Overture: The Spirit of Challenger was commissioned by the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra in late 1985. Shortly after the composer began writing the piece in early 1986, the Challenger space shuttle exploded during take-off, killing all seven astronauts aboard. I had grown up with the US space program and have been highly interested in it throughout my life, so this loss was devastating to me. I immediately re-imagined the work as a testament to the men and woman who had given their lives in the pursuit of the exploration of space. Beyond that, I also had in mind the idea to write a work that would have sounded like something George Gershwin might have written had he been the product of a music conservatory instead of Tin Pan Alley. Thus, this work exhibits influences from the jazz style of the twenties and thirties, even though in other respects it is cast in the form of a rather traditional concert overture. The piece is intended to be only mildly programmatic, incorporating the exhilaration of the lift-off, the subsequent explosion, a section of mourning to reflect the national sense of loss among Americans, and an exuberant final section depicting the exploratory nature of human beings who, despite loss and tragedy, remain committed to discovering the unknown. The work was premiered on December 7, 1986 with me in my first (and last) performance as a conductor, directing the organization that had commissioned the work.