Paul Winchester describes “Skyscapes,” his concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, as having a “contemporary classical” sound. “In other words, it’s not Mozart,” he says. The Wooster Symphony Orchestra premiered Winchester’s concerto this year, to an enthusiastic reception.
“Paul submitted the score of the second movement of that work last summer (before he had completed the first movement), and on the basis of the quality of that movement, I programmed the entire concerto for our February concert,” says symphony director Jeffrey Lindberg. “It was perhaps the most difficult piece the WSO has played in my tenure here, but the orchestra rose to the occasion and performed the concerto, featuring Paul's excellent solo guitar work, quite admirably.”
Four years ago, Winchester initially resisted efforts by his mother, a 1974 Wooster graduate, to have him visit campus, but eventually acquiesced and was instantly impressed.
“We happened to run into [Professor] Peter Mowrey and he took time to meet with us,” recalls Winchester, who was later invited to serve as production assistant in Cleveland for Mowrey’s opera, “Sangreal.” “I was very intrigued by him as a professor, a musician, and a composer.”
Later that year, he met Jack Gallagher, another professor of music and acclaimed composer, during an audition on campus. “He really impressed me,” says Winchester. “I felt that Wooster was a place where I would receive a lot of personal attention.”
“Paul is a strikingly imaginative composer possessed of uncommon initiative,” Gallagher says. “His two-movement concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, composed for his senior I.S., is an exceptionally ambitious, expansive work reflecting an intimate understanding of the instrument and Paul's passion for integrating it with the standard symphony orchestra. His three-movement sonata for alto saxophone and piano, composed for his junior I.S., is brilliantly crafted, revealing an urgency of inspiration and intensity of expression that are compelling. Each of Paul's I.S. works is a remarkable achievement.”
After graduation, Winchester, whose father is a professional piano technician and whose mother is a piano accompanist and a professor of women's studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, will study with noted American composer Libby Larsen and then attend Syracuse University as a Heaton Fellow in music composition. He plans to pursue a doctorate in composition and eventually teach, probably at a college or university.
Reflecting on his time at the College, Winchester says, “I learned a lot about how to write and prepare pieces at a professional level as well as how to go about getting those pieces performed. It was a huge learning experience and a great launching platform.”
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