Sound of Charlotte Blog

Welcome New Musician: Brice Burton

Originally from San Diego, CA, Brice Burton, principal percussion, has played percussion since age 8. Before joining the Charlotte Symphony, Mr. Burton received both his bachelor's and masters degrees in Percussion Performance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he graduated summa cum laude. Mr. Burton has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, National Orchestral Institute, and Round Top Festival Institute. In 2014 he won first place in the Atlanta Modern Snare Drum Competition.

He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and Santa Barbara Symphony, as well as New World Symphony in Miami Beach, FL. Outside of orchestral performances, Brice was also an active freelancer. He can be seen on productions such as FOX's 'Grease Live!' and SPIKE's 'Coaching Bad' and can be heard alongside actor Jack Black on one of LACMA's 'Sundays Live' radio broadcasts.

Hometown: San Diego, CA
 
Why did you select your instrument?

When I was 7 I had just quit playing piano and saw a percussionist performing with an orchestra. They looked really active and like they were having lots of fun so I begged my mom for lessons for my birthday!

Does your instrument have a special story?

My favorite snare drum I won as a prize from a snare drum competition.

What would most surprise people about you?

I've been fishing multiple times and never caught a fish - something I mean to change out here in NC!

If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?

I would like to meet Anton Bruckner. He had an incredible work ethic, but I would like to ask: what is the deal with only one cymbal crash in his 7th Symphony? (it's debated whether he really wanted it or not.)

What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?

I was at a summer program in high school and was playing timpani on Elgar's Enigma Variations when the pedal on the lowest drum got stuck and the pitch would only go up. This happened right before a part where the percussionist comes over and plays on the timpani with snare drum sticks, and because it's an interesting sound people in the audience always look (it's also lightly orchestrated there). The pedal wouldn't budge with my foot so I crouched down on the floor and started pulling on it, somewhat unaware of what was going on around me. Apparently I was making a bunch of noise and the guy playing my drum had to bend over and whisper to me "just let it go". I looked back up and the whole audience was looking at me and the conductor looked furious.

Any pre-performance rituals?

I like to have a full stomach and make sure I use the bathroom before long concerts. There's nothing worse than sitting there uncomfortably during a long tacet moment with nothing else to focus on.

Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?

Earplugs, a towel, and contact lenses in case I break my glasses

What do you love most about being a professional musician?

Making beautiful music with my colleagues and the freedom of making my own musical decisions. I also love the opportunities that music provides - I've had some incredible experiences and met many interesting people (both musicians and classical music fans). People light up when you tell them you're a musician and I love hearing their stories.

Read more

Welcome New Musician: Jason McNeel

Jason McNeel, section bass, began playing bass as a junior in high school. Mr. McNeel has since played with some of the best orchestras in the country, including the Cincinnati Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Rochester Philharmonic. As a regular performer with the Cincinnati Sympony, he was able to participate in international tours to Asia and Europe. As a student. Mr McNeel has studied at the University of Cincinnati (Bachelor of Music) with Albert Laszlo and Carnegie Mellon (Master of Music) with Micah Howard. Additionally, he has studied regularly with Solen Dikener, Jeff Turner, and Owen Lee.
 
Hometown: Winfield, WV
 
Why did you select your instrument?
The bass is very versitale instrument that can be played in several different genres of music. Early on and still I've had an interest in playing jazz, classical, and many other styles.

Does your instrument have a special story?
My first instrument was made my my father. He is a very dedicated amateur woodworker and took a year of his free time to make a bass that I still love playing to this day.
 
What would most surprise people about you?
I have spent most of my childhood summers working on the family farm in eastern West Virginia. One of my favorite chores was milking the cow.
 
If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?
Haydn, I'd ask him for another copy of the Concerto for Violone that has been lost.
 
What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?
The time when I was playing an outdoor barge concert in West Virginia and a beaver ran from backstage, through the orchestra, and into the audience!
 
Any pre-performance rituals?
I have a good, light meal.

Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
Whatever book I'm reading.
 
What do you love most about being a professional musician?
It's one of the great professions in the world. In studying music, you gain knowledge of culture, science, psychology, physical, and emotional well being, history, and the list could go on forever. I can honestly say that being interested in music has had a direct positive effect on my health and happiness.
Read more

Spotlight On: Composer Gabriela Lena Frank | Using Music to Break the Glass Ceiling



Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms--all  well-known composers, all male. It is so rare we hear about the achievements of female composers in the classical music era, especially nowadays. That's not to say they do not exist, there are just far fewer female composers than there are male in the realm of contemporary classical music. That, however, is changing.

