Shepherd School announces world premiere of Bolcom’s ‘Ninth Symphony: A Short Symphony in One Movement’

In honor of Rice University’s centennial, the Shepherd School of Music is presenting the world premiere of American composer William Bolcom’s “Ninth Symphony: A Short Symphony in One Movement,” commissioned for the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra. The work is approximately 15 minutes in length and is scored for full symphony orchestra.

The piece will be premiered in concerts at Rice Oct. 11, 12 and 14 as part of the university’s Centennial Celebration.

During the process to select a composer to commission, Bolcom quickly emerged as the top choice,



according to Shepherd School of Music Dean Robert Yekovich.

“When the Shepherd School decided to commission a work in celebration of Rice’s centennial, it was clear that an American composer would be the most fitting choice,” Yekovich said. “Then came the monumental task of deciding whom to approach. There are so many wonderful American composers.”

A list was developed in consultation with the composition faculty and department chairs. Bolcom’s impeccable professional credentials and his 35 years at the University of Michigan make him an ideal candidate for crafting a work for its intended recipient: the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, Yekovich said.

A National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winner, Bolcom has received commissions from some of the world’s top orchestras and music organizations, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic. Premieres of his works have been given by world-renowned soloists, including tenor Placido Domingo and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Of his new work, Bolcom said, “If the ‘Ninth [Symphony]’ has a subject (if music indeed ever really has one), it would be this: Ours is both a dark and a hopeful time. Today our greatest enemy is our inability to listen to each other, which seems to worsen with time. All we hear now is shouting, and nobody is listening because the din is so great. Yet there is a ‘still, small voice’ that refuses to disappear, though often drowned out, that requires us to listen for it. I pin my hope on that voice. I search for it daily in life and in music — and possibly the ‘Ninth Symphony’ is a search for that soft sound.”

For more information on Bolcom, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.