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“Classical Connections” concert features engaging conversation and enlightening musical examples, plus an after-concert chat with the conductor


DAYTON OH (March 11, 2011) - The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2010-2011 Demirjian Classical Connections series will conclude with a program titled Daugherty: Electric Guitar Concerto on Friday, March 25, 2011, at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center.   

Created by DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman, who serves as host and raconteur, the Classical Connections concerts provide a "behind the scenes” look at exciting works of the orchestral repertoire.  These innovative programs, which Neal began 23 years ago with the Milwaukee Symphony, have become a vital part of the Dayton Philharmonic's annual concert schedule.

The March 25 concert asks the question, “what do rock’n roll, quilts and classical music have to do with each other?”   We’ll find out, as Neal takes us on a trip to Alabama and related audio landscapes to discover the secrets behind American composer Michael Daugherty’s Gee’s Bend, for electric guitar and orchestra.   

Featured as electric guitar soloist will be young American performer and composer D.J. Sparr, and the program will also include the world premiere of Sparr’s composition Superstring Serenade.

Concertgoers are invited to stay after the concert for a lively Q&A with Neal and D.J. Sparr in the Mead Theatre.

Tickets for the March 25 concert range from $9 - $39 and are available by calling (888) 228-3630 or by ordering on the web at

The Dayton Philharmonic’s 2010-2011 Classical Connections Series is sponsored by Dr. Charles and Patricia Demirjian.  The Classical Connections season partner is Orion Organics.   Michael Daugherty’s work with the DPO in preparation for this concert is made possible in part through Meet the Composer’s MetLife Creative Connections program.


About D.J. Sparr
D. J. Sparr’s music merges current practices of art-concert composition with influences from vernacular American music which he grew up performing and studying as a guitarist. For the performance of Sparr’s BMI/Boudleax Bryant Fund Commission for Eighth Blackbird, the Albuquerque Tribune wrote: “…in the sextet's piece ‘The Glam Seduction’, the 1980s rock music of Eddie Van Halen meets the instrumentation of Niccolo Paganini... The result - Paganini on coke.”

Sparr performed and sang country music and his own original songs as early as age five to great applause from his friends and family. Morphing from child-singer/country guitarist to a mullet-laden rocker during his teenage years, Sparr was then “saved” by entering the Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied classical music and jazz guitar. During the summer years, he attended the Walden School and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and developed a love of composition for orchestral instruments. Sparr then enrolled at the Eastman School of Music where he completed his Bachelor of Music degree and studied with Sydney Hodkinson, Augusta Read Thomas, and Pulitzer Prize winners Joseph Schwantner and Christopher Rouse. During this time he was the recipient of numerous awards including a BMI Student Composer Award, First Place in George Washington University’s Alan Tyndall Hutchinson Competition, the Howard Hanson Large Ensemble prize and Howard Hanson Orchestra prize from Eastman, the BMI Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra Premiere, and the $10,000 Grand Prize in the orchestra category for the BMG/Williams College National Young Composers Competition (a prize awarded only once) for his work, Wrought Hocket.

D. J. then matriculated at the University of Michigan where he held a Regents Fellowship and completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and studied with Michael Daugherty, Andrew Mead, Susan Botti and Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom. Sparr was also a graduate teaching instructor in the music theory department as well as the graduate assistant for the class “Turning Points”, which was designed as a cross-disciplinary project for graduate students and upperclassmen and fostered the creation of works of art that were collaborations between composition students from the School of Music, creative writing students from the Department of English, and art students from the School of Art & Design. This experience led Sparr to crave interdisciplinary experiences and collaboration in creating works of art. During this time, he was awarded an alternate spot for the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, a second BMI award, and the inaugural BMI/Boudleax Bryant Fund Commission. He studied with Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron J. Kernis as an associate composer-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and Pulitzer Prize winner John Harbison at the Aspen Music Festival.  Woodlawn Drive, a piece commissioned as part of the Aspen Advanced Masterclass, was later performed in Washington DC by the Contemporary Music Forum for which the Washington Post wrote, “D.J. Sparr's Woodlawn Drive is a full-of-tricks sextet that begins with engulfing, clustered yet delicate nature sounds. To oversimplify: Yesteryear – Sparr's grandmother's house in Woodlawn, Md. – materializes; there are fiddling and other rusticities that gradually fade, displaced by a racket of suburban disturbance (traffic, etc.). ...which for all the uproar was immediately accessible to anyone who doesn't mind amicable dissonance.” Woodlawn Drive was recently performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Chicago’s Accessible Contemporary Music.

D. J. has appeared as a guitarist and conductor with numerous ensembles of late. In April ’09, D.J. premiered Michael Daugherty’s new work Gee’s Bend for electric guitar and orchestra with the Alabama Symphony.  Other ensembles he has performed with include the Firebird Ensemble, the Great Noise Ensemble, New Music Detroit, and New Music Raleigh. He performed Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint to great avail on two occasions for the Great Noise Ensemble: their “70th Birthday Celebration of Steve Reich,” and their appearance at the Hirshhorn After-Hours, a packed-house event at the Smithsonian Institute.

Upcoming performances of music by D.J. Sparr include Precious Metal: a concerto for flute and winds on the University of Washington’s tour of Japan including the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga, Izumo, and Wakayama. His chamber music will be featured on the inaugural season of the Share-the-Road series in Washington, DC, and new orchestra pieces are being written for the Williamsburg Symphonia and the Dayton Philharmonic.

Sparr currently lives in Richmond, VA, with his wife Kimberly and their two dogs, Nanette and Lloyd.

About the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra
The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra is the largest and oldest performing arts organization in the community. Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra performances are made possible in part by Montgomery County and Culture Works, the single largest source of community funds for the arts and culture in the Miami Valley. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra receives partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created to foster and encourage the development of the arts and to preserve Ohio's cultural heritage. Funding from the Ohio Arts Council is an investment of state tax dollars that promotes economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohio residents.

Performance Place at the Schuster Center ~ 109 North Main Street, Suite 200 ~ Dayton, Ohio 45402
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