Originally from Woodbridge, VA, cellist Zuill Bailey is the Artistic Director of El Paso Pro-Musica and Professor of Cello at the University of Texas at El Paso. In addition to his responsibilities at home in El Paso, TX, he spends a great deal of time traveling as a solo performer, as well as working as the Artistic Director of the Sitka, Alaska Summer Music Festival and Series, the Northwest Bach Festival (Spokane, Washington).
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting him before a performance he gave with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. This is our conversation.
Why the cello? I grew up with music in the house. My sister played the violin. Mom played the piano and Dad was a music educator and clarinetist. In the 70s there was Suzuki teaching, a way of teaching young kids how to play at a very young age. My parents took me to concerts all the time, to the community and National Symphony in DC. It wasn’t a matter of if, but rather what instrument I would eventually play. My sister already played the violin, so that was out. So, I started playing the piano and cello at age four. Once, I was back stage and ran into a girl playing the cello – and broke her cello. That sealed it for me though. Mom and Dad said it’s the one thing that stopped me in my tracks and got me to sit still.
Where did you go to school? Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins) and Juilliard.
Instrument: A 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello, formerly owned by Mischa Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet.
What do you gain from performing? I’ve always found that when I play it creates a comfortable feeling – complete comfort – from my perspective and from the way it’s voiced. It’s most like a human voice in its range. Physical aspects – wrapping myself around it and feeling it vibrate – it’s an incredible feeling. It’s the beauty of life that is brought forth through the cello. That became why I wanted to do it – there’s a mutual therapeutic x factor that music brings.
What’s the best thing about performing in front of an audience? What do you hope they gain? Peace. I hope the audience gains peace. No – that’s too simplistic of an answer. I look for the fact that people are able to escape – at a concert – with such a multifaceted form of entertainment. We’re used to being fed information. At a concert, it’s interesting and healing to take a step back and have the music be a soundtrack to where you are as a person or in your own person where you go into your own head and your own thoughts – where we’re not so programmed to go. The visual is the creation, not a distraction. A movie gives us a story – the music adds the soundtrack to our own thoughts. I can face the audience and see how they’re experiencing it in their own ways whether they’re leaning forward, tapping their feet, closing their eyes, etc.
How often do you practice? I play all the time, but my processes are in my head. I can sit in a quiet room and hear it just by looking at the score. The classical music catalog is enormous. Recording just documents pieces I play a lot or that are special to me. I’m always looking for the next project that allows me to grow.
What are some of your favorite places to perform? My dream check list has been done – Carnegie, Lincoln Hall, Kennedy Center. I once played with a women’s prison orchestra in Anchorage. Music to these women means hope and freedom. Playing in villages in Alaska and in Havana, Cuba were also memorable.
It’s all about how people react to the music. In many ways I enjoy the smaller venues more because the people don’t get the performers as much.
How much do you travel? I travel about 250 days out of the year.
I’m running my first Bach Festival in Spokane, WA – 1st two weeks in March – gorgeous city. Every day is a new adventure for me. My upcoming schedule, for example is: hosting a pianist from England tomorrow – Chopin Nocturnes; Harrisburg, PA next week - Dvorak concerto again. Then, Fairbanks, AK; then Boise, etc. I’m still missing RI, but have hit 49 of 50 states.
Strange thing – I once woke up at home and wasn’t sure where I was!
How difficult is it to play with a different orchestra for every performance? I’m old enough, have been doing this enough so a lot of my friends are in these orchestras. Tonight I have friends coming in from Cleveland to hear me play. I love sharing and
I love that music brings people together.
I have some very strong friendships in some of these places. I also know a lot of the musicians in the CSO who also play with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. The cello is what brings all of this together.
What do you think of the CSO so far? It’s wonderful! I’ve played in Columbus – with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra - several times. I frequent festivals. Nice thing about this career – you do go back, you see how the cities have changed, how people’s lives have broadened.
Which concert are you most looking forward to playing this year? I have a couple of projects – Michael Daugherty has been commissioned by the Nashville Symphony to write a piece. We’re recording it next year. We’ll be working on that this spring.
What do you do for outreach? At 17 – I didn’t realize that this whole world would open up. …that it would be on my shoulders to cultivate this music. I perform outreach in three regions: West TX; Spokane, WA and Alaska.
The cello has opened the door to a lot of fun adventures. In Baltimore, I was asked to coach Ned Beatty to LOOK like he was playing the cello for Homicide and then I played the soundtrack. Then I was an extra. And then, when I moved to NY, I was asked to be on OZ. I saw that as the ultimate outreach – to bring music to people who may or may not have gone into a concert hall. I try to figure out ways to bring music to the people.
Scene from Oz. Children, don’t try this at home.
My students love to hear stories. They have no idea that I may have been in Australia the day before the lesson. It’s fascinating for me to see their reactions to these stories. It’s real world. A student may ask about something to which I respond “Hmm…I’m playing this on Friday, I’ll let you know.” I’ll come back with – NO! DON’T DO IT! Or – it totally worked.
It’s very unusual to do more than one – teach, perform, artistic director… but I use them all to do a lot of outreach.
When visiting other cities, I like to visit schools. I always like to go to schools when I travel – or hospitals – anywhere to make the music accessible. Kennedy center would send musicians in our schools. This world-renown musician would come to our classroom – wow!
During festivals, we focus on making sure every artist visits as many schools as possible. The focus on arts in schools will ebb and flow. Kids are curious about the variety of sounds that can be made with a cello. And you never know what kids are going to ask.
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? I always asked them – well, what do you like? And they typically set their own trap. They’ll mention different kinds of music, movies, video games… Did you know that was a cello that was playing that theme? Classical music is the use of these instruments, not necessarily Beethoven or Haydn – a general term for stringed instruments. It’s the highest form of creating these video games and movies.
Have you ever noticed when pop groups try to be classier? They either go unplugged or incorporate symphonic sounds.
