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

The jumbotron at St. Pete Times Forum welcomed nearly 5,000 students to a teamwork-themed Florida Orchestra youth concert on October 19.

Root Root Root for the Home Team

Symphony orchestras, like professional sports teams, are ideally the embodiment of coordinated group effort and a healthy dose of esprit de corps. Like pro sports teams, they also identify strongly with specific localities, both in their names and in their fan base. Orchestras playing for the home team is nothing new, but as the current season gets underway the spirit of collaboration seems especially high, with orchestras in St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Winnipeg, and Tampa linking up with the flagship teams in their respective cities.  More

At a Brick Church Concert Series last fall in Williston, Vermont, Domoto led the VYO Chorus in the absence of its regular conductor, Jeffrey Buettner. Photo by David Yandell

Music for Vermont Youth: Domoto’s New Challenge

Meeting the educational needs of talented young instrumentalists in a rural, sparsely populated state with few musical resources in the schools is a challenge. And it’s a matter of paramount concern to Jeffrey Domoto, now one year into his job as music director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. More

The Florida Orchestra and Music Director Stefan Sanderling. Photo by J.M. Lennon

The Bard in Florida

If, as Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage, then for one month this winter all of St. Petersburg was a Shakespeare stage, thanks to the Florida Orchestra. The orchestra had slated a number of Shakespeare-related works for its regular concert programming this season, but in a stroke of inspiration, it collaborated with a dizzying range of local arts organizations to forge a month-long, city-wide arts festival centered around the Bard of You-Know-Where. More

JoAnn Falletta helps introduce the Hawaii Symphony at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, June 13

Hawaiian Sunrise

The lingering effects of the economic downturn continue to take a toll on orchestras across the country. Enough, in fact, to forget that one of the first organizations to feel the heat was the Honolulu Symphony, which filed for bankruptcy in December 2010 More

Dudamel Bernstein Urbanski Karajan

Poll: Cult of the Conductor?

Discussions about an orchestra conductor’s importance and the role he or she should play never seem to go away. Part of that may be due the enduring mystery of what they do, the subtleties beneath those strange hand signals. But the debate may also stem from the way in which the conductor’s role is always changing.

The debate had a flare-up last month when Montreal Symphony Associate Trumpet Russell Devuyst took Montreal Gazette reviewer Lev Bratishenko to task over an October 27 review of the orchestra. More

Musicians and staff from the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony at San Francisco's Jackson Playground on May 13, 2012. Photo by Chris Lee

San Francisco-New York Playoff

Maybe it wasn’t Major League Baseball, but the stakes were high when the San Francisco Symphomaniacs went up against the New York Philharmonic Penguins on May 13, while the New York Philharmonic was in San Francisco for two concerts at Davies Symphony Hall during the San Francisco Symphony’s centennial season. Musicians and staff from the two orchestras played nine innings of slow-pitch softball at San Francisco’s Jackson Playground, with the San Francisco hometown team taking home the prized Davies Cup after prevailing 34-4 against its longtime rivals. More

Pentagram’s jacket design for “Site and Sound” features the New World Symphony onstage at Miami Beach’s New World Center. Photo by Claudia Uribe

Edifice Complex

As palaces of musical art in contemporary society, concert halls and opera houses are the focus of a lavishly illustrated new book by Victoria Newhouse called Site and Sound: The Architecture and Acoustics of New Opera Houses and Concert Halls. Her story begins in antiquity, focuses in detail on numerous venues in current use, and surveys the future with a discussion of cutting-edge presentations and major cultural facilities that are in various stages of construction but not yet open. More

Hong Kong Philharmonic performs Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, 2009

Sparkling Programs

This Fourth of July season, American orchestras are performing rousing patriotic favorites by composers like Gershwin, Bernstein, and Sousa. They’re playing foreign pieces that have ironically become part of the standard repertoire, like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. They’re performing homegrown Broadway hits (South Pacific, Funny Girl), Joplin classics, and Harold Arlen medleys. And they’re inviting music stars like Jennifer Hudson, who will perform with the Boston Pops on Wednesday. More

Knights lead

New-Music Balancing Act

As the year nears its grand finale, several critics have reflected on the place of contemporary music and living composers within our field’s ecosystem. Anthony Tommasini and Allan Kozinn, both of The New York Times, looked at recent new-music developments—at the major institutions and in alternate venues, respectively—while Rob Deemer of NewMusicBox offered a slightly different take. “Classical music audiences seem more curious than ever,” Tommasini observed in the Times on December 11, “and performers have been emboldened over the past decade or so to take more chances. More

