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Stacy Garrop and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra

Stacy Garrop joins the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra as composer-in-residence from 2016-2019.

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Posted on March 18, 2018 by Stacy Garrop

I had a wonderful residence week back at the end of February! Here’s a roundup of my activities:

CUSO Rehearsals and “Music  of Destiny” Concert

CUSO performed three movements of my Mythology Symphony on their March 2nd concert. In preparation, I attended rehearsals on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. These led to a wonderful concert in Foellinger Great Hall in the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois. The acoustics in this Hall are truly spectacular!

Educational Outreach at the International Prep Academy

The CUSO brass quintet and I gave a joint education program for students at the International Prep Academy. As we have done with three schools earlier this year, we introduced the brass instruments to the children, as well as components of composing. Then we wrote a group piece about Nike, the Greek goddess of speed and victory, interspersed with the quintet performing movements of my Legends of Olympus. The students were most curious to see the brass instruments up close!

Presentations at St. Joseph Ogden High School

CUSO trumpeter Robin Heltsley invited me to talk with her music students at St. Joseph Ogden High School. For one class, I gave a presentation on how a composer composes, and in the other, I went over various business aspects of having a music career. I’m always excited to talk with high school students, as I was their age when I first discovered composing in a music theory course taught at my high school.

Introduction of the Mythology Symphony at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Maestro Stephen Alltop regularly talks at OLLI prior to each CUSO concert to introduce the upcoming program. He invited me to introduce the three movements of my Mythology Symphony at OLLI. We had a delightful audience, and I look forward to returning in early April to OLLI to give a presentation on how a composer composes music (for information on how to attend, please visit OLLI’s website).

Composing Workshop at the Cunningham Children’s Home

The staff at Cunningham Children’s Home chose several of their students to take part in a composing workshop. First, I talked about the components that go into building a piece of music and shared the video of Chanticleer singing my choral work Give Me Hunger (click here to view)Then, we constructed our own piece about the Greek goddess Nike. We designed the piece to perform ourselves. The students and staff explored various sounds we could make with our voices and hands. We performed our piece, realized where we needed to make some adjustments, and then performed it again. It was a great group activity that engaged the students and adults alike!

CUSO Overture Reading Session

Last fall, we invited composers who live within a 200-mile radius to submit 3-minute overtures to us; we chose five works from all of the entries we received. On March 3rd, we gathered the five composers (Mark Rheaume, Roger Zare, Maya Benyas, Zhaoyu Zhang, and Kyle Shaw), CUSO musicians, Maestro Alltop, audience members, and myself at the Hilton Garden Inn. I introduced each composer to the audience with a short interview; then CUSO gave a first reading of the composer’s overture. This was followed by Maestro Alltop, the composer, and myself working to bring out various aspects of the music, as well as to problem-solve spots that needed some adjusting. We ended each composer’s session with another reading of their overture. Halfway through the event, we held a 15-minute question-and-answer session with the audience while the musicians took a brief break. After all five composers’ pieces were workshopped, the audience and orchestra cast their votes for their favorite works. Our two winners are Maya Benyas’ Fantasy House Overture and Roger Zare’s Strontium Red. Both winners received $500, and will have their pieces performed by CUSO on their April 2019 concert in Foellinger Great Hall. For more information on all five of our wonderful finalists, click here.

In all, this was one of the busiest weeks of my residence. Each activity brought home to me how music can be meaningfully integrated in our lives in ways both big and small. I look forward to returning to Champaign-Urbana in early April to take part in CUSO’s Youth Concerts, in which we explore The Composer’s Toolbox.

See you around Champaign-Urbana!

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Posted on February 13, 2018 by Stacy Garrop

In early February, I spent several days in the Champaign-Urbana region doing education outreach for schoolchildren as part of my Composer-in-Residence activities. A brass quintet consisting of members of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra came with me to Urbana Middle School, Westview Elementary School, and Stratton Academy of the Arts (an elementary school). At each school, we presented an interactive program that engaged the students in the composing process while learning about Greek mythology.

First, the brass players introduced their instruments to the children via demonstrations and some historical background. Then, I introduced various musical parameters to the students. Basically, we explored what elements composers utilize to create and shape a composition. Now we got down to business! The students and I were to dream up a new movement to end my brass quintet. The movement focused on Nike, the goddess of strength, speed, and victory. The students brainstormed ideas for the story of our new movement; then I created a musical score using graphic notation. The brass quintet then “premiered” our new Nike movement while I conducted the musicians through the score. We concluded each class with a question-and-answer session. We took a group bow at Westview, and received wonderful thank you notes a day later from their students.

The CUSO brass performers and I will bring this event to three more schools in the upcoming months. I look forward to seeing what the students dream up next for Nike’s new movement!


