The Catholic University of America

March 1, 2006

Catholic University Presents Aaron Copland's America

2006 President's Festival of the Arts Will Premiere New Work by 10 Local Composers
Cartoonist Al Hirschfeld's caricature of Aaron Copland

WASHINGTON - The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music presents Aaron Copland's America, The Catholic University of America President's Festival of the Arts - a celebration of the acclaimed American composer. The festival will feature performances, lectures and films from March 27 to April 8. All evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m.

All but one of the performances will be presented at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, located on the CUA campus, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Directions/map are located at:

The music school's decision to present a Copland festival drew high praise from Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra.

"When I think of music that describes this country, my mind always goes to Aaron Copland," said Slatkin. "He was the voice and conscience of our nation, capturing the people, places and ideals in his unique musical language. I applaud Catholic University for bringing Copland's America to our attention."

Conceived and produced by Murry Sidlin, dean of the music school, the festival will feature all-Copland performances by the CUA Symphony Orchestra and the Rome Trio. The festival also will present the choral concert, New Old American Songs, the world premiere of new arrangements by 10 regional composers of old American songs inspired by the folk style of Aaron Copland. Andrew Simpson, composer and associate professor of music, is coordinating the premiere.

"The President's Festival of the Arts is a celebration and affirmation of Aaron Copland's vision of American classical music and his modernist approach to the American folk tradition," said Sidlin, who knew Copland.

The festival calendar includes performances of four signature works: The Red Pony Suite, Appalachian Spring Suite, Old American Songs and A Lincoln Portrait. Visit for a complete listing of the performances.

In addition to the performances, the festival will feature films and lectures from March 27 to 30 about Copland and his legacy that have been organized by Grayson Wagstaff, associate professor of music. Visit for the entire list of films and lectures.

Sidlin's link to Copland goes back to the dean's high school days. Sidlin attended a Copland concert at the Baltimore Museum of Art and afterward asked him for his autograph. Their paths crossed again several times, most often in the mid-1970s when Sidlin was resident conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. When Copland was in Washington, the two would meet to discuss the composer's scores.

In 1985, five years prior to the composer's death, the two men corresponded about The Tender Land, which had suffered a disappointing 1954 premiere. With Copland's permission, Sidlin revised and rearranged the opera's score.

Sidlin's revised score, using the same 13 instruments Copland employed in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano and nine strings) resulted in a more "balanced opera and the Copland sound, which we have come to identify as the American sound," says the dean.

This spring's festival at Catholic University will feature the CUA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kate Tamarkin; the CUA Chorus, conducted by Leo Nestor; the CUA Musical Theatre Company, directed by Jane Pesci-Townsend and N. Thomas Pedersen; and the CUA Chamber Music Ensemble conducted by Sidlin. Other performers include The Rome Trio and members of the CUA Department of Drama.

Sidlin is an award-winning conductor whose tribute to the inspirational quality of wartime music, Waging Peace: Music in Time of War, was last year's performance highlight at CUA. Sidlin has explored similar themes of the healing power of music in times of war and civil strife in his concert/drama productions of Bernstein's Mass and Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin.

Sidlin's Defiant Requiem, which he conceived, researched and wrote to tell the story of a group of Nazi concentration camp prisoners, was taped by PBS and aired across the country. The concert/drama recounts how conductor Rafael Schächter led more than 150 of his fellow prisoners to perform Giuseppi Verdi's Requiem in secret defiance of the Nazis.

TICKETS: The film and lecture events are free; tickets are required for each performance. Tickets are $15 and $10 per night. For tickets or more information, call 202-319-5416.

MEDIA: The media is welcome to cover any of the festival events. Contact Chris Harrison or Katie Lee in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600 to arrange for advance interviews or to secure media passes to the films, lectures or performances.

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The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music is the only university music school in the Washington, D.C., area. The music school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs of study in performance of instrumental music (including chamber music and orchestral studies), piano, voice (including choral music and opera), composition and theory, musicology, conducting, musical theater, music education, voice and piano pedagogy. New programs include the Institute of Sacred Music, and an emphasis within the composition program of composing for the theater. The music school designs programs and curricula that inspire young musicians to be imaginative in developing audiences, in providing musical service throughout communities, and in connecting with the evolution of American arts institutions. The music school, through its Studio X sessions, regularly presents major performers, renowned composers, music technologists, critics and arts administrators who lecture and work with students.

The Catholic University of America, an institution of higher learning in Washington, D.C., is unique as the national university of the Catholic Church in America. Founded in 1887 and chartered by Congress, the university opened as a graduate and research institution. Undergraduate programs were introduced in 1904. Today the private and coeducational campus has approximately 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students from all states and 90 countries enrolled in 11 schools of architecture and planning, arts and sciences, canon law, engineering, law, library and information science, music, nursing, philosophy, social service, and theology and religious studies.

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Media contact(s):
· Chris Harrison, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,
· Katie Lee, CUA Office of Public Affairs, 202-319-5600,