What cello music should I have in my music library? Bach cello suites – everyone BUT Mozart has written something exclusively for the cello. Dvorak – the piece tonight is arguably the greatest cello piece written. It’s a symphony with a great cello part. Even Chopin, the piano god, the last piece he wrote is a cello sonata. The cello could, in the end, be a composers own voice for their story. The cello, being mellower (than the violin) is more difficult to write for.
Who are your favorite composers? Typical response is “whatever I’m working on.” Bach – beginning and the end. He wrote such perfect works for a single instrument that kind of encapsulates – everything! I typically go to the deep end when working on a composers – about their life, what they wrote, etc. They used such masterful expression through music – it was therapeutic to write this music. If you know this profile, you can empathize and understand them. Great music is great, but if you know WHY something was created, then it takes it to a whole other stratosphere.
What is your favorite musical era? They’re just all such distinctive flavors. Growing up, my family didn’t travel a lot. I was very comfortable and specific in what I liked. The more I traveled, the more I liked. The variety is so important to have perspective. If you look at my recordings, they’re so different. I just keep broadening. When I step into the next chapter – I bring all that knowledge with me – and perspective – to appreciate the new language of Britten, for example, instead of being dismissive. It wouldn’t be the smartest thing for me to choose a favorite time period. I keep finding things that are interesting to me, but they’re interesting because of what I already know.
Classical music is all about interpretation. Buy several versions of Bach – compare and contrast. Why does this violinist sound different from this one? Why does this version sound different?
In your case, (Vladimir) Ashkenazy vs. Lang Lang – which do you like better? Buy another recording and find out WHY you love it.
Any good show off pieces for the cello? Show off pieces are things that people can’t believe can be done on an instrument. Flight of the bumblebee, etc. I often like to play the beautiful soft ones.
People can’t believe the cello can create that warmth and depth of feeling.
Do you have favorite cellists? Anyone you particularly admire? Rostropovich was the local cellist in DC. He’s probably the most historic, legendary cellist who walked the earth. He was a huge hero for all cellists – set the bar higher than I think anyone has. Through him, I was able to hear all the cellists we all know…
Rostropovich was bigger than music. He stood up for everything political – like Pablo Casals – used the cello to make a difference.
With my cello, I want to make a difference. I want to uh…it’s a loaded question! There are people I respect because their motives are pure. They’re genuinely trying to bring good to others. Those are my role models.
How about conductors? The more the conductor has worked with more people, the greater they are. The more they understand why people make the decisions they make. The more limited or inexperienced the conductor, the more severe opinions they have. Doesn’t happen very often, but when it has, it’s usually their first performance of that particular piece.
With a recording, it must be discussed how it’s played. We’re documenting an interpretation, not just a one-evening performance.
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Oh genius!
Benjamin Britten – (his music) is kind of like a struggle for humanity. You’ll witness the battlefield of understanding why there are these things that happen. Free flow – it’s a genius work. I wish I could take everyone aside to explain to them what I now know vs. what I didn’t know when I started. If I could, they would hear this music as the masterpiece that it is.
The linguist in me has to ask. Zuill – what’s the background of your name? It’s a family last name. Scotch/Irish.
Ever break a string while performing? Of course! One time, I was so close to the end, I finished on the upper strings. It sounds like a gunshot – it’s almost a tension reliever. First I make sure the cello is ok and then continue.
Do you ever worry about transporting your instrument? Especially knowing how old and valuable it is? I did think a lot especially at first – about the care of this instrument. I’ve always had a cello in my hand. I certainly know how to care for it – it’s always with me. I take good care of it – it’s been around for 320 years. The good news is that it’s being played. If not played, it goes to sleep – it doesn’t vibrate, so these instruments have to be played. The world gets to hear it. Documented – in recording, concerts, it’s seen – such as a traveling exhibition.
I’ve had this one since my mid-20s. I’ve had it for 17 years – mine for life.
It’s contagious – delving into the world of classical music!
What’s your favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream flavor? Haven’t tried it yet.
Note to the city of Columbus: We clearly need to introduce Zuill to Jeni’s the next time he’s in town.
If you’d like to learn more about Zuill Bailey and the music he plays, I recommend you visit his website at www.zuillbailey.com His newest recording, Britten: Cello Symphony & Sonata, along with his other CDs can be purchased via his website.
Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
I’m a subscriber to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and by subscriber, I mean I bought a 4-pack of tickets to the Masterworks Concert series, i.e. the classical (non-pops) concerts. When picking out my four tickets, I chose 2-3 concerts and my friend, Sarah, chose 2-3 concerts and fortunately we overlapped on a couple. Our four concerts included Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, Beethoven’s 5th, Romeo and Juliet and Mozart’s Requiem. Pretty standard fare in the classical music work, but pretty awesome fare, to be sure! I never once considered the Ravel (bleh) or the Bruckner (I’ve heard icky things about his music). Remember – I bought my tickets before I started really expanding my music appreciation beyond Early, Baroque and Classical. Sure, I’d been mildly converted on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring last year, but that was enough, right?
For this concert, I lucked into a pair of comp tickets to this weekend’s concert thanks to one of the musicians playing. (Thank you!) Here’s what was on the program and may I just say that I was pleasantly surprised! Here’s my view of the stage – much closer than usual!
With Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni at the podium, the concert started with a piece by a composer I’d never heard of before, Olivier Messiaen. As a French major studying in Strasbourg way back when, I never really delved into the classical composers, but I have a lot of music of pop singers like Jean-Jacques Goldman and Patricia Kaas. (Love Patricia Kaas – look her up. Great voice!)
