: Thursday, May 14, 7:30PM (Concert Hall):

A one-of-a-kind sneak peek into the world of music today as up-and-coming young composers, from a competitive national selection process, have their works read by the orchestra for the first time. This session is free and open to the public.



"Tree Ride"




"Civil Variations."

Julliard Jazz Orchestra Concert for Students: Friday, May 15, Time TBD (Concert Hall):

This is a free concert for students. Reservations can be made by calling 694-3300.

Dogs of Desire Festival Concert: Friday, May 15, 7:30PM (Theater)

Classical chamber ensemble meets rock band: the Dogs of Desire is the Albany Symphony's groundbreaking, eighteen-member chamber ensemble. The group performs all-new music from America's most creative emerging composers.

Dogs of Desire-Juilliard Jazz Trio Reception: Friday, May 15, 10:00PM (Evelyn's Cafe):

An interactive "meet and greet" with Albany Symphony Music Director David Alan Miller. The "after-party" features the Juilliard Jazz Trio. The event is free for those attending the Dogs of Desire performance. Refreshments are available for purchase at the café.

Festival Preview: Friday, May 15, 12:00PM (Albany Public Library, Washington Avenue Branch):

This includes a preview of the festival for members of the community featuring a discussion with Maestro Miller and festival composers. There is no cost to attend.

Pre-Concert Talk: Saturday, May 16, 6:30PM (Concert Hall):

This pre-concert talk is free to festival ticket holders. Composers Michael Daugherty, Derek Bermel, Andrea Reinkemeyer and Clint Needham will be on hand to speak with Maestro David Alan Miller about their music.

Festival Orchestra Concert: Saturday, May 16, 7:30PM (Concert Hall):

This is the major festival event, featuring two world premieres and soloists Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, and Amy Porter. There are seats available at a variety of levels.



"Trail of Tears Concerto for Flute & Orchestra"

Amy Porter, Flute Soloist


"Migration Series for Jazz Band and Orchestra"

Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, James Burton, Director


"Liquid Heart" (World Premiere)


"We Are All From Somewhere Else" (World Premiere)



The Albany Symphony would like to thank the sponsors of the 2015 American Music Festival:


Reel Seafood Co.

TICKETS for all Albany Symphony performances can be purchased by calling 518.694.3300, online at, or by visiting the Albany Symphony Box Office at 19 Clinton Ave., Albany, NY 12207. Special rates are available to groups of ten or more. Contact Chuck Kraus at 518.465.4755 x35 or

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