December 20, 2008

Holiday Music Picks – Something Different!

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to check out the dress rehearsal for the Gala Holiday Pops concerts. It’s really a thrill to hear the Festival High School Chorale sing selections from the movie Home Alone – for such a funny movie, these songs can also bring a lump to your throat. And then to hear the Chorale along with the New York Voices rehearse an a cappella version of Lully, Lullay – what a treat! There are still a few more concerts this weekend – click here for details.

The Home Alone selections are also on the RPO’s A Holiday Celebration CD, along with Jeff Tyzik’s Chanukah Suite. I love this piece – with its lush orchestration and sweet melodies, it sounds like it could be a movie score.

And now, as Monthy Python would say, for something completely different. I raided my holiday CD collection for some more unusual music for your listening pleasure.
  • If the Beatles had ever released a holiday record, it might have sounded like Have Yourself a FAB-ulous Little Christmas from The Fab Four. They take the song Norwegian Wood, and turn it into Silent Night. When I’m 64 becomes Santa Claus is Coming to Town. They even take on some of the more psychedelic Beatles numbers and it all works amazingly well!

  • The Squirrel Nut Zippers were inspired by O. Henry’s classic story to write their own version of Gift of the Magi. Their CD Christmas Caravan contains a number of original songs, all done in their inimitable style blending '30s jazz, blues, and Southern roots music.

  • Brian Setzer (former lead singer of the Stray Cats) lends his rockabilly touch to the holidays with Dig That Crazy Christmas. He brings along a full big band for his take on White Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, and even My Favorite Things.

  • Folk singer Christine Lavin’s Christmas album features a number of a cappella rounds including the traditional Dona Nobis Pacem as well as the more unusual Tacobel Canon (yes, it’s what you might guess). She also has some wonderful stories on here, including The Runaway Christmas Tree (which I just heard Simon Pontin play on WXXI) and Polkadot Pancakes.

  • And no Christmas CD list would be complete without A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. This includes all the classic music from the TV special, including the Linus and Lucy theme and Christmas Time is Here.
Happy Holidays, and here’s to more great music in the New Year!

December 16, 2008


A few weeks ago, I got a sneak peek of our most upcoming blockbuster concert. We’re prolonging New Year’s in Rochester with “Cirque!” - an orchestral adaptation of Cirque du Soleil with former company acrobats.

In addition to performing with the RPO, I am frequently called to play with the Buffalo Philharmonic, and it is always a pleasure to perform new repertoire with a different orchestra. Much to my delight, they also brought in “Cirque!” this season.

Largely, our "Cirque!" performance will be the same, with a few extra pieces that weren’t played in Buffalo. Yes, the musicians should hold on to their instruments at all times… and should be aware of who’s flying above them. Yes, I have the utmost trust in the capabilities of our stagehands who keep the acrobats airborne. Yes, if I were to try and contort in some of those directions, I’d be in intensive care. Yes, the music is very cool. And yes, you should get your tickets now before we sell out!

December 10, 2008

Holiday Music Picks, Week #2 – Messiah and More!

Years of singing in church choir and other choral groups means that when I’m out shopping this holiday season and a Christmas carol comes on, I can’t help but start humming along. And I like putting on some of my favorite CDs at home and singing along while I sign cards or make holiday treats.

In honor of this Saturday’s RPO concert (click here for more info), I put on a recording of Handel’s Messiah. When I’m singing along at home, I can join in on all the different solos, and I love the song “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” for the way the music illustrates the text. When the tenor sings “the mountains and hills made low,” the music starts on a high note and then drops down on the word “low.” The choral parts are especially glorious – especially the “Hallelujah Chorus.” In concert, it’s thrilling to watch Christopher Seaman leading the RPO and Oratorio while playing the harpsichord at the same time.

Carols from the Old & New Worlds, by Theatre of Voices, features carols from a number of different countries. “In the bleak midwinter,” with music by Gustav Holst, is particularly meaningful for this time of year. The writer worries about what to give, “poor as I am,” and decides the best gift is to give from the heart.

