Journey to Carnegie Hall

About The Project

The symphony “In the Shadow of No Towers” grew from discussions between composer Mohammed Fairouz and Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman. The KU Wind Ensemble performed its world premiere on March 26, 2013, at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage in New York City.

The symphony “In the Shadow of No Towers” was inspired by discussions between critically acclaimed composer Mohammed Fairouz and Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman about the tragic terrorist attacks on the iconic World Trade Center skyscrapers in the city both call home.

It begins with that disaster of Sept. 11, 2001 — an event whose effect on New York and the United States is still being measured — and explores the development of a post-9/11 reality, a broader vision for society that is enriched by the creative arts. Each movement takes as its point of departure a graphic detail from Spiegelman’s book.

Fairouz cites John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech to Amherst College as encapsulating the scope of this project. Kennedy’s speech explores the artist’s role in speaking truths about society and inspiring the country to move relentlessly forward. Kennedy also speaks of the need for artists to gain an appreciative audience that assists in advancing their messages

To help bring Fairouz’s vision to life, the symphony was commissioned by the nonprofit foundation Reach Out Kansas Inc., which was founded by Overland Park attorney and KU alumnus Jim Zakoura. It was written specifically for the KU Wind Ensemble and Paul W. Popiel, director of bands.

As part of the School of Music’s 2012-13 Concert Series, the Wind Ensemble traveled to New York City to perform the world premiere on March 26, 2013, at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. In this performance in America’s most renowned concert hall, in the city at the epicenter of the 9-11 tragedy, the students offer a message of honor, respect, and hope for the future. Proceeds from the Carnegie premiere will benefit the 9/11 Memorial.

The local premiere will be April 2 in at the Lied Center in Lawrence.

To read the notes about the work, visit Fairouz’s website.

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Meet Who’s Involved

Mohammed Fairouz - New York-based composer who was commissioned to write “In the Shadow of No Towers” for the KU Wind Ensemble

Paul W. Popiel - Director of bands at the University of Kansas, who has commissioned and premiered numerous new works for the wind ensemble

Art Spiegelman - Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and illustrator whose graphic novel “In the Shadow of No Towers” inspired Fairouz’s symphony

Jim Zakoura - Founder of the nonprofit foundation Reach Out Kansas Inc., which commissioned Fairouz to write “In the Shadow of No Towers”

Mohammed Fairouz

Composer of “In the Shadow of No Towers”

Mohammed Fairouz, born in 1985, has been hailed by the New York Times as “an important new artistic voice” and by BBC News as "one of the most talented composers of his generation."

A precocious talent, Fairouz first set poems of Oscar Wilde at the age of 7; he studied at the Curtis Institute and
the New England Conservatory, principally under György Ligeti, Gunther Schuller, and Richard Danielpour. He has written hundreds of art songs and more than a dozen song cycles. His large vocal catalog led Gramophone magazine to call him a "post-millenial Schubert."

Fairouz's distinctive compositional voice melds Middle Eastern modes with Western forms in four symphonies, an opera, concerti, and an extensive list of solo and chamber works. Fairouz's Symphony No. 4, “In the Shadow of No Towers” (2012), is scored for wind ensemble and is inspired by Art Spiegelman's graphic novel of the same title.

His third symphony, “Poems and Prayers” (2010), was commissioned by the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture & Development and is cast for solo voices, mixed chorus and orchestra. It sets the texts of Arab poets Fadwa Tugan and Mahmoud Darwish and the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai and prayers including the Aramaic kaddish.

Prominent advocates of Fairouz's music include the Borromeo and Lydian string quartets, the Imani Winds, the Knights Chamber Orchestra, Metropolis Ensemble, violinists Rachel Barton Pine and James Buswell, clarinetist David Krakauer, and conductors Gunther Schuller, Fawzi Haimor, and Yoon Jae Lee.

Commissions have come from the Borromeo String Quartet, Imani Winds, New York Festival of Song, Da Capo Chamber Players, New Juilliard Ensemble, Cantus Vocal Ensemble, Cygnus Ensemble, counter)induction, Alea III, Musicians for Harmony, and others. Recordings of his music are available on the Naxos, Bridge, Dorian Sono Luminus, Cedille, Albany, GM, and GPR labels, and his works are published by Peermusic Classical. 

Fairouz has been featured on BBC World Service TV, NPR's “All Things Considered,” and BBC/PRI's “The World.” His work has been profiled in Symphony, Strings, New Music Box, and the Houston Chronicle.

