Friday, April 18, 2014

The Need for Well Rounded Students

Lou Spisto is at it again, calling for well rounded students

Reblog from: Dallas Daily News

Louis Spisto Encourages Well-Rounded Education for Today’s Students

According to arts advocates like Louis Spisto, keeping arts education in schools is essential to the development of today’s students. Throughout his long career as a producer and arts executive, Spisto has led the development of community and education-based performing arts and theater programs designed to spread appreciation of the arts amongst youth.

Unfortunately, in the era of school budget cuts, arts education is almost always one of the primary targets. Schools nationwide are trimming arts programs, and students are no longer learning to appreciate music, visual and performing arts. This is worrying to Louis Spisto and many others in the art community.

“The argument for arts education is robust for so many reasons, regardless of how strict budgetary limitations become,” says Lou Spisto.

According to a report by Americans for the Arts, arts education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. “If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about art education. There are many benefits of instructing students in the arts. Parents, educators, and other community members need to join together and fight to keep the arts in schools.

The Arts Increase Student Potential

All students have the potential to grow and learn. Through their instruction, they are able to identify their strengths and develop skills that allow them to thrive in future endeavors. Unfortunately, many assume that math, science, and language are the only important topics in the curriculum. This is mainly because our educational system spawned from the Industrial Revolution, which placed heavy significance on disciplines that translated directly to the mechanical needs of society. Ken Robinson, British Culture Leader, challenges the way we’re educating in his TED Talk.

Having learned a great deal through his own involvement in the arts, Louis Spisto is an example of how exposure to the arts is critical in education.

Spisto explains that, through his years of community involvement, he has seen how the arts can increase a student’s potential in numerous ways. Engaging in the arts allows students to discover new skills that they may have not known that they possessed. Creativity, problem solving, critical thinking are important lessons that students learn through exposure to the arts–lessons they will carry with them forever. Developing these key skills will help students with the personal and professional challenges they encounter as they grow older.

Studying the Arts Helps Students Develop a Well-Rounded Perspective of the World

Whether learning about painting, theater, dancing or music, children are exposed to new ideas and cultures when studying the arts. They allow for creative self-expression denied to students in other subjects. They help teach new concepts and different ways of thinking. This effects how students think and understand situations from multiple points of view.

Today’s world is becoming increasingly interconnected, thanks largely to the power of the Internet and other technology. But this globalization also means that people need to learn how to interact with one another, and how to appreciate different ideas, beliefs, and values that other cultures may hold.

Studying the arts helps students to become global citizens, rather than just members of their local community. More than any other subject, the arts demonstrate diversity, eclecticism and alternate points of view. Learning these and growing to appreciate them creates a more rounded and tolerant person. Through the arts, it’s possible to gain a new appreciation for the world.

This global perspective can enrich an individual’s life tremendously. Louis Spisto notes that including arts in education is also crucial to appreciate the ways that an arts-focused educational approach can boost professional development.

“Looking at the professional implications alone, theater and other arts can help students to develop into successful individuals who thrive in their chosen field,” says Lou Spisto. “From a communications standpoint, this exposure gives students the ability to understand people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. These enhanced communication skills are what drive teamwork and enable final products to be delivered.”

Studies show that students may actually perform better academically when they are exposed to the arts. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) reports that research is revealing the impressive impact of arts instruction on students’ cognitive, social and emotional development.

One of the most compelling reasons that the arts are important is the ability for students to use the skills they learn from artistic endeavors in other settings. These skills can translate to many areas of life, both personal and professional. And, of course, they can also improve academic achievement.

According to Louis Spisto, another reason it may be beneficial for students to study the arts is because it may help them put ideas into context. Instead of simply learning about certain historical events or ideas, students can study artistic projects that reflect these issues. As such, they can better understand what is taught in history and other classes because they have a way of envisioning some of these ideas in a new context.

The Creative Community Allows for a Deeper Level of Involvement

Art is a community-based field that thrives on collaboration and shared ideas. While some artistic activities can be performed independently, the arts as a whole promotes community. This encourages engagement, and promotes interaction with other individuals.

This interaction can help students better learn about themselves and the world around them. Additionally, it can facilitate the development of communication and other key skills, which help students succeed as citizens of the world.

Students Who Study the Arts Have a Richer Educational Experience

Studying the arts also builds new skills and a stronger appreciation for culture and the world as a whole. It’s clear that teaching the arts in today’s schools allows students to benefit from a richer educational experience.

“Today’s arts education programs are in danger of being cut completely due to financial limitations. Anyone who is passionate about keeping the arts in schools is encouraged to speak up and let their voice be heard,” Lou Spisto says.

ABOUT: Louis Spisto is a producer and arts executive with experience planning and building new venues, as well as leading transformational change for nationally respected organizations. Louis Spisto looks forward to continuing to play a role in the development and success of arts in communities.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Social Media’s Role in the Performing Arts with Arts Expert Lou Spisto

repost from:

While great performers and performances will always be central to why people attend live arts events, experts like Lou Spisto (with nearly three decades of experience in the arts world) believe that social media is becoming an important player for audience engagement and possible growth in overall attendance. Social media’s influence seems to be everywhere and the 2014 Academy Awards may be the boldest example of this to date. Ellen DeGeneres, the host of the show and already a top figure on Twitter, broke new ground with the “impromptu” tweet of her “selfie” that included some of the world’s most well-known celebrities. It generated more than 3 million retweets. She easily surpassed the previous record holder, President Obama, who had under a million.

