The USC Symphony Orchestra will be taking on three major musical pieces revolving around the theme of joy in Rhapsody in Blue, its opening concert of the school year.
The orchestra, which is the premier orchestra in USC's School of Music and one of the leading ensembles in the southeast, will perform Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7," Adolphus Hailstork's "Song of the Magi" and George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" at the Koger Center for the Arts on Thursday.
More than 80 student musicians will comprise the majority of the performance's ensemble, but two faculty members from the School of Music — Assistant Professor of Piano Nicholas Susi and Assistant Professor of Oboe Hassan Anderson — will take the spotlight as well with their solos.
Susi has performed with various global symphony orchestras, such as the Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City, the student orchestra of the Cologne Conservatory of Music in Germany and the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra. Anderson has also performed with distinguished orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
Scott Weiss, director of orchestras and conductor of the USC Symphony Orchestra, said joy is the unifying theme throughout all three songs in the upcoming performance.
“Beethoven's 7th symphony is one of the most joyful, if not the most joyful, work he ever wrote,” Weiss said.
"Song of the Magi" is another happy piece, with its final movement being named “Joy,” according to Weiss. Weiss also said that the final piece and highlight up the upcoming performance, "Rhapsody in Blue," is 17 minutes of sheer jubilation and is a jazz-infused composition that does not fall under the musical style of it's time.
Susi said "Rhapsody in Blue" is one of the most frequently programmed pieces of the piano concerto and the piece has been a staple throughout popular culture.
“'Rhapsody in Blue' is this very exciting work that really captures the sound of America,” Susi said.
As a new faculty member who has yet to play with the orchestra, Susi said he is thrilled about the upcoming performance.
“It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come up so frequently for pianists, to solo with an orchestra, so when it does, it’s usually a pretty exciting thing," Susi said.
Eric Gardner, a fourth-year philosophy student and clarinet soloist for "Rhapsody in Blue," said that those who are not well-versed in classical music may still recognize it.
“Once you’ve heard it, it’s definitely an unforgettable passage,” Gardner said.
Both Weiss and Gardner said the concert will appeal to students because of the variety of styles that are showcased in each of the three pieces.
"This is the type of concert that really has something of everything," Gardner said. “There’s really a lot to take away, many different styles. It really should be a very good concert, and I think ... it's beginner-friendly. It’s a concert that is open and accessible, even to people who don’t really know what to expect.”
Rhapsody in Blue will be performed at the Koger Center for the Arts on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Weiss said he encourages students to wear blue to the performance in order to go along with the theme. The event is free to all students who show a CarolinaCard.