Olga Amelkina-VeraOlga Amelkina-Vera, a master’s student in music composition in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has been named the 2016-17 Student Composer-in-Residence with the Irving Symphony Orchestra (ISO).

Launched in 2011, the student composer-in-residence program is a unique partnership between SMU Meadows and the ISO. Each year, an undergraduate or graduate Meadows music composition student is selected to serve as a composer-in-residence with the orchestra and to create a commissioned work to be premiered by the ISO. It is the only known program of its kind between a professional orchestra and a university music department.

An annual competition to select the winner is held by a committee composed of two members of the SMU composition faculty and ISO Music Director Hector Guzman ’83, who earned his Master of Music in instrumental conducting at SMU.

Amelkina-Vera won the honor with her piece Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella), a five-minute composition give the ancient musical “tarantella” form a modern, Texas twist. The piece began as an award-winning work for guitar quartet, but for this commission it has been expanded into a full work for orchestra. It will be premiered by the ISO during its regular season concert on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

“I feel fortunate and grateful to SMU composition faculty members and Maestro Guzman for selecting me for this honor,” she said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about writing for orchestra in a ‘hands-on’ way. I am also enjoying having an inside look at the behind-the-scenes work of rehearsals and outreach with the ISO. Having my work premiered by them will be an invaluable experience!”

“For many professional composers, an orchestral residency is the ‘golden ring’ they aspire to, with only a few getting the opportunity even once,” said Robert Frank, associate professor of composition. “For our students to gain this professional experience and to have a work performed in a concert season by a wonderful orchestra is beyond anything I am aware of at any other university. Olga came to us already holding her D.M.A. in guitar performance, so she has already established a professional performing career as a soloist. This residency gives her the chance to break across disciplines into the composer side of her career, which we have enjoyed helping her develop during her studies in Meadows.”

Amelkina-Vera is the fifth SMU student selected for the ISO Student Composer-in-Residence program. The first was Vince Gover, whose “Let Us Begin Anew…” (a quote from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech) premiered in November 2011 at an ISO concert honoring the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. The second winner, Alvin Trotman, premiered Jubilee in November 2012, followed by Jesus Martinez’s Harmonic Tremor in February 2014. Last year’s winner, Michael van der Sloot, premiered a piece titled Cascade in March 2016.

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