December 15, 2014

Brass quintet to play for patients, medical team, at Wilmot Cancer Institute

While the RPO is proud to present a series of annual holiday concerts at the beautiful Eastman Theatre, there are many people who don’t have the opportunity to attend these concerts due to such factors as geography, financial means, or physical limitations. That is why the RPO family is dedicated to finding new ways to share the gift of music with everyone in our community, especially around the holiday season. For the sixth year, the RPO’s brass ensemble will perform a free concert of holiday and classical favorites for the patients and medical team in the Wilmot Cancer Institute Atrium on Friday, December 19 at 1 p.m. This annual concert is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. John Bennett. Dr. Bennett is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, as well as a nine-year member of the RPO board and head of the development committee.

“This concert is a nice way of providing the patients with some casual entertainment during the holiday season” said Dr. Bennett, who also said that approximately 75-150 people attend each year. “I have received very positive feedback over the years both from patients and staff over how exciting it was to be present.”

The RPO brass ensemble is a quintet of RPO musicians that includes Doug Prosser (trumpet), Wes Nance (trumpet), Dave Angus (horn), Mark Kellogg (trombone), and Craig Sutherland (tuba). This will also be the second year a Wilmot patient will participate in a special number. Steve Whitman studies tuba with Craig Sutherland at the Eastman Community Music School and is a RPO patron.

“Last year, Steve did an arrangement of Rubber Ducky for two tubas with added percussion played by the rest of the brass quintet - it was a hit!” said Sutherland. This year, the group is excited to debut Whitman’s arrangement of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch for two solo tubas with quintet accompaniment.

While the Wilmot Cancer Institute Atrium was chosen as the concert space due to its size and central location, the quintet has another reason for enjoying the venue.

“Believe it or not, the atrium is actually a great place to play for acoustics,” said Sutherland. “It’s one of our favorite 'halls' to play in, and the crowd is a nice mix of doctors, nurses, staff and patients, some of whom listen from upstairs 'balcony' seating. It’s a great atmosphere.”

L to R: Douglas Prosser (trumpet), Wes Nance (trumpet), Craig Sutherland (tuba),
Mark Kellogg (trombone), and David Angus (horn), perform in the Wilmot Cancer Institute Atrium.

November 24, 2014

Meet the (cover) artist: Denise Fabrizio

Denise Fabrizio's winning art, "Ribbons"
Welcome to the second installment of "Meet the (cover) artist," a series of monthly blog posts that highlight the artist and artwork featured on the RPO’s program books, known as Bravo. These eight works of art were chosen anonymously from a collection of almost 7,000 at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s (RoCo) annual 6X6 exhibition, which invites anyone to create a piece of art on a six-by-six inch square space, using whatever medium they prefer. Last month, we introduced you to Denise Hocking, a professor and scientist at the University of Rochester, whose acrylic painting of birch trees in the fall graced our Oct./Nov. issue.

For the holiday season, the RPO selected a colorful watercolor painting of ribbons, reminiscent of the ribbons that dancers use to tie on their pointe shoes, in honor of the annual performances of  The Nutcracker, onstage this weekend at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. For 16 years, Rochester City Ballet and the RPO have teamed up to present the city’s only full-length, live music performance of Tchaikovsky's classic holiday ballet. Fabrizio's "Ribbons" honors the Orchestra's relationship with the Rochester City Ballet and symbolizes holidays at the RPO!

Stay tuned next month for more behind-the-scenes on the Bravo program art!

Denise Fabrizio of Rochester, N.Y.

Occupation: Retired teacher, artist

How did you hear about the RoCo 6X6 exhibit? I have been a member of RoCo for years and have previously entered the 6X6 exhibit.

How did you develop the concept for your art? I was doing watercolor still life and added a few ribbons to the composition. That evolved into all ribbons with maybe one object.

What inspires your creativity? Color, light, and shadow.

