Sound of Charlotte Blog
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Antonín Dvořák, Terzetto in C Major, Op. 74I. Introduzione: Allegro ma non troppo
Bob Rydel - Audio and Video Post-Production
We asked CSO musicians to "turn back time"... and, boy, did they deliver! With its distinctive fashion, slang, and music, the 1980s was definitely the raddest decade in history. Take a blast to the past with these old-school cool photos!
Violist Ning ZhaoNing immigrated to the U.S. to further his music education at Kent State University in 1986. This photo was taken during his first year. With this white jacket and sneaker combo, Ning shows that he definitely knows as much about fashion as he does about music - like the back of his hand.
Acting Assistant Principal Double Bassist Jason McNeelJason may have been young in the '80s, but he definitely had his finger on the pop culture pulse. On Halloween of 1988, Jason was repping one of the most iconic characters of the decade: Alf. He definitely proved his love for the extraterrestrial by featuring him in his outfit not once, but twice.
Evidently, I loved Alf! ~ Jason McNeel
Violist Nancy Marsh LevineIf there is one thing the '80s is known for, it's volume. This photo from Nancy's wedding in 1989 definitely exemplifies that trend. The amount of sleeve on her dress is beyond impressive. Modern-day bridal fashion really isn't what it used to be!
Violist Ellen FerdonAs hard as it may be to believe, this is not a still from a John Hughes film. This photo was taken in 1982 of Ellen and Jeff Ferdon, just before their wedding. As impressive as the fashion and hair are in this photo, the only thing we can focus on is the adoring look they're sharing.
Double Bassist Jeffrey FerdonThis photo from 1984 shows Jeff graduating from University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Jeff claims he "had zero interest in clothes at the time," but judging by that sleek white button-up shirt and voguish clogs, we don't believe him at all. Finding inspiration from MTV's hottest music videos, Jeff's hair evolution included both the infamous mullet and even a foot-long rat tail. We can only hope to see a revival of one of those looks on stage! Read more
Violinist Jenny Topilow has a special connection to our upcoming Stars, Stripes and Sousa concert on Nov. 15 & 16: her father is the guest conductor! Find out in our interview below what it's like for Jenny to see her dad on the podium, and how Carl Topilow creates his patriotic clarinet for this concert.
|Jenny, what's it like to have your father on the podium as your conductor? Have you worked together like this before?
JT: My Dad was my primary conductor when I was 18-22 years old. During that time, I wouldn't say we "worked" together as much as I was a student learning from him as a teacher, which he's great at. He did give me a B in conducting class [at the Cleveland Institute of Music], though (he was probably being generous!).
Since becoming a member of the Charlotte Symphony, I have worked with my Dad many times. Often it's just us playing duets (with him on the clarinet), but also in [an orchestral setting] a few times, too.
I'm very proud of my dad and his amazing career, and it is special when he is on the podium, but he's very cognizant about not treating me any differently when we are in a professional setting. Maybe he'll point out that I'm his kid and he's excited to have me in the band, but then it's down to business. As he says "I've worked with hundreds of violinists, and you're definitely one of them."
Carl and Jenny, what inspired you to choose a career in music?
CT: My love of music and my desire to pass this passion on to other people as teacher and performer was my inspiration to make this a full-time profession.
JT: I started violin at age three after seeing Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street (a surprisingly common story!). It's been simply amazing to share the stage with him recently.
My dad being a conductor and my mom being a ballet dancer, they basically had the 16th sized violin waiting for me in the closet. I was pretty talented and practiced pretty diligently, but as a professional musician and a teacher at a conservatory, my dad knows just how hard it is to have a successful career in music, and never pushed me to go into it. He didn't exactly stand in my way, but he made sure I knew how competitive it is.
When I won my job with the CSO, he was the first person I called and he was the one person who cried happy tears with me, because he really understands how rare it is to win a job and how hard musicians work to prepare for auditions.
Is anyone else in your family musical?
CT: My brother, Arthur, is an excellent jazz pianist. He's also a much-respected hematologist/oncologist. My younger daughter Emily enjoyed performing as violinist with her college orchestra for 4 years and is now playing with a community orchestra in Cleveland. I recently appeared as guest conductor with that orchestra, and it was very rewarding to perform together!
|JT: Like my dad said, my Uncle is a fantastic jazz pianist and my little sister plays the violin. My mom was a ballet dancer with Joffrey and the Metropolitan Opera in NYC before I was born and is a great lover of classical music (especially opera), and my stepmom, Shirley, is a professional tap dancer and also started the Cleveland Pops.
