The MSU Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Ken Lam, is composed of undergraduate and graduate students, and performs repertoire from all periods by classical and modern composers. It regularly engages both faculty and guest soloists, and sponsors an annual concerto competition. In addition to more standard repertory, featured works in recent seasons have included Mahler's Symphony No. 1 ("Titan"), Bartok's Dance Suite, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with guest artist Bruce Murray; the world premiere of David Bixler's Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra; Chen Gang and He Zhan Hao's The Butterfly Lovers, with violinist Weigang Li; Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral, and Grammy winner Robert Aldridge's Parables. Opera and musical theater collaborations have included fully staged productions of Weill's Street Scene, Brown's Parade, Menotti's The Consul, Handel's Saul, and Rossini's La scala di seta and La cambiale di matrimonio, and Britten's Albert Herring. Tony Award winning actor and singer Chuck Cooper performed with the orchestra in the world premiere of The Star Across the Ocean by composer Scott Davenport Richards. Students joined with professionals in the orchestra for the regional premiere of Robert Aldridge's opera Elmer Gantry. Recent students have won auditions with the New World Symphony, Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Haddonfield Symphony, Shanghai Symphony and many others. Participation in the MSU Symphony is determined by auditions at the beginning of the academic year.
Students gain experience of opera by performing in the orchestra for fully staged productions. Performances have included Britten's Albert Herring. Rossini's La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, Strauss's Die Fledermaus, Handel's Lungi da te (Far from you), and Donizetti's Il giovedì grasso (Fat Thursday).
The Cali Camerata was formed in 2011 as a conductorless chamber orchestra comprising a mixture of students and faculty, with students leading their instrumental sections. They have performed works by Britten, Haydn, Grieg, Barber, with faculty including cellist Nicholas Tzavaras and guest artists including violinists Boris Kucharsky and Jesse Mills, and pianist Rieko Aizawa. In addition to performing on campus, they have performed at Barge Music and Carnegie Hall's Weill Auditorium.
The pit orchestra, under the direction of Gregory Dlugos, performs for the many musical theater productions presented by the MSU Department of Theater and Dance and the Cali School. Participation in the orchestra is determined by auditions at the beginning of the academic year. The orchestra size is determined by the requirements of each production and the venue in which it is performed. Recently an orchestra of 37 members has played for the MSU production of Carousel in the Kasser Theater, a string quartet accompanied Nine in concert in Leshowitz Hall, and an ensemble of 9 players was used for Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party in the Fox Theater. The diversity of styles from production to production allows for opportunity for most players to play in an ensemble. It also allows for members of the Cali School to cooperate and collaborate with members of the School of Theater and Dance. There is also the opportunity to perform with the Dance Department in collaboration for their Spring Concert at the Kasser Theater.
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