SMU music composition graduate student Olga Amelkina-Vera named 2016-17 student composer-in-residence with Irving Symphony

Olga Amelkina-Vera, a music composition graduate student at SMU, has been named the 2016-17 Student Composer-in-Residence with the Irving Symphony Orchestra.

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

Launched in 2011, the student composer-in-residence program is a unique partnership between SMU Meadows and the Irving Symphony Orchestra (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, who earned a Master of Music in instrumental conducting at SMU in 1983.

Amelkina-Vera won the honor with her piece Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella). The five-minute composition features bright orchestration and witty gestures that 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 April 8, 2017.

In addition to working closely with Maestro Guzman, Amelkina-Vera is participating in ISO educational outreach programs and other orchestra activities as part of her residency.

“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 at SMU Meadows. “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.”

About Olga Amelkina-Vera

Olga Amelkina-Vera

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.

A native of Belarus who moved to the U.S. in 1997, Amelkina-Vera earned a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in guitar performance from the University of North Texas. At SMU, she has studied with Xi Wang, Lane Harder, Robert Frank and Kevin Hanlon. Her comic micro-opera All That Glitters was premiered at SMU in 2015. Last year, her thesis composition Submerged Worlds, written for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, was premiered by the Meadows new music ensemble SYZYGY. Her guitar quartets have won multiple awards, including first prize in the Austin Classical Guitar Society Composition Competition in 2009 and 2012 and first prize for Cattywampus Rompus in the Japan Guitar Ensemble Composition Competition in 2013. 

Her compositions are published by Productions d’Oz, and have been performed and recorded by Matt Palmer, Adam Holzman,  Valerie Hartzell and many other ensembles and soloists. As a performer, she maintains a busy touring and teaching schedule with Kithara Duo, her guitar duo with Fernand Vera. Kithara Duo’s critically acclaimed recordings Beings and Lingua Franca feature some of her original compositions and transcriptions for guitar duo. She is currently a faculty member at Collin College in Plano, where she teaches music history, music theory, composition and guitar.

About the Irving Symphony Orchestra

The Irving Symphony Orchestra is a professional orchestra that provides signature performances for North Texas and regularly features renowned guest artists. Under the music direction of Maestro Guzman, it annually presents six concerts in its subscription season, four multi-media free youth concerts for more than 6,000 fifth and seventh graders, and free family, community and educational events. In addition to Amelkina-Vera’s work, the April 8 concert will feature the music of Bizet’s famed opera Carmen. For more information about the ISO’s 2016-17 season, visit