The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Meet J’Nai Bridges who went from the dream of playing professional basketball to the reality of singing professional opera

January 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Baseball season is done.

Football season is almost over.

Basketball season is here.

So it seems an appropriate time for The Ear to share a great story about sports and classical music that he recently saw on the PBS NewsHour.

It is also a good story about good luck to run today, on Friday the 13th, a date that is traditionally synonymous with bad luck.

The story concerns J’Nai Bridges (below) who started out wanting to be a professional basketball player.

jnai-bridges

That dream fell apart dramatically and suddenly — though she doesn’t reveal if it was an injury or some other cause.

But then good luck unexpectedly stepped in.

During her senior year in high school, she signed up for choir as an elective and her teacher immediately recognized her gift.

She started late, but she had the right attitude to stay open to new discoveries and new possibilities.

Turns out she possesses a world-class mezzo-soprano voice. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Bridges singing an aria from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet .)

And now she has gone on to a career in opera and is a rising star singing major roles in major opera houses around the world.

The Ear thinks that Bridges’ words reflect wisdom that others should share in.

For one, her moving story also highlights the importance of a liberal arts education, where you can try out many different subjects you have no idea about and see what you like and how you do. That gives students a chance to explore their untapped interests and potential.

It also runs contrary to some of the current politicians who want to reform secondary and higher education into a kind of trade school or vocational training ground for work and careers.

It also is a fine summary of the role that music plays both for the performer and for the audience.

Here is a link to the moving and informative story:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/sports-gave-way-singing-rising-star/


Classical music: These women composers should be household names

March 26, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

It may be known more for basketball, for March Madness and the Big Dance.

But March is also Women’s History Month.

Before it ends, The Ear wanted to share a terrific story about women composers that appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine.

It discusses women composers who should be household names like Johann Sebastian Bach or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

barbara strozzi

Who are they?

schumannclara

Can you guess their names and match them to the photos?

elizabeth maconchy

Have you heard their works?

Amy Beach BW 1

Read the story and see for yourself.

Here is a link:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/these-women-composers-should-be-household-names-bach-or-mozart-180958464/?no-ist

And at bottom is a YouTube video with a beautiful and tuneful example of one woman composer as well as background about a great but unknown female American violinist, who is championed by the Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below), who herself has performed several times with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Rachel Barton Pine

And leave what you think about a specific composer or women in music in general in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education: Let us now praise and support student musicians even as we cheer on the University of Wisconsin Badgers basketball team playing against the University of Arizona Wildcats in tonight’s NCAA’s “Elite Eight” game. Here are the winners of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 Bolz Young Artist Competition and “Final Forte” concert. PLUS, WYSO’s Art of Note fundraiser is tonight.

March 29, 2014
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ALERT: Tonight is the gala Art of Note annual fundraiser for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). It will be held at CUNA Mutual at 5910 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side,  from 6 to 10 p.m. and features great food and many items for auctions as well as performances by student music groups. For more information, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/support-wyso/art-of-note/

wyso horns

By Jacob Stockinger

Even as many Badger eyes will be turned tonight to the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA’s annual March Madness “The Big Dance” national college basketball championship in Anaheim. California, tonight at 7:49 p.m. CDT on TBS (Turner Broadcasting System)  with the hopes that the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers will win over top-seeded University of Arizona Wildcats and go on to advance to the “Final Four” and further — we would do well to remember the students who excel in other fields besides athletics but who receive far less media coverage and much less popular acclaim than they deserve.

Take student classical musicians, for instance.

Chances are you already know the news if you were there in person Wednesday night at  “The Final Forte” in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, or if you heard the performances that were broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio.

But now it is official, complete with the press release from the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) that names the results of the state annual teenage concerto competition called the Bolz Young Artist Competition.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The four instrumentalists performed with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, under guest conductor James Smith of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who filled in for MSO music director John DeMain.

The four finalists who competed in two preliminary rounds and who are pictured below in a photo by James Gill, were (from the left):

mso final forte 2014 David Cao, Elizabeth Moss, Bobby Levinger, Ephraim Sutherland CR James Gill

Violinist David Cao, 15, who attends James Madison Memorial High School in Madison. He played the first movement of the Violin Concerto in D Minor by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He took First Prize and $2,000. (you can hear a YouTube video of the first movement of this demanding concerto at the bottom.)

Violinist Bethany Moss, 17, is a senior home-schooled in Appleton, Wisconsin. She performed the third movement of the Violin Concerto in B Minor by French composer Camille Saint-Saens. She received an Honorable Mention.

Pianist Bobby Levinger, 17 is a senior at Central High School in La Crosse. He played the first movement of the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. He received an Honorable Mention.

Marimba player Ephraim Sutherland, 15, is a sophomore at Viroqua High School. He performed the Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra by French composer Emmanuel Sejourne. He received Second Prize and $2,000.

Cao and Sutherland also performed as soloists with the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the MSO’s Spring Young People’s Concert on Thursday, March 27, which area school children attended. (Below is a photo by Greg Anderson of a previous Young People’s Concert.)

MSO Fall Youth kid greg anderson

Do you agree with the results?

If you have an observation to make about the competition and performances, or wishes to leave the contestants, please use the COMMENTS section of this blog.

Major funding for this concert is provided by Diane Ballweg, Larry and Julie Midtbo, Fred and Mary Mohs, The Berbeewalsh Foundation, and The Boldt Company, with additional funds from the A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, Stephen D. Morton, Mildred and Marv Conney, James Dahlberg and Elsebet Lund, Kato L. Perlman, Sentry Insurance Foundation, W. Jerome Frautschi, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

 

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