The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SDSO) has been a visionary arts leader for over 95 years. The SDSO works to accomplish its mission: “To celebrate the tradition of live orchestral music and enrich the lives of people throughout our region” through concert, touring, education, and community engagement programs. The SDSO is grounded in five core values: Community Engagement, Creating Partnerships, Lifelong Impact, Educational Opportunities, and Live Symphonic Music. The orchestra’s 21-concert season includes four series. The SDSO’s touring program brings live orchestral music to over 20 communities in South Dakota. The organization answers the question of relevance to its unique demographics through award-winning education and community engagement programs. The SDSO’s extensive community engagement program includes the Lakota Music Project, Music as Medicine, High School Residency, and the Youth Orchestra String Quartet, a multi-layered mentoring program. These programs and others reach over 15,000 preschool through high school children and underserved populations each season. During the 2015-16 season, over 241 musical events were performed, serving over 54,000 people.
The SDSO’s commitment to new music has been paramount for over 10 ten years. In his first season as music director (2004/05), Maestro Delta David Gier began what would become a long-term commitment to contemporary American music for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. His first achievement was the creation of the orchestra’s Pulitzer Prize project, which began in 2004 with the inclusion of a winner on every SDSO concert during his first three seasons (always presenting the current year’s winner), and continues today. The project has brought a stunning array of new music to South Dakota from prize winners including John Corigliano, Joseph Schwantner, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Aaron Jay Kernis, Jennifer Higdon, Paul Moravec, John Harbison, George Crumb, Steven Stucky, Yehudi Wyner, William Bolcom, Christopher Rouse, and John Adams. The Pulitzer Prize series served as a catalyst for the programming of works of other locally and nationally known and respected American composers. In 2005, The Wall Street Journal singled out Maestro Gier’s Pulitzer project with the South Dakota Symphony calling it “an unprecedented programming innovation.” In 2012, to honor its achievement in these areas, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra was recognized by the League of American Orchestras with the John S. Edwards Award which commends the orchestra for its commitment to New American Music. The SDSO was recognized again in 2013 with ASCAP’s Morton Gould Award for Adventurous Programming which honors the orchestra for extraordinary efforts beyond the usual-and-accustomed activity in the area of new music and unusual programming.
The SDSO’s commitment to new music is visible in four primary arenas:
Using New Music to Engage Our Unique Community: The South Dakota Symphony has a long history of working with living composers and commissioning new works to engage the ethnic communities of Sioux Falls and the region.
In 2009, the SDSO worked with Sioux Falls’ Sudanese and Somali refugee population through concerts with Bernard Woma and his Ghanaian gyil ensemble. In 2011, a residency with Simon Shaheen, culminating in a performance of his Oud Concerto, was designed to help estranged Arab communities in Sioux Falls come together as well as to acquaint white audiences with Arab music and culture, from high school and college students to our subscribers. In 2013, a residency with Chinese composers Chen Yi and Zhou Long represented the first engagement of the Chinese community which continued in January 2014 with a performance of Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger concerto. Also in 2013, Sioux Falls composer Christopher Stanichar composed a piece entitled Pink Ribbon for Susan for the SDSO’s principal clarinetist, whose wife is battling cancer. The work was premiered on a benefit concert for the family’s medical expenses.
The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s most fruitful collaborations have been part of the Lakota Music Project (LMP). The LMP is a side-by-side program featuring the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Creekside Singers, a Lakota drumming group. The LMP, which had its inaugural tour in 2009 and continues today, features four commissioned works, one by SDSO principal oboist Jeff Paul, one by Native American composer Brent Michael Davids, and one by Native American composer Jerod Tate.
A History of Composer Residencies: In 2006, Maestro Gier and the South Dakota Symphony embarked on their first Composer-in-Residence program, a partnership with American composer Daniel Kellogg, who committed to two one-week residencies with the Symphony each year. During these residencies, Mr. Kellogg not only worked closely with the Maestro, orchestra and audience of the South Dakota Symphony, but also addressed music students at both the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, and South Dakota State University in Brookings. Mr. Kellogg’s residency culminated in 2012 with the South Dakota Symphony offering a world-premiere performance of his song-cycle in memory of South Dakota Symphony champion Mary Sommervold. This innovative residency program served as a model for subsequent composer residencies which serve a larger artistic goal: to nurture, perform and promote the very best recent American music from our most gifted and promising composers. Since Maestro Gier’s arrival, the South Dakota Symphony has hosted residencies with Paul Moravec, Steven Stucky, Robert Beaser, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Kellogg, Martin Kennedy, Chen Yi, Zhou Long, Jerod Tate, Simon Shaheen, Sumi Tonooka, and John Luther Adams.
Commitment to New Music: The orchestra remains committed to championing new music with regular performances of significant works by living composers. In the 2016/17 season alone, the orchestra will perform 5 major works by living composers, including two World Premieres. The SDSO extends this vision to its Youth Orchestra who is part of the Ford “Made in America” cohort this season. The Youth Orchestras will have new music on each of their three concerts this season and work with four living composers, including Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams.
Nurturing Local Composers: With a thriving pool of talented local composers, the SDSO proudly champions its gifted local artists. In the past four years, South Dakota Symphony musician Jeffrey Paul and local conductor Christopher Stanichar have both been commissioned and premiered by the SDSO. In addition, the SDSO continues to support the work of local composer Stephen Yarbrough with premieres of his work each season. In establishing ongoing relationships with local composers, the SDSO demonstrates it is an artistic leader in nurturing the robust local arts scene of Sioux Falls, greater South Dakota, and the region.
Through thoughtful presentations which incorporate conversation, visual media, musical examples and historical context, Maestro Gier and his musicians have built a spirit of adventure and openness with their audience. While the depth of the South Dakota Symphony commitment to new music would be an admirable accomplishment for a full-time orchestra in a major metropolitan city, it is especially meaningful given the size, budget, and comparatively limited programming opportunities of the South Dakota Symphony. The organization is proud to continue its commitment to new music which has become more than just a way of programming…it has become a tradition.
The South Dakota Symphony performs Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) excerpt. Performed January 24, 2015, Sioux Falls, SD.
The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra performs John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 2 excerpt. Performed January 24, 2009, Sioux Falls, SD.
The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra performs Jerod ‘Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s Waktegli Olowan (Victory Songs) Mvt. 1 – Introduction featuring Stephen Bryant, baritone. Performed on the Lakota Music Project, 2013.