The Music Man

Dan Coleman is composer-in-residence for the Tucson Symphony. His music will be performed by the symphony at 8 p.m. on Jan. 8-9, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the TCC Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Call 882-8585 for tickets, or just show up at the hall about a half-hour ahead of the concerts. Also on the bill: Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and Beethoven Symphony No. 8.

Does being "composer-in-residence" for the Tucson Symphony mean that you have to live inside the TCC Music Hall?

Alas, no. My post with the symphony means a variety of things: They've commissioned and performed my music; I write their program notes, help out with educational projects, and consider new pieces which are submitted to the orchestra for possible programming.

Is the symphony performing any of your work soon?

Glad you asked. You can hear a new piece of mine this week, beginning on Thursday. It's called Wondrous Night, and it's one of a group of new works that the Tucson Symphony commissioned to celebrate their 75th anniversary. Tell me more about this Wondrous Night.

I tried to shy away from the concept of standard celebratory fanfare. Composers these days get asked to write fanfares a lot, because fanfares are short, and often, that's a good reason for a commission, in this case the 75th anniversary of the symphony. But the risk that one runs is writing yet another flash-in-the-pan kind of piece. So this piece has a few moments of meditation--meditating on the sound of the orchestra.

If I go to a symphony concert, am I likely to run into my parents?

Not to worry. Your parents are probably home listening to Jefferson Airplane records.

How about my grandparents?

Nope. They're home listening to Tommy Dorsey.

... Great-grandparents?

Now you're talking. But the average age of the musicians on stage is quite young. It's also important to remember that the symphony plays downtown at the TCC, so you can stroll to a club or restaurant after the concert to talk, smoke, drink or dance. Plus the tickets are cheap, and it's pretty amazing to experience 60 virtuoso musicians at once.

What do you do when you're not working with the Tucson Symphony?

I'm busy writing music on commission from other organizations. The Lied Center (a chamber music presenter in the Midwest) has commissioned my second string quartet for next season. I've contributed to some movie soundtracks as an orchestrator: for Wayne Wang's Anywhere but Here and David Mamet's Heist.

How does one go about becoming a classical composer?

It helps to grow up in a city like New York, where the whole concept of culture is completely distorted from reality. When I was growing up, I met composers who were either parents of kids I went to school with or friends of my college-professor dad, and it just seemed like a normal career. You know, fireman, composer. ... I was fortunate enough to go to classical conservatory, starting pretty early. When I was in high school, I started going to Julliard on the weekend and then continued on through college and graduate school, so I think that's part of it--the scam of growing up in New York and being duped into thinking it's a real thing that people can do.

In college and graduate school, I started getting commissions from real organizations to write chamber ensembles and orchestras and that's how it happened. I think that if I grew up, say, on a cattle farm, I probably wouldn't be a composer today. Environment must have something to do with it.

Have you ever considered just forgetting about this classical stuff and forming a death-metal band?

It's funny you should ask that question. Not death-metal, but there have been times when I have explored other areas of the business. Lisa Loeb, who is a singer/songwriter the Tucson Weekly readership might know, called me back when I was in graduate school to do her string arrangements for her albums, so I have had a little bit of window onto the world of rock.

Should I be surprised that you live in Tucson, rather than L.A. or New York?

I grew up in Manhattan, and I'm lucky to have established my career there. It's still a great place to be an artist if you have a secret hoard of cash in a Swiss bank account, but the days of a bohemian lifestyle in New York City are gone. Tucson has an incredibly vibrant arts community, and I find it inspiring.

Who's your favorite local author?

Stacey Richter. Everybody should run out and buy My Date With Satan.

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