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New Australian chamber music festival to launch in 2020

The Australian city of Bendigo “is about to get a new, international chamber music festival boasting a long-term partnership with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe,” writes Barney Zwartz in Wednesday’s (12/11) The Age (Melbourne, Australia). “The first Bendigo Chamber Music Festival will host 14 concerts from February 5 to 9 next year, along with extensive community and education programs. It is the inspiration of two Melbourne-based cellists: Australian National Academy of Music lecturer and long-term COE member Howard Penny, and his former student Chris Howlett, who founded and has run the successful Sanguine Estate Music Festival in Bendigo for several years. [The Chamber Orchestra of Europe] has agreed to send several musicians a year. [Penny] has been part of COE himself for 30 years and, like all members, has divided his time between the ensemble and other music-making…. Howlett … divides his time between playing, being chairman and artistic director of classical music station 3MBS, running four music festivals and taking classical music to China…. Howlett says most works in the [upcoming] program are lesser-known gems by great composers.”

Posted December 12, 2019

An orchestra in Pasadena … Pasadena, Texas

“Strawberry Water Park in Pasadena seems like an unlikely place for an orchestral concert,” writes Chris Gray in Sunday’s (12/8) Houston Chronicle. “Yet in October, the Pasadena Philharmonic drew about 1,000 people for a concert of nearly all Mexican composers, followed by a screening of ‘Coco.’ … James Park, the orchestra’s music director, [chose] 20th-century names such as Arturo Marquez and Maria Grever…. Overall, the evening represented a triumph for an organization that, barely a half-decade ago, was on the verge of going under.… Pasadena [has] an estimated 153,528 residents [but] Pasadena’s image as an entity of its own seems to have melted into the metropolitan melange that is Greater Houston. Not the case, Park insists. The Pasadena Philharmonic is Exhibit A that the area’s largest suburb … has ‘its own homegrown musical arts scene.’ … The Pasadena Philharmonic was founded in 1982.… [It has an] all-volunteer board of directors and … musicians….  In July 2017, the orchestra played at incoming Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner’s inauguration…. Park lost count of the number of people who told him, ‘I didn’t even know we had an orchestra.’ ‘We’re in our 34th year,’ he replied.’ ”

Posted December 12, 2019

In photo: Pasadena Philharmonic Music Director James Park

Women conductors and the road to podium equality

“In the U.S., women helm roughly four percent of the two dozen big-budget orchestras,” writes Katherine LaGrave in Monday’s (12/9) Billboard. “Of the world’s 50 busiest conductors in 2018, just three were women: Marin Alsop, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) and JoAnn Falletta (music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra). There’s also a disparity in what orchestras are playing: Of the 2,891 contemporary orchestral works performed in 2018, women wrote 12.8 percent of them…. For the 2019-2020 season, the conversation around the gender imbalance is louder, thanks to the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The New York Philharmonic, for its Project 19, commissioned 19 women to write 19 new pieces. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s upcoming season counts half of its 22 commissions from women. Alsop’s Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, too, is marking the moment with premieres from contemporary composers like Lera Auerbach and pieces from lesser-known pioneers like Florence Price. Though the gender mix of conductors has remained relatively unchanged from 2006 to 2016, other milestones signal a slow turn toward progress…. Research from the League of American Orchestras shows increasing racial and ethnic diversity in conducting.”

Posted December 12, 2019

In photo, left to right: conductors Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

Apply now for a Futures Fund Grant from the League to advance innovation at American orchestras

Applications are open now through January 31 for grants from the League of American Orchestras’ American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, made possible by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. All League-member orchestras in groups 5-8 and youth orchestras, based in the U.S., are invited to apply for this new round of grants. The American Orchestras’ Futures Fund is a competitive grants program designed to advance the innovative work of the League’s member orchestras. The Futures Fund offers two-year grants to a select number of orchestras that are making investments in innovation and exploring new ways of working that demonstrate impact within the organization and its audiences and communities. 

The deadline to apply is Friday, January 31, 2020. Questions? Contact Lee Ann Norman, director, Learning and Leadership Programs, at Learn more, including how to apply, at the Futures Fund site

Posted December 11, 2019

Austin Symphony’s free holiday concerts, Dec. 6-18

The Austin Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of its annual free “Christmas in the Community” holiday performances throughout Austin, Texas, featuring chamber ensembles of musicians from the orchestra. The first concert took place on December 6 at Gus Garcia Recreation Center (brass quintet) and Macy’s Barton Creek (string quartet). The series continues on December 11 at Macy’s Lakeline (woodwind quintet), Pan American Recreation Center (brass quintet), and George Washington Carver Museum, with members of the Austin Youth Orchestra joining a string quartet from the orchestra; on December 13 at Macy’s Domain (woodwind quintet); December 16 at Capitol Rotunda (ASO string quartet plus members of the music education program Austin Soundwaves) and Central Library (brass quintet); and December 18 at Asian American Resource Center (brass quintet) and Macy’s Barton Creek (woodwind quintet). 

