Arkansas Symphony to build multipurpose space for music education, offices, concert hall

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A design rendering of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Stella Boyle Smith Music Center, set to open in 2023.

“The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday that it is planning to build a new state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot music center in Little Rock’s East Village,” writes Eric E. Harrison in Wednesday’s (1/12) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The $9 million Stella Boyle Smith Music Center … will be between the Clinton Presidential Center and Heifer International.… Private fundraising … has brought in $5.4 million…. Plans call for a [300-seat concert] hall … practice spaces; music classrooms; climate-controlled instrument storage; and ‘additional flexible space to serve future generations of Arkansans,’ according to a news release. The orchestra’s education programs include … violin and cello instruction to more than 350 students from across the state and … nearly 200 students enrolled in two full orchestras and a strings-only ensemble. The orchestra also operates a community orchestra for adult amateurs…. ‘Orchestra concerts will still be at Robinson,’ [CEO Christina Littlejohn] said…. The building will also include a dedicated streaming studio [to] provide access … to Arkansans in nursing homes, retirement centers, libraries, schools.… The new facility will also provide new space for the orchestra’s administrative offices…. The orchestra board is determined to have the complete sum … in hand before starting construction [and open the center] by July 2023.”

 

January 13, 2022

Fort Worth Symphony 2022-23: conductors Spano and Edusei arrive, new chamber and composer series, Haydn’s “Creation”

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“The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has announced its 2022-2023 concert season, its first under new music director Robert Spano,” writes Scott Cantrell in Wednesday’s (1/12) Dallas Morning News. “Kevin John Edusei also will join the orchestra as principal guest conductor.… The Symphonic series will expand … from ten to 11 programs, and the Pops from seven to eight…. Several of the programs are thematic, including … a ‘Classical and Neo-Classical’ mix of Mozart, Beethoven, Prokofiev and contemporary composer Stacey Garrop…. The vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire will join for Haydn’s Creation, the University of North Texas Vox Aquilae for Handel’s Messiah…. A new Chamber Music Series will be presented in the Kimbell Art Museum’s Renzo Piano Pavilion. Spano, an accomplished pianist and composer, will perform on all three programs…. Another new series, ‘Meet the Composer,’ will feature talks by composers of new works being performed by the orchestra—Garrop, Douglas J. Cuomo and Brian Raphael Nabors—plus musicologist Robert Greenberg. Pops series offerings will include ‘Queens of Soul,’ a Rogers and Hammerstein celebration, and programs featuring music from Star Wars, Motown and the Beatles…. A Family Series will present three programs…. Concerts in the Garden will resume in summer 2023.”

January 13, 2022

Orchestras work toward inclusion with commissions, compositions, and artists

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“As our nation struggles with issues of inclusion and racial equity, performing-arts organizations also find themselves reexamining their own core values, to ensure that their activities reflect a changing America,” writes Paul Horsley in Tuesday’s (1/11) Independent (Kansas City, KS). “One institution that has struggled most fervently toward change is the symphony orchestra, which has long been perceived as a bastion of European culture…. In June 2020, the League of American Orchestras took stock of this concern, delivering a vigorous statement on its own racially biased past and its plans for change…. One of the most engaging outcomes of the League’s pledge has been a push toward commissioning new works by BIPOC composers (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)…. This January 28th to 30th, the Kansas City Symphony and Music Director Michael Stern will present a new work by one of the brightest stars on our musical firmament, Joel Thompson: a co-commission led by the Colorado Music Festival, which presented its premiere this past August…. To Awaken the Sleeper uses texts by James Baldwin, which are spoken rather than sung, to express both frustration and cautious hope about America’s future.”