Carl, this kind of patriotic concert is one of your specialties. How did that come to be?
CT: These concerts do so much to instill a sense of pride and privilege to be living in the U.S.
We hear you have a very patriotic clarinet... What's the story behind that?
CT: I have red, white, blue, and green clarinets, and can assemble parts of each to come up with multicolored clarinets. I always play the piccolo obbligato to the Stars and Stripes along with the orchestra piccolo players on a red, white, and blue clarinet. Read more
We're trying something a little different this season. On October 15, a quartet of CSO musicians are going "Off the Rails" with a performance of contemporary music at Snug Harbor in Plaza Midwood. We caught up with two members of the quartet, Assistant Concertmaster Kari Giles and Acting Assistant Principal violist Kirsten Swanson, to get a sneak peek of the program.
|Have you ever played a concert like CSO Off the Rails before?
Kari Giles: I've never been fortunate to play a concert quite like Off the Rails! I have always been passionate about new music and putting together creative programs. It is so fun to search and discover new composers, bring their works to life, and then share them with an audience for the first time. [So] having the freedom to create a program and literally being told to "get wild" and "out there" was thrilling. I knew immediately that I wanted to partner with Jenny Topilow and Kirsten Swanson. On top of being amazing musicians, they are dear friends, and we have a long history of playing chamber music together. Jeremy Lamb has also been involved in many local new music collaborations and is a composer himself, so I knew he would be perfect addition.
Assistant Concertmaster Kari Giles
Kirsten Swanson: I have been very fortunate to have spent a lot of my career playing contemporary music, and I absolutely love the creativity of 20th and 21st Century string quartet writing. I did a similarly programmed concert last year, but what I especially love about these pieces is that the composers play around with the Western musical tradition of a steady, toe-tappable, rhythm and sends the listener's inward pulse "off the rails."
What kind of music is on the program? How was it selected?
KG: The concert will open with John Adams' "John's Book of Alleged Dances." When it was suggested by my husband Mark Lewis, who is also a composer, I instantly loved it and knew we had to program it. Next on the program is "Carrot Revolution" by young and upcoming composer Gabriella Smith. The words "Rock Out" are literally marked into all of our parts in the opening, and the piece is filled with fiddle, blues, and rock riffs. Listen closely to hear her homage to The Who! A friend recommended I check out our third featured composer, Pamela Z. As an artist and composer, Pamela Z creates eclectic works using voice, live electronic processing and sampled sound. I don't want to give too much away, so I will just say that this work is dreamy and super cool. We have a few more surprises as well, so I hope everyone will come out ready to hear some new music they've never heard before!
Acting Assistant Principal violist Kirsten Swanson
KS: The works on the program toy with our sense of pulse and rhythm, one of the most essential elements of music. In the Adams work, he has the quartet playing with a pre-recorded track played on a player piano. The track is sort of our metronome, except it's not quite steady (or is it?), which is a trip for us as players and for the audience! Adams is making such fun of the idea of what makes a dance a dance and how we each frame our sense of pulse. I'll be so curious to hear what the audience feels throughout these.
Which do you think is the coolest or most fun piece on the program?
KG: The part of the program that is most personal to me is a movement of the Adams work called "Judah to Ocean."
KS: Carrot Revolution is totally the most fun! Anything that says "Rock Out" is going to be my favorite piece!
What kind of music do you listen to for fun?
KG: Currently my go-to musical companions are Prince, Rhianna, Tori Amos, and The Cure. I am also really going through a traditional Irish phase, and Dervish is just magical. My all-time favorite band, though, is Jump Little Children, who I went to school with when I was at NCSA.
KS: Oh man. My playlist is embarrassing. Last week I listened to Lizzo (butchered the lyrics); Raffi because he has a beautiful voice and the lyrics still get me as an adult (I mean! Robin in the rain/what a saucy fellow); Anderson .Paak because he's just amazing; and the oldies...because my parents did, and it's the music I listened to growing up.
What do you think people need to know about the concert before they show up?
KG: Just put on your coolest (or uncoolest) outfit, grab a drink at the bar, and have fun!
