Newark Early Strings Program to be Replaced
The Newark Early Strings Program (NESP), a community outreach initiative of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Newark Public Schools, is closing down after 14 years of service, due to reallocation of funding by the Newark School District. Undaunted, the NJSO has just announced a new educational program, to be named Music Advancement for Newark-Area Youth (MANY).
NESP taught violin to randomly-chosen students—300 third, fourth, and fifth graders per year—in a modified-Suzuki group setting several times a week, employing Newark Public School teachers, with NJSO members coaching both the NPS teachers and the students themselves on a regular, ongoing basis.
Since the program’s inception in 2000, NESP has served nearly 4,000 students and 30 music educators in Newark, and represented a $2 Million investment by the NJSO.
Columbia University Teachers College followed and researched NESP during its first eight years, culminating in a report published in 2009. The report found that the program students, initially lagging behind academically compared to students in school systems in more prosperous New Jersey communities, rapidly caught up to their suburban peers. To quote the report, “Consistently, [Early Strings] students have outperformed their schoolmates on year-end achievement tests. This result, based on gain scores, appears to further cement the relationship between string instruction and academic achievement.” The report also cited “the ability to concentrate, the capacity to cooperate with others, and self-confidence” as further benefits of the program.
The new MANY initiative will be a joint venture between NJSO and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), which is also NJSO’s home concert venue. NJSO will provide a training orchestra that aims to serve as an “on ramp” to bring students into the NJSO Academy Youth Orchestras—a long-running program coached by NJSO musicians. NJPAC will sponsor a symphonic band, and also a piano lab and music theory instruction (partly online) through the Berklee College of Music.
The NJSO looks forward to the success of these new endeavors.
Major Gift in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Symphony has received a gift of $1 million from the estate of west Michigan philanthropist Peter M. Wege, who passed away in July. Wege, the former CEO of Steelcase, Inc. and a long time supporter of the arts, also bestowed $1 million on the Grand Rapids Ballet and $1 million on the St. Cecilia Music Center. He also underwrote the GRS’s 2007 Grammy-nominated CD, Inventions and Alchemy, as well as the DVD that accompanied that project.
Boston’s New Music Director Takes the Helm
Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, appointed the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 15th Music Director in May of 2013, began his tenure with a gala concert of opera excerpts played to an expectant and very excited full house. The concert was described by the orchestra’s new President of the Board of Trustees, Paul Buttenwieser, as “one of the great evenings of the BSO in my experience,” an auspicious beginning to what all are hoping will bring new life to an orchestra that has recently lacked leadership. After almost three Director-less years (with many injuries, surgeries, and absences ultimately forcing James Levine to resign), the orchestra is happily embracing Nelsons, whose musical energy and eagerness to build on the BSO’s illustrious history of great performance has proven infectious.
Nelsons’ three-week stint in November highlighted some extraordinary new, recent, and returning works of great merit, giving the Boston musical community a glimpse of his programming interests—Sofia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium, of which the BSO made the world premiere recording, and Brett Dean’s new trumpet concerto being prime examples. An extraordinary program including works by John Harbison and Latvian composer Erik Esenvalds, Sinfonia Concertante by Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov’s The Bells capped Nelsons’ first weeks. He will lead the orchestra for ten weeks in this, his inaugural year, and will give the BSO 12 weeks in subsequent seasons.
Nelsons will resign from his position with the City of Birmingham Orchestra in England in order to concentrate on his work with the BSO.
Momentous Season in San Antonio
The San Antonio Symphony is celebrating its 75th-anniversary season, as well as the long-anticipated move into its new home at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The first event in the new hall (a state-of-the-art facility built within the footprint of San Antonio’s Municipal Auditorium) was a gala concert with Renée Fleming, featuring the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss, three of which received their American premiere by Kirsten Flagstad and Max Reiter on the very same spot with the San Antonio Symphony in 1950.
Also this season, the SAS has commissioned and will premiere fourteen “American Preludes” to highlight the anniversary. Each classics subscription concert in 2014-2015 will open with the premiere of a brief prelude, including new works by Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, Robert X. Rodriguez and Doug Balliett (formerly Assistant Principal Bass of the SAS). 2014-2015 also marks the San Antonio Symphony’s return to performing fully staged operas after a nearly 30-year hiatus; a production of Salome in collaboration with the new Opera San Antonio will be a part of our 2015 Strauss Festival.
