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Sound of Charlotte Blog

SLIDESHOW: A Home Run at Truist Field

Your Charlotte Symphony hit a home run at Truist Field on Saturday! Concert-goers were greeted by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and enjoyed a beautiful program celebrating Charlotte with special appearances by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Wiggins, Charlotte Symphony Brass, and Charlotte Knight's mascot Homer the Dragon before enjoying a big fireworks finale. (Photos by Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights unless otherwise noted.)

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It's a beautiful day in Uptown Charlotte as staff and musicians get ready for the concert on the infield.
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Workers from Atrium Health check temperatures before concertgoers head into Truist Field to find their seats.
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Charlotte Symphony President & CEO David Fisk meets with TV crews for interviews in the press box. (photo courtesy of the Charlotte Symphony)
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Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles welcomes the crowd under a skyline lit in CSO teal for the occasion.
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The night's soloist, Jennifer Wiggins opens the concert with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
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Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducts the CSO in Nkeiru Okoye's Charlotte Mecklenburg, a piece commissioned by the Symphony on the occasion of Charlotte's 250th anniversary.
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Ms. Wiggins performs Che faro senza Euridice from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice.
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The Orchestra receives a standing ovation after a moving performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings.
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Uh-oh... General Manager John Clapp has paused the concert for a conference on the mound with Warren-Green and Concertmaster Calin Lupanu.
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In the meantime, Charlotte Knights mascot Homer the Dragon leads the crowd in an enthusiastic chorus of "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.
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After hitting it out of the part, Christopher Warren-Green takes one more swing for the fences before passing the proverbial baton to the Charlotte Symphony Brass.
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Trumpet players Alex Wilborn and Jon Kaplan, French horn player Andrew Fierova, trombonist Tom Burge, and bass trombone player Scott Hartman came on in relief to finish the show.
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After performing works by The Beatles, Leonard Bernstein, and Duke Ellington, the Charlotte Symphony Brass Players waved to a roaring crowd.
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Fireworks light up the sky in Uptown Charlotte.
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Socially-distanced fans enjoy a noisy and illuminating grand finale before heading home.
 
 

Find out how you can experience your Charlotte Symphony in-person or from the comfort of your own home! Explore our Reimagined Fall Season hereRead more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

A Home Run for Charlotte



The Charlotte Symphony will be sliding into a new home base on October 24 when we perform "A Concert for Charlotte" a special live event presented in partnership with the Charlotte Knights at Truist Field. The event is designed to celebrate Charlotte and bring our community back together safely through the power of music.

Under the baton of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, "A Concert for Charlotte" will open with the Star Spangled Banner, sung by Charlotte-based opera singer Jennifer Wiggins. Wiggins will also step up to the plate to perform Che faro senza Euridice from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice. She had this to say about being part of this special event: 

"This performance at Truist Field will not only be my debut with CSO, but also will be the first time I've performed for a live audience since February. I'm excited for the opportunity to share my voice with Charlotte and to collaborate with an amazing group of world class musicians. I hope that the piece that I perform will allow people to find closure from any heartbreak they might be experiencing and help them realize it's okay to mourn the ones you've loved and lost."
Jennifer Wiggins
The concert will continue its celebration of Charlotte with Nkeiru Okoye's Charlotte Mecklenburg -- a piece commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony on the occasion of Charlotte's 250th anniversary which reflects the rich and diverse history of the city -- Rossini's Overture to L'Italiana in Algeri, Jessie Montgomery's Starburst, Barber's Adagio for Strings, John Williams's Air and Simple Gifts, and the final movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Finish the night with some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and enjoy a brilliant fireworks display that will light up the Uptown sky. 

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green said, "My hope is that everyone will join us at A Concert for Charlotte so that we can come together again through the power of music."

Tickets on sale now!

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Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

Remembering Former CSO Bass Clarinetist Jim Ognibene



By Gene Kavadlo, former principal clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony

As the orchestra was rehearsing, the loud sound of a vacuum cleaner in the lobby was becoming increasingly annoying. Finally, the conductor asked his assistant, a rather diminutive fellow, to see if he could do something about it. Jordan went to the lobby. Suddenly there was a THWAP! and the annoying sound stopped abruptly. Without missing a beat, Jim said "Oh no, now we're going to have to get Jordan out of the bag." Anyone who knew Jim knew that he was the sharpest wit in the room. My children, now in their 40's, always referred to him as "our Jim." Our Jim succumbed to a 17 year battle with cancer on August 11, 2020.

