Composer Augusta Read Thomas visits Lawrence conservatory

Reid Stratton

Augusta Read Thomas, guest composer, brings the brilliance of her music to Lawrence through a day of instruction and an evening orchestra concert. (John Boehm)

Musicians all over Lawrence are licking their chops. It’s not every day that one of the biggest and most forward-thinking names in music treks up to Appleton, Wisconsin.
On Saturday, Oct. 26, world-renowned composer Augusta Read Thomas will visit the campus. Her appearance provides a rare opportunity to work and meet with a composer who is leading the way in 21st century music.
During her time at Lawrence Thomas will conduct a rehearsal of an original work with the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, give a lecture about her own music, and have an informal meal with composition students before concluding with a master class.
Augusta Read Thomas is currently a professor in the composition department of Northwestern University. She is also composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until 2006, a position that recently became the first in the United States to have an endowed chair.
Before Northwestern, Thomas taught at Eastman, where she earned tenure at the age of 33.
Thomas has been highly decorated by just about every music school and foundation in America and beyond. She has premiered works in places as exotic as Paris, Berlin, Denmark, and Cleveland. To put the icing on the cake, she is even married to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands.
On Saturday morning, the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra will have the unique opportunity to rehearse a piece with its composer. This sort of encounter is particularly interesting because the players get to hear firsthand how the composer wants the piece to sound.
The piece Thomas is bringing, “Sunlight Echoes,” is a work for chorus and orchestra featuring a text by Emily Dickinson. It premiered last February at Carnegie Hall by the Chicago Youth Symphony and Chicago Children’s Choir.
Composition students will benefit most from Thomas’ visit. Many composers are interested in the process of writing just as much as the product, which is why visits like this are such a valuable resource.
Thanks to the efforts of professors Dr.Gene Biringer and Dr. Joanne Metcalf, Thomas is able to share her expertise with the Lawrence community and spread her years of knowledge to future members of the music industry.
To learn more about Thomas, visit her website at The master class will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Music Drama Center 254, and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra concert will take place at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.