World Premiere composition honors Witten's 100th percussion concert

World Premiere composition honors Witten's 100th percussion concert

The World Premiere of a specially-commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Hidgon commemorates Dean Witten's 100th percussion ensemble concert.

The World Premiere of a specially-commissioned new work by one of the most renowned contemporary composers highlights Dean Witten’s milestone 100th concert leading the Rowan Percussion Ensemble on Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8 pm in the university’s Pfleeger Concert Hall.

Jennifer Higdon, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2010 Grammy Award, was commissioned to write her piece, Like ClockWork, for Witten through support from private donors and the College of Performing Arts. Higdon is indeed one of the most acclaimed composers working today. In addition to the accolades mentioned, she has been honored by the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, American Academy of Arts & Letters, Pew Fellowship in the Arts and ASCAP, as well as an extensive list of commissions from some of the top orchestras and ensembles in the world.

“The inspiration was entirely Dean and the percussionists who have studied with him,” Higdon notes. “The caliber of performer that comes out of his studio inspired me to write a piece that would be challenging and colorful, and fun to listen to. When there is an excellent teacher, a composer knows that the performance will be good.”

The concert, which features Witten along with current and former Rowan percussion students, also includes a performance of Gérard Grisey’s Le Noir de l’Étoile and John Cage's Living Room Music.

Witten has been Professor of Percussion, Director of Percussion Studies and conductor of the Percussion Ensemble at Rowan since 1979. He has presented World Premiere performances of more than 40 works for percussion. In addition to teaching, he regularly freelances in New York City, with Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, New York Chamber Orchestra, New York Pops, Queens Symphony Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera Guild. He has recorded with the Pro Artis Ensemble and has been a member of the percussion sections of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony and the opera companies of Philadelphia and Boston. He toured the world as a member of Frank Sinatra's orchestra for almost eight years and has performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, Buddy Rich Band and Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He has been in the Broadway pit orchestras for Les Miserables, Baz Luhrmann's production of Puccini's La Boheme, Sunset Boulevard, Jekyll and Hyde, Beauty and the Beast, The King and I, Oklahoma, Tommy and Grand Hotel, among others. Witten can be heard on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., Celine Dion, Linda Eder, Denis DiBlasio and others, as well as several movie soundtracks. As a member of staff orchestras in Atlantic City, he has performed with everyone from Lena Horne and Burt Bacharach to Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli and Johnny Mathis.

The concert takes place in Pfleeger Concert Hall, located in Wilson Hall on the campus of Rowan University, Route 322 in Glassboro. Tickets are $25, general admission. For additional information, call the box office at (856) 256-4545, email or visit