Several groups put on concerts celebrating Christmas and the Winter Solstice and featuring English and French carols. I enjoy listening to CDs by Nowell Sing We Clear and The Christmas Revels.

And for a local connection, there are several beautiful albums by hammered dulcimer player Mitzie Collins with Glennda Dove, flute, and Roxanne Ziegler, harp. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to sing with the Lyric Chorale in a joint holiday concert with this trio, so after listening to their album Nowell, I'll be humming the tunes the rest of the day.

December 3, 2008

New Mezzanine Chairs

The first of the new chairs for the Eastman Theatre mezzanine were delivered yesterday. Instead of replacing the chairs, they took some of the current chairs and had them completely refurbished by a local vendor.

The first batch of 50 chairs will be installed over the next few weeks, and then newly reconditioned chairs will be added over the course of the season.

This is just one more visible sign of the changes ahead at the Eastman Theatre. We'll be posting updates on the RPO web site as well, click here to visit the page about the renovation project.

December 2, 2008

This Week's Holiday Music Picks

Tuvan Throat Singers doing Jingle Bells. Five different interpretations of Dona Nobis Pacem. Little Drummer Boy done in the style of Bolero. Waltz of the Ruggelah. Over the years I've become an inveterate collector of holiday music - the more unusual, the better - and these are just a few of the selections I've been listening to this past week. A few are brand new CDs, and some I've had in my collection for years.

  • Bela Fleck & the Flecktones' new CD opens with the percussive sound of horses' hooves and then the deep throaty sound of Tuvan singing. Once you realize it's Jingle Bells, you can't help but chuckle. They go on to cover the classic Christmas Time is Here and Linus & Lucy from the Peanuts Christmas special, as well as a selection from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Joni Mitchell's River. Never a dull moment with Bela and the guys.
  • Last Thursday while we were having our Thanksgiving feast, we listened to Klezmer Nutcracker Shirim in honor of the RPO's Nutcracker performances with the Rochester City Ballet. This is a wonderful interpretation of Tchaikovsky's music with fun titles like Dance of the Latkes Queens and Dance of the Dreydls. It also includes Gustav's Wedding from Mahler's First Symphony, which sounds like Frere Jacques but done in a minor key.
  • Yo-Yo Ma has released a new CD featuring a number of guest artists performing Songs of Joy and Peace. It includes Dave Brubeck, James Taylor, Natalie MacMaster, Alison Krauss, Renee Fleming (along with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile - quite an unusual combination!), hotshot ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, Chris Botti, and the Assad Brothers. The latter is interesting to hear since the RPO will be playing a brand new guitar concerto by Sergio Assad in February. This CD is well worth checking out.
  • Another favorite in my collection is the RPO's CD A Holiday Celebration. I love Jeff Tyzik's version of Little Drummer Boy which takes off on the percussive sound of Bolero. Plus it includes selections from John Williams' score to Home Alone - which is a really funny movie but these songs can be very poignant as well. Both of these will be on the RPO's Gala Holiday Pops concerts in a few weeks - so you'll have a chance to hear them performed live. (click here for more info).
  • And for another version of Little Drummer Boy (this one by jazz singer Cassandra Wilson), you can't beat Jazz to the World. This was a special collection released a few years back to support Special Olympics and has some great stuff by Chick Corea, Diana Krall, John McLaughlin, and others.
Well, I hoped you have enjoyed this brief foray into my record collection. I plan on posting more selections for your listening pleasure next week...

November 24, 2008

This Thanksgiving - Enjoy Juliana’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe!

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, we have a recipe you’ll enjoy straight from the “RPO Cooks!” cookbook. RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde shared her recipes for a full Thanksgiving dinner – brined turkey with gravy, baked acorn squash, stuffing, spinach soufflĂ©, and to top it all off, her mom’s bourbon pumpkin pie.

The cookbook includes more than 200 recipes from RPO musicians, conductors, guest artists, Rochester Philharmonic League members, and RPO staff. Click here for more information and to order “RPO Cooks!”

