Sound of Charlotte Blog


October 15, 2014

Joining the Symphony straight from college, John Parker had a lot of adjusting and learning to do. As the youngest member of the orchestra approaches the end of his first year with the CSO, we catch up with him about what he's learned, what's surprised him, and his love of Carolina basketball.

How were you introduced to the trumpet?
Being the son of two instrumental music educators, I grew up immersed in instruments of all kinds. Because of this, I became seriously invested in music long before I picked up the trumpet. I started playing piano at age 7, but since both of my parents were band directors, I felt inclined to pick up a musical instrument in middle school band. My older brother, who's also a musician, started playing trombone. I liked the sound of brass instruments, but I didn't want to be the same as my brother, so I started playing the trumpet. I didn't even like trumpet that much until I heard Wynton Marsalis live for the first time. That experience changed me, and I still consider it one of the reasons, in addition to my family, that I pursued music, especially the trumpet, so heavily. 
What has surprised you most about your first year at the Symphony?
I have been most surprised by the level of support that the entire orchestra has given me.  There has never been a time when I've felt uncomfortable, and I attribute that to my colleagues on stage. They genuinely care about seeing me do well, and I think that has boosted my confidence.
What have you learned in your first year with the CSO?
The thought of moving into a leadership role in a premier professional orchestra was one that left me worried, like I was in over my head. After being on the job for a few weeks, I figured out how to put all of those emotions aside and just take things one week at a time, one performance at a time, and not let myself become overwhelmed. Sometimes I even tell myself how ridiculous it is that the one thing I have wanted to do my whole life is blow into a brass tube for a living. Taking the situation with humor, humility, and with the understanding that this is what I have been in school for so many years to do, has helped me tremendously. 
What would you do if you weren't a professional musician?
I was always good at math in school and even considered going to school for engineering or architecture. I think if I hadn't pursued music, I would have gone that route. 
Any hidden talents or interesting fun facts?
I'm from North Carolina. I grew up in High Point, N.C. and attended school at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of the best parts about the job with the CSO is that I am a short drive from my family and can make it back to my alma mater frequently. Outside of the Symphony, I like golfing and pretty much any sport, am a huge college football and basketball fan (Go Heels!), and enjoy good food, especially sushi. 

Posted in Classics.

Bringing the pipa to the Western World

September 29, 2014

Photo credit Chad Batka
Wu Man is recognized as the world's premier pipa player, dedicating her career to giving the ancient Chinese instrument a new role in today's music.

Born in Hangzhou, on the east coast of China, Wu Man studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first person to earn a master's degree in pipa.

The Grammy Award-nominated artist is a respected expert on the history and preservation of Chinese musical traditions. In 1999, Yo-Yo Ma selected her as the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize in music and communication, and she is the first artist from China to have performed at the White House, along with a cellist with whom she now performs as part of the Silk Road Project.

She has been referred to as "the artist most responsible for bringing the pipa to the Western world."

Hear Wu Man's impressive virtuosity on the ancient Chinese instrument, as she performs Jiping's "Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra," a piece that was written especially for her.

For more information on this Classics Series performance, click here.

About the Pipa                                                                    
The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese lute-like instrument with a history dating more than 2,000 years. During the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC 220 AD), instruments with long, straight necks and round resonators, with snake skin or wooden sound boards, were played with a forward and backward plucking motion that sounded like "pi" and "pa." Throughout history, the instrument has evolved, and today's pipa consists of 26 frets and six ledges, arranged as stops, and its strings are tuned to A, D, E, A.

What does it sound like? Click here to listen.  

Post written by Virginia Brown

Posted in Classics.

Meet the new CSO Musicians

September 17, 2014

This fall we welcome three new musicians to the Charlotte Symphony family!

Sarah Markle, cello
How did you spend your summer?
I recently moved to Charlotte from New York, so a lot of my summer was spent packing and finding an apartment! I got to do some slightly more fun things too: I played in my hometown's summer chamber music series, the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival, hiked in Jasper National Park, Canada, and got a lot better at rollerblading.

