/ News / Curtis Symphony Orchestra Presents Concerto Premiere at Verizon Hall and Immaculata University January 26–27

Curtis Symphony Orchestra Presents Concerto Premiere at Verizon Hall and Immaculata University January 26–27

Distinguished Curtis faculty and alumni collaborate with orchestra on program featuring works by Copland, Dvořák, Ives, and Jennifer Higdon

PHILADELPHIA—January 11, 2019—Conductor Mark Russell Smith and tuba soloist Craig Knox perform with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, January 27 at 3 p.m. An additional performance takes place in Alumnae Hall at Immaculata University on Saturday, January 26 at 8 p.m.

Diverse voices harmonize in this concert portrait of American life and experience, entitled American Images. Signature works by Aaron Copland and Charles Ives— the Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring and The Unanswered Question—paint a picture of our nation’s emerging musical vernacular in the 20th century inspired by traditional hymns, folk songs, and the transcendental movement. They frame the Philadelphia premiere of the Tuba Concerto by award-winning Curtis faculty and alumna Jennifer Higdon (’88), one of today’s most widely performed composers, who creates a virtuosic showcase for Curtis tuba faculty and alumnus Craig Knox (’89). The program closes with the haunting Symphony No. 7 by Antonín Dvořák, a champion of Czech folk music who went on to become America’s most celebrated immigrant musician of the 19th century.

Conducting fellow Yuwon Kim conducts the work by Ives; Curtis alumnus Mark Russell Smith (’87) takes the podium for the works by Higdon, Copland, and Dvořák. This program represents a unique homecoming for performers Smith and Knox and composer Higdon, who all attended the Curtis Institute of Music together.

Single tickets to the Immaculata University concert for $20 are available from the Curtis Patron Services Office at (215) 893-7902 or Curtis.edu/Tickets. Single tickets to the Verizon Hall concert start at $25 and can be purchased through the Kimmel Center Box Office at (215) 893-1999 or KimmelCenter.org. This concert is supported by the Jack Wolgin Curtis Orchestral Concerts Endowment Fund.

Mark Russell Smith, a 1987 graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, is artistic director of orchestral activities at the University of Minnesota, music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies.

Mr. Smith has conducted the Saint Louis, Houston, Colorado, Eugene, Hartford, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Santa Barbara, Winnipeg, Costa Rica, and Xalapa symphonies; the Minnesota Orchestra; the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Orchestra London (Ontario); and the Tulsa Philharmonic. In 2007, 2012, and 2014 he returned to his alma mater to lead the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall, and he led Curtis On Tour in China and Korea in 2011. He has conducted the Curtis Opera Theatre and Virginia Opera, and has appeared at the Eastern Music Festival, the Berkshire Choral Festival, and the European Center for Opera and Vocal Art in Ghent, Belgium. Mr. Smith collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma on Bridge of Souls, a concert featuring world premieres by Asian and American composers. A firm believer in the use of technical innovation, he annually conducts the final round of the Minnesota International Piano e-Competition, streamed live online.

Mr. Smith was previously music director of the Richmond, Cheyenne, and Springfield symphony orchestras. He studied cello at the Juilliard School with Claus Adam and conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music with Max Rudolf and Otto-Werner Mueller.

Principal tuba of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 2005, Craig Knox was previously acting principal tuba of the San Francisco Symphony and principal tuba of the Sacramento Symphony. He has performed with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, and Seattle, as well as the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

As a soloist, Mr. Knox premiered Jennifer Higdon’s Tuba Concerto and André Previn’s Triple Concerto for trumpet, horn, and tuba, both with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared as a soloist with the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and has toured with the Empire Brass. He is co-founder of the Center City Brass Quintet, which has made six recordings for the Chandos and Cryston labels. He has made recordings for Naxos with the Chicago Chamber Musicians Brass Quintet and for the Albany label with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra low brass section; and has recorded a solo album, A Road Less Traveled.

Mr. Knox graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Paul Krzywicki. His previous teachers included Samuel Pilafian, Chester Schmitz, and Gary Ofenloch. He joined the tuba faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2014. He also teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and has presented master classes, seminars, and recitals worldwide.

Jennifer Higdon is one of the most acclaimed and frequently performed composers working today. She has received the Pulitzer Prize, two Grammy awards for best contemporary classical composition, Guggenheim and Pew fellowships, a commission from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Dr. Higdon has been commissioned by a wide range of performers, including the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Minnesota orchestras; the Chicago and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras; the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band; the Tokyo String Quartet; and Eighth Blackbird. She has also been commissioned by individual artists such as baritone Thomas Hampson; violinists Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Koh, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; and pianists Gary Graffman and Yuja Wang. Her first opera, Cold Mountain, was a resounding success, winning an International Opera Award for best world premiere; the opera’s recording was nominated for two Grammy awards. Her works are recorded on more than 65 CDs. 

Dr. Higdon holds a bachelor’s degree in flute performance from Bowling Green State University, an artist diploma in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1994 Dr. Higdon joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies.

Acclaimed for its “otherworldly ensemble and professional level of sophistication” (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra offers a dynamic showcase of tomorrow’s exceptional young talent. Each year the 100 extraordinary musicians of the orchestra work with internationally renowned conductors, including Osmo Vänskä, Vladimir Jurowski, Marin Alsop, Simon Rattle, Robert Spano, and Yannick Nézet Séguin, who also mentors the early-career conductors who hold Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellowships. This professional training has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in America’s leading orchestras, as well as esteemed orchestral, opera, and chamber ensembles around the world.




American Images

The Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts


Saturday, January 26 at 8 p.m.

Alumnae Hall, Immaculata University, 1145 King Road, Immaculata, Pa.


Sunday, January 27 at 3 p.m.

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia


Mark Russell Smith, conductor (’87)
Craig Knox, tuba (’89)
Yuwon Kim, conducting fellow


COPLAND Suite from Appalachian Spring (1945)
HIGDON (’88)     Tuba Concerto
IVES The Unanswered Question
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70


Single tickets: $20, sold by the Curtis Patron Services Office at Curtis.edu/Performances, or (215) 893-7902.


Single tickets: $25–85, sold by the Kimmel Center Box Office at KimmelCenter.org, or (215) 893-1999.


The guest conductor for this Curtis Symphony Orchestra performance is made possible by the Gustave and Rita Hauser Chair.          


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