Composer Joan Tower Celebrates 80th Birthday With Contemporary Youth Orchestra

Joan Tower [photo: Bernie Mindich]
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Renowned American composer Joan Tower has made a profound impact on Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO) and its music director Liza Grossman.

This Saturday, Tower returns to Cleveland to celebrate her 80th birthday with the youth orchestra in concert.

When Grossman first discovered Tower's compositions she was amazed by the use of rhythm.

Liza Grossman [photo: Robert Muller]

"Every piece that I listened to I was taken on a different kind of journey than I was accustomed to and it was through [Tower's] music that I learned that the melodic line lies within the rhythm," Grossman said.

Growing up in Bolivia, South America, enhanced Tower's sense of rhythm.

"I developed a love for dancing, because the Latin culture is filled with dancing and I love to dance," Tower said. "It's very physical and viscerally based, and I just think that came into my music naturally."

Tower's compositions can be complicated for even the most seasoned musician.  That's why she's so impressed by the upcoming concert of her work by CYO.

"I am honored that this group of kids is willing to put this kind of work into a whole concert of my music.  This is extraordinary," Tower said.

Joan Tower [photo: Noah Sheldon]

On the program is a selection from Tower's musical project, "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman," which she's dedicated to a number of influential women. 

CYO is performing "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman #6," which is dedicated to Hilary Clinton.

"That's my first political choice. I think she deserves a tribute. I think she's a pioneer and cut through some pretty big glass ceilings and was treated pretty roughly," Tower said.

Grossman and the CYO are honoring Tower for smashing through glass ceilings herself over the decades.

"This concert is dedicated to Joan and the influence that [she] has had on women composers and women conductors and women musicians," Grossman said.

The Contemporary Youth Orchestra presents a tribute to the music of Joan Tower at Tri-C Metro Auditorium Saturday at 7 p.m.


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