Although this may be an extreme example of the power of social media and a “live” event, does it auger well for the performing arts? Can social media make the opera, ballet symphony orchestra or theater event appealing to a wider public? According to arts expert Lou Spisto, who has produced for arts organizations and commercial theater, “Social media has become a key component of every arts marketing plan, but the Oscar tweet reveals just how powerful Twitter, Instagram, and the like, can be in creating buzz and relevancy. Aside from the telecast viewers, more people know about the Oscars from that one tweet than all other media outlets combined.”

Spisto stated, “I think that the performing arts benefit from smart use of social media. Arts organizations can foster connections with social media users already interested in their programs, allowing these opinion leaders to become connectors, giving their arts program relevancy to those in their broader network.” Spisto continued, “In effect, the power comes from influencers who create a community of interest based on their credibility. Back in the day it was literally word of mouth; now it’s word of mouth via phone, tablet or laptop.”

Spisto cautioned, “My only concern is that arts marketers are looking for a direct correlation between social media connections and purchase, and involvement may not lead to immediate action. At this stage, fans and friends are not translating immediately to buyers, but as these strategies become more mature and the relationship with the market is better assessed, we can be clearer about the effort and its value. In any event, we need to be here for the long-term, as this will only become more important as we move forward with future generations.” As Chip Michael, Digital Media Manager for the Pacific Symphony in Orange County notes, “the younger generation spends more time on their smartphones than they do watching television, reading the newspaper or listening to the radio (combined). Performance organizations will need to be visible on social media if they have any hope of connecting with the next generation of attendees.”

Social media is playing a role in many areas of art marketing in addition to ticket sales, such as donor solicitations, volunteer groups, fan clubs, education and outreach programs. Performers and other creative artists are gaining more connections and accessibility as they reach out and document their on-stage experience through platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram. Theater and dance are no longer limited to the confines of the stage – social media delivers on-stage and back-stage experiences to audiences across the globe, not just in their town.

Many arts organizations, large and small, have embraced, and achieved success through social media. Chip Michael, notes, “[Social media] allows us to keep what we’re doing in the forefront of the minds of our audience. When we’re preparing for a performance, but not actually performing, it’s important to get buzz going, to get people talking about what’s coming, and to keep people thinking about us and what we do.”

The New York Philharmonic, for example, is sharing their artists’ musical inspirations and behind-the-scenes photos on their Facebook and Twitter accounts to inspire fans to attend upcoming concerts. They have a program called “What’s New” where in one click, a social media user can find out about all concerts, dates, tickets, artists, and anything else they would want to know about the Philharmonic. The San Francisco Ballet has account on social media platforms that include Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and a long list of others to reach a wider and younger Bay area audience that seems a natural fit for this brand of marketing.  Chip Michael continued, “We need to engage with our fans, make them a part of the experience, and allow their thoughts, ideas, enthusiasm and passion for our art bubble out to the rest of the world.”

According to the popular online news outlet, social media is becoming so integral to marketing the performing arts that “in the age of the hashtag, it seems, it’s tweet or perish.”

Lou Spisto is confident that social media will help boost the popularity of live performing arts. “I think the greatest thing about the prevailing use of social media is that it places the artist at the center of the message, and brings a community of users together with what may have been an inaccessible world. The art, the art making, and the artist, are now in the palm of your hand. Literally and figuratively.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Family Day at the Opera

March 22, 2014 | Ellie Caulkins Opera House Lobby

Denver, CO — (February 17, 2014) In collaboration with and sponsored by Arts & Venues Denver, Opera Colorado presents Family Day at the Opera on March 22 at 10:00 a.m. in the lobby of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. This free family performance will feature anabridged production of The Barber of Seville sung in English. Performed by Opera Colorado’s 2014 Young Artists, Family Day at the Opera features the professional production of The Barber of Seville that Opera Colorado takes directly into schools and community venues across the state of Colorado.
Kevin Taylor at the Opera House will offer family-friendly refreshments and snacks available for purchase in the lobby of the Opera House. Family Day at the Opera includes a short Q&A session after the 50 minute performance, along with hands-on crafts and entertainment. Don’t miss this opportunity to bring your whole family to the Opera and experience the joy of live performance in a fun setting.

About The Barber of Seville
Figaro, Figaro, Fiiiiiigaro!!
Barber by day, matchmaker by night, Figaro puts his charm to work as he helps Count Almaviva woo the beautiful Rosina. She’s such a catch that her greedy guardian Bartolo keeps her under lock and key with the intent of marrying her himself. Crazy antics abound and even Berta the maid gets involved. But, no challenge is too great for Figaro’s madcap schemes! Filled with some of opera’s most famous tunes, this is a comedy not to miss!

Jared Guest……………….Figaro
Brett Sprague……………Count Almaviva
Louise Rogan…………….Rosina
Ben Sieverding…………..Dr. Bartolo
Colleen Jackson…………Berta

Directed by Cherity Koepke | Accompanied by Taylor BaldwinFor more information about Opera Colorado’s Young Artists visit

Time: 10:00 AM

Location:  The Ellie Caulkins Opera House is located at 1101 13th Street Denver, CO 80204, at the corner of 14th and Champa Streets. Entrance to the Opera House is at Curtis and 14th Street.

