James Ross, Music Director
The University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra (UMSO) is one of the nation's finest collegiate orchestras, a progressive ensemble on the cutting edge of 21st century orchestral performance experience for audiences and members alike.
In addition to its ongoing search for ways to vitalize the presentation of classical music in concert, UMSO is revisiting the traditional relationship between conductor and orchestra as well as the orchestra member's relationship to the music they play. Through this path of exploration, our program hopes to uncover a renewed depth of meaning from the repertoire for orchestra written throughout the ages. In the UMSO, we base our work on the bedrock of chamber music playing which forms an essential feature of life at the University of Maryland School of Music.
The 90-member group performs six widely publicized programs each season in the Dekelboum Concert Hall at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Recent performances have included:
- The Verdi Messa da Requiem with soloists Sharon Sweet, Delores Ziegler, Benjamin Warschawski, and James Morris,
- Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony during which Russian poetry from the same period was chosen and recited by orchestra members as preludes to each movement,
- Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes with lighting designed by Douglas Fitch and Lyn Godley to evoke the landscape of the sea,
- Shostakovich 13th Symphony, Babi Yar, with the great Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko narrating,
- Brahms's Third Symphony led by period instrument specialist and conductor Kenneth Slowik, and
- acclaimed performances of Mahler's Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth symphonies
- Berlioz Symphony Fantastique with narration based entirely on the words of the composer,
- The Petrushka Project: a multi-dimensional setting of Stravinsky's Petrushka involving puppetry, live videography, choreography of the orchestra itself, and costumes evoking a Russian street fair in wintertime, and
- Schumann's Paradise and the Peri led by Paul Goodwin as the culminating event of UMD's acclaimed Schumann Festival,
- Adams Chairman Dances performed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, which interwove dancers and orchestral players on the concert stage, and
- Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" from memory, with movement design by choreographer Liz Lerman.
UMSO has proudly premiered many new works, including: Through the Ear of a Raindrop by Robert Gibson, The Phoenix and Oracles by Mark Wilson, Room Music and New Dawn by Lawrence Moss, and Shadowboxer: An opera based on the life of Joe Louis by Frank Proto. Through an annual collaboration with the School of Music's Maryland Opera Studio, the orchestra has also performed such diverse works as Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Handel's Giulio Cesare and Xerxes, Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, Puccini's La Bohème, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
UMSO has performed side-by-side with the National Symphony Orchestra at both the Kennedy Center and Clarice Smith Center as part of a week-long NSO residency at the UMD School of Music as well as with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was also selected to perform the opening concert for the Eastern Division convention of the National Association for Music Education in Baltimore. In 2006, UMSO premiered The Orchestra's Guide to the Universe, in collaboration with the Washington D.C.-based Renovations in Music Education (RIME) program, supported by a grant from NASA to develop a curriculum joining the fields of astronomy and music into a creative educational experience for middle school students.
The aspiration of the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra is to offer its members an experience of art-making that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Our hope is to provide them the tools they need to enter the unfolding new world of music as inventive and engaged proponents for concert music in our country.
UMSO Concerto Competition
The UMSO sponsors an annual concerto competition for students of the School of Music, awarding concert appearances and cash prizes. The winner performs as featured soloist with the UMSO at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.