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Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - Page updated at 04:30 a.m.

One last Seattle Symphony Orchestra concert for composer Samuel Jones

By Tom Keogh
Special to The Seattle Times

Dr. Samuel Jones has been making a slow-motion exit from his duties at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for a couple of years. But this Tuesday, the esteemed, Tacoma-based composer closes the door for good on a long and fruitful association.

In June 2011, SSO capped Jones’ 14 years as the organization’s composer-in-residence with a “Samuel Jones Celebration,” featuring his works performed by the orchestra, stellar guests and conductor Gerard Schwarz.

At that time, Jones submitted his resignation from his other longtime role at Seattle Symphony: as director of the annual Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop.

Jones figured SSO’s new music director, Ludovic Morlot, would appoint a successor to instruct local teen composers and host the seasonal Young Composers concert.

But Morlot asked Jones to stay on. Jones has done so up through the current cycle of the workshop, which culminates Tuesday with a free performance at Benaroya Hall.

The show presents new works by Jones’ students, who recently participated in an intensive, 12-week study. The talented, Seattle-area adolescent composers will hear their music played by SSO musicians. Jones, for the last time, will conduct.

“Sixteen years I’ve been doing this. That’s as long as it takes to go from first grade through college,” says Jones, with a laugh. “It’s time to give somebody else a chance.”

The Grammy-nominated Jones, 77, is a much-honored composer always juggling commissions. His relationship with SSO resulted in 13 world premieres and many performances of his other music, while his broader legacy includes premieres and years of conducting all over the U.S.

Now Jones wants to catch up with back-burner projects and publishing tasks.

“I need to spend more time composing and going back through compositions to make sure accumulated corrections are taken care of,” he says.

Jones is completing a new violin concerto for Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and a chamber version of his opera, “A Christmas Memory,” based on the beloved short story by Truman Capote. Jones’ memory of having a few drinks before and during a meeting with Capote — fully expecting the author, who liked his liquor, to do the same — is priceless. It turned out Capote was sticking to diet soda that day.

The founding dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Jones has always encouraged young people to follow their own paths.

“At this Tuesday concert, you’ll hear 10 different works, and they’ll all sound quite distinct,” says Jones. “These developing composers are all searching for ways to express themselves, to make contact.”

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com


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