What theme(s) are you trying to convey through your 6X6 piece? As in all the ribbon pieces, I am trying to use an everyday object in a way that creates an almost abstract composition.

What is your favorite style(s) of music?
Eclectic musical tastes- rock, reggae, Latin, some hip hop.
Denise Fabrizio of Rochester, N.Y.

November 12, 2014

Instagram Contest: Video Games Live at the RPO

Mario, Pac-Man, Link, Lara Croft—who is your favorite video game character? From now until next Wednesday, we want to see pictures of you or your child dressed dressed as your favorite video game character for a chance to win free tickets and more to Video Games LiveTM on Friday, November 21 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

In case you haven’t heard of it already, Video Games LiveTM (VGL) is a multimedia concert experience created and produced by Tommy Tallarico, an award-winning video game composer and musician. Featuring music from the greatest video games of all time, the event will include a pre-concert Guitar Hero contest and the winners will get to play the game onstage with the RPO during the concert! A post-concert panel discussion moderated by JP Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games, will include Tallarico, Erik Behr, RPO principal oboe and avid gamer, Al Biles, RIT professor in the School of Interactive Games and Media, and Pete Johnson, video game music and composition designer at Workinman.

The first prize winner of our Instagram photo contest will win four tickets to Video Games LiveTM and a signed poster by Tommy Tallarico. The second prize winner will receive two tickets and a signed poster. A third runner-up will receive a signed poster.

The rules are simple—all you have to do is follow @RochesterPhilharmonic on Instagram, post a photo of you or your child dressed as a video game character, tag it @RochesterPhilharmonic and hashtag it #RPOlovesVGL. That’s it! Winners will be chosen anonymously on Wednesday, November 19 at 3 PM (EST). The RPO will contact the winners via Instagram to claim their prizes!

Detailed Rules
1. Follow @RochesterPhilharmonic on Instagram
2. Submit a photo of you or your child's best video game character costume on Instagram, tag it @RochesterPhilharmonic and hashtag it #RPOlovesVGL
3. No inappropriate pictures. Keep it clean!
4. All entries must be received by Wednesday, November, 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM (EST)
5. A number will be assigned to your photo in the order received
6. Three winners will be randomly drawn on November, 19 2014 by 3:00 PM (EST)
7. We will contact the winner(s) via Instagram to claim their prize!
8. Enter as many times as you would like, but each entry should be a different costume!
9. Good luck!!!

To RSVP to Video Games LiveTM, visit

Tickets: $15-$92, visit


November 5, 2014

An artist's view: Humpherys on Rachmaninoff

Have you ever wondered how a performer feels about the music they are performing? In this new series on the RPO blog, we will go behind the scenes to feature conductors, musicians, and guest performers. We’ll learn how these talented people connect with the piece they are performing and share fun facts about the composers and the compositions.

Tonight and Saturday, Douglas Humpherys will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1. We asked RPO Marketing Intern Matthew Langford to interview Humpherys about the Russian composer and his famous first concerto. Humpherys is professor and chair of the piano department at the Eastman School of Music and the founder/director of the biannual Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition, among many other accolades. He has also traveled to Russia multiple times, both as a soloist and also as an adjudicator for the Rachmaninoff International Young Artists’ Piano Competition in Novgorod, Russia.

"All great music is generated by the culture from which it comes," said Humpherys. "When I visited Russia for the first time, I felt as though I was hearing Rachmaninoff in a new way – as if it was somehow different just by virtue of standing on “Russian soil”. During the last few days in Rochester with the cooler, fall weather, I keep thinking about Rachmaninoff’s birthplace, close to Novgorod (a sister-city to Rochester by the way). What a great combination of cold Russian weather and the warm, passionate character of this music that reflects such a profound musical tradition.”

Q and A with Douglas Humpherys
By Matthew Langford
Douglas Humpherys

Tell us about your past experience with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1.
I learned it when I was young and first played it with orchestra when I was 21. I have played it several times since then, but it has been nice to bring it back after some time away from it. Much like making a fresh acquaintance with an old friend.

