The pandemic’s toll on younger orchestral musicians

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From left: musicians Hugo Valverde, Julia McLean, Jon Carroll

Julia McLean, a 24-year-old violist hired in January by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, “played just two of the orchestra’s big classical-series concerts before the pandemic forced Indianapolis and other orchestras around the world to close their doors,” writes Betsy Morris in Wednesday’s (10/14) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “The indefinite intermission … is particularly tough on younger musicians who haven’t yet established careers or teaching studios…. Pre-pandemic, about 160,000 musicians played for orchestras, according to the League of American Orchestras. ‘The thing that keeps me up at night is the individual hardship,’ says Simon Woods, CEO of the League of American Orchestras. ‘Musicians’ lives are about playing music for people and communities, and they’ve been silenced. There’s an emotional strain along with the financial hardship.’ … Hugo Valverde, a 26-year-old French horn player in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, describes the shutdown as ‘devastating: It feels something was ripped away from you.’ He’d landed his seat at the Met after a blind audition at the age of 22 and last year received tenure. His finances forced him to return to his family in Costa Rica…. Ms. McLean … got a job as a coronavirus contact tracer. She’s planning to audition for orchestras in Germany.”

October 15, 2020

U.K. government designates £257 million for arts organizations during pandemic

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“The government’s allocation of £257m in funds to support arts organizations and venues has been welcomed as a gamechanger for struggling venues, but there have been calls for urgent support for freelancers and those who missed out on grants,” writes Lanre Bakare in Tuesday’s (10/13) Guardian (U.K.). “On Monday the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed the 1,385 arts organizations across England that had been successful in their applications for funds designed to secure venues and arts organizations until April 2021. John Gilhooly, the artistic director of Wigmore [Concert] Hall, which received £1m one of the largest grants on offer, said he was thankful for the money but the government still needed to work out ‘how the arts operate’ while ensuring arts workers do not fall through the cracks…. Other grant recipients include The Clapham Grand (£300,000), Bradford’s Kala Sangam (£123,000), the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (£843,000).… The [nonprofit] Music Venues Trust (MVT) said about 90% of grassroots music venues … were given grants. ‘We’re looking at a really incredibly positive major intervention by government that’s going to have massive impact on the grassroots sector,’ said Mark Davyd, the MVT chief executive.”

October 15, 2020

Nia Imani Franklin’s “Compose Her” initiative, spotlighting women composers and musicians

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“American composer and soprano Nia Imani Franklin is the founder and operator of ‘Compose Her,’ an initiative meant to advance and nurture women and girls in classical composition and musicianship,” writes Tracy Monaghan in Wednesday’s (10/14) Icareifyoulisten.com. “Franklin earned her master’s degree in music in 2017 and is the recipient of … awards and honors, from the Kenan Fellowship at Lincoln Center to 2019’s Miss America…. Q: How does your initiative ‘Compose Her’ advocate for women composers and musicians? Franklin: … I’ve created an online community through our social media platforms where women can communicate and find like-minded women in the music industry…. Q: Will you speak to your experiences with classical music’s recent affirmations of support for BIPOC composers and/or women composers?… Franklin: … There is a growth within classical music organizations and leaders who have pledged to make a better effort to highlight Black composers…. I am looking forward to seeing more inclusion for female composers as well as classical musicians of color.… As for if the recent affirmations of support for people of color are sincere or not, I would answer, ‘Time will tell.’ ” Read Symphony magazine’s 2019 interview with Franklin here.

October 15, 2020

Boston Symphony musicians in a day of pop-up recitals

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“The Boston Symphony Orchestra will hit the streets Thursday for a one-day-only concert tour,” reports an item on Thursday (10/15) at WBZ-TV (Boston). “Members of the strings section will board a Duck Boat and perform pop-up recitals across the city. Each one is 20 minutes long and up to 50 people can sit and listen. It all starts at 10:30 a.m. outside Symphony Hall. From there it will go to Angell Memorial Hospital, the Reggie Lewis Center and then the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain. They’ll head back to Symphony Hall for two more shows starting at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. The last concert is at 1:45 p.m. outside the Boston Public Library.”

October 15, 2020

Welcoming a more diverse roster of composers in classical recordings

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“In decades past, classical recordings were synonymous with dead composers and artists with a European pedigree,” writes David Patrick Stearns last Wednesday (10/7) at New York classical radio station WQXR. “Not even the powerful Leopold Stokowski could record the African American composers he championed (such as William Grant Still). But now, such barriers are sidestepped by far more numerous entry points…. Consider the case of Florence Price (1887–1953). Up until a year or so ago, that name was virtually unknown.” Several new recordings feature Price’s work, and “her chamber music has been on some of the first live concerts in New York since the lockdown (including her String Quartet No. 1 by the Harlem Chamber Players), and her Symphony No. 1 will be streamed by the Philadelphia Orchestra … The bonus in these recordings is the little-known worlds they allow you to visit. [Julius] Eastman captures and distills that sleazy, crazy, sexy, let’s-try-anything era of pre-AIDS New York. Few Dvořák-era American composers are heard today, and now we have an entire output that realizes Dvořák’s vision of an American music based in African American sensibility. So we aren’t just listening to music here. We’re time traveling into people’s souls.”

October 15, 2020

Musical America’s Sedgwick Clark retires; Clive Paget is directory’s new editor

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“Sedgwick Clark, longtime features editor of the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, has retired after nearly 30 years in the job,” writes Nicholas Beard in Tuesday’s (10/13) Musical America (subscription required). “He will stay involved in an ‘emeritus’ capacity. Susan Elliott remains editor of [the website] Musical America.… Succeeding Clark is Clive Paget, who has been a contributor to Musical America since 2018 and is the former editor of the Australian publication Limelight. Paget … remains Limelight’s editor at large.” Paget also writes for Symphony magazine. “As the lead arbiter in choosing the annual Directory’s honorees, … Clark has [selected] Anna Netrebko Musician of the Year in 2008, before she was the Met Opera’s favorite soprano; Simon Rattle in 2002 just as he became the Berlin Philharmonic’s primary driver into the 21st century; Yannick Nézet-Séguin in 2016, two years before the Met [Opera] came calling…. Musical America publisher Stephanie Challener … indicated that more changes are afoot. ‘The year 2020 has been an extraordinary time of upheaval and seismic change for the arts…. It has provided an opportunity for us to reflect on how we recognize those who continue to make outstanding contributions to our industry.’ Details as to the changes are to be announced.”

October 15, 2020

Richmond Symphony to offer live-stream and in-person options for concerts

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On Saturday, October 17, Virginia’s Richmond Symphony Orchestra will perform an in-person concert that will also be live-streamed. The concert will be led by Valentina Peleggi, hired in April as the orchestra’s music director. At the 8 p.m. concert—performed before a maximum audience of 450 people in Richmond’s Carpenter Theater, which has a capacity of 1,800—multiple Covid-19 health and safety protocols will be in place. The program will feature mostly strings-only repertoire and include Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with Melissa White as soloist; Gabrieli’s Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2; Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Set 3; and Dvořák’s Serenade in E for String Orchestra, Op. 22. Like the October 17 concert, all the orchestra’s Masterworks and LolliPops concerts this season will be live-streamed. For those attending in-person concerts, masks will be required and there will be a temperature check as patrons enter the building. The Carpenter Theater will open one hour before the performance to allow time for patrons to enter while maintaining social distancing.

October 15, 2020