Christian Baldini: Laurie, we’ve known each other for many years, I have had the honor and pleasure of conducting the world premiere of two of your works: a concerto for two marimbas and orchestra for Mayumi Hama and Chris Froh, and a new work for the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. This will be the first time that I’m conducting a work of yours for chorus and orchestra. When I asked you to write this piece for the UC Davis Symphony and the University Chorus, I mentioned to you that you’d be sharing the program with two major works by Beethoven (his oratorio Chris on the Mount of Olives and his Fourth Piano Concerto). Was this a daunting prospect, or how did you feel?
Laurie San Martin: First, let me say that it’s an honor to write for your orchestras and in particular, the UCDSO. It’s nostalgic for me because I played in the UCDSO as an undergraduate student many moons ago. But also, these are my students and it is a joy to get to work with them in this way. As for Beethoven, his impact casts a long shadow, even 200 years later. HIs 4th piano concerto is my absolute favorite.
CB: You’ve chosen two beautiful poems that really have informed each of the two pieces. How did you choose them, and how do you look for relationships between the texts and what you do in your music?
LSM: Gary Snyder is an important poet to the greater Davis area, and I found this particular poem For the Children to be beautifully done.While I was already working on the music of the Snyder movement, I came across Rae Armantrout’s Riddance and was immediately taken with it. The similar themes (about nature, the threat of climate destruction) brought these poems close together for me. The tone of each poem is very different but the dramatic balance made them easy to imagine being paired together.
CB: I think I can say without hesitation that your music has evolved and changed considerably in the last ten years. How would you describe how your interests and priorities have changed as a composer?
LSM: I have always been interested in harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, and how these elements help build a piece. It sounds old-fashioned and in some ways, it is. In the past 10 years, I have heard a lot of “sound-based pieces” or pieces that are devoid of pitch completely and instead use different shades of noise. Hearing so many pieces that experiment with sound has influenced the way I think about it as well.
CB: Who were some of your compositional role models 20 years ago? And who are they now?
LSM: 20 years ago, I was finishing my dissertation on the music of Andrew Imbrie whose music offers so much integrity and craft. I was fascinated and inspired by Mario Davidovsky’s music. My playlist likely included Ursula Mamlok’s From my Garden, Dallapiccola’s Piccola Musica Notturna and the many, many piano etudes by my teacher, David Rakowski. More recently, I am interested in music by Unsuk Chin (Akrostichon-Wortspiel in particular). I heard the premiere of Spiral by Andrew Norman in June, 2018 and found it to be brilliantly crafted. My former colleague and good friend Yu-Hui Chang (her Binge Delirium is a go-to for percussion writing) and Kate Soper’s only the words themselves. There are many other composers and pieces that have caught my attention in the past 20 years but I think the most important thing I have done is to go to a lot of concerts. I think experiencing music live—any style of music—has a profound impact us as humans. And I think that has been the single most important part of my growth.
CB: In your opinion, what is the meaning of art in our society? What can we do as artists to keep our mission relevant to more people?
LSM: Art communicates something that can’t always be said with words. Art is abstract and what we each take from a specific piece of art is as individual as we are. If we don’t retain our individuality in the world, then I think we will be doomed. I think there is power in experiencing art– how it stirs ideas and emotions that every day life might otherwise leave dormant.
CB: Thank you for your time and for writing this wonderful piece for us. We look forward to sharing it with the audience!
LSM: Thank you for the opportunity. I’m so proud of the student performers and of our audience that continues to support the orchestra. I think it’s really important to program living composers and I’m grateful that you are doing so much to integrate the new and the old into your programming!
Laurie San Martin writes music that creates a compelling narrative by exploring the intersection between texture and line. Critics have described her music as exuberant, colorful, forthright, high octane, tumultuous, intricate, intense and rumbly. She writes concert music for chamber ensembles and orchestra but has also written for theater, dance and video. Her music has been performed across the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently she has enjoyed writing for virtuoso soloists including violinists Hrafnhildur Atladottir and Gabriela Díaz, percussionists Chris Froh and Mayumi Hama, Haleh Abghari (soprano), Yi Ji-Young (Korean gayageum) and David Russell (cello).
Recent awards include the 2018 Andrew Imbrie Award in Music from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2016 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She has also received awards from Harvard University’s Fromm Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles Ives Scholarship), League of Composers-ISCM, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Awards. Her music has been performed across the United States, Europe and Asia. As a composition fellow, she has attended the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Norfolk Contemporary Chamber Music Festival, the Montalvo Artist Residency, and the Composers Conference at Wellesley College.