The SAS has also received a $1 million matching gift from Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of the H-E-B grocery chain (headquartered in San Antonio). As a result of the gift, the SAS has been able to make all of its Young People’s Concerts and Family Concerts free of charge to all audiences, as well as ensuring that 10% of each subscription concert’s seats will also be offered free of charge to area students.
Global Academy Unveiled
The New York Philharmonic recently announced details about its Global Academy program, which will start with the full orchestra in residence for 10 days in Shanghai during July 2015. Members of the orchestra will also travel to Shanghai three times per year in addition to the full orchestra’s residency, to give masterclasses, private lessons, and joint performances with the students. The Academy will also include a similar partnership with the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. During the year, Academy students from Santa Barbara and Shanghai will travel to New York to work with members of the orchestra, and perform alongside the musicians of the full orchestra. The Philharmonic is looking to possibly expand the Academy to South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Although the purpose of the Global Academy is to train orchestral musicians around the world while making the Philharmonic’s “brand” more visible, another goal is to establish relationships with potential donors.
A gut renovation of Avery Fisher Hall is planned to begin June 2019, which would put the orchestra out of the hall for two seasons, with a projected cost of $500 million. Lincoln Center recently announced an agreement with the heirs of Avery Fisher to drop his name from the hall, allowing the resale of the naming rights as a fundraising incentive.
New Music Director in Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra opened its current season under the baton of new music director designate, Courtney Lewis, the eighth music director of the orchestra in its 65-year history. The program included two clarinet concertos celebrating the 40th-anniversary season of principal clarinetist (and Local 444 President) Peter Wright. Lewis comes to Jacksonville after four years with the Minnesota Orchestra and is currently serving as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He was also music director and co-founder of Discovery Ensemble chamber orchestra in Boston and a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The decision to hire Lewis was unanimous among members of the search committee and enthusiasm for what Lewis will bring to the orchestra and the community is very high among musicians, board members, staff, and patrons. As the symphony’s concertmaster Philip Pan put it, “He’s really who we need here, both on and off the podium.”
Banner Night in Kansas City
The Kansas City Symphony (KCS) performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Game 6 of the 2014 World Series. The KCS had been scheduled to perform at Game 5 of the American League Championship Series but was not needed when the Royals swept the Orioles in four straight games.
Learning of the World Series invitation little more than 24 hours before game time, the KCS staff deserves special credit for handling every logistical detail with precision and ease. Special credit also goes to Debbie Newmark, SSD EMSD Director, and Pat Varriale, Bill Thomas and Mary Beth Blakey of the AFM West Coast Office for a very quick turnaround in utilizing the AFM TV-Videotape Agreement. The personal attention of AFM International President Ray Hair was instrumental and much appreciated.
The brass and percussion sections have performed the SSB a few times for the Royals, most recently in September. ICSOM President and KCS trumpeter Brian Rood said that in comparison, the World Series performance was “off the charts. To stand behind home plate with my colleagues of the Kansas City Symphony amid the sea of blue at the ‘K’, knowing that millions of people were watching us perform ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, was absolutely exhilarating! I was asked if I was nervous. No, I was just excited and very proud of our Symphony, the Royals and Kansas City.”
The Royals were kind enough to give the whole orchestra and staff terrific seats so that they could enjoy the game, especially the second inning.
A Chi-fecta of Good News
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has appointed Jeff Alexander to the position of President, effective January 12, 2015, succeeding Deborah Rutter. Alexander currently serves as the President and CEO of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), a position he has held for 14 years, with additional years of experience before his time with the VSO, including 16 years with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The Chicago Symphony just returned from its fifth tour to Europe with Music Director Riccardo Muti. This was the 32nd European tour and the 58th international tour in the Orchestra’s history. The tour included the orchestra’s debuts in Warsaw, Poland and Geneva, Switzerland, along with a concert in Luxembourg, two concerts in Paris and a week-long residency in Vienna with four performances at the Musikverein. Two of the performances at the Musikverein included Verdi’s Requiem with the Wiener Singverein.
The tour follows the fourth consecutive year of record-breaking ticket sales and fundraising for the orchestra, which received two of the largest gifts in its history, totaling $32 million. A gift of $17 million from the Zell Family Foundation will help support the position of music director in perpetuity and a $15 million gift from the Negaunee Foundation endows the Institute for Learning, Access and Training as the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.