Juliana’s Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. canned pumpkin puree
1 c. undiluted evaporated milk OR heavy cream
1/4 c. bourbon
1 9” pie shell in pie pan (store bought or homemade)

Preheat oven to 450°. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add remaining ingredients, beating well after each addition. Pour into pie shell and bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325° and bake for another 45 minutes, or until the custard filling is firm. Serves 8.

November 14, 2008


I just came back from this morning's dress rehearsal for Wynonna Judd's concert tonight and Saturday with the RPO. Both she and the Orchestra sound great! She will be singing some timeless standards from the great American songbook as well as some of her greatest hits.

Joining Wynonna on stage is guitarist and singer Don Potter - an old friend of hers from back in the days touring and recording with The Judds. Don will be playing solo with the RPO on the first half of the concert.

Norma Holland of Channel 13 WHAM News interviewed Wynonna about the upcoming concert and she said that Don Potter "is like the father I never had - he's both musician, mentor, and spiritual guidance counselor." Hear more of Wynonna's interview by clicking here.

And to find out more about the concert Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm at the Eastman Theatre, click here.

November 11, 2008

It's All in the Preparation

There's an old joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? ... Practice, practice, practice." Last night five new Orchestra musicians displayed the results of their hard work in a wonderful mini-concert for the RPO volunteers. Hearing them perform in a more intimate setting than a concert hall, and solo and in duets instead of an ensemble, it got me to thinking about what it takes to get up and perform on stage.

Certainly, many hours of practicing until your fingers have the muscle memory to form the notes and you get the sound you're looking for. But there's also a certain amount of mental preparation, to stay focused and not get stage fright or lose your place in the music.

I also perform from time to time - not an orchestral instrument, but the traditional folk instrument called the mountain dulcimer, also known as Appalachian dulcimer or lap dulcimer. When I'm preparing for a performance, I will play a tune over and over, and also sing in the car to memorize the words to songs.

Right before a concert, I also think of something I learned from the Van Cliburn Award-winning pianist Alexander Kobrin. When he performed with the RPO a few years ago, I had the pleasure of driving him to WXXI for an interview with Julia Figueras. She asked him what he did right before he went on stage, and he said he just kept going over the music in his head. It helped him stay calm and focused. I've tried it - and it worked.

For you musicians out there - what you do right before playing a concert? I've heard of some musicians who have certain routines they follow beforehand, maybe like an athlete with a lucky pair of socks? Or maybe it's just taking a deep breath right before going on stage. I'd be interested to hear. Not that I'm going to Carnegie Hall anytime soon ... but I'll keep practicing.

Get Ready for The Nutcracker

This afternoon, members of the Rochester City Ballet and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra went to the Strong National Museum of Play to preview The Nutcracker.

The dancers read the story of The Nutcracker to the kids, and Clara demonstrated a few ballet moves, much to their delight.

Kids lined up to get autographs from the dancers and have their pictures taken.

Small groups of RPO string and brass musicians also played excerpts from The Nutcracker for the kids.

As a special offer for your sugarplums ... children's tickets to The Nutcracker are now on sale for 50% off. Six performances Thanksgiving weekend. Click here for more information.

October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat? Dr. Frankenstein's violin???

Ever wonder what lurks inside all the pretty varnished wood of the string instruments you see on stage? Or ever wonder how some of these relatively fragile instruments have survived for so many centuries? Seeing as it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share some “scary” pictures of the inside of my violin. (Warning – it’s quite a frightful sight and not for the faint of heart!) :) First, a little background info: Earlier this summer, due to its age (over 300 years old!) and some old repairs that were starting to come undone, my violin had to make a visit to a repair shop for some major “surgery”. Much of the work needed was very intricate rebuilding that required the removal of the entire back and neck (long skinny part that stretches above the body of the violin). When I purchased my instrument, I was aware that it had undergone many many repairs over the years, but I was still quite surprised and shocked to finally see what it looked like on the inside! As you can see, there are numerous types of repairs, patches, cleats (little patches of wood used to keep cracks from opening up – kind of like stitches I guess), linen strips (similar to band-aids?), etc. that are keeping my instrument in “one” piece (at least it looks that way from the outside).