Originally from the beautiful city of Avignon, Messiaen composed Les Offrandes Oubliées after completing his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. The program notes handed to patrons at the concert said that he was influenced by Stravinsky – as I imagine many composers were after Rite of Spring was performed. This is a piece of music with three parts – slow – FAST – slow. The middle / fast part was my favorite. It was the most intense and thanks to the loud parts, my nephew, Ben, would have loved it. (Last year at the concert with Beethoven’s 6th, Ben commented that there weren’t enough loud parts. He was 10 at the time.) Of course, the three parts corresponded to three theological categories, according to the program: the Cross, Sin and the Eucharist.
Is it really a good sign that my favorite part was the part depicting sin? Hmm. Something to ponder.
It was a wonderful piece though, performed by the CSO for the first time at this concert. I’d be interested in hearing more of his works.
Just one hand
I’ve read that roughly 16 million (yes – million) people lost their lives in WWI – about 2/3 – 1/3 soldiers – civilians. Another 20 million people were wounded. Among them was a pianist named Paul Wittgenstein. After the war, he went around commissioning left-handed piano pieces from a variety of composers such as Strauss, Britton, Prokofiev and Ravel.
Hearing of this piece reminded me of an episode of M.A.S.H. way back when, when Charles operated on a wounded soldier and had to make the decision to either save his leg or his hand. After choosing to save the leg, he learned that the soldier was a pianist who had graduated from Juilliard. I couldn’t embed the video, but click this link to see it. Skip ahead to about 19 minutes in to hear Charles Emerson Winchester talk about Paul Wittgenstein and Ravel.
Pianist Benedetto Lupo performed this piece for us and wow was it beautiful. There were so many parts of the piece that made it sound like there were two hands playing. Amazing what you can do with a challenge and a little determination. (or a lot of determination!)
Funny that throughout the piece, I kept thinking - boy, this sure reminds me of Bolero…
I liked the Bruckner!
And then the Bruckner. Bruckner’s last symphony is his unfinished Symphony No 9. Oddly, he actually wrote 11 symphonies, but according to our pre-concert chat with Christopher Purdy, Bruckner apparently didn’t like his first two symphony and numbered them as 0 and 00.
I know a handful of people who have outright said that they do not like Bruckner. I’d never heard his work before, so with each subsequent person who said that, I became more and more frightened to hear his music. Yikes! Something must really be wrong with it.
Sigh. There’s nothing wrong with it. Bruckner is just another Austrian composer – he lived from 1824-1896, so he’s in the romantic era, sure, but that’s not horrible, is it? No. Safe to say, it’s not, but I clearly hadn’t given him a fair shake…until this concert.
I really enjoyed this symphony and can now totally understand why brass players like to play it. My first thought while listening to this piece was
Gosh – sure is nice of the strings to accompany the brass!
That’s a little over the top, I’m sure, but since the brass were featured so prominently throughout the piece, one has to wonder! It was fantastic – the brass parts were excellent and it seemed to revolve around them. I kept thinking how intense it was and also how I’d like to hear more!
As for my nephew, Ben would have loved it – it had lots of loud parts! I noticed while watching it that there were nine (count ‘em 9) French horn players – including all five that I spoke to for French Horn Week. I noticed that the four hornists in the back row were playing something I learned is called a Wagner horn, or a Wagner tuba.
I found this picture thanks to google because I wanted to show you a side by side picture of the French horn and Wagner horn. I read that it’s kind of a cross between a French horn and a trombone. Bruckner used these horns in his later symphonies. In his 9th, the hornists go back and forth between the two horns – something made easier since they share the same kind of mouthpiece and fingerings.
There’s a brass ensemble out of Vermont who made it a goal to play the Wagner horns. (love the Lionel Richie reference)
All in all it was a wonderful concert that I really enjoyed. My friend and I were amazed with the gorgeous stained glass chandelier almost directly above us.
February is going to be a great month for concerts with the CSO: A cello concerto by Dvorak on the 1st (My birthday weekend! I’ll be 29. Again.), Lang Lang on the 6th for Prokofiev’s 3rd and lots of Romeo and Juliet music on the 15th (My nephew’s birthday weekend – he’ll be 12!)
On a side note, while I was there, I picked up my tickets for the Romantic Passions concert featuring cellist Mr. Zuill Bailey for a Dvorak cello concerto. About 14 of us from my Peace Corps alumni group are going to that concert, so in addition to the great music, I’ll have some great company.
I just donated $5 to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. I already have an account set up, so it only took me about 15 or so steps from the front page of the website to confirming my donation.
Simpler would be better.
Looking to simplify? Here’s some information on just how crazy simple it is to simplify an overly cumbersome online donation process. It’s definitely worth taking the infinitesimal amount of effort needed to look into this. I can set up a tip jar using PayPal inside of 15 minutes. Per Adaptistration, the CSO (and other arts organizations) could – within 48 hours – easily make their online donation process less than 2 minutes for the average donor. How many of those average donors might stop passing it by?
Those $5-10-20-50 donations sure would add up, don’t you think?!
2014 is going to be a fun year. I’m really looking forward to all the music I’m going to hear – whether it be live concerts in places like Columbus or Chattanooga or something I discover online while checking out 24 new (to me) composers in my Passport to Composers series that I’m starting up in another week or two. Before I jump ahead though, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks who have taken the time to read or even comment on my blog.
Thanks as well to anyone along the way who recommended other blogs to check out in order to help me learn more about the classical music business (Adaptistration and Iron Tongue of Midnight were two main ones recommended, though I’ve since discovered more!). I’m even very thankful for those who told me (when I first started and added what I thought was a cool picture as a background) that the picture may be cool, but it takes forever to open the page. (Oops. Thanks, Drew!)
Giocosity is a new blog as of June of 2013, but even though it’s young, I thought it would be fun to summarize my top posts for 2013 and where folks are visiting my blog.
It’s been tough getting the word out especially knowing I’m just writing for fun as a patron and fan as opposed to writing from the perspective of someone in the industry such as a musician, staff member or consultant. Fortunately, I’ve never claimed to be an expert – just someone who enjoys writing about my concert experiences and learning about the great music being performed along the way – so I imagine more readers will come with time.
