University News

WIU's James Romig Among Elite Named to Copland House Residency

February 16, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – James Romig, an associate professor of theory and composition in Western Illinois University's School of Music, is one of 10 composers nationwide to receive an Aaron Copland Award, which grants him a coveted all-expenses-paid Copland House Residency this summer.

The four-week residency will allow him the opportunity to work on multiple projects while at Copland House, including music for wind ensemble, solo piano and string quartet, said Romig (pronounced ROW mig).

"Residencies like Copland House allow a creative artist time to work, uninterrupted by mundane tasks that take up so much time when one is at home or at school," he added. "Copland House is especially appealing for its quiet seclusion in the woods of upstate New York, and of course for its incredible history."

The National Historic Landmark house is situated in New York's lower Hudson Valley, one hour north of midtown Manhattan. An official project of the White House "Save America's Treasures" program, Copland House is the only composer's home in the U.S. devoted to nurturing and renewing America's rich musical heritage through a broad range of musical, educational, public, informational and electronic-media activities.

Each resident lives and works, one at a time, for stays ranging from three- to eight-weeks at Copland's rustic, hilltop home, where they are able to focus uninterruptedly on their creative work in the same pastoral, serene environment that Copland so enjoyed during the last 30 years of his life, explained Copland House Artistic and Executive Director Michael Boriskin, on the website (

"This year's pool of candidates was especially formidable, and the composers selected represent a broad range of creative styles and personal and artistic backgrounds. We are excited that they will be working on some imaginative projects while at Copland House, and we know they will make substantial contributions to the growing body of vibrant work created in Copland's own studio," Boriskin added.

Judging this year's applicants were eminent composers Daron Hagen (b. 1961), about whom the Chicago Tribune wrote, "a composer born to write operas"; Louis Karchin (b. 1951), composer, conductor, New Music performer and professor of music at New York University; and Zhou Long (b. 1953), recognized internationally for creating music that unites ancient Chinese heritage with contemporary Western music forms.

"It is gratifying to be recognized by one's peers, and I am honored to be part of the lineage of composers who have received this award," said Romig (b. 1971), whose solo, chamber and large-ensemble works have been performed throughout America, Europe and Asia.

He studied composition with internationally-known composers Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt; and he draws further inspiration for his work from the worlds of visual art, literature and architecture. Also crucial to his art is interaction with nature through hiking and photography.

According to Copland House's website (, the Aaron Copland Awards are one of Copland House's core programs, and the residencies occupy the house for 42 to 45 weeks throughout each year. To date, Copland House has hosted residencies for 100 composers from some 30 states and three countries.

Copland (1900-1990), a composer, writer, teacher and conductor, was highly decorated and honored for his achievements. A few of his awards include the Pulitzer Prize in composition for "Appalachian Spring" (1944), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the National Medal of Arts (1986) and a Congressional Gold Medal (1987).

Romig's entry into the world of composing mirrored Copland's (1900-1990) passing from this life and from his extraordinary composing, writing, teaching and conducting career. Romig began composing for percussion, his principal instrument, during his undergraduate education (1989-1993).

"Because most of the repertoire for percussion is relatively modern, I naturally thought about composing some of my own. After giving it a try and experiencing the thrill of creating something new, I was hooked and never looked back," Romig said.

"I have written for soloists, small chamber ensembles and larger groups such as orchestra. I enjoy it all, as each new instrument or ensemble presents tantalizing challenges; but a list of favorites to compose for would certainly include piano, flute, percussion and strings," he added.

Two of Romig's new works will be performed during WIU's 24th Annual New Music Festival March 7-8. They are "Percussion Concerto: Portraits," by performers Jeremy Brunk, percussion, and Ashlee Mack, piano, on Monday, March 7; and "Glaciers," by the WIU Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hughey, on Tuesday, March 8.

The complete schedule for the New Music Festival 2011 is available at

Romig has served as a guest composer, as well as a lecturer and masterclass presenter at numerous sites, including Northwestern University, Columbia University, the Cincinnati Conservatory, Juilliard, the American Academy in Rome and Petrified Forest National Park (AZ). His works are available from Parallax Music Press, Curving Walkway Publications and his personal website –

He taught at the University of Iowa, Rutgers University and Bucknell University before joining the Western Illinois University music faculty – teaching undergraduate and graduate classes – in 2002.

"I was quite aware of WIU, even before I came here to teach, thanks to our annual New Music Festival, a well-known event that brings composers from around the country to WIU for performances, lectures and discussions," said Romig. "WIU is notable for having three full-time faculty composers, which helps promote a healthy environment for contemporary music.

"Further, many of our faculty performers actively seek out and perform new compositions, so our student instrumentalists see this as a natural and necessary part of musical activity. Our student composers are exposed to a wide variety of compositional styles and techniques, and have numerous opportunities to work with student and faculty performers, hearing their music in workshops and performances. They produce excellence creative work, and many go on to master's degrees and doctoral composition programs at other noted schools," he added.

Romig earned his Ph.D. in music theory and composition (2000) from Rutgers University, and his Master of Music degree in percussion performance (1996) and a Bachelor of Music degree in music (1993) from the University of Iowa.

For more information, contact Romig by e-mail at or visit his website at

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