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Sound of Charlotte Blog

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.

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!"

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

CSO Musicians Perform in Virtual Colorado Music Festival

This summer, a number of the Charlotte Symphony's talented musicians participated in the 2020 virtual Colorado Music Festival. Concertmaster Calin Lupanu was joined by Associate Concertmaster Joseph Meyer, Second Violinist Monica Boboc, Cellist Marlene Ballena, and Principal Harpist Andrea Mumm to perform works by Ravel and Dvořák. Please enjoy these performances - available for a short period of time - courtesy of the Colorado Music Festival.

Maurice Ravel, Introduction and Allegro




Calin Lupanu, Monica Boboc, violin; Joseph Meyer, viola; Marlene Ballena, cello; Andrea Mumm, harp; Viviana Cumplido Wilson, flute; Steve Hanusofski, clarinet
Bob Rydel and Michael Quam - Audio and Video Post-Production
 

Antonín Dvořák, Terzetto in C Major, Op. 74

I. Introduzione: Allegro ma non troppo
II. Larghetto



Calin Lupanu, Monica Boboc, violin; Joseph Meyer, viola
Bob Rydel - Audio and Video Post-Production

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

100 Years of Voting Rights for Women

Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. To celebrate this historic achievement, the Charlotte Symphony is using its platform to highlight the many contributions of women in classical music. We asked a few CSO musicians and conductors to share with us a list of women composers who they wish everyone knew more about.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. 

"She's an extremely talented individual, an accomplished violinist and chamber musician in the Catalyst Quartet, and I've been so proud to perform her wonderful music alongside the rest of our canon of timeless art pieces. I hope we will continue to share her beautiful work with our Charlotte community!" - Principal Violist Benjamin Geller

The Minnesota Orchestra performs Montgomery's Starburst, a work performed by CSO musicians at Off the Rails last season.

Gabriela Lena Frank

Born in Berkeley, California to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Her music often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.

"Gabriela Lena Frank is a varied & important fixture in American composition, has numerous awards & Composer in Residence credentials, and has founded a Creative Academy of Music which enables opportunity for dozens of up & coming composers. Her string orchestra piece 'An Andean Walkabout,' written for A Far Cry in Boston, is both visceral in energy & jarring rhythmically. A terrific, monumental piece that I love." - Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees

Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout performed by chamber orchestra group A Far Cry.
 

Barbara York

Barbara York has been working in both Canada and the U.S. for over 40 years as a concert accompanist, choral and theatrical music director and composer. Her score and lyrics for the Canadian musical Colette won a Dora Mavor Moore Award (Canada's version of a Tony) in 1981.

"I think her music is important to be celebrated because, to be honest, I just really like it. When I have performed some of her solo pieces, they have spoken personally to me, and I found myself lost in tunes that I wish I had written myself." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

CSO Trombonist Thomas Burge performs York's Elegy for an Angel, Mvt 1. 

Cécile Chaminade

Cecile Chaminade was a French composer and pianist. In 1913, she was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Chaminade's music has been described as tuneful, highly accessible and mildly chromatic.

"When I was 13 years old, Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra was one of the first big flute solos that I had ever performed. It's a very popular piece for young flutists, and I didn't realize until years after playing it that Chaminade is actually female!" - Youth Philharmonic Conductor Jessica Morel

"Chaminade composed more than 400 pieces, but the Concertino is her most beloved and remains an important piece in the flute repertoire.  Though her father did not permit her to attend the Conservatoire de Paris, she was able to study composition privately and eventually gained popularity as a composer and pianist." - Flutist Amy Orsinger Whitehead

Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra performed by Hayley Miller and the Boston Philharmonic conducted by Benjamin Zander.

Nkeiru Okoye 

Nkeiru Okoye's genre-bending compositions reflect her many influences - Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins Sondheim, Copland, gospel, jazz, and Schoenberg. She specializes in works that celebrate the African American experience. In 2018, the Charlotte Symphony commissioned her to write an orchestral piece in celebration of the city's 250th anniversary. 

"I think Nkeiru Okoye is important because her works incorporate many different sounds and styles from cultural areas that are both part of her own personal journey, and also are part of a larger narrative regarding the history of African American people. Spending her youth divided between living in New York and Nigeria, she offers an important personal perspective through her music that also highlights a broader cultural connection that resonates with many Americans." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

A playlist of works by Okoye.

Inspired to learn about more women composers? A great place to start is Music Critic Anne Midgette's list of the top women composers in classical music from The Washington Post.

Posted in Classics, Community. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

Celebrating Charlotte with Google Arts & Culture


The Charlotte Symphony is thrilled to be partnering with Google Arts & Culture along with 12 other local cultural institutions to celebrate our hometown, Charlotte! The Queen City's Google Arts & Culture page explores the unique cultural DNA of Charlotte, told through stories that dive into everything from food favorites, sports stars, contemporary and fine art, regional history, performing arts, and more. Together with our cultural partners, we paint the picture of our thriving and creative city. 
On the Charlotte Symphony's page we've created exhibits where you can explore our rich history and see how we're inspiring and connecting with our community through exceptional musical experiences. You can also catch up with the CSO's musicians and see what they've been working on from home in our #CSOatHome exhibit.  


Google Arts & Culture puts the treasures, stories and knowledge of over 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries at your fingertips. If Google's mission is to make the world's information more accessible, then Arts & Culture's mission is to make the world's culture accessible to anyone, anywhere. It's your doorway to explore art, history, and wonders of the world. 

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

Trailblazer: Composer Florence B. Price


A composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher, Florence Price is recognized as the first African-American woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major national symphony orchestra. Her extraordinary achievements during the racist "Jim Crow" era are a testament to her immense gifts and determination. 

Born in Little Rock, AK in 1887, Price grew up in a middle-class household and attended the New England Conservatory, one of the few that admitted African-Americans at the time. Fleeing racial violence in her home state, Price moved with her family to Chicago where her career began to flourish. She won first prize in the Wanamaker Competition with her Symphony in E minor which caught the attention of Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Frederick Stock. The piece was premiered by the Orchestra in 1933 with The Chicago Daily News reporting "It is a faultless work, a work that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion ... worthy of a place in the regular symphonic repertory."


Florence Price's musical style was influenced by composers such as Dvořák and Coleridge-Taylor. It is infused with European and African-American musical and cultural elements, including spiritual melodies, gospel church music, and African instruments such as the marimba.

Her piece Adoration, arranged for Brass Quintet, was performed by members of the CSO's brass section on our latest al Fresco concert. 

(Discussion: 21:03 ; Performance: 22:57)

Though recognized in her day, Florence Price's memory and music faded into history - perhaps due in part to the relatively small number of surviving compositions. However, in 2009, nearly 200 of Price's manuscripts were discovered, tucked neatly away in boxes in an old fixer-upper in a suburb of Chicago. The discovery has prompted a happy resurgence in the popularity of her works. We can all hope that this re-examination of her talent and musicality will allow Florence Price to take her rightful place among the great American composers. 

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

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