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Dumbarton Oaks Welcomes Composer Matthew Aucoin

Posted On September 29, 2015 | 09:28 am | by meredithb | Permalink

Dumbarton Oaks is pleased to announce the arrival of Matthew Aucoin, the 2015–2016 Early-Career Musician in Residence. Dubbed “opera’s great 25-year-old hope” by the New York Times, Aucoin will spend his residency working on composition projects, joining the Dumbarton Oaks research community, and drawing inspiration from the collections and gardens of Dumbarton Oaks.

Aucoin has a full slate of musical endeavors that will fill the air of the state-of-the-art practice room in the Fellowship House. While at Dumbarton Oaks, he plans to finish a song cycle for tenor and piano that is set to premiere at Carnegie Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall in 2016, and to work on a composition for an opera commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center New Works program. He will also work on an orchestral piece set to debut in 2016 at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as well as a solo piece for violinist Jennifer Koh and a piano concerto for Charlie Albright.

Aucoin is a 2012 graduate of Harvard College and a recipient of a graduate diploma from the Juilliard School. He has composed four operas, and Crossing, his largest project to date that is based on the Civil War diaries of Walt Whitman, premiered in May at the American Repertory Theater in Boston. Aucoin has made conducting debuts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Juilliard Opera, and the Rome Opera House, and has served as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. In addition, his chamber and orchestral works have appeared worldwide, in venues as far-flung as the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zürich and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Before arriving at Dumbarton Oaks, Aucoin received the Solti Conducting Apprenticeship at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and served as Composer-in-Residence at the Peabody Essex Museum.

As the second recipient of the Early-Career Musician Residency, Aucoin joins a new program that, nevertheless, lies within a long tradition of music at Dumbarton Oaks. Last year, Dumbarton Oaks awarded its inaugural music residency to Caroline Shaw, a composer, violinist, pianist, and vocalist who has won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award for her work with her vocal group, Roomful of Teeth. Shaw penned a garden-inspired composition that will debut at a musical event for the seventy-fifth anniversary at Dumbarton Oaks. Her piece will echo Igor Stravinsky’s "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto, which Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss commissioned in celebration of their thirtieth wedding anniversary, in 1938. The Blisses were known for hosting concerts in the Renaissance-style Music Room, which since 1946 has held performances as part of the Friends of Music series.

For Director Jan Ziolkowski, a main goal of the residency is to provide time and resources to young composers and musicians who show promise in transmitting traditions of classical music to younger generations. “Part of it is the cost of attending, part of it is that sitting for a couple of hours without a phone is too much for people who have been shaped in a crucible of distraction,” Ziolkowski suggests of the reasons for declining attendance at classical performances. “All of that said, a lot of it is that traditions need to be tested, stretched, changed, and supplemented. Caroline Shaw and Matt Aucoin are able to accomplish that magic, by creating beauty,” Ziolkowski says.

As for Aucoin, his time at Dumbarton Oaks has allowed him to adhere to the “Beethoven schedule”—intense work on his compositions in the morning, followed by leisurely walks around the Gardens in the afternoon. Time spent with scholars from other disciplines has given him room to breathe outside of the “very small” world of professional music.

“Being here has given me time and space for whatever I’m working on to marinate inside of me,” he says.