These pictures are of the underside of the TOP of my violin – the part that looks the scariest and has had the most repairs. What a mess!!

This other picture is the BACK of my violin - the very light colored wood on the left side is the area that had to be rebuilt.

Well, that's it. I'm glad to say that the "surgery" was successful and my violin is pretty healthy once more. I'm thankful for all the skilled luthiers out there and their amazing skill in keeping our instruments sounding and looking good! Happy Halloween everybody!

The Drama Behind the Composers this Weekend...

I joined the RPO just a few months ago - with a true love for their work - but admittedly I've never been trained in anything musically.

OK, sure, there was that elementary school venture where I played the flute for a few years. Let's just say I could see the first chair from across the stage. Clearly, I wasn't meant to perform. Rather, to just help out in another way.

So, with each new weekend, I get to read up on the background of what is being performed. It's fascinating. This weekend, with Brahms, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky pieces - there's no exception. Click here to read up on the performance and 'listen in' to a preview.

Our Concertmaster Juliana Athayde will lead us in the Brahms Concerto for Violin in D. The technical demands of this piece are formidable. Brahms had apparently composed this piece for his friend - violinist Joseph Joachim, pictured here.

Both he and Joachim actually wrote a manifesto in 1860 against the "progressive music of the 'New German School'" - from which Liszt and Wagner's music is based. Wow! (By the way, we're playing Liszt next month with pianist Andrew Von Oeyen. Click here for a preview.)

One other piece of information I thought was pretty fascinating. The orchestra is also performing Alexander Borodin's Symphony No. 2.

Borodin was the illetimate son of a Georgian noble. In fact, his mom apparently registered him as the son of one of the noble's serfs. He grew up to be a chemist by trade. Between the chemistry - and I've read "difficulties in his home-life," he found solace in composing.

October 24, 2008

The tent is up!

The tent people arrived at 1 a.m. this morning and worked all night to get the tent set up on Gibbs Street. It's the largest frame tent in the area, and extends from just outside the Eastman Theatre entrance all the way down to Java's! Volunteers are already at the Theatre putting up decorations and then will start on the tent - setting up all the tables and chairs, decorative streetlights, and 40 trees.

The Red Carpet Spectacular gets underway at 5:30 pm with a special culinary event by Wegmans, and then Jeff Tyzik, RPO musicians, and other dignitaries will walk the red carpet at 7:00 pm. Stop by with your camera to get pictures of our local celebrities, just like Hollywood's glamorous Academy Awards!

After the concert tonight and tomorrow night, the tent will be the site of the Stars and Streetlights Soiree, where concert attendees can enjoy dessert, cash bar, and live jazz. Come party with the RPO for Jeff's 15th! For more information, click here.

we're up early!

Today marks our celebration of Jeff Tyzik's 15th anniversary as Principal Pops Conductor of the RPO. We're up early for the festivities... and both Channel 13 and R News are with us.

These are a couple of pics we just took. Jeff with Diana Palotas and Christopher Seaman, our Music Director, with Doug Emblidge.

We'll have more entries later from the Red Carpet...

October 16, 2008

How do you see the RPO?

We're busy planning your RPO of the future. And, we can't do it without your feedback... so we've created a survey (it's anonymous) that we hope you'll consider taking.

It's pretty short, and will help us get a sense of what you think about us. The great stuff... and the opportunities ahead.

Click here to take the survey. Once you're finished, you'll be directed to an RPO web page that will give you a discount on tickets to select holiday performances.

Thanks - and we look forward to hearing from you!

October 10, 2008

Opening Night

I have been waiting for this night. I have been waiting almost three months for this night! You spend so much time as an orchestra administrator at the RPO in meetings and planning and budgeting and just working in an office - you can start to forget what you’re working for. And then this night finally comes. Opening night at the Phils! And for me, it's not the hoopla leading up to it or the pre-concert parties or the post concert's the moment that the lights dim and you hear this orchestra fire up those guttural emotions inside you that remind you why you LOVE THIS MUSIC (and the RPO with it).

