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Harvey Sollberger to be featured in Paris, France concert
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · February 23rd, 2017

A full evening portrait concert of the works of composer-flutist Harvey Sollberger, a Marion High School graduate, will be presented by the French Flute Orchestra in Paris, France, on February 27.

When he returns, two more concerts will feature his works. (Many local residents remember Sollberger from his compositions and performances with the Red Cedar Chamber group.)

The OFF (Orchestre de Flutes Francais or French Flute Orchestra) program will include five works Sollberger composed between 1983 and 2016.

One is new, created especially for the OFF and called "a meme rive" ("Toward the Same Shore"). The Paris concert will be its premiere. This work is dedicated to the people of France "as a token of solidarity in their ongoing resistance to threats of terrorism," according to information from Sollberger. He wrote "Toward the Same Shore" for a 24-flute orchestra: four piccolos, eight flutes, four alto flutes, four bass flutes, and four contrabass flutes.

Sollberger will be the flute soloist that evening in his "New Millennium Memo," "Potpourri for Betty" and "Sonate Charlie Hebdo." The solo part of the concluding work, Sollberger's "Killapata/Chaskapata," will be played by French flute virtuoso and OFF Music Director, Pierre-Yves Artaud.

Artaud founded and has led the OFF for many years. Sollberger described the OFF as "a pillar of the Parisian musical scene." It has introduced many new works by both French and international composers and has presented many premieres.

In an interview, Sollberger told us that he grew up in Marion, and his musical career started with playing the accordion at the age of four. He was a student of the Boddicker School of Accordion in Cedar Rapids by age eight.

In high school, his focus was music and band, and Sollberger drew inspiration from Paul Wright, his band teacher. He isn't sure why he ended up playing the flute. Perhaps, he said, Wright simply needed a flute player. He described himself as very shy when he was in high school.

Wright, he said, had authority but also kindness. At some point during high school, Sollberger came to the realization that he wanted to focus on music as a career, and he also realized the flute would be his primary instrument. He received multiple firsts in state contest his senior year and was the very first student to receive the Major Landers Award and scholarship from the Iowa Bandmasters Association.

When asked about growing up in Marion, Sollberger says he has many happy memories. He

mentioned the book "Mistaken for a King" by Dan Kellams, and said Marion was just as Kellams described it back then. He lived just two blocks from Dan and Dan's little brother Pete. He finds it interesting that Dan, too, ended up in New York.

Sollberger still has friends in Marion. One of those is Mary Lou Pazour, who was in band with him during high school. One of his favorite buildings as a kid was the former library on 7th Avenue.

When he went off to college at the University of Iowa, he set the accordion aside, but now that he has more time during retirement, he has started playing it again.

Among the teachers he remembers from the University are Marvin Thostenson (music theory and composing), Betty Bang Mather and Edna Symonds (flute studies), and James Dixon (conducting).

A Woodrow Wilson fellowship helped Sollberger take his next step, from Iowa City to Columbia University in New York. He eventually taught there and also at the Manhattan School. He founded its new music ensemble. Sollberger said hard work and the values Paul Wright taught him helped him become acquainted with and perform with many other fine musicians.

He moved to Indiana University's School of Music in 1983 and led its New Music Ensemble, taking it on numerous tours.

In 1992, Sollberger went to the University of California in San Diego and again led new music ensembles. He also became Music Director of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. He retired in 2008, with the rank of Distinguished Professor.

Over his lifetime, Sollberger undertook many important activities in the realm of music. He taught, performed, conducted, composed, was a visiting professor, had a Flute Farm (summer program), co-created the Group for Contemporary Music (at Columbia) and helped provide opportunities for seldom-performed works to be heard and appreciated.

One major change occurred regarding the flute during Sollberger's career. Earlier composers most often had treated the flute as a feminine instrument, a sweet clear voice. Other descriptive words (on Sollberger's website) include "pastoral, frilly, cute."

But a work by Luciano Herio ("Sequenza I") cut loose the instrument from that description, and instead, it could "rage and wheedle and be insolent, ... paw the ground and be sexy and secretive and much more." [] Sollberger's compositions reflect that change, and he felt free to let his imagination lead him wherever it might.

In total, Sollberger has written 80 to 85 works. He estimates around 50 of them feature the flute.

Five of those works, composed between 1983 and 2016, will be presented in concerts here in Iowa in late March. The first concert is to be at the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls) on Thursday, March 23. Tickets are available for purchase.

A second concert is set for the University of Iowa (Iowa City) on Friday, March 24. Tickets to that concert also are available for purchase.

Both concerts are to be recorded and will go onto DVDs. The Iowa State Arts Council will record more of Sollberger's work in May.

It is doubtful that Sollberger will ever slow down and just sit. As we mentioned earlier, he has taken up the accordion again and one of his latest adventures is exploring some new ideas about the breathing process while playing a wind instrument.

As an article by Walter Hugot stated, "Sollberger's eyes light up at the thought of new possibilities." [Sollberger website]

In the meantime he shares with the world through his concerts and recordings.
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