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Performing Arts

New U-M Symphony Band CD features multiple GRAMMY-winners

By Marilou Carlin

Micheal Daughetry

A new album by the University of Michigan Symphony Band (USB) has been released on the Equilibri label. Titled Poetics, it features three GRAMMY Award-winning artists: soprano Hila Plitmann, composer Michael Daugherty (SMTD professor of composition), and saxophonist Timothy McAllister (SMTD associate professor of saxophone).

Conducted by Professor Michael Haithcock, the USB performs Daugherty’s Labyrinth of Love featuring Plitmann; Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra by Ingolf Dahl, featuring McAllister; and Masks and Machines, by award-winning composer Paul Dooley, SMTD lecturer of performing arts technology. According to Haithcock, the celebrated roster of talent offered SMTD students a rare opportunity to engage in “a laboratory of professionalism.”

Haithcock said that engaging Plitmann to perform and record Michael Daugherty’s Labyrinth of Love was a boon for the USB. The work is a 40-minute “tapestry of desire, loneliness, passion, humor and pathos,” according to the composer, and features songs based on the poetry of eight famous women through the centuries, from Sappho (6th century BC) to contemporary poet Anne Carson (b. 1950). Plittman previously performed the world premiere of the wind version of Labyrinth of Love in 2013 with the University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble.

“This dramatic work aptly displays the wide range of vocal talents that have made Plitmann the ‘go to’ singer for contemporary music on the scene today,” said Daugherty, who was just nominated for three Grammy Awards for Tales of Hemingway (Naxos), a CD featuring three of his works performed by the Nashville Symphony under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero.

Plitmann, a champion of new music, won the GRAMMY Award in 2009 for Best Classical Vocal Performance for her recording, with the Minnesota Orchestra, of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems Of Bob Dylan.

Poetics album cover

“What a joyful whirlwind recording this CD was,” said Plitmann. “Maestro Haithcock and the U-M Symphony Band are unparalleled, and inspired me to no end with their immaculate musicianship. We tackled Daugherty’s masterpiece with fervor and passion, and I have such immense gratitude at being able to delve into such unique and heartfelt music.”

Amanda Ross, a second year specialist degree candidate in trumpet, said that Haithcock often provides the opportunity for the band to work with renowned artists, but she found Plitmann especially inspirational. “Hila Plitmann brought a command to the stage like I hadn’t seen before,” said Ross. “Her commitment to the music and humanity was quite powerful; I don’t think I’ll ever forget the experience of working with her.”

The third GRAMMY winner on the album, Professor Timothy McAllister, is also an alum (BM ’95, MM ’97, DMA ’02). In 2014 he succeeded his legendary mentor at SMTD, Donald Sinta, leading the saxophone program at the school. He was the featured soloist in a work composed specifically for him, John Adams’s Saxophone Concerto, featured on the album John Adams: City Noir with the St. Louis Symphony, which won the 2014 GRAMMY for Best Orchestral Performance.

On the new USB CD, McAllister performs Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra, originally commissioned in 1948 by Sigurd Rascher, considered the world’s first classical saxophone virtuoso. The work’s musical and technical demands have set the standard by which saxophonists have been judged for more than 60 years.

“It was a great honor and, quite frankly, a lifelong dream to record Dahl’s Saxophone Concerto,” said McAllister. “It was my legendary predecessor’s recording of the work from the early 1970s with the U-M Symphony Band that inspired me to become a musician; to follow in Don Sinta’s footsteps is indescribable. The production quality of this new recording is of the highest standards in the industry, and the students all played at the highest professional level. I believe this new album will become a benchmark in the wind band world for decades to come.”

“The Dahl Concerto for Saxophone is a brilliant piece of music written for a virtuosic sax soloist and a talented, flexible band,” said Ben Wulfman, who graduated last spring with a BM in French horn. “Professor Haithcock has his recording sessions figured out to the minute. His point of view is that every second is precious time. The band members’ time should not be wasted and neither should his or the soloist. Therefore, the sessions ran like clockwork. I have never experienced a more ‘well-oiled machine’ than Professor Haithcock’s ‘Laboratory of Professionalism’!”

The final work on the album, Masks and Machines by Paul Dooley, takes its name from a chapter title in the book Pyramids at the Louvre by U-M Professor Emeritus of Musicology Glenn Watkins. It is inspired by the early 20th century works of Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer and the Neoclassical music of Igor Stravinsky. Masks and Machines is one of only several works ever to win both the prestigious Sousa / Ostwald Award and the NBA Revelli Composition Award.

Poetics is available to purchase at iTunes,, or

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