College of Fine Arts and Design

UCO Musicians Play on New Classical CD

CD Cover

Dec 16, 2009

Three musicians from the University of Central Oklahoma are among the performers who played on a recently released CD featuring symphonies by groundbreaking African-American composer William Grant Still.

All three students, two of who have now graduated from UCO, performed with the Fort Smith Symphony in Arkansas when it recorded the CD last spring at The Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center.

 The CD of Still's Symphonies No. 4 No. 5 and "Poem for Orchestra" was internationally released in late October and is available where classical music is sold.

"Not only was this a positive educational experience, and it will help them with their resume, as far as getting jobs in the future, but it also helps validate what we are doing on campus. They were asked to be part of this project," said Keith White, director of Central's School of Music.

"Although we provide many performance opportunities, a recording project like this is much rarer. It doesn't happen routinely," White said.

The Central musicians who played on the CD are Curtis Hansen, a senior who plays the viola and is majoring in music education; Timothy Hsu, who graduated with a bachelor's degree from the School of Music last December and is currently pursuing a master's degree in violin performance at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University; and Viktoria Matheson, who earned her master's degree in viola performance from Central last May and is teaching string fundamentals at the university as well as in a local school system.

 "In all, we spent 16 hours recording. First, we played it bar to bar, playing it all the way through. If something needed to be redone because, for example, the musical phrasing, we would do that part again," Hansen said.

 "It was intense. We were really tired, really worn out.  But when you get the CD and it has your name on the inside, it seems really cool," Matheson said.

Hsu said what he enjoyed most was the opportunity to record such unique work.

"I had a blast. The music itself was very fun. It's not traditional. Very original writing," Hsu said.


Still was born in Mississippi in 1895, but grew up in Little Rock, Ark.
"His was the first African-American work to be performed by a symphony. He broke the black/white barrier in classical music," said Becky Yates, director of marketing for the Fort Smith Symphony.

The three pieces on the CD were written between 1944 and 1947.

 "Symphonies 4 and 5 had never been recorded so they were on the verge of being lost forever. It is very historically significant," Yates said.

Hansen said he was particularly pleased that he was able to record Still's music on his first major recording.

"There are intricate rhythms and just a different tonal structure. Young musicians might not be able to play it or comprehend it - but they should be exposed to it. I've become an avid fan of William Grant Still," Hansen said.

The CD was produced by Naxos, which is based in Hong Kong and bills itself as the largest classical music label in the world.

For more information about opportunities available in Central's School of music, visit www.camd.uco.edu/music or call (405) 974-5004.