Final orchestra concert reflects a good year — including works by Sweet Briar’s first student composer-in-residence

Posted on April 19, 2016 by Jennifer McManamay

Chamber Orchestra
The Sweet Briar College Chamber Orchestra will present its year-end concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, in Memorial Chapel. Assistant professor of music Jeff Jones will conduct. The event is free and open to the public.

The program includes Antonio Vivaldi’s entire “Concerto III, RV 310, Op. 3, No. 3” and the first movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “String Quartet, No. 1.” There also will be two compositions by Velocity Haigh ’18, Sweet Briar’s “first-ever student composer-in-residence,” Jones says. One is a chamber piece for oboe, clarinet and viola titled “Columns White.” The second is a “full-orchestra composition that is so new it does not yet have a name.”

Jones notes that the year-end performance concludes an ambitious nine-concert 2015-2016 season that focused on three “C”s: chamber works, creativity and collaboration.

“To approach this season, students had to be given more agency than ever before,” Jones explained.

“They had to be able to make decisions about which other students they wanted to work with, and how, in chamber groups. They had to select or compose music for their projects. They had the opportunity to collaborate on these projects with other musicians, poets, naturalists, painters, musicologists and a museum director.”

Having a student composer in residence has been “fantastic,” he added.

When he offered the residency to Haigh, a math and music major who is focusing her work on composition, he felt both she and the orchestra would benefit by her creating new works in support of the “3-C season.”

“It has been a real pleasure watching her grow as a composer, both in terms of craft and in her ability to communicate her art to, and collaborate with, instrumentalists in the orchestra.”

The schedule and focus of the past academic year have left him feeling pretty good, he says.

“It’s been an exciting and productive year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

For Haigh, the residency has been a challenge — especially finding time and meeting deadlines — but hugely rewarding.

“It is even harder when the thing you are having to force for a deadline is your own creativity,” she says.

“Hearing my pieces performed is surreal. I write music because it makes me happy, so after I write a piece it just sits on my computer. Hearing it performed — and watching an audience listen to a piece I wrote alone — is a totally wonderful and bizarre experience.”