From Park Avenue to China. Image by Michael Rush

From Park Ave to Beijing: An American Orchestra in China

What happens when an orchestra of dedicated amateur musicians heads out on a tour of China? What’s life on the road like for orchestras encountering multiple concert halls, differing cultural norms, and planes, trains, and automobiles in a foreign country? How do musicians stay in artistic shape while traveling? And what about all that great Chinese food? More

Charleston Symphony musicians

Southern Revival

Recent bankruptcies and strikes have tended to grab most of the headlines, but one orchestra to suffer the slings and arrows of the downturn for months in relative silence was South Carolina’s Charleston Symphony. In early February 2009, More

concentration camp 3

Verdi, the Holocaust, and the Indians of Minnesota

What happens when the Bemidji Symphony—a small community orchestra in northern Minnesota—performs Defiant Requiem, a multimedia adaptation of Verdi’s Requiem that incorporates the Holocaust? The chance for a broader dialogue with the local Native American community, for one thing. More

Exterior of the new Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The back of the original 1860 Mariinsky Theatre, across the Kryukov canal, is reflected in the new theater's windows. Photo by Natasha Razina

Mariinsky: Take Two

In St. Petersburg, Russia, the long-awaited opening of the new Mariinsky Theatre this week has the city in a bit of a frenzy. The theater has been ten years in the making, and in addition to the giddy opening-week excitement there is a feeling of palpable relief that it’s finally finished. There are also quite natural and inevitable comparisons with the beautiful green original Mariinsky Theatre, just across the Kryukov canal, with all of that building’s  history and splendor. This modern, more ordinary-looking hall serves as a second, additional performance space for operas and ballets by the Mariinsky company, and it is a more practical space. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion in St. Petersburg on whether the design is too plain-looking or not. As company director Valery Gergiev and the hall’s architect, Jack Diamond, explained repeatedly, the idea of the hall is to feel comfortable and not too fancy, and keep all the excitement focused on the acoustics and on the stage: they want something that works. More

Books in Brief-Moral Fire, by Joseph Horowitz

Passion in the Gilded Age

“If screaming Wagnerites standing on chairs are in fact unthinkable today, it is because we mistrust high feeling,” writes cultural historian Joseph Horowitz in Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America’s Fin de Siècle (University of California Press, 265 pages, $39.95). “Our children avidly specialize in vicarious forms of electronic interpersonal diversion. Our laptops and televisions ensnare us in a surrogate world that shuns all but facile passions.” Moral Fire is Horowitz’s latest scholarly opus, and in it he returns to one of his favorite themes: the zeal and idealism with which European classical music was promoted and debated in America in the final decades of the nineteenth century—and the powerful effects of that art form on the American public during that time. More

Composer and percussionist Robert Paterson

Art with a Double A

For composer Robert Paterson, a 35-minute work for orchestra, chorus, and narrator was not just a benchmark in his creative career. It was also the capstone of a three-year Music Alive residency with a major youth-orchestra organization, and an affirmation of deeply held concerns about the fate of Planet Earth. Paterson’s A New Eaarth, which the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Chorus premiered May 4 and 6 in Stowe and Burlington, Vermont, takes its theme and peculiar orthography—but not its text—from the recent book Eaarth by noted environmentalist Bill McKibben. More

Bram Fisher (left) and Zachary Fouser collaborate on violin during Week 6 of this summer’s Days in the Arts program. Photo: Hilary Scott

Summer Camp, Boston Symphony Style

It’s the first Tuesday in August, and a small group of tweens is walking the grounds of Tanglewood Music Center with Monisse Reed, program coordinator for a summer camp they are attending a short distance away in Lenox, Mass. The kids are part of a larger group that arrived at the camp yesterday, from cities and towns across Massachusetts, for Week 6 of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Days in the Arts (DARTS) program. Today they are making their first visit to Tanglewood as DARTS campers. More

Jackson Heights Orchestra with Pat Glunt

In The Heights

Sometimes it’s hard to predict how hungry a community can be for great music. This summer, Patricia Glunt, a retired New York City Public Schools music educator and resident of the richly diverse Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, fulfilled a longtime dream by forming a new musical group, the Jackson Heights Orchestra. Six rehearsals later, on December 12, the volunteer ensemble made its debut, eighteen strong, at a packed Community United Methodist Church, performing music of Handel, Holst, and Respighi, as well as arrangements of two traditional Christmas carols with New York-based soprano Jayne Skoog as soloist. The community support for the endeavor was tremendous More

Boston Landmarks Orchestra at Boston's DCR Hatch Shell

New Landmark

This summer is Christopher Wilkins’s first as music director of Boston Landmarks Orchestra, which has been performing free outdoor concerts at Boston’s DCR Hatch Memorial Shell since its founding in 2001. Wilkins—who is also music director of Akron Symphony in Ohio and the Orlando Philharmonic in Florida—is only the group’s second music director More


