Former Storm Lake resident James Poulsen saw his "Piano Concerto" make its world premiere in the recent concert of the Des Moines Symphony - placing him with the likes of composing legends Felix Mendelssohn and Camille Saint-Saens on the musical menu.
Poulsen, 43, a graduate of Buena Vista University, now lives in Des Moines, and has built a considerable reputation both in classical music and film-making.
In October, 1999, the Des Moines Symphony gave the world premiere of Poulsen's "Five Poems of Edgar Allan Poe." The composer is currently working on a string quartet and a composition for chorus and orchestra.
Poulsen's stature in the business world is equally noteworthy. He has worked on commercial or industrial video with nearly all of the larger corporations in the state, including Principal Financial Group, Pioneer/Dupont, Maytag, Hy-Vee, Farm Bureau, Living History Farms, The Des Moines Register and Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. He is a favorite composer of Disney Event Productions, the arm of the Orlando-based Disney empire that produces live shows for corporate clients and conventions across North America.
Poulsen has earned 11 "Telly" awards and several "Addy" awards for best commercial music, and three "Best Original Score" honors from the Iowa Motion Picture Association.
After earning his bachelor's degree at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, he went on to pursue a master's degree in piano from the University of South Dakota-Vermillion. He currently teaches piano and music appreciation at Simpson College.
His "Piano Concerto" was commissioned by Scott Nichols and family, in memory of Meroy Nichols and Stacey Mau, mother and daughter who were lost to cancer within a few months of one another.
Meroy Nichols was a fine pianist, and had been dedicated to her own children's musical education. Her daughter Stacey followed in her footsteps as an accomplished pianist.
Scott Nichols said that the concerto was an ideal way to preserve the memory of the two women. "The pain of loss metamorphoses to happier memories of shared lives. For me, music is prominent among these memories... music is special in its ability to transport beauty through time," he wrote.
"Truly beautiful music can be understood and enjoyed on its own terms. This I learned from my mother and shared with my sister. The Poulsen concerto then, is our families' way to bring into being a memorial whose grace and beauty will evermore evoke for us fond memories of our departed loved ones and how we shared part of our lives together through music."
The three-part concerto is as unique as the women who inspired it and the multi-talented man who composed it, it seems - an energetic blend of romantic and classical elements capturing a range of emotions from melancholia to bravura. Piano and orchestra at times alternate and answer one another, sometimes driving, sometimes calm - and with moments of a decided "gypsy," theme, according to promoters of the symphony, who compare parts of it with Ives' "Unanswered Question."
Conducting the symphony for the performance was Dr. Fredi Gerling, of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sil in Brazil.
‰ On the Web - For more information, see www.dmsymphony.org.