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In continued celebration of your A2SO’s 90th anniversary season, Arie Lipsky will conduct the world premiere of American composer Jessica Hunt’s The Eagle Tree on November 10 at 8:00 pm in the Michigan Theater. This new work for full orchestra is a nostalgic nod to childhood, coming of age, family, and permanence. On the inside page of the printed edition of The Eagle Tree, Hunt tells the story behind the composition:

The San Juan Islands are tucked away in the very northwestern-most corner of the Pacific Northwest, with Guemes Island as the first, and the smallest, in the archipelago. It has its own tiny ferry to shuttle a few cars at a time back and forth from Anacortes, Washtington. Tourists mostly pass over the unassuming island in favor of other, larger islands’ offering, leaving Guemes’ beautiful craggy cliffs and timbered hills mostly to its peaceful residents. There’s a part of me that grew up on this island, spending slow, quiet childhood summers with my grandparents.


Many years later, in the summer of 2017, I visited their old yellow house overlooking the Guemes Channel and Deadman’s Cove, overwhelmed by the juxtaposition of my childhood memories with the present. The wood of the deck, once brightly painted, was now peeling. My grandfather’s rocking chair from which he once surveyed the passing sailboats was gone, my grandmother’s lushly verdant garden on the edge of the cliff now overgrown and wild.

Yet the way the salt-spray crashed over the ferry deck as it rushed across the channel in the early morning light; the way the proud bald eagle surveyed the water from his gnarled, wind-scrabbled tree; and the way the gentle light would change at sunset in the crisp, cool air when the water grew still and the world turned orange and lavender, these living images beyond the Eagle Tree were the same, and always will be.


My grandparents’ old home has now been sold, and a new child has taken my place in the yellow house with its eagle tree on the cliff. I can never go back, but I will always remember.

The Eagle Tree is sectioned into three parts, opening with a joyful fanfare and flourish, followed by a hymn of remembrance and yearning, and then a juxtaposition of the island’s playful charm and the symbolic, bittersweet twilight-beauty it now inhabits in Hunt’s memories. The Eagle Tree is a companion piece to Hunt’s string quartet Images of Guemes and is dedicated to the memories of Verdon and Opal Spurlock, and to the spirit of the island.  

About the composer

Ms. Hunt’s music has been heard from coast to coast, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, broadcast on FM radio and PBS television, recorded on the Pro Organo label, and played in concert by some of today’s finest ensembles and soloists, including the Gaudete Brass Quintet, the Chiara Quartet, the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, the Calidore Quartet, Fulcrum Point, Ensemble 20+ (Michael Lewanski), the Fear No Music Ensemble, Palomar, Oliver Brewer, Richard Hoskins, Jonathan Ryan, and R. Benjamin Dobey, and in readings by the DePaul Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cliff Colnot and by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble and Dal Niente, among others.

Her work has garnered many honors and awards, including being selected as the Boontling Community Fellow at the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy of Music (2018), serving as the Young-Composer-In-Residence with the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings (2017-2018), receiving a Ragdale Fellowship Nomination, a Regents Fellowship at the University of Michigan, the Alumni Talent Scholarship at Illinois Wesleyan University, an honorable mention in the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (NFAA) Recognition and Talent Search, and the William Russo Scholarship for Excellence in Music for four concurrent semesters at Columbia College Chicago; festival appearances including the Chicago Ear Taxi Festival, the Women Composers Festival of Hartford, the Bay View Music Festival, and multiple brass conferences; as well as numerous commissions, including The Eagle Tree (2018) for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, And So I Looked To The River (2018) for the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Colloquy (2016), Dragon Call for brass quintet and narrator (2014), Brass Chorales on Advent Themes for brass quintet (2013), anti[syn]thesis for double antiphonal brass quintet (2012), Three Impromptus For Organ and Brass Quintet (2010) (released on the CD “Conversations In Time” on the Pro Organo label), Christmas Suite (2010) and Three Movements for Brass (2008) all commissioned by the Gaudete Brass Quintet, Celebration Columbia for string quartet and jazz ensemble (2009) commissioned by Columbia College Chicago for the 2009 Commencement Ceremonies, and song cycle Songs of Autumn (2007) commissioned by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City for a celebration of the poet Robinson Jeffers. Other major works include song cycles Parker Poesies and Levi’s 501s (2009), string quartet Astri Orion (2007), Il Capitano e Columbina (2008) a comedic work for chamber orchestra premiered in a reading by the International Contemporary Ensemble, and chamber quintet Nacht ohne Mond (2002) premiered by the Fear No Music Ensemble and broadcast on PBS television and FM classical radio. Theater composition credits include The Breakfast Club Musical (pH Productions), The Mystery of Madam Pearl (CCC), Stafford & Hunt’s Cinderella (CYT Chicago), and Lucid (Diamante Productions).

Ms. Hunt’s primary goal as a composer is to seek emotional resonance in the rhetorical dialogue between herself, the audience, and the performer by creating eclectic works that explore the aural and syntactical intersections between theatre, narrative, sound, truth, and fiction. As such, she has a particular focus on works engaging with the interpretation of text. Her current large-scale works in progress include Thurso’s Landing, an opera in two acts based on the epic narrative poem of the same title by Robinson Jeffers, and a series of works for trombone and piano for trombonist Paul Von Hoff which explores the rhetoric, identity, and question of “tune.”

In addition to her work as a composer, Ms. Hunt frequently serves as a music director for theatrical productions, specializing in premiering new works and readings, and was the music director and composition coach for the Music Theatre Writer’s Workshop with John Sparks and Midwest New Musicals for that program’s final five years. She teaches voice, piano, music theory, and composition lessons, and also does vocal coaching and audition coaching for actors.

Ms. Hunt was born on a small cattle ranch in the desert mountains of eastern California during a blizzard. Most of her childhood and adolescence were spent in Vancouver, Washington, where she attended the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, studied classical vocal technique at Clark College, and had theatrical training at the Northwest Children’s Theatre in Portland, Oregon. While finishing high school in Bloomington, Illinois, Ms. Hunt studied music composition and theory with Mario Pelusi at Illinois Wesleyan University. She enrolled at IWU in the fall of 2005 as a music composition major with a vocal emphasis, where she also studied composition with David Vayo. She transferred to Columbia College Chicago in the Spring of 2007 to be in a more urban setting, where she studied composition with Ilya Levinson, Rick Baitz, and Philip Seward, and piano performance with Sebastian Huydts before graduating with honors in 2009. After five years of freelancing, she earned her Master of Music degree with distinction from DePaul University in 2016 where she studied with Seung-Won Oh, Christopher Wendell Jones, and Kurt Westerberg. In the fall of 2016, Ms. Hunt was awarded a Regents Fellowship to pursue her doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, where she currently studies with Erik Santos and Kristin Kuster.

Ms. Hunt is a member of both ASCAP and the American Composers Forum.

december, 2019

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2019fri13dec8:00 PMfri10:00 PMHoliday Pops8:00 PM - 10:00 PM EST Hill Auditorium