As part of Orpheus’ ongoing commitment to new works by living composers, the American Notes commissioning initiative seeks to engage composers from diverse musical styles and backgrounds to create works that explore the question of American identity – particularly in our increasingly globalized world. Orpheus is proud to continue the American Notes exploration over the next two years with composers Vijay Iyer and Shuying Li. Each of these composers will begin with the complex question of what defines the American spirit today – the characteristics, experiences, communities, and relationships.

The theme of American Notes is inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1862 travelogue American Notes for General Circulation. Written during a six-month trip throughout the United States just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Dickens documented an America in transition, describing in detail the changing communities he observed. American Notes is also influenced by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and its engagement of artists throughout the country, specifically the iconic snapshots taken by photographers in the 1930s. Artists such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans shared a cross-section of American life, capturing the current American identity in diverse settings and providing a record for future generations. In engaging composers with different styles and musical backgrounds, Orpheus hopes to capture musically emotional snapshots and personal aspects of current American identity and spirit.

Praised as “a real talent here waiting to emerge” (Seattle Times) and with her “skillful orchestral writing, very colorful language and huge waves of sound,” Shuying Li is an award-winning composer who began her musical education in her native China. In her sophomore year at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, she won a scholarship to continue undergraduate study at the Hartt School in Connecticut. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she is now pursuing a doctorate degree.

Most recently, Shuying has been commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to write a new piece for a Carneige Hall premiere in December 2017. In 2015, Shuying’s orchestral work, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was named a winning work to participate in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Edward T. Cone Composition institute, where it was performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in July. In 2013, Shuying’s orchestral work Overture to “The Siege” was selected as the winning composition in both IAWM’s Libby Larsen Prize and the Seattle Symphony’s Celebrate Asia Composition Competition, resulting in premiere by the Seattle Symphony. In 2014, after performances by the Hartt Wind Ensemble and the University of Cincinnati CCM Wind Orchestra, Shuying’s work for band, Slippery Slope, won the ASCAP/CBDNA Ferederick Fennell Prize.

Other awards include recognition as a Finalist in the 2016 and 2015 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award, awards from The American Prize, the NAfME Composers Competition, the Melta International Composition Competition, the Florence String Quartet Call for Scores, the Foundation for Modern Music’s International Robert Avalon Composition Competition, the MacDowell Club of Milwaukee Young Composer Competition, and the International J. Dorfman Composition Competition, among others. She was the “Composer in Residence” for the Romania ICon Arts Festival during summer 2014. In 2015, Shuying will be participating in the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Composers Conference at Wellesley College with awarded fellowships.

Shuying has performed on several occasions with Contemporary Directions Ensemble (University of Michigan), Hartt Symphony Orchestra, the Hartt Wind Ensemble, the Foot in the Door Ensemble and the Hartt Symphony Band. Furthermore, she has conducted her own chamber and orchestral pieces many times in United States, Germany, and Italy.

Shuying’s compositions have been performed by Seattle Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Wellesley Chamber Orchestra, Orkest de ereprijs (Netherlands), Norfolk Contemporary Ensemble, Avanti! Chamber Orchestra (Finland), ICon Arts Ensemble (Romania), Cecilia Quartet (Canada), Opera From Scratch (Canada), Donald Sinta Quartet, 15.19. Ensemble (Italy), Ascanio Quartet (Italy), Atlas Ensemble (Netherlands), University of Cincinnati Wind Orchestra, Hartt Wind Ensemble, etc. Her prior composition teachers include Ye Guohui, Robert Carl and Larry Alan Smith. She studied conducting with Glen Adsit and Edward Cumming, and studied piano with Paul Rutman. Additionally, Shuying has worked with Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, Christopher Theofanidis, Steven Mackey

Join the Composers Club for behind-the-scenes access to the composition process, and artistic decision-making, and more. Composers Club members receive invitations to private rehearsals, have the opportunity to interact with Orpheus musicians and our featured composers, and support Orpheus’ commitment to the creation of new works for chamber orchestra.

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