Professor's dual-orchestra piece to premiere at high school

SUNY Oswego music faculty member Juan F. La Manna’s original composition “Three Pieces for Two Orchestras” will debut Tuesday, March 27, as the College-Community Orchestra teams with the Oswego Middle School Orchestra.

Juan La Manna rehearses middle school orchestraThe free performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Ralph M. Faust Auditorium at Oswego High School, 2 Buccaneer Blvd.

“I was a K-8 teacher for 14 years, and I love to work with children,” said La Manna, an associate professor of music at SUNY Oswego and former conductor of the Miami City Ballet and former guest conductor of the Naples (Fla.) Philharmonic, among others.

La Manna recalled that a student of his had written a piece for two orchestras about 10 years ago, and it inspired him to try it as well.

“To write music that’s pleasant and educational and playable at the level of a middle school orchestra is difficult,” he said. “It’s a piece in three parts, each one named for a city in the United States.”

The pieces—“Phoenix,” “Chicago” and “New York”—evoke La Manna’s memories and impressions of each city.

“‘‘Phoenix’ reminded me of the music for the Italian westerns, the ‘spaghetti westerns,’” he said. ‘“‘Chicago’—inspired by the blues. ‘New York’—boogie woogie.”

‘An honor’

Students of Deb Mazurek, director of the 60-piece middle school orchestra, played the music with gusto at a recent practice under La Manna’s baton.

“It’s a great time working on these songs by Dr. La Manna,” said violinist Jordan Runner. “It’s an honor to be playing them for the first time.”

Mazurek, a professional violinist who has also been under La Manna’s direction in the past with the Oswego Opera Theatre orchestra and other ensembles, said it has been seven or eight years since the middle school did a joint concert with the College-Community Orchestra.

“To work with a conductor the stature of Juan, that’s a real treat for these young musicians,” Mazurek said. “He’s a high-level performer, and you tend to get treated like professionals—I do that with them, too, and it’s wonderful to get someone else’s perspective. It’s exciting, and they want to rise to this occasion.”

La Manna exhibits a firm but understanding touch as he quiets the basses and works on tempo with the first and second violins.

“It is great fun to rehearse the students at the middle school,” La Manna said. “They can stand alone, but I wrote a backup score for the college orchestra, so the piece is going to sound a lot fuller.”

The upcoming concert offers mutual benefit, he believes.

“College students are reminded of a time not so long ago, and the middle school students can look at where they’re going in less than 10 years,” La Manna said.

The concert also will feature the College-Community Orchestra performing Haydn’s “Symphony No. 88,” and a variety of selections by the Oswego Middle School Orchestra.

PHOTO CAPTION: Rehearsing for premiere—Under the intent gaze of eighth-grade violinist Elaina Rando, center, SUNY Oswego’s Juan F. La Manna rehearses the Oswego Middle School Orchestra for the premiere of La Manna’s “Three Pieces for Two Orchestras.” The 60-piece middle school orchestra will join with SUNY Oswego’s College-Community Orchestra in a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at Oswego High School’s Ralph M. Faust Auditorium.

(Posted: Mar 26, 2012)