ICYOLA’s Charles Dickerson, aiming for “an inner city youth orchestra in every city where there’s an NFL team”

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In a photo taken before the pandemic, the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and Charles Dickerson III, the orchestra’s founder and conductor.

“The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles is the largest Black-majority orchestra in the United States,” reports Scott Simon in Saturday’s (2/20) National Public Radio. Simon interviews founder and conductor Charles Dickerson III and Hanna Innis, a high school senior and cellist in the orchestra. “Dickerson: The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles began in 2009 when a group of nine African American high school instrumentalists approached me to work with them that summer…. Now we offer four or five programs. We are also now trying to expand. My mantra is that there needs to be an inner city youth orchestra in every city where there’s an NFL team. And we started that process by now creating the South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra…. Simon: I’m struck by a recent report by the League of American Orchestras. Only 1.8% of musicians in professional orchestras are Black…. Dickerson: It’s probably less than that in youth orchestras. I actually serve on the board of League of American Orchestras, and the League recognizes that this is an issue. And so we’re seeking to make those numbers better.” Innis speaks about the impact the orchestra has had on her, and performs Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Variations For Cello.

February 23, 2021

For the Port Angeles Symphony, flexible planning and community support are key

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“Fulfilling its mission—connecting with the local community through music—hasn’t been easy for the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra … with changing state restrictions and COVID case rates,” writes Diane Urbani de la Paz in Friday’s (2/19) Peninsula Daily News (Port Angeles, WA). “The 89-year-old symphony has had to go from plan B to plan C to plan D, as conductor and music director Jonathan Pasternack describes it. Concert video recordings planned for this Saturday and for March and May are postponed—and replaced with three new events: a virtual Applause! Auction and two recitals recorded especially for Port Angeles Symphony fans.… In March, … cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki … will give a [virtual] recital…. Later this spring … pianist Alexander Tutunov … will present a solo recital.… The video performances will be available via the symphony’s YouTube channel all spring and summer…. The symphony will assemble a string quartet to play during the 2021 Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, a virtual or possibly hybrid event May 28-31…. Pasternack is planning more performances into the fall and expressing gratitude for … ‘the incredible support of our community, grants and donations we are receiving.’ ”

February 23, 2021

New book chronicles Bang on a Can and the evolving new-music scene

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“Since its inception in 1987, the influential New York new-music behemoth Bang on a Can and its founding artistic directors—composers Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon and David Lang—have been hammering away at many of the artistic, economic and social structures underlying the world of contemporary classical music,” writes Joshua Kosman in Saturday’s (1/20) San Francisco Chronicle. “These days, Bang is a sprawling artistic conglomerate, with a dedicated record label, a virtuoso chamber ensemble the Bang on a Can All-Stars … an active commissioning program, a summer residency and a distinctive performance format … In ‘Industry,’ a sleek new scholarly history released this month by Oxford University Press … the musicologist and critic William Robin … explores the festival’s evolution from both artistic and economic perspectives. Artistically speaking, the world of contemporary music in which the Bang composers came up was fairly bifurcated. On one side were the academic composers…. On the other were the experimentalists…. Notably missing … was music that could combine the structural clarity of the one, the accessibility of the other, and the rhythmic urgency of rock music…. Robin explains in precise but readable detail how the Bang composers helped change the funding landscape for new music.”

February 23, 2021

Opinion: For Black and women composers, an age of new possibility

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“Anyone listening to concerts, recordings, and broadcasts over the last year or so might sense an age of new possibility,” writes Peter Dobrin in Sunday’s (2/21) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Just a few years ago, you would be most likely to happen upon a work by a Black composer during Black History Month….. Now … orchestras, opera companies, and other performers are commissioning new pieces from women and Black composers…. There’s … an incredibly compelling musical reason to delve into the body of work of underappreciated composers: We don’t know what we don’t know…. One example: The Florence Price revival is in full bloom right now. And yet, as an indication of how much there is still to learn, of the 132 solo vocal works she is thought to have composed, 83 remain unpublished…. In a way, the moment we are in reminds me of how we came to understand who Schubert was. [The first performance of his] Symphony No. 8, ‘Unfinished’ came in 1865, nearly four decades after his death…. Somewhere, in an attic or a music library or maybe hiding in plain sight, are pieces by non-white-male composers that, with the right kind of attention, will open our ears to genius.”