Shostakovich Festive Overture. It was a great way to open the concert. I can't help but start to smile hearing our brass section punch those opening chords. My smile gets bigger when I hear the galloping percussion that could give William Tell a run for his money and when the full orchestra marches in at the end of the piece it's just elation for me.

The Beethoven Emperor Concerto is a great piece, just not actually one of my favorite piano concertos (it's my blog and I can write what I want to). Don't know why I have never loved it but nevertheless the RPO and Andre Watts danced together so well during the grand waltzing in the third movement.

But the moment I was really waiting for honestly was hearing Dvorak 9. One of my favorite pieces...for me the symphony never gets old. I agree with Christopher Seaman in his program note...calling the piece a "warhorse" is such a stodgy way of hearing this awesome music. The history behind the piece is so interesting...but the The first movement, when the brass and timpani quietly roll in, gives me goose bumps; the beautiful ensemble work by the winds in the second movement, and hats off to our new English horn player Anna Stelthenpohl. Second week on the job and she has to play that signature theme in the Largo movement, while switching back and forth to her oboe. You could tell how great the orchestra played when in between the movements you could hear a pin drop…for a second….and then the audience erupted in their own symphony of coughing, fidgeting and laughing at the sounds they were making. The strings in the third movement were incredible – just driving and driving and driving. But the forth movement: heart wrenching. When Christopher stirred the strings into a frenzy followed by the echoing brass and timpani, I could not stop feeling my heart race with them. It makes all that craziness in the office and that time off from the live performance worthwhile.

I have been waiting for this night and it was worth the wait.

October 4, 2008

New faces from familiar places...

With the 2008-2009 season of the RPO beginning this week, it's always nice to come back to work and see our wonderful colleagues and friends. Like most years, we have a few new faces this year. But for me, it's great that a couple of them aren't new faces at all! Two of our new members, Alex Rosenfeld on horn and Anna Steltenpohl on oboe, are friends of mine from a few years ago.

Alex Rosenfeld, our new assistant principal horn, is a fellow alumnus of Northwestern University, where we were both students of Gail Williams and played in a horn quartet together. Infact, we even bought the same new horn together back then and we're both still playing it, as is our second horn player here in the RPO, Jennifer Burch! Alex won the one-year position after Matt Annin won the Assistant Principal Horn position with the Cincinnati Symphony. Matt is also an alum of Northwestern University and he and Alex were there together - small world. I missed Matt by one year at NU but always heard great things about him...he's a great player and while we'll miss him here, we all wish him the best in Cincinnati.

Anna Steltenpohl, our new second oboe/English horn, is a fellow native of the Chicagoland area. Her hometown, Barrington, is about 25 minutes from my hometown, Crystal Lake. Anna and I played in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra together under the baton of Rossen Milanov, now the associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Anna and her twin sister, Lisa, a violist, even came to my high school senior recital at my church! I have a lot of fond memories of our youth orchestra and all of our time in Chicago - it really was CYSO that helped me realize how much I love performing.

The music world really is a small world a lot of the time. Though I don't previously know some of our other new members, there are definitely some current RPO members who do. Other new members this year include Lars Kirvan on cello (who came on a very last-minute call to Vail with us this past summer - thanks Lars!), Benjamin Krug on cello, Andy Parker on clarinet/bass clarinet and Colin Corner, our new principal bassist. We're excited to have all of them as new colleagues in the RPO.

Come check out all the faces of the RPO this fall - we'll see you at the concerts!

October 2, 2008

African Safari Engagement

RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and Principal Oboist Erik Behr returned from their September trip to Cape Town, South Africa with more than just the wonderful photos from their safari at a luxury game reserve. Juliana also returned with an engagement ring!

They travelled to Cape Town to visit Erik’s family. This picture was taken the morning after their engagement (the two giraffes are cuddling too!).