How did you get started playing cello?
My school required all 4th graders to start on a string instrument, and I picked the cello because my grandmother loves it, and also because pretty much everyone else picked the violin.

Where's the most interesting place you've played?
Last fall I played at Radio City Music Hall for a live TV broadcast of "America's Got Talent" that involved a lot of fog machines, crazy light shows, and a crowd of about 6,000 people. Thankfully we were just back-up musicians, basically serving as props, so I could look around and really take it all in while I was onstage.

What is the one thing you can't live without?
Chocolate. Typical, I know, but it's true.

What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
I got into ultimate Frisbee during my undergrad, and while I haven't played much since then, I'm always looking for opportunities! I also like reading anything by Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace.

Scott Hartman, principal bass trombone
How did you spend your summer?
I was at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts this summer. It was a terrific summer and it was a great experience to work with and learn from the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In my free time, I enjoyed kayaking and hiking in the beautiful Berkshires.
How did you get started playing trombone?
I got started on the trombone in the school band when I was 12. A few years later at a jazz camp they asked if I would be willing to play bass trombone, so I borrowed a bass and ended up loving it. After that I played both tenor and bass pretty equally for a few years before switching to bass trombone full time.
Where's the most interesting place you've played?
It's hard to choose, but one that comes to mind is a brass quintet performance in western Massachusetts, where we played on the grounds of a colonial house that dated to the 1760s. We sat at the base of a mountain facing toward the house and lawn that the audience was seated on. It was really cool to hear the quintet sound resonate through the woods and hills.
What is the one thing you can't live without?
I don't know that there's anything I really can't live without, but one thing I don't want to live without again is a car. I'm a big car buff (especially vintage cars) and I love driving. I didn't have a car when I was in Chicago and I quickly realized how much I missed driving.
What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
Growing up in Florida instilled in me a love of water recreation. I enjoy kayaking, boating, canoeing, and fishing, plus hiking and camping.

Marlene Ballena, cello
How did you spend your summer?
I attended the Beethoven Institute in New York and the Banff Centre Chamber Music Residency with my quartet.
We enjoyed both the music and the beautiful scenery of the Canadian Rockies.
How did you get started playing cello?
Both my parents are musicians. They picked the cello for me. At the beginning I was unsure about their decision but eventually I fell in love with it.
Where's the most interesting place you've played?
I had the opportunity to perform in Doha, Qatar with my quartet. We played for the Queen!
What is the one thing you can't live without?
Chamber music!
What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
I love running and salsa dancing.

Christopher Warren-Green's Summer

September 10, 2014

Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green has been busy since the Classics series season finale of Verdi's Requiem in May. He kicked off the summer by conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in performances of the final three symphonies by Mozart Nos. 39, 40, and 41. Next up: Turkey, where he led the Istanbul State Symphony for the city's Summer Music Festival. Later in June, he returned to the UK to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky gala at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Back in the States, he conducted the Detroit Symphony in performances featuring the DSO principal trumpet performing the Telemann Trumpet Concerto and other works by Schubert, Rossini, and Mozart. After a busy summer, he spent a much-deserved rest with family in the beautiful Surrey Hills countryside outside of London. We look forward to his return to Charlotte next month, as he gears up to lead the Charlotte Symphony for Beethoven's "Eroica" Sept. 19-20 to open the season. We hope to see you opening weekend!

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Christopher Warren-Green.

Meet Summer Intern Patrick Hoffman

July 10, 2014

I cannot remember a time when music was not part of my life, when it was not something that provided refuge from daily life. In one aspect or another it was always present, growing and developing until it became my passion and lifelong ambition. For many people music is not important to them, not because they dislike like it or because it fails to affect them, but because music was something that was inaccessible to them when they needed it.