What is your favorite thing about Rachmaninoff's music?
What everybody always says about Rachmaninoff; he writes exceptionally beautiful melodies and wonderful harmonies! I think to really appreciate Rachmaninoff, you have to have a visceral reaction to the music. He was such a phenomenal pianist and wrote so well for the instrument that, as a pianist, much of my appreciation of his music is felt in my hands. At a deeper level, Rachmaninoff had tremendous intuition for writing long, linear ideas, was a great orchestrator, and created real structural unity in large-scale forms.
Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff composed his first concerto in 1891 in Russia at age 18. He revised this concerto multiple times, first in 1917 and then once more in 1919. Do you think his immigration from Russia to America in 1917 influenced his revisions?
Even before Rachmaninoff immigrated to America, he had spent considerable time there as a soloist. I don’t really hear much of an American influence in his Concerto No. 1, but there may be some influence in some of his later works, like the Concerto No. 4, or the Corelli Variations. After all, Rachmaninoff did spend some time living in Beverly Hills. On the other hand, Rachmaninoff’s own personal harmonic language was always saturated with 9th chords – I don’t think that is attributable to American jazz.

Why play Concerto No. 1 when Rachmaninoff's second and third concertos are so well known?
I think about the fact that this concerto is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 1 and it makes me want to think about other great first opuses. I think of the first three Beethoven piano trios, the Brahms Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major, and the Berg Piano Sonata. All of these wonderful pieces were the composers’ first opuses. Sometimes first opuses can be very profound. In this case with Rachmaninoff, there is a sense of youthfulness in it, and an enthusiasm combined with a heartfelt quality of being willing to put everything out on the page and into the air for everyone to hear. I think it has some of Rachmaninoff’s most beautiful melodies in it as well as some very complex, dense, lush harmonies.

Listen to Rachmaninoff play the first movement of Concerto No. 1

About the author
Matthew Langford is an educator and trumpeter from Orlando, Florida who enjoys making and sharing music with diverse audiences around the world. He is currently pursuing a master's in music education from the Eastman School of Music.

October 30, 2014

Movie music shines at the RPO this Halloween weekend

Happy (almost) Halloween, RPO fans! To kickoff Halloween night, the RPO will present a screening of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera silent film, starring Lon Chaney. This concert will reprise on Saturday night. On Sunday, our music and film series continues with a matinee performance of excerpts from classic sci-fi and fantasy scores, such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestial and Metropolis. To gear up for a fun weekend at the RPO, we polled musicians and staff on their favorite movie music moments.

Bonus Trivia: Did you know the RPO got its start 92 years ago as a movie house orchestra, accompanying silent films?

Stephen Laifer, musician
4th horn

Stephen Laifer

When I think of great music in film, the first movies that come to mind are: The Star Wars series

What makes this music great? The Star Wars plots are Wagnerian in scope, just like a space opera should be, and John Williams follows that idea perfectly with his music: each character has their own readily identifiable theme, much like Wagner used the idea of leitmotifs, or specific musical themes, for each of his important operatic characters and situations in the four Ring of the Nibelung operas.

What piece are you most looking forward to playing this weekend?
E.T., the Extraterrestrial. Several years ago, I was fortunate to get the chance to interview John Williams for the cover story of the International Musician, the musicians union monthly journal. Williams related to me a story about the last fifteen minutes of the film. The music for the final scene, starting from the bicycle chase, was recorded in the studio in a single take. When Director Steven Spielberg listened to that take, he was so impressed with its energy and operatic feel that he decided to re-edit the film to fit the music, rather than the other way around. Williams said with great pride that this was one of the few times in cinematic history where music took precedence over the images, and he will always remember it as one of the greatest honors of his long and distinguished career.

Barbara Brown, staff
Director of Education

Barbara Brown

When I think of great music in film, the first movie that comes to mind is:
Apollo 13 – one of my favorite movies when I was a kid.