While there, they also played a duo recital that benefitted a local charity that provides housing and work to people with disabilities; and Erik researched and interviewed South African composers in connection with writing his doctoral dissertation for Rice University where he is a doctoral candidate.

The RPO regular season starts this weekend with the first orKIDStra concert. Be sure to check out Juliana’s ring (she’s very excited about it!).

Back in the saddle (sort of...)

Well, the 08-09 season has started, and the Nances are trying to get in a groove for the year. While Shannon and I aren't the only married couple who both play in the RPO, we are (at last count) the only ones with 4 kids!

As some of our colleagues have noted, the layoff (as we call it) at the end of the summer is a double sided thing. Lots of free time, but not a lot of income to fund that free time! We had a lot of great time with our kids, and when school started a few weeks ago things got really busy! All 4 kids in piano lessons, then some in cello, violin, horn, etc., taekwondo, plus homework, etc., etc. We were trying to figure out how our regular jobs were going to fit into all this when RPO started- and now here we are!

If we could just take school out of the mix, our mornings would be much easier! But, when you take 2 musicians who aren't morning people (we have to be at our best sometimes playing past 10pm on concert nights) and their 4 kids, who, no surprise given their genetic makeup, aren't morning people either, things can get interesting.

So, we have to get everybody up, (ages 5, 8, 10, 13), fed, lunches made, etc., and then drive them to school, making sure that all backpacks, clothes, and said lunches actually make it to the car, and then again from the car to the classroom, no small task. I get back home again around 8:15, and then we have roughly 45 minutes max to get out of the house and down to rehearsal by 9:30. This may not seem like a big deal to you other parents out there, and I admit, many of you are doing the same sort of crazy in the morning, even earlier than us, *but* the one problem we can run into is we have to be warmed up and prepared to play the hardest of repertoire right at the first downbeat at 9:30. No easing into the work day for us, we either play the music well or we don't!

So far we are 2 for 2, kids have been on time for school at 8am, and we have been on time for rehearsal, even getting in a decent warm up, although Shannon is out sick today. We'll see if we can keep things going smoothly as we get used to RPO being up and running again.

See you at the concerts!


And speaking of politics...

Like nearly everyone else, I'll be on the edge of my couch tonight, watching the VP debates, furiously munching something satisfying. It got me thinking that we have some perfect election season repertoire coming up. Check out the opening Phils concert -- Shostakovich's Festive Overture celebrated the 37th anniversary of nothing less than the Bolshevik Revolution, and Beethoven's Emperor Concerto was written against the backdrop of Napoleon’s power grab, with artillery wreaking havoc on Beethoven’s hearing. And on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav used three Serbian tunes to express support for that country, at war with Turkey. Wow.

Blog me away.

September 30, 2008

Where oh where does the RPO go? (+FREE concerts this week!)

Every year it seems I run into people that wonder where the RPO goes between our summer and winter seasons. Well, each orchestra has its own contract that specifies how many weeks of work per year there are. The “big” orchestras in the largest cities usually have a 52 week contract, with all their paid vacation time built into those 52 weeks. I think at some point in the history of the RPO, it might have been like that, but it hasn’t been like that with our orchestra in a long time. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, our contract has gone a little backwards, so that we have a number of weeks without work both before and after our summer season. People often wonder and ask where we go, what we do, etc. I guess the easy answer is anything and everything. :) People tend to think we're all on vacation, which is kind of true, except that we aren’t paid. So, many of us look for work elsewhere – anything from teaching locally, playing in various festivals around here or the country, or maybe even subbing or going on tour with another orchestra should the chance arise. Other than that, as my colleague Kathy said in her blog, we use the time to refresh after a long season. The RPO musicians have tons of interests outside of music – let me see if I can think of some of the more fun/interesting/unusual ones that people might not know about. We have(had) beer/wine makers, quilters, vintage automobile collectors/restorers, tri-athletes, instrument/bow makers, birders, hikers, shoe collectors, and a number of avid gardners, excellent cooks/bakers, and athletes. The list goes on and on! Since there’s not always time during our season to delve into our interests as much as we’d like, the layoff offers a little bit of opportunity to do so.

