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Conductor Teun Fetz describes program as varied, challenging

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FARMINGTON — When San Juan College music professor Teun Fetz approached violinist Tennille Taylor earlier this year about performing with the college orchestra as its soloist during its fall concert Nov. 15, he indicated he had a specific piece in mind for her to play during her turn in the spotlight.

Fetz emailed Taylor a copy of the score to "The Meditation," a piece from the opera "Thais" by French composer Jules Massenet. Fetz describes it as a gorgeous piece of music, one that serves as an appropriate showcase for a performer of Taylor's caliber.

If Fetz was worried about Taylor's reaction to his suggestion, that concern was ill founded. As it turns out, she already had more than a passing familiarity with "The Meditation."

"In fact, I've played it for 30 years," Taylor said, chuckling while recalling her exchange with Fetz over the piece. "I learned it in high school, and I can play it from memory. I thought that was pretty funny. I totally know it."

Taylor also regards "The Meditation" as a beautiful piece, but she said she enjoyed it even more once she came to understand its significance in the opera "Thais."

"It makes it even more special when you know that," she said, explaining that "The Meditation" falls during a period of intense reflection by the two main characters.

"I've never seen the opera, but now I want to see it so badly just to see the moment where it takes place," she said.

Taylor occasionally has performed with the college orchestra — which is made up of students and community members — in the past. But she is better known for her work as a violinist for the San Juan Symphony and her role as a music teacher for local youngsters.

That workload — she has 25 students currently, which she described as a relatively small number — limits her ability to take on other commitments. But when Fetz came to her with this idea, she couldn't say no.

"It's a pleasure to play with Teun," she said. "He's doing a really good job with the group, and because he also plays with the San Juan Symphony and is a musician himself, he's really good at not just running rehearsals, but being appreciative of the work people put in. … There are many conductors who can be considered not very nice."

Fetz said the college orchestra is fortunate to have Taylor joining the group this weekend. He said she'll be playing with the group throughout the concert, but he said the performance of "The Meditation" should be a highlight.

"To me, it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music on the program," he said. "She plays it terrifically, and the orchestra sounds good on it, too. … We're very thankful she's doing it. She's very talented."

Noting her busy schedule, Fetz said he was extremely pleased when Taylor accepted his offer to perform with the college orchestra.

"It's always nice when you get the best local talent to play with this orchestra," he said.

Fetz has put together a varied program that he said will be challenging for his orchestra. It also includes "Millennium" by Richard Meyer, a piece that he said is an especially good fit for his orchestra.

"It's reminiscent of ('Star Wars' and 'Superman' composer) John Williams' music," Fetz said, describing it as being full of crescendos. "It's original music, but you can tell (Meyer) was influenced by Williams."

Another highlight will be the orchestra's performance of "Symphony No. 88" by Franz Joseph Haydn. The piece is divided into four movements and covers 21 minutes, Fetz said.

"It features strings, but the woodwinds are involved, too," he said, adding that the symphony stems from the classical era epitomized by Mozart and Beethoven, and is technically demanding.

"They've risen to the occasion," he said of his players. "For my students, it's been the challenge of the semester, but they're doing it really well."

The San Juan College Orchestra performs at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Henderson Fine Arts Performance Hall on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors at sanjuancollege.edu/silhouette. Call 505-566-3430.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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