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Free concert showcases WMU composer, guest vocalist

May 14, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The music of C. Curtis-Smith will come to life with the composer at the piano and the help of a guest vocalist at 8:15 p.m. Monday, May 19, in Dalton Center Recital Hall on the Western Michigan University Campus.

The free concert will feature soprano Mary Bonhag and also will be performed in June in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Concert House.

The concert will consist of three song cycles: Chansons innocentes (poems of e.e.cummings); settings of five Theodore Roethke poems; and a Civil War song cycle, with poems by Herman Melville and Walt Whitman. In addition, Curtis-Smith, who is a WMU professor of music, will perform three of his piano etudes. The etudes were included in the repertoire list for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Bonhag has performed in Italy, Germany, South Africa, Hawaii and much of the continental United States. She has soloed with the University of Michigan Chamber Choir, University Choir, and Arts Chorale as well as the Lehigh University Orchestra, the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble and the Superior Chamber Orchestra. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan, she studies with Carmen Pelton. In the fall, she will attend Dawn Upshaw's graduate voice program at Bard College in New York.

An internationally recognized composer, Curtis-Smith is the recipient of more than 100 grants, awards and commissions, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, the Prix du Salabert and grants from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts and, most recently, commissions from the Barlow Endowment and the Harvard University Fromm Foundation. Other awards include the Medaglia d'Oro from the Concorso Internazionale di Musica e Danza G. B. Viotti; an award from the Concorso Internazionale de Composizione; 30 consecutive Standard Awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers; and grants from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and the State of Michigan Governor's Award.

At age 38, he was the youngest faculty member ever awarded WMU's Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, the University's highest academic honor. In 2001, his Twelve Etudes for Piano were selected for the repertoire list for the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Critics have praised Curtis-Smith's compositions. After a performance of his piano etudes in Tully Hall, New York Times reviewer Bernard Holland wrote: "Mr. Curtis-Smith takes up where Debussy's lonely, bleakly beautiful last music ends. Yet these pieces have a voice of their own."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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