Fresno State and Fresno Philharmonic partner in a ‘new’ new music chamber series

The Fresno Philharmonic debuts a wonderful new chamber music series at Fresno State called Proxima (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, Henry Madden Library Ellipse Gallery). And it’s free! Here are 5 Things to Know:


The full name of the series is Proxima: Music for the Next Century, which is a pretty big hint that programs will feature fresh and invigorating lineup of new works. The orchestra is collaborating with Fresno State’s music department. The project was conceived and curated by the orchestra’s music director, Rei Hotoda; violist Heather Gardner; and Fresno State composition professor Kenneth Froelich. The purpose, according to the orchestra, is to “expand the audience and support network for new music in Fresno by combining the resources of the Philharmonic and Fresno State.” The project builds on several years of work done separately by both organizations to program music by living composers.

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Hotoda tells me: “The three of us love new music, obviously. We wanted to present a chamber concert that uses the members of the Fresno Philharmonic in a smaller setting. It will be an opportunity to play music that is out of the ordinary.”


For the first time publicly in Fresno, Hotoda will demonstrate another of her talents.

“Usually you see me on the podium, but here I will be playing the piano,” she says of the concert. The program includes a solo piece performed by Hotoda that was written by local composer Jack Fortner. It is titled “(With the tip of your thought).”

She will play several other pieces as well. We’ll have to wait for another time, however, to see Hotoda both play the piano and conduct at the same time, which we’ve only read about. (I’m still waiting, patiently!)



Hotoda won’t be the only participant demonstrating another musical skill. Gardner, who is usually found in the viola section, will be singing as a soprano in four pieces: Kenneth Froelich’s “Discovering the Light,” Zachary Wadsworth’s “Pictures of the Floating World,” Mason Lamb’s “Al alba venid, buen amigo” and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon’s “Night.”


Local composers will rule the evening, something that Hotoda is excited about.

Think of it this way, she says: In its upcoming Masterworks concert, the full Fresno Philharmonic will play Strauss’ “Don Juan” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.

“Imagine, on Sunday, having Brahms and Strauss sitting next to you while we listen to their music,” Hotoda says. “What’s so great is that with Proxima, we’ll have our Brahms and our Strauss in the audience.”


Audiences are accustomed to listening to the Fresno Philharmonic musicians in the Saroyan Theatre, a grand (and, quite frankly, enormous) setting. The Ellipse Gallery at the Madden Library, with its distinctive Native American basket-inspired design, is a chance to see them on a much more intimate scale.

“Exploring new spaces also gives you a different sense of the music,” Hotoda says. “It’s a fresh look. It’s one of the things I love to do.”

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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