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The University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra is an 80-member ensemble playing the finest in orchestral repertoire. With soloists ranging from internationally known guest artists to faculty performers to student competition winners, and frequent world premieres, the UWSO performs many exciting concerts each year. Important concert venues have included Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall, Centro Sinfonico in La Paz, and the Grand Teton Music Festival – and village churches and plazas in Bolivia’s Altiplano and high school auditoriums throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
The UWSO has performed with many world-class soloists. Guest artists they have accompanied include Van Cliburn medalist Daniel Hsu, harpsichordist Igor Kipnis, pianist Christopher O’Riley, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, NY Philharmonic Principal Cellist Carter Brey – and the classic rock band Kansas. In addition, they have collaborated in shared concerts with the Shanghai University Orchestra and Orquesta Municipal de El Alto (Bolivia).
The biennial Dorothy Jacoby Student Soloist Concert gives UW’s best students an opportunity to perform as soloist with the orchestra. The student judged to have given the finest performance that evening wins a substantial cash award.
Dr. Michael Griffith took over the podium of the UW Symphony in 1989. Since then the orchestra has grown significantly in size, playing level, and repertoire. He was named a UW “Top Ten” teaching by the graduating classes of 2006 and 2012, has served as a guest teacher at such disparate institutions as the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at Shanghai University, and was President of the Conductors Guild. UWSO concerts in Laramie draw large and appreciative audiences and are an important part of the cultural life of the community.
Works played by the Symphony
by the Symphony under Maestro Griffith include symphonies by Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Dvorak, Franck, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Hanson, and Borodin; Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, Respighi’s entire Rome trilogy, Rimski-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and more.
Exploring the great diversity of the orchestral repertoire, they have performed works by Samuel Akpabot, Francesca Caccini, Valerie Coleman, Duke Ellington, Carlos Gomes, Hu Sisi, Scott Joplin, Li Huanzhi, Arturo Márquez, César Guerra Peixe, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Clara Schumann, Dame Ethel Smyth, William Grant Still, Liu Tieshan, Mao Yuan, and many others. They have joined UW choral groups in large works such as Carmina Burana and the Brahms and Mozart Requiems, and played in the pit for a double bill of the ballets Petrushka and Afternoon of a Faun, La Traviata, The Magic Flute, The Nutcracker Ballet, Candide, Don Pasquale, Così Fan Tutte, Copland’s The Tender Land, The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, and Broadway musicals such as Into the Woods, South Pacific, Company, Guys and Dolls, and many more.
New works by fascinating, living composers are often found on UWSO programs, and the orchestra was a winner of a 2005 ASCAP/American Symphony Orchestra League Award for Adventurous Programming. In 2009 we were one of only three college orchestras invited to participate in the Ford Made in America commissioning program, and our 2000-2001 Premières for the Millennium season included four new works composed expressly for the UWSO. Other orchestral projects included residencies with composers Libby Larsen and Pulitzer- and Grammy- winner Jennifer Higdon, a 1999-2000 retrospective on 20th Century music, and 1998’s Hildegard’s Year, which saluted all women composers in honor of the 900th birthday of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval German nun and composer.
Past UWSO members have served in top jobs all over the world, including:
Orchestra membership is by audition only. Players are drawn primarily from the university student body, including both music majors and talented musicians from other fields of study. Many of the members receive scholarship aid in return for playing in the ensemble. There are also a few Laramie residents who participate as community members.
Orchestra tours, including a 2007 week-long tour of Bolivia (view pictures), are funded by a combination of sources. These include the University, the UW Foundation, the Symphony Association, private donors, host communities, the Wyoming Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The UWSO is a part of the UW Department of Music, Dr. Ben Markley, Chair, in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Scott Turpen, Dean.
Symphony Association of the University of Wyoming
The Symphony Association for the University of Wyoming offers significant support to the orchestra. This Laramie-based organization funds scholarships, tours, equipment needs, commissions and other special projects. They also encourage community involvement in orchestra events, help with educational projects, and offer occasional social outlets for lovers of symphonic music.