Music News & Reviews

UK Symphony will play student’s musical memorial for his parents

Logan Blackman will conduct the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra in a performance of his original work, “Prayer of a Broken Heart.”
Logan Blackman will conduct the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra in a performance of his original work, “Prayer of a Broken Heart.” University of Kentucky

After Logan Blackman’s parents were killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 15, he handled it in a way that seemed natural to him: He wrote music.

“It was kind of what I had gone through and where I thought I was going — kind of a triumphant end,” Blackman says of his composition.

The piece, “Prayer of a Broken Heart,” was premiered by the band at Blackman’s school, Lone Oak High School in Paducah (the school has since been consolidated into McCracken County High School, which is his alma mater). It also was recorded at Murray State University.

When Blackman got to the University of Kentucky, he started working on adapting “Prayer” into an orchestral work, at first simply transcribing it. But then, he started to do more, and the work attracted attention.

“He joined the orchestra as an undergraduate bassoonist, and it soon became clear that his interests were wider than just playing the bassoon,” UK Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo says. “I knew he composed, and he asked me if I would look at the score to this piece he’d been working on. Then he asked if he could take some conducting lessons. So he was working on conducting and I looked at the score, and the score is interesting, and his level of commitment and involvement and interest in conducting, composition and performing is quite high. The story of the piece is compelling, and it seemed like we were in a position to help him with those things.

“It was easy to decide it was worth doing.”

The University of Kentucky Symphony will play “Prayer,” with Blackman conducting, Friday night. Nardolillo says it’s unusual for a student composition to have the level of sophistication and advancement for the orchestra to take it on.

Blackman says he never even considered that the UK Symphony might play his composition. From the moment the opportunity presented itself, he says, he wanted to conduct the performance.

“My degree is in bassoon performance, but from here, I want to go to grad school to study conducting,” he says. “It would be interesting to sit back and listen, but being the lover of conducting that I am, I had the itch to do this.”

Nardolillo says Blackman’s piece is nicely paired with the major work on Friday’s concert, Mahler’s “Titan” symphony. Both are rooted in deep, compelling emotions that will be clear to the audience. For Blackman, it’s emotion rooted in a painful memory, but he says he has been able to revisit it without being overwhelmed by the pain of his parents’ deaths.

“I was 15 when they passed away, and since then, I have always dealt with it very well,” he says. “I’ve never really understood how. It’s not easy, by any means, but every time I hear it, every time I think about it, it makes it more meaningful. Personally, on my own side, it’s a good way to hash out thoughts and feelings that I might not have already hashed out.”

Follow Rich Copley on Facebook and Twitter, @copiousnotes.

If you go

UK Symphony Orchestra

What: John Nardolillo conducts the orchestra in “Symphony No. 1, ‘Titan’ ” by Gustav Mahler, “Clarinet Concerto” by Carl Nielsen, with soloist Michael Robinson, and Logan Blackman conducts his “Prayer of a Broken Heart.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, 405 Rose St.

Tickets: $9 adults, $4 students

Phone: 859-257-4929

Online: Singletarycenter.com, finearts.uky.edu/music/ukso

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