Performing Arts

World Premiere Higdon commission honors Witten's 100th concert

For a musician marking a career milestone, there may be no better celebration then performing a composition written expressly for you by one of the most acclaimed contemporary composers. For Dean Witten, professor of percussion in the Department of Music, that "dream" becomes reality this month.


Witten, who joined the faculty here in 1979, presents his 100th concert as director of the Rowan Percussion Ensemble on Monday, November 19 at 8:00 p.m. in Pfleeger Concert Hall. The evening's program features the World Premiere of Jennifer Higdon's "Like ClockWork."


After launching the idea of commissioning a new work nearly two years ago, Witten and Jon Robert Cart, then Dean of the College of Fine & Performing Arts, decided to start at the top and approach Higdon.


"She is one of the most performed living American composers," Witten said. "Her profile has never been higher."


Higdon, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2010 Grammy Award, is indeed one of the most acclaimed composers working today. In addition to those accolades, she has been honored by the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, American Academy of Arts & Letters, Pew Fellowship in the Arts and ASCAP; plus an extensive list of commissions from some of the top orchestras and ensembles in the world.


Now Rowan can be added to that list.


"Every time the piece goes out now, we are on the cover," Witten stated proudly.


Ultimately commissioned by private donors and the College of Performing Arts, "Like ClockWork" showcase the musicianship of Witten and several alumni in its inaugural performance.


Witten is preparing for a "high caliber event" that is "respectful" of the composer's work. Higdon is thankful for the talent that influenced her composition.


"The inspiration was entirely Dean and the percussionists who have studied with him," she noted. "The caliber of performer that comes out of his studio inspired me to write a piece that would be challenging and colorful, and fun to listen to. When there is an excellent teacher, a composer knows that the performance will be good."


The evening also includes Gérard Grisey's "Le Noir de l'Étoile" and John Cage's "Living Room Music." Tickets are $25, general admission. Rowan students are admitted free with valid ID. Call 856-256-4545.

Jennifer Higdon
Jennifer Higdon