Tickets:  This performance is free to the public, however space is limited and an RSVP is required. To print out your free tickets and RSVP, please visit Eventbrite at the link below. You can also make your reservation by calling Opera Colorado’s Box Office at 303.468.2030. Find out more at Age Recommendation: K – 12

Opera Colorado’s Young Artist Benjamin Sieverding is sponsored by Marlis and Shirley Smith, and Karen Brody and Mike Hughes, and Young Artist Brett Sprague is sponsored by Patrick Spieles and Carol McMurry.  Opera Colorado’s 2014 season is sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth T. Barrow, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), Magnolia Hotels, The Westin Hotel, The Edge Restaurant & Bar, The Four Seasons Hotel and Rassman Design, and media sponsors The Denver Post5280 MagazineYellow Scene Magazine and Luxe Magazine.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Arapahoe Philharmonic Showcases Classic Traditions with Brahms and Tchaikovsky

Guest Violinist, Josiah Hamill, Winner of 2014 Concerto Competition

Denver – The Arapahoe Philharmonic presents “Classic Traditions” on Friday, March 14, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. with a program featuring Johannes Brahms’ lush Symphony No. 2 and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, one of the most popular and technical concertos for violin, with soloist Josiah Hamill, winner of the 2014 T. Gordon Parks Collegiate Concerto Competition sponsored by the orchestra. Maestro Devin Patrick Hughes conducts this fifth concert in the Philharmonic’s 60th Anniversary Season at Mission Hills Church, 620 SouthPark Drive, Littleton. Hughes and Charley Samson, Colorado Public Radio classical music host and Arapahoe Philharmonic emcee, will give a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. discussing the program. Tickets are $25 (adults), $20 (seniors), and $5 (students/children) and are available online at, by phone at 303-781-1892 or at the door.

Each Arapahoe Philharmonic concert also provides a Classic Children’s Corner at 7:15 p.m. in the lobby offering a casual introduction of classical music to the next generation of arts advocates.

The Arapahoe Philharmonic’s mission includes providing performance opportunities for emerging talent, and the T. Gordon Parks Collegiate Concerto Competition is one of the ways the orchestra supports young musicians. Named for the founder of the Philharmonic, the competition draws applicants from Colorado and the surrounding states to participate. The top three candidates receive cash awards, with the First Prize Winner also provided the opportunity to perform his or her concerto in a regular season concert. Karlie Denos, from the University of Colorado-Boulder, was awarded Second Prize, and Third Prize went to Luis Salazar from Wichita State University.

Josiah Hamill, the 2014 First Prize Winner, is a violin student of Linda Wang at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. He has appeared as soloist with the Denver Young Artists Orchestra and Littleton Symphony and has been a member of the DYAO, DYAO Conservatory Orchestra, Littleton Symphony and Colorado Young Sinfonia. Hamill is a past volunteer member of the Veteran’s Administration National Medical Musical Group orchestra and the Colorado Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo event for young and underprivileged children. A member of DU’s prestigious Joint Dean’s List and Hornbeck Scholars, sustaining a 4.0 GPA while keeping a rigorous schedule of classes, Hamill is proficient in violin, piano, and pipe organ, and maintains a piano teaching studio.

About the Arapahoe Philharmonic

Founded in 1953, the Arapahoe Philharmonic is among the longest established, continuously operating musical resources in Colorado. After thriving under just two conductors between 1953 and 2012, T. Gordon Parks and Vincent C. LaGuardia, Jr., we celebrate our 60th anniversary season with an exciting new conductor, Devin Patrick Hughes. The orchestra’s musicians are primarily volunteers playing for the love of music, with a core of compensated section principals who provide technical leadership and support the excellence of performance.

Concerts in our home of Mission Hills Church in Littleton feature repertoire spanning the centuries, from the great masters to composers of the current day. The Philharmonic is invested in future generations, presenting annual children's concerts, sponsoring outreach to schools, and presenting two collegiate-level competitions, the T. Gordon Parks Memorial Collegiate Concerto Competition and the Vincent C. LaGuardia, Jr. Collegiate Conducting Competition.

Massive Mid-Century Masterpieces Link Two Modern Composers: John Cage & Olivier Messiaen Shared Their Piano Cycles in Paris

Dedicated Proponents, Pianists Adam Tendler & Christopher Taylor Will Reveal the Intricacies of These Linked Works in a Pair of Linked Concerts at Jacaranda Music’s February 22nd Mid-Century Modern Program

Jacaranda's 10th anniversary season continues on Saturday, February 22, 2014 with a dinner break — a break that separates the performances of two 20-movement mid-twentieth-century masterworks by John Cage and Olivier Messiaen. Each cycle is played by an American pianist with whom the music has become synonymous: Adam Tendler and Christopher Taylor, respectively. The consecutive concerts (Tendler at 5:00 p.m. and Taylor at 7:30 p.m.) will take place at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 Second Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Jacaranda’s first decade gave extensive attention to the centenaries of Messiaen (1908-92) and Cage (1912-89). As a nod to that legacy, artistic director Patrick Scott chose for the 10th anniversary two works for solo piano that link the composers after World War II: Cage’s “Sonatas& Interludes” (1946-48) for prepared piano, and Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus” (1944). Both works were influenced in very different ways by the philosophy and music of India. Cage performed his cycle for Messiaen in Paris in 1949, and Messiaen reciprocated with a performance of his cycle by Yvonne Loriod, the work’s extravagantly talented dedicatee, who would eventually become Messiaen’s wife.

