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New music department chair a distinguished composer, scholar

by Sherry Fisher & Beth Krane - September 12, 2005

Kenneth Fuchs has been appointed chair of the Department of Music. He started his new position July 1.

A distinguished composer and scholar, Fuchs comes to UConn from the University of Oklahoma, where he was director of the School of Music and a professor of composition from 1998 to 2005. He was previously dean of students and academics at the Manhattan School of Music, and assistant to the director of performance activities at the Juilliard School in New York City.

“UConn is extremely fortunate to attract an arts administrator of the stature of Dr. Kenneth Fuchs to our campus,” says David Woods, dean of the School of Fine Arts. “His rich experiences will be valuable to the future of our students and to the future development of the musical arts on this campus.”

Fuchs has a new disc, released by Naxos on the American Classics label last month, that features conductor JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra performing three of his original works.

The CD represents the culmination of 15 years of Fuchs’ creative life as a composer and 18 years of friendship that began when he, Falletta, and Thomas Stacy, English hornist of the New York Philharmonic who performs with the London Symphony Orchestra on the disc, were colleagues at the Juilliard School.

Fuchs earned his master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from Juilliard.

The disc features three works: An American Place, a 19-minute work for full orchestra in one movement, which the composer has described as “intended to suggest the rich body of music created by the American symphonists who have come before me and from whom I continue to take inspiration;” Eventide, a 21-minute concerto for English horn, harp, percussion and string orchestra; and Out of the Dark, a 15-minute suite for chamber orchestra, inspired by three paintings by abstract expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler.

The disc is also a testament to Fuchs’ business savvy and entrepreneurial acumen, as he had only a few months to raise the funds necessary for the nine-hour session with the orchestra.

“Composers today must be resourceful about getting recognition for their works and getting them into the musical mainstream,” Fuchs says. “The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the great orchestras of the world. What sets the orchestra apart is that it begins recording upon first reading of the music. I had never before witnessed that level of virtuosity.”

The new chair of the music department, Kenneth Fuchs.
The new chair of the music department, Kenneth Fuchs.
Photo by Melissa Arbo

Fuchs says he will use his experience recording his compositions with the London Symphony Orchestra to teach students at UConn about “the years of practice and patience it takes to perfect their craft, as well as the ever-changing industry side of music.”

He says students need to learn how to become advocates for their work.

“The music world is changing rapidly through the use of technology and the Internet, and it is one of our duties to prepare students for that rapidly changing global environment,” he says. “Whether a student wants to be a composer, the concertmaster of an orchestra, or a professor of music history at a university, he or she has to understand how to engage with the professional world. Students need to understand the business of music.”

A concert of works by Fuchs, performed by the American String Quartet at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 22, will open the Jorgensen’s 50th season. The program will feature an a cappella choral piece, In the Clearing, created from six Robert Frost poems Fuchs set to music, and Christina’s World, an idyll for winds, brass, and percussion, inspired and named for the painting by Andrew Wyeth.

Fuchs draws inspiration for his compositions from literature, poetry, and the visual arts. He has composed for orchestra, band, chorus, and chamber and jazz ensembles. His works include Canticle to the Sun (concerto for French horn and orchestra), 2005; Immigrants Still, after a poem by Richard Wilbur (for a cappella chorus), 2004; Whispers of Heavenly Death, after poems by Walt Whitman (string quartet), 1996; and Face of the Night, after a painting by Robert Motherwell (chamber concerto for oboe and English horn), 1989.

Fuchs has received grants from the University of Oklahoma Research Council, the American Music Center, and Meet the Composer, and has held residencies at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony. He is a member of the Commission on Accreditation, the National Association of Schools of Music; the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; the American Symphony Orchestra League; and the College Music Society.

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