By Sasha Nyary
Ng Tian Hui, director of orchestral activities and lecturer in music, is the 2015 winner of The American Prize in Orchestral Programming in the collegiate division in recognition of his work with the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra.
“This honor is an acknowledgement that even a small community can do remarkable work,” Ng said, noting that he was competing with music directors from big universities with numerous student musicians comprising several orchestras.
“We submitted our application with one orchestra. From a liberal arts college. Which is not a school of music,” Ng said. “It’s a tremendous achievement to win this award. And for Mount Holyoke it points to the excellent work this entire department is doing.”
Founded in 2009, The American Prize seeks to honor superb artists and ensembles who might otherwise not be recognized. Awards are given in a variety of performance areas and levels that also include church, community, and professional groups.
The award Ng received “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 was selected from a nationwide application pool for his programming in the 2013–2014 season at Mount Holyoke. The work performed by the orchestra included a fully-staged East Coast premiere of the opera Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story by Mary Watkins, with a full cast of 14 that included world-class singers from New York City and Boston.
Other innovative performances by the 50-member orchestra that season included Thy Book of Toil, a new piece by composer David Sanford, professor of music at Mount Holyoke, and the American debut of A Folk Symphony by Fela Sowande, known as the father of Nigerian art music.
“At the college and university level in general we have an opportunity to experiment,” Ng said. “Those working in commercial music do not always have that freedom. So it behooves us to do that kind of experimental work. And it’s really nice to be acknowledged by my peers.”
Ng won second place for this award last year.