Violinist Marvin Paioff has adapted 10-year-old piece for concert

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FARMINGTON — Because of the type of music it performs, the San Juan College Orchestra is used to having no connection to the composers whose work it features.

Of course, that's the case with every orchestra that primarily performs classical pieces that were composed during the 17th through 19th centuries. So it ranks as a rare treat when the college orchestra gets to perform a piece composed by someone with whom it has a direct relationship.

"Yes, it's pretty cool, especially to have a real live composer in your group," said Teun Fetz, the SJC music professor who will direct the orchestra in its concert Friday night. The program includes a world premiere performance of "Desert, Dawn to Dusk" by Marvin Paioff, a longtime violinist for the group who wrote the piece many years ago and recently adapted it for a full orchestra.

Fetz said Paioff — a Durango, Colorado, resident who is joined in the San Juan College Orchestra by his wife, who plays the flute — composed the piece for a four-string quartet approximately 10 years ago. Paioff approached Fetz with the idea of the orchestra performing it, and when Fetz responded to the idea with enthusiasm, Paioff set about adapting it for the larger group.

"It's pretty special to be able to do something not just written by somebody who's still alive, but where you can talk to the composer," Fetz said. "I'm sure it means a lot to him, as well."

Related: San Juan College Symphonic Band features trombonist as soloist

That performance of "Desert, Dawn to Dusk" will serve as the highlight of Friday's program, which also features "The Chase" by David Shaffer, "The Cherry Tree" by Yukiko Nishimura, "Concerto A Cinque Op. 7, No. 1" by Tomaso Albinoni, "Concerto in G Major 'Alla Rustica'" by Antonio Vivaldi, "Violin Concerto in G Major Op. 3, No. 3 L'Estro Armonica by Vivaldi, "Csardas by Vittorio Monti, a Duke Ellington medley arranged by Calvin Custer, "Reverie by John Corigliano and "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" by John Barnes Chance.

Fetz said the latter is an energetic piece that the audience is likely to enjoy, while the Ellington medley will feature four of his most famous tunes. The first half of the program will spotlight the string orchestra, while the second half will feature the full ensemble.

The talent of orchestra concert master and college faculty member Levi Brown will be featured on Vivaldi's "Violin Concerto in G Major."

"Levi gets to show off a little," Fetz said.

As the orchestra is comprised of college students, high school students, professional musicians and community members, one of the biggest challenges for Fetz in preparing for a performance is carving out adequate rehearsal time. That is especially true in this case, since the concert is being performed only two weeks after the resumption of classes at the college for the spring semester. The orchestra began rehearsals for this performance in the fall, but the holiday break brought those to a halt for essentially a month.

Changes in orchestra personnel over that break contributed further to the size of Fetz's challenge.

"Literally, tomorrow night will be the first time everybody has been together," he said, describing how rehearsals have been a hit-or-miss proposition for many of the players, who have other commitments. "It's been difficult to get everybody together, and we've had a shortage of violins."

Coming to Fetz's aid in regard to that problem is Piedra Vista High School music instructor Carrie Hurtado, who will perform on that instrument with the orchestra.

"She's coming in to play on zero rehearsal," he said, noting how much he appreciates Hurtado's willingness to step in on short notice.

Fetz acknowledged that that kind of arrangement isn't ideal, but he said it comes with the territory when you try to assemble a full orchestra in a community of this size. When the orchestra is able to take those kinds of challenges in stride, it makes its performances even more special, he said.

"It's going to be exciting, but, all in all, a little bit nerve wracking," Fetz said. "I'm kind of a task master, and rehearsal is important to me. But I also have to have faith in the people who are doing it, and I know they're capable."

Friday's concert takes place at 7 p.m.  in the Henderson Fine Arts Performance Hall on the college campus. Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors, but Fetz said any local music student who wants to attend may do so for free by providing the name of her or his music teacher at the box office. Call 505-566-3430.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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