John Cooper, composer-in-residence at College of the Atlantic. An orchestral piece written by Cooper will be performed at the All-State Music Festival at the Collins Center for the Arts on May 20. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

Orchestral work celebrates Maine music teachers

ORONO — The Maine Music Educators Association will celebrate its 100th anniversary this month with the performance of a special orchestral piece written by College of the Atlantic Composer-in-Residence John Cooper.

Cooper’s “Capriccio for Orchestra (the Sublime Struggle)” will debut on May 20, the final day of the 2017 All-State Music Festival. The Maine All State Orchestra will perform the capriccio along with works by Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt at University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts in a concert beginning at 5 p.m. Carolyn Watson conducts.

“We were thrilled to have John answer our call for composers for this project,” said Maine Music Educators Association President Sue Barre. “John’s musicianship comes through in his composition in the phrasing and in the ability to offer parts that will interest each and every member of the All State Orchestra.”

Cooper said that in writing the piece, he was driven by the importance of music education to the development of young minds. The capriccio, he said, is meant as a tribute to every music teacher in Maine.

“The piece is about the ‘sublime struggle’ of music education, within which we must overcome financial, logistical, administrative and cultural obstacles in order to bring the gift of music to every young person in every school in Maine,” he said. “Introducing young people to this wonderful, universal language, which serves as such an important vehicle for creative expression, is extremely important.”

Cooper has served as professor of music and composer-in-residence at the College of the Atlantic since 1989. He is founder and director of the college’s Center for Creative Studies in Improvisation. A music educator for 42 years, he also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Lincoln University. He has written many works for band, marching band, jazz ensemble, orchestra and saxophone over the past 45 years. He also has written numerous scores for PBS documentaries and for the films of performance artist and Guggenheim Fellow Nancy Andrews.

“Talents as composer, a teacher and a performer are rare to find in one person. In John Cooper’s case, we see that magic unfold every day on the COA campus,” said Darron Collins ’92, president of the college.

As a jazz educator, Cooper has been adjudicating jazz festivals and conducting workshops in improvisation in seven states regularly over the past 31 years. His newest book, “Linear Transitions,” is in use by high school and college jazz programs in 17 states, Canada and Estonia, and is used by individuals all across the world. Cooper is a former member of the Portland Jazz Orchestra and musical director of the Maine Saxophone Quartet. He publishes his chamber works through Dorn Publications and his texts on improvisation through C. Lynne Music.

The Maine All State Festival is the all-star program for high school musicians. Students audition in November to earn a score that is high enough to perform in one of these ensembles.

College of the Atlantic is the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. In 2016, both The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club named College of the Atlantic the No. 1 Green College in the United States. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology – the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines.

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