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Louisville Orchestra Presents ‘A Curtis Suite’, World Premiere of Four Works by Curtis Composers January 29 and 30

Music Director and 2008 Curtis Graduate Teddy Abrams leads works by T.J. Cole, Emily Cooley, Rene Orth, and Alyssa Weinberg

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PHILADELPHIA, PA—January 8, 2016—The Louisville Orchestra presents the world premiere of A Curtis Suite on January 29 and 30, four short Louisville-inspired pieces by composers from the Curtis Institute of Music. Music Director Teddy Abrams, a 2008 graduate of Curtis, leads these works by T.J. Cole, Emily Cooley, Rene Orth, and Alyssa Weinberg.

As part of an ongoing goal to demonstrate the vitality of contemporary musical culture and to provide a strong support for composers creating music for the modern era, the Louisville Orchestra commissioned four pieces inspired by some aspect of the city—from the annual Zombie Walk to Kentucky bluegrass, and from Churchill Downs to Thunder Over Louisville, the fireworks display that precedes the Kentucky Derby.

Performances take place Friday, January 29 at 11 a.m. and Saturday, January 30 at 8 p.m. at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, visit

“I was very fortunate to attend the legendary Curtis Institute of Music to study conducting,” said Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams. “This is the rare school that is as much of an educational institution as it is a family. It is a place that emphasizes learning from faculty as much as learning from peers who become lifelong friends. Because Curtis generously offers every student a tuition-free education and because the learning experience at the school was so positive and inspiring, I’ve felt a strong need to reconnect with Curtis throughout my professional life. The next generation of musical leaders and creative minds are studying at Curtis right now, and it has been a great pleasure to offer the resources of the Louisville Orchestra to support their development and artistry.”

Throughout each season, Curtis provides numerous commissioning and performance opportunities for young composers. Just before composer Rene Orth travels to Louisville for the premiere of A Curtis Suite, the Curtis Opera Theatre will present four sold-out performances of her opera Empty the House (world premiere, January 21-24), written with Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell. Later in the season a new work for violin and cello by Alyssa Weinberg, commissioned for Curtis on Tour, will receive its world premiere during an east coast tour in March 2016, including a Boston performance at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (March 20).

Students write works inspired by literature and dance for annual commissions from One Book One Philadelphia and the Rock School for Dance Education, and a 2015 partnership with the Barnes Foundation resulted in three new art-inspired works by Curtis composers premiered by the Aizuri Quartet.

“Curtis has always stood behind its composers, from our founder Mary Louise Curtis Bok’s unequivocal support of Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti, to the literally dozens of commissions of that we do for the student recitals, Curtis On Tour, and the 20/21 Ensemble every year,” said David Ludwig, a composition faculty member and the Gie and Lisa Liem Dean of Artistic Programs and Performance. “In my mind there’s no question about the value of new music and its contribution to our culture. Curtis is passionately invested in this art form, and advocates for it in a meaningful way by encouraging creative work through commissions and partnerships like this one with its brilliant conducting graduate Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra.”


I: Thriller Walk by T.J. Cole
After learning that Louisville hosts the largest annual Zombie Walk in the world, I was immediately struck by the idea of inhibiting other personalities through costumes. With the help of YouTube, I learned further that previous participants of the Louisville Zombie Walks all found unique ways to dress up as zombies: some dressed as zombie brides, some looked like their faces were ripped open, and others went with a classic bloody face. I loved the idea of one idea being dressed up in multiple ways, all of them as quirky and fun, which then inspired my creative process for Thriller Walk.

II: Poa Perpetuo by Alyssa Weinberg

The title for Poa Perpetuo comes from Poa pratensi, the plant species more commonly referred to as Kentucky bluegrass. The title references the main source of inspiration for the work; the genre of music that takes its name from the Kentucky bluegrass that grows in the region. Additionally, the phrase “moto perpetuo” refers to a fast passage of music with notes of equal length, the literal translation from the Italian being “perpetual motion.” In this piece I have attempted to infuse the orchestra with sounds of bluegrass, with a particular rhythmic element serving as an ostinato that unifies the work.

III: Altogether Thunder by Emily Cooley
I have not been to Louisville prior to the premiere of this piece, but I have heard much about the spectacle of Thunder Over Louisville, the fireworks show that kicks off the Kentucky Derby. The pictures and videos I have seen of the event are awe-inspiring, and as I wrote this piece I imagined firework displays as my inspiration. Also, in reflecting on the word "thunder," I couldn't help but think of my favorite lines from the R.E.M. song "Sweetness Follows". The title of my piece is taken from these lines: “Live your life filled with joy and wonder / I always knew this altogether thunder was lost in our little lives.”

IV: Run for the Roses by Rene Orth
"The most exciting two minutes in sports!"—also known as the Kentucky Derby—is an incredible time to be in Louisville. When writing this piece, I thought of all the sounds we typically hear for the race: the Call to Post, singing My Old Kentucky Home, horses galloping around a track, and more. I incorporated these ideas into a fast and energetic two-minute piece that I've titled Run for the Roses.


Drawing upon 90 years of artistry, the Curtis Institute of Music pairs tradition and innovation, educating exceptionally gifted young musicians as artist-citizens who engage a local and global community through music-making of the highest caliber. Each year 175 students come to Curtis, drawn by a tuition-free, performance-inspired learning culture. In this intimate environment, they are nurtured by a celebrated faculty and inspired by the school’s distinctive “learn by doing” approach, offering more than 200 concerts each year in Philadelphia, as well as performances around the world through Curtis on Tour.

“One of the world's finest music academies” (BBC Culture), Curtis reaches global audiences through Curtis Performs (, the school’s dedicated HD performance video site. Online music courses and Summerfest programs offer lifelong learners further ways to listen, explore, and learn. And students hone 21st-century skills through social entrepreneurship programs that bring arts access and education to the community.

The extraordinary young musicians of Curtis graduate to join 4,000 alumni who have long made music history. Each season leading orchestras, opera houses, and chamber music series around the world feature Curtis alumni. They are in the front rank of soloists, composers, and conductors and hold principal chairs in every major American orchestra. Curtis graduates are musical leaders, making a profound impact on music onstage and in their communities. To learn more, visit

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