Pianist, composer visit Fort Smith Symphony

Pianist, composer visit Fort Smith Symphony

There’s almost half a century age difference between composer Rocky Reuter and pianist Maxim Lando. But the two have a lot in common — beyond the fact they’ll both be on the program at the Fort Smith Symphony performance March 7.

“Music and creativity spoke to me at a very early age,” says Reuter, whose composition “Where Eagles Fly” will make its Arkansas debut with the orchestra. “As a toddler, I was always interested in unique sounds, and my three grandmothers each had a piano and/or organ that I would create my own music on starting at about age 4.”

“I’ve grown up in my parents’ music school on Long Island, so it was pretty natural that I would start an instrument,” says Lando. “I started both piano and violin when I was around 31/2. I actually liked violin just as much, but I eventually gave it up because I was terrible at it. When I was 6, I had my first chance to play on a professional concert series: My dad played regularly with the group, and for some reason the director decided it would be cute to invite me to play something. I think that experience started me out wanting to play more seriously, because I had so much fun at that concert.”

After teaching for many years, Reuter is now a professor emeritus — i.e., retired — from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Lando is 17 and most recently was awarded the prestigious 2020 Gilmore Young Artist Award, presented every two years to “single out the most promising of the new generation of U.S. based pianists age 22 and younger.”

“Being retired has allowed my wife and I to travel more frequently and to be inspired by new and unique experiences,” says Reuter. “My unrestricted schedule allows me to spend more time working with musicians performing my music and working with students, as I will [in Fort Smith] prior to spending time with the orchestra preparing for this performance.”

“I don’t always like the traveling itself, but I pretty much always have a fantastic time once I get to where I am going,” says Lando, who usually is accompanied by a parent or grandparent because “I just really like having company.” “I love seeing new places and meeting new people, and then it’s always really special if I’m invited to return. Sometimes the people I meet end up becoming lifelong friends.”

Lando will be playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which he describes as “a true one-of-a-kind masterpiece that combines elements of both the classical world and jazz world together.”

“It’s hard to imagine any piece of music that makes people smile more,” he enthuses. “I had a very special experience a few years ago playing this piece with Lang Lang and Chick Corea. They are both true legends, and we had a blast discovering the piece together in new ways. … This music really holds a special place in my heart.”

“‘Where Eagles Fly’ is the most patriotic work I have ever written,” says Reuter of his composition. “While … watching the 2016 presidential debates, I began to think about a movie clip I had seen months before that was a slow pan from an area in the White House to the portrait of President Kennedy. The music for that scene was good, but I imagined it sounding different. In my mind, I heard seven chords played by orchestral strings. I stood up, walked to the piano, sat down, and played the progression exactly as I had imagined it, and I knew this was going to become the piece I had recently been commissioned to write for the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony.

“The next day, I wrote the first half of the piece based on that short fragment, but didn’t know what to do next. After thinking for weeks, my wife Judy made the suggestion that the second half be about her favorite bird, the eagle. Once again, she had fulfilled her role as my muse.”

“It is a great pleasure having the opportunity to work with such talented musicians as John [Jeter, music director] and the entire orchestra,” Reuter adds. “Fort Smith is very lucky, indeed, to have regular access to an orchestra of its high caliber.”





Fort Smith Symphony:

The Sounds of Power

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. March 7

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — $25-$50

INFO — 452-7575; fortsmithsymphony.org

Categories: Music