Meet Gabriela Lena Frank, one of the five composers that will be featured in the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto played by your Charlotte Symphony Orchestra on October 6 and 7.

Background
Gabriela Lena Frank is an American composer from Berkeley, California. Although born in the US, her roots also align with the nationalities of her parents: her father, a Jewish Lithuanian, and her mother, who is of Peruvian and Chinese decent. The two met during Frank's father's visit to Peru with the Peace Corps in the 1960s.
Frank received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Rice University and a doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan. She has studied composition with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, and Samuel Jones.
 
Style and Inspiration
Frank's compositions often draw from her multicultural background--particularly her mother's Peruvian heritage. Frank is admired for using sounds of Latin American instruments (such as Peruvian pan flute or charango guitar) throughout her compositions, though her works are typically scored for Western classical instruments and ensembles such as the symphony orchestra or string quartet. "I think the music can be seen as a by-product of my always trying to figure out how Latina I am and how gringa I am," she has said. This striking mixture of sounds can be found in her work Three Latin American Dances, which will be performed at the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto on October 6 and 7.
 
Accomplishments
Not only is Frank known for her interesting work, but she is also  one of the most awarded female contemporary composers of our time. In 2009, Frank received her first Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a Latin Grammy Award for best Contemporary Classical Music Composition for Inca Dances. She has also won a Joyce Foundation award, United States Artists Fellow award, and a Medal of Excellence from Sphinx Organization.
In addition to these accolades, Frank's music has been commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Chanticleer Ensemble, the Chiara String Quartet, the Brentano Quartet, Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, guitarist Manuel Barrueco with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the King's Singers, directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Wu Han and David Finckel, soprano Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. She has also received multiple commissions from Carnegie Hall.
Frank is a Grammy Award-nominated pianist and a member of the prestigious roster of G. Schirmer, exclusively published and managed.



Want to learn more? Check out the following sites:
1.      http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/gabriela-lena-frank-composite-identity
2.      "Carnegie Hall Commissions". Carnegie Hall website. Carnegie Hall. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
3.      http://articles.philly.com/2012-10-27/news/34765471_1_yannick-n-zet-s-guin-leonard-bernstein-s-serenade-gabriela-lena-frank
4.      http://www.sfcv.org/article/joint-interview-with-berkeley-symphonysbrnew-director-and-its-creative-advisor
5.     United States Artists Official Website Archived November 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
6.    
http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/54thgrammyawards/a/54th-Annual-Grammy-Awards-Nominees-For-Classical-Music-2012.htm

Image source: http://www.screecher.com/schedule/2017/3/19/creative-academy-for-music Read more

9 Things You Should Know About Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

Before you step into the concert hall to experience the most performed orchestral work of all time, check out some little known facts about Beethoven's Symphony No. 9! Witness this unparalleled expression of joy live with Christopher Warren-Green and your Charlotte Symphony on September 22, 23 & 24!


1. Symphony No. 9 was the last of Beethoven's symphonies, completed three years before his death in 1824.
 
2. Symphony No. 9 was premiered in Vienna on May 7, 1824.
 
3. When the piece premiered, Beethoven was completely deaf. At the end of the piece, the crowd burst into applause but Beethoven, who had been a few measures behind the symphony, continued to conduct. The contralto, Caroline Unger, walked over to Beethoven and turned him around so he could accept the rousing applause.
 
4. It is the first symphony to incorporate vocal soloists and chorus into what, until then, had been a purely instrumental genre. Words are sung in the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus.
 
5. The words in the final movement were taken from the "Ode to Joy" poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785.
 
6. The Ninth is the most epic of Beethoven's symphonies, both in length and performers utilized. The piece is scored for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, mixed chorus, piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings. 
 
7. Beethoven 9 was adopted as the European National Anthem in 1972. In 1985, it became the official anthem of the European Union.
 
8. When Philips started work on their new audio format known as a compact disc, many groups argued over what size it should be. They planned on having a 11.5 cm diameter CD while Sony planned on 10 cm. One bright chap insisted that one CD ought to have the capacity to contain a complete performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The duration ranges from about 65 to 74 minutes which requires a 12 cm diameter, the size of a CD.
 
