For Temple orchestra saddened by Brubeck’s death, Grammy nomination doubly sweet

It has been an up-and-down week for the Temple University Symphony Orchestra.

On Wednesday, orchestra members learned of the death of Dave Brubeck, the jazz legend who, three years ago, wrote a classical piece on commission for Temple University and a handful of other orchestras.

The next day, that composition, “Music of Ansel Adams: America,” was nominated for a Grammy.

The piece premiered in 2009 in California performed by the Stockton Symphony, the lead commissioner. That performance featured the 23-minute piece as a score for hundreds of projected images by the famous landscape photographer.

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The recording by Temple University Symphony Orchestra was made earlier this year, making the piece eligible for a Grammy.

“The music itself — that’s why we did this recording — it stands by itself,” said Robert Stroker, dean of arts at Temple University. “It can be performed either way — by itself, or with photographs.”

Brubeck wrote the piece with his son, Chris, who felt his father and the photographer shared an artistic affinity. Both men were from Northern California, and Adams studied to be a concert pianist before discovering photography.

Father and son were closely involved in the nearly yearlong process of arranging and recording with the Temple orchestra.

“Chris describes it as the musical version of a father and son fishing trip, working with his dad on this project,” said Stroker. “You know, we’re very saddened by the loss of Dave Brubeck this week, but I think Chris really, really treasured this experience of being able to work with his dad on this piece.”

Also this year, the Temple University Symphony Orchestra recorded a piece composed by a former faculty member, Bill Cunliffe. “Overture Waltz and Rondo,” a melding of jazz and classical styles, was also nominated for a Grammy.

Both recordings were released on Temple’s own music label, BCM&D Records (Boyer College of Music and Dance). They are in competition for a Grammy with three other compositions.

“For a nonprofit educational program, to receive this recognition is a really great outcome of the dedication of our faculty, students, and staff,” said Stroker. “We’re going to have fun with it. The students are thrilled, and — for me — that’s what I care about.”

The winners will be announced in February.

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