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Find Your Science at GSA
For Immediate Release
22 May 2013
GSA Release No. 13-34
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach

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Science, Culture, and Business Make Beautiful Music Together

Geological Society of America, Boulder Philharmonic, and ExxonMobil partner to create new symphonic work

Boulder, Colorado, USA – The origin of Symphony No. 1 (“Formations”) honoring the Geological Society of America’s (GSA’s) 125th anniversary year is a testament to the power of collaboration. The GSA Foundation orchestrated a unique partnership that has resulted in a win-win for music lovers, Earth lovers, and communities across the nation.

GSA and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra have co-commissioned a new symphonic work by composer Jeffrey Nytch, director of the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music, with generous support received from ExxonMobil Corporation.

“ExxonMobil has a long-standing, student-focused relationship with the Geological Society of America, including sponsoring short courses and field camps for more than 1,000 students,” said Bob Stewart, Global Geoscience Recruiting Supervisor at ExxonMobil Exploration. “We thought it a fitting gift in commemoration of GSA’s 125th anniversary, along with our subsidiary XTO Energy, to sponsor the commission of a musical composition inspired by the geology of the Rocky Mountains,” said Stewart.

The world premiere of “Formations” will kick off the Boulder Philharmonic’s season on 7 September 2013 at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. The work represents one component of the Philharmonic's six-concert season themed “Nature and Music: The Spirit of Boulder.”

“Formations” will also be performed for GSA members and guests at the 125th Anniversary Gala in the History Colorado Center in Denver on 29 October, during the Society’s 125th Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Nytch holds a geology degree from Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA), and counts geology as a passion secondary only to his musical career. His work is in four movements inspired by the impressive geology of the Rocky Mountain region.

  1. Orogenies, or “mountain building,” musically depicts the upheaval and birth of western North America’s crust, seen today in such places as Royal Gorge.
  2. Rush! is a fast and furious exploration of human history in relation to the geology of the American West, particularly the gold rushes of the 19th century.
  3. Requiems returns to a slower and quieter pace, harkening back to the formation of fossil fuels in ancient oceans and coastal swamps.
  4. Majesties is the climax of the piece, defined by the iconic formations of the modern Rocky Mountains.

View entries from the composer’s video blog on the creative process at

Interest in this new work is already expanding from Denver to the east coast with inquiries from other orchestras about performing the symphony in upcoming seasons. “The Boulder Phil’s 2013 theme combining music and nature is just as relevant in other communities across the country as it is in Colorado,” said Kevin Shuck, Executive Director of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. “What a thrill to be able to connect with our surroundings through music in this way!”

Related activities are also planned to bridge science and music for outdoor-enthusiasts and symphony devotees. Joint lectures by the composer and local naturalist David Sutherland are scheduled to take place on Boulder Open Space trails on 31 August and 14 September to help illustrate for the community the synergy between these two extraordinary disciplines.

“This is a distinctive project for us,” said GSA Foundation President Geoffrey Feiss. “While many may be a bit surprised that a scientific society would commission a symphonic work for its anniversary, all who hear about this collaboration between the Boulder Phil and GSA, with ExxonMobil’s corporate support, are intrigued. In fact, as earth scientists, GSA members are perhaps preternaturally attuned to the myriad connections among landscapes, the earth’s deep history, and the human experience that the arts and Jeff Nytch’s symphonic work can forge.”