Columbia University Orchestra Receives $1 Million Gift for Performances in Major Concert Halls

The Columbia University Orchestra has been given a transformational $1 million gift from an anonymous donor.  The donor requests that the gift be used for the CUO to perform in Alice Tully Hall or another concert hall each semester for a major concert presentation.   This gift will fund the CUO in this regard for the next decade.

 The gift will build upon and enhance the Columbia University Orchestra’s reputation as an ensemble of great skill and purpose.  Founded by composer Edward MacDowell in 1896, the CUO is the oldest continually operating university orchestra in the United States.  This gift will be the cornerstone of an initiative to expose Columbia students to performing in the great concert halls within New York City. 

 The generosity of the donor will impact generations of students at Columbia College, Barnard College, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Earth and Environmental Engineering, General Studies, Fu Foundation of Engineering and Sciences, School of International and Public Affairs, School of the Arts, School of Professional Studies, and Teachers’ College.  It will also enhance the enduring legacy of Edward MacDowell and what he created many years ago.  The opportunity opens new doors, new sounds, and new experiences.  Most importantly it will provide a lifetime experience and the gift of music.





CUO 2020-21


Dear CUO, present and future,

 I write to you full of hope and energy.  I am sure you have read President Bollinger’s message from a few days ago.  I am so sorry we will not be together in person this semester.  That said, we can take this opportunity to be creative, strong, and positive.  It will be challenging without the essence of in-person connections and performances;  but can build our own world full of surprises, learning, and forge new relationships with a deep sense of musicality and empathy.

 I would like to proceed as follows.  We will meet at the usual class time of 6:30pm to 9:30pm on Tuesday evenings through the Zoom platform.  For obvious reasons, we will take this one semester at a time.

CUO members from last semester need NOT sign up for an audition time, but rather email Arya Rao, with your intention of participating this semester in the class.   Your participation in the activities will be required as per the usual rules. 

 New students should sign up for the live Zoom auditions and prepare a short solo of 5 minutes.  No excerpts will be required.  Auditions for 2020/2021 are now over.

 I had planned to perform last semester’s program for Fall 2020, but based on obvious health concerns and the closure of Alice Tully Hall and Lincoln Center, this is not possible.  We prepared so diligently and passionately and I do not want to squander all of that amazing work.  We will instead aim for a live performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre Du Printemps, and Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with Qingyu Chen in the Spring of 2021, with the caveat that this might be impossible as well.

 This semester, I have the idea to perform a virtual performance of BOTH of John Adams’ great fanfare masterpieces: Tromba Lontana, and Short Ride in a Fast Machine.  These are seminal American works, which will require quite a bit of planning and engineering on our part.  This minimal style will enable us to perform with a sort of a pseudo-“click track” and record the parts individually where you are located on the globe at your own time.  I will give you detailed advice and assignments on how to do this accurately.  We want to make sure that regardless of where you are, you can participate.  This ADAMS PROJECT will take the entire semester and should provide a great amount of anticipation and excitement in our circles.  You will need a computer, headphones and I am guessing the Apple Garageband program.  More details to follow.

CUO this semester will involve some guided listening assignments as well as sectionals with 1-50 players.  Remember to be flexible in your thinking as we are charting new territory on how to assemble a performance.  Due to latency issues, it is practically impossible to perform in unison together online.  The way to do this is to pre-record our individual parts, then have a magician engineer assemble everything in early December.  Yes, there will be Tuesday evenings that you are not needed, but I will try to at least begin the semester lecturing, and guiding us through this repertoire. 

Please know that I am energized and dedicated more than ever to make this semester exciting for us.  Granted it will be different, but as members of the Columbia community, we will seize the opportunity and RISE.