I first met Jim in our student days at Indiana University during the 1960's. After college Jim served four years in the military as a member of the US Marine Band and White House Orchestra, and I went on to become the Principal Clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony in N.C. One day I got a call that started with "You probably don't remember me..." It was Jim, and of course I knew exactly who he was. He had taken an audition with the Charlotte Symphony and won the job - beginning a fabulous eight year relationship as colleagues in the same Orchestra. It was in the Charlotte Symphony that Jim started playing the bass clarinet. There had been an older gentleman playing, but his skills were declining. One day the instrument fell over as it was resting in its stand, and Jim declared that it had committed suicide. 

When Jim won a job at the MET I had very mixed feelings. I didn't want to lose my dear colleague, but he certainly couldn't pass up a career move like that. Before leaving Charlotte Jim found out that one of his first assignments would be to play the basset horn obligato from Mozart's Clemenza di Tito. Jim had never played the basset horn, nor heard Clemenza di Tito. We listened to a recording in my living room (before YouTube days), and Jim burst out laughing. When I asked him what was so funny, he said "I'm so glad I get to play this at the MET before I play it someplace really important." Naturally, his performance several weeks later was superb. Thus began his 33 year tenure as Principal Bass Clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Jim's playing can be heard on numerous Grammy award winning Metropolitan Orchestra recordings, including Wagner's Ring Cycle on Deutsche Gramophone. He was also a member of the All-Star Orchestra made up of leading players from major American Orchestras. He served many summers in the Spoleto, Grand Teton, Bard, Napa Valley and Verbier festivals, and was an instructor at Julliard.

Former Principal Oboist of the MET, John Ferrillo, visited Jim a few days before he passed and played some beautiful oboe music for him. This is a story from John: "When Jim was stationed with the Marine Band in DC, he was dating an oboist. On a number of occasions he would make the 3 hour drive to Philly to bring her to her lesson with John deLancie, first oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. On one of those drives he needed to use the bathroom; when he asked permission, Mr. deLanci told him no.

"Years later, Mr. and Madame deLancie came to the MET. They were ardent opera fans. At the end of one of the performances, they met me at the gift shop. Before we parted company, he asked me who was playing the basset horn in Clemenza di Tito two broadcasts ago. I was delighted - 'funny you should mention him; that was my close friend, Jim Ognibene.' 'Well...let me tell you - that was some of the finest woodwind playing I have ever heard!' 'Why, Mr. deLancie, that's Jim coming through the doors right there.' Mr. deLancie insisted on taking Jim aside and spoke avidly to him for a number of minutes. For Jim it was one of the greatest accolades he'd ever received."

Later that night, I called Jim. Of course, I knew the line was coming. "I thought the time was right for me to ask if I could use his bathroom now."


Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim's family and friends.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

How to Stream Your CSO from the Best Seat in YOUR House



Now you can enjoy your Charlotte Symphony from the best seat in the house your favorite living room chair! 

We understand that not everyone will feel comfortable attending concerts in person at this time, but we're committed to bringing music to you, wherever you are! If technology feels like a barrier, we want to help. Check out our tips below and you'll be able to live stream the CSO right to your preferred device. 

Watch on your phone, tablet, or computer

When you purchase tickets to a CSO live stream or recorded performance, you will be provided a link CSO (sent via email up to 2 days prior to the concert date) and login information to a CSO website page. Simply click or tap on the link in your email, login in using credentials provided in the email, and enjoy the performance.

Watch on your TV


Android TV
Connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Android TV, access the video using your device (using the directions above), tap on the Cast icon on the video, and select the name of your TV. When Cast changes color, you have successfully connected.

Apple TV
Connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV or AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV, access the video using your device (using the directions above), tap the Cast icon on the video, and then choose your Apple TV or AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV to connect.

Chromecast
If you have a Chromecast connected to your TV, simply connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast, download the Google Home app on your device (not necessary for computers), access the video on your device (using the directions above), tap on the Cast icon on the video, and select your Chromecast or TV name.

Smart TV Internet App
To watch on your smart TV, locate the internet or preferred search engine app (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Samsung TV Web Browser, etc.) on your TV's home screen and enter in the link URL provided by your CSO (sent via email up to 2 days prior to the concert date). From there, enter in the login information to access the page, and then click the full screen icon on the video.

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green has some of his own advice for how to enjoy our virtual concerts: "Get dressed, go into your living room, have a glass of wine, sit down and make sure no one interrupts you. Do that and watch our virtual concerts, and you'll get something extraordinary from it."

Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

SLIDESHOW: A Joyful Return to Live Music

Your Charlotte Symphony held its first live concert since March on Tuesday night, and boy did it feel good! A little drizzle couldn't stop the music or the smiles on the faces of CSO musicians, staff, and excited concertgoers. 

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Ticket Services Manager Meghan greeted concert-goers outside NoDa Brewing Co. with a smile that could be felt even through her layers of PPE.
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Guests grabbed a cold one, sat with friends and family, and toasted to the Charlotte Symphony's first concert since March.
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CSO principal cellist Alan Black and violinist Jenny Topilow warm up while video equipment is tested for the symphony's first ever live streamed concert.
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Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees does a quick interview with Spectrum News before donning his "host" hat for the live and virtual audiences.
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A little drizzle couldn't put a damper on new President and CEO David Fisk's excitement over hearing live music after such a long drought.
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Undeterred by the rain, the CSO's die-hard fans pulled out umbrellas while Christopher James Lees and Suzie Ford, owner of NoDa Brewing, Co., welcomed them to the concert.
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Associated concertmaster Joseph Meyer, violinist Jenny Topilow, principal violist Ben Geller, and principal cellist Alan Black opened the concert with Florence Price's String Quartet - a warm, lyrical work infused with the sounds of Price's African American heritage.
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This couple found a dry spot under the trees to relax while Price's work was brought to life by the CSO's talented musicians.
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In person tickets for this concert were sold out, but for the first time we also welcomed a live virtual audience!
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Skies began to clear as the final notes of Haydn's String Quartet Op. 76, No. 2 rang out and the musicians received a warm standing ovation.
 
 

We hope you'll join us for another On Tap Live @ NoDa, either in person or virtually! Visit charlottesymphony.org/ontap for details. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

A thank you to arts educators, from CSO Musicians

This week we're celebrating Arts in Education Week, a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. As professional musicians, Principal Clarinetist Taylor Marino and horn player Andrew Fierova have been profoundly affected by their music education. We asked them to share their stories. 


Taylor Marino, Principal Clarinetist:

"Having grown up in Charlotte, I owe this city and its music educators a great deal of gratitude for supporting me and inspiring me to pursue a musical life, which ultimately led me back home to be a part of the Charlotte Symphony. 

My middle school band director at South Charlotte Middle School, Carl Ratliff, had a profound influence on me and taught me to pursue excellence, stay focused, and enjoy the beauty that music has to offer. I think of him often, and his great playing and musicianship as a saxophonist was inspiring as well.
At Providence High School, my band director Paul Jackson was an incredible man with a work ethic and drive like I had never seen before. Even while battling cancer, he showed up to rehearsal every day and gave every ounce of energy to the music. His devotion and commitment has stuck with me forever and even though he very tragically passed away 8 years ago, his passion and love of music lives on every day in myself and all the students he influenced. 

My private clarinet teachers, Jim Ruth and Michael Hough were also very important figures in my life. Jim Ruth started me on clarinet at the Music and Arts store and taught me great fundamental exercises that jump started my proficiency in music. Michael Hough, who is band director at Providence Day School and plays with the symphony often, really fine-tuned my playing and prepared me for the rigorous journey that a life in music would be. 

I am beyond grateful to be back in my hometown sharing music with the community that has given me such wonderful musical support."

Andrew Fierova, Horn:

"Music was an important part of my public schooling from elementary through high school in South Carolina's School District 6. It led me to discover a love of performing that set me on my current career path. I loved singing with our elementary school chorus, especially when the songs had corresponding motions. My second elementary school provided the opportunity to join a recorder ensemble, where I learned my first wind instrument. When I got to middle school, I started learning the horn. Band in middle school provided a confidence booster, as I found something that I was truly good at. This helped me to succeed in the rest of school and also find my friend group.

Dorman high school had a very well-supported music program and nice facilities. I was given the opportunity to perform in multiple ensembles, from orchestra to jazz band, as well as outside opportunities like honor bands. These continued opportunities solidified my desire to become a performer.  Without the amazing band directors that helped me along the way, I would not be a member of the Charlotte Symphony today!" Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Education, Musicians.

Celebrating Arts in Education Week

This week we're celebrating Arts in Education Week, a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. To learn more about the positive effect music education has on students, we caught up with Crystal Briley, a music teacher at University Park Creative Arts School.


How were you introduced to music as a child?
I grew up in a musical household -- one where many of my memories are tied to singing together at family gatherings. Music was a natural influence in my life. While many others were outside playing games or riding bicycles, I was learning piano or singing various songs my family had taught me. I am extremely grateful I was able to have the experience of private lessons and that my natural gifts leaned towards music.
My experience is not like those of many of my students and this is what leads my teaching -- that every student deserves an exemplary arts education even if they cannot have private lessons to receive it.