I am very fortunate that I have been involved in music outreach programs since I started playing viola in middle school and for this, I thank Charlotte Symphony. Their outreach programs provided me with the opportunity to cultivate my musical interests and lit a flame of curiosity and desire to explore the complexities that music so effortlessly veils. These programs followed me from middle school at Piedmont Middle School to Northwest School of the Arts, and into Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. From work with coaches to private lessons and performances, I am incredibly lucky to have had such a close relationship with the Charlotte Symphony. In fact, I credit most of my success to working side by side with professionals throughout my adolescence; developing relationships, networks, and friends. It is such a privilege to work with kind and hardworking professionals who have made an impact such as Susan Blumberg, Cindy Frank, Deb Mishoe, Tom Burge, Sakira Harley, Carlos Tarazona, Leonardo Soto, Felicia Sink, Amy Whitehead, and Lori Tiberio.

Presently I am a sophomore at UNCG for Music Education and interning at the very place that gave me my start, Charlotte Symphony. Recently I was pleased to teach a class of about thirty elementary school students with the Freedom Schools program. My lesson was on the relationships and intersections between music and language. We explored deep into vocabulary, learned that expression can take many forms, and music can be translated many ways.  I also bridged these two concepts at the Winterfield Elementary summer program. By working side by side with symphony professionals and learning how they approach lessons, these musicians have grown to be like family. I am thrilled that I helped to meaningfully impact these students' life with music in the same way it has for me. 

Sometimes it feels a little odd that the program that I am now teaching I was only a student in not too long ago. I believe this goes to show that music can be a hobby or a creative outlet, but it certainly also is a career. Whether music selected me or visa-versa I will never really know, but I do know that my heart beats for all things music.
This post was written by Patrick Hoffman, Summer 2014 Education Intern  

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Internship, winterfield elementary.

Music al Fresco

June 19, 2014

Photo taken on June 15, 2014 at Symphony Park. Photo © Genesis Group Photography
 L to R - Independence Park, Freedom Park, and former tent at Symphony Park
The Charlotte Symphony played a free outdoor concert during its very first season. In July of 1932, the orchestra performed in Independence Park, the city's oldest public park. The program included Beethoven's might Fifth Symphony and the Overture from Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner. Some 3000 people attended.
Over the years, the orchestra occasionally performed open-air concerts, inaugurating, for example, Festival in the Park at Freedom Park with two concerts in 1962.  But the CSO Summer Pops series as we know it today began in 1983, when the CSO took over the independently-run Summer Pops, organized in 1975 with musicians from Charlotte and other nearby towns.
The symphony's Summer Pops series had a variety of homes: Freedom Park, Independence Park and the lawn at SouthPark Mall. On sultry Sunday evenings, crowds of Charlotteans spread picnic blankets and lawn chairs, but the settings were not always ideal for musicians.
"The season used to go from the third week in June into early August," remembers CSO Principal cellist Alan Black.  "It was so brutal. The bandshell at Freedom Park it was so hot when we used to play there because it was enclosed, and the air couldn't flow. And we used to do it for TV (broadcast on WTVI), so there were lights everywhere."
In June 2002, the orchestra and thousands of listeners found a new permanent home in the elegant Symphony Park at SouthPark. Its sloped lawns and canopied stage are the setting each June for four weeks of Pops concerts, currently lead by Albert-George Schram.
"I enjoy and relish being a part of these symphony concerts in the park in June," Schram says. "It allows the orchestra to dig deeper into the community, to crawl inside. That has been the greatest joy."
This article originally appeared in "The Sound of Charlotte: The First 75 Years of the Charlotte Symphony," a commemorative history written by Meg Freeman Whalen.

Posted in Summer. Tagged as History.

Albert-George Schram's Two Lives

June 16, 2014

Albert-George Schram is known at the Charlotte Symphony as the joyful white-haired conductor that makes seeing the orchestra play Pops concerts, ranging from Christmas music and Broadway to Motown, exciting. Elsewhere around the country, he's known for conducting Classical music. In a recent article in Charlotte Observer, Larry Toppman covers this in " Charlotte Symphony's Albert-George Schram leads two lives."