Tendler, described as "an exuberantly expressive pianist" who "vividly displayed his enthusiasm for every phrase" by Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed, will perform the 60-minute Cage work at 5 p.m. without pause and from memory. Recognized by the American Pianists Association, Tendler has performed modern American piano music in all of the United States.

After a dinner break, Taylor, bronze medalist at the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and called "one of the most impressive young pianists on the horizon today" by the Washington Post, will perform the two-hour Messiaen work from memory at 7:30 p.m. with an intermission. Taylor’s "...blazing performance of Messiaen's [''Twenty Ways of Looking at the Infant Jesus'']… is likely to stand as a point of reference for many seasons to come," wrote the Boston Globe.

The massive piano masterpiece has additional significance for Jacaranda. Messiaen’s work was the centerpiece of a one-off, three-concert celebration organized in 2002 by series founders Scott and Mark Alan Hilt to observe the 10th anniversary of the composer’s death. The mini-festival’s location was First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, where Hilt would soon be appointed Music Director. The enterprise grabbed the attention of the Los Angeles Times’ Swed, who noted that, while there had been an abundance of Messiaen tributes in the world’s major cities, only the enterprising duo ventured a Southern California tribute. Nine months later, Jacaranda was born.

General admission tickets for either of the February 22 Cage/Tendler or Messiaen/Taylor concerts alone are $35; $20 for students. Admission to both concerts is $60; $30 for students. For tickets and a restaurant guide, as well as special Jacaranda food and beverage discounts, go to Tickets are sold online or at the door. Information: (213) 483-0216.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kronos Quartet 40th Anniversary Celebration at Carnegie Hall, March 28

World Premiere by Terry Riley

NY Premiere by Philip Glass

Special Guests: Bryce Dessner, Wu Man, Jherek Bischoff, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, + Musicians from Face The Music

As a highlight of its 40th anniversary season, Kronos Quartet takes the stage in Carnegie Hall’s fabled Stern Auditorium on Friday, March 28 at 8 pm. The one-night-only concert features a world premiere by Terry Riley, and boasts a stellar array of guest artists. Composer Bryce Dessner of The National will play electric guitar on Aheym, the title piece from his acclaimed new Anti- CD of works written for Kronos. Pipa virtuoso Wu Man, a frequent partner, will be heard in the New York premiere of Philip Glass’s Orion: China. Protean indie-rock composer Jherek Bischoff joins in on electric bass for A Semiperfect Number, which he premiered with Kronos last July at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

Spotlighting Kronos’s commitment to mentoring young artists, the program also includes appearances by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and musicians from Face the Music. Add works by Laurie Anderson, Clint Mansell, and others, and the result is a living snapshot of the ensemble’s singular achievement: “a body of work unparalleled in its range and scope of expression” (NPR). 

P R E M I E R E S   +   H I G H L I G H T S

Terry Riley’s The Serquent Risadrome is his 27th new score for Kronos Quartet, a remarkable collaboration that has spanned more than three decades and resulted in numerous recordings. It takes its title from a “short futuristic tale” he wrote, using mostly made-up words, called The Autodaydreamographical Anteriopod (also the basis for his 2008 work Science Fiction). The Serquent Risadrome was commissioned by Carnegie Hall.

Philip Glass composed Orion for the 2004 Cultural Olympiad in Athens, enlisting leading performer/composers from around the globe to partner with his ensemble. Says Glass, “Orion, the largest constellation in the night sky, can be seen in all seasons from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It seems that almost every civilization has created myths and taken inspiration from Orion.” For the Orion: China section he collaborated with Wu Man, cited by the Los Angeles Times as “the artist most responsible for bringing the pipa to the Western world.” Orion: China was subsequently arranged for pipa and string quartet.

In one of the most unusual collaborations of the evening, Kronos will partner with four young string quartets from Face the Music, forming a small string orchestra for Osvaldo Golijov’s arrangement of El Sinaloense (The Man from Sinaloa) by Mexican composer Severiano Briseño. Face the Music is a program of the Kaufman Music Center, where Kronos Quartet in residence this season. It is the only teen ensemble in the US dedicated to the creation and performance of music by living composers.

Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Bubbles is her fourth score for Kronos, and pairs the quartet with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The title comes from a John Cage quote: “Silence. Sounds are only bubbles on its surface. They burst to disappear.” Vrebalov also sets Robert Creely’s poem The Language, which begins with the lines, “Locate I / love you some- / where in / teeth and eyes, bite / it but take care not / to hurt, you / want so / much so / little. Words / say everything.”

