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UConn Professor Kenneth Fuchs Wins Grammy Award | Connecting Point | Mar. 7, 2019


>>LAST MONTH’S GRAMMY AWARDS
HAD A SPECIAL MEANING FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT –
THEIR PROFESSOR OF MUSICAL COMPOSITION, KENNETH FUCHS, TOOK
HOME AN AWARD IN THE BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM CATEGORY. THE JULLIARD-TRAINED FUCHS
SHARED THE HONOR WITH HIS LONGTIME COLLABORATOR, CONDUCTOR
JOANN FALLETT, AND HE STOPPED BY THE STUDIO TO SHARE HIS STORY
WITH ME.>>STILL OVER THE MOON AND VERY
GRATEFUL. IT WAS TOUGH COMPETITION. IT WAS A STIFF CATEGORY AND I’M
TRULY HONORED TO BE AMONG THE DISTINGUISHED NOMINEES BUT WE
ARE SO THRILLED THAT WE WON. THIS IS OUR FIFTH RECORDING WITH
THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OVER 15 YEARS AND FINALLY ON THE
14th NOMINATION WE GOT THE PRIZE.>>TELL US ABOUT THE COMPETITION
ITSELF.>>WELL, THE RECORDING HAS 4
VERY DIFFERENT COMPOSITIONS ON THEM. THERE ARE 3 CONSARROS AND ONE IS
A STANDARD COMPOSITION. THERE ARE SOME FOR ELECTRIC
GUITAR AND SAXOPHONE AND THOSE ARE THE REALLY UNUSUAL PIECES ON
THE RECORDING BECAUSE THEY’RE REALLY ONLY ABOUT 6 ELECTRIC
GUITAR CONCERTOS AND TO HAVE ONE WITH THE LONDON SYMPHONY
ORCHESTRA WAS A BIG ONE FOR US AND A SONG CYCLE FOR
COUNTER-TENOR AND ORCHESTRA SO IT’S A LITTLE BIT OF AN ODDBALL
MIX BUT I THINK THAT’S WHAT PUT THE RECORDING OVER THE TOP.>>TELL US ABOUT THE CATEGORY AS
WELL AND YOU WERE AGAINST JOHN WILLIAMS WHO HAD MUSIC FROM
STAR WARS AND SUPERMAN AS WELL SO HERE YOU ARE IN THAT CATEGORY
AND YOU WIN.>>YEAH! IT WAS INTIMIDATING BUT WE’RE
VERY GRATEFUL FOR THE WIN AND OUR DISTINGUISHED COLLEAGUES IN
THE CATEGORY INCLUDED JOHN ADAMS, A VERY DISTINGUISHED
COMPOSER AND THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC. THAT WAS A BIG COMPETITION FOR
US AND ALSO JOHN WILLIAMS WHOSE MUSIC I ADMIRE AS WELL AS JOHN
ADAMS SO, YEAH, WE REALLY HAD TO WORK FOR IT.>>WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION,
THOUGH, WHEN THEY CALLED YOUR NAME?>>JOANN AND I WERE SEATED ON
THE AISLE ABOUT 4 ROWS BACK FROM THE STAGE AND WE WERE ABOUT 2
YEARS INTO THE CEREMONY SO WE WERE SITTING THERE AND MY HEART
IS STARTING TO POUND AND WHEN THE ANNOUNCER ANNOUNCED THE
CATEGORY THE IDENTIFIES NOMINEES. JOANN AND I TOOK OUR HANDS AND
SQUEEZED AND THE ANNOUNCER SAID AND THE WINNER IS — AND I JUST
CLOSED MY EYES AND THE NEXT THING I HEARD — I DON’T THINK
WE HEARD ANYTHING AFTER THAT FOR A WHILE. IT WAS AMAZING.>>SO TELL US ABOUT THE
CONDUCTOR WHO WORKED WITH YOU.>>JOANN PHALETA IS ONE OF MY
DEAREST FRIENDS IN THE BUSINESS. WE WERE CLASSMATES TOGETHER AT
JEWELIARD. I ALWAYS SAY AT UCONN GET TO
KNOW THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU. YOU ARE THE FUTURE OF MUSIC. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO ME AND
JOANN WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE CONDUCTOR IN THE CATEGORY OF
BEST CLASSICAL EXPENDIUM AND I’M SO THRILLED FOR HER TO HAVE THIS
HONOR. SHE CONDUCTS IN A DIFFERENT
PLACE AROUND THE WORLD EVERY WEEKEND.>>SO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND. LIKE WHAT GOT YOU STARTED IN
MUSIC?>>I STARTED PRETTY EARLY. I LOVED SINGING AND GREW UP
SINGING IN HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL CHOIR AND CHURCH
CHOIR AND WAS PLAYING AT THE PIANO AND TOOK PIANO LESSONS AND
VOICE LESSONS AND MY PRINCIPAL INSTRUMENT IS FLUTE AND I
ACTUALLY STUDIED AND PERFORMED ON FLUTE FOR MANY YEARS AND WHEN
I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL I — YOU KNOW, WE WERE PLAYING SOME VERY
INTERESTING PIECES IN HIGH SCHOOL BAND AND MY WONDERFUL
HIGH SCHOOL BAND DIRECTOR ONE DAY DURING THE SUMMER WE WERE
GETTING READY FOR THE MARCHING SEASON COMING UP AND I SAID, I
WANT TO PLAY SOMETHING FOR YOU. I’VE BEEN WORKING ON A