What makes this music great?
I love the first track – Main Title. The opening snare drum sounds strong and urgent. Then it’s immediately juxtaposed with a solo trumpet melody, which is both patriotic and melancholy at the same time. The feel of the entire movie is captured in the first 30 seconds of music. I always feel chills whenever I hear it.

Stephen House, staff
Grants Manager

Stephen House

When I think of great music in film, the first movies that come to mind are: Gladiator and Hook

What makes this music great?
For both of these films, the music perfectly enhances every scene. The range of emotions portrayed by the actors is echoed by the accompanied music. The subtle things that the composers do to help with character development make the audiences recall previous parts of the movie, even if a character is not in the scene. I don’t think either of the films would have had the success they did without their scores.

What are you most looking forward to hearing at this weekend's RPO concerts?
I’m looking forward to the selections from The Adventures of Robin Hood by Erich Korngold at the Sunday matinee concert. I arranged this suite for a marching band a few years ago and haven’t heard it since.

What's your favorite musical score? Shout out in the comments below!

For tickets and more information on this weekend's concerts, visit

October 24, 2014

Meet the (cover) artist: Denise Hocking

Denise Hocking's "Birch Grove" on Bravo
Visual art and classical music have long been a matched pair—just look at the paintings, lithographs, and sculptural busts that adorn most concert halls. For the third consecutive year, the RPO teamed up with Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo) to bring modern visual art into the concert experience by choosing artworks to be featured on the cover of Bravo, the official program magazine of the RPO. These works of art came courtesy of the gallery’s annual 6X6 exhibition, which invites anyone to create a piece of art on a six-by-six inch square space, using whatever medium they prefer.

Back in July, the RPO announced the eight winners of the 6X6 exhibition Bravo Award, chosen anonymously from a collection of over 6,700 pieces on display. These eight artists represent all walks of life, from a local scientist to a California artist and a Pennsylvania high school student. Throughout the 2014-2015 RPO season, we plan to feature these artists on our blog in the month that their artwork will be featured. For the fall cover, RPO staff members selected Denise Hocking’s Birch Grove, a fall scene using acrylics. Read more about Hocking here, and stay tuned to the RPO blog once a month for more behind-the-scenes on the Bravo cover artists and their winning art!

Personal: Denise Hocking of Rochester, N.Y.
Denise Hocking of Rochester, N.Y.

Occupation: Professor and Scientist at the University of Rochester.

Artistic background: The pursuits of art and science have many similarities; at the heart of both are discovery and communication. I believe that my work as an amateur artist deepens my skills as a scientist and vice versa.

How did you develop the concept for your art? Trees are one of my favorite subjects. To me, they represent nature, strength, beauty, longevity, and the connection between heaven and earth. I chose to use acrylics in this piece because of their intensity. I wanted to capture a scene in which the viewer unexpectedly discovers a grove of birch trees dancing happily and freely, releasing their autumn leaves gently to the ground below and reveling in their beauty.

What inspires your creativity? I love the 6x6 show because anyone and everyone can be an artist for a day.

What are your favorite styles of music?
Delta blues and Dixieland jazz. Two of my favorite musicians are Rory Block and Pete Fountain. Pete Fountain’s Dixieland style has been a favorite of my family for generations. Rory Block is a contemporary master of the acoustic blues guitar.

Do you have any musical talents?
I played a variety of musical instruments in high school and college, including the French horn, clarinet and bassoon.

My favorite things to do in Rochester are: I enjoy dog agility training with my whippets, bird watching on Lake Ontario, playing golf with my friends, and attending art festivals around Rochester.

Favorite RPO memories? All of Renee Fleming’s performances with the RPO.

October 15, 2014

RPO kicks off three nights of free concerts

Paul Shewan, guest conductor
Since 1991, the RPO’s free Around the Town community concert series has brought classical music out of the concert hall and into schools, churches, rec centers, and other community spaces.