Along with Dessner’s driving, intense Aheym and Bischoff’s exuberant A Semiperfect Number, the program is completed by Laurie Anderson’s meditative Flow; film music by Clint Mansell from Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, which Kronos recorded for those soundtracks; and arrangements of the traditional Scandinavian folk song Tusen Tankar (arr. by Kronos, trans. by Ljova), Syrian musician Omar Souleyman’s La Sidounak Sayyada (arr. by Jacob Garchik), and early blues singer Geeshie Wiley’s 1930 song Last Kind Words (arr. by Garchik). Additionally, a short documentary celebrating the group's history will be screened for the first time, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green

T H E   P R O G R A M   A T - A - G L A N C E

Kronos Quartet

– David Harrington, violin

– John Sherba, violin
– Hank Dutt, viola
– Sunny Yang, cello

Bryce Dessner, guitar

Wu Man, pipa

Jherek Bischoff, bass guitar
Musicians from Face the Music:
– Quartet This Side Up, Pulsar Quartet, Pannonia Quartet, Face the Music Quartet
Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Dianne Berkun-Menaker, Artistic Director


BRYCE DESSNER  Aheym (Homeward)

TERRY RILEY  The Serquent Risadome – World premiere
GEESHIE WILEY  Last Kind Words (arr. Jacob Garchik)
OMAR SOULEYMAN  La Sidounak Sayyada (I'll Prevent the Hunters from Hunting You)
TRADITIONAL  Tusen Tankar (A Thousand Thoughts) (arr. Kronos Quartet, trans. Ljova)
SEVERIANO BRISEÑO  El Sinaloense (The Man from Sinaloa) (arr. Osvaldo Golijov)
LAURIE ANDERSON Flow (arr. Jacob Garchik)
PHILIP GLASS Orion: China (arr. Michael Riesman) – NY Premiere
JHEREK BISCHOFF  A Semiperfect Number
CLINT MANSELL  Lux Aeterna from Requiem for a Dream (arr. David Lang)
CLINT MANSELL  Death is the Road to Awe from The Fountain (arr. Kronos Quartet)

Friday, February 7, 2014

American Composers Forum Announces Finalists in National Composition Contest

left to right: Michael Laurello, Todd Lerew, Kristina Warren

Three student composers are chosen from 250+ applicants

In partnership with the acclaimed new music ensemble So Percussion, the American Composers Forum is pleased to announce the finalists in the 2014 American Composers Forum National Composition Contest: Michael Laurello (Yale School of Music), Todd Lerew (CalArts), and Kristina Warren (University of Virginia). Each finalist will receive a cash prize and be asked to compose an eight- to ten-minute piece for So Percussion. The resulting pieces will be workshopped with the finalists in residence, and premiered by So Percussion on July 20 at Princeton University, as part of the So Percussion Summer Institute 2014. One of the works will be chosen to receive the final prize, which includes an additional cash award and future public performances by So Percussion.

The National Composition Contest is open to composers currently enrolled in graduate and undergraduate institutions in the United States; this year’s installment drew more than 250 applicants from 39 states. Each finalist receives an award of $1,000 plus an additional stipend of $750 to help defray expenses associated with attending the workshop and studio performance. Along with further performances of his/her piece, the winning composer will receive an additional $2,000.

“The Forum is thrilled with the opportunity to connect new voices with extraordinary ensembles like So Percussion,” said John Nuechterlein, Forum president and CEO. “Similar to our previous collaborations with eighth blackbird and JACK Quartet, the discovery process is exhilarating for the performers and immensely rewarding for the selected composers. The So Percussion Summer Institute showcase is also an exciting new twist that offers an exceptional opportunity for the composers to network with a large community of performers.”

Says Adam Sliwinski of So Percussion, "The American Composers Forum competition offered So Percussion a chance to reach out and find exciting young compositional talent. We expressly requested to judge blindly, and the three finalists all caught our ears in unique ways. There were so many excellent submissions. The ACF has established a wonderful precedent for a competition that is favorable for everybody involved, and we're ecstatic to get three new pieces out of it!"

The competition began during the 2010-11 season as the Finale National Composition Contest, partnering with the group eighth blackbird. JACK Quartet was the ensemble for 2011-12. The competition went on hiatus last season, returning in September 2013 under its new name, the American Composers Forum National Composition Contest.


Michael Laurello (b. 1981) is an American composer and pianist. He has written for ensembles and soloists such as the Yale Baroque Ensemble, Sound Icon, the 15.19 Ensemble, NotaRiotous (the Boston Microtonal Society), guitarist Flavio Virzì, soprano Sarah Pelletier, pianist/composer John McDonald, and clarinetist and linguist/music theorist Ray Jackendoff. Laurello is an Artist Diploma candidate in Composition at the Yale School of Music, studying with David Lang and Christopher Theofanidis. He earned an M.A. in Composition from Tufts University under John McDonald, and a B.M. in Music Synthesis (Electronic Production and Design) from Berklee College of Music where he studied jazz piano performance with Laszlo Gardony and Steve Hunt. He has attended composition festivals at highSCORE (Pavia, Italy) and Etchings (Auvillar, France), and was recently recognized with an Emerg ing Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation (Boston, MA). In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Laurello is a recording and mixing engineer.

Todd Lerew (b. 1986) is a Los Angeles-based composer working with invented acoustic instruments, repurposed found objects, and unique preparations of traditional instruments. Lerew is the inventor of the Quartz Cantabile, which utilizes a principle of thermoacoustics to convert heat into sound, and has presented the instrument at Stanford's CCRMA, the American Musical Instrument Society annual conference, the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech, and Machine Project in Los Angeles. He is the founder and curator of Telephone Music, a collaborative music and memory project based on the children's game of Telephone, the last round of which was released as an exclusive download to subscribers of music magazine The Wire. His solo piece for e-bowed gu zheng, entitled Lithic Fragments, is available on cassette on the Brunch Groupe label. H is pieces have been performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Wet Ink Ensemble (New York), the Now Hear Ensemble (Santa Barbara), and the Canticum Ostrava choir (Czech Republic).