Looking at my top ten posts, folks definitely seemed to enjoy French Horn Week as four of my top ten posts were from that fun project.
1. Minnesota Orchestra: Links – summarizes some of the posts written by industry professionals.
2. Soul of an Orchestra - My last post of French Horn week
3. Survey Results: Donate? Or Not? – Part I - Gives an idea of the effort required to make an online donation to the CSO
4. The Show Must Go On - What a wonderful performance by Philippe Quint and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
5. Minnesota Orchestra Musicians: Let Them Play! - My Labor Day contribution
6. Julia Rose – Associate Principal French Horn - My profile of one of the fabulous French horn players with the CSO. Hers was my first ever interview. Thanks, Julia!
7. …But the Chopin Was Amazing! - It really was! Dr. Nicholas Ross played Chopin’s Piano Concerto #1 excellently well!
8. Not Your Average Concert-Goer - Classical music fans don’t all come in the same packaging!
9. Don’t Look ‘Em in the Eyes! - My introductory post of French Horn Week.
10. Gene Standley – Principal French Horn - My profile of the CSO’s principal horn player. The last of my horn player interviews – one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet!
Honorable mention: #11: Westerville Symphony Concert - My first time hearing the Westerville Symphony Orchestra at a wonderful venue at Alum Creek Park in Westerville. I even enjoyed the Khachaturian!
Where are they?
I’m in the US and I’m writing in English, so the vast majority of my readers are from the US. Makes sense, right? After that, #2-10 countries are: Canada, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Latvia, Spain and Norway.
Honorable mention: #11 Japan
What to expect in 2014
2014 will be fun. Starting later this month, I’ll post my first offering on my Passport to Composers series where I will feature one composer from every country I’ve either lived in or visited. Having served in the Peace Corps, I like to venture off the beaten path, so the composer I choose to profile won’t always be first one you think of when a country like Austria or Germany is mentioned.
I look forward to enjoying more concerts by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, but also by other ensembles such as Early Music in Columbus, Westerville Symphony Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra or, a little further off my locally beaten path, the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra.
Locally I hope to expand a little bit as well and work my way out to the New Albany Symphony Orchestra – plus, I have yet to make it to a concert at Ohio State, but that’s primarily due to my funky work hours. If I don’t get out on time (which I rarely do), I can never make it to concerts during the week which is a bummer since there’s so much great music being played! Definitely something I hope to remedy in the new year!
I hope to expand on my interviewing as well. I’m already working on setting up some interviews with some soloists and conductors. Plus, I interviewed composer Michael Torke before the holidays, so I’ll be posting that pretty soon. He’s got some fabulous music out there, for sure!
Who knows what’s in store for Giocosity?! What will be my top posts in 2014? Heck if I know, but I do look forward to having lots of musical fun! I look forward to hearing from you as well via your comments and questions left for me here.
So with that in mind, as they say in my adopted country of Bulgaria:
Честита нова година, приятели! Желая ви добро здраве, много щастие и късмет през новата година!!
Happy New Year, friends! I wish you good health, much happiness and fortune in the new year!
Looking for a great holiday-inspired performance this weekend? Good! I have a few ideas for you then, because we have some great music being played in our town!
Not sure which one to choose? Or – did you just happen across my classical music blog and you’re not yet really a fan? If so, I suggest you check one out anyway, but if all else fails – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug opens this weekend. If that doesn’t put you in the Christmas mood, I don’t know what does!
Hey – don’t laugh! I love Tolkien! Besides – my entire family and I are all going to see it this weekend. Yes – three generations of the Brown family – and then, Dad and I are heading out to ProMusica on Sunday. Bilbo Baggins and Santa Claus. Wow! It really is the most wonderful time of the year!
Ahem. Speaking of ProMusica…here are those great music ideas I promised!
These guys are awesome and have three holiday performances going on this weekend including the Messiah sing-along tonight, Dec 13, at 7:30 pm at the Southern Theatre. I promise not to claim a soprano part. Tickets are $20 each so head on out!
A Classical Holiday – Two great concerts this weekend with roughly the same program.
Saturday at the Josephinum – 5:30 pm
MOZART – Ballet Music to “Idomeneo”
HAYDN – Sinfonia Concertante
DVORAK – Legends No. 5-6-7
HAYDN – Symphony No. 98
Sunday at the Southern Theatre – 7 pm
MOZART – Ballet Music to “Idomeneo”
SCHICKELE – Thurber’s Dogs
DVORAK – Legends No. 5-6-7
HAYDN – Symphony No. 98
Sounds of the Season - Saturday at 8pm at the Riley Auditorium at Battelle Fine Arts Center Otterbein University. Tickets are only $25 each and it looks to be a fun concert!
The Westerville Symphony’s annual “Sounds of the Season” concert is a favorite holiday tradition for hundreds of local families. Assistant Conductor Jim Bates leads a smaller chamber orchestra through a rousing program of holiday themed classical works and other Yuletide favorites including popular audience sing-alongs.
An annual tradition, the Ballet Met, with the musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, put on the wonderful ballet we all know and love, The Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker Ballet – From the Ballet Met website:
Journey with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy – a magical world of the imagination filled with colorful characters sure to enchant you and your family.
Performances started yesterday, December 12 and run right through a 12 noon performance on Christmas Eve. Plenty of opportunities for you to see it between now and then! Make it an annual tradition. My family heads out for J.R.R. Tolkien movies. You could head out for the Nutcracker.
HOW many times?
The other day on Facebook, some musicians from various orchestras were talking about how many times they had each played for this ballet and wow! The numbers were staggering! Check these out!
* Christopher Blair, Principal at Akustiks, has conducted the Nutcracker roughly six times.
* Holly Mulcahy, Concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, is nearing her 200th performance.
* Jeff Korak, 2nd Trumpet in our own Columbus Symphony Orchestra, is coming up on his 350th performance. Wow!
