Alan Terricciano
Alan Terricciano, Claire Trevor School of the Arts acting dean, strums and makes music with plants while readying himself for the wired plants concert. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

The orchestra has arrived, and curious murmurs fill UC Irvine’s Winifred Smith Hall. One at a time the instruments are placed onstage, while the musician bandages his fingertip.

One cactus? Check.

One palm? Check.

One dracaena? Check.

All wired up and ready? Check and check.

Running his fingertips through palm fronds and plucking a cactus with his bandaged forefinger, Alan Terricciano, Claire Trevor School of the Arts acting dean, performs his latest composition, “New Music for House Plants.”

Terricciano uses a technique first described by John Cage in his 1975 work, “Child of Tree.” Piezo electric sensors attached to each plant transform the vibrations from his touch into musical sounds. In the hands of the classically trained pianist and composer, typical house plants become Mother Nature’s symphony orchestra. He adds with a smile: “No plants are harmed in the staging of this demonstration.”

Educated at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York, Terricciano was a professor and dance department chair before being appointed arts acting dean in July 2008. For 25 years he has been a composer for choreography and a pianist with a focus on choreographic collaboration.

Terricciano will perform in concert with the Robin Cox Ensemble, guest artists Andre Gribou, pianist, and Lea Seffens, clarinetist, and several houseplants at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 4, in Winifred Smith Hall. The one-night performance celebrates his 15th anniversary with UCI and will feature an array of his original compositions.

Tickets are $13 for the general public, $11 for seniors and UCI faculty and staff, and $9 for children and UCI students. Call the Arts Box Office at 949-824-2787 or purchase online at