With the goal of making the RPO more accessible to everyone, these concerts (held six times per year) seek to engage audiences with a program of classical excerpts blended with familiar favorites. Tonight, Thursday and Friday night at 7:30 p.m., RPO trumpeter Paul Shewan will serve as guest conductor for the first three Around the Town concerts of the 2014-2015 season, held at two city rec centers and Fairport High School, respectively.

“We want to bring the RPO to people who might not have the opportunity to attend a concert,” said Barbara Brown, Director of Education at the RPO. Brown coordinates the annual Around the Town series, securing venues and community partners. Last year, Brown coordinated a concert at Monroe Community Hospital, which featured a live stream so patients who could not leave their rooms could watch the concert on their TV.

In addition to finding unique venues, Brown looks for opportunities to engage youth from music education groups with the concert series. Previous collaborators have included young students from the Strings for Success program at School No. 19, the Hochstein School of Music and Dance Children’s Suzuki Program, soloists from the Rochester Philharmonic League Young Artist Auditions, and various high school choirs. This week, 56 students from RocMusic will serve as special helpers at the Wednesday and Thursday concerts, and a select group will offer instrument demonstrations. RocMusic provides tuition-free music and string instruction to children 6-18 years old who live in the city of Rochester.

“Our students look up to the musicians like they are celebrities, and we know that bringing them to eye-opening experiences, like a live acoustic concert, can be life-changing,” said Alexander Peña, Program Director and Lead Teacher for RocMusic.

The Around the Town concerts this week will feature a program of familiar favorites such as John Williams’ Star Wars Suite coupled along with light classics such as excerpts from Beethoven’s sixth symphony. For more information, visit our website at For more about RocMusic, visit their website.

If you go:
What: Around the Town community concert series
When: Wednesday-Friday, October 15-17
Where: See below
Time: All concerts at 7:30 p.m.
$$$: Free

Wednesday, October 15
David F. Gantt R-Center
700 North St. Rochester, NY 14605

Thursday, October 16
Edgerton R-Center
41 Backus St. Rochester, NY 14608

Friday, October 17
Fairport High School
1 Dave Paddock Way Fairport, NY 14450

October 9, 2014

Jeff of all trades: Jeffrey Kahane to conduct, play piano, at RPO

Jeffrey Kahane
One of the most exciting things about a live orchestra performance is seeing the talented musicians at their craft. Even if you have no understanding of how to play the violin or the oboe, it’s clear that what the musicians are accomplishing on their instruments is no easy feat. Now, imagine one of these talented performers is also the conductor. Tonight and Saturday night, California-based guest artist Jeffrey Kahane will not only play Ravel’s Piano Concerto, but he will also lead the RPO through a program that includes Gershwin, Ligeti, and Kodály.

“It’s definitely a challenge to switch gears, but I have been doing this for about 25 years” said Kahane, who started his career as a pianist over 30 years ago. “My experience is that orchestras find it to be a refreshing change of pace as they get to have the experience of having the conductor actually playing with them, in addition to leading.”

Kahane is no stranger to Rochester or performing with the RPO. From 1988-1995, he was on the piano faculty for the Eastman School of Music. Since making his RPO debut performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1986, Kahane has appeared with the RPO three other times, most recently as guest conductor/pianist in October 2001.

“There's a lot of multi-tasking involved,” said Kahane of his dual roles onstage. “It requires a great deal of both physical coordination and mental agility, but it's also a great deal of fun when working with an orchestra as fine as the RPO.”

While Kahane says he can’t pick a favorite musical moment from this weekend’s program, he refers to the slow movement of the Ravel Concerto as “one of the most perfect, most beautiful and most moving things in the whole repertoire.” As for an overall theme that connects the program, Kahane notes that Ravel was influenced by the sounds of American jazz while composing his Concerto (which premiered in Paris in 1932), making it the perfect segue for Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The second half of the program features two works by Hungarian composers influenced by folk music: Ligeti’s Romanian Concerto and Kodály's Háry János Suite, the latter featuring guest performer Chester Englander on the cimbalom, a rare percussion instrument with Hungarian ties that is similar to a hammered dulcimer.

