Teaching Roster

IRIS Orchestra

Contact Name: David DePeters


1801 Exeter Rd
Germantown, Tennessee 38138
United States
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Phone: (901) 746-9948

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IRIS Orchestra began as a bold experiment in September, 2000. Still bold, and still experimenting, IRIS Orchestra embarks on its 17th season as an acknowledged centerpiece of the cultural life of the Mid-South. This astonishing success stems in part from an innovative structure envisioned by Founding Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Michael Stern: IRIS Orchestra boasts a stellar roster of talent from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups in the country, all of whom share a passionate commitment to the highest standards of performance. These virtuoso musicians, assembled under one roof as the resident orchestra of the Germantown Performing Arts Center in Germantown, Tennessee, have created an exhilarating laboratory for musical discovery. Over sixteen seasons, IRIS Orchestra has earned an international reputation as a champion of new American music — including works commissioned and premiered by IRIS – and consistently receives critical praise for its “precise and nuanced” interpretations of the classical canon.

A clear confirmation of the caliber of IRIS Orchestra is the stunning list of musical luminaries who make time on their schedules to join IRIS as guest artists. These range from cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who calls IRIS “always brilliant”; to violinists Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, and Midori; soprano Dawn Upshaw; and pianists Yefim Bronfman, Andre Watts, Garrick Ohlsson, and Emanuel Ax, who says, “I have loved being a part of their amazing energy, ability, and wonderful attitude to music.”
The list of composers IRIS has commissioned is equally distinguished, including Stephen Hartke, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, William Bolcom and Ned Rorem, as well as younger talents such as Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg and Jonathan Leshnoff. IRIS recordings have earned places on the “Ten Best” lists of the The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. Classical Reviewer “enthusiastically recommended” its most recent recording, featuring harp soloist Elizabeth Hainen, for its “superbly played performances,” which the Irish Times called “utterly gorgeous” and “time-stillingly luscious.”
Not surprisingly, musicians feel an extraordinary loyalty to IRIS. More than fifty members of the orchestra have returned to IRIS for more than ten seasons, even as IRIS members and alumni have assumed leadership positions in some of the world’s foremost orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.
Fundamental to the IRIS philosophy is the idea that the orchestra’s members do not simply alight several times a year and leave, but instead put down strong roots in the Germantown/Memphis community. The Host Family program creates lasting bonds between IRIS musicians and their local host families that extend far beyond the concert weeks each year.

Connection to community both on and offstage is at the core of the IRIS mission. From the beginning, the orchestra has made a commitment to deepen and enrich musical education in the Mid-South. IRIS musicians regularly go out into the community to perform for and mentor students at public and private elementary, middle and high schools. The orchestra’s world-renowned guest artists give professional master classes for students at the University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. For adults, an evening lecture series explores the week’s program in depth; and, unique among all orchestras in this country, the “Friday Live Lunch” broadcasts over public-radio station WKNO offer listeners the opportunity to eavesdrop on the process of preparing that week’s concert. For the youngest members of the community, Family Concerts presented throughout the greater Memphis combine an engaging concert with a hands-on “instrument petting zoo.”

ommunity engagement continues on the GPAC stage. GPAC Youth Symphony Orchestra members attend IRIS dress rehearsals for free, have the opportunity to ask questions of both IRIS members and guest artists, and participate in master classes for each section of the orchestra. IRIS musicians and the GPAC Youth Symphony Program rehearse a piece of music side by side, giving young musicians the chance to play alongside their counterparts in a first-rate professional ensemble.
In the 2016-17 season, IRIS will be featuring guests such as Yefim Bronfman as well Opera Memphis, Ballet Memphis, and the chorus from University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. The orchestra will also partner with The Dixon Gallery and Gardens and Memphis College of Arts.

IRIS Orchestra is launching the pilot phase of the IRIS Artist Fellowship this season. In partnership with the Memphis Music Initiative, IRIS Orchestra is instituting a young professional artist residency focused on diversity and directed toward musicians of color with the aim to address the underrepresentation of African-Americans in the classical music realm. This program, intended for string musicians, provides hands on training and experience in teaching artistry, ensemble playing, and orchestral performance.

Artist Work Samples

Sample Programs Offered

Program Title: Exploring Incidental Music

Program Type: Arts Curriculum, Arts Appreciation

Program Description:

Presented by the IRIS String Quartet, students will engage in discussion and exploration of the role of incidental music in cinema, theater, etc. Switching between active audience members, storytellers, and performers, students will investigate how incidental music is in no way insignificant.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

Program Title: Linking Historical Context to Musical Composition

Program Type: Arts Curriculum, Arts Integration

Program Description:

Through critical thinking and practical application, students will work with an IRIS musician to consider how music is shaped by the history surrounding it and how the current events of today are influencing modern-day composers. These insights will be put to use by examining how the historical context of a piece in their current repertoire should influence the performance.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

Program Title: Exploring Musical Meaning in Orchestral Music:

Program Type: Arts Appreciation

Program Description:

Students will work with the IRIS String Sextet to examine the differences between programmatic and absolute music. Through creative storytelling, recognition of compositional devices & musical themes, students will explore the different ways meaning is infused into music by the composer and how meanings are interpreted by the listener. This investigative process will be used to deepen their intentions when making decisions on how to musically interpret the music they are learning.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

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