Posted December 11, 2019

Behind the scenes of streaming pop music: legal disputes, clearance issues, rights

“As of the third quarter of 2019, music streaming giant Spotify had 113 million paid subscribers worldwide—but it’s still missing some famous albums,” writes Marina Eckersley in Sunday’s (12/9) The Conversation (Boston). “Services like Spotify and Apple Music can’t just upload whatever music they’d like. Legal disputes, sample clearance issues—when permission can’t be obtained for the use of part of a song in a new song—and rights-holders withholding music can all get in the way…. Legal disputes between artists and their record labels have been happening for decades…. If you’re a fan of the hip-hop group De La Soul, you might have noticed that its 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising is missing from paid subscription streaming services. This is due to disputes between the group and its label … Rights-holders, whether they are the artist or not, can also choose to withhold music from streaming services. Taylor Swift has famously done this…. Sample clearances can [keep] music from being released or forcing it to be removed from streaming services. It’s common for rappers and hip-hop artists to release ‘mixtapes’—free releases which were once distributed on cassettes but are now commonly distributed on Soundcloud.”

Posted December 11, 2019

Germany’s Frankfurt Radio Symphony names Alain Altinoglu music director

“French conductor Alain Altinoglu, 44, is to succeed Andrés Orozco-Estrada as chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra as of 2021-22 for three seasons,” writes Nicholas Beard in Thursday’s (12/6) Musical America (subscription required). Orozco-Estrada is music director of the Houston Symphony and will also become music director of the Vienna Symphony in fall 2020. “Altinoglu is the current music director of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, where he has just extended his contract until 2025…. Altinoglu, a Frenchman of Armenian descent, is a frequent podium guest of the Vienna Philharmonic. He made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2017 and will lead the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam for the first time early next year. His American orchestral credits include the major ensembles of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia…. Opera credits include Berlioz’s Les Troyens at the Vienna State Opera and Tristan und Isolde and Lohengrin at La Monnaie, along with past appearances at the Met, Covent Garden, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, the Zurich Opera House, and Deutsche Oper Berlin…. Altinoglu, born in Paris in 1975, studied at the Conservatoire Supérieure de musique et danse.”

Posted December 11, 2019

Teaching business students via the performing arts

“Picture a lecture session at a business school and you probably envisage students gazing at screens filled with equations and acronyms,” reads an unsigned Saturday (12/8) article in the Economist (U.K.). “What you might not expect is choristers attempting to sing ‘O clap your hands,’ an eight-part anthem composed by Orlando Gibbons and first performed in 1622, [with] MBA students [at] Saïd Business School in Oxford … conducting the choir…. The session, organized by Pegram Harrison, a senior fellow in entrepreneurship, cleverly allowed the students to absorb some important leadership lessons. For example, leaders should listen to their teams, especially when their colleagues have specialist knowledge…. Other business schools have also realized that their students can learn from the arts. At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Leanne Meyer has introduced a leadership-training program that includes poetry, art installations and a book club…. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) …  offers training courses for executives, ranging from half a day to six days…. Says Charlie Walker-Wise, one of RADA’s tutors. ‘We help people to become more aware of their habits; what they do without realizing it.… Not many people are aware of how they come across.’ ”

Posted December 11, 2019

Interlochen Arts Camp increases scholarship funding for 2020 summer season

“Good news for Detroit students,” writes Bisma Parvez in Tuesday’s (12/10) Detroit Free Press. “The world-renowned Interlochen Arts Camp has more financial aid than ever before for Detroit youth, grades 3-12, in hopes of making the Interlochen experience accessible to all families. Interlochen has more than $140,000 in scholarship funds for the 2020 arts camps—the most financial aid ever reserved for Detroit students in Interlochen’s history. Students can apply for need- and merit-based scholarships and full-tuition scholarships are also available. Other Michigan students are also able to apply for scholarships with financial aid earmarked for youth in northern Michigan, southeast Michigan, and Grand Rapids. Detroit-based arts organizations that have partnered with Interlochen to award scholarships include the Detroit Children’s Choir, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Youth Ensemble, Inside Out, the Michigan Opera Theatre and Children’s Choir, the Royal Oak Young Artist Competition, and the Sphinx Organization…. More than 70 percent of students who apply for assistance to attend Interlochen Arts Camp receive financial aid, [Interlochen President Trey Devey] said…. Interlochen’s 1,200-acre campus in Grand Traverse County in northern lower Michigan hosts 2,500 students each summer.”0

Posted December 11, 2019

Play, run, play, repeat: Houston Symphony bassoonist and marathoner Elise Wagner

“Elise Wagner rarely listen to music while she runs,” writes Julie Garcia in Monday’s (12/10) Houston Chronicle. “More often than not, she plays a loop in her head. ‘Being a musician, usually what happens is that whatever I’m playing that week is an ear worm; it gets stuck in my head,’ said Wagner, a bassoonist for the Houston Symphony.… Lately, it has been the music of Richard Strauss … which the Houston Symphony featured in a Thanksgiving weekend performance…. Being an instrumentalist is the same as training for any sport, she said. ‘So much of it is mental, and you can say the same with running,’ said Wagner, 38…. She is training for the Houston Marathon, her second 26.2-mile race…. At the University of Houston, Wagner teaches her music students to train like athletes…. Wagner benefits most from speed and interval training as a wind player because both are exercises in lung expansion…. Wagner and Strauss are double-booked on Jan. 19. It’s marathon day. And they also have a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, which … contains major bassoon parts. ‘It’s going to feel like a second marathon,’ she said.”

Posted December 11, 2019

In photo: Elise Wagner, a member of the Houston Symphony bassoon section since September 2008, in her running shoes at Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. Photo by Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle