New Programs Added: Not Your Grandma’s Classical Music!

On the Cover: Lucy Dhegra. Photo: Kate Rains

Albany Symphony to Present the American Music Festival Celebrating Cutting-Edge Composers and Musicians

ALBANY- Two-time GRAMMY award-winning Albany Symphony launches its annual American Music Festival celebrating cutting-edge composers and musicians, starting Thursday, June 10th through Sunday June 13th at the Palace Theatre. The four-day event will feature William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet as well as composers Clarice Assad, Molly Joyce, Christopher Theofanidis, Alexis Lamb, Nina Shekhar, and other outstanding musicians. The Festival also includes a performance by the popular Dogs of Desire; the First Draughts reading session, which give the public a glimpse into the weeklong Composer Workshop for emerging creators; outdoor neighborhood performances and family activities. 

Clarice Assad, who has a long-standing history with the Albany Symphony, will share her piece Folk Tales, a double-guitar concerto performed by members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. Assad, a Brazilian-American composer, pianist, arranger, and singer from Rio de Janeiro, has previously been composer-in-residence with the Albany Symphony. Assad took inspiration from her father and uncle of the renowned Brasil Guitar Duo in writing Folk Tales, whichwas commissioned by a Polish arts organization in 2018.

“I was asked to write a piece that would explore similarities between the music of my native country Brazil and Polish music. However, I did not have the easiest time making the connection, as so much of the music from Brazil is syncopated, which is the opposite of music from Eastern Europe. So, I began thinking about meter, instead of musical styles, and regions rather than specific countries,” Assad said. 

“It is an honor to have William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant of the L.A. Guitar Quartet join us to perform this beautiful work by one of our favorite composer-partners. This has been an incredibly challenging, yet beautiful and life-affirming season, and we are so excited that it culminates in our American Music Festival. So many people from throughout our community and beyond have given us so much love and support during the past year; we couldn’t be more appreciative. This upcoming series of concerts speaks to the core of who we are, and we are thrilled to provide access to everyone to join us for this great musical adventure,” said Music Director David Alan Miller. 

Songs, a world premiere, is a collaboration between composers Christopher Theofanidis and Molly Joyce. Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra was the featured work in this year’s GRAMMY win for Best Classical Instrumental Solo by Richard O’Neill, violist, and the Albany Symphony. Joyce has been deemed one of the “most versatile, prolific and intriguing composers working under the vast new-music dome” by The Washington Post. Joyce studied composition with Theofanidis at Yale University. Inspired by Joyce’s songs, Theofanidis asked if he could orchestrate them. Joyce’s left-hand is impaired from a car accident when she was young, and she has adapted by playing unique instruments such as the toy organ. She will be the vocalist for Songs. 

Nina Shekhar’s piece Above the Fray was written in reaction to how the field of classical music has clumsily tried to respond to the social issues of today by clinging to their canonical heroes and attempting to solve everyone’s problems by playing Bach. Her piece pokes fun at this phenomenon by warping and distorting Bach’s famous Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1, unraveling its passages into threads that transform, detune, and degrade at different rates for different performers over the course of the piece.

“Unlike Western art tradition which believes that classical music is a one-size-fits-all solution, this piece challenges that notion and asserts that we each have infinitely unique identities that morph differently under different circumstances, and that art itself is not a static monolith, but rather something dynamic that we can allow to breathe, reshape, decompose, and reincarnate into new life forms over time,” said Shekhar. Shekhar considers herself neurodiverse, and has dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) most of her life. She has worked to embrace her neurodivergence as a way to recognize her own self-worth. 

Alexis Lamb is honored and humbled to be part of the American Music Festival this year. Her first experience with the AMF was in 2019, where the IAMIAMIAM Collective from Bard College premiered a vocal quartet she wrote. She came away from that experience loving the Festival. Lamb, along with Shekhar and Jack Frerer, was a featured composer in the Dogs of Desire Hot w/ Mustard project this past summer. Her new work called Serotiny is based on the importance of fires as a natural part of forest regrowth and maintenance. 

“While the destruction of a natural area can seem disturbing, there are species that actually rely on the heat from the fire to reproduce, namely trees that produce serotinous cones. In some ways I think that many of us have had our own regrowth over the last 14 months as well, so I am hoping that this work will embody both experiences,” said Lamb. 

The four-day series of events will include the Dogs of Desire, the orchestra’s electrifying genre-bending new music ensemble. Typically performing to a standing-room-only crowd, the Dogs of Desire will present commissioned world premieres by Jack Frerer, Bobby Ge, Tom Morrison and Kerwin Young.  

Interwoven with the Festival, the Composer Workshop: Orchestrating for the 21st Century provides an invaluable opportunity for a select group of rising composers to work with Christopher Theofanidis, who is on faculty at Yale University and the Aspen Music Festival. The First Draughts Reading Session give the composers and the audience a chance to experience the first hearing of a brand new work.  

The final day of the Festival includes a recital of solo and duo works by acclaimed guitarists (L) William Kenengiser and (R) Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.  

To access the American Music Festival concert live-streams or to make a gift in support of the Albany Symphony, visit

2021 Schedule:

Note: Concerts will feature limited in-person attendance for paid subscribers in accordance with evolving COVID reopening guidelines. As a benefit to the community during this time, livestream access will be provided FREE for all interested in participating from home!

Thursday, June 10: Palace Theatre

Composer Workshop Masterclass – 3– 4 pm 

Free/No ticket required

Christopher Theofanidis and others work with rising composers to hone their craft. 

Friday June 11: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm – Palace Theatre

Dog of Desire – Streamed Live 

Jack Frerer – New Work

Bobby Ge – New Work

Tom Morrison – New Work

Carolyn Yarnell – Dreamer

Kerwin Young – New Work

Ted Hearne — Is it Dirty

Dogs of Desire is the orchestra’s electrifying genre-bending new music ensemble!

Saturday June 12: 7 to 10:30 pm – Palace Theatre

American Music Festival Concert

Streamed Live

Pre-Concert Talk – 7 pm

David Alan Miller, Conductor/William Kanengiser & Scott Tennant (L.A. Guitar Quartet)

Nina Shekhar: Above the Fray (world premiere)

Clarice Assad: Folk Tales, Double Guitar Concerto

Molly Joyce/Christopher Theofanidis: Songs (world premiere) (Molly Joyce, vocals)

Alexis Lamb: Serotiny (world premiere)

Post-Concert Q&A – 9 pm

Sunday June 13: Palace Theatre 

Guitar Recital – 10 am – Palace Theatre

Streamed Live

Acclaimed guitarists William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant from the L.A. Guitar Quartet present a special program of solo and duo works.

First Draughts Reading Session – 7:30 pm – Palace Theatre

Streamed Live

New Community Events Just Added (5/27/21)

Ability Panel Discussion: June 10 at 11am – Virtual – Link to be provided soon Composers Molly Joyce and Nina Shekar sit down for an honest talk about creativity, resilience, and embracing differences with Maureen O’Brien, President & CEO at New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID) and Greg Sorrentino, President & CEO at Center for Disability Services.*Live Stream Performance – ASO musicians and Flame (a band out of The Arc Lexington).

Full Circle Collaboration: June 10 at 2:30 pm – Virtual Molly Joyce and Chris Theofanidis discuss their collaboration. 

Nature Orchestra: June 12 at 11 am: Pine Hollow Arboretum Composer Alexis Lamb led family activity. Participants gather objects in nature to create music.

First Drafts Reading Session: June 13 at 7:30 pm – Virtual Composers in our workshop program premiere works played by the ASO.    

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