Society For New Music closes 50th season with concert at St. Paul’s of Syracuse

The music of four contemporary composers will be performed Sunday, April 24, to celebrate the closing of Syracuse Society for New Music’s golden anniversary season. “Society Favorites” will reprise some of the most significant compositions performed in past recitals, said Neva Pilgrim, a founding member of the new music organization and artist-in-residence at Colgate University.

Pulitzer Prize winner Melinda Wagner’s “Unsung Cordata,” a 2017 SNM commission, is inspired by the industry and artistry of a pufferfish as he creates designs in the sand to attract a mate. Wagner is a senior composition faculty member at The Juilliard School who lists among her many commissions works for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Juilliard String Quartet and the New York New Music Ensemble.

The program also includes the fourth performance of Kevin Ernste’s “Chorale,” a 2018 commission to honor Steven Stucky, renowned composer, Cornell University professor, and author who died in 2016 of brain cancer at age 66. Ernste is a professor of composition and electronic music at Cornell and the director of Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center.

Paul Leary’s homage to the Apollo moon landing will have its third performance on a SNM program, and it will be recorded, along with Ernste’s “Chorale” for the society’s next CD of commissioned works. Leary is a faculty member at SUNY Oswego, where he teaches electronic music, composition and other courses, and has a background is orchestration that includes a decade with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, an ASCAP award-winning ensemble.

Recipient of the society’s 2021 Israel/Pellman Award, Yangfan Xu, is the composer of “Dryocopus in Deciduous Forest,” which will be performed at the concert. She is in the master’s program for composition at Juilliard, where she studies with Robert Beaser. Her work was showcased by the New Juilliard Ensemble April 11 at Lincoln Center.

Heather Buchman, director of the Hamilton College orchestra and chamber music program, will conduct. Local musicians who will perform are: Kelly Covert, John Friedrichs, John Raschella, Tyler Ogilvie, Liviu Dobrota, Victoria Miskolczy, Zachary Sweet, Sar Strong, Andrea Scheibel, and Rob Bridge.

The concert will honor John Oberbrunner, a founding performer with the Society for New Music, where he was a board member. A musical icon in the Central New York artistic community for more than 60 years, he died March 31 at 92. He had been a charter member and principal flutist of the Syracuse Symphony, a college-level and private studio teacher, and a popular performer with an international reputation. His former student, flutist Lana Stafford of Skaneateles, will present a tribute to his memory.

“John Oberbrunner was an amazing person, a stellar musician, a devoted teacher, and a wonderful human being,” Pilgrim said. “It is fitting that this concert will honor his life-long commitment to the performance of quality music, and especially new music, in our area.”

Founded in 1971, the Society for New Music is the oldest organization of its kind outside Manhattan. From its original five concerts a season, it has grown to now produce 30 or more concerts in a variety of styles that foreground the recent work of regional composers (many commissioned) performed by local musicians. Among its many recognitions, the society and Neva Pilgrim were honored in 2010 by the American Music Center for “extraordinary contribution to the world of contemporary music in this country.”


Who: Society for New Music

What: “Society Favorites,” commissioned works by four composers

When: April 24 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: St. Paul’s Syracuse, 310 Montgomery St.

Tickets: $20 online at

Youth: Free for under 18; use [email protected] to order