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Friday, October 20, 2023

URI music department announces fall concert highlights

Introduces new director of symphony orchestra

By Benjamin Smith 

University of Rhode Island Symphony Orchestra
conductor Luis Viquez directs an opera performance
before his arrival at URI. Photo courtesy of Lynn Vidler.

When the University of Rhode Island Symphony Orchestra takes the stage this fall, it will introduce a new director with a long resume of success.

A native of Costa Rica, Luis Viquez has been nominated for a Latin Grammy for best classical music album along with winning the American Prize In Orchestral Conducting. He is a versatile musician, having performed as a clarinetist, in orchestral and opera ensembles, and has been a wind band conductor.

Before coming to URI, Viquez was a professor at the University of South Dakota for seven years, leading its symphony orchestra to national and international acclaim. At URI, he is serving as the director of orchestral studies and assistant professor in orchestral conducting.

“The convenient location of Rhode Island in an artistic region that is more welcoming to minorities, specifically Hispanic people, was very attractive to me and my family in deciding to move to New England,” said Viquez. 

One of Viquez’s main goals is to champion new music by underrepresented composers, while still programming the main works of the traditional orchestral repertoire. 

“The orchestra program has a lot of potential to grow, and can promote new voices coming from underrepresented backgrounds,” said Viquez.  “Starting this year, there will be a new series called ‘Before the Music, Beyond the Notes,’ which will include pre-concert conversations about the music before each orchestra concert.” 

Viquez is an active guest conductor. He will travel to Costa Rica in November to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra. He will also travel to Nebraska in November to conduct the Nebraska all-state orchestra. 

Viquez encourages all those who play string instruments to join the orchestra. The orchestra practices Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center. 

The orchestra’s first concert with Viquez conducting will be Oct. 28. The main work for his first concert will be Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8. Three more works will be played by the orchestra: “Dreams” by Juan Guerra, who is coming to URI for the performance; “Empty Branches” by Deanna Wehrspann; and Antonio Vivaldi’s concerto for violin and cello will feature two international graduate students, Zeynep Balcia, a violinist from Turkey, and Nancy Olivares, a cellist from Mexico. 

Other ensembles have been hard at work as well preparing for their first concerts of the fall season. All ensemble performances take place in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Tickets for all concerts can be purchased through Eventbrite or at the Box Office. General admission tickets are $15, student and seniors 60 and older are $10; children 12 and under are admitted free. 

On Oct. 26, the Jazz Big Band will perform its first concert of the fall. 

“The Big Band’s first concert this year is a tribute to jazz composer and arranger Thad Jones,” said Emmett Goods, director of the jazz program. “This is his centennial year.” The band will perform pieces that Jones composed and arranged. “We have a dynamite band this year that will do an amazing job presenting music in a way that both educates and entertains,” said Goods. 

The Wind Ensemble and Concert Band will perform Oct. 27, but each group will play its own unique program. 

“The Wind Ensemble program is composed of well-established standard wind band works from the 20th century by composers Respighi, Persichetti, Barber, Milhaud, and Shostakovich,” said Concert Band Director Brian Cardany. “The Concert Band will perform works by Ticheli, Carter, Lo Presti, and Van der Roost.” There will also be a piece by Stephen McNeff titled “Ghosts,” which will fit the Halloween mood. 

On Nov. 16, the University Concert Choir will hold its second annual afternoon concert. The concert is meant to be informal with the goal of making people more comfortable attending concerts and, perhaps, deciding to try out for the choir. During the performance, the choir will perform samples of songs that will be sung during their final concert of the semester. The concert is free. 

“The concert will occur during a class period during that afternoon so it gives students an opportunity to attend, and to also talk to performers afterwards if they’d like to,” said director Mark Conley.

On Nov. 17, That Ram Marching Band will perform tunes from its Meade Stadium repertoire at Rhody football games. The band has performed its season-ending concert every year since 2002. “The band’s color guard will perform visual routines to the music,” Cardany said.