* Conductor of the Ballet San Jose, George Daugherty, wins the prize though. This season, he is nearing his 2,000th performance! Yes – that’s two thousand! Bravo!
As a patron, I’ve only seen it once or twice. Not quite the accomplishment we see from these musicians!
How many times have YOU seen The Nutcracker ballet?
Have a great weekend everyone!
- Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ gets Civil War-era makeover (miamiherald.com)
- The Nutcracker- 6 Performances With Full Symphony Orchestra (ktla.com)
- Huntsville Ballet Performs “The Nutcracker” Featuring The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra This Weekend (whnt.com)
- Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Robinson Ballet partner for ‘The Nutcracker’ (bangordailynews.com)
- ‘Nutcracker’ returns to the Capitol Theatre this weekend (yakimaherald.com)
- A chamber orchestra in … a bar? (csmonitor.com)
- Memphis orchestra reaching out to community (miamiherald.com)
With a handful of friends from work, I had the pleasure of finally going to see my first ever Holiday Pops concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra! What a fun evening! We laughed, we sang (for which everyone was grateful I was sitting way in the back), we danced (kind of) and had such a wonderful, entertaining evening.
We were treated to such fun music with a huge variety of performers. For starters we had all the instrumental musicians. We already know they’re extremely good, right? They were accompanied by the Columbus Symphony Chorus which has a fantastic soprano section. Is it normal to be able to hit notes that high? Wow! At one point, they sang a gospel song with an amazing tenor who came down in the front for a solo. And then a children’s choir filed in to fill some of the extra seats in the choir section before treating us to an incredible rendition of Carol of the Bells. During a couple songs, a pair of ballet dancers from Wright State University came and performed for us in front of the orchestra. Plus, some of the young (youth) ballet dancers from the Ballet Met danced during “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” narrated by a baritone from the Chorus.
Wow – there was definitely something for everyone! I’m so glad I went! Maestro Jenkins even said we would most likely discover a new favorite song.
For my friend, Mandy, it was BasSOON it Must be Christmas which featured the CSO’s own talented bassoonists Betsy Sturdevant and Doug Fisher. The piece itself included six classical music pieces and six Christmas songs. We didn’t exactly take notes, but we recognized several of them including Mozart’s Overture of the Marriage of Figaro – which in and of itself, made this a great piece of music!
For Sarah, Bernie and me, it was Craig Courtney‘s Musicological Journey Through the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s really quite clever! Yes – it’s 12-minutes long, but you’ll get a kick out of it, so listen to the whole thing. It works its way through several hundred years’ worth of different musical styles starting with Gregorian chants through the Baroque and Classical eras, through a Wagnerian opera and waltzes all the way through a good John Philip Sousa march – complete with piccolo! Quite often, the 12 Days of Christmas can be a really annoying song, but this time around, it’s definitely not!
Be warned, on the 9th day of Christmas, Sarah, Bernie and I all started dancing back and forth in our seats, so you might, too.
Another fun highlight of the evening was when Maestro Jenkins chose a guest conductor for Sleighride. Prior to intermission, he had invited us to come down and sign up for a chance to conduct the orchestra. We just had to be between 3rd and 8th (?) grade. Out of a hat, he drew the name of a 5th grader sitting up in the balcony who was given a 3-minute crash course in conducting off stage. He then handed her very own baton and escorted her up to the podium where she conducted her very first professional orchestra. She did a great job and definitely knew the song because she was right on when it came to cuing the percussion section for the whip sounds which naturally drew lots of applause from the audience. No idea if it made her nervous or not, but she was also projected onto the big screen they had behind the orchestra which meant she could watch herself conduct. I think this girl has a bright future ahead of her!
Finally at the end of the concert, we were treated to a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus who even sang a song for us!
What an enjoyable evening all around. The turnout was just great and the music even greater. Many thanks to Maestro Jenkins and his fellow conductors, the musicians and staff of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for a terrific year filled with incredible music. I look forward to even more in the new year.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! :-)
- 12 Days of Christmas: Day 12 (emmacgobillot.wordpress.com)
- 12 Days of Christmas – Straight No Chaser (hoffsy.wordpress.com)
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It’s that time of year when people are making last-minute donations in order to add to what they can write off on their taxes. As well they should. There are plenty of places out there that are in need of our generosity, so I say, go for it!
My favorite orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is one such organization. Two more that I think are well worth your support are the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and the Westerville Symphony Orchestra. Why these three? Because I’ve been to performances of all three in the last few months or so and think they’re fabulous! (CSO – six concerts, ProMusica – one concert, with tickets for another this Sunday, and Westerville Symphony – two concerts.) There’s some great music to be heard in this town, friends! And WOSU Radio – Classical 101 – I listen to them all the time. Their app helps keep me sane at work when stress levels are high and my hyper coworker is far louder than usual!
Many orchestras have a 60/40 split – 60% off donations and 40% off ticket sales. Not sure about ProMusica or Westerville, but the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has a 70/30 split. That means 70% of their operating budget (per the last two annual reports – 2011 / 2012) stems from donations and only 30% from ticket sales, so they definitely have their work cut out for them in terms of soliciting donations. They’re so worth it though because their musicians are amazingly good! Of course – you could all just start buying tickets like I do. Hey – It’s a suggestion. You support them AND get an evening of fantastic music!
Support your community!
Supporting the arts helps to support your community. Think about it – you’re helping to keep people employed – always a plus. You’re getting high quality, live entertainment! Very cool. You’re helping to improve and expand educational opportunities for both children and adults. Both necessary. And you bring in tourism dollars by helping to give people yet another reason to visit your town. Tourism helps boost your local economy!
Arts and culture make up a significant chunk of our economy. The A/P recently reported how the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment of the Arts have released a study on just how much arts and culture, a.k.a. “Creative industries”, contribute to our national economy. In the A/P article, it says this:
Creative industries led by Hollywood account for about $504 billion, or at least 3.2 percent of U.S. goods and services, the government said in its first official measure of how the arts and culture affect the economy.