Within the article, we learn 5 interesting facts about George:

1. He got bad early reviews from his piano teacher: "As a boy, my first instrument was tuba. I played cornet, euphonium, other wind instruments. And I'd ride my bike up to an old lady's house and sit among these big dark curtains to study piano. She told my father, 'You are really wasting your time.' "

2. He was a 20-year-old 12th-grader in Canada: "I was living in Alberta, and they wouldn't accept my Dutch high school degree. So I finished school while working on a farm with 12,000 chickens, collecting eggs and hammering fence posts into the ground."

3. After getting a bachelor's in music from the University of Calgary, he became music director of Stratusfaction, a 25-piece Canadian jazz ensemble that peaked with gigs in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He played trombone and trumpet, sang, arranged and wrote musical charts.

4. Languages come quickly to him. He improved his English after settling in Canada by watching TV. His favorite program: "Stampede Wrestling," where Archie "The Stomper" Gouldie battled Abdullah the Butcher. Much later, he spent a month at a Spanish-language institute, so he could conduct in Bolivia and A ..... Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as conductors, summer pops.

Three Days Left in the Spring Challenge

May 7, 2014

Winterfield students perform for the communityOnly three days remain to have your donation to the Symphony doubled in the Spring Challenge. If you give by Friday, May 9, Wells Fargo will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar. That helps your gift go further in supporting the Symphony programs you love.

Click here or call 714-714-5108 to make your donation today.

As of this morning we are at 83% of our goal.  Your gift will help us receive 100% of the match from Wells Fargo!

We sat down with Symphony Executive Director Robert Stickler to discuss the challenge and why your support now is more meaningful than ever. 

Five Questions for Robert Stickler

The 2013-14 season closes in this week. What were your highlights?
I thought the orchestra did an extraordinary job with [Holst's] The Planets in our opening concert. The brass was particularly strong. The Verdi Requiem last week was a strong collaboration between the Oratorio Singers, CSO, and soloists all brought together masterfully by Maestro Christopher Warren-Green. We at the CSO are particularly proud that the number of subscribers this season was higher than last year, indicating that we are bringing the community the music they want to hear.
Looking ahead to next season, the CSO is celebrating the anniversaries of Strauss and Sibelius, alongside works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. What are you most looking forward to hearing performed?
I love Sibelius in particular so that is what I am most excited about. The most interesting thing we are doing is bringing in Wu Man to play the pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument, in Jiping's Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra. That will be a concert with Mozart and Schubert, an example of where we try to mix the familiar with the less well known works to interest a wide audience.

What do you think the Symphony contributes to Charlotte?
The CSO is the major purveyor of classic music, but we are also an important element in the cultural fabric of the community. We partner with other arts organizations to present innovative programs. Our musicians spend hundreds of hours in the schools working with students.

We provide two youth orchestras for those young people particularly interested in developing their musical skills. Our musicians provide private lessons, play in ensembles at events all over the region, and regularly play at hospitals and other facilities where people cannot come to concerts. I cannot imagine Charlotte without the CSO.

How would you describe our audience to an outsider?
We have a diverse audience through all of our programs. We cater to the classical music enthusiast through the Wells Fargo Private Bank Classics series. We entertain with the Pops. We introduce new audiences to classical music through our innovative KnightSounds series. And we introduce youngsters to the orchestra through our Lollipops series for families. So we have senior citizens all the way to young families. KnightSounds, by the way, makes a great date night with all of the activities around the concert.

Wells Fargo and the CSO issued this Spring Challenge because we want audiences to know that "a donation of any size can make a huge difference". What makes a $10 contribution as impactful as a $1,000 contribution?
We want to have as many members of the CSO family as possible. It makes a difference when we talk to organizations that are considering financial support. Even a $10 contributions is an expression of support, so we do appreciate that. And $10 contributions sometimes grow larger over the years if the donor continues to enjoy what we do.