How do the CSO's Education programs help you to achieve that?
Many of my students have never been exposed to the arts outside of our classroom or their own home. The partnership with the CSO through the Link Up program and other various educational programs has offered our students the opportunity to see real life musicians and given me a way to introduce my students to classical music in an accessible and relevant way. When students step foot into the concert hall and hear the insistent call of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or sing along with the eerily forceful O Fortuna from my education mentor, Carl Orff, it does not go over their heads -- it settles deep within them. They experience the music in the classroom and then bring their 'practice' to the hall and go home forever changed. Our time with the CSO is one of the more requested things we do ... "when do I get to play with the CSO at Link Up?" I must admit, the experience of listening to over 1000 students play recorder together with the CSO is an experience very hard to replicate!

Do you have any specific memories of music inspiring or affecting one of your students?
Many of my students have been inspired by music. But one really strikes my mind. We were sitting in class one day learning the recorder parts to The New World Symphony melody. It is a simple theme and one which I thought would be lost on my students. We had spent time working on the piece through listening, playing, and movement. It was finally at the time where I asked them to reflect on what this music meant to them personally. Her response was one that I will never forget. "This music makes me calm. When everything around me seems crazy, I can listen to this song and find peace." When a child can bring such wisdom to a simple and haunting melody, I find that I too am inspired.

Why do you think it's important to keep the arts in school?
We can talk about how the arts are important to our student's education or to our economy and industry. But it is Suzuki who said, "teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music ... and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart." At a time where the social emotional well-being of all humans is at stake, we must take care to teach students to have beautiful hearts.

Link Up 2017
Our students need a place to safely express themselves and we, as their teachers, are the ones who can provide the pathways for them to do this. What better place than the arts classroom to provide this creative and imaginative space? Beautiful hearts are at stake!

What inspires you to teach?
I pursued a career in opera before teaching-- I still love singing and listening to the genre but my heart is with my students. I absolutely love teaching and it is hardly a "job" to me. Through all the difficulties, there is nowhere else I'd rather be. My students give me such joy and they are the reason I get up and go to work every day -- even if it is in a crazy virtual space! Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, interview.

Outrunning Beethoven

Think you can beat Beethoven in a race?
Lace up your running shoes for the Symphony Guild of Charlotte's first-ever virtual 5K and test your stamina! This socially-distanced run / walk celebrates Beethoven in his 250th birthday year and can be completed any time between November 6-8.

When you sign-up you'll receive a playlist featuring all four movements of Beethoven's energetic and tuneful 7th Symphony.

Your goal: Finish the 5K before the 38-minute symphony ends. Participants will receive a custom t-shirt, finisher's medal, bib, goodie bag, and a special discount for select future CSO concerts.

All levels of participation are welcome. You can complete your run inside on your treadmill, outside in your neighborhood, or anywhere else inspiration takes you. Track your time and compete with others in our Strava Club, complete the race on your own time, or "sleep in" and just register for the t-shirt. The choice is yours!

 
Proceeds from this event are used to support the Symphony Guild of Charlotte in its mission to support your Charlotte Symphony.
Read more

Posted in Support. Tagged as Beethoven.

Meet Your CSO’s Newest Musicians


This season, you'll notice a few new faces in the orchestra! We caught up with Judson Baines, Jacob Lipham, Alaina Rea, and Gabriel Slesinger to welcome them to the CSO and learn a little more about who they are.

Judson Baines, Assistant Principal Double Bassist 

 
Where did you grow up? 
I was born in Wilmington, NC and grew up in the Raleigh area. I've spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains of western part of the state, as well as the coast, enjoying the merits of living in North Carolina throughout my life! 

What do you look forward to most about living and working in Charlotte? 
I think it's really awesome that I can be in my home state and have my family easily visit me and vice versa, so I'm really looking forward to that.
 
I would also say meeting new people is a huge thing for me. I love people and I really like to have genuine connections with good people. I love to be outdoors, so I will definitely be scoping out places to hike and bike, which I've heard there's plenty of in Charlotte. With pretty much any city, it's always fun to explore all of the food and entertainment that gives it its character, so there's that too! 

What else should we know about you? 
I would love the audience to know that I am genuinely so excited to join the CSO and play music with other people again after a long hiatus due to the virus! 

Learn more about Judson.

