August 31, 2009

Don't Miss It!

Who is this dashing fellow? How does he jump so high? And where is he headed? Watch now, and the mystery will be solved before your very eyes!

Click on the picture - or click this link:

August 27, 2009

Six Weeks and Counting to Theatre Opening

This week, RPO PR Director Amy Blum (pictured 2nd from right, along with Wendy Borden, Karen VerSteeg, and Linda Altpeter of the Eastman School of Music) took a tour of the renovations at the Eastman Theatre.

The new boxes are now in place, and there are about 100 workers on a variety of projects in the Theatre and in the adjacent building under construction. The chandelier has been cleaned – with 750 new bulbs – and is now back up, some of the carpeting is done, and the lobby lounges are being painted. Click here for photos of the ongoing renovations on the Eastman School web site.

And don’t miss your chance to hear the RPO perform Beethoven’s Ninth in the renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Opening Weekend, October 8, 10 and 11. Click here for more info.

August 20, 2009

Q&A with Michael Butterman

Right now at the RPO, we're all getting ready for the 2009-2010 season. We caught up with Michael Butterman, the RPO's Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair), to find out more about the upcoming season.

Next year's orKIDStra Family Series seems to have a theme of music that illustrates a story, with Carnival of the Animals, The Snowman, Babar the Elephant, and The Firebird. Please tell us more about those concerts.

Each concert in the orKIDStra series features a marquee or "brand-name" piece around which the rest of the program will be built. We're especially excited about The Firebird, which will be presented in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre along with some absolutely fantastic life-sized shadow puppets, and the return of The Snowman for our holiday concert. This animated classic, with live music from the RPO, was such a hit last year that we decided to bring it back. I think it could very well become a favorite new holiday tradition in Rochester. (Click here to learn about the full orKIDStra Series.)

The RPO also performs concerts for schoolchildren at Kodak Hall and around Monroe County. What's planned for those next year?

Our popular Tiny Tots programs for preschoolers will explore musical opposites through a new program based on the Goldilocks fairy tale. In this version (for which I've written a narration), Goldilocks stumbles upon the forest home of three very musical bears and learns about pitch (this instrument is too high ... this one is too low ... this one is just right!), volume, and tempo. Our Intermediate concerts, held in February and March for fourth graders, will draw comparisons between language and music, exploring ways in which the structure and elements of verbal communication are similar to those of musical communication. We also have our Primary concerts in May for third graders, for which the program is still being finalized.

What will you be doing for the Around the Town concerts next season?

Our fall concerts will be a bit like the Valley Manor program from this past summer, which was well-received. I called it "In Nature's Realm," after a Dvorak tone poem, and it included familiar pieces inspired by the natural world, like the Moldau, Schumann's Spring Symphony, Debussy's Clare de Lune, and so on. In the spring, we will be performing at, among other places, the performing arts center at Penfield High School as the culmination of a joint project between the RPO and the American Studies program at the high school. Throughout the year, I'll be making several visits to their classes, giving talks and leading discussions about the place of music in American cultural history – how American music assimilated European traditions while adding ingredients from African-American culture, for example. And how composers like Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff were (or were not) affected by their own American journeys.

What's it like to conduct The Nutcracker, coordinating the music with the movements of the dancers?

You framed that question exactly correctly, since I really do feel as if I need to make the music work for the dancers. With the first few ballets I conducted, I wanted to make the music sound exactly the way I thought it should (especially in terms of tempo) if it were being performed on the concert stage. But now I always remind myself that, while I want the music to have dramatic tension and direction and so on, the dancers are the ones who are really on the line, so to speak. They have to complete their various maneuvers without tripping up and while maintaining smiles on their faces. I have great respect for what they're able to do and have become pretty accustomed to "reading" them (noticing whether I might need to speed up or slow down a bit) in performance.

You’ll also be conducting a couple of Pops concerts this year – are you brushing up on the music of ABBA?

I'm showing my age, but having grown up during the time when their music was "fresh," it's pretty much in my blood. I don't think it will take that much brushing up, frankly! And I must confess that ABBA's Greatest Hits has a semi-permanent place in one of the slots of the CD changer in our living room. Our five-year-old daughter uses the room as a makeshift dance studio and "Dancing Queen" is one of her favorites.

What music is in your CD or MP3 player right now?

Besides ABBA? I feel like I listen to music for a living, in a way, so I rarely have it on as background or merely for relaxation. I spend a lot of time with new pieces that composers or publishers send my way. If I'm preparing to conduct a certain piece, I also try to spend some time listening to other works by that composer (especially ones I don't know) to help provide a kind of context for understanding the one I'm about to do. And I try to do a fair amount of exploring ... just going to the Naxos site, for example, and browsing around, listening to bits and pieces of this and that; much the way one might browse the shelves in a bookstore.

What's your cell phone ring-tone?

You know, I always have it on vibrate. I listen to so much music that I probably wouldn't hear it ring anyway!

Where are your travels taking you during the summer break?

I was in Chicago in June for the League of American Orchestras conference. I've also been to Boulder (and Rochester) for concerts, but since the fall is shaping up to be especially travel-heavy, we decided to take some time for fun this summer. We visited family in California and Canada, met other family for some beach time in Florida, and thoroughly enjoyed our first experience at Disneyland.

August 11, 2009

What’s Your Favorite Summer Food?

Well, it’s finally starting to feel like summer, with warmer weather and time to sit out on the porch before the sun goes down. With the summer concert series over – and the new season still weeks away – many of the RPO staff and musicians are taking some well-deserved vacation time.

But before they set out for summer music festivals, hiking paths, or family vacations, I asked them about their favorite summer food. And not surprisingly, had a range of responses (see below). For myself, I always look forward to a dinner of corn on the cob with hot dogs, coleslaw, chips, and either watermelon or ice cream for dessert.

If you have your own favorites – or a suggestion of a new recipe to try – let me know…
  • Whatever is locally grown and in season! Asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc: we live in a great place for "terroir" eating!
    – Peter Kurau, French Horn

  • One of my favorite summer recipes is Fresh Corn Salad from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. It is a delicious way to enjoy the summer treat of sweet corn - cooked slightly, mixed with cider vinegar, olive oil, fresh basil, red onion, salt, and pepper. In fact, I'm making a big batch of it for a party this weekend! It's always a big hit.
    – Stephanie Blaha, French Horn

  • My favorite summer foods include white peaches, juicy cherries, gazpacho, and ice cream.
    – Libba Seka, Viola

  • My favorite summer food is a cheeseburger, the same as my favorite winter food.
    – Ken Langley, Violin