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Augusta Reed Thomas: the WUSF interview.

Although far from being a household name, Augusta Reed Thomas is one of America's most highly regarded contemporary classical composers. In 2007, her "Astral Canticle" for solo flute, violin, and orchestra was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished musical composition by an American. Reed Thomas has composed for the most prestigious orchestras in the world and worked with the greatest conductors of this century.

Reed Thomas was a featured guest this past February at the University of South Florida's acclaimed Robert Helps Music Festival, affording USF student musicians a rare opportunity to perform her works and interact with her. Her visit also gave WUSF's classical music host Coleen Cook a chance to sit down with Thomas in the station's Donis Studio and talk about her accomplishments and music.

"As soon as you hear the first few measures of her work, you know it's not Bach, Beethoven, Mahler or Stravinsky, yet she tells me that her music is influenced by all of those giants and more," says Cook.

Reed Thomas agrees that her inspirations are varied."When you listen to my music, you'll recognize that I've listened to and studied the full classical repertoire. My music is very introspective, influenced by Stravinsky, by big band and even by jazz. I guess from a distance you would call it modern, but that's a loaded word."

During the interview aired on WUSF 89.7, Reed Thomas told Cook that many of her compositions are inspired by nature or poetry. Her Credences of Summer was inspired by the poetry of poet Wallace Stevens. Each movement in Credences was named after a line in the poem--an attempt to musically speak its language without words.

The USF orchestra performed Credences, along with her four Rumi Settings, a tone poem for cello and violin, at a concert at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. University of South Florida conductor Dr. William Wiedrich, who led the performance, calls her works ingenious and unpredictable. "It demands that you listen," says Wiedrich.

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Reed Thomas admits that her music might not be for every taste, but she hopes it will be approached by listeners with a Willingness to think hard about what they hear.

"I've always liked music that asks questions. It doesn't have to have every answer. I like to leave my pieces a little unresolved, so I can go on to write the next piece!"

A world premiere of Reed Thomas' Dream Threads, a ballet for youth orchestra and youth ballet, will be presented by the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra, May 18, 2 p.m., at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 day of show. For ticket information, call 813-229-7827 or 800-955-1045.

To listen to the entire interview with Augusta Reed Thomas, visit our Web site, and search for the interview in our public newsroom archives.
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Title Annotation:WUSF HAPPENINGS
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:476
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