"The Kodály is a spectacular orchestral showcase and very exciting for the audience," said Kahane. "I'm excited to do it and it's great to be back in Rochester!"

For more information on this concert or to buy tickets, visit

P.S. For more on the cimbalom, stay tuned to the RPO on Facebook for an exclusive interview and demo of this instrument with Percussionist Chester Englander!

September 25, 2014

RPO Principal Harpist Grace Wong's musical journey

In August, Brighton Connections magazine highlighted Brighton resident and RPO Principal Harpist Grace Wong in a feature article. For the blog this week, we transcribed the article into a digital format. Special thanks to writer Terry Medina for such a wonderful profile of an outstanding musician (and neighbor) in our community. For more on Grace Wong, visit the web!

Brighton's Grace Wong is on a musical journey

By Terry Medina

It's a neat thing to discover the talents and professions of the neighbors that live and work around
Screenshot of article
you. There are doctors, lawyers, baristas and booksellers. There are homemakers, educators, artists and a host of other skilled residents in this community. One such woman is longtime Brighton resident Grace Wong, a professional harpist who has played with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra since 1979.

Music has always been a major part of Wong's life since her childhood in New York City. While her father knew many musicians, her uncle opened the door to the world of classical music through a connection with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

"Our families often had dinner and social gatherings together so I got to know Yo-Yo Ma," said Wong, whose uncle helped the cellist's family settle in the United States.

When Wong was a student at the High School of Music and Art in New York City, she entered as a pianist, but was assigned the cello.

"You had to pick an orchestral program, and I was assigned the cello," recalled Wong. "Having heard Yo-Yo, I thought, there was no way I could start this instrument! I asked the director if there was any room in the harp class. If I wanted to do music professionally, I knew it would have to be the harp."

Her loyalty to the harp has turned out to be a wise decision for Wong, who has been able to travel, teach and earn recognition over the years -- all opportunities she may not have gotten should she have chosen to master a different instrument.

Wong earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Oberlin Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music, respectively. She has appeared as a soloist, including a debut recital at Carnegie Recital Hall, and has performed throughout the United States, toured Canada and the Far East and has given a series of recitals in South America. She currently serves on the faculty of Hochstein School of Music and Dance and maintains a private studio.

Practice, something that one never outgrows, according to Wong, began at an early age, with lessons costing 50 cents a pop. Later, her father was able to save enough money to buy her a harp of her own.

"I was taking lessons, getting better and really enjoyed playing," she said. "Having family members who appreciated music, many of whom also played instruments, really lent itself to my continued learning."

ln 1979, Wong took a position with the RPO and has been with the orchestra ever since. She married the late writer Richard Henshaw, and the two lived together in the City of Rochester. Wanting a bigger place to grow their family, the two moved to Brighton in 1991 as Henshaw had family in
the area.

The location gave Henshaw, author of The World Encyclopedia of Soccer, the room he needed to write. It also allowed Wong to stay close to the city and not have to travel too far for work with the RPO.

Wong said when she first moved to western New York - specifically the Brighton area - she was a bit shell-shocked. Used to living in much larger New York City, she was surprised to see all the farms, especially cows. She recalled that many of the plazas in Brighton weren't there when she first moved to Rochester. "It was all farmland; so much has changed" she said.

Wong compares playing an instrument to the professional athletes on the soccer/football fields that her late husband wrote about. She said she practices at home and during rehearsals, but the payoff comes during performances.

"Like a pro sport, the work is more than what you see on the field, " she said. "On the stage you are expected to get it right every time. It can be very intense, but very rewarding."

It is the reward of finding joy in the performances - at least two a week, sometimes more - that have kept Wong behind the harp for nearly 50 years.