Jacob Lipham, Principal Timpanist 

 
How were you introduced to music and the timpani? 
I began studying piano at a young age, around five, and really enjoyed it. When I got to middle school I decided to join the band. When it was time to pick my instrument for the band, the array of percussion instruments in the back of the room looked very enticing to play! Many of the kids wanted to play percussion, so my middle school band director prioritized students who had studied piano to join the percussion section. Thankfully I had studied piano, so I was able to begin playing percussion, and the rest is history! My decision to pursue orchestral timpani happened in my collegiate studies. I received my Bachelor's Degree in Percussion Performance at The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

While at Indiana University, I was introduced to a diverse range of percussion styles and fields of work. The experience I found the most excitement and joy through was playing timpani in the orchestra. The diverse sounds, colors, and roles the timpani can provide within an orchestra, in addition to the thrill of creating music beside colleagues, was more than enough to convince myself to narrow my pursuit to an orchestral career. 

What do you look forward to most about living and working in Charlotte? 
I moved to Charlotte recently, and I am very excited to explore and get to know the city more. The culture seems vibrant, diverse, and welcoming. I can't wait to explore the vast restaurant and brewery scene, and check out the local sport teams! I am so thrilled to be a new member of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, to begin making music with my new fantastic colleagues, and seeing you all from the stage hopefully soon! 

Learn more about Jacob.

Alaina Rea, Assistant Principal Violist 

 
How were you first introduced to the viola? 
I started playing the violin at the age of 4 in the Suzuki method. During high school, my teacher suggested that I learn the viola. At first I reluctantly agreed but ended up loving it and decided to make the switch. 

What are you looking forward to about being part of the Charlotte Symphony? 
I am most looking forward to making music with talented colleagues and exploring different parts of the city.

What do you do for fun when you're not practicing or performing? 
Outside of music, I enjoy hiking, cooking, and spending time outside. 

Learn more about Alaina.

Gabriel Slesinger, Third/Associate Principal Trumpet 

 
How were you introduced to music and the trumpet? 
My parents both value music and it was important to them that my siblings and I all learn instruments. My two older sisters played the piano and my older brother played the violin. My earliest musical memories are of hearing them practice every day, overhearing their lessons and recitals, and listening to the classical station on every car ride. As the youngest, I think I picked the trumpet because I wanted my instrument to be louder than theirs. My parents are fans of Louis Armstrong and Herb Alpert, so I had a little bit of awareness of these great trumpet players before starting. 
What do you enjoy about living and working in Charlotte? 
I really like the people in this orchestra. There is a very high level of playing here, but it's also like a family. The musicians here really stretch themselves and take risks in concerts. I love closing my eyes during a rest in a concert and pretending I'm an audience member, and I can't wait to be onstage again. The first concert back is going to be absolutely electric. I'm happy to live in a city where people value live music. The Charlotte Symphony has a wonderfully supportive audience. 

Do you have any hidden talents?
I can name all the US presidents in less than 10 seconds. 

Learn more about Gabriel. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, interview, Musicians.

Education Goes Virtual


Planning a school year full of informational, diverse, and engaging music education programs can be challenging in a normal year, but as school instruction has moved online, Charlotte Symphony musicians and members of the education team went into overdrive -- adapting content that teachers, students, and families can access virtually. 

"The biggest challenge is the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it very hard to plan ahead," said Director of Education & Community Engagement Chris Stonnell. "The way we've planned and structured our year in the past is all out the window, which has been a hard adjustment."

But Stonnell would rather focus on the opportunity for innovation, and what he and his team can offer this year. Since last spring, they've been testing out various virtual programs -- a trial run to help them determine what the CSO can offer on a wider scale this school year. 

Students in grades K-5 will have access to Musician Informances -- a 30-minute interactive program with CSO musicians that blend live musical performances with discussions about their instruments.


Students in grades K-2 can experience CSO Associate Concertmaster Kari Giles and pianist/composer Leonard Mark Lewis join together virtually for an engaging performance of solo violin selections culminating with the famous children's book Ferdinand the Bull told through both words and music. 

CSO musicians are also eager to connect with aspiring student musicians by providing invaluable feedback directly through Zoom or other video platforms. These virtual coaching sessions are available either as a 1-on-1 or in a master-class format, where the CSO musician works with an individual student while the rest of the class observes, and learns techniques to apply to their own playing. 


Stonnell's plans for the future are ambitious. "Right now we are ready to go with programs that send individual musicians into virtual classrooms, but are working on ways to make ensemble performances, and even full CSO educational concerts, accessible virtually -- so stay tuned!" Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

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