Springfield Symphony shines spotlight on local composer

Composer Drew Hemenger has multiple reasons to be jubilant.

The former Yellow Springs resident will return to the area that nurtured his music skills when the Springfield Symphony Orchestra takes on one of his compositions during its MasterWorks III concert on March 24 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

Hemenger’s “Exultations” will lead off the concert, which will feature a program of all-American composers including George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

For Hemenger, a 1987 Yellow Springs High School graduate, it’s a chance to showcase a little-performed work he created while in graduate school in the mid 1990s.

“’Exultations” is a fun, celebratory overture type of piece,” he said. “It’s a series of jubilations, thematically and in general.”

Exultation is defined as a triumphant feeling of elation or jubilation.

The piece features three sections, the first having an upbeat, rhythmic feel, followed by a more lyrical feel and the finale having parts of both earlier sections.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director Peter Stafford Wilson has wanted to showcase Hemenger’s work for some time. This program seemed to be the right opportunity.

“I was surprised Peter chose ‘Exultations,’ but happy he did since it hasn’t been done much since it was first performed,” Hemenger said.

Born in Dayton in 1968, Hemenger’s move to Yellow Springs at age 11 opened up more of the musical talent he’d already begun developing. Music was always a part of his family.

Yellow Springs’ orchestral program helped develop Hemenger’s brass skills and he also joined the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

He also ventured into a new area, joining a jazz group based out of Kincaid’s Music in Springfield.

Although brass was his forte, Hemenger also became interested in percussion and started writing, including creating a piano piece that got a top rating in a contest, but also brought interesting advice.

The judge requested he write more contemporary pieces. At first unhappy about the comment, Hemenger took the advice to heart and has since written around 50 pieces, from orchestral and vocal to piano and solo violin and cello.

His versatility also includes providing music for operas, as well as working as an artist manager for classical musicians in New York, his current home.

But being in the big city hasn’t dampened Hemenger’s enthusiasm for his home, visiting his parents frequently and attending the Dayton Philharmonic.

He’s written pieces for groups to play in Yellow Springs’ Chamber Music series and another for a string group, and even for pianists Pascal and Ami Roge, who just performed with the Springfield Symphony.

“I would love to do more in the area,” he said.

Hemenger and his parents visited Springfield last Thanksgiving, enjoying a meal at the Simon Kenton Inn. Although it has been years since he’s been to the Kuss Auditorium for a show, he enjoys the chance to be here.

“It’s a great place and Peter is very creative. It’s always good coming home.”


What: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, MasterWorks III

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: Saturday, March 24, 7:30 p.m.

Admission: $31-57

More info: 937-325-8100 or go to www.springfieldsym.org

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