This year, among other things, I spent quite a bit of time outside taking care of a lot of yard work (lots of rain this year!) and projects around the house. I also got a chance to spend a little time visiting with family outside of Chicago. Since my family is kind of spread out across the US, I don’t get to see them that often, so I enjoy visiting when I am able. My two nephews have recently started learning how to play string instruments– violin and cello (see pics). So, as you can guess, part of my visit included helping to teach and practice with them. Calvin started playing cello a little over a year ago and Christian just started playing violin (less than a month now). He’s always wanted to play either the violin or the trombone???? Go figure. I, along with my sister, am glad that he made the right choice. No offense to you fine trombonists out there. J It was a lot of fun to work with them and I'm happy to say that Christian already plays a mean Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - and most importantly, with a good sound too! In exchange, they gave me a short lesson on Rock Band. :)

If you’re like me, it’s hard to transition from the warm, bright, long-lasting days of Summer, into the chillier and shorter days of Fall and Winter. This week, the forecast doesn’t look too good with cold temps and rain, rain, rain. If you’re looking for something to do this week (Thurs. and Sat.) that will help with the transition from outdoor to indoor activities, why not come out, sit back and enjoy one of our Around the Town concerts this week (you can find specifics of the free concerts at Not only will you be able to hear some great music, but the concerts are free, which should help take your mind off of all the bad economic news ….at least for one night! We go to different communities throughout the year and play these shorter, slightly less formal concerts to share our music with people that sometimes might not otherwise come to the Eastman Theater. There's always some sort of "theme" to each of these concerts, and there's often a time during the concert that's open for a short question/answer session with the audience, so think up some good questions in case you get the chance!! We're always happy to have a full audience and it's a great way to introduce your kids to music since the concerts are a little more kid-friendly. Hope you get a chance to stop by this week or at some other concerts this year!

September 26, 2008

new season

Hi Everyone!!! Next week brings the RPO musician family back together after a two month lay off. We are all anxious to get back to work for a variety of reasons! Lots has happened while we have been offline -- Births and family deaths, weddings and funerals,engagements, chamber music concerts, recitals, as well as gardening, house repair, sending children off to college for some families and off to kindergarten for others -all all grades in between!! Some of us got away on much needed vacations, and others enjoyed staying home for a change. After such a busy winter and summer season, it is good for us to take a break for some time to re-energize, get some new experiences that we can't take during the year and reconnect with family and friends. A musicians schedule is not always socially friendly!!
We are excited about the " new Eastman Theater" process and celebrate this year with great music to send off the old Theater. As a graduate of the Eastman School and as a member of a family of Eastman graduates(my mom and sister) I have spent many. many hours in the Theater - as a performer and listener. I appreciate its assets and celebrate the opportunity to improve the problems.
Our first week back has us doing concerts in the community - a mission we feel is a crucial part of any arts organization today -- taking art to the people. The concerts are filled with wonderfull music and we hope to see alot of you there -- til the next time -- kmk

September 25, 2008

And speaking of Ms. Josefowicz...

Leila Josefowicz has just been named as one of the 25 recipients of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius grants.” And the $500,000 Fellowship award has no strings attached, other than the ones staying firmly in place on the instrument that helped bring her this recognition. Wow. Blog me away.

RPO Bassist Really Delivers!

RPO bassist Gaelen McCormick shared with us the story of her summer break:

"I spent the better part of the summer preparing for the birth of my first child, Clara Elizabeth Hanlon, who was due August 3rd. I also supervised the demolition and remodel of my kitchen, but had to sit on the sidelines rather than swinging the sledgehammer (my favorite part!). And I prepared the nursery, did the usual baby registry fun, and had the pleasure of going to two baby showers – in my hometown and here in Rochester.

"Baby Clara came a week late on August 9th, and was born quickly at Highland Hospital – we were only there for about 3 hours! I had stopped playing bass by mid-June because of the size of my tummy, and it was a great feeling to pick up the instrument again once my daughter was about 5 days old. She seems to enjoy just hanging out next to me while I practice and regain my strength and coordination, gearing up my hands for the RPO season."

