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DU Alums Take Center Stage at Carnegie Hall

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Greg Glasgow

Carnegie Hall - Teresa Castillo
Teresa Castillo

Easter Sunday at Carnegie Hall was something of a family reunion for three alumni from DU’s Lamont School of Music. Composer Kevin Padworski’s “Reflections on a Mexican Garden,” a piece for choir and orchestra, received its world premiere at the famous New York venue. The performance was conducted by Lamont alum Gregory Gentry (BME ’82) and featured another music school graduate, Teresa Castillo (MM ’13), as soprano soloist.

“It was really cool,” Castillo says. “I meet so many people from Manhattan School of Music, Julliard, all these bigger schools, but you don’t see as many Lamont alumni around. It’s always nice to meet another one.”

Padworski’s piece, composed specifically for the Carnegie performance, was an appropriate one for a springlike day — its text comes from American poet Grace Conkling’s “Symphony of a Mexican Garden,” itself written in a structure built after Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Padworski added more authentic Mexican flavor by incorporating into his piece bits of Aztec poetry and some Spanish-language verse by 17th-century poet Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Carnegie Hall - Kevin Padworski
Kevin Padworski

“I was trying as best as I could to honor Mexican culture, and I think [Conkling’s] poem certainly does that, and it has its own beauty, but it’s clearly not in Spanish. I thought that was really crucial, if I’m going to write about Mexico, that I try and represent that,” says Padworski (MM ’13), a doctoral student in the choral studies program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he studies under program head Gentry.

The final product, 30 minutes in length, was performed at Carnegie by the New England Symphonic Ensemble, a 100-plus voice chorus consisting of singers from CU and elsewhere, and soloist Castillo, a Lamont classmate of Padworski’s whom he had in mind when writing “Reflections on a Mexican Garden.”

“I had my fingers crossed that the company in New York would take my advice and hire a Latina woman who was my friend, who I knew would just kill the soprano part, and who is an incredible musician, and they did, thankfully,” says Padworski, who also serves as artistic director of the Colorado Chorale and associate conductor of the Colorado Children's Chorale. “She’s incredible. I wrote it for her.”

Carnegie Hall - Gregory Gentry
Gregory Gentry

Gentry reports that the piece was well received both by the performers and the audience, but for him, the best part of the experience was seeing his different academic experiences come together for an afternoon of live music.

“I’m pleased that we got to do this with the CU kids, and I’m really pleased that three DU alums were able to shine like that,” he says. “I had a great experience as an undergraduate, and the faculty was very good while I was there. To be able to have both of those circles intersect was pretty meaningful.”