Berkeley Symphony and its incoming music director, Joana Carneiro, have named a Berkeley native, composer Gabriela Lena Frank, as creative advisor. Frank will help shape the symphony’s programming, assist community outreach programs, and serve as mentor to the emerging composers of the symphony’s Under Construction program for development of new music. The announcement was made last Monday, two weeks after the symphony named the four current Emerging Composers-In-Residence and alternate for the current Under Construction series.
Frank will also play a key role in Carneiro’s debut concert as music director on Oct. 15 at Zellerbach Hall, when Carneiro will conduct the West Coast premiere of Frank’s “Peregrinos” (Pilgrims), inspired by stories of Latino immigrants, the subject of a recently completed PBS documentary.
Carneiro conducted the World Premiere of Frank’s “New Andean Songs” in March 2008 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, during which time she and Frank struck up a close friendship. They had both been graduate students at the University of Michigan.
“When I was appointed music director,” Carneiro said, “and discovered that Gabriela was born, raised and lives in Berkeley, the musical relationship between Berkeley Symphony and Gabriela became an artistic priority.”
Carneiro continued: “I have learned immensely from Gabriela. Her knowledge of the city—socially and artistically—is overwhelming . . . My relationship with Gabriela was born from music and from a deep admiration for her voice as one of the most talented composers I have had the privilege to work with.”
Frank spoke of her sense of being fortunate as a freelance composer in demand. “Most of my work, however, takes me far from my beloved hometown of Berkeley . . . My new role as creative advisor to the brilliant Joana Carneiro and the energetic Berkeley Symphony staff and musicians is a dream.”
Frank, of Peruvian-American heritage, has been widely recognized, including a Guggenheim Fellowship for this year. Her work has been performed by more than 100 orchestras, as well as popular local groups like the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Chanticleer and the Kronos Quartet. Current and forthcoming projects include a premiere by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, and an opera on Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, a collaboration with Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz, 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winner.
Frank was born in Berkeley in 1972 and holds degrees from Rice University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She has studied composition with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty.
Among Frank’s duties will be mentoring the Emerging Composers-In-Residence for the symphony’s Under Construction program for development of new music, the composers for the upcoming season announced Aug. 3: Bruce Christian Bennett of San Francisco, who received a Ph.D. in compostion from UC Berkeley; Patricio Da Silva of Danville, in his second season with Under Construction; Don Myers of Aptos, student and teaching assistant to the late composer Lou Harrison; and composer and violinist Andy Tan (An Tan), currently an MA candidate in composition at UC Davis. Berkeley composer and jazz bassist Clark Suprynowicz, another of last season’s Under Construction composers, was named as alternate for the 2009-10 season.
Joana Carneiro will conduct orchestral readings and performances of the composers’ short works commissioned for the series, with the composers present, Sunday, Dec. 6 (on the theme “1969”) and Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010 (on the theme “The Greek Muse”). Besides Frank’s activities with the composers-in-residence, other composers from Berkeley Symphony’s subscription concert series who will participate in mentoring include John Adams and Steven Stucky. Carneiro has also announced she will consider compositions from this season’s series for further development and possible premier in a future symphony subsciption concert.
Under Construction was initiated in 1993; the 2009-10 season marks the third year of the program’s expansion to include composers-in-residence whose commissioned short works are to be presented over a series of evenings. Each is a Bay Area resident who has not had a previous work in full symphony performance.