9. Beethoven was a compositional rebel, rejecting standard classical practices in order to write with emotion. While many of his contemporaries were disgusted, if not intimidated by this, his influence on composers to come after him, like Brahms, Dvorak, and Mahler, shows how important a figure he was. 


Select Your Seats





 

Read more

Posted in Classics.

Mahler Symphony No. 2: 5 Questions With...Kenney Potter

Director of Choruses Kenney Potter is busy preparing the 140 singers of the Charlotte Symphony Chorus for performances of Mahler Symphony No. 2 on May 12 and 13. We sat down with Dr. Potter to ask a few questions about the process of preparing for such a massive work.
 
CS: What moment should audiences listen for in the Charlotte Symphony's performance of Mahler Symphony No. 2?
 
KP: Wow - there are so many! I think the chorus opening would be my favorite. It is hair-raisingly quiet.

CS: What are the challenges in preparing a 140 person chorus for the Resurrection Symphony?
 
KP: Speaking of....getting them to sing so quietly at the entrance. Also, it is such a massive work, balancing the chorus and orchestra is always an exciting challenge.

CS: What percentage of the Chorus would you say has participated in it before?
 
KP: Very few 13 people out of the 140-member chorus, and I've only performed it twice.

CS: How do you connect the singers with the emotions of Mahler's work?
 
KP: It isn't that difficult to do. You play a recording one time and they are hooked - then they sing it with piano and it gets really exciting. Only when they perform it with the full ensemble do you understand why this piece is so beloved.

CS: What kind of response are you getting from the members of the Chorus about this piece? What makes Mahler 2 different for them?
 
KP: They seem to be enjoying it, other than the fact that some of them are terrified to sing from memory! The challenge is that it is so physically and musically exhausting, particularly to be such a brief portion of the overall work (roughly 15 minutes).
 

Mahler Symphony No. 2
Friday, May 12 & Saturday, May 13
8 pm, Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
 
Tickets are available online or by phone at 704-972-2000.


Read more

8 Questions with...Oboist Gordon Hunt

Gordon HuntOboist Gordon Hunt joins us Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 for the riveting Strauss Oboe Concerto. We asked Mr. Hunt a few questions about his friendship with Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, his relationship to the Strauss piece, and his instrument.

CS: Could you share a bit about your friendship with Christopher Warren-Green, both on and off stage?
GH: Chris and I have been friends for a very long time, going back to when he joined the Philharmonia Orchestra as concertmaster. We hit it off straight away, both musically, within the orchestra, and also out of work time, when we spent a great deal of time together.

CS: What is it like to perform with someone you know so well? Does it change the performance at all?
GH: It feels good to work with a close friend - and especially as I am a conductor too, I really appreciate having someone I trust beside me. However, I don't think it fundamentally changes the performance, as in a way the music itself is even greater than the friendship. We are both there to serve the composer and his intentions.

CS: What can listeners expect from the Strauss Oboe Concerto?
GH: The typical mastery of orchestration and understanding of instrumental balance one expects from Richard Strauss, but in this very late work, also a more classical approach than one would expect in his great tone poems.

CS:  What should they listen for specifically, if anything?
GH: The effortless way in which Strauss uses and develops the first simple four note motif, played by the cellos. In effect, he bases the whole concerto on this. Also listen for the very extended lines he weaves for the solo oboe, and the interplay between the soloist and the wind players.

CS: Do you recall the first time you performed this work? How did you feel?
GH: Yes, even though I have performed this piece well over 80 times now, I do remember the first time. I was 21 years old, in Oxford, England. I was excited to be facing this challenge (perhaps the greatest for my instrument), hoped there would be many more chances, and I felt immensely privileged to be playing such wonderful music.

CS:  What do you do just before you go on stage? Do you think any thoughts or have any rituals?
GH: I try to have a few minutes to myself, just being quiet, but I have no rituals!

CS: How would you describe this work?
GH: It is in a way nostalgic, looking to the past, and musically simpler than so much of what Strauss had written before (I have already mentioned the quite "classical" approach). In some way, Strauss is nodding towards his lifelong hero Mozart, but with the unmistakable fingerprint he himself leaves on all his works.

