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Orchestras: apply now for 2019 SHIFT festival

Proposals are due by January 17, 2017 for the third annual SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras, April 8-14, 2019, in Washington, D.C. SHIFT celebrates the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras and chamber orchestras by creating an immersive festival experience in the nation’s capital. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts present SHIFT in cooperation with the League of American Orchestras.

The week-long festival is composed of mini-residencies, with each participating orchestra presenting education events, symposia, and community gatherings in venues around Washington, along with full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The inaugural festival takes place March 28-April 1, 2017, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic, The Knights, and North Carolina Symphony. Orchestras selected for SHIFT in 2018 are the Albany Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and National Symphony Orchestra. For more information, visit or contact

Posted January 3, 2017

Conducting workshop in Springfield, Missouri, Feb. 24-25

Missouri’s Springfield Symphony Orchestra is joining with the Springfield-Drury Civic Orchestra and Drury University to host a conducting workshop on February 24 and 25 in Clara Thompson Hall at Drury University. Led by Kyle Wiley Pickett, music director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Topeka (Kansas) Symphony, and Christopher Koch, music director of the Springfield Regional Opera and Springfield-Drury Civic Orchestra, the workshop will offer participants 30 to 35 minutes of podium time, plus a preparatory session with workshop clinicians. The purpose of the workshop is to provide aspiring conductors the opportunity to work with a professional chamber ensemble of Springfield Symphony musicians in a nurturing environment. Click here for repertoire, schedule, and application information.

Posted January 3, 2017

Obituary: Minnesota Orchestra harpist Joan Mainzer Kishkis, 88

“It was love at first sight when, around the age of 9, Joan Mainzer Kishkis saw her first harp,” writes Josephine Marcotty in last Sunday’s (12/25) Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). “The instrument became the focus of her life and her career, including 40 years as the principal harpist for the Minnesota Orchestra…. Kishkis died Dec. 15…. Kishkis attended Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., and then graduate school at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia…. Kishkis also became part of a harp quintet known as the Angelaires, who performed … on national television and even played alongside celebrities…. The exposure helped her land a job after graduate school as the principal harpist with the Houston Orchestra, where she met her husband of 12 years, Alfred Kishkis…. In 1953, she was wooed to the Twin Cities as principal harpist for the Minnesota Orchestra. She lived in Minnesota for the rest of her life, always playing under her maiden name, Joan Mainzer. She also played for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and other leading ensembles around the country…. Kishkis retired from the orchestra in 1993. But she continued to live in downtown Minneapolis, within walking distance of Orchestra Hall.”

Posted January 3, 2017

A modern Mozart? Opera by 11-year-old composer debuts in Vienna

“An 11-year-old British composer has earned comparisons with Mozart after her opera opened in Vienna to a standing ovation,” writes Hannah Furness in Friday’s (12/30) Guardian (U.K.). “Alma Deutscher, who lives in Surrey with her parents, was already … a violinist and pianist before her first full-length opera made its debut on the Austrian stage on Thursday. The work re-imagined the Cinderella fairytale to be set in an opera house ruled by a wicked stepmother, where Cinderella is a composer whom Deutscher described as ‘a bit like me.’ It is Deutscher’s most ambitious work yet, having written her first piano sonata at six years old, and a short opera based on a story by Neil Gaiman when she was seven. She also performed on stage in Cinderella, playing musical interludes on the piano and violin.” Deutscher’s mother is an organ scholar at Oxford and her father is an amateur flutist. “The opera is two and a half hours long with the musical score running to 237 pages. Instead of the glass slipper of the fairytale, the prince looks for a lost melody he cannot quite remember.… Conductor Simon Rattle declared he was ‘absolutely bowled over’ when he first saw her perform.”

