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L'Histoire du Soldat C. F. Ramuz / Igor Stravinsky

Jae Park

Jae Park is a doctor of musical arts student in orchestral conducting in Ohio State's School of Music.

As part of Park's graduate training, he needed experience conducting large scale orchestral works, such as opera. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, his options were limited. That's when Park's advisor Miriam Burns, visiting professor and director of orchestral studies in the School of Music, had an idea.

Suddenly I realized, 'Oh, "L'Histoire du Soldat" — a full production — would be an incredible [opportunity].'

"L'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale)," written by renowned Russian composer Igor Stravisky (left) and Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz, was the perfect piece for Park to conduct.

Scored for a septet consisting of violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and percussion, the piece is complex and intricate with fiendishly difficult rhythms — challenging for the conductor as well as the players.

The piece is theatrical, with actors and musicians working together to tell the story of a soldier who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for immeasurable wealth.

Remarkably, "L'Histoire" was composed during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and written to accommodate a small group of musicians and actors.

Furthermore, Stravinsky traveled to Columbus in 1966 to conduct a concert of his works with the Columbus Symphony, involving a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony Chorus and the Ohio State Symphonic Choir.

During his visit, he also came to Ohio State's campus to attend a student performance of "L'Histoire."

There are so many parallels that make this just the perfect piece to do," Burns said.

On April 24, Park conducted "L'Histoire du Soldat," an interdisciplinary performance featuring students and faculty in the School of Music and faculty in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Arts. Tom Dugdale, an assistant professor of theatre, film, and media arts, directed. With the completion of the Arts District — a creative hub that will bring the university's performing arts disciplines together — on the horizon, "L'Histoire" was a glimpse of the collaborative opportunities in store at Ohio State.

It seems like there's a possibility for more collaborations like this — more ways of working together in these kinds of projects that combine our collective talents. That's good for all of us. That's good for the world," Dugdale said.

For Park, conducting "L'Histoire du Soldat" was an opportunity to expand the range and proficiency of his conducting ability. The collaborative performance, he said, enriched his experience and was an opportunity to work with performers and instructors outside his field.

I'm so grateful to Professor Burns and very happy to work with the Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Arts," Park said. "Everyone involved in this production is wonderful. ... I love this chance. That's why I chose this university to continue my DMA career."