Laurie holds a PhD from Brandeis University in Theory and Composition. She has taught at Clark University and is currently Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis. Her music can be found on the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s 2005 CD “San Francisco Premieres”, Ravello CD “Tangos for Piano” performed by Amy Briggs, New Focus Records CD, and “Chamber Music from the APNM”.
Christian Baldini: Please tell us about your education and training. How did you start with music, and when did you decide to become a singer?
Jacque Piccolino: Throughout my childhood I enjoyed singing and was generally drawn to music and performance. Despite my general shyness as a young child, I would enjoy performing my favorite tunes at family gatherings. I did not have any formal voice lessons till I was 11 years old during which my first voice teacher recognized my potential and helped me enjoy singing from a more technical standpoint. In applying formal vocal technique to my singing, I knew that I was born to sing! From those early lessons, to my time as an undergrad at the University of Illinois; under the direction of my then teacher and now mentor Cynthia Haymon-Coleman, I continued to hone my craft and discovered that I had a pursuable future in classical music. While still a Junior at U of I, I was invited to the San Francisco Opera Merola program which then led to a spot as an Adler Fellow with SFO. Since then, my passion and spark for singing has grown exponentially and I am dedicated to the discipline and joy an opera career brings.
CB: What do you find remarkable about this work by Beethoven? What are your favorite moments in it?
JP: Christus am Ölberge was completely new to me until Maestro Baldini suggested it as possible collaborative opportunity. I found this work incredibly fascinating, particularly how it highlights Christ’s human state over His divinity. My favorite moment comes from the Seraph’s aria, as it is truly an operatic piece in terms of form and drama. One phrase sung in unison in the Terzetto by Peter, Christ, and the Seraph is exceptionally lovely:
“Liebt jenen, der euch hasset, nur so gefallt ihr Gott”
“Love those who hate you, only then can you love God”
CB: What are some of your favorite pieces of music, whether in the operatic realm, chamber music, or on the concert platform? Which works would you like to be singing next?
JP: I love many operas, but if I had to choose, I’d say Verdi’s La Traviata, Ernani, and Otello, as well as Puccini’s La Bohème are some of my favorites. Given my particular voice type, I hope to engage in works similar to the aforementioned. I’m currently practicing and preparing the beautifully spirited title role in Dvorak’s Rusalka. The nuances of the Czech language coupled with the dynamics and complexities of the character mesh well with the color and timbre of my voice and my artistry overall. On the concert and art song platform, I adore Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, and Rachmaninoff’s sublime art songs.
CB: What does art, and music in particular, mean to you? Is it relevant in our society today?
JP: Throughout my young career I’ve had the honor to share and express emotion through the gift of music. I firmly believe that music transcends all races, creeds, and backgrounds and has the powerful ability to bring people together from all walks of life. As artists, we are obliged to interlace our own unique experiences and perspectives within our work. In doing so, we pay homage to the great works that came before us. This evolution is a wonderful metaphor for our society today, as we can simply look to music as an active representation of progressive growth.
Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino has been hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as having “impeccable technique and stage presence” and as “an artist to watch”. In the 2020 season, Ms. Piccolino will join the roster of the prestigious Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program singing Erste Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and covering the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka. In addition, Ms. Piccolino will perform Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
As a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, she made her San Francisco Opera debut in the summer of 2013 as Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She returned from 2013-2015 as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, Lady Madeline in La chute de la maison Usher, Laura in Luisa Miller, 2nd maid in the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne, Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Clotilda in Norma, Mrs. Hayes in Susannah, and covered Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. As a participant in the 2012 and 2013 Merola Opera Program, Ms. Piccolino appeared as Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and Arminda in La finta giardiniera. She has performed the Israelitish Woman in Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte with Seattle Opera in 2017, as well as Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. Other career highlights include appearing as a Studio Artist with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, a performer in the Napa Festival del Sole’s Bouchaine Young Artist Concert Series and as a participant in the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy.
Ms. Piccolino was recently awarded as a Bursary Recipient from the Opera Awards Foundation. She is also a first prize winner from The American Prize in Vocal Performance, the Igor Gorin Memorial Award from the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and the prestigious Rose M. Grundman Award Recipient from the Musicians Club of Women in Chicago. She has received awards from The Sullivan Foundation, The Shoshana Foundation, The George London Foundation, and was a finalist in the 9th International Stanisław Moniuszko Competition. Jacqueline graduated with a Bachelors of Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Music in 2013 and received the prestigious Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship from her Alma mater. Currently, she resides in the beautiful city of Chicago!