Wayne’s World

Wayne Peterson, composerIn 1992 Wayne Peterson, who was on the SFSU faculty as a distinguished professor of composition was commissioned to write us a quartet, his second. What a great work it turned out to be. The second movement, of that two movement quartet is entitled “Jazz Play” and it’s hard as heck and just as rewarding as anything to play. And play it we have done. Hundreds of times in many cities and countries. The work contains several Be-Bop tunes and licks. It is a blast. Anyone who has had the priviledge of hearing Wayne play Jazz piano knows what a phenomenal knowledge of Jazz he has in him. This piece was the ultimate distillation of some of those gifts. Wayne won a Pulitzer that year (for a different work) and he won our overwhelming respect and admiration for giving the String Quartet repertoire such an outstanding new work.

A few years later Wayne wrote us another Quartet (No 3) and I remember him relating to us the title — Pop Sweet — with the outer movements being a Samba and a wild blue grass jaunt. Boy, talk about a walk on the wild side. Once again we had a work that we have played another hundred plus times.

It was another gift.

Audiences have often come back stage and asked about what kind of person Wayne is. I often hear, “I’d like to meet this guy!”, which is not a typical response of someone who has just heard a new work.

Wayne is a joy to spend time with. His conversation ranges from thoughts and stories of extraordinary musical encounters, to some pretty funny stories of his hiking expeditions ( bears in the sierras.,). He is an American original, and his music represents him perfectly. He’s never afraid be direct and to say what he is thinking. He’s also just about the only composer I know who , during one pre premier concert rehearsal just decided to cut out some 40-50 measures of music he so carefully crafted because it just wasn’t needed.

Pretty gutsy.

That’s Wayne’s World.

— Fred Lifsitz

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