KU News Release


Aug. 24, 2010
Contact: Erin Curtis-Dierks, School of Music, (785) 864-9742

Berlin Philharmonic commissions KU music professor to compose work

James Barnes


More Information

LAWRENCE — James Barnes, professor of music composition and music theory at the University of Kansas, recently was asked to commission a work for the internationally renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Barnes was contacted by Andreas Blau, flute player for the orchestra, about writing a piece for the 2012-13 season. The piece will be a flute concerto and most likely will be part of the regular concert series.

“Andreas Blau contacted me last fall about the possibility of writing this piece,” said Barnes. “To tell you the truth, when I first received the e-mail, I thought it was a prank instigated by my graduate students. It took me a few days to realize that it really was Blau and that he was serious about my composing a work.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All my life, I have listened to the fantastic recordings of the Berlin Philharmonic. To have the chance to compose something for this orchestra is a great honor.”

Barnes met with Blau two weeks ago in Munich while Barnes was in Germany to do a composition workshop with German and Italian composers. Barnes plans to finalize the piece in a year.

Currently the director for the division of music theory and composition, Barnes teaches music composition, orchestration, arranging and wind band history/repertoire courses. At KU, he has served as staff arranger and assistant and, later, associate director of bands for 21 years. He recently completed his 37th year of teaching at KU.

His numerous publications for concert band and orchestra are performed worldwide. His works (including six symphonies and two concertos) have been performed at such venues as Tanglewood, Boston Symphony Hall, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow and the Tokyo Metropolitan Concert Hall.

Barnes twice received the coveted American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for outstanding contemporary wind band music. He has been the recipient of numerous American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Awards, the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Medal and the Bohumil Makovsky Award for Outstanding College Band Conductors. Barnes recently was awarded the first BMI Award for Excellence in Teaching Creativity from the Music Educators National Conference. The world-famous Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra has recorded three compact discs of his music. Southern Music Co. has released three albums of his compositions, including “Symphonies,” a double CD featuring four of his symphonies for band.

Over the years, Barnes has been commissioned to compose works for all five of the major American military bands in Washington, D.C. A recent CD release by the United States Air Force Band features two different works by Barnes: “Dreamers,” written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of powered flight by the Wright brothers, and “Wild Blue Yonder,” commissioned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Air Force.

Barnes has traveled extensively as a guest composer, conductor and lecturer throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and Singapore. He has guest conducted in Japan more than 35 times. He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the American Bandmasters Association and numerous other professional organizations and societies.


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