Xi Wang Receives Philadelphia Orchestra Commission

Composition professor was one of six female composers in orchestra’s workshop

Update to story below:

Xi Wang and the five other female composers who participated in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s workshop and showcase on September 6 have each been commissioned to create a new work for the famed orchestra.

The commissions will be part of the orchestra’s greater investment in the compositional process to support diversity and the creation of new works in innovative forums such as workshops, public dialogues and listening sessions.

“Every Philadelphia Orchestra season should be representative of the diverse, global communities that we serve,” said Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “I am delighted to be able to commission both emerging and established women artists to give their music the exposure it deserves, to breathe new life into what we do on stage, and to inspire members of our audience to always see a place for themselves in our work. These new initiatives represent the beginning of a long-term collaboration that will not only elevate the work of our Orchestra, but also the future of the art form.”

“This is a great achievement for Xi Wang personally and for Meadows’ Division of Music,” said David Mancini, director of the division. “It clearly demonstrates the world-class stature of our fine faculty.”

“It is a great honor to be commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the finest orchestras in the world,” said Xi Wang. “I clearly remember the first day I arrived in the U.S. as a graduate student, with two suitcases, a curious yet nervous mind, and an American dream of having top musicians and orchestras performing my music one day. I have loved my adventurous journey since then, including many sleepless nights composing and studying. I am truly grateful for all the support and opportunities I have received.”

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Philadelphia Orchestra to Record and Discuss Dr. Xi Wang’s "Above Light: A Conversation with Toru Takemitsu"

Six composers, all women, selected for rare in-person workshop event; composers gain recognition, orchestra gains repertoire diversification

It is one thing to compose an orchestral work, and another thing entirely for an orchestra to play it for you. Imagine, then, if the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra asked you to come to Philadelphia, where they would play your composition and then sit down with you to talk all about the nuances and details of your work.

That is the good fortune of Dr. Xi Wang, associate professor of music composition at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, and five additional composers from around the world. The composers were selected by The Philadelphia Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) to convene at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia on September 6. The Philadelphia Orchestra—thought of by many as one of America’s “Big Five” orchestras—will rehearse and record the composers’ works in a session conducted by Assistant Conductor Kensho Watanabe. The composers will also attend meetings with orchestra leadership and participate in roundtable conversations with the orchestra’s artistic committee and other musical mentors, and will receive feedback from the co-facilitators, ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and native Philadelphian Melinda Wagner.

Xi says she is honored to be selected.

“It is an extremely competitive world,” she says. “Composers do need such opportunities to learn from face-to-face rehearsals and hearing the music in a concert hall played by musicians. A musical piece comes alive when it is played by an orchestra or ensemble. Otherwise, it only lives in the composer’s head.”

Xi’s composition, titled Above Light: A Conversation with Toru Takemitsu, was inspired by the elegance and color of the Japanese composer’s imaginary soundscapes. Takemitsu (1930–1996) is known for blending classical style with contemporary, infusing both Eastern and Western influences into his music and often using unexpected musical sources—including silence—in his works.

The six composers, all of whom have been commissioned previously through ACO’s programs, are all women.

“Our goal is for these readings to foster dialogue between composers and musicians, provide valuable tools for composers to have their works heard and promoted, and spark deeper relationships with a broader selection of composers,” says Jeremy Rothman, vice president of artistic planning for The Philadelphia Orchestra. “Identifying and collaborating with living composers from all backgrounds is of paramount importance to our organization and for the future evolution of this art form.”

“I consider myself as a ‘composer’ without thinking much about my gender,” says Xi. “If I do think about it, I am very proud of being a woman composer. For me, composing is a personal expression, an ultimate form of being genuine. It is true that the performed orchestra repertoire by living women composers is marginally small. I am glad that The Philadelphia Orchestra is providing this opportunity dedicated to women composers. It will certainly promote diversity in the orchestral world.”

Of her opportunity with The Philadelphia Orchestra and the ACO, Xi says she is “expecting an extraordinary communication and exchange of ideas,” adding “I would like to thank my mentors, colleagues and friends for their great support and trust over the years. I am proud to be a member of the wonderful Meadows community!”

About Associate Professor of Music Composition Dr. Xi Wang

Dr. Xi Wang
"Composing is a personal expression, an ultimate form of being genuine." — Dr. Xi Wang

Professor Xi’s work has been performed around the world. Her music has been presented by the Minnesota Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Shanghai Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, Proteus Ensemble (UK), Tippett String Quartet (UK), Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble (Moscow), Pacific Music Festival Academy Percussion Ensemble, Maya Trio (New York City) and DoublePlay percussion duet (New York City), among others.

Xi has received five prizes from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Her music has been spotlighted on Minnesota Public Radio, Aspen Public Radio and Radio-China. She was the sole recipient of the 2006-07 Robbins Family Prize in Music Composition for her exceptional merit and promise as a composer at Cornell University. Xi was also one of the eight young composers featured in the project “New Voices from China” at Bard College. Her Music for Piano, Percussion and Wind Ensemble was one of the 21 obligatory pieces (selected from over 700 band pieces submitted from over 50 countries) for the 2010 Coups de Vents International Band Competition in France. Her other awards include first prize in the Fourth International Jurgenson Competition for Young Composers; the Tsang-Houei Hsu International Music Composition Award; the fifth edition of the Northridge Composition Prize; first prize in the “Music from China” International Composition Competition; first prize in the “Ensemble X” competition; and the Outstanding Student Studying Abroad Award from the Chinese government.

Xi’s next world premiere, a Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation commission of the League of American Orchestras, will be performed by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra on a to-be-announced date in 2019.

Upcoming performances of other Xi Wang compositions include:

  • November 17, 2018: Valley Rhapsody (for string trio), a Phi Kappa Lambda commission, will be performed by SMU Professor of Practice/Violin Aaron Boyd and members of the Julius Quartet at the College Music Society national conference in Washington, D.C.
  • December 3, 2018: Rhapsody (for cello solo) will be performed at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
  • February 11, 2019: Winter Blossom-in memory of Steven Stucky (for wind ensemble), commissioned by the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, will be performed by the wind ensemble of University of Michigan School of Music.
  • February 21, 2019: Winter Blossom-in memory of Steven Stucky (for wind ensemble) will be performed at the 2019 College Band Directors National Association national conference in Tempe, Arizona, by the wind ensemble of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Music.

Read more about SMU Meadows Associate Professor of Music Composition Xi Wang and the Meadows Division of Music Theory and Composition Department. Keep up with Dr. Xi Wang and her performances on the Xi Wang Composer website.