February 23, 2021

Seattle Youth Symphony continues the learning and the music—virtually

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“Last March the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra … was rehearsing for a spring concert,” writes journalist and former Seattle Youth Symphony board member Mike James on Saturday’s (2/20) PostAlley.com (Seattle). “Kathleen Allen, SYSO’s executive director, remembers the rumbling backstage with news of the first Covid-19 death in the state…. That sudden quarantine meant no more live rehearsals or performances, no audience, a reduction in enrollment fees and a future unknown. Allen cut her staff of nine to seven, with four working part-time, cancelled the summer camp program, saw tuition earnings fall by two-thirds, and eventually cut SYSO’s overall budget from $2.1 million to $800,000. But the conversation within SYSO focused less on money than on how to re-engage students…. [SYSO Music Director Juan Felipe] Molano worked virtually with small groups via Zoom. But the real breakthrough came last summer with a week-long virtual teaching program replacing the usual summer camp. There was doubt at first—how can you take a full orchestral experience and put it online—but it worked … with virtual coaching, virtual rehearsals, later a full concert all with SYSO musicians performing in their own homes, connecting digitally.… SYSO … found a way to keep alive its most important task, the teaching and development of young musicians.”

February 23, 2021

Caring for a centuries-old violin, with no power or heat, in Plano, Texas

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“As temperatures plummeted across Texas this week, a local violinist began sleeping with his instrument,” writes Tim Diovanni in Friday’s (2/19) Dallas Morning News. “Aaron Boyd, director of chamber music at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, spent a few nights snuggling up with his 5-year-old son, Yuki, and his violin, which was nestled in its case, under many blankets. It was made in Venice in 1690…. Boyd … didn’t have power for most of Monday and Tuesday. Though he doesn’t think his ‘old Italian masterpiece’ would have cracked when the temperature at his home in Plano dropped into the 40s, he ‘would never want to test it,’ he says. ‘Because once it’s cracked, you have to have it fixed. And it’s never quite the same afterward.’ … Its creator, Matteo Goffriller, was the father of the ‘Venetian School’ of luthiers…. Boyd usually brings his violin to luthiers in New York City for basic maintenance. Although he’s been unable to fly there during the pandemic, he still cleans his instrument ‘maniacally’ and focuses on keeping its temperature and humidity levels stable. ‘That’s how I ended up with a violin in bed,’ he says with a laugh.”

February 23, 2021

Vivaldi to go: Erie Philharmonic to broadcast and stream performance—with Italian takeout

Industry Buzz

For its February 25 “Viva Italia!” concert, Pennsylvania’s Erie Philharmonic is partnering with local restaurants to promote a featured Italian dish or menu to accompany the concert, which will be broadcast on WQLN PBS Channel 54.1 and streamed live at the Eric Philharmonic’s website and Facebook pages. The concert will feature the orchestra’s string section, Principal Oboe Danna Sundet, and Principal Bassoon Laura Koepke in a program featuring Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3, Rossini’s String Sonata No. 3, Nino Rota’s Toccata for Bassoon and Piano, Verdi’s String Quartet No. 1, and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings (“Ala Rustica”). Erie Philharmonic Executive Director Steve Weiser said, “We know the hospitality sector has been impacted by the pandemic just like us. We wanted to help support Erie’s many local restaurants and share our season of free music for a dinner and concert experience that you can safely enjoy from your living room.” Daniel Meyer is music director of the Erie Philharmonic.

February 23, 2021

Austin Symphony’s new CEO: David Pratt

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The Austin Symphony Orchestra in Texas has appointed DAVID PRATT as chief executive officer and executive director. Pratt will begin at the 110-year-old orchestra in April. He succeeds Anthony Corroa, who has been with the organization for more than twenty years. Pratt is currently executive director of Georgia’s Savannah Music Festival​, where he ​built operating surpluses, championed new community education initiatives, and secured multi-year funding for a new after-school program, SMF Jazz Academy. Prior to that, Pratt held chief executive positions with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia and the Santa Barbara Symphony in California. He has also held leadership positions with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.

February 23, 2021

James Gaffigan appointed principal guest conductor at Trondheim Symphony and Opera

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American conductor JAMES GAFFIGAN has been named principal guest conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera in Norway. The ​two-season appointment is effective immediately; Gaffigan will make his first appearances in his new role leading concerts in March. Han-Na Chang is the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera’s chief conductor. Gaffigan is currently chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He was recently appointed music director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, to begin in July 2021. Gaffigan has conducted ​U.S. orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as many international ensembles. His opera engagements include the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Zürich Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, and Paris Opera. Gaffigan is married to Camilla Kjøll, a Norwegian violinist who plays regularly with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera as concertmaster.

February 23, 2021