On December 5, 2022, the Eastman School of Music will present the world premiere of 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’ How Bright the Sunlight, a work for symphony orchestra and narrator, with a libretto curated by the first Native American US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. The narration is based on both the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address and Joy’s poem, Thanksgiving in a Time of War and Confusion. The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre and is free and open to the public.
Timothy Long ’92E (MM), Music Director of Eastman Opera Theatre and Eastman alum, will conduct the world premiere as part of Eastman’s ongoing Centennial celebration. Harjo and Long are citizens of the Muscogee Nation, and Davis is a Native American descendant. The performance and commission are supported, in part, by a Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The piece, in collaboration with our partners at Ganondagan, is the first of its kind – a symphonic work written and presented by Indigenous performers as “a gift to the Haudenosaunee people,” showcasing a narrator of Indigenous heritage to represent the original inhabitants of that land.
In addition to the concert, there will be two opportunities for community members to participate in discussions surrounding the world premiere and composer Davis including:
Sunday, December 4; 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.; Eastman East Wing (EEW), Room 415
- Conversation and Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Anthony Davis
- Timothy Long and Crystal Sellers Battle, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion at Eastman, speak with Davis about his career as a composer of mixed race and ethnicity, his challenges, successes, philosophy, stylistic writing, and more.
Monday, December 5; 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.; Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
- Pre-Concert Conversation with Composer Anthony Davis, and Conductor Timothy Long
- Moderated by Peter and Ansley Jemison from Ganondagan, this event will focus on the piece How Bright the Sunlight
“What an honor to celebrate the cultural legacy of the Haudenosaunee peoples of the Eastman community with this commission,” says Joy Harjo. She continues, “With the mastery of Anthony Davis we are reminded that no matter the twists and turning of human history, we are one. We are reminded to remember who we are as human beings, to remember that we are one.”
“While I was researching and writing my opera Wakonda’s Dream (2007), which is about the Ponca Tribe, I was very touched by Native American ideology and culture, so I was very excited to be approached to write this piece,” says Anthony Davis. He compares it to Aaron Copland’s popular Lincoln Portrait, but How Bright the Sunlight is “about the land,” in his words. “Joy’s narration is about the relationship of man and nature from the Native American perspective. Each of the elements around us – the woods, birds, animals, thunder – is described with a different kind of music. It ends with a blessing and thanksgiving.”
Connecting a Circle
While a student at Eastman, Tim Long connected with Jeanette Jemison (Mohawk), at Ganondagan. When exploring doing a performance there, he discovered there was no piano. Tim shares, “In my youthful exuberance, I contacted the Yamaha company, they donated and shipped a 9-foot concert grand and set up a stage outside at Ganondagan.” In reconnecting with Jemison and others at Ganondagan through this special December concert, Long was shocked and pleased that they all remembered that performance as fondly as he did.
Jeanette Jemison, Program Director of Friends at Ganondagan recounts, “It’s been a long time since Tim was at Ganondagan. Looking back, I was impressed to find someone like Tim, a young composer, as I was trying to open the door for presenting ‘out of the box’ programs. I was so happy to have him as a role model for Indigenous youth, as his mission connects with what we do at Ganondagan – exposing Haudenosaunee youth to a variety of arts and culture. It’s important for them to see that our people are doing wonderful, beautiful things. When Tim resurfaced, the timing was right.”
This truly special event – the first of its kind – establishes the community engagement and relationship building that Eastman School of Music aims to do more of. As Long himself says, “My goal is to establish a permanent connection between Ganondagan and Eastman. This should be the beginning of a beautiful relationship; it feels like a 30-year circle has been connected. I am thrilled about the December world premiere.”
Ansley Jemison (Seneca), Cultural Liason at Ganondagan adds, “Representation is always important. To have an Indigenous person, really to have people from all backgrounds, in a space like Eastman is consequential. I look forward to future collaborations and opportunities to expose Haudenosaunee youth to a variety of artistic endeavors, including classical music.”
Our partners at Ganondagan are eager to promote the December concert with the Haudenosaunee community and assist in Eastman’s very real desire to bring Indigenous peoples of Rochester (and beyond) into their concert halls, community, and performances. For a conductor and Poet Laureate who are citizens of the Muscogee Nation, and a composer with Native heritage, leading what will be the final Eastman Centennial Commission, is such a testament to the mission and message Tim Long and Jeanette Jemison are striving for.
How Bright the Sunlight will be performed by the Eastman Philharmonia and feature a contrabass solo by Eastman faculty member James VanDemark. Other works to be presented at the December concert include Rossini’s Barber of Seville: Overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, “Pastoral,” conducted by Neil Varon.
In addition to the December 5 concert, the Eastman Philharmonia and Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, both under the baton of celebrated conductor Neil Varon, will present a beautiful series of concerts this November and December. Click here to read more about these upcoming performances, all of which take place in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.