Composer and vocalist Kristina Warren (b. 1989) holds a B.A. in Music Composition from Duke University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies from the University of Virginia. Recent works include Three Sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (soprano, electronics), Folk Studies No. 1 (Up in the A.M.), No. 2 (Vimeda Sakla), and No. 3 (Shousty) for voice-based electronics, and Pogpo (electric guitar quartet). Warren’s research interests include voice, electronics, and questions of aleatory and performance practice in conjunction with various non-Eurocentric musics, such as folk music and Korean p’ansori. Warren’s compositions have been performed across the US and in Europe, and she has been fortunate to study composition with Ted Coffey, Judith Shatin, Anthony Kelley, Scott Lindroth , and John Supko.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Yo-Yo Ma Applauds Oscar Nomination of Morgan Neville’s Documentary 20 Feet from Stardom

Boston, MA – Jan. 16, 2013 – Delighted to hear of the Oscar nomination of Morgan Neville’s documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma said: “What I love most about 20 Feet from Stardom is how deeply Morgan Neville examined the preconditions of creativity. He showed us how the giants stand on the shoulders of the artists whose stories he told."

Morgan Neville is currently directing The Sound of Silk, a documentary about the musicians in the Silk Road Ensemble. Brought together by the Silk Road Project, which was founded in 1998 under the artistic direction of Ma, the Ensemble has featured members from more than 20 countries, performed in 119 cities in 30 countries, generated more than 80 new works, recorded 60 pieces of music, and just released its fifth CD, A Playlist Without Borders.

The Silk Road Ensemble: Ascending Bird

For further information about The Sound of Silk, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pershing Square Foundation and other contributors, please visit the Silk Road Project at (

Minnesota Orchestra Returns with Two Weeks of Homecoming Concerts

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (January 17, 2014)—The Minnesota Orchestra today announced plans for two weeks of homecoming concerts February 7 through 15, offering audiences the first chance to hear the ensemble perform in the renovated Orchestra Hall. The Orchestra’s return begins February 7 and 8 with a pair of historic concerts led by the ensemble’s eminent Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, highlighted by Beethoven’s heroic Third Symphony and Skrowaczewski’s own powerful orchestration of Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue—the work that opened the first concert at Orchestra Hall in 1974. French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier continues the musical homecoming February 14 and 15 with a set of Valentine’s weekend concerts that includes an all-British program of Holst’s popular The Planets and Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the latter featuring virtuoso soloist Steven Isserlis.

All concerts begin at 8 p.m., and all are preceded by a free public open house at Orchestra Hall, with doors opening at 4 p.m. Members of the community are invited to become acquainted with the renovated facility, while subscribers may survey seat locations and renew series tickets. No tickets or reservations are required to attend the open house.

“We’re pleased to bring the music back to our audiences at Orchestra Hall with our musicians onstage and a dear friend on the conductor’s podium,” says Robert Neu, the Orchestra’s vice president and general manager. “Stanislaw’s artistic relationship with the Minnesota Orchestra extends more than five decades—nearly half of our ensemble’s history—and it’s fitting for him to lead our homecoming to the Hall he helped build, reopening just as it opened 40 years ago: with his own orchestration of a Bach masterpiece.”

Added Anthony Ross, the Orchestra’s principal cellist: “We are thrilled to return to Orchestra Hall, our home, and the home for world class symphonic music in this community. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony will be a triumphant moment for the Minnesota Orchestra.”

The homecoming concerts, held at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, are performed on Friday, February 7; Saturday, February 8; Friday, February 14; and Saturday, February 15, with each concert beginning at 8 p.m. and preceded by a free public open house beginning at 4 p.m. Tickets to these concerts will be available to the public online only at starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22. Ticket holders will receive a copy of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Grammy-nominated recording of Sibelius’ Symphonies No. 1 and 4 with their order. Subscribers and donors will be contacted this weekend with a pre-public sale opportunity. For more information, visit

The four homecoming concerts are a prelude to the full 2014 Minnesota Orchestra season made possible by a recently ratified collective bargaining agreement between the Orchestra’s musicians and board of directors. Additional announcements about the season will be forthcoming later this month.

Minnesota Orchestra Homecoming


Friday, February 7, 2014, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

Saturday, February 8, 2014, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

Minnesota Orchestra

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, conductor

BACH/Skrowaczewski Toccata and Fugue in D minor


BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, Eroica

Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director from 1960 to 1979, welcomes the ensemble and the community back to Orchestra Hall with concerts that begin with the first music heard at the Hall’s opening in 1974—his own orchestration of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Also on the program are the Richard Strauss tone poem Don Juan and Ludwig van Beethoven’s heroic Third Symphony.

Tickets: Available online at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22. [Subscribers and donors will be contacted this weekend with a pre-public sale opportunity.] Ticket holders will receive a copy of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Grammy-nominated recording of Sibelius’ Symphonies No. 1 and 4 with their order.

