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Musicians set to debut world premiere work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer on South Coast

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Phil Channing
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Music Academy of the West's Marilyn Horne Song Competition winners Sun-Ly Pierce and Chien-Lin Lu are performing a work Thursday night written for them by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon.

Winners of Marilyn Horne Song Competition perform at Music Academy Of The West

Two young musicians are rehearsing in Montecito for what could be one of the most unforgettable experiences of their lives.

And, they might be feeling a little pressure.

Mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce, and pianist Chien-Lin Lu are going to perform the world premiere of a work written for them by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon.

If that wasn’t enough, Higdon is watching the rehearsal.

The young musicians won the Music Academy of the West’s Marilyn Horne Song Competition. It happened in 2019. Higdon was a judge. She was commissioned to write a new work specifically for the winners.

The premier had to be postponed a year due to the pandemic, but Pierce and Lu are set to perform the song cycle Wise Moon Thursday night.

"I got to hear them two years ago," said Higdon. "I can still remember their performances in the competition, how they stood out."

Higdon says it’s been exciting to be in Montecito, and work with the young performers. It’s the first performance related trip for the composer since the pandemic.

Higdon says she took advantage of being stuck at home during the pandemic to focus on creating new works.

Another one of Higdon’s works will be featured in the region next February. The Santa Barbara Symphony will perform her Grammy Award winning Harp Concerto with Principal Harp Michelle Temple.

Pianist Chien-Lin Lu says being able to work with the composer has been incredible. "It's mind-blowing," said Lu. "I fell absolutely in love with her music."

"It is incredible, and that's exactly what we try to accomplish for our fellows here," said Scott Reed, who's President, and CEO of Music Academy of the West.

The Marilyn Horne Song Competition Winner Recital will take place at 7 Thursday night, in the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall.