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"Composer Philip Koplow is on to something. If you want to excite people about contemporary music, make them a part of it."
Cincinnati Post music critic Mary Ellyn Hutton's review of "Legacy: J. Ralph Corbett"

A native of Cleveland Ohio, Philip Koplow (b. 1943) received degrees from Kent State University and his doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Music. At Kent he studied composition with Fred Coulter, Walter Watson, and James Waters. In Cleveland his teacher was the eminent American composer Donald Erb. Since 1976 he has been composer-in-residence at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). His music has been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cincinnati Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Northern Kentucky Symphony, the Blue Ash Symphony, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony and recorded by Silesian Philharmonic in Poland.

Six years spent at Kent State University (1964-1970) made a deep impression on the composer. Many of the devastating events of that era became compositions; a cantata on a child's murder, a viola sonata on the Martin Luther King assassination (which took place on Koplow's 25th birthday), a choral work on the Kent State shootings, and a string quartet on the Vietnam war. The composer believes in turning social and personal pain into music as an act of empathy or protest - a humane method of dealing with life cycle events as well as violence and evil.

Since arriving at Northern Kentucky University, Koplow has addressed himself to the gulf between the contemporary composer and audiences. He has said, "artists should be available to their community, to celebrate or grieve with it, or to challenge it." Sometimes this is done by selecting community related subjects and sometimes by giving audience members meaningful ways to participate in the music making.

In 1980 the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, under Paul Nadler, premeired the tone poem Generations. At one point audience members released music boxes from their seats. Orchestra members were asked to play harmonicas and flutophones in a passage depicting childhood. Commissioning funds were provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1983 three years of community work were culminated with the Night of the Murdered Poets concert at Music Hall, in Cincinnati. Koplow's large choral orchestra work, Day Grows Darker, was premiered by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (under Paul Nadler) and Cincinnati Choral Society. The program was a commemoration of the 1952 Moscow executions of twenty-four Soviet Jews (including six poets).

In 1987 Koplow was awarded the commission for the official music for the Cincinnati bicentennial. This musical theater work, On The Banks , was given three performances (by the Cincinnati Choral Society), and nominated for a Pulitzer prize. In 1992 the Cincinnati Choral Society gave this work a second pair of performances at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Other stage works include the opera (produced jointly by the NKU music and theater departments in 1986) and the children's musical the Endless Pavement (on the book by Jacqueline Jackson). This last work received two productions by community groups in Springfield Illinois and over sixty professional performances by the Child's Play in Tempe "Arizona.

Legacy: J. Ralph Corbett for orchestra, chorus and audience (1992) was tribute, to Cincinnati's best loved arts patron. Here audience members were given specially produced chimes and played along, with the Cincinnati Symphony (under Jesus Lopez-Cobos), cued by colored lights. The chimes were constructed and donated by NuTone, Mr. Corbett's old company.

In 1992 Koplow was Composer-in-Residence at Robert E. Lucas Intermediate School in Sharon Woods. Under this Meet-the-Composer residency Koplow produced a large work, I Know A Song, an "Explor-A-torio" for 6th grade chorus, string orchestra and band - with texts by the children at the school. The very next day the Northern Kentucky Symphony premiered Koplow's Duveneck: Symphonic Canvasses. This work - commissioned by the Northern Kentucky Arts Council - consists of eight short movements, musical impressions of the life and work of the 19th century Covington / Cincinnati artist Frank Duveneck.

In collaboration with educator / instrument maker Dr. Craig Woodson Koplow composed Hello Family for a series of Woodson concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra. Over 25,000 Children, from over 300 D.C. area schools, made instruments in class and brought them to the Kennedy Center to perform with the National Symphony (December 1993). At the end of the piece the audience sings:

Hello Family - Growing, Learning, Work and Fun,
Hello Music - Old and New, Played and Sung.
Hear our voices - Music is the World's Best Sound,
Hello Peace - Home and Family, Word Around."

Additional performances have been with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Blue Ash Symphony, and the Columbus Symphony.

In February, 1995, the Cincinnati Symphony also gave the premiere of Koplow's Clear to the Final Ocean, in which the orchestra (under Ivan Fischer) was joined by eleven community hand bell choirs. This work was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony in celebration of the orchestra's centennial season.

In December 1994 the composer was in Poland where the Silesian Philharmonic recorded his Elegy for Viola and Orchestra; Martin Luther King Jr. Karen Dreyfus was the viola soloist for this recording. The original 1969 version of this work (for viola and piano) has just been published by Liben Music Publishers. Koplow has also composed a collection of piano works for children - Mikro-Koplows - available from the Willis Music Company. In Cincinnati three mayoral proclamations have supported Koplow projects.

Cincinnati Enquirer music critic Janelle Gelfand wrote; " He once cajoled several hundred Northern Kentuckians to dangle nail on a string to create the sound of wind chimes. He persuaded 800 symphony goers to klang along with violins on specially made chimes. '"Some people question whether the orchestra should survive, and other people question whether we should do any music by living composers,"' says Philip Koplow, composer-in-residence at Northern Kentucky University. "I think the answer to both problems is to reach to the community."