Drew McManus today commented today in his blog, Adaptistration, that you should naturally take care in what you read. Consider the source and don’t compare apples to oranges. Most studies are locally based, rather than national like the one above. I agree with him – that makes total sense.
I think it’s a good indicator of things to come though and something to keep track of because it’s easy to cut funding for the arts and it’s easy to cut funding to music programs in schools, but remember folks, concerts and plays and art exhibits really do bring money into our communities are they are not to be taken lightly. These are some good economic contenders who can really help us out and are therefore deserving of our support. Think about it – you can support the arts, help boost our economy and get a tax write-off. Wins all around!
Here are some details on some local arts organizations that, in my humble opinion, I think you should all support this holiday season if you can. If all else fails, you can buy a ticket, too, but arts organizations bring a lot of money into our economy, so it’s worth making sure they stick around. You’ll get a tax write-off, of course, but you’re making sure Columbus is a well-rounded city full of entertainment and music education programs.
Our symphony is incredibly good! Go buy a ticket for their next concert and then make a donation! Yes – the online donation process is beyond horrid, but they take checks. It’s super simple – just grab their address below. (Clicking the “Donate” button off the front page gets you there, too)
55 E. State St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Then, go to your bank’s website, log in and set them up like you would for any bills you might pay, only this is not a bill. This is a great musical organization that is worthy of our support, my fellow Buckeyes! Fill out the amount you’d like to donate and send it off. There. Done.
Congratulations. You’ve just supported the longest standing musical arts organization here in Columbus. Took less than five minutes. Come on. Admit it. You feel good now, don’t you?
Wow. These guys are really good. You can mail a check to them, too, but their online donation process is ridiculously easy to use. Just click the link above and make a donation. It takes two minutes. Feel free as well to join my dad and me this Sunday at their Holiday concert. (Messiah sing-along is Friday and their Christmas concerts are Saturday at the Josephinum and Sunday at the Southern Theatre downtown. It’ll be really great!)
ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
243 North Fifth Street, Suite 202
Columbus, OH 43215
See? Another great music organization supported. I know you’re feeling good now!
They don’t have an online donation system, per se, but you can go into their store and “purchase” a donation amount. It’s a little weird, but it works. Plus, like the others, you’re always welcome to go the online bill-pay route and set them up with your online banking.
Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University
167 South State Street, Suite 80
P.O. Box 478
Westerville, Ohio 43086-0478
I was pleasantly surprised the first time I heard them play last August. Wow! And it was a free concert, too! Can’t go wrong with that! And then in October with that Chopin piano concerto – WOWZA! It was seriously amazing, people. You should kick yourself if you missed it. They have a holiday concert coming up this Saturday at 8pm up at Otterbein. Tickets are only $25 and unlike ProMusica and the CSO (Sorry guys) their $25 tickets are actually $25! No added Ticketmaster fees. Awesome!
I’d be going, too, were it not for the fact that my bonus (and my savings) have to go to a new catalytic converter. Yeah. Fun. But I’ll go in the new year – and you should, too!
It all adds up!
Anyhoo…if you set these great organizations up like you do with all your bills for online banking, you can very easily make a small (or large!) donation to them whenever you’re in there paying all your bills. Even $5 every now and then adds up! That’s what I donate to both the CSO and WOSU every month.
Oh my gosh – speaking of WOSU radio! Classical 101, our local classical music station in town, probably does more to advertise and market all these arts organizations than the organizations themselves – and I promise, that’s not meant to be snarky in any way. Classical 101 is just awesome!
They do so much to help promote great music in our community. Heck – its on-air personalities give pre-concert chats at so many performances (Christopher Purdy at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Jennifer Hambrick at the Westerville Symphony Orchestra and Boyce Lancaster at the Codas at ProMusica Chamber orchestra – among others, I’m sure!) which help us all better relate to the music we’re about to hear – or have just heard. It’s so helpful – especially when you’re about to hear something new – to be able to put that music in context. It helps you both relate to the music but also better understand it so you can figure out why the 1st movement of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto was considered so weird at the time, or why there were riots at the premier of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (great for ticket sales though!), what Mahler was like “before he was Mahler” and how the heck did they manage to get a substitute soloist for Mendelssohn’s violin concerto only two days before the first performance!
We’re so lucky to have so much great music in this town – and so much of it, too! And to think, I didn’t even mention Early Music in Columbus (I hope to make it to Twelfth Night!), Chamber Music Columbus or wow – the Ohio State University and Otterbein University schools of music!
So tell me, which organizations are you supporting in 2013?
Having just had a super busy, yet super fun Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t have anything musically oriented for today, so I thought I’d let you know a few things I have in the works!
As you know, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the entire horn section of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as well as our new concertmaster. Now, I’m working on setting up some more fun interviews of CSO conductors, an upcoming soloist (fingers crossed, this works out!), an American composer and a local business that supports our symphony! Most of these will take place after the new year, so there are some exciting things in Giocosity’s future!
Some friends and I are all going to go see the CSO Holiday Pops concert this Saturday! I’m excited since it’ll be my first time going to this one. The following weekend, I’ll be attending another holiday concert with my dad. This time, it’ll be the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra that we go see. I haven’t gone to their holiday concerts before either.
Not music related, but on my knitting blog, Itinerant Knitter, I’m posting a stashbusting advent calendar that starts today. Not sure what that is? Well – it just means that I have a ton of yarn in my stash – much like every other knitter and crocheter – including a certain music director in Chattanooga (who shall remain nameless!) who may or may not have recently added to her own stash thanks to a great yarn sale online. Ahem. So each day, I’ll be introducing you to some yarn in my own stash. No guarantees if I’ll actual stash bust or not, i.e. actually knit something with it, but I’ll have fun with it anyway! Maybe I’ll get some good suggestions on what I can make.