Don't forget!  We only have until midnight Friday, May 9 to meet the Spring Challenge from Wells Fargo. 

Click here, or call us at 704-714-5108 to give today!

Posted in Support. Tagged as Spring Challenge.

Meet CSYO Member Daniel Carpenter

April 23, 2014

The 27th Annual Youth Festival takes place on April 23. The festival will feature separate performances by the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (grades 8-12) and Junior Youth Orchestra (grades 4-9), as well as the winner of the Symphony Guild of Charlotte's Young Artist Competition.

Meet Daniel Carpenter, a 17-year-old percussionist.  He was recently interviewed for Matthews Monthly and here's what he had to say about his musical experiences.

Music has always been important to me; I grew up surrounded by it in my family and church. At age 8, I began playing piano, which helped me develop a strong sense of rhythm. Ever since, I have loved to improvise rhythmic accompaniment to musical recordings. When I was 12, I had my first percussion lesson, and I've been committed to percussion since then.
Five years ago, I decided to audition for the Charlotte Symphony's Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO) at the recommendation of two close friends who were members. I made it in and loved it from the first rehearsal! I continued in JYO for a second year before entering the Youth Orchestra. Being a part of the Youth Orchestra has improved my skills as a percussionist and helped me grow tremendously as a musician and person. In fact, the Youth Orchestra was a major factor in preparing me to be a percussionist in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra in Interlochen Arts Camp last summer.
Youth Fest is going to be particularly exiting for me this year. Not only do I get to be on stage with the Charlotte Symphony, but we are going to perform three movements from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst with a part for two sets of timpani played side by side. This is one of my favorite orchestral pieces of all time!
Music is so significant to me because it can express deep and powerful things about God's beauty in this world. It reaches people's hearts and minds in a universal way not hindered by any language barrier and can speak personally to people. I am very thankful to have music as such a major part of my life.
This article originally appeared in Matthews Monthly, April 2014 edition. Read full story here.

Posted in Youth Orchestras.

Kicking off the Wells Fargo Spring Challenge

April 18, 2014

This spring, Wells Fargo has issued a challenge, "If your audience contributes $25,000 in new gifts by Friday, May 9, we will match them, dollar-for-dollar. We sat down with Jay Everette, Community Affairs Manager at Wells Fargo, to discuss the challenge and why it is an impactful way for Wells Fargo to show its support of the Symphony.

Learn how you can contribute to the challenge. Click here to donate today, or call us at 704-714-5108 and mention the Wells Fargo Challenge.  Your gift is doubled when you give by May 9!

Five Questions for Wells Fargo's Jay Everette

CSO: Why do you feel offering a challenge gift is an effective method to raise audience engagement?
Jay Everette: When our Wells Fargo Foundation issues a challenge grant we know from past experience that donors appreciate the fact that their contributions are matched and in effect doubled!
CSO: Wells Fargo is a leading supporter of the arts and culture in Charlotte. Why is this a priority for the company?
JE: Our Foundation focuses on providing exceptional arts and culture experiences for our community. We know that the arts are an important part of our educational outreach as well.

CSO: What would you say to a Symphony audience member who feels their gift would not make a difference?
JE: A donation of any size can make a huge difference in the operation and outreach of a nonprofit. For example, even a small contribution can purchase sheet music for a symphony musician. Nonprofit groups need contributions both large and small. Small gifts are a great opportunity to introduce children to the concept of philanthropy as well, so these types of challenge grants present a great way for families to support the Symphony.

CSO: What was your most memorable Symphony experience this season?
Having the honor of being on stage to announce Wells Fargo's corporate underwriting support for the Itzak Perlman performance!

Don't forget to join the Wells Fargo Spring Challenge!
Click here and join your fellow audience and help us reach our goal.

Posted in Support. Tagged as Spring Challenge, Support the Symphony, Wells Fargo.

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