Posted January 3, 2017

The Vienna Philharmonic gets a new wardrobe

The Vienna Philharmonic is “getting its first change of clothes in decades—suits that can be worn by day or night with small variations,” writes Michael Cooper in Thursday’s (12/29) New York Times. “The orchestra will perform in its new 24-hour threads, which were designed by Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, for the first time at their annual New Year’s concert…. The orchestra, which is self-governing, did not make the change lightly: Andreas Grossbauer, its chairman, said that the sartorial question had been intensely debated…. The new suits—featuring black mohair and wool cutaway jackets … and black and white striped trousers—are intended to be worn with a silver vest and necktie during the day … or with a white vest and white bow tie in the evening. In the past the men in the orchestra had to wear completely different suits depending on when they were playing… Women are getting new suits, too: black jackets inspired by 18th-century frock coats with the collars removed, and black trousers. At night, they will be worn with black silk wrap tops, and during the day they will be worn with silver wrap tops…. The … new suits … are being called the Philharmonic Suit.”

Posted January 3, 2017

New principal cellist settles in at Sarasota Orchestra

Natalie Helm, newly appointed principal cellist of the Sarasota Orchestra, is profiled by Dahlia Ghabour in last Sunday’s (12/25) Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Florida). Helm, 29, was born and raised in Louisville, where her mother “insisted that Helm and her sister, Rebecca, play instruments… The first thing [Natalie] played, as soon as she had mastered the fingering, was Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. It was ‘The Cello Piece’ for Helm as a child, and it’s remained one of her favorites.” A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, with an artist diploma from the Colburn School, Helm took her “first full-time job at a professional orchestra in Sarasota.… ‘You are never going to find a friendlier orchestra or more supportive atmosphere,’ Helm said.… ‘There’s not a competitive bone here. It’s for the well-being of everything, and I love that.’ Helm said she spends an average of 25 hours a week practicing on her own outside of orchestra rehearsals.…‘You’re not going to luck into this career,’ she said. ‘You have to work for it, nonstop, even once you have a job. And you have to be careful not to let that change your love of music.’ ”

Posted January 3, 2017

Zubin Mehta to retire from Israel Philharmonic in 2018

“Conductor Zubin Mehta said Monday he would retire from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2018 after more than 55 years of musical ties, the last three decades as musical director,” writes Amir Mendel in last Monday’s (12/26) Haaretz (Israel). “Mehta first directed the orchestra in 1961 and was appointed music adviser in 1969 and music director in 1978. The Philharmonic awarded him the title music director for life in 1981…. He conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 1962 to 1978, made the Israel Philharmonic his base, and conducted other important orchestras.… The New York Philharmonic also appointed him music director in 1978, a post he held for 13 years…. Mehta has also been the chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence since 1985, a post he will leave next year…. Mehta is an Indian citizen and a permanent resident of the United States, but he stayed in Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1991 Gulf War. He tried to promote peace through dialogue, culture and music…. Although the Philharmonic has strong management and musicians, Mehta’s departure is likely to cause a shake-up requiring a reorganization, new music and a new identity.”

Posted January 3, 2017

Review: Fort Worth Symphony returns, with festive New Year’s Eve concert

“They’re back! The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is a full-fledged performing organization once again,” writes Olin Chism in Friday’s (12/31) Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, TX). “Any fear that its nearly four-month strike may have caused lasting damage disappeared when its members came on to the Bass Hall stage for a New Year’s Eve program on Saturday night. They were greeted with a full house of cheering, shouting, whistling listeners…. With [Music Director] Miguel Harth-Bedoya at the helm, the orchestra clearly had the audience on its side. Orchestra and leader rewarded their listeners with a program that was sometimes irreverent but always a lot of fun.” In Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with pianist Adam Golka, “At the end, conductor and pianist engaged in a kind of Two Stooges routine in which each tried to out-encore the other.” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 was reimagined “as a sporting contest (conductor versus orchestra) complete with a running commentary (a la a TV sportscast) by the orchestra’s Buddy Bray and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.… More tomfoolery accented by silver and black balloons from the top of Bass Hall and Mardi Gras beads tossed during ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ added to the festivities.”

Posted January 3, 2017

Pictured: The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall on New Year’s Eve. Photo by Joyce Marshall