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Composition About Climate Change Given New Life

Music professor Rich Shemaria

Rich Shemaria

Jazz composer, arranger and pianist Rich Shemaria began composing when he was 15. “I had a song running through my head so I felt the need to write it down,” he explains. Having taught at NYU since 2003, he is responsible for updating the University’s alma mater, “The Palisades,”  performed at the 2022 graduation, which meaningfully included the 2020 and 2021 graduates who missed commencement due to the pandemic. About ten years ago, he wrote several pieces of music that ultimately became One World Suite, an environmentally conscious work championed by Combo Nuvo, the NYU Jazz faculty band. Over the last six months, Shemaria has arranged the work for symphony orchestra. He took a few minutes to share plans for taking it on the road.

How did One World Suite come to be originally?
I wrote the first of its four pieces and called it “ Dawn.” It was about the sun and sky, the verge of ideas and new beginnings. Then I wrote “Northeast Sky,” about the moon. From there came “Clouds,” which represents water, and lastly, “One World.” Together, the four pieces represent our planet and make up One World Suite

Up until now, how has it been performed?
It began as a smaller format. Our band Combo Nuvo has been playing the original composition for years. We’re made up of seven musical artists, all NYU Jazz Studies faculty and alumni. Students and outside guests sit in as well.

Music_Jazz combo nuvo

Combo Nuvo

What’s the plan for One World Suite, now that it is a symphony?
We would like to travel and partner with different orchestras. We’re speaking with people in Vienna, Austria, right now. There is a summer jazz workshop we will be teaching at,  as well as the Vienna Radio Symphony and perhaps Vienna University. We’re also looking into performance opportunities in Italy and Norway and here at home. We’re all professional musicians, so we attract high level musical artists to play with us.

The backbone of One World Suite is climate change. How do you think NYU students deal with this subject?
Climate change is an issue college students have been aware of since they became aware. Students are so attuned to things like global warming, political upheaval, racial issues, and so much more. I think they are also in touch with the smaller details of climate change. It’s like the phrase, “Think globally, act locally.” I believe our students are very aware of the situation and try to make changes where they are, in their environments.

While the subject matter is upsetting, you chose to write this with more of a positive tone than negative. Why is that?
There is so much bad news coming at us every day. I’d rather focus on what is beautiful about the planet. It’s just like anything else in music, often music tries to transcend daily life. That is my goal for One World Suite. I don’t want people to feel negative. Let’s cherish our planet and take the necessary steps to keep that happening. After all, we don’t have anywhere else to go.

Learn more about One World Suite with Symphony and NYU Jazz faculty teaching at the Jam Lab Summer Jazz Intensive in Vienna, Austria.