New York Philharmonic at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Chris Lee

Surround Sound

Sometimes in New York, a little extra space can go a long way. On June 29 and 30, the New York Philharmonic got a lot of extra space when Music Director Alan Gilbert took the orchestra across town to the Park Avenue Armory for the orchestra’s final program of the season, “Philharmonic 360.” The Armory takes up an entire city block, and the Philharmonic used the 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall for a program built upon the theme of “spatial music,” featuring as a centerpiece Karlheinz Stockhausen’s rarely performed Gruppen for Three Orchestras, with other spatially inflected works, More

John Morris Russell high-5's a Cincinnati Pops fan outside Music Hall. Photo: Mark Lyons

Pops 2.0: Questions for John Morris Russell

If the term “pops” conjures up ebullience, energy, fizz, then John Morris Russell should fit in just fine as the new conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Russell is following the late Erich Kunzel, whose name and avuncular presence were synonymous with the Cincinnati Pops for decades. That left a large gap to fill, or big shoes to step into, or a major baton to carry—pick your metaphor—but Russell seems ready to handle the job with aplomb, a ready laugh, and the gift of gab. He’s no stranger to Cincinnati, More

Full orchestra rehearsal with Team Copland.

From Buckets to Strings

Alvaro Rodas is holding a cello-shaped object. Missing strings, a bridge, and f-holes, it’s a papier-mâché affair with a cardboard neck. It could be a musical piñata, but in fact this cello is a new addition to the Corona Youth Music Project’s paper orchestra. Paper instruments are an important stepping stone for children who are preparing to be part of a full orchestra in this Queens, NYC-based music-education program. With a paper violin, viola, or cello, kids can focus on the mechanics of holding an instrument, how to “play” together, and ensemble etiquette—without the distraction of noise. More

ACO coLABoratory

Composers Playground

There’s an old adage that creativity can’t be rushed. The American Composers Orchestra is testing that theory this season with “coLABoratory: Playing it Unsafe,” a series of five workshops from November to April that give five adventurous young composers free reign to experiment with new ideas. It’s a rare opportunity for composers not only to have works read by a professional orchestra, but also to develop those ideas with the same musicians over the course of an entire season. On December 11 at The New School’s Mannes College of Music, Raymond J. Lustig, Dan Visconti, and Du Yun each took turns testing—and re-testing—various ideas More

Music classes at Plaza Music Center in Brooklyn

Critic: How Not to Reach New Audiences

What’s the best way to find new audiences for classical music? Not through music-education programs, according to a June 27 column by Anne Midgette, classical-music critic of the Washington Post. More

Books in Brief header art

Maestro Demystified

It could be argued that no American-born conductor on the scene today has played a greater role in the nation’s orchestral life during the past 30 years than Leonard Slatkin, now in his fifth season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with a distinguished record of leadership at two other major organizations, the St. Louis and National symphony orchestras. All three music directorships, and a host of other experiences in music, inform his new book Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro (Amadeus Press, 311 pages, $27.99). As Slatkin writes in the “Praeludium” to this book More

The Oberlin College Choir rehearses at Oberlin Conservatory. Photo by Will Roane

Oberlin in The City, Part 2

From the cornfields of Ohio to the East Coast’s bustling musical metropolis. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty a 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

typewriter keys_sized

Everyone’s a Critic

It’s the kind of critical firestorm that Tosca herself—the diva who lived for art—would relish. On September 11, Washington Post classical music critic Anne Midgette wrote a lukewarm review of the Washington National Opera’s Tosca at the Kennedy Center. Though she praised soprano Patricia Racette in the title role as “luminous, compelling,” Midgette found the production merely “serviceable.” Here’s what she had to say about the conductor: More

World premiere at Augusta's Miller Theater of The Three Faces of Eve, 1957

Miller High Life

The Miller Theater in Augusta, Georgia has a storied history: since opening in 1940, it has featured first-run movies in a gleaming Art Moderne setting; legendary actors have trod its stage; the Oscar-winning film The Three Faces of Eve had its world premiere there in 1957; rock groups have raised a ruckus; and local theater, ballet, and opera troupes have performed. But as Augusta’s downtown succumbed to suburban flight and hard times, the Miller fell into disuse, and closed in the 1980s. Now the Miller may be poised for a comeback, thanks to a partnership between two local nonprofits: Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Landmarks. More