A CORRECTiON AND AN APOLOGY: In yesterday’s post about the upcoming debut concert by the Madison Choral Project, I misspelled the name of the founder, conductor and Edgewood music professor Albert Pinssonneault. I regret the error.
By Jacob Stockinger
Ukraine-born pianist and University of Wisconsin graduate student Yana Groves (below) will wrap up the current season of “Grace Presents” tomorrow, Saturday, May 18, at noon with a FREE recital of Debussy, Rachmaninov and Schubert.
The concert starts at noon and will run until about 1 p.m. in the downtown Grace Episcopal Church (below top) on the Capitol Square.
The recital of Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Schubert features wonderful music – some of The Ear’s all-time favorites – and it will provide will be a welcome respite from the crowds and hectic activity of the downtown Dane County Farmers’ Market around the Capitol Square.
The church’s interior (below) is a fine setting with resonant acoustics, to say nothing of the beautiful dark wood and stained glass windows. Some members of the audience bring along cushions to soften the hard pews.
Groves (below) recently gave an email interview to The Ear:
Would you please briefly introduce yourself to the readers with highlights of your personal life and professional life?
I was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 1987. I came to the United States in 2007 and attended SUNY Plattsburgh, majoring in Accounting and Music. I started playing piano at the age of 7. My major teacher in Ukraine was Tatiana Glazyrina. In the United States I studied with Dr. Karen Becker (SUNY Plattsburgh), who encouraged me to pursue music as my career. I started studying with Christopher Taylor (below) last fall. I participated in and was one of the two winners of the Irving Shain Competition (woodwind-piano duo competition) in February 2013 in Madison.
What are your plans and projects currently and for the future? As a musician, what are your career plans?
I am currently working on receiving my Master’s degree and I am almost done with my first year. I just gave my solo recital and next year I am required to give my chamber recital, where I will get a chance to work with my new friends who play other instruments. I am also planning to apply for the Doctor of Musical Arts program at UW-Madison.
What would you like to say about the various works on your program at Grace Episcopal? What would you like the audience to listen for?
The pieces are all very different. Debussy’s “Estampes” are great examples of Impressionism, where the listeners can hear different color changes and images. Rachmaninov’s Prelude is a very beautiful and relaxing piece that has a beautiful singing melody and orchestral writing.
The A minor sonata (D. 845) by Schubert (below) consists of very diverse movements. The first one has a beautiful main melody that develops throughout the whole movement. The second movement takes the form of Theme and Variations, where Schubert (below) masterfully shows how to transfer a simple theme into completely different characters, while using the same thematic material. The third movement is a Scherzo and Trio and it is very playful in its nature. The last movement is in a form of rondo that drives the listener to the end of this piece with much intensity and determination.
Despite the fact that I have certain characters in mind when I play this sonata, I believe that listeners should find the characters that they would like to imagine when they listen to this piece.
What do you think would draw more young people into making and listening to classical music, especially live concerts?
I think that certain educational aspect is necessary in order to young people to understand the value of classical concerts. I believe that lecture recitals are very efficient because the performer explains what he or she does, and once the audience gets familiar with it they appreciate it more.
What advice do you have for young pianists?
Young pianists should practice not only developing their technical abilities, but also the musical characteristics such experimenting with different characters and colors, listening to their own playing during practicing. Playing the piano well requires hard work, but it becomes very interesting if the pianist embodies his or her practicing with meaning. (below is a photo of Yana Groves practicing.)
What else would you like to say or add?
I am very excited about this concert and I am looking forward to sharing with the audience the repertoire that I have learned during my first year at the UW-Madison.
AN ALERT and A REMINDER: Pianist Jeremy Denk’s masterclass is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as erroneously stated yesterday in a reader comment, in Morphy Hall. Also, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closes out its current Masterworks season this Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. The conductor is WCO music director Andrew Sewell, and the emphasis in on the Classical era composers — Haydn (Symphony No. 83, “The Hen”), Mozart (love songs from the opera “Don Giovanni” with Metropolitan Opera soprano Susanna Phillips, below) and Beethoven (Symphony No. 2) — that Sewell performs so brilliantly and so convincingly. Joseph Canteloube’s popular and more Romantic “Songs of the Auvergne” are also featured. For more information and tickets, here is a link: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/51/event-info/
By Jacob Stockinger
The music schedule for April is crazy busy, and it just keeps getting crazier and busier.