CS: Can you share a few fun facts about your instrument?
GH: As oboists, our lives can seem to revolve around reeds, and sometimes it seems impossible to have one that you really like. Ultimately, it is down to the player to make the instrument sing and to communicate, so I always say that 50% of success in playing the oboe is learning to make good reeds, and the other 50% is leaning to play on bad ones!

Dvorak Symphony No. 7
Friday, March 24 & Saturday, March 25
8 p.m., Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are available online or by phone at 704-972-2000. Read more

Posted in Classics.

5 Questions With … Steve Hackman, conductor and creator of Brahms v. Radiohead

Conductor and Brahms v. Radiohead creator Steve HackmanComposer, conductor, and producer Steve Hackman joins us Friday, January 27 for an exciting, one-night-only performance of his popular mash-up, Brahms v. Radiohead. Here, we chat with Mr. Hackman about how he created this interesting concept, why he chose Brahms, and what we can expect from this performance. 

CS: How and why did you think of this cool mash-up concept?
SH: I have always been passionate about both classical and popular music, equally. It doesn't matter to me if it is a Mahler symphony or a Kendrick Lamar song; if it's great, it's great. Mashing up Brahms and Radiohead is a way of illustrating this point, and even more, to show that this music is not as dissimilar as many people may think. Categorizing things and judging them based on those categories or labels is dangerous and destructive and a performance like this works against that.
 
CS: Tell us about these soloists. How did you select them?
SH: The soloists really make every performance of this show a total joy, and I know the audience is going to love them. Bill Prokopow is an old friend of mine, and one of the most talented and versatile musicians I know. He and I sung in the same a cappella group at the University of Illinois, where I went to undergrad, called The Other Guys. We have been collaborating ever since. Andrew Lipke was coming into prominence as a singer/songwriter in Philadelphia when I was in grad school there at the Curtis Institute of Music. I wanted to be like him, such an incredible songwriter and performer! We got to know each other and I learned he was a true student and lover of classical music, and again, a musician of extreme versatility. And Kérén heard about the show because of an ad I posted on Stagebill and boy did we luck out with her! She is a brilliant artist and writer.
 
CS: Why Brahms specifically? Why not, say, Mozart or Beethoven?
SH: Brahms took 20 years to write this First Symphony. You can feel all that tension and earnestness and toil and struggle in the piece (and he creates unbelievable release in the fourth movement). That balance towards tension is something this music shares with Radiohead. They also share a density and weight--each music is extremely substantial--and they can stand alongside each other. But there are specific musical reasons, too: The harmonic language is much more similar than you would think; the time signature of the first movement (6/8) allows for a mash-up with a very important song from OK Computer ("Subterranean Homesick Alien") and the overall key of C Minor was perfect for the seminal Radiohead song "Paranoid Android."
 
CS: What can concertgoers expect? Walk us through the evening.
SH: The most important thing regarding expectation is that the music of Radiohead will be presented through the lens of Brahms. I use only Brahms's orchestration. There are no electric guitars or ondes Martenot or any of the Radiohead synthesizers and keyboards. I have treated Radiohead's music with the same kind of scoring, voice leading and counterpoint that Brahms uses in his music. In that way, it is sometimes hard to distinguish if a theme came from Radiohead or Brahms! There are times when the singers are floating Radiohead melodies over the pure music of Brahms; there are many times when Brahms's melodies are superimposed over the songs of Radiohead.
 
CS: This is a really cool way to engage new symphony audiences. Do you find the attendance to skew younger/more diverse?
SH: Absolutely. Radiohead fans are the best. They are passionate about music, and they tend to be very creative, open-minded and adventurous folks. Beyond that, I think this concert is perfect for people that love music but have yet to really be introduced to classical music for whatever reason. It is such a pleasure and honor to share symphonic repertoire and the experience of seeing a symphony orchestra.

Brahms v. Radiohead
Friday, January 27, 2017
7:30 p.m., Knight Theater

For a performance preview and to purchase tickets to Brahms v. Radiohead, click here. Read more

Music Opens Doors

Brianna Davis loves playing the flute. This budding young musician, and graduate of our Winterfield Youth Orchestra after-school program, is now a thriving sixth grader, playing in the band at Northwest School of the Arts.

"I have more freedom and I can choose my electives," Brianna says about her new school. "And I get to play harder songs."

