The National Alliance for Audition Support—a partnership between the Sphinx Organization, New World Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras—has been awarded a grant of $1.95 million by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Created in 2018, the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS) is an unprecedented national and field-wide initiative with the long-term goal of increasing diversity in American orchestras. The Mellon Foundation was the primary underwriter of NAAS with a grant of $1.8 million for the first four years. The new, increased grant provides continued support through 2024. In addition to the Mellon Foundation support, NAAS receives additional financial contributions from over 100 orchestra partners through annual dues.
To date, NAAS has assisted 299 musicians, resulting in 81 successful auditions and placements. Of these 81 positions, 29 are full-time, 16 are temporary, 5 are substitute positions, and 31 are fellowship positions. Over the next three years NAAS expects to serve at least 350 underrepresented classical musicians and provide approximately $600,000-$750,000 in direct support to artists, continuing to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the nation’s orchestras. For more information, visit https://www.sphinxmusic.org/national-alliance-for-audition-support.
“Launching the year with a new work should become an annual Boston Symphony Orchestra tradition,” writes Jeremy Eichler in Friday’s (1/7) Boston Globe. “Music director Andris Nelsons … led four movements from a new symphonic suite by the Viennese composer and master provocateur HK Gruber … entitled ‘Short Stories from the Vienna Woods.’ … Gruber’s suite offers a tasting menu of music from his 2014 opera ‘Tales from the Vienna Woods,’ whose libretto was adapted from the play of the same name by … Ödön von Horváth (1901-38)…. The suite in fact comes across as a wonderfully rich layering of Viennese musical traditions from Beethoven to Berg…. Nelsons … drew out a dramatically alert and well-characterized performance…. The night concluded with a boldly profiled … performance of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony…. Soloist Hilary Hahn was on hand to perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. She was at her most compelling in her earthy take on the ‘Turkish’ sections of the final movement, and in her encore of solo Bach (the Gigue from the Third Partita)…. Solo Bach is also not a bad way to celebrate another trip around the sun—and to remind ourselves of music’s proprietary miracle: that a wordless art can speak so truthfully.”
“For as long as we’ve been in a pandemic, Bernd Richard Deutsch has been waiting for this moment,” writes Zachary Lewis in Sunday’s (1/9) Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH). “He completed ‘Intensity,’ a new piece for the Cleveland Orchestra and music director Franz Welser-Möst, in March 2020, days before the world shut down. Now almost two years later, his work is at last about to receive its premiere…. One of many things to which the title ‘Intensity’ refers is Deutsch’s reaction to the orchestra’s 2019 performance of his organ concerto, ‘Okeanos,’ with organist Paul Jacobs. So profound was that experience for Deutsch, it left a permanent mark on his memory and planted the seed for what became an 18-minute work for orchestra, dedicated to Welser-Möst…. Ordinarily, for Deutsch, the orchestra’s Young Composer Fellow, composition is a slow, painstaking process. ‘Intensity,’ however, came relatively easily…. The work’s … second movement … the work’s longest, slowest, and most openly emotional portion, hinges on two rich chords, one of which Deutsch said derives from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’ … He’s already working on a second [Cleveland Orchestra commission], a large choral piece tentatively scheduled … for 2024.”
“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has postponed its upcoming Florida tour, citing the latest surge in COVID-19 cases across the country,” writes Maureen Feighan in Friday’s (1/7) Detroit News. “The orchestra was supposed to embark on a five-day tour starting Jan. 15 with performances in Miami, West Palm Beach, Gainesville and Sarasota. It would’ve been the DSO’s first tour with new music director Jader Bignamini. Officials said the tour will be rescheduled for a future season…. ‘Protecting the health and safety of our patrons, musicians, staff, and stage crew has been our top priority since the start of the pandemic,’ said DSO President and CEO Erik Rönmark in a press release Thursday. ‘While we are disappointed … we know that this is the responsible decision for the orchestra at this time.’ The DSO last toured Florida in 2014…. A planned send-off concert performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Orchestra Hall, meanwhile, will still be held, but instead as a stand-alone program.” The DSO also was forced to cancel its Jan. 7-9 neighborhood concerts in Plymouth, Bloomfield Hills, and Grosse Pointe after after a musician tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has named Yolanda Alovor to the newly created post of vice president of external affairs and equity, diversity and inclusion,” writes Diana Barr in Thursday’s (1/6) St. Louis Business Journal. “Alovor has served since September 2020 as chief of staff and vice president of diversity and belonging at Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania….. Previously, Alovor had been health research project manager for the Centene Center for Health Transformation at Clayton-based managed care provider Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC), and a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis teaching graduate-level education and social justice courses dealing with diversity and inclusion. Alovor holds a doctorate in educational research from UMSL, as well as a master’s degree in education from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s in political science from Texas Southern University…. In her new post with SLSO, Alovor will oversee its ongoing work toward equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and provide strategic leadership to the entire organization on all aspects of its EDI initiatives…. She will also oversee the orchestra’s external affairs and communications functions and will provide strategic guidance to elevate its profile locally, nationally and globally.”