Take the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer), which has a fine reputation when it plays by itself.
But it also brings in some respected guests fairly often, especially guests cellist, violists and pianists. That is what makes the PAQ’s FREE concert this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall so special.
The guest this time will be the acclaimed Japanese violist Nobuko Imai (below), who once played with the esteemed Vermeer String Quartet and who rarely plays in America.
The program includes: the masterful Viola Quintet in C major, K. 515, by Mozart (substituted for the Quintet, Op. 11, No. 5 by Luigi Boccherini); Benjamin Britten’s Solo Cello Suite No. 2 transcribed for solo viola; and the great String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111, by Johannes Brahms.
Here is some background about Noboku Imai, provided by the UW-Madison School of Music: s
“With her exceptional talent, musical integrity and charisma, Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding violists of our time. She has excelled as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and pedagogue, and performs often with world-renowned artists.
“In 2003, Nobuko Imai, Mihaela Martin, Stephan Picard and Frans Helmerson formed the Michelangelo Quartet (below), which gained an international reputation has become one of the finest quartets in the world.
“Imai currently teaches at the Geneva and Amsterdam Conservatories, Kronberg International Academy and Ueno Gakuen University in Tokyo.”
Here are words of tribute from the regular Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) about Imai and about the role of the viola, which often goes understated in the shadow on violins and cellos:
“Nobuko Imai is coming to Madison from Curtis where she is giving a master class just before arriving here, and will also appear in the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota on April 14. We are very lucky to bring her to Madison, both because she is so renowned a musician and violist, but also because she makes very few appearances in the US. Nobuko teaches in Geneva, Switzerland, and in Germany and Japan. Busy lady. She will be in residence at the Marlboro Festival this summer.
“We are honored and thrilled to have Nobuko Imai, one of the world’s most famed violists, include Madison for a rare U.S. appearance. She is a star in the solo world of string playing, and a person of humility and vision. Though she is one of the most influential performers and teachers in Europe and Asia, she seldom performs in the United States.
“On this coming trip she will be performing only at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and in Madison. Her master classes are renowned for her ability to show a student how to transform from good to superb, all in a public setting.”
As for the role of the viola (below), Chisholm adds: “Brahms loved the sound of contralto, which is one reason he is so generous to the viola in his chamber music. With so many roles to fulfill, as an inner voice, a leader of harmonic motion, a primary texture, and a solo voice, the sound of the viola is often turned to as the soul of the quartet.
“Whether contralto or mezzo-soprano, the voice of the viola is used when a composer has something very important to say. For performers, the luxury of living inside the quartet sound, yet having many occasions to soar above, is so rewarding that it lasts a lifetime.”
ALERT: There have been additions and corrections to the programs by Classical Revolution Madison (below at the Fair Trade Coffee House in a photo by Tori Rogers) on Sunday and Monday. Here is a link to the revised blog post: http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/classical-music-classical-revolution-announces-three-local-performances-for-april-starting-this-coming-sunday-and-monday/
By Jacob Stockinger
The unusual and very intriguing program features the Madison Symphony Orchestra Chorus (bottom top) and the MSO concertmaster violinist Naha Greenholtz (below bottom) in a program of Handel, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn and Vaughan Williams.
Here is a link to the post that will refresh your mind:
And here is a link to the MSO’s website about the concert:
We should realize how lucky we are in Madison not only to have the quality of the MSO under John DeMain (below in a photo by Greg Anderson), but also to be spared – at least so far – some of the major money problems and internal disputes that have plagued other American orchestras, many of them bigger and more established.
A recent story about the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and its celebrated music director Michael Tilson Thomas (below), and its labor problems – including a bitter strike that led to the cancellation of a major East Coast tour including a concert in Carnegie Hall – was done on PBS’ “Newshour.”
It is worth a look and listen. Here is a link:
By mid-week the strike by the SFSO (below, celebrating its recent centennial) had been solved. But the questions about musicians wages versus administrative wages and about shrinking audiences continue to be pertinent to symphony orchestras in the US.
By Jacob Stockinger
These days, “icon” is an overused word.
