The Black Hills Travel Blog

Mt. Rushmore inspires symphony composer

By • Feb 2nd, 2010 • Category: Culture

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The presidential faces of Mount Rushmore inspire a lot of emotions in those who visit the memorial. For world-renowned composer Michael Daugherty, the national monument stirred up more than just emotion – it served as the inspiration for his latest work – a symphony titled “Mount Rushmore.”

His Mount Rushmore-inspired piece will make its world premier later this week at the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival in Orange County, California.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Daugherty – who grew up in Iowa – based this latest work on his memories of family vacations when he was a young boy. Like many, Daugherty’s family crammed into the car and made the road trip to South Dakota’s Black Hills to see the famous faces.

More recently, as Daugherty worked to compose the symphony, he again visited Mount Rushmore to research and gain more inspiration for his piece. He also traveled to the homes of Washington and Jefferson, visited the Gettysburg battlefield to gain insight on Lincoln and explored North and South Dakota to better understand Teddy Roosevelt and his love of the great outdoors.

In the LA Times article, Daugherty said, “Mount Rushmore is a complex icon of American history. It means a lot of different things to different people.”

“Mount Rushmore” was written to be performed simultaneously by both a large vocal chorus and instrumental orchestra. It is Daugherty’s first work created for both groups. The Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale, both of California, will be the first to perform the new piece.

Since “Mount Rushmore” doesn’t premier until later this week, I haven’t been able to hear the piece yet, but with today’s hi-tech access to so much different music, I’m sure it won’t be long until you’ll be able to hear it right in your own home.

About the Author

is a resident of Spearfish, S.D. He grew up in the tall-corn state of Iowa, where he developed an early interest in all things outdoors. After high school he moved to Vermillion, S.D., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising. During his college years, two things caught his attention: the beauty of western South Dakota’s Black Hills and a girl from those Black Hills. After graduating from college, Joe traveled across the country as a recruiter for the University of South Dakota. He saw the sights from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas and everywhere in between, but it was the Black Hills (and the girl) that kept drawing him back. He and wife moved back to the Black Hills in 2008. He's an avid hiker, mountain biker and road cyclist whose future plans include trying to fit a pair of kayaks into the spare bedroom.
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