"It's a privilege to be working with these amazing musicians. The camaraderie and the family atmosphere, it's just very congenial. It's a great orchestra to be working with. You just can't find a more qualified orchestra. They are amazing artists."

Wong feels that playing the harp is an art form and it's one she is honored to have learned.

"I've worked with some incredible people over the years, " said Wong, who even had the opportunity to play with an old friend from her youth,Yo-Yo Ma.

"One aspect about living and working in the Rochester area is how easy it is to commute to work, and how accessible Brighton is," she said. Wong credits Brighton with being a terrific place to raise a family. Her son Sebastian graduated from Brighton High School in 2004 and now lives in New York City where he is pursuing a career in music. He is a Foley artist, a sound engineer who focuses on post-production sound for movies. She often visits him and remaining family members in New York City.

When she is not busy teaching and performing, Wong enjoys knitting scarves and sweaters. "It can get compulsive and it's hard to put down," she laughed.

It's possible that the same thing can be said about playing the harp. Wong said she is having the time of her life performing with the RPO and has no plans of retiring any time soon.

"From a certain standpoint, there are benefits and job security, but you have to keep your skills up and you're being reviewed and judged every time you play, if not by conductors, then by yourself and your colleagues, even your audience," said Wong. "You never want to let anyone down. It's intense and gratifying, being a part of a wall of sound being produced on stage. There are times when I am simply blown away by our performances. That's what keeps me doing this. There are peaks and valleys, but I wouldn't change it for the world."

Brighton Connections Magazine
Colleen Farley, Publisher
Terri Reid Medina, Editor / Content Coordinator

September 11, 2014

Meet the artist: Doug LaBrecque

Doug LaBrecque
Whether your musical tastes lean toward the classic melodies of Cole Porter and George Gershwin or the contemporary showstoppers of Marvin Hamlisch and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the RPO’s first Pops concert of the season this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. is guaranteed to please the palate of any Broadway fan.

On Tuesday, we introduced you to one of two featured guest artists, soprano Lisa Vroman, who starred in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, among many other accolades. Today, we introduce you to tenor Doug LaBrecque, a Michigan native who now lives in Manhattan. Like Vroman, LaBrecque is also known for his work in The Phantom of the Opera, where he played both Raoul and the title role. Other major credits include a starring role in the original cast of the Harold Prince Broadway revival of Showboat and the national tour of Les Misérables. He has appeared with more than 125 orchestras worldwide and most major pops orchestras in America including the Philly Pops, the Boston Pops, and the New York Pops.

For tickets and more information, visit!

Q and A with Doug LaBrecque

My favorite Broadway show:
Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince's original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd.

If I had to perform one role for the rest of my life, it would be:
Loyal brother, trusted friend, and avid gardener.

Proudest moment of my career:
When my family came to Toronto for my first Saturday night performance playing the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. Their support (and rousing ovation!) was extraordinary.

Your favorite song from this weekend’s program:
All of them! I will be singing Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Arlen, Lerner and Loewe, and more with the RPO this weekend. How could I possibly choose just one?

What’s your pre-performance ritual?
Two hours before a performance, I review my music and patter for the evening while I iron my dress shirt and tuxedo.

My favorite person to collaborate with is:
There are a number of colleagues that I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to work with. Jeff Tyzik of the RPO is a very supportive and creative collaborator. He is the real deal and Rochester audiences are very fortunate to have him! Lisa Vroman is one of the most respected singers of her generation and I adore working with her.

When I’m not onstage, you can find me:
Golfing! For me, the craft of singing and golf have many similarities. They are both extraordinarily technical, have strong elements of required mental focus, and both take a lifetime to even begin to scratch the surface of mastering. The perfectly placed breath moves through the vocal folds in much the same way the ideal swing passes through and connects with the golf ball. Posture, rhythm, follow through, and focus are required at each step along the way. I also am an avid gardener, a passionate locavore and I cook whenever I have the time away from my touring schedule.