But it certainly applies in the case of American pianist Van Cliburn (below). For five decade, he was ever-present in the mind of classical music fans ever since he won, against all odds, the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958, held in Moscow during the height of The Cold War.
I have written before about Cliburn, who died today at 78 after a long battle with bone cancer.
Here is one posting about the controversy that surrounded his playing:
Here is the most important blog posting, and be sure to reader the many intelligent and deeply felt comments by readers:
There are many reasons to like him and his playing. Not for nothing was he the first classical musician to ask and get a concert fee of $10,000 for one night;s performance.
But if you asked me to sum it up, I would say: Van Cliburn made every note come from some place and go to another place, and he always developed a logic – melodic, harmonic or rhythmic — to a particular phrase or passage.
His Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 (below, the first classical recording to sell 1 million copies) and his Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 remain for me the best, the absolute best, versions ever recorded.
I didn’t like his Brahms or Schumann so much, but I liked much of his Chopin — hear the Nocturne he plays at the bottom in a YouTube video — and I adored his playing of Edward MacDowell‘s Piano Concerto No. 2, which also remains definitive for me.
His personal and professional story proved fascinating and courageous as well as inspiring to many young musicians, including myself. (Below is the 23-year-old Van Cliburn in the ticker tape parade he received in New York City after his win in Moscow.)
Here are links to some important obituaries and stories. You’ll find many memorable quotes and many unforgettable facts as well as some wonderful photos from all stages of his life and career:
From The New York Times:
From the Associated Press:
From The Dallas Morning News:
From the Houston Star-Telegram, the first a story and the second, a life in photos:
From National Public Radio:
From The Los Angeles Times:
From The Washington Post:
From USA TODAY:
What would you like to say on Van Cliburn’s passing? Leave a COMMENT.
What is your favorite recording of Cliburn’s?
By Jacob Stockinger
His residency, which organizers say should help attract the public’s attention to band music at the UW, will culminate in a FREE concert on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. Bryant will be present.
That is also when the UW Wind Ensemble (below top, rehearsing) will be joined by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet to perform several works by contemporary composers. They include “Firefly” by Ryan George (b. 1978); “Concerto 2010” for Wind Ensemble and Brass Quintet by Anthony Plog (b. 1947); “Hymn to a Blue Hour by John Mackey (b. 1973) ;” and the Wisconsin premiere of Bryant’s Concerto for Wind Ensemble (2010), conducted by Scott Teeple. The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below bottom), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season as artists-in-residence at the UW, will join the UW Wind Ensemble.
Even while Bryant (below) was doing another residency in Indianapolis, he agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear about his upcoming residency at the UW-Madison:
Could you briefly introduce yourself to the public?
I’m a freelance composer and occasional conductor, living in Durham, North Carolina, where my wife is on the faculty at Duke University. I am still in awe at my good fortune to be able to make my living doing exactly what I want to do.
Why do you think much of the classical music public doesn’t take bands – that is winds and brass – as seriously as say strings, piano, voice, etc.? What can be done about that and to heighten the profile of bands?
Historically, bands have been either military (playing only marches and ceremonial music) or community ensembles, with no set instrumentation or symphonic repertoire. Today, the most visible manifestation of bands, at least in the US, is marching bands at football games. (For information about the UW-Madison band program, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/bands)
Part of the problem is the lack of repertoire of music created expressly for the ensemble, and a lack of professional ensembles to present the music to the public.
However, the number of serious composers writing for band (or wind ensemble, or wind symphony, or wind orchestra -– whatever you want to call it!) has increased dramatically in the last 20 or 30 years, and the performance level of the top university ensembles now rivals professional playing, so I hope this view is changing. (Below is a photo of the UW Wind Ensemble performing.)
I view the band (and encourage composers who have never considered it as a potential medium to do the same) as a large new music ensemble with infrastructure behind it. The sheer number of ensembles in the US and around the world, and their eager interest in new music, means you have a much better chance at receiving multiple performances.
What would you like to say about your new Concerto for Wind Ensemble that received its world premiere in 2010 by the Wind Ensemble at the University of Texas-Austin (below is a photo of rehearsals for that Texas performance, and at bottom Bryant introduces his YouTube videos about composing the concerto) and which will receive its Wisconsin premiere Saturday night ? What special things should the public listen for or pay attention to?
