Listening to the expressive opening measures of Derwyn Holder's Symphony No. 1, you immediately tune in to the New Jersey composer's influences from the jazz arrangements of Gil Evans to the melody's distinctive leaps and twists, which recall the late reed virtuoso Eric Dolphy.
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What you won't hear unless you ask Holder directly, or read the work's dedication, is that the music is a big "thank you" to Medicare. Operations and therapy have improved Holder's vision, opened clogged blood vessels, and eased the pain of spinal deterioration. The price tag? An estimated $400,000, almost all of it covered through Medicare and related insurance.
Although Holder hopes listeners simply feel his symphony "sounded beautiful," he also hopes they'll read this preamble: "This piece is dedicated, with my deepest gratitude, to President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the 89th Congress, and to all those who have made Medicare possible in the United States — [Also] to the wonderful medical people who, during the past eight years, have made it possible for me to be able to write this music in my 74th year."
Since the excerpt, above, from Holder's "Medicare" symphony is available for now only via synthesizer, you may get a better idea of the range of his composing through the YouTube video below, featuring the first movement of his guitar concerto.
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