“Well-known Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra executive Susan Loris passed away Friday night from an apparent heart attack,” writes Mark Kass in Sunday’s (1/9) Milwaukee Business Journal. “In recent weeks, the 52-year-old Loris, the MSO’s executive vice president of institutional advancement, had been the acting president and executive director as MSO president and executive director Mark Niehaus was on a medical leave of absence after suffering a mild stroke in November. An MSO spokesperson said Niehaus is expected back at work in the near future and MSO board chair Susan Martin will continue to be involved with day-to-day operations…. Loris played a vital role in the efforts to acquire and renovate the historic Warner Grand Theatre in downtown Milwaukee into the symphony’s new performance center…. A New Berlin native and a classical pianist, Loris majored in government and music at Lawrence University in Appleton…. After teaching piano at the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music, she shifted into marketing and public relations with the Florentine Opera and then the Milwaukee Ballet. She joined the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2007 as director of public affairs and was quickly promoted to vice president of marketing and communications. In 2016, she was appointed to the newly created role of executive vice president of institutional advancement…. A memorial service will be held in the coming months.”
Thomas Dausgaard leads the Seattle Symphony in a pre-pandemic photo. Photo: Brandon Patoc.
“Seattle Symphony Music Director Thomas Dausgaard has abruptly stepped down from his post,” writes Gavin Borchert in Friday’s (1/7) Seattle Times. “Dausgaard’s last day with the Symphony was earlier this week; he conveyed his decision via phone call from his home in Denmark to Seattle Symphony board chair Jon Rosen.” Dausgaard became the orchestra’s principal guest conductor in 2014 and was named music director in 2019. “The Danish conductor had only been back in person with the Symphony for a concert less than two months ago, after pandemic-related travel restrictions had kept him away for some 20 months…. Dausgaard is leaving ahead of his originally planned final season in 2022-23…. Seattle Symphony says it’s arranging for guest conductors to step in and that programming updates for the current season will be announced shortly. ‘The pandemic has been a time of great challenge and self-reflection for us all, and so we understand and respect his decision,’ Seattle Symphony President and CEO Krishna Thiagarajan said…. Dausgaard was unable to physically be with the Symphony, as visa issues related to pandemic travel restrictions kept him out of the country…. Dausgaard finally was able to rejoin the Symphony in person for a Nov. 11 concert.”
On October 28, the Muncie Symphony Orchestra in Indiana will perform Kermit Poling’s new score to the 1922 silent film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors, as the movie is screened live at Muncie’s Cornerstone Center for the Arts. The original score to the film is lost. MSO Executive Director Scott Watkins commissioned Poling to compose the score, an idea that came about when Watkins was executive director of the South Arkansas Symphony and Poling was serving as music director. Proceeds benefit Cornerstone, the orchestra’s new downtown home since June 2021. Matthew Kraemer is the Muncie Symphony Orchestra’s artistic advisor and conductor.
“Over the summer, the Sony Classical label released ‘Marian Anderson: Beyond the Music,’ a sumptuous boxed set containing the contralto’s complete published recordings for the RCA Victor label, from 1924 to 1966,” writes Alex Ross in Tuesday’s (10/19) New Yorker. “By all reports, her wide-ranging contralto possessed the kind of resonant halo that technology is helpless to reproduce. A complicating factor is that racism in the music business prevented her from being fully documented when she was in her prime…. I was stopped short by a track on the first disk … the Easter hymn ‘Crucifixion,’ also known as ‘He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.’ … Anderson liked to sing ‘Crucifixion’ at a glacial tempo, but the 1941 recording flirts with absolute stasis…. The descent to the bottom E inspires a particular kind of awe: the dynamic is low, but the ground seems to tremble.… ‘Crucifixion’ exemplifies, in a way, the entire strategy of Anderson’s career: to remain above the fray, saying hardly a word about the racist society in which she had to move…. How passive, though, is Anderson’s rendition of ‘Crucifixion’? … In my own mind’s eye, Anderson is raising an arm and pointing a finger as she sings.”
“The Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Bloomberg Television, a pay-television network, are partnering for three broadcasts this fall. All of the programs will be recorded and produced by the DSO, which began creating concert videos last year,” writes Tim Diovanni in Thursday’s (10/21) Dallas Morning News. “Offerings will include: Trumpeter Chris Botti playing a range of jazz, pop and rock pieces with the DSO. Airing starting Nov. 12. Music director Fabio Luisi conducting Mozart’s Requiem in the DSO chorus’s first appearance since the beginning of the pandemic. Airing starting Dec. 4. The DSO’s annual holiday show, featuring festive music and a visit from Santa. Airing starting Dec. 18. The Mozart Requiem will also be available on the DSO’s online concert platform. The DSO and Bloomberg TV previously partnered for a televised broadcast of the DSO’s holiday concert in 2020.”