In my Concerto for Wind Ensemble I set out to create a lot of music from a very small amount of source material. Most of the music you’ll hear throughout all five movements is presented in the first half of Movement I.
The other material is introduced in Movement III, which is built entirely from a Trumpet solo my father played years ago, and which I transcribed from an old cassette tape a couple of years after he passed away. At one point, the Trumpet and the Sax (my instrument) play the nearly intact solo together.
If you want to know more about the work and its performance history, you can go to my website:
What there an Aha! Moment – perhaps a piece or performer or composer – when you knew you wanted to become a professional composer and musician?
Music was always around the house, since my father was a gigging musician as well as a band director and music educator. I was fascinated from an early age with the act of writing music on a staff, even before I quite knew what the notes were.
One specific catalyst that pushed me into writing was Bruce Hornsby’s single, “The Way It Is.” I was in middle school, and decided I wanted to learn to play it, so I sat at the piano and figured it out. From there, I started writing my own (truly awful) pop songs, followed by pep band arrangements of early Chicago tunes, cheesy “new age” synth pieces in high school, and then a brass quartet and ultimately a piece for my high school band.
I made no distinction in my mind among these – they were all simply the fascinating act of creating and writing down music.
Want would you like to say about the UW-Madison and Madison – ties you have, things you have heard or know about?
I’ve never been on the campus of UW-Madison, and have only been in the city of Madison one time for about eight hours, so I’m very much looking forward to my visit!
ALERT: In Sunday, there are two concerts worth noting and attending at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. On Sunday at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under guest conductor and UW alumnus Kevin McMahon (below). McMahon is the music director of the Sheboygan and Wheaton (Illinois) Symphony Orchestras and was a Collins Fellow while studying at the UW. His program includes Vaughan Williams Overture to “The Wasps”; UW soprano Mimmi Fulmer in Joseph Cantaloube’s popular “Songs of the Auvergne“; and Mozart’s dramatic Symphony No. 40 G minor. Then at 5 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Winds of Wisconsin of Wisconsin perform a FREE concert (the program includes: “Lux Arumque” by Eric Whitacre; “La Fiesta Mexicana” by H. Owen Reed; and “Fanfare for the Third Planet” by Richard Saucedo ) under director Scott Teeple.
By Jacob Stockinger
One of the most inventive and interesting chamber music groups in the area is the recently formed Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (below). It uses fine performers at different venues and offers different thematic programs, always with some unusual angle or logic in mind, and always with top quality performances.
This Saturday is a prime example.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the new, crisply designed Atrium auditorium (below) of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin will present “American Patchwork” as its next concert, honoring the art of musical sampling of American genres.
Tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased in advance on SEW‘s website or by cash or check at the door.
SEW will perform the classic and popular piano trio “Cafe Music” by American composer and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor teacher Paul Schoenfield, who was in Madison last spring when the Pro Arte String Quartet gave the world premiere of his “Three Rhapsodies for Piano Quintet” with pianist Christopher Taylor that the quartet had commissioned for its centennial celebration. In the often performed piano trio work (in a YouTube video at the bottom), the composer pays tribute to ragtime and Broadway, among other styles. Also on the program are Morton Gould‘s “Rag-Blues-Rag” for piano as well as several Gershwin songs.
The stage will then be turned over to SEW’s special guest turntablist, DJ Moppy (below, aka Christopher Thomopoulos), who will be joining them from Chicago to represent the craft of sampling, using Gershwin among other samples on his turntables.
If you want to sample the sampler, DJ Moppy demonstrates turntablism in a short video which can be found on the “Events” page of SEW’s website: http://sewmusic.org/events/.
Musicians for the concert include Vince Fuh, Mary Theodore, Maggie Townsend, Rachel Eve Holmes, and Chris Thomopoulos (DJ Moppy).
In keeping with the concert’s theme, SEW will be accepting fabric at the performance for their community quilt, sponsored by Stitcher’s Crossing and fabricated by volunteers, to be presented and auctioned at the last concert to benefit SEW’s future programming. All are welcome to bring 5″ square to 1/4 yard, 100% cotton fabric they’d like to share.