And she isn't alone. Brianna is one of seven students from our Winterfield program who have graduated from the eastside school, and been accepted by audition into Northwest, the Charlotte area's only middle and high school arts magnet.

One of our core education programs, Winterfield has engaged second through fifth grade students in free weekly music instruction for six years. Students learn to play strings, woodwinds, brass, or percussion from our own musicians and other local artists.

Three times a year, Winterfield students, teachers, parents, orchestra musicians, and the surrounding community members gather to enjoy the student performances. A community meal follows each concert. We are proud that our Winterfield Youth Orchestra helps build this community through the shared love of music-making.

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green was able to meet and congratulate young Brianna during a recent visit to Winterfield Elementary, where he was conducting the full orchestra in a free community festival.

When asked about her favorite part about band, Brianna says, "Well, there is this girl, and she has a hard time, but she is better now because I help her."

Future Charlotte Symphony flutist? You never know. Read more

In the Community: Bucket Band

The CSO recently partnered with the Arts & Science Council for Culture Blocks, a community partnership designed to bring the arts into diverse communities in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.

Every Tuesday evening until August 23, the Charlotte Symphony will offer FREE Bucket Band, a fun and interactive hands-on percussion class at Ivory/Baker Recreation Center.

For complete information, including how to register your child, click here and scroll down to see "ASC-Bucket Band."

Check out the class in action below!


5 Questions With...Albert-George Schram

This Sunday, we kick off our 2016 Summer Pops series. As preparations mount, we sat down with Conductor Albert-George Schram (he goes by George!) to ask him a few questions about his Summer Pops experience, from start to finish.

Q: So, tell us about how you program a Summer Pops concert?

A: It begins with a simple question: How can we continue to have fun? It's an organic process that starts with finding the right theme, and then plugging music into that. Sometimes I find music that I want to play and then cultivate a theme from that, but mostly it's the other way around. It starts with an idea or concept, and then it evolves, and we find the right balance of variety for our audience.

This year, there was a suggestion to play music about a lot of different places, countries, or cities. All I had to do from there was find a few more pieces of wonderful music that had been written with places in mind - from Baghdad to Chicago, New York to Paris. That idea became Oh, the Places You'll Go, which we'll present on June 26.

Q: Do you have a favorite concert on the 2016 line up?

A: If I'm not excited about it, I don't do it. I love all of the shows we've programmed, and they'll all be special.
I'm excited about Symphony Swings because of all the big band and swing music we'll get to perform. Symphony orchestras aren't big bands, so it's exciting to find a moment to rock the house down, and it's a lot of fun for our musicians especially the brass section.

And I'm always particularly proud of and excited about the Father's Day celebration. We have a gloriously testosterone-ridden evening this year with music from some of our favorite movies. We'll celebrate all the manliness that we can muster with lots of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones.

Q: Tell us about your Summer Pops rituals. What do you do to prepare for and/or unwind from the concert?

A: Right before the concert, I tend to keep a low profile. I mostly prefer being alone so I can get in the right mindset. I never eat before a gig because I get too focused and it gets in the way of my concentration.

When we've wrapped up the performance, I'm always wet with sweat from the heat and the movement during the performance, so I definitely need to shower. Then, I change clothes and by that point, I need to eat and I do so with great joy and gusto! Typically, several members of the Symphony staff join me and we get a chance to unwind from the day and enjoy each other's company.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Summer Pops?

I like how deeply we reach into the community. It's a different event all together, and there are people who come out to Summer Pops who don't come to any other concert throughout the year. To be able to connect with those people is a particular treat.

It's a wonderful, family-friendly tradition for the city and I so relish the opportunity to strut the stuff of the Symphony for the faithful audience who is there every year, and the newbies who are joining us for maybe the very first time. It's a mighty fine gang and I'm pleased to be a part of it.

Q: How does the Summer Pops atmosphere differ from a regular Pops show?

A: It's a bit more relaxed and laid back; we can simply allow ourselves to have a bit more fun. It's typically a bit more raucous, too even more so than a Pops show!

It's also accessible to a wide audience, and it's important to me that we have that. The kids don't have to be absolutely quiet and stay in one seat. People can enjoy time with their friends and family, and bring something to eat and drink and I like all of those things. We just want to play good music that people enjoy. What more could we as an orchestra want?

Posted in Summer.

Older Posts »