MHC orchestra a national finalist in contest.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 9:45am

Competing against some of the finest musical ensembles in the country—including those with conservatories of music behind them—the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra has won finalist honors in the competition for The American Prize in Orchestral Programming.

Tian Hui Ng, who directs the orchestra, said the “competition was challenging, and I'm glad we're being acknowledged for the intellectual rigor of our programming.”

“The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best achievement in the unique field of orchestral programming, where the selection of repertoire by knowledgeable, creative, and courageous music directors builds orchestras and audiences, educates young people and adults, and enriches the community,” according to competition organizers.

Ng, MHC orchestra director and lecturer in music, submitted recordings of performances by 50-member student orchestra and copies of the orchestra’s programming for the 2012–2013 academic year. Their repertoire included music by familiar composers including Mendelssohn, Wagner, and Rachmaninoff, and new work by contemporary composers.

“The orchestra performed a really diverse program with a substantial amount of new music,” says Ng. “In particular, our Midwinter Dreams project was particularly creative in the way it presented a familiar classic—how it involved the other arts on campus, and how the music itself was refreshed by the premiere of a new work by Robert Honstein.”

Chief judge David Katz said it had been “a very stimulating competition” and that the finalists exhibited “exceptional programming skills, courage, and creativity, selecting seasons apparently well-tailored to their individual situations."

The American Prize competition was only the latest of Ng’s efforts to prepare Mount Holyoke students for real-world musicianship. Last fall, he arranged for the Symphony Orchestra to record a film score he had composed for a short independent film. “Recording work comes along so rarely and the more experience you have, the better,” Ng says. “So I knew it would be very helpful for the students.”

The orchestra’s principal flutist Ariel Hayat ’15 credited Ng and her flute instructor, Professor of Music Adrianne Greenbaum, for allowing her “to grow as a musician in ways that give rise to openness and creativity.”

—By Emily Harrison Weir