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2021 Commissions

Now premiering on a stage near you! A creative catalyst since 1990, the Utah Arts Festival’s annual commissions demonstrate a distinguished history of supporting new work to encourage original performance art for all.

Chamber Ensemble Commissions

Theo Chandler

Performance details TBA

Theo Chandler is a Houston-based composer, currently pursuing his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music. Chandler is the recipient of a Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters, a Presser Foundation Graduate Music Award, and a Morton Gould Award from ASCAP. He was selected as a winner of The Composer’s Recording Project, Juilliard's Orchestra Competition, Juilliard's Gena Raps Competition, the New Juilliard Ensemble Competition, the Maryland Wind Festival Call for Scores, and was runner up for the RED NOTE New Music Festival Chamber Music Competition. Chandler has received commissions from the New York Youth Symphony First Music Program, Tanglewood Music Center, Les Délices, Golden West Winds, Amir Eldan, Alexa Still, and others.

During the summer, Chandler has been a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center, Copland House CULTIVATE, and Aspen Music Festival, and was selected for an I-Park Composer + Musicians Collaborative Residency with Akropolis Reed Quintet. He has been the Young Artist Composer for Da Camera, Emerging Composer Fellow for Musiqa, the Composer in Residence for Les Délices, and the Young Composer in Residence for the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings. In the summer of 2019 he will be the Composer in Residence for the Maryland Wind Festival, and a fellow at the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and the Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Chandler received his previous degrees from The Juilliard School and Oberlin Conservatory. His composition teachers include Karim Al-Zand, Anthony Brandt, Melinda Wagner, Samuel Adler, Steven Stucky, Lewis Nielson, and Dan Tacke.

Chamber Ensemble Commissions

Chia-Yu Hsu

Performance details TBA

Bio coming...

Jazz Commissions

"Three-thirty on Thursday" by Steve Erickson

Performance details TBA

Erickson bioSteve Erickson is originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is an accomplished pianist, arranger and composer in both the classical and jazz styles. Steve studied piano performance at Brigham Young University (BMus 1987), Rice University (MMus 1992), and the University of Kansas.

He served as the director of jazz studies at Truman State University from 1996 to 1997. He then joined the US Air Force, performing with Air Force Bands for 20 years, including 18 years with the premier jazz ensemble of the Air Force, “The Airmen of Note.”

Since retiring from the military in 2017, Steve has taken positions as adjunct faculty member at Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University, and Snow College, and is a private teacher and freelance musician in the Salt Lake metropolitan area.

Program notes from Steve Erikson

The piece is called “Three-thirty on Thursday”

Though this piece is not a Blues, the melodic germ of the piece grows out of a common blues "lick" which is reharmonized and taken in new and unexpected directions. Suspended chords, chromatic shifts and non-functional harmony help create original sounds, but overall the piece avoids going to extremes and stays lighthearted and upbeat. One element of the blues that seems fascinating to me is that the use of a flatted third in blues melodies creates ambiguity as to whether it is really in a major key or minor. I've played on that on that ambiguity, and taken it to unexpected places.

The title has no deep, hidden meanings — it is not a reference to any significant event. Rather, it is more truly focused on the sounds of the words, just like the piece itself is focused on sounds and surprises.

"Acclimation" and "Blues for Courtney" by Tyler Chen

Performance details TBA

Tyler Chen bioAs a drummer, Tyler Chen, for almost 10+ years, has performed around Utah with many music groups. You might have seen him playing in parades with the SLCC marching band, or at the football games with the University of Utah drumline, or in concert halls with the American West Symphony, or with University of Utah Jazz bands, or in bars with his jazz quintet called Sunnyside Avenue. More recently, he had joined Samba Fogo and enjoys learning Brazilian music.

As a composer, Tyler draws a lot of influences from jazz, classical, and pop music and has studied under great musicians such as Kris Johnson, Steve Lyman, Brian Booth, and Courtney Isaiah Smith. He has composed several works for jazz ensembles, jazz small groups and, hip-hop artists.

As an audio engineer, he does a lot of freelance work for many artists and has recorded and produced many of his own and other artists songs.

He graduated in 2020 with his bachelors in Jazz Composition and a certificate in Music Technology at the University of Utah.

Program Notes from Tyler Chen


Verb. {ˈa-klə-ˌmāt}
1. To adapt to a new environment or situation

Acclimation is a composition inspired by the summation of my studies in Brazilian music, more specifically in the vein of samba and bossa nova music. It is also the culmination of my studies with all my musical mentors. I am grateful for the tools they have given me to compose musical works. My goal with this piece was to capture samba’s playful and lively melodies and its rich and flavorful harmonies combined with the complexities and intricacies of samba rhythm.

During the writing process, I wanted to capture the changes that are happening in my life up till the end of 2019: Graduating from the University of Utah, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, and pondering what to do with my future. Before the pandemic, I have made extensive plans of what I was going to do before and after I graduate. Everything from finishing major projects, personal goals, and traveling. However, all of that changed when the Coronavirus hit Utah and I started to see the future becoming bleak. All of my time put into planning and preparation we’re all done in vain and I became hopeless.

Through perseverance and mental fortitude I was able to turn hopelessness into aspiration. I had to change the way I saw the situation and sought out opportunity during this curse rather than drown in my sorrows. What this pandemic taught me was to acclimate. It has taught me that sometimes in order to move forward I have to embrace the changes that are out of my control and adapt my frame of mind.

Blues For Courtney

Blues for Courtney is a tribute to our “unexpected departure” of one of Utah’s musical genius, Courtney Isaiah Smith. Throughout my time in college I was honored enough to get to watch and listen Courtney play the piano, his playing was magical and influencial. At one point, I received the opportunity to take a handful of lessons from Courtney. With our lessons, he would offer a wealth of knowledge and perspective in music that I don't think I would find in textbooks. His approach to harmony was ethereal and understanding of music history profound. Through the culmination of all of the lessons with Courtney I was inspired to write this piece but never gotten the chance to show him. However, I am lucky enough to share this with everyone else.

Rest in peace Courtney.


Program Sponsors

Leroy Robertson Foundation - U School of Musicthird sunbandwango