In the Spotlight: Composer Angelique Poteat

The Seattle Symphony commissioned composer Angelique Poteat to write a new concerto for Principal Cello Efe Baltacigil. He presents the world premiere, November 14–16 at Benaroya Hall.

By Andrew Stiefel

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, composer Angelique Poteat has a long history with the Seattle Symphony. She was a graduate of the Seattle Symphony’s Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop. Most recently, her music was performed as part of a concert last June in the newly opened Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center at Benaroya Hall.

When the Seattle Symphony traveled to Carnegie Hall in 2014, a chamber ensemble from the orchestra performed her Much Difference at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Her work Beyond Much Difference was also featured as part of the orchestra’s Sonic Evolution concert in 2015 with Mike McCready, Chris Cornell, and members of Mad Season.

Principal Cello Efe Baltacıgil will perform the world premiere of new Cello Concerto by Poteat as part of the 2019–2020 Delta Air Lines Masterworks Series, November 14–16 at Benaroya Hall.

Read on to learn more about Poteat and her new commission from the Seattle Symphony.

What are your sources of inspiration?

I want to write music about our world today: nature, people, social issues and really anything that I can connect to on an emotional level. When I start a new piece, I like to plan broadly, set goals and create a basic narrative. It’s even more engaging for me if this narrative evolves as I get deeper into the composing process of generating musical ideas and developing them.

What might audiences expect to hear?

I was inspired by recent global events, from atrocities committed by ISIS to an onslaught of intolerance in Western societies. My Cello Concerto is a sort of hero-vs-opposition drama, with the solo cello representing art, humanity and free will. There are beautiful moments of rich harmonies and clear textures, but also doubt-instilling flurries of competing lines and frantically driving rhythms.

How did you collaborate with Efe? What insights did he bring?

Efe is such a sincerely moving musician, and I suspect he may not have realized that he was collaborating greatly just by making inspiring music with every bow stroke. I enjoyed getting to talk about techniques and musical pacing that he cherishes as a performer and tried to incorporate something akin to these in my piece.

How did you get your start in music?

As a very young child, I was always singing and making up melodies. Eventually I learned to read music as part of my public elementary school education, and it made sense to me that I should be able to use that vocabulary to write down my own music, which I started doing at the age of 8. Thanks to a series of very supportive school music teachers, I had the opportunity to write for more and more elaborate forces and to get my music performed and recorded, which is invaluable experience for a young composer.

Speaking of opportunities to have your music performed, you were a student in the Symphony’s Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop. Could you share how that experience contributed to your growth as a musician and composer?

The Young Composers Workshop was my first opportunity to really study composition, and to meet other composers my age. Working with the Seattle Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence at the time, Samuel Jones, was incredibly formative in shaping how I thought about composing and the overall structure of music. I can’t begin to express how influential those experiences were for me.

Was there a turning point that inspired you to pursue a career as a composer?

My childhood dreams were centered on becoming a medical doctor, and the focus of my curriculum and college prep were all geared toward that. When it came time to think more seriously about college, maybe when I was 16, music was already taking over my life, and I started to receive a lot of encouragement to pursue degrees in music.

I began to feel like I might be able to make a more meaningful impact with my life through inspiring others and making the world a better place with music. That being said, I was still torn, and applied for math-heavy, pre-med programs in addition to music, not making the final decision to pursue a career as a composer until I held my acceptance letter into Rice University’s music composition program.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not composing?

My other passion in life is playing the clarinet, so I’m constantly practicing and performing. However, when I’m not actively making music, I’m a regular hiker, cyclist, and general outdoor/nature enthusiast.

What projects are on the horizon for you?

I’m really excited about a clarinet quintet that I’m composing for Seattle Symphony Clarinet Laura DeLuca, which is slated to be premiered in Seattle in April 2020. Laurie and I have known each other for a long time, so it means a lot to me to be able to write something for her of this scale and for this particular instrumentation, which has been immortalized by the likes of Mozart and Brahms. I’m also in the early stages of an inspiring collaboration with the Seattle Symphony Community Youth Chorus to write a piece for the Seattle Symphony’s Beethoven Festival in June 2020.

Hear the world premiere of Angelique Poteat’s Cello Concerto performed by Principal Cello Efe Baltacıgil and the Seattle Symphony, November 14–16 at Benaroya Hall.

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Through the caring support of our donor family, the Seattle Symphony is able to commission new works that share the voices of today’s artists. Join the community of supporters who make our music possible with your donation today at seattlesymphony.org/give.

Efe Baltacıgil’s performances are generously underwritten by Jon and Patricia Rosen. The commission of Angelique Poteat’s Cello Concerto is generously underwritten by The Lynn and Brian Grant Family. Additional support is provided by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Posted on November 12, 2019

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