COMPOSITION AT THE PIANO THAT I WANT TO WRITE FOR BAND AND WE
WENT TO THE PIANO AND I WENT TO PLAY FOR HIM. HE SAID THIS IS SO INTERESTING. I KNOW YOU HAVE AN ABILITY TO DO
THIS AND I WANT YOU TO FINISH THE PIECE AND THE FIRST THING
I’M GOING TO DO WHEN YOU FINISH IT IS HAVE THE BAND PLAY IT FOR
YOU. IT WAS THE BEST THING HE COULD
EVER SAY. AND I WILL PLAY EVERYTHING YOU
WRITE. THE POINT IS THAT EVERY COMPOSER
NEEDS TO HEAR THEIR MUSIC IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEY FINISH
IT. AND THAT’S HOW I LEARNED WHEN I
WAS A JUNIOR AND SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. I WAS WRITING FOR THE BAND AND I
WAS HEARING THE MUSIC PLAY –>>THAT’S PRETTY HIGH END AS FAR
AS YOUR MUSICAL ABILITY. YOU COULD TAKE PIANO LESSONS OR
SING IN A CHOIR AND BE A SOLOIST BUT TO BE COMPOSING FOR THE
MARCHING BAND AT 15, 16 YEARS OLD. THAT’S QUITE A GIFT.>>IT IS AND, YOU KNOW — HE
WITHOUT TELLING ME HE ENTERED THE — THE FIRST COMPOSITION IN
A UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT COMPOSITION CONTEST AND IT WON
SO WINNING A PRIZE RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX WAS — I WAS HOOKED.>>YOU WERE DESTINED FOR
GREATNESS, OF COURSE.>>HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOUNGER
KIDS TURNED OFF BY THE WHOLE IDEA OF CLASSICAL MUSIC. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT OR YOU
LISTEN TO VIDEO GAMES OR YOU LISTEN TO ALL THESE MUSICAL
SCORES FROM MOVIES, YOU KNOW, IT’S ALL OF THAT MUSIC. HOW DO YOU KIND OF LIGHT A FIRE
AND SPARK THEIR INTEREST?>>SO MANY OF THE ASPIRING
COMPEZZERS WHO — COMPOSERS WHO COME TO ME AND WHO ENROLL AT THE
UNIVERSITY AND BECOME STUDENTS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC WE
VISIT AND TALK ABOUT WHAT THEIR MUSICAL GOALS ARE AND ALMOST TO
A PERSON EVERY ONE OF THEM SAYS I WANT TO WRITE MUSIC FOR VIDEO
GAMES.>>THAT’S A HOT THING.>>I’M NOT A VIDEO GAME PLAYER. I WOULDN’T KNOW HOW TO BEGIN. IT’S LIKE THE NEW FILM MUSIC. I SAY WHAT A GREAT IDEA. BUT THE FIRST THING IS YOU HAVE
TO LEARN TO BE A COMPEZZER AND THERE’S SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN
ABOUT INSTRUMENTATION AND ORGANIZING MUSICAL THOUGHT OVER
LARGE SPANS OF TIME AND SO WE WORK FOR 2 OR 3 YEARS ON THE
FUNDAMENTALS OF LEARNING HOW TO BE A COMPOSER AND ONCE THEY’VE
LEARNED THOSE THINGS AND GRASPED THOSE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS THEN
THEY CAN WRITE VIDEO GAME MUSIC. THEY CAN WRITE FOR ANYTHING BUT
THE POINT IS HOW TO LEARN HOW TO COMPOSE FIRST.>>DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOU AND YOU
MUST TO REALLY SHOOT FOR THE STARS BECAUSE THE MUSIC BUSINESS
IN WHATEVER KIND OF MUSIC YOU’RE IN IS HARD. IT’S A DIFFICULT LIFE. I KNOW YOU WERE IN NEW YORK AT
JULLIARD BUT IT’S A HARD CAREER.>>I SAY THERE’S NOTHING EASY
ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS. IT’S HARD, IT’S HARD WORK. YOU HAVE TO WORK AND COMPOSE
MUSIC ALL THE TIME AND SO, YOU KNOW, THE — AS MY TEACHER SAID
TO ME, THE MINUTE YOU FINISH A PIECE, GO FIND THE PLAYERS HERE
IN THE DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC. HAVE THEM PLAY THROUGH THE PIECE
FOR YOU. DOES IT SOUND THE WAY YOU
THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO SOUND AND WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FOR
THEM IN PLAYING IT? IS THE MUSIC IDIOMATIC FOR EACH
OF THE MUSICIANS? AND THAT’S HOW I LEARNED AND
THAT’S HOW THEY LEARN AND THAT’S WHAT I ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO AND
AS WE GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF WORKING ON THEIR MUSIC AND
CERTAINLY THEY CAN SEE WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME RECENTLY WITH THE
GRAMMY-AWARD, WHERE I GOT MUSIC IS JUST THE BEGINNING.

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