So much yarn, so little time.
Giocosity is a pretty new blog. I’ve only been around since June, but this weekend, I topped 5,000 visits to my blog! Yea! As always you’re welcome to leave comments or shoot me an Email (Giocosity (at) gmail.com) as I love to hear from you. Most important though, THANK YOU for reading what I write. It means a lot that more and more people are interested in what I share here.
Thank you again and have a great week, everyone!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing yet another fabulous performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, only this time – I had five other people with me! So instead of just writing about the performance, I thought I’d ask my friends and family to share their thoughts on the concert.
On last weekend’s program were:
Invictus – by OSU alumnus, Stephen Montague.
Violin Concerto by Edward Elgar with Ilya Gringolts on Violin (OMG he was so good!)
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
Maestro Thomas Wilkins was on the podium.
Meet my friends and family: Sarah and Bernadette are coworkers of mine. Mom and Dad are…well…Mom and Dad. And Ben, is my 11-year old nephew. Sarah has season tickets with me. This was Bernadette’s first-ever CSO concert. Mom and Dad go at least once or twice per year and Ben went with Sarah and me to his first concert last year for Beethoven’s 6th.
The concert was really great. It truly was. It started out a bit weird, got better with an amazing violinist then ended with the piece we all loved, but hey – don’t take my word for it. Take theirs!
MONTAGUE – INVICTUS
Sarah: “I really liked it”
Bernadette: I’m impressed with the composer…..but I am not too keen with present day composers, you know? I mean…..the piece itself sounded like JAWA and Star Wars or Galactica or something. it was interesting though.
Mom: I liked the idea that it was composed by a “hometown” guy, but I cannot say that I enjoyed it. Very discordant, which was his point, I guess. I prefer ‘musical’ music – with a melody. This, to me, was more like 8 minutes of musicians’ warm-up.
Dad: Interesting, reminded me of Stravinsky. Not my favorite style of music. Could not find theme. However, as a former percussionist, I thought the use of E-drums was kind of exciting touch. Would not attend just for this style. Prefer classical.
Ben: Meh. I didn’t like it.
Heather: Funky. Not something I could listen to a lot, but nice to try something new! I especially liked the percussion.
ELGAR – VIOLIN CONCERTO / ILYA GRINGOLTS – VIOLIN
Sarah: I thought he was amazing. It was a little on the longer side but still very good.
Bernadette: OMG! I never heard this violin concerto before by Elgar…..but my gosh!!!! The violinist was fantastic!!!!!!! I didn’t hear ANY, ANY slip or slide – no mistake!!!! And his notes were in tune and of perfect pitch – to the highest note!!!! I love him!
Mom: Loved the first movement. The second and third dragged and seemed unnecessary. The violinist was spectacular. Every note was clear and lovely. Amazing talent. Would love to hear him again.
Dad: He was fantastic. Made Elgar acceptable. Elgar seems to draw themes out too much for my taste.
Ben: It was ok. I got bored.
Heather: Beautiful! (Bit long in the middle) but man oh man – Ilya Gringolts was absolutely fantastic! He played exceptionally well and had the most beautiful tone! First and third movements were the best (especially the first).
BEETHOVEN’S 5TH SYMPHONY
Sarah: I think they did a really good job with the Beethoven too - and that is one of my favs.
Bernadette: Always loved Beethoven….and his story (as well as Chopin’s and Mozart’s) – I’m sure all of them had a colorful life…..but you can hear the passion in his music! That 1st movement (the popular one) was also a piece of mine when I was a teenager – playing the organ! =)
Mom: Beethoven’s 5th is one of my favorites anyway and the orchestra performed it so very well. Loved it.
Dad: One of my favorites. Symphony did a superb job. Had me on edge of my seat watching sections play and enjoying.
Ben: I really liked watching the conductor!
Heather: LOVED IT! Beethoven is awesome to begin with, but the CSO did a great job – especially in the last movement. The first few movements seemed like warm ups to the last one when there was just an explosion of beautiful sound. It sounded like they were really getting into it. I loved it. Love – love – LOVED IT! I swear I’m not just saying this because I met them – the French horns were awesome!! WOW!
Sarah: Overall I enjoyed it
Bernadette: I like the conductor…he was very ummm, what’s that word??? Not comedic, but “showy?” He was great! I enjoyed him as well as the orchestra BRAVO to the whole concert! =)
Mom: So fun to watch the conductor. I do not normally pay so much attention to the conductor as I would not want him/her to be a distraction; but in this case, I made an exception. His entire body language enhanced the music. Some parts of the symphony just called for a nuance of movement, while others brought in all parts of his body.
Dad: (Maestro Wilkins) was really into all three selections. He seemed to immerse himself into Beethoven’s 5th. He added history and relevance in his pre-remarks. Would like to see more of him. Hire him when current one leaves. Overall-concert was great. I don’t have to listen only to favorites. Kudos to symphony for another great performance.
Ben: (about Maestro Wilkins) He was cool! Sometimes you didn’t see his arms; then they appeared, seemingly out of nowhere!
Heather: Great concert! I especially loved how Maestro Wilkins put everything in historical context prior to playing Beethoven’s 5th.
Oh – and for the record, on the way up to Mom and Dad’s – Dad (completely unsolicited) complimented the horn section, too! “The French horns sounded excellent. They really did a good job tonight,” is what he told me in the car.
So, about that Schumann Concert Piece for Four Horns for next year…
- Beethoven at the Claflin Hill Symphony – Nov 2 (franklinmatters.org)
- Florida Orchestra’s 2013-14 season fine-tuned for success (TBO.com)
- Maxim Vengerov: new and turbo-charged (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Halle concert (freemanjl.wordpress.com)
- Concert Review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra – Ehnes Plays Britten (skulemusic.wordpress.com)
Welcome to the second half of my interview with CSO Concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy. Today I thought we’d start with a bit of Symphony 101: what’s a concertmaster?
