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Guest conductor Wesley Schulz and double bassist Paul Erhard join the Grand Junction Symphony for a pair of concerts this March

March 2, 2016

The search for the Grand Junction Symphony’s new conductor is nearly complete this Spring as Schulz Conducts Gershwin. Guest conductor and GJSO Music Director candidate Wesley Schulz, the fourth and final candidate in a nearly two year search, leads the Grand Junction Symphony along with double bassist and CU-Boulder professor Dr. Paul Erhard in a weekend of performances on Saturday, March 12th at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 13th at 3:00pm.

Both performances will be held in the Historic Avalon Theatre and will feature Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body, Nino Rota’s Divertimento Concertante for Contrabass and Orchestra (with Erhard as soloist), Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and George Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

Conductor Wesley Schulz is garnering attention for his fresh programming and imaginative performances, as well as his skill for building orchestras and growing audiences. In constant demand, Mr. Schulz is Music Director of the Bainbridge Symphony and Seattle Festival orchestras and serves as Director of Orchestras at University of Puget Sound. In 2014-2015, Schulz was the Conducting Fellow at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He has been lauded by musicians for his “intensity and emotion” in performances and for his “approachable and inspiring” leadership. Upcoming and recent conducting engagements include the Austin, Port Angeles, Auburn, Grand Junction, and the Juneau symphony orchestras. Dr. Schulz graduated magna cum laude with bachelor degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Education from Ball State University and doctorate and master’s degrees in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Paul Erhard performs as a soloist and teaches internationally in Europe and Asia, as well as throughout the USA. His solo recitals promote the vocal beauty and richness of the double bass through a unique blend of traditional and contemporary double bass solo repertoire. He has performed as a concerto soloist with orchestras in New York, Colorado, Kansas, and Hawaii. Dr. Erhard is the founder and director of the Rocky Mountain International Double Bass Festival that fosters excellence, excitement, and camaraderie in double bass performance within Colorado. Dr. Erhard has been the Double Bass Professor in the University of Colorado, Boulder College of Music since 1986.

Written in the year 2000, Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body it is one of the most performed works of the 21st century, with performances by over 100 orchestras internationally. Theofanidis combines his musical language with a 900 year-old chant written by the visionary Hildegard von Bingen. This unique combination yields a work full of sparkling color, expressive melodic lines, and an aural fabric that sounds as fresh today as the melody it contains must have sounded nearly a millenium ago.

The name Nino Rota may not sound familiar, but the film The Godfather will mostly certainly ring a bell. Rota, a 20th-century Italian composer, created music in all genres with his largest output being film scores. In addition to Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather, Rota wrote film scores for Fellini’s La Strada and La dolce vita, as well as 150 other movies. The Divertimento Concertante was written towards the end of Rota’s life for the Italian double bass virtuoso Franco Petracchi. Despite the work’s title, it is very much a concerto for double bass and orchestra. In four movements, a departure from the usual three, Rota brilliantly showcases the depth of expression inherent in an instrument that rarely steps into the concerto spotlight.

Appalachian Spring
was composed in 1943-44 as a ballet for Martha Graham. The action of Appalachian Spring centers on the building of a house in Western Pennsylvania. As the house is raised, a young farmer and his wife enact their emotions as they think about their future together. They receive advice from neighbors, hopeful as well as foreboding, and in the end, they are left alone in the house built for their new life. It was first performed at the Coolidge Festival in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., on October 30, 1944. Copland also fashioned a concert version for full orchestra, which had its premiere by the New York Philharmonic the following year.

Seventeen years before Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the New York Philharmonic gave another important premiere: George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, conducted by Walter Damrosch on December 13, 1928. In the spring of 1928, while visiting Paris with his sister, Frances, brother, Ira, and Ira’s wife, Lenore, he worked at length on the composition, including trying out an array of French taxi horns for a so-called “street scene.” With riveting rhythmic devices and intoxicating melodies, Gershwin’s An American in Paris has remained a thrilling staple of American music since its premiere.

Tickets for Schulz Conducts Gershwin are $20, $30 and $40 for adults and only $5 for students with ID. They can be purchased online at, by calling 243-6787 or visiting the Grand Junction Symphony office at 414 Main Street. Tickets are also available one hour prior to each performance at the Avalon Theatre box office.

Schulz Conducts Gershwin is sponsored by Nancy Hill with additional support from the Grand Junction Symphony Guild. Guest soloist Paul Erhard is sponsored by Christopher Dungey Cello Maker Inc.

Don’t miss your chance to see the potential future Maestro of the GJSO as Schulz Conducts Gershwin. Saturday, March 12th at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 13th at 3:00pm at the Avalon Theatre.

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Bassist Paul Erhard, faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder College of Music. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

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