09/23/2021

Cellist Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, embodying “wave of change” in classical concert scene

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Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, principal cellist in the Erie Philharmonic and Akron Symphony Orchestra, performs a streamed concert at Performing Arts Collective Alliance in Erie, Pennsylvania, June 2021.

“Anyone looking to take a core sample across the various strata of the Erie alternative music scene could look to the [streamed] concert series at Erie’s Performing Arts Collective Alliance, [which] on a Sunday evening in June [featured] Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, the principal cellist of the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and Akron Symphony Orchestra,” writes John Chacona in Wednesday’s (9/22) GoErie (PA). “In many ways, Snowden-Rodriguez, who uses the pronouns they and them, is the embodiment of a wave of change…. The child of a Venezuelan mother and an American-born father, Snowden-Rodriguez is not only Latinx, but also identifies as queer…. In 2008 … Snowden-Rodriguez entered a competition sponsored by the Sphinx Organization [and began] playing with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and … Sphinx Virtuosi chamber orchestra…. Snowden-Rodriguez’s PACA livestream program included works by African-American composers [and] Bach … and ended with an original composition that incorporated the cellist’s voice and live electronics. ‘I’ve always been somebody who really wants to take classical music off its pedestal, and just bring it to the people,’ Snowden-Rodriguez said. ‘For other people to fall in love with something that maybe they didn’t think was for them, I think is incredibly powerful.’ ”

September 23, 2021

Florida Orchestra to open season with full-orchestra program of Beethoven, Vivaldi, Ippolito premiere

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“The Florida Orchestra kicks off its 2021-22 season Sept. 24-26, returning to a full symphony after performing with a fraction of musicians last season,” writes Maggie Duffy in Monday’s (9/20) Tampa Bay Times (FL). “Concerts will also return to traditional lengths, with audiences at full capacity … at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Health and safety measures are still in place for patrons, musicians and staff and ‘continue to be top priorities,’ according to a news release…. Opening weekend comes with a bang, as music director Michael Francis conducts Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons…. The world premiere of a new work by Tampa native Michael Ippolito opens the concert. A pay-what-you-can concert, Inside Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, will take place … Thursday at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg…. Maestro Francis and concertmaster Jeffrey Multer will tell the story behind Vivaldi’s work before a full performance…. The season features more than 100 performances, ranging from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 to the Music of Star Wars to the rock stylings of Elton John and Billy Joel.”

September 23, 2021

Pittsburgh Symphony prepares for full-orchestra concert in Heinz Hall: Glinka, Ravel, Tchaikovsky

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“To address concerns about COVID-19 variants and case counts, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has had to limber up as it prepares to launch the 2021-22 season on Friday,” writes Jeremy Reynolds in Thursday’s (9/23) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “To that end, capacity won’t be limited, but concerts will be 90 minutes and intermissionless…. Listeners will be required to show proof of vaccination prior to each performance in Heinz Hall…. And when the Allegheny County is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ‘substantial’ or ‘high’ community transmission levels, all listeners will be required to mask up…. So when music director Manfred Honeck takes to the stage Friday to give the downbeat for the fall season, he’ll likely be masked up as well…. The season opens with Glinka’s Overture to ‘Ruslan and Ludmilla.’ … French pianist Helene Grimaud [in] Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major [and] Tchaikovsky’s programmatic Symphony No. 4…. ‘Tchaikovsky’s fourth of course has the famous fate theme in the beginning,’ Honeck said. ‘It is rather like COVID, this unstoppable thing that we all experienced. But then, the next movement is dreamier, like stasis, and then the third is light, and the fourth transforms to joy again.’ ”

September 23, 2021

University of Southern Maine receives $10M to help fund new music building on Portland campus

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“A $10 million donation from philanthropist D. Suzi Osher, the largest-ever monetary gift to the University of Southern Maine, moves forward the long-held dream of a first-class home for the USM School of Music on its Portland campus,” writes Bob Keyes in Tuesday’s (9/21) Press Herald (Portland, ME). “The Osher gift, announced at a media briefing Tuesday, follows a $5 million gift in June from the Crewe Foundation. Ainsley Wallace, USM Foundation president [estimated] the total cost of the building … at between $38 million and $42 million…. USM President Glenn Cummings said, ‘we are probably a few million dollars short of where we want to be, but we are very close.’ … ‘The earliest we anticipate breaking ground for construction would be 2023,’ … Wallace said…. As envisioned, the single-story building will have a performance hall with about 200 seats, flexible classroom and rehearsal spaces, sound-proof studios, as well as a visual arts gallery and the Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts. Corthell Hall on the Gorham campus, the longtime home for the school of music, will continue to be used for first- and second-year music students, and USM is exploring other uses.”