According to Merriam-Webster,
con·cert·mas·ter noun \ˈkän(t)-sərt-ˌmas-tər\
: a musician who is the leading violin player and the assistant conductor of an orchestra
To gain a better appreciation of this position, know this: If you’re good enough to be in a Symphony orchestra – any instrument, any position – then you’re really good.
Growing up, one of my band directors told us this:
It’s really hard to get into a Symphony. You have to be incredibly talented but once you’re in, you’re in for life. So if you’re not already in an orchestra, someone has to either resign or die for there to be an opening.
Competition is fierce and raw talent alone won’t be enough when you’re auditioning with the other musicians at that level who want it just as badly as you do
WQXR radio out of New York posted an article about auditions which taught me this:
In the past several decades, orchestral auditions have only gotten more competitive. A section position for a major orchestra might have 200-300 applicants, and then 100 will be invited to actually audition,
said Jonathan Mednick, CEO of MyAuditions.com, an orchestra job posting website. Available jobs have decreased as well, he said.
“Three years ago, we were averaging 300 plus jobs per month, and recently we averaged about 120.”
So with that in mind, imagine how a musician feels when making it into a top-notch, professional orchestra. Now imagine being that top-notch professional orchestra’s 1st chair violin.
That’s your Concertmaster.
What additional responsibilities do you have with the CSO as our Concertmaster? The bowings for the music, though most music already have them marked, so I just make sure it all makes sense.
Simply put, a Concertmaster is the 2nd highest ranking member of the orchestra behind the conductor. The conductor always shakes the hand of the concertmaster. The soloist always shakes the hand of the conductor – and the concertmaster.
The concertmaster is the last one on stage before a performance and is responsible for making sure the musicians on stage are all in tune. Once the orchestra has a chance to tune to the concertmaster, he (or she!) then takes the first seat to the left of the conductor, who then joins the musicians on stage and begins the concert.
To give you an idea of how busy he is, last month Jean-Sébastien met with me for this interview on a Tuesday, worked as a coach to the youth orchestra during a rehearsal (Dvorak’s New World and Saint-Saëns) on Wednesday and then on Thursday attended a fundraising dinner. Jean-Sébastien has also played for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra women’s organization lunches and occasionally meets with various people (donors) after concerts.
Smiling, he told me that,
They want me to do some of everything!
He went on to say, that he’s ”…here with a one-year contract, so it’s a bit different than a full-time concertmaster, but with a Music Director leaving, they don’t want to name a permanent concertmaster until the new guy is here.”
The CSO is currently conducting its search for a new music director to succeed our current Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni.
How soon before a performance do you get your music? 2-3 weeks in advance, but if you have another performance, you might not have a chance to look at it. It’s difficulty vs. how well I already know it. Rite of Spring (with the Montreal Symphony) – it was so well-written, so smart, that I sight read it and performed on only a couple rehearsals.
It’s so hard to find well-written music. Music can be complicated, but it’s so hard to perform. Stravinsky was complicated, but easier to perform.
What are your thoughts on leadership within an orchestra: (Leadership is) important, but (sometimes) extremely tricky. It’s a group of very talented and highly trained musicians. You must lead them in a very respectful way. It’s tough from the music director’s point of view. You need someone to make a decision (we’ll do it “this way” or “that way”) but you have to do it in a way to respect the quality of playing, backgrounds, etc.
Where do you see the CSO in 3-5 years? I see a lot of motivation in both the administration and the musicians. It’s had a rough patch – they’ve been recovering for 3-4 years. They’re back in good shape, so they can grow again and make it better than what it was before. A lot of it hinges on who is chosen as the music director – with good chemistry with the musicians, the administration and the community, you can just make miracles. I hope we’ll get lucky and get a great person and a great musician. I hope it will get attention again in the community.
For what do you think the CSO will be known? Any particular specialty? Hard to say. With Maestro Zeitouni, it would be vocals since he is amazing with singers. It all depends on the next Music Director.
Why aren’t more soloists pulled from the orchestra itself?
What sells is a soloist.
Jean-Sébastien explained to me how typically speaking, a concertmaster will play one solo per year but, in his case, with an already planned out schedule and a one-year contract put together only a couple months prior to the start of the season, it wasn’t possible to add a solo for him this year.
Speaking of solos, what happens if you break a string?
If something breaks, it’s usually the E-string. If the soloist breaks a string, he can take the Concertmaster’s violin who takes the associate concertmaster’s violin who, then doesn’t play. If I change a string, I need to play about 4-5 hours before it settles in tune. (Will keep going flat) The E-string takes far less time. For that reason, I usually keep an extra string in my pocket when I go on stage.
With what other ensembles have you played? Edmonton Symphony, Boston Symphony – they have an incredible hall – very old – no technology, they just made it right. It’s amazing. (There are) amazing acoustics in a new symphony hall in Montreal – they have to rely on the technology.
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? What experience do they have that would make them think they don’t like it? Classical music has so much variety. You are bound to like at least something. I’m sure you can find something you like. There are a lot of preconceived notions. It’s challenging – depends on the community.
We come across as very serious so sometimes that doesn’t help.
It’s not easy, but classical music DOES sell.
Other than Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, what violin music should I have in my music library? Bach sonatas and partitas; Paganini Caprice; Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms violin concerti.
Here’s Jascha Heifetz playing Paganini Caprice
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our new concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy. If you’d like to learn more about Jean-Sébastien and his music, visit his website and his bio on the CSO website. If you’d really like to get to know him, I recommend doing so through music. Holiday pops concert is the first weekend in December and the next classical music concert is the 2nd weekend in January. If you are new to the symphony, try it out. It’s really good and well – you may just discover you like it!
Thanks very much to Jean-Sébastien for granting me permission to use some of the photos off his own website.
- The orchestra: An introduction (operaveritatis.wordpress.com)