Media only: Jessica Kaufman, Director of Communications,
(585) 278-4743, email@example.com
About Anthony Davis:
Anthony Davis is an internationally recognized composer of operatic, symphonic, choral, and chamber works, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his opera The Central Park Five.
Davis is best known for his operas. X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which played to sold-out houses at its premiere at the New York City Opera in 1986, was the first of a new American genre: opera on a contemporary political subject. Davis’s science fiction opera Under the Double Moon premiered in St. Louis in June 1989. Tania, based on the abduction of Patricia Hearst, premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in June 1992. Amistad, about a shipboard uprising by slaves and their subsequent trial, premiered at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in November 1997.
Anthony Davis’ orchestral works have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Beethoven Halle Orchestra of Bonn, American Composers Orchestra, and the San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Kansas City, and La Jolla Symphonies.
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Davis studied at Wesleyan and Yale universities. He was Yale’s first Lustman Fellow, teaching composition and Afro-American studies. In 1987 Davis was appointed Senior Fellow with the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and in 1990 he returned to Yale as Visiting Professor of Music. He became Professor of Music in Afro-American Studies at Harvard University in the fall of 1992 and assumed a professorship at the University of California at San Diego in January 1998. He is also known as a solo pianist and as the leader of the ensemble Episteme.
About Joy Harjo:
Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She served three terms as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2019-2022. The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays, and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies. She is Executive Editor of the anthology When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through — A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry and the editor of Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature Poet Laureate project. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and is the first Artist-in-Residence for Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
About Timothy Long:
Timothy Long is a pianist and conductor of Muscogee, Thlopthlocco, and Choctaw descent who is Music Director of Opera at the Eastman School of Music. He was formerly Assistant Conductor for the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Associate Conductor of the New York City Opera.
Tim’s early training led to work with singers, and eventually to conducting engagements that have included companies such as Boston Lyric Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Colorado, Utah Opera, Tulsa Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Juilliard School, Yale Opera, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, the Prague Summer Nights Festival Orchestra, the Regina Symphony, the Prince George Symphony, the Trondheim Sinfonietta, and off-Broadway with The New Group.
Tim has performed as a pianist and harpsichordist at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, the Kennedy Center, National Sawdust, Jordan Hall, Wigmore Hall in London, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Herkules Hall in Munich, Dvořák Hall in Prague, La Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, and many festivals. As a concerto soloist he has performed with the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, the Lawton Philharmonic, the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute Orchestra, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, the Eastman Philharmonia, the Beethoven Society Orchestra of Washington DC, and the Sociedad Filarmonica de Conciertos of Mexico City.
This season, he will conduct Lear on the 2nd Floor by Anthony Davis and Allan Havis, and Handel’s Alcina for Eastman Opera Theatre, a World Premiere, How Bright the Sunlight, by Anthony Davis and Joy Harjo with the Eastman Philharmonia, the American Premiere of Missing at Anchorage Opera, and he will be guest harpsichordist and conductor with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Located in Victor, New York, Ganondagan is the only New York State Historic Site dedicated to Native Americans, in particular the Seneca and Haudenosaunee people, and the only Seneca town developed and interpreted in the United States. Ganondagan is the internationally recognized resource for Haudenosaunee history, culture, and living traditions that express universal ideals of peace, cooperation, and respect for each other, and the natural world. Spanning 569 acres, Ganondagan State Historic Site features the Seneca Art & Culture Center, a full size Seneca Bark Longhouse and interpretive trails and gardens.
Friends of Ganondagan provides cultural programming and events to enrich the understanding of Seneca and Haudenosaunee values, culture, and contemporary life in support of the mission to share Seneca and Haudenosaunee history, culture, and values through authentic, engaging and transformational programming. We seek to educate Seneca and Haudenosaunee people living on and off reservations, Indigenous peoples, and non-Native Americans, acting as a bridge between and within cultures. We are dedicated to developing Indigenous youth and educating them in the wisdom of their Elders. We believe through collaborating with other Indigenous peoples, and diverse cultural communities, our common vision of peace, cooperation, gratitude and respect for others and the natural world will be realized.
About Eastman School of Music:
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training.
More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, Guggenheim fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. Additionally, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.
The three-semester-long Eastman Centennial celebration began in Fall 2021 and continues throughout 2022. Highlights include acclaimed guest artists performing alongside Eastman’s ensembles; national academic and music conferences; alumni events throughout the country; a documentary being produced in partnership with WXXI, and more. For up-to-date information on the Eastman Centennial, including feature stories, future events, videos, testimonials, ways to engage, and more, please visit our Centennial website at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/100.
About the University of Rochester:
The University of Rochester is one of the nation’s leading private research universities, one of only 62-member institutions in the Association of American Universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives undergraduates exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and the Memorial Art Gallery.