Minnesota Orchestra Homecoming


Friday, February 14, 2014, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

Saturday, February 15, 2014, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

Minnesota Orchestra

Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor

Steven Isserlis, cello

Women of the Minnesota Chorale

ELGAR Cello Concerto

HOLST The Planets

French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier continues the Minnesota Orchestra’s homecoming, leading a program of two British masterworks—Edward Elgar’s exquisite Cello Concerto, featuring the composer’s countryman Steven Isserlis as soloist; and Gustav Holst’s The Planets, an astrological sojourn of music ranging from warlike to jovial, with an ethereal close that includes the women of the Minnesota Chorale, the Orchestra’s principal chorus.

Tickets: Available online at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22. [Subscribers and donors will be contacted this weekend with a pre-public sale opportunity.] Ticket holders will receive a copy of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Grammy-nominated recording of Sibelius’ Symphonies No. 1 and 4 with their order.

Tickets will be available to the public online only starting at 5 p.m. on January 22, 2014, at Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis (open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; offices are closed on January 20 for the Martin Luther King holiday). The Orchestra Hall Box Office will be open beginning at 4 p.m. on days of the homecoming concerts. Prices listed do not include a $5 service charge per transaction for online orders. There are no service charges for in-person transactions at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office or Orchestra Hall Box Office. A non-discountable $5 facility fee is included in the price of each individual ticket. No refunds. Tickets to homecoming concerts are non-exchangeable. All sales are final.

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through
a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a
legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


MINNEAPOLIS, MN (January 14, 2014)—The Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors and musicians, who are members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union (Local 30-73), today ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, effective February 1, that brings the organization’s lockout to a conclusion. The Orchestra’s first concert performances back on stage at Orchestra Hall are anticipated in early February and will be announced shortly.

“This ratified agreement reflects that both the musicians and the board made concessions on issues of importance to them, which was necessary in order to bring the organization together again,” said Board Negotiating Chair Richard Davis. “Our success now depends on our ability to move forward with positive spirit as one organization, and we are very pleased to begin this work with the musicians and to engage our audiences with music again.”

Clarinetist and musician negotiator Tim Zavadil said, “Musicians are pleased that we have come to a solution with our board, and we are ready to work with them to begin the hard work that lies ahead. We are anxious to start performing for our community at home in Orchestra Hall once again. We know that there is a great love for this Orchestra throughout the community, and we are confident that this community will, in fact, continue to support world-class music in the Twin Cities.”


The terms of the three-year contract agreement include:

A 15-percent reduction to base and overscale salaries from 2012 levels in the contract’s first year. Minimum base salaries over the life of the contract of $96,824 (year one), rising to $99,008 (year two) and $102,284 (year three).

A number of musician positions remaining vacant through the life of the contract, with an agreement to add seven members over three years, which will increase the size of the Orchestra from its current 77 members to 84. The agreed optimal size of the ensemble remains 95 members.

Musicians agreeing to pay a significantly greater portion of health insurance costs.

Revenue sharing, based on the performance of the Orchestra’s endowments. If the endowments average a 10-percent return over the three years of the contract, musicians are eligible to receive investment returns exceeding 10 percent up to a cap of 5 percent of their base salary for each year of the agreement.

Management significantly reduced the number of work rule changes it originally requested and musicians agreed to a series of innovative rule changes, designed to give the organization more flexibility in scheduling concerts and providing community outreach.

The agreed-upon changes include:

  • the ability to offer chamber music and outreach performances without additional pay
  • an increase in the number of weekend rehearsals and concerts allowed
  • the ability to offer New Year’s Eve and/or New Year’s Day concerts
  • an increase in concert length up to 2 ¼ hours when needed
  • changes in the way overtime is calculated

Mutual agreement on the organization’s classical music focus, with a guaranteed minimum of 20 weeks of classical performances each year. Quarterly meetings between the Board chair and leadership with musicians to build trust and foster open communication.
The agreement continues to rank the Minnesota Orchestra among the “Top Ten” orchestras in the nation according to pay scale, which was a key musician priority.
“Keeping our salaries in the top ten was a critical issue for us, as it allows us to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, and continue building the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over the past 110 years,” said cellist and musician negotiator Marcia Peck.
Said Board Chair Jon Campbell, “Meeting the ‘Top Ten’ metric means the organization will need to seek bridge funding to help address financial issues in future years. Now more than ever, we will need members of our community who voiced strong support for world-class orchestral music in our state to help us achieve long-term fiscal health through increased concert attendance and financial support.”
At the Orchestra’s December Annual Meeting, the Board requested that Campbell continue to lead as Chair through the conclusion of the labor dispute. With a contract resolution reached, the Board will elect a new chair in upcoming weeks.
“With this agreement in place, we look forward to working with new board leadership to rebuild our relationship and trust within our organization and with our audiences,” said Principal Trombone and musician negotiator Doug Wright.


“Our plan is to resume concerts as soon as possible, with “homecoming” programs in early February and then the launch of our 2014 subscription season,” said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson. “We are happy to begin a new chapter by welcoming our audiences and the greater community to Orchestra Hall and the musicians back to this stage.”
Details of the homecoming concerts and the 2014 subscription season will be announced soon, and Minnesota Orchestra subscribers and donors will receive advance ordering information.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Modern Music for Modern Times

Taking a page of music from today to create music that fits with a modern audience

When Bach wrote multi-movement works, he used dances of the day as a basis, a framework for this music. Moving further back there are numerous examples of composers using "popular" tunes folded into religious works so listeners would hear familiar elements in the music of the church, adding layers of meaning and pleasure for all involved. Mozart and Haydn framed their music with styles popular in their day. Beethoven and Liszt were performers as well as composers, getting rave reviews from their improvisational styles, which (again) echoed music of the day. All of these composers took the music of their day and made it something more, but they started with the familiar, with the current music of the day.

