Press Releases

Purchase Symphony Orchestra Presents World Premiere of a New Work by Tania León, Guest Conductor Feb. 29

Date Released: 1/31/2008

The Purchase Symphony Orchestra performs the world premiere of Ácana, a new work by world-renowned composer and conductor Tania León February 29 at 8 PM in the Purchase College Performing Arts Center. Ms. Leon, a visiting artist-in-residence at the School of the Arts, Conservatory of Music, will serve as guest conductor of this performance entitled From the African Diaspora, which also includes works by Revueltas, Ginastera, Ellington and Debussy. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 914-251-6200 or visiting

Purchase College, State University of New York, is located at 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y.

Nicholas Graham, clarinet, will be the soloist for Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra. Graham is the co-winner of the Conservatory of Music’s 2007-2008 Concerto Competition.

Ms. Leon has based Ácana on a poem of the same name by Cuban poet laureate Nicolas Guillen published in 1944. An Ácana is a tree that is indigenous to the American meridian. The tree serves different purposes in different regions, and looking at the tree from different perspectives results in different ideas about it. “The piece conjures up the invisible connection of the roots of a very strong tree as they travel through the soil of the Americas,” explains Ms. Leon.  “A sonic palette of sounds that invisibly connect the cultures and soul of the peoples in the American continent.”

Ácana was commissioned by the Purchase College Conservatory of Music with the support of the New York State Music Fund.

In addition to the pieces by León and Debussy, the program also includes Sensemaya by Revueltas, also inspired by a poem by Guillen, Dances from Estancia by Ginastera and Black, Brown & Beige Suite by Ellington.

Tania Leon’s powerful and compelling music is an original blending of musical elements from her Cuban and Latin American heritage and her western music training.  She has appeared as a guest conductor with numerous orchestras throughout Europe, Latin America, South Africa and across the United States, including the New York Philharmonic. As a composer she has written in all genres, from solo and chamber works to symphony orchestra, ballet and opera compositions.

She was a founding member and first music director of the Dance Theater of Harlem where she established the Dance Theater’s Music Department, Music School and Orchestra. Her affiliation with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra resulted in the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series and her work with the American Composers Orchestra led to the Sonidos de las Americas Festivals.  In the 1990’s she served as the New Music Advisor to Kurt Mazur and the New York Philharmonic.

Ms. Leon has been a faculty member of the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music since 1985 and in 2006 she was appointed Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York. In 2007 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship award.

Clarinetist Nicholas Graham, 18, Spartanburg, S.C., made his national debut in October 2006 on “From the Top!” the NPR broadcasted radio program that showcases America’s young, talented musicians. He was chosen from hundreds of musicians to perform on the show’s 13-part television special “From the Top! Live from Carnegie Hall.”

A freshman in the Conservatory of Music studying with Ayako Oshima, he is one of the youngest winners of the Conservatory’s concerto competition. In addition to his music studies, he is also pursuing a degree in African and African American Studies.

Most recently, he performed with the Carolina Youth Symphony in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium under conductor Leslie Hicken, where he served as member, principal and soloist for four years. A resident of South Carolina, he has won numerous top prizes, including the Music Teacher’s National Association Competition, the Clemson University Concerto Competition, and several state accolades.