Maestro Showcase

How do conductors on the rise gain attention? How do orchestras find gifted conductors? In the highly competitive world of orchestral conducting, simply getting exposure can be challenge enough. The League of American Orchestras’ Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview offers one answer to that challenge with a showcase of new talent. On March 13, six conductors led Florida’s Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at this year’s Conductor Preview, before an audience of music-director search committee members, artistic administrators, and artist managers and agents from across the country. Each participant had 40 minutes on the podium, allowing industry professionals to check out rehearsal technique and abilities. More

Jesse Rosen delivers Red Alert! address

Orchestras at the Crossroads

It was nearly standing room only at the June 8 Red Alert! plenary session at the League of American Orchestras’ National Conference, as crowds surged into the Grand Ballroom this morning at the Hilton in Minneapolis. The session presented a candid look at where orchestras are now, and also offered two highly detailed, fresh perspectives on the nuts and bolts of how orchestras might not only survive but thrive. League President and CEO Jesse Rosen started the session with an address that tackled the challenges orchestras are confronting and also celebrated orchestras’ sterling record of achievement. More

Florida Orchestra woodwind quintet members

Havana-Tampa Bay Exchange

Just a few weeks ago, The Florida Orchestra surprised the arts world with the announcement that it will conduct a cultural exchange with Cuba over the next several years, with the first visit by its musicians to Havana set for this September. More

Yannick Nézet-Séguin made his Carnegie Hall debut on October 23, 2012 leading The Philadelphia Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem. Photo by Chris Lee

Chemistry Lessons: Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra

The silence was electrifying. After 90 minutes of the high-powered Sturm und Drang of the Verdi Requiem, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin held stock-still on the podium—and the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra froze, too, instruments in the air. And they held it and held it and held it.  The Carnegie Hall audience—notoriously noisy New Yorkers, who cough and shift and rustle all the time—was stone-silent for what felt like an eternity. Nézet-Séguin began to move, the musicians lowered their instruments. And the place exploded. More

DiMenna Front sized

New Home on the Highline

The saying goes: if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Making it just got a whole lot easier for the city’s smaller music groups this spring with the opening of the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Conceived as a permanent home for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, with new More

Oberlin Orchestra strings rehearse under Raphael Jimenez. Photo by Will Roane

Oberlin in The City

From the cornfields of Ohio to the East Coast’s bustling musical metropolis they come. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour takes place this week, with students and faculty from a variety of disciplines in residence in New York City, collaborating with a handful of renowned alumni on four concerts spanning January 15-19. The residency is set to kick off with the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble performing standards and originals at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on January 15. On January 18, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, heads to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music to give the world premiere of John Zorn’s The Tempest with Joshua Rubin (Oberlin class of ’00) on clarinet. Also on the program are three works by Oberlin alumni More

Matt Haimovitz playing at OccupyWallStreet on October 16

Occupy Wall Street, Cello Edition

This past Saturday, cellist Matt Haimovitz headed down to Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, where the Occupy Wall Street protests against social and economic inequality have been underway since September 17. Once arriving there, he found someone to loan him a 5-gallon plastic bucket, pulled out his 300-year-old Venetian cello and beloved Peccatte bow, sat down on the bucket, and starting playing. More

The Oberlin College Choir performs under Jason Harris at NYC's Brick Church. Photo by Michael Lynn

Oberlin in The City, part 3

Two weeks later they’re still feeling the buzz. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty in residence in New York City, collaborating with a handful of renowned alumni on four concerts throughout the city. The residency kicked off with the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble performing standards and originals at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on January 15. On January 18, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, headed to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music to give the world premiere of John Zorn’s The Tempest with Joshua Rubin (Oberlin class of ’00) on clarinet. Also on the program were three works by Oberlin alumni More

Occupy the Arts

Poll: Elitism in the Arts?

Anthony Tommasini’s “Occupy the Arts, a Seat at a Time” in Sunday’s New York Times, has started heated discussions in some quarters about the issue of social equality as it relates to the arts. That article cited the many concerts in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. that are offered either free or at very low cost, adding, “Classical music has struggled for a long time to fight the perception — an unfair perception — that it is elitist and inaccessible… More

Boston Symphony Hall stage

Poll: Do orchestral auditions need a facelift?

As the Olympics get into full swing, many are the tales of instant glory, where just a few minutes— seconds, even—can seem to completely change a person’s life. In the orchestra world, a similar reality exists for Mike Tetreault and the countless of other classical musicians who take auditions every year. Tetreault was recently the subject of an extensive Boston magazine article by Jennie Dorris and subsequent NPR segment recounting his preparation process for an (ultimately unsuccessful) audition to fill two simultaneous percussion openings at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. More

Innovation logo designed by Mike Rush

Orchestra as Sustainable Ecosystem

Innovation: is it the word of the year for orchestras? On June 7, the opening plenary session of the League’s National Conference in Minneapolis will tackle the issue of how orchestras create an environment for innovation with insights from Deborah Borda, Larry Wendling, and Katie Wyatt, leaders who are committed to innovative thinking at their organizations. More