Posted on November 21, 2017 by Stacy Garrop

I had a very busy week in the Champaign-Urbana region! Here’s what I was up to:

Nov. 14 & 15: Illinois State University

I had a wonderful two-day residence at Illinois State University. Activities included three workshops (one for freshman music majors, another for a music business class, and a third on my own music), four 1-on-1 composition lessons with ISU’s graduate students, and a two-hour master class with ISU’s saxophone studio.

For the saxophone studio master class (pictured below), Dr. Paul Nolen, the saxophone professor, came up with a fantastic idea: he and three students divided up the movements of my Pieces of Sanity, so that each movement was performed by a different saxophonist (one student played two movements). This allowed me to work with more of the students and provide feedback on their performing. Lu Witzig served as our intrepid pianist for the whole piece. Everyone was very prepared and played their hearts out; we had a wonderful session!

Nov. 16: University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

Last month, I spent a day at the university in which I taught two composition lessons and gave a seminar for composition majors that covered both the basics of the business of music for composers, as well as my own music. This time, I worked with Dr. Debra Richtmeyer’s saxophone studio. One of her student groups, the Anabru Saxophone Quartet (notice how the first word is “Urbana” spelled backwards!), performed the 2nd movement of my Flight of Icarus. The Quartet performed this dissonant movement with great gusto, and we had a very productive session in fine-tuning various spots. Then, I answered a few questions that the saxophonists had emailed me in advance (see my previous blog for what questions were asked). It was a fantastic experience!

After a quick lunch at the Espresso Royale next to the Music School, I taught two composition lessons. In one lesson, the undergraduate student brought in an opera she’s working on; in the other, the doctoral student and I spent the majority of the time discussing steps to take before and after graduating from college.

Nov. 17: Champaign Central High School

What do you do when you have 170 marching band students for one hour? You help them learn the basics of composing and then make music! We started by making a list of musical parameters on the board, taking inspiration from some of the pieces they’re currently playing (hat tip to Holst’s The Planets). Then we tried drawing some simple shapes a piece of music can take and applying some musical parameters to the shapes. Everyone took part in bringing our short pieces to life with lots of singing, shouting, whooping, and hollering. I ended the session by playing the wind ensemble version of my Pandora Undone, which we then analyzed together.

I’ll be back in February 2018 to work alongside CUSO brass players, who will be performing movements of my Legends of Olympus at Urbana Middle School, Westview Elementary School, and Stratton Elementary School. I’ll also be meeting with people about programs we’ll be running in the next year of my residence. Until then, happy holidays, everyone!


Posted on November 11, 2017 by Stacy Garrop

I’ll be back in the Champaign-Urbana region this week for several Composer-in-Residence educational activities. Here’s what I’m up to:

Tuesday, 11/14: Illinois State University

I’ll spend the day in the city of Normal, working with lots of music students who attend the university. First, I’ll give a talk called For Freshman Only, which I created especially for… you guessed it… freshmen music majors. We’ll go over establishing good working habits, learning to budget their time, writing their personal mission statements, and figuring out their short- and long-term goals.

Next, I’ll give a seminar for a music business class. I’ll be covering lots of aspects of running a career: developing offline networking skills, building a social media presence, creating email newsletters to promote one’s career, and crafting effective crowdfunding campaigns to fund musical projects.

Finally, I’ll present my own music for the university’s composition majors. One of the pieces I’ll talk about is my choral work Give Me Hunger. The poem (originally called At a Window) is by American poet Carl Sandburg, and is one of his few poems on the topic of love. There’s a great video that Chanticleer put online of a performance they gave in Russia, which I feature as part of my presentation; you can view it here.

Wednesday, 11/15: Illinois State University

Today, I’ll teach four one-on-one lessons with composition students. This will be followed by a saxophone studio master class, in which students of Dr. Paul Nolen will play movements of my Pieces of Sanity and I’ll work with them to fine tune their performance. If we have time left over, I’ll do a Q&A with the students.

Thursday, 11/16: University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

I visited the University of Illinois back in October to teach several composition lessons and give a seminar for their student composers. Today, I’ll teach a few more composition lessons, as well as attend a saxophone master class that Dr. Debra Richtmeyer has arranged. Several of her students have been working on the second movement of my saxophone quartet Flight of Icarus that they’ll play for me and I’ll provide feedback. The saxophone students have also developed a list of questions that they would like me to address. Their questions cover a lot of ground: what is my approach to composing, and writing for the saxophone specifically; how do I go about writing a piece for a specific performer or group; what is the process of funding through grants, consortiums, and organizations; and what would like I performers to know or focus on when interpreting my music.

Friday, 11/17: Champaign Central High School

A marching band consisting of 170 students will be visiting the high school for an hour. The music faculty asked if I’d like to meet with these students. This is quite an intriguing and unusual challenge!