… Which begins next week with the first orKIDStra family concert, and then Opening Weekend with pianist AndrĂ© Watts on October 10 & 11. Click here to view the full concert calendar.

September 17, 2008

Talent plus….?

This week, the League of American Orchestras quoted an article from America's well-known “men’s magazine” showcasing 10 rising female stars in the classical music world. Not only are these artists real talents, but, according to the magazine, they also seem to meet a certain standard of beauty.

Turns out that three of the 10 are connected to us: 30-year old violinist Leila Josefowicz, who performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the RPO on January 29 and 31; 28-year old soprano Danielle DiNiese, who sang Messiah with us last year (and blew everyone away with her masterclass at Penfield High School); and, until last year, our own principal oboist Ariana Ghez, now principal with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“Hollywood demands attractiveness in exchange for success and does Ghez ever deliver. She plays a mean oboe, too, and at 28 she’s one of the youngest leaders in a major orchestra. Ghez shot up the ranks after earning a dual degree in English and music from Columbia and Juilliard, playing with the Rochester Philharmonic before landing her big gig in the land of sun.”

Okay, okay, don’t kill the messenger…I have my own thoughts about this article. Isn’t the magazine just using the guise of breaking the stereotype of “nerdy” classical musicians to put forth their own agenda, which is using physical attractiveness to sell magazines? Must we/should we be measuring the “hotness” level of performers? Are “classical” musicians being judged on the same lowest common denominator of physical appearance? How does artistry compete with an artist’s appearance -- think the Ahn Trio.

Does “classical” mean that they be viewed differently than, say pop, country, rock or jazz artists? With all the gender discussion this election season, has the pressure of needing to be “hot” extended to men in the public eye? So is it true that “Hollywood demands attractiveness in exchange for success?” GRRR.

Blog me away.

September 10, 2008

What's your favorite Eastman memory?

A couple of weeks ago, as I was sitting in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium, I spent more time reminiscing about all of the times I had gone there... all of those memories... than actually watching the game. I knew it would be my last visit to the 'old' Yankee Stadium. While I was a bit emotional about it... I just had to turn to my left, where the new stadium sits, and get excited about what's to come.

My thoughts then turned to the Eastman Theatre. This is the RPO's last season in the 'old' Eastman. Next year, we're going to have a remarkable new Eastman Theatre.

There are so many memories woven within the Eastman.

When I think of my favorites I consider two moments in time. Of course, I remember my high school graduation... my mother arrived with a camera, a videocamera... and no film for either instrument. So, there are no pictures!

My favorite RPO/Eastman memory actually comes from this past season. When Yo-Yo Ma came out for an encore performance of the Appalachia Waltz after he performed with the RPO. It was as if the world around me disappeared. Any worries I had about anything went away. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. It was such a happy experience, it's actually hard to even describe it.

We know you have those memories too. You can send them in to us at

We're going to create a page on our RPO web site dedicated to your photos and your memories. We're also going to have some displays in the Eastman lobby where, at performances, you can post pictures and write down your thoughts.

Let's pay tribute to our past, with much excitement for the future...

P.S. - if you want to keep up-to-date on the renovation news, click here to check in.

August 18, 2008

Wynonna in Rochester with the RPO

We're ecstatic to share that on September 2nd, tickets for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's upcoming season will go on sale to the general public.

This year, Jeff Tyzik will celebrate his 15th season as Principal Pops Conductor. Joining him will be Wynonna Judd and Don Potter in November - which promises to bring an amazing weekend of music.

Christopher Seaman
, the RPO's Music Director, has a remarkable season planned with world-class performances.

We have so much to share with you throughout the season, along with the 'stories behind the stories' of the music you'll hear.

Click here to view the RPO's 2008-2009 calendar - including our Symphony 101, Casual Sunday Matinee and orKIDStra series performances. You can purchase tickets online through our site!