October 23, 2023

After pandemic delay, American Composers Orchestra plans premiere of work by CIM’s Jack Hughes

Jack Hughes at a desk with sheet music

Three Ways of Getting There almost went nowhere.   

Just as CIM’s Jack Hughes began penning his largest work to date, a commission from the American Composers Orchestra, the pandemic hit, and the whole process came to a stand-still.  

For a time, he feared the offer would evaporate.  

“I was afraid it would get lost in the fray,” said Hughes (BM ’14, Fitch), a member of CIM’s music theory faculty. “I knew it would be a few years at least, if it happened at all.” 

Happily, his fears were only somewhat justified.  

Hughes was right that it would take the ACO time to get back to him but wrong to imagine he’d been forgotten. Last spring, four years after the commission, he got the call to proceed and returned to work immediately.   

The takeaway? “You never know where the next opportunity is going to come from,” Hughes said. “You have to be patient and let things develop.” 

Being patient, of course, was the easy part. More daunting, in 2022, were the prospects of completing his first professional commission in one year and sending it off to Carnegie Hall in time for performance this fall.     

“It felt a little like jumping right into the deep end,” said Hughes of the Nov. 9 concert, which will be conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni and include works by Nina Young, Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, and Guillermo Klein. 

“It’s always nerve-wracking, bringing a new piece into the world.” 

But there was good news on that front, too. Hughes wasn’t starting from scratch.  

Back in 2018, he’d begun sketching the piece, and for the prior four years, the work’s “personality” had taken shape in his mind. Also during that time, he’d begun working at CIM, deriving ideas from his total immersion in music.  

And so the piece emerged rather quickly: a single, 14-minute work in three movements, each tracing a unique path to what Hughes called “an internal place within the listener.”  

“Each movement sounds very different, but the destination is the same,” he said.   

As the premiere approached in October 2023, Hughes said he felt both nervous and content – confident that Three Ways is his most “honest” creation to date but also hopeful that people have a meaningful experience.  

Most of all, he hoped the premiere generates some new musical relationship. Just as Three Ways came about organically, so was he eager for another commission or unforeseen collaboration to emerge from this one.  

“I’ve built my entire career that way,” Hughes explained. “My hope is to keep that chain going.”