This event is sponsored in part by WORT 89.9 FM.
According to SEW’s founder and director, violinist Mary Theodore (below), SEW’s mission is to share great chamber music with more people through theme-based programming, collaboration, and education while encouraging participation in an authentic performance experience.
Theodore wanted to remind readers of the following: ”As many are aware, ticket proceeds do not begin to cover the cost of expenses necessary to present concerts and sustain an organization. SEW is actively seeking contributions to fund this event. If you’re interested in hearing more about this SEW and their upcoming project, please visit http://www.power2give.org/danearts/Project/Detail?projectId=1482, where 50 cents to every contributed dollar is matched.”
SEW has received excellent reviews: “SEW will certainly bring a new dimension to Madison’s cultural scene,” said John W. Barker on The Well-Tempered Ear about the group’s inaugural concert last season. “The performances were all splendid … and the command of technique and the precision of ensemble throughout was of the highest artistic standards.”
For more information, visit the group’s website: www.sewmusic.org
By Jacob Stockinger
Say the phrase “American” music, and it sounds confining or restricting, at least stylistically
But that is certainly not the case, as the deeply talented and always reliable Oakwood Chamber Players (below) – many of whom play with other well-known concert groups in the area – will demonstrate in two performances of an eclectic concert of chamber music.
The concerts are at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at the Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium (below top), 6209 Mineral Point Road; and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3, at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum Visitors Center.
Tickets are available at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.
Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.
The Americas concerts will showcase composers, eras and combinations of instrumentation ranging from jazz to string quartets to Latin American dances.
Six works by six different composers will be featured during the concerts including:
• “Tropical Airs” for Woodwind Quintet by Paquito D’Rivera (below), a Grammy award winner with works ranging from jazz to bebop to large-scale symphonic works.
• “Contre Qui, Rose” for string quartet by Morten Lauridsen (below), a contemporary composer known for his evocative and close harmonies in choral works.
• The famous “American” String Quartet by Antonin Dvorak (below), which was created shortly after a trip to the Midwest, where the composer had a summer home in Spillville, Iowa, and was likely influenced by American folk music.
• “Six Cuban Dances” for wind quartet by Ignacio Cervantes.
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.
By Jacob Stockinger
To The Ear, this seems a particularly promising time for young violinists, and especially for young women violinists such as Julia Fischer, Lelia Josefowicz, Lisa Batiashvili, Janine Jansen and Hilary Hahn.
But among all those violinists and their prodigious amounts of talent, one in particular stands out as unique: Jennifer Koh (below, in a photo by Christopher Berkey for The New York Times).
An American of Korean heritage who was born in Chicago, Kho is an international competition winner who also came into a career in professional music somewhat via the back door, which has only deepened her music-making and her interpretations. Koh is anything but predictable and mainstream or traditional. A master of the old classics, she is also devoted to new music.
Her breadth of interests and her open personality show in her intense and exciting playing. We in Madison are lucky that the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its music director-conductor Andrew Sewell booked her to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto early on, in 2004 before word got out and she became so in demand. (Below, a photo by Karsten Moran for The New York Times.)
Kohn has made many acclaimed recordings. But the first CD (below) in her three-volume series of “Bach and Beyond” (for the non-profit, Chicago-based label Cedille Records) made many critics’ lists of The Best Classical Recordings of 2012” – including mine. (At bottom, she discusses the project.)
I had been a waiting for a Q&A from Jennifer Koh. But she is obviously busy with more important things like playing the violin and, one suspects, reading serious English literature (you have to know her background to understand the reference!).
All the more reason, then, to read the excellent profile that appeared recently in The New York Times.
Here is a link to that detailed but readable and very accessible profile that leaves you wondering: How can you not like Jennifer Koh?:
By Jacob Stockinger
Farley’s House of Pianos will welcome back internationally recognized Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino on this Friday night, January 25, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. for a salon concert of mostly Spanish music, followed by a reception for the artist.
Born in Lebanon of Spanish parents, del Pino draws influences from his piano studies in Spain, as well as the United States where he earned a Master’s degree in piano performance from Yale. He has also spent time teaching piano in Austria, Jordan, Palestine and Spain.
