One of the many reasons I’m fortunate to be in Seattle right now is that I have a new cello sonata premiering at Town Hall in June. This week I had a chance to hear a concert at Town Hall, featuring the Biava Quartet with Town Hall artistic director and cellist Joshua Roman. After the concert I finally got to meet two of the patrons who commissioned the 25-minute work that is getting written when I’m not over at Seattle Opera. I don’t currently have any institutional affiliations so my commissioners are quite literally my employers for any number of months—which means that I am usually just a bit nervous to meet them.
Fortunately, the commissioners—Roger Clorese and David Haney—were immensely supportive of the new work and all-around nice people to boot. In addition, I was happy to discover that David is a cellist and composer who studied at Yale, where I myself had spent a quickly-aborted stint in 2005-06. It was great talking to two people who were profoundly interested in new music, so much so that they try to donate to new projects whenever possible. And while our careers had taken different paths, we shared much in common, including some mutual Yale professors and a love of counterpoint.
Words like “donors” and “patrons” can conjure up images of some corporate fat cat-type who knows little about music but seeks to exert much control over the new piece at hand. I’ve occasionally met individuals who fit this description, but meeting Roger and David was a completely different experience. It’s great to know that there are real people with the means and passion to commission new music, even though at times they might seem scarce. As a nation, America has always been about a unique relationship between the private and public sectors. When private charity helps to create public art, the whole process feels so much more personal and connected to the community.