We do have examples of this same sort of treatment. Lee Johnson wrote the "Dead Symphony No. 6" as a tribute to the Grateful Dead. There if FuGaGa (Lady Gaga Fugue) by Larry Moore is a "baroque-meets-techno" treatment of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance (the term fugaga also means "to make something cheap" - so I'm not sure if Larry is poking fun at Lady Gaga, or all pop music). There are other examples of taking modern music and folding it into a classically written score, but seldom do the pieces capture the feeling of the original music.

Current culture has numerous tribute bands which try and recapture the sound of the original artist. Big name artists often re-mix past popular songs, trying to give them their own sound, while still capturing the power of the original. Some succeed, other's not so much. When an artist does succeed, it is because they understand what power the original piece had. They try and retain that element, while bringing something new to the music.

A new craze, made even more popular with shows like "Glee" and films like "Pitch Perfect," is the mashup, where you take several songs and mash them together. Again, when this works, it's because what worked in the original song is retained. Layering another song over top of the first, gives new meaning and dimension to both original works. It only take a portion of the original song to elicit the feelings and emotions of the original, as those are already part of our culture. Like the two notes of "Jaws" can send chills up the spine, small snatches of pieces can immediately capture the sentiment. Therefore, mashup artists can layer multiple sentiments together to creating whole new concepts.

Even though there are a few cases of composers trying to capture a sense of the modern music scene in their music, I don't see many examples of it. Most of the time, new works are striving to be something wholly unique and so removed from the 'pop' music world, they end up feeling disconnected from our current world. This is not a call for more classical music tributes, or for classical music composers to return to the tradition of "something on the theme from someone." Classical music does need to find a way to re-connect with a modern audience.

There is a sound unique to Adult Contemporary Music. Turn on the radio and flip through the channels, and within moments you'll be able to identify what kind of station it is based on the style of music they play. Classical music needs to tune into this and capture some of that culture. If we do, composers will find new listeners, people who will resonate with their music, at it pulls on the same emotional ties of the other music they enjoy. It then does what classical music should also do - take it further, give it richer meaning and depth.

Yes, a lot of popular music is based on three chords. A lot of folk/popular music during Schubert and Schumann's time were simple chord structures. Still, if you play a piece of 'popular' music from their era and then play a piece of theirs you'll hear similarities you don't hear when you do the same thing with modern music. Modern classical music should reflect the world it is composed in.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Does your organization (or union) hinder you from being a fan?

Musicians lead busy lives, particularly classical musicians. It takes hours and hours (and hours) of practice to hone our craft, to really be at the top of our game. Add to that many classical musicians juggle multiple jobs, from teaching students, to random gigs and large ensemble rehearsals just to make ends meet. Time is at a premium for many of them, so when do they have the chance to be a fan? When are they suppose to spend time on Facebook and Twitter talking about what their ensemble is up to?

However, many musicians are on Facebook and Twitter, thousands of them! They are talking about their lives just like everyone else. The root for their favorite teams, share recipes, post pictures of their travels - but seldom do they talk about the organization they play for. Knowing a lot musicians, connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter, and talking to them on (and off) line, I believe there is a culture in the American orchestra that stifles musicians from sharing their passion about their organization with their friends.

It comes from a variety of different places

  1. Marketing Departments want to control the message
  2. Unions what musicians paid for anything (and everything) they do for an organization
  3. Musicians do not feel a connection because they are contracted to play and therefore separate from being a part of the ensemble

Marketing Departments

Get over yourselves. Musicians are the most passionate people you have. They love the music so much they are willing to spend hours practicing, not just the music in the next concert, but constantly honing their skills. They are like doctors and lawyers, who must continually study to stay up to date with what's happening in their profession - musicians must constantly practice to stay at the top of their game. Let them comment. Let them share what they think, even if it doesn't quite fit into the box you are trying to present. Their passion will go a long ways toward creating new boxes and new ideas of how to build an audience.


I firmly believe your role it to ensure organizations do not take advantage of musicians. Great! But don't stand in the way of the musicians wanting to help orchestras succeed. In the current climate of orchestras failing to meet fiscal goals, it's time we started working together, to allow the musicians share their time and efforts in promoting the symphony without always needing to have a paycheck at the end of it.


If you don't feel part of your organization, if you're only putting in your time for the paycheck, you are part of the problem. I understand that often this attitude is brought on by administrations pushing you away - administrations that treat their musicians as only contract labor should be ashamed of themselves; they are a detriment to music everywhere. You can push back. Talk to the staff and see how you can get involved. Go ahead and post to Facebook and/or Twitter what you're doing and let them try and admonish you for it. Time and time again, the voice in the public sphere is stronger than the silence demanded by the powers that be.

In the end, it is the passion of those of us who love music that will lead the way for new people to discover what we already know, classical music, particularly live in the concert hall, is an amazing experience. Share that passion - share posts your organizations are putting up on Facebook, re-tweet the tweets your organization sends out. Extend their reach to the people you know and encourage the people you know to do the same. THIS is the power of social media. Don't let anyone stifle your passion for the music.