An accomplished soloist, he has performed with orchestras around the world, including the Bucharest Philharmonic and at festivals such as Chamber Music International in Dallas.
Dance is a common theme throughout del Pino’s upcoming performance, which features pieces such as the “Spanish Dances” by Enrique Granados (below top) and the “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel de Falla (below bottom).
To close the concert, del Pino will perform Franz Liszt’s dramatic and virtuosic “Totentanz,” or Dance of the Dead. (You can see and hear him in a similar Liszt work in a YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.)
To see the complete program, visit Events at farleyspianos.com.
Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 the day of the concert. A reception will follow the concert. Tickets can be purchased at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, or by calling 271-2626 to reserve tickets by credit or debit card.
Farley’s House of Pianos is located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s west side near the Beltline and West Towne. Plenty of free parking is available at Farley’s House of Pianos, and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.
Other upcoming concerts at Farley’s include:
Solo pianist Martin Kasik in works by Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt and Modeste Mussorgsky; March 23 at 7:30 p.m.
University of Wisconsin-Madison and Pro Arte String Quartet cellist Parry Karp and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman in a complete cycle of Beethoven’s cello works: April 19at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 4:30 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
It happens every year around this time.
Only this year it is a two-fer, so the feelings or thoughts are more intense.
That’s because today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, complete with live radio and delayed TV broadcasts of ceremonies from the Wisconsin State Capitol (at noon on Wisconsin Public Radio and at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television) and other places. (Below is the poster for Martin Luther King Jr. ceremonies with host Jonathan Overby.)
But this year it is also President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration Day – well, at least the ceremonial one since the official one took place by law yesterday on Sunday. (In 2008, cellist Yo-Yo Ma (below bottom) played with violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Gabriela Montero at the first Inauguration.)
Anyway, on this day I always think back to all the many concerts I go to in a year — professional, amateur and student concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). And I always find myself asking:
Why don’t I see more African-American audiences at the concerts. And especially, Why don’t I see more African-American players in the various symphonic and chamber groups or as soloists?
Sure, I see a lot of whites and a lot of Asians. I see some Hispanics, though also far too few. But I am especially struck at how few African Americans I see – although opera seems to outpace symphonies and chamber groups in this regard. (Sorry to say, I can’t think of any black conductors, violinists or cellists and only one pianist — at bottom, you will find a YouTube video of the African-American pianist Awadagin Pratt performing J.S. Bach at a concert in 2009 at the Obama White House — even though the sports world has at least some black managers, coaches and quarterbacks.)
I don’t see many African-Americans in the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), whose music director and conductor John DeMain is world-famous for his Grammy-winning black production of Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess”:
Or in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below):
Or in the University of Wisconsin Symphony or Chamber Orchestra and UW Choral Union (below):
Or even in the middle school and high school groups sponsored by WYSO (below).
It is similar to the thoughts I have every New Year’s Day when I tune in the “Live From Vienna” concert with the Vienna Philharmonic and am once again disappointed to see how few women are in that august ensemble – even in the year 2013.
That’s not to say that we won’t today see and hear a lot of blacks in music. But I suspect we will hear jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, spirituals and pop.
And sure, some people may say: Well, after all, those are the traditional genres of music-making in the African-American culture and community.
And they are right in large part, and those are excellent forms of music.
But there is also a large number of blacks who have contributed to classical music. And more blacks – to say nothing of all whites and members of other ethnic groups – could stand to learn more about the contributions of African-Americans to classical music.
Does the cause of such ignorance have to do with racism and bias?
With faulty music education?
With family or community values?
With a lack of role models?
With the lack of aggressive recruiting and hiring by local groups?
Now it just so happens that there are websites that offer visitors comprehensive histories and biographies of blacks in classical music – and even offers a quiz to see how much you know about who they were and the contributions they made.
So on this day when all of the U.S. and, one hopes, the world celebrate the achievements of African-Americans, maybe people can take time to visit this site, educate themselves and get a renewed and greater appreciation for the role that African-Americans have played in classical music.
Here are is a link to one of those websites:
Do you have observations to offer in the COMMENTS section about causes of remedies of such a shortage?
Names of composers and performers to pass along?
Is it something we have to accept as a cultural given?
Are there other websites you can suggest where readers can learn about African Americans and classical music?