I’ll start by talking with the marching band students about what a composer does and how I got into composing, which I discovered while in high school. Then we will make a list of all the musical parameters that we can imagine; next, we’ll explore what happens when we combine various musical parameters in different combinations (they’re going to need to make some noise for this exercise – making various vocal sounds, clapping, foot stomping, etc.). Finally, we’ll listen to a musical piece or two, and analyze what we’ve heard based on our musical parameter discussion. Hopefully, they’ll have a better understanding of what a composer does by the end of our hour together.


This is going to be a busy week – I better bring snacks. And chocolate. See you soon, Champaign-Urbana!


Posted on October 27, 2017 by Stacy Garrop

As part of my Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra’s Music Alive residence, I spent the past few days at Illinois Wesleyan University. I gave a seminar to composition students on the business of being a composer, taught composition lessons, and rehearsed my works with students and faculty. The highlight of the residence was their New Music Café concert, which featured music by living composers, with composers Marcos Lucas, Kyle Shaw, and myself in attendance. I was thrilled with the performances of my Tango Gardél (solo piano) and We Real Cool (soprano and piano). Many thanks to composer and pianist David Vayo for hosting me, and to everyone for a wonderful visit to Bloomington, Illinois!


Posted on October 23, 2017 by Stacy Garrop

This week, I will return to the central Illinois region for a two-day residence at Illinois Wesleyan University! I will teach composition lessons and give a seminar to student composers about the business side of being a composer. Also, my Tango Gardél for solo piano (in homage to the Argentine singer Carlos Gardél) and We Real Cool for voice and piano (with text by Gwendolyn Brooks) will be featured on IWU’s New Music Café concert. The concert is on Thursday, Oct. 26th at 8 PM in Presser Hall’s Westbrook Auditorium. Admission is free. A press release about the concert is below. Come join us for a great evening of new music!

For more info: https://www.iwu.edu/news/2017/events/new-music-cafe-to-feature-faculty-and-guest-composers.html


Blogging My CUSO Adventures!

Posted on October 11, 2017 by Stacy Garrop

I’m blogging about my Composer-in-Residence activities with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra through their website. To see the full range of my activities, check these blogs out!

Main page: https://cusymphony.org/blog/

Here are a few posts I’ve already put up on the page:


AUGUST 27, 2017


The Champaign Urbana Symphony Orchestra is sponsoring LEGENDS, a chamber concert featuring my music in my new position as the CUSO Music Alive Composer-in-Residence! My pieces will be performed by Stephen Alltop, Music Director & Conductor, CUSO Principal performers, and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg. In the video, I talk about the works that are being programmed, […]



SEPTEMBER 12, 2017


On Wednesday, Sept. 6th, my Music Alive Composer-in-Residence activities had a wonderful kickoff event to welcome me to the community! Maestro Stephen Alltop, string and brass CUSO musicians, and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg presented three of my works to a packed ballroom at the I Hotel in Champaign. We called the concert LEGENDS, which fit in […]



SEPTEMBER 14, 2017


Today, music critic John Frayne posted a wonderful review in The New Gazette of our Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra’s Sept. 6th LEGENDS Chamber Concert, in which Maestro Alltop and the CUSO musicians welcomed me to the community and performed several of my chamber works. Mr. Frayne enjoyed the concert! You can read his review by clicking […]



SEPTEMBER 24, 2017


After our Sept. 6th Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra’s LEGENDS Chamber Concert, in which I was officially welcomed to the Champaign-Urbana community in my new role as Composer-in-Residence of the orchestra, several inquisitive audience members asked me an assortment of questions. I realized shortly afterward that three particular questions came up quite frequently over the course of […]



SEPTEMBER 30, 2017


I’ll be in Champaign-Urbana from Tuesday, Oct. 3rd through Saturday, Oct. 7th for several Composer-in-Residence activities! Here’s what I’m up to: I’ll be teaching lessons to four composition majors. Then I’ll give an 80-minute seminar for all of their student composers on the business of being a composer, as well as play some of my […]



OCTOBER 9, 2017


I had a wonderful time in Champaign-Urbana this past week! I took lots of pictures while on the trip, several of which are below; these will give you a sense of what this first full week of my contained: University of Illinois – Champaign Urbana I spent a day teaching composition lessons to individual students, […]



Composer Stacy Garrop is the Music Alive composer-in-residence with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra. She will be in residence for three years from the 2016-2017 season through the 2018-2019 season. Follow her residency through the blog posts below.

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Champaign, Illinois

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Last update on March 18, 2018

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April 28, 2018 | Urbana, IL
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Champaign, Illinois
The Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra  (CUSO) is the professional orchestra in residence at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The Champaign Urbana Symphony Orchestra is a thriving orchestra dedicated to this mission: to enhance the quality of life in the community by providing symphonic music of the highest caliber through live performances and music education in the…

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