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NYSMTA Virtual Symposium | 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020



Philip Wharton is a composer, violinist and teacher based in New York City. He has written a trio for violin, clarinet and piano, part of the 2020 MTNA/NYSMTA Commissioned Composers Program. Entitled Underground, it is scored for violin, clarinet and piano, in three movements: “Turnstiles”, “Tunnels” and “Tracks”. Its first performance will be given by Tigran Vardanyan, violin; Marcy Bacon, clarinet; and Jacob Ertl, piano, artist faculty members in the Nazareth College School of Music. Philip has provided some thoughts about the composition of this new work:

My colleagues were always asking me to write a piece for us, but I could never free up the time for it. When NYSMTA approached me about a commission and said I could write for any ensemble—finally, here is my chance to write for this ensemble. No one knew how much free time we were about to have…the Pandemic of 2020.

During the lockdown I felt like I was underground—and streaming all those dystopian disaster movies probably added to that feeling. This led to the title—as did living in three cities with subway systems: London, New York, and Paris. Traveling by subway, the awareness of a city becomes disjointed—a dark tube to and from each destination, with no idea what’s above. This idea inspired the first movement, a set of variations. Each variation is a destination (a turnstile), but its relationship to a larger form is elusive. How many destinations are there? Where does one end and the next begin?

Tunnels are dark and seemingly endless unless there is a light at the end. The train creeps along, or speeds along, or just stops in the darkness. In the middle section, the instruments are like subway cars, one following another (canonically), but with a few stops in between. Tracks is a play on words. Besides the obvious rails, Tracks alludes to dance tracks as found on a compact disc. But these dances are also disjointed, like dancing in a darkened room where the dancers keep bumping into each other—different dance beats trying to create space.

Some words of introduction regarding our composer, from

Philip Wharton wrote his first song in second grade. It was something about a frog in a blue-green lagoon. He didn’t save it. Neither did his parents. He finally returned to composition while at college and hasn’t stopped since. Two aspects from that time continue to inform his music: wonder through the eyes of a child and love of the natural


A violinist, his earliest works feature that instrument: solo, sonata, and concerto. Growing up in a Midwestern college town, he embraced two additional influences: its choral tradition and art song—the latter thanks to the student and faculty recitals accompanied by his mother (for which he was often the page-turner). This inspired him to compose numerous choral works and song-cycles. His forays into the wind and brass worlds took him completely by surprise. Close friends asked, so he said yes. Then they kept asking, so he kept writing.


That frog from the blue-green lagoon must have croaked in Wharton’s memory, since he has now written music to three children’s books for narrator, orchestra, and projections.

Recent activities also include writing short chorale preludes for use in worship and arrangements of existing works for ensembles such as the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Royal Philharmonic (London), and the Borealis Wind Quintet.


Following are links for some of his works, as suggested by Philip:

Water-Lore. Piano 4 hands. Three movements, 16 min.

Straightman & Jokester. Solo violin.  5 min.

The Prairie Sings. A cycle of five songs on Sandburg poetry. 16 min.

There Was a Star Danced. Orchestra. 5 min.

The Perfect Pig. For children audiences. Voice/speaker & piano trio. 14 min.


More selections can be found at


Regarding some of Philip Wharton’s recent works:

Few artists enjoy such high praise for both of their disciplines as composer/violinist Philip Wharton. Of his playing, The New York Times proclaimed, “a rousing performance” and The Waterloo Courier wrote, “a golden tone with breathtaking execution.” His compositions, heralded from coast to coast, are described by the New York Concert Review as, “…decidedly contemporary…both engaging and accessible.” Writing from symphony to song, past seasons saw the Santa Fe Opera’s remounting of Two Saintes Caught in the Same Act as part of their apprentice scenes program, the Grammy-nominated Borealis Wind Quintet perform his Quintet on their concert tours, his chamber symphony, Passing Season, performed by regional orchestras, premiere of his Symphony, his tribute to Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, a song cycle entitled Fools, and concerts with Grammy-nominated soprano, Caroline Worra. Other projects include collaborations with author Janet Burroway and illustrator John Vernon Lord to create musical settings of their books for children: The Giant Jam Sandwich, The Truck on the Track, and a vocal-monodrama, The Perfect Pig. Recent recordings include Albany Records’ release of his Flute Sonata, performed by flutist Katherine Fink and pianist Rose Grace; Crescent Phase Records’ release of his Woodwind Quintet, performed by the Madera Woodwind Quintet; and Kenneth Thompkins’ (principal Detroit Symphony Orchestra) of his Alto Trombone Sonata. Expect to see the release of a CD by Elizabeth Sombart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the coming year.

The New York State Music Teachers Association is pleased to announce the 2020 NYSMTA Virtual Symposium scheduled  for Saturday, October 17, 2020.

FREE Online Registration

To register

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – Virtual Lightning Talk and Poster Display Session

Session Co-Chairs: Dr. Jacob Ertl and Dr. Leonidas Lagrimas

Submission Deadline: September 25, 2020 


The 2020 NYSMTA Virtual State Conference is seeking video and digital submissions for consideration to be included in our 2020 Lightning Talk and Poster Session on Saturday, October 17.


Following the success of last year’s Mini-Pedagogy Symposium, we are pleased to have the Lightning Talk and Poster session return as part of this year’s NYSMTA Virtual State Conference.


This event brings together NYSMTA and MTNA members representing a variety of music-related fields.  All NYSMTA members are encouraged to participate: collegiate chapters, college students, newly graduated young professionals, community music teachers, all private music teachers and collegiate faculty.

Commissioned Composer
Philip Wharton


Symposium Offerings

  • Lightning Talks followed by Q & A 

  • Commissioned Composer Philip Wharton; performance of Underground for Piano, Violin, and Clarinet, Meet the Composer

  • Poster Sessions

  • General Membership Meeting/Celebration/Forum Discussion (Constitution/Bylaws amendment approval, new officers slate, NYSMTA Citation Award, topic discussion)

Heddy Kilian Empire State


Bernadette Kessler  

Commissioned Composer

Philip Wharton

“No one is writing like him”
    —David Del Tredici


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