Fairouz lives in New York City.

Paul W. Popiel

Director of Bands at the University of Kansas

Paul W. Popiel, director of bands at the University of Kansas, is only the seventh person to hold this position in the band’s 125-year history. Popiel also conducts the KU Wind Ensemble and directs the graduate program in wind conducting. Previous appointments include the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and Oklahoma State University.

Popiel has lectured and conducted throughout North America, Europe, Singapore, and Japan. He has produced two KU Wind Ensemble CDs for the Naxos label, as well as for the University of South Carolina. In 2012, Popiel led the KU Wind Ensemble on the latest Naxos project, “Landscapes,” featuring the music of Michael Torke, Aaron Copland, and Frank Ticheli.

A proponent of distinctive new music, Popiel has commissioned and premiered numerous new works for wind ensemble and chamber winds.

Popiel holds degrees from Truman State University, the University of Notre Dame, and Michigan State University. A recipient of a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship, he also earned a postgraduate diploma in 20th-century music at the University of Bristol, England. Popiel was the 2003 Frank L. Battisti Conducting Fellow serving as the resident conductor of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. 

Art Spiegelman

Artist/illustrator and Author of “In the Shadow of No Towers”

Art Spiegelman has almost single-handedly brought comic books out of the toy closet and onto the literature shelves. In 1992, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterful Holocaust narrative “Maus,” which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. “Maus II” continued the remarkable story of Spiegelman’s parents’ survival of the Nazi regime and their later lives in America. His comics are best known for their shifting graphic styles, their formal complexity, and controversial content.

Rejecting his parents’ aspirations that he become a dentist, Spiegelman studied cartooning in high school and began drawing professionally at age 16. He studied art and philosophy at Binghamton University’s Harpur College before becoming part of the underground comix subculture of the 1960s and ‘70s.

As creative consultant for Topps Bubble Gum Co. from 1965 through 1987, Spiegelman created “Wacky Packages,” “Garbage Pail Kids” and other novelty items and taught history and aesthetics of comics at the School for Visual Arts in New York from 1979 to 1986. In 2007 he was a Heyman Fellow of the Humanities at Columbia University.

In 1980, Spiegelman founded the acclaimed avant-garde comics magazine Raw with his wife, Françoise Mouly. They have co-edited “Little Lit,” a series of three comics anthologies for children published by HarperCollins ("Comics-They're Not Just for Grown-ups Anymore") and “Big Fat Little Lit,” collecting the three comics into one volume. He and his wife publish a series of early readers called “Toon Books”—picture books in comics format — and co-edited “A Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics.”

Spiegelman’s work has been published in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, where he was a staff artist and writer from 1993 to 2003. A collection of his New Yorker work, “Kisses From New York” was published in France, Germany and Italy and will be published in the United States by Pantheon, which also published his illustrated version of the 1928 lost classic “The Wild Party,” by Joseph Moncure March.

In 2004 Spiegelman completed “In the Shadow of No Towers,” a two-year cycle of broadsheet-sized color comics pages first published in European newspapers and magazines including Die Zeit and the London Review of Books. A book version was published by Pantheon in the United States, appeared on many national bestseller lists, and was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004.

Jim Zakoura

Attorney, Smithyman & Zakoura, Chartered

Jim Zakoura, of Overland Park, is a partner in Smithyman & Zakoura Chartered, Overland Park; his principal area of practice is energy law. An alumnus of the University of Kansas, he earned two degrees: a bachelor’s in language arts in 1970 and a law degree in 1972.

He has been a generous supporter of the School of Music and fine arts for years, and his donations to KU Endowment have helped provide scholarships for music students, music professorships, a summer program for youths, and more.

His passion is to bring music to people who otherwise would not be exposed to it. Zakoura has established two nonprofit foundations — Reach Out Kansas Inc. and the Zakoura Family Foundation (a fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation-ZFF) — to help bring his vision to life. The development of outreach programs through Reach Out Kansas Inc. were designed to better provide youth a chance to experience the fine arts, targeting rural communities and underserved and minority populations, and at no cost to the audience.

Hailing from the small Kansas town of Osawatomie, Zakoura believes everyone shares a personal connection to music and knows many smaller communities love the fine arts but are underserved. Reach Out Kansas Inc. has permitted the creation, support, and presentation of programs and performances to rural and minority populations.

The world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s “In the Shadow of No Towers” was commissioned for the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble and Paul Popiel, director of bands, by Reach Out Kansas Inc.