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FSU student composer wins with piece inspired by ‘Lord of the Rings’

Florida State University student Lincoln Sandham is a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings books.

“I have read and re-read Lord of the Rings countless times,” says Sandham, 25. “There is something pure, honest, and simple in that story that brings me back again and again.”

Now the doctoral student in music composition will take his love of J.R.R. Tolkien into the concert hall with his short piece, Silver Glass.

Today The Florida Orchestra named Sandham as the winner of its annual Student Composer Competition. TFO will premiere Silver Glass on the final concerts of the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series at three major concert halls in Tampa Bay on May 24-26.

Sandham’s inspiration comes from a passage in chapter nine of The Return of the King (book VI): “and then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them ajar green country under a swift sunrise.”

To Sandham, his five-minute composition represents a transition from one state of being to another. The eerie, haunting sound of “silver glass” is created by using bows on percussion instruments. The rest of the orchestra gradually adds their voices to create a “glistening halo of sound,” according to Sandham’s artist statement.

The FSU doctoral student also has a master’s degree in composition from the University of Louisville and a bachelor’s in composition from Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH. He has composed various works for orchestra, chamber groups and voice, and someday he plans to teach music theory and composition at the collegiate level. He will receive a $1,000 honorarium for his win.

The competition was open to composition students at universities throughout Florida. It underscores TFO’s commitment to education and offers an unusual opportunity for young composers to write for an orchestra, which also fits with Music Director Michael Francis’ penchant for nurturing young talent. A panel of TFO staff and musicians narrowed the student finalists to three based on an artist statement, score, short electronic audio file of the work and a resume. The orchestra played through the works, each five minutes or less, in March. Maestro Francis had the final say on the winner.

The other finalists were Alex Arellano, a senior working on his bachelor’s of musical arts in music theory and composition at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, and Joshua Nichols, who is enrolled at Florida Atlantic University pursuing a master’s degree in music and composition.

Winning this competition gives Sandham hope for the future of new music. “It is immensely encouraging to me that performers and audiences are still seeking out, listening to, and supporting new music. The Florida Orchestra in particular has impressed me with their initiatives to engage young musicians,” Sandham says. “The world of contemporary composition is vast and varied, made up of countless artistic voices. I am excited and honored to be sharing my voice with The Florida Orchestra.”

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

The Florida Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Francis, will premiere Silver Glass on the season finale of its Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series, which also includes Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, featuring TFO Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.

Free tickets for kids and teens in advance to this and all Tampa Bay Times Masterworks concerts.

Fri, May 24, 8 pm, Straz Center
Sat, May 25, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater
Sun, May 26, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

*Pictured above: Music Director Michael Francis studies the score with Lincoln Sandham

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