January 13, 2022

Delaware music school receives surprise $10M bequest for scholarships

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“Mary Ellen Northrop was a Wilmington music lover known to the Music School of Delaware, but not in particular as an active patron or supporter. The retired tax analyst is believed to have studied clarinet there at some point,” writes Peter Dobrin in Tuesday’s (1/11) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Several years ago Northrop began inquiring about giving a gift…. Northrop, who died in June at age 78, left the school a bequest of $10 million for endowment…. ‘It’s an order of magnitude larger than any gift we’ve previously received,’ said Lawrence Hamermesh, a board member and past chair of the community music school…. Northrop’s gift … will enable the school to increase its scholarship money eightfold to underwrite about 80 students each year. Northrop [stipulated] that students receive aid only for two years. And so, with many students attending for six to eight years of training, the school is viewing Northrop’s gift as a call for the rest of the philanthropic community to step up with additional funding…. The gift … is limited to children, between preschool and 12th grade, whose families have a net annual income of $150,000 or less.”

January 13, 2022

Jonny Greenwood’s wide-ranging musical curiosity, from Radiohead to orchestras and film scores

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“Jonny Greenwood had long since achieved global fame, as the lead guitarist of Radiohead, when he ventured into scoring films nearly 20 years ago,” writes Seth Colter Walls in Wednesday’s (1/12) New York Times. “To some, this seemed [like] something to keep Greenwood occupied between albums and tours. But over the last decade in particular, it’s become clear that is not the case. With 11 scores to his name, including two—for Jane Campion’s ‘The Power of the Dog’ and Pablo Larraín’s ‘Spencer’—that may figure in this year’s Academy Awards race, what was once a subsidiary career now vies for pre-eminence with Greenwood’s day job. As he has moved further into film, he has also achieved some prominence as an orchestral composer, with his concert music often fueling his soundtracks…. But if some of his inspirations have remained constant—with modernist composers like Olivier Messiaen and Krzysztof Penderecki remaining steady fascinations—he has also evolved over time.” The article discusses “highlights from his past two decades of writing for orchestras and films,” including There Will Be Blood (2007), from which “the Copenhagen Philharmonic later recorded a string orchestra suite,” and more recent orchestral film scores.

January 13, 2022

Obituary: Atlanta executive and arts philanthropist Bradley Norton Currey Jr., 91

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“Bradley ‘Brad’ Norton Currey Jr. poured millions into elevating Atlanta to world-class status, while shunning recognition for himself,” writes Martha Anne Tudor in Thursday’s (1/13) Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “With successful careers in both the banking and paper industries, his generous donations were anonymous, and often in honor of others…. He was integral in Emory University’s growth from regional to global research entity. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra credits him with its rise from regional to international renown.… Currey died at his residence in Atlanta on Jan. 6. He was 91…. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1930 during the Great Depression, Currey grew up in a home where life was arranged around radio programs of orchestral music and opera. He would later say that is when he fell in love with symphonies, and when his parents’ example of community service inspired his own.” In 1951 he “took a job as teller trainee at Trust Company of Georgia. Over the next 23 years, he [rose] to chief financial officer and director of the bank holding company…. He retired as CEO [of WestRock] in 2000…. When the ASO asked to honor Currey at a gala, he said no thanks.…‘He was determined to stay away from the limelight and give credit to others,’ said ASO Executive Director Jennifer Barlament.”

January 13, 2022

Cleveland Orchestra adds new episodes to streaming “In Focus” series

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The Cleveland Orchestra has announced details of the second season of its digital streaming series In Focus on adella.live and the Adella app, beginning on February 4. Six new episodes will added between February and June, with performances led by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst as well as guest conductors John Adams, Herbert Blomstedt, and Jane Glover. Among highlights are video recordings of world premieres of two Cleveland Orchestra commissions: Hans Abrahamsen’s Vers le Silence and Berndt Richard Deutsch’s Intensity for orchestra. Other featured composers include Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Mozart, and Nielsen, plus American composers John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Carlos Simon, Gabriella Smith, and George Walker. Each episode will include stories and artist insights about the music and creative process. Episodes are drawn from the second half of the orchestra’s 2021-22 classical season. In Focus is produced by Lumahai Productions with music and performance capture directed by Habib Azar, Matthew Diamond, and Elena Park. For more information click here.

January 13, 2022