It is with a heavy heart that we share former Charlotte Symphony cellist Dr. Samuel Craig Davis passed away on July 2, 2019. Dr. Davis was a musician, CMS educator, and trailblazer as one of the first African Americans to integrate into the Symphony in 1963. Current Charlotte Symphony musicians gathered at his funeral service on July 6 at First Baptist Church-West and played Bach's Air as he was laid to rest.
Dr. Davis's grandson, Derrick Eure, shares the main details of his life's work and how his perseverance made an impact on the symphony, and the greater Charlotte community.
Dr. Samuel Craig Davis's, life was highly dedicated to music education. As an African American Orchestra teacher in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools System in the early 1960's, Dr. Davis was already a trail blazer for introducing classical music into the world of a segregated Charlotte at the junior high and high school level. It wasn't until 1963, on his third attempt auditioning for the symphony, that himself and lifelong friend, Leroy Sellers (also a Violin teacher with CMS) were selected to be apart of the symphony under the direction of Richard Cormier. Following Cormier as Director, Jacques Browman would direct the two friends for the next 13 years.
During that time, Dr. Davis went on to foster a plethora of friendships with symphony friends, further crossing the racial divide with the common love for the music. Quartets were formed, and so many recitals took place as the symphony played in the home my grandfather masterfully built. In fact, Aurdrey Browman, wife of the director Jacques Bowman, even gave a piano recital, with notable members of the symphony performing, time and time again as he opened the doors to his home.
Let it never be about your skin, or where you're from or where you studied. Instead, let it always be about the music.
Names of famous opera singers like Dorothy Manor (NYC), & Gloria Davey even shared in the beautiful parties my grandfather put on, because he truly understood what magic could come when people no longer saw difference, but instead - simply, the music. That, is what I believe Dr. Samuel C. Davis's life work has shown us us all that we sometimes forget even still today. Let it never be about your skin, or where you're from or where you studied. Instead, let it always be about the music.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Davis's loved ones during this difficult time.
|A North Carolina native, Samuel Sparrow joined the Charlotte Symphony as Section and E-flat Clarinet in September 2017. Mr. Sparrow has performed with the New York Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Raleigh Symphony, Garner Sinfonia, and Triangle Youth Philharmonic. Other performance highlights include a featured appearance with Sting at the Main Assembly Hall of the United Nations and the West Coast premiere of Matthew Aucoin's chamber opera, Second Nature. The recipient of the Leon Russianoff Memorial Scholarship, Mr. Sparrow earned his bachelor's in music performance from Manhattan School of Music. His primary teachers include Mark Nuccio, Anthony McGill, and Pascual Martinez. During his summers, he has attended the Brevard Music Center's Orchestral Institute and the Music Academy of the West in California. In addition to performing, Mr. Sparrow enjoys teaching and maintains a small private studio.|
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
Why did you select your instrument?
My parents said the drums were too loud, and my band had too many flutes already, so the clarinet seemed like the next coolest instrument.
What would most surprise people about you?
I love a good adrenaline rush! I'm a big rollercoaster fan, and recently rode the world's largest free-fall swing.
If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her? Shostakovich. How did you find the courage to keep composing after falling out of favor with the Soviet government?
What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?
I once fell off the stage during a performance. We were playing Haydn's Farewell Symphony. Every musician's part ends at a different time, so to emphasize this, we played in the dark with stand lights and walked off the stage quietly after our part ended. As I turned off my light and starting walking off stage, there was one more stair on my riser than I realized. My instrument was okay, but my pride ... not so much.
Any pre-performance rituals?
A light meal and breathing exercises to relax
Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
Pencils, reeds, earplugs, sheet music ...the occasional grocery list
What do you love most about being a professional musician?
Hearing from audience members about how the music positively impacts their life. Music-making is very personally rewarding, but reaching someone else is what really makes this job meaningful. Read more
|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 master's 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
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!
My favorite snare drum I won as a prize from a snare drum competition.
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.
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.
Earplugs, a towel, and contact lenses (in case I break my glasses).
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.
|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
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.
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.
Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
|Older Posts »|
- A thanks to arts educators, from CSO Musicians
- Celebrating Arts in Education Week
- Outrunning Beethoven
- Meet Your CSO’s Newest Musicians
- Education Goes Virtual
- CSO Musicians Perform in Virtual Colorado Music Festival
- 100 Years of Voting Rights for Women
- Celebrating Charlotte with Google Arts & Culture
- Trailblazer: Composer Florence B. Price
- Congratulations to our CSYO Grads!