Renowned Composer to Direct Students at Michigan Tech Honors Band and Choir Festival

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

 Eric Whitacre, one of the most popular and performed composers of our generation, will lead student musicians from Michigan Technological University and high schools across the Upper Peninsula  at the Michigan Tech Honors Band and Choir Festival on Friday, Oct. 21. He will also give a free, public lecture on Thursday, Oct. 20. Both events will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan Tech.

Whitacre's visit is virtually unprecedented, both for the students and the community.  “Having the chance for our students, as well as high school students from around the UP, to work with Eric Whitacre is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says band director Nick Enz. “He brings deep musical sensitivities as well as a very encouraging manner to all of the groups that he works with. The musicians at Tech are all very excited for this experience.”

 “We’ll be performing music that the community might not normally connect to traditional classical styles,” says choral director Jared Anderson. “Whitacre’s work is accessible to most everyone. He is famous for doing experimental things with sounds including the use of thunder sheets, simulated rain sounds, trash cans, as well as other techniques to evoke bird songs and bird wings—his work is highly evocative, especially considering the fine poetry that he has chosen to set to music.  His music resonates with audiences of all ages.”

The Oct. 21 concert will feature performances by the Michigan Tech Concert Choir and the Superior Wind Symphony. In the second half of the concert, the Tech ensembles will be joined on stage by more than 130 high school singers and band musicians from across Michigan’s UP to perform Whitacre’s "Cloudburst," "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas" and "Sleep."

“We are very fortunate to have Eric Whitacre come to Tech,” Enz says. “He’s coming here from concert appearances in London, and then he’s on his way to lecture at Harvard Medical School.”

 Whitacre's recent and forthcoming compositions include works for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Rundfunkchor Berlin, The King’s Singers, and Conspirare. His musical, "Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings," won both the ASCAP Harold Arlen award and the Richard Rodgers Award, and earned 10 nominations at the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards. A versatile composer, he has also worked with legendary film composer Hans Zimmer, co-writing the mermaid theme for feature film "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." 

Whitacre’s groundbreaking Virtual Choir 1.0, Lux Aurumque, on YouTube, received over a million views in just two months, featuring 185 choir members from 12 countries. His Virtual Choir 2.0, Sleep, released in April 2011, involves over 2,000 voices from 58 countries.  Videos of both virtual choir performances as well as recordings of his other works for choir and wind ensemble can be heard at Whitacre’s website,

His Universal/Decca debut album, " Light & Gold," released in October 2010, became the No. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week. His music has been featured on multiple commercial and independent recordings.

The Michigan Tech Honors Band and Choir Festival is underwritten by generous support from Jane Laird ’68, the Mark Eugene Howard Endowment, the Parents Fund of the Michigan Tech Fund, and the Michigan Tech Chapter of Mu Beta Psi.

Tickets for the Oct. 21 concert can be purchased through the Rozsa Box Office at

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.