UNCSA Symphony Orchestra launches season with Tchaikovsky and Ravel

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra will launch its performance year with “a splash of color, a dash of danger and brushstrokes of virtuosity,” according to Music Director Christopher James Lees. Lees will conduct the concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Stevens Center, 405 West Fourth St. 

Tickets are $18 regular and $15 students with valid ID, and are available online or by calling the box office at (336) 721-1945.

The program includes Tchaikovsky’s sizzling Symphony No. 4 and Ravel’s brilliant Piano Concerto in G Major, featuring soloist Owen Dodds, winner of the 2016 UNCSA Concerto Competition.

“The Tchaikovsky symphony is equal parts thrilling and tender, bombastic and joyful, and shows off nearly every color within the orchestra,” Lees said.

“The energy that comes sizzling off the stage is electric in any performance, but in the hands of our extremely gifted UNCSA musicians I guarantee it will positively set the Stevens Center ablaze,” he added.

Christopher James Lees

“The energy that comes sizzling off the stage is electric in any performance, but in the hands of our extremely gifted UNCSA musicians I guarantee it will positively set the Stevens Center ablaze.” - Music Director Christopher James Lees

Lees said the Ravel concerto demands both extraordinary virtuosity and extreme nuance. “It insists the pianist paint with vivid colors up and down the keyboard,” he said. “Owen Dodds does all of this while simultaneously making it look effortless.”

Dodds, from Winston-Salem, is a junior in the School of Music who studies with Dmitri Shteinberg. He has studied piano for half his life, and has spent six years studying at UNCSA. “I came as an eighth-grader and then finished high school here,” he said.

Dodds was the last eighth grader enrolled in the School of Music. The middle school program was discontinued after 2009-2010.

Owen Dodds

“It’s exciting, as a pianist, to collaborate with such a large group of musicians.” - Featured soloist Owen Dodds 

For his first year of college he attended Wheaton College near Chicago, but transferred to UNCSA to resume study with Shteinberg. “I have not found another teacher who helps me develop my technique and expands my understanding the way Dr. Shteinberg does,” Dodds said.

“I appreciate his search for knowledge and integrity as a musician. He teaches in a holistic way. You are not just a musician, you are a whole person playing music, and you need to understand how the music is made,” he added.

The upcoming concert is Dodds’ first opportunity playing with an orchestra. “It’s exciting, as a pianist, to collaborate with such a large group of musicians,” he said.

Dodds is also excited to perform the concerto as originally conceived by Ravel. “He is one of the best orchestrators who ever lived,” Dodds said. “This piece is often performed with a reduction of the orchestral part, so to play the piece in its original conception, with a full orchestra, is a great opportunity for me.”

Dodds is the son of Michael Dodds, who teaches music history in the School of Music.

The concert will also be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Dixon Auditorium of Elkin High School, 334 Elk Spur St. in Elkin. The Sunday concert is free and open to the public and doors will open at 1 p.m. so the public can meet the conductor prior to the performance.

Lees said the music department at Elkin High School invited the symphony to perform after observing the artistic growth of Elkin resident Josh Brinegar, a sophomore percussionist at UNCSA.

At the Sunday concert, donations will be accepted to benefit the music program at Elkin High School.

by Lauren Whitaker

September 12, 2016