September 23, 2021

Curtis Institute’s inaugural Young Alumni Fund grants go to 11 recent graduates  

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The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia has announced the recipients of its inaugural Young Alumni Fund grants. The fund provides recent graduates of Curtis, who completed their studies in 2011 or later, with financial awards to remove barriers to their success as emerging performers and advance their personal artistic visions. Awards will support community and non-profit organizations founded by alumni, production of new commercial film and audio recordings, training in non-musical skills beneficial to the field of music, and general artistic development, such as audition travel, promotional materials, and instrument purchases. Many of the projects address challenges borne from the ongoing pandemic or give voice to historic or personal stories from people of color. The inaugural grantees are: Tessa Ellis (Trumpet ’17, Community Artist Fellow ’18), George Xiaoyuan Fu (Piano ’16), Joshua Halpern (Cello ’19), Natalie Helm (Cello ’11), Oliver Herbert (Cello ’19), Lyman McBride (Trombone ’18), Ashley Milanese (Voice ’15, Opera ’17, Opera ’18), Sonora Slocum (Flute ’11), Jahleel Smith (Bass Trombone ’18), Joshua Stewart (Voice ’09, Opera ’12), and Tania Villasuso (Clarinet ’19). Funding totaling $37,000 was distributed. Grantees also have access to professional guidance and support. More information is available here.

September 23, 2021

Obituary: James Orent, Boston Pops violinist and substitute conductor, 67

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“Conducting orchestras through soaring symphonies and flying planes as a commercial pilot aren’t as different as you might think, James M. Orent believed,” writes Bryan Marquard in Monday’s (9/20) Boston Globe. “A frequent guest conductor of the Boston Pops, Mr. Orent died Aug. 25 of apparent sudden heart failure while relaxing on the ground after a skydiving jump, one of his favorite pastimes. He was 67 and lived in Nashua, N.H. Mr. Orent was ‘an invaluable resource to the Pops for over a quarter century,’ Pops conductor Keith Lockhart wrote in a tribute…. Calling Mr. Orent ‘an unofficial assistant conductor of the Pops,’ Lockhart wrote that … in 2003, when Lockhart had to rush to Boston for the early birth of his first child and Mr. Orent … was called upon to conduct…. ‘As always, Jim performed magnificently.’ … Orent [conducted] the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and [served] as music director of the Brockton Symphony Orchestra, the Newton Symphony Orchestra, and … other ensembles…. James Michael Orent was born in Boston … and graduated from … Amherst College, where he was awarded the Sundquist Prize for excellence in musical composition and performance. He also received a master’s degree from Yale University, and performed on a 1790 Helmer violin that formerly belonged to Emanuel Fiedler, the father of late Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler.”

September 23, 2021

Opinion: When Apple bought Primephonic, it bet on the future of music streaming

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“Primephonic, a Dutch-American app that streamed a wide catalogue of classical music … was acquired by Apple Inc., which aims to fold the service into Apple Music,” writes Mihir Sharma in Friday’s (9/17) Bloomberg. “Why would the world’s largest company be interested in a closely held startup with a relatively small user base, a few dozen employees and no startling technological innovation to boast of? The answer: Primephonic understood the future. Apple has realized that streaming services will succeed or fail depending on whether they master the four things the tiny company, along with its classical-music peers such as Idagio, have figured out: metadata, discovery, curation and quality…. Apple is hoping to absorb Primephonic’s DNA. Right now Apple Music, like most music-streaming services, is laughably bad at providing metadata beyond the most basic track information … [and includes] howlers such as Apple Music listing the composer of the Pathétique Sonata as ‘unknown.’ … Without metadata for conductor, orchestra, composer or movement, you can’t find the recording you want…. Recommendations and music discovery become virtually impossible…. Classical music fans are who you should seek out if you want to figure out the future.”

September 23, 2021

09/23/2021