Advice to young people interested in a performance career:
Don't let the naysayers hold you back. If you are truly passionate about it, hone your craft, study, and learn all that you can. If a performance career is not for you, you will learn that fairly quickly. I don't go out of my way to wildly encourage people to "go for it" but a lifetime of regret can bankrupt your life.

September 9, 2014

Meet the artist: Lisa Vroman

On Friday and Saturday night, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre will light up like the Great White Way with two stars of Broadway at the helm. Under the direction of Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, the RPO’s first Pops concert of the season features Broadway classics by noted composers such as Cole Porter, Marvin Hamlisch, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

This week on the blog, we plan to introduce you to our guest vocalists, starting with soprano Lisa Vroman, who last performed with the RPO for an evening of Bernstein and Sondheim in April 2013. Vroman starred on Broadway, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as ingénue Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, performed as Mary Poppins opposite Dick Van Dyke for Disney’s 75th anniversary, and was the first to perform both Cosette and Fantine in Les Misérables on Broadway, among many other performance credits and accolades. Though she lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Patrick, and dog, Romeo, she is originally from upstate New York.

Stay tuned for our profile on Doug LaBrecque this Thursday!

Q and A with Lisa Vroman:

Favorite Broadway show:
I have many favorites for many different reasons, but I think West Side Story is one of the world's greatest shows!

Lisa Vroman
Credit: Michael Blank
If I had to perform one role for the rest of my life, it would be:
I have had many favorite roles, such as Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella (with the NYC Opera) and recently played Maria Callas in Terence McNally’s play, “Master Class.”

I played Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera somewhere around 2,750 times! I am so happy to be doing more concert work now, where I can sing different songs from many shows in any given performance. A performer really needs to keep the creative flow/energy fresh not only for themselves, but for the audience, too.

Proudest moment of my career:
There are many, but anytime my family members are able to see me sing, it’s a great night! My mom grew up in Fairport, so I am looking forward to seeing friends and family at the performances this weekend!

Your favorite song from this weekend’s program:
All of them! Who can choose?

What’s your pre-performance ritual?
Not so much a ritual, as just getting ready for work. To sing and perform, you have to be rested, fed/hydrated, healthy, then deal with the performance day details, steaming/ironing gowns, makeup, and then time for a good vocal/physical warm up. I have a busy schedule, but I have to make sure my concert gowns are maintained and ready to go. You become very good at packing the perfect suitcase!

My favorite person to collaborate with is:
I have worked with many different singers and conductors who are all fantastic, including Jeff Tyzik and Doug LaBrecque, who are two of the very best!

When I’m not onstage, you can find me:
Learning music and packing for the next trip. I love being at home with my husband, Patrick, and our dog, Romeo, every chance I can!

Advice to young people interested in a performance career:
Keep training! Learn to read music, and study vocally. Too many students do not properly train their voice in a classically based technique. The more you know about your voice, the longer it will serve you, no matter what style you sing.

For more information or to purchase tickets to Broadway’s Golden Age and Beyond, visit

September 6, 2014

Back to school reading with the RPO staff

One of the great things about working on the RPO's staff is getting to be around a bunch of people who are super passionate about the arts. There is something energizing about coming to work every day surrounded by people who have some connection to the arts, whether they are musicians, actors, dancers, artists, or frequent patrons at arts events in the community and beyond.

One of our goals for the RPO blog this year is to turn the spotlight on some of our dedicated staff members. We plan to feature individuals in fun Q and A interviews, video profiles, and whatever other crazy ideas we drum up (pun intended) at our East Avenue office. Since it’s back to school season, we asked a few staff members with music backgrounds to share the one book that left a lasting impression on them as performers and professionals.

P.S. We’d love to hear about your favorite books that impacted your life as a performer/musician/arts aficionado! Please join the conversation with a blog comment or a Facebook post.
Happy reading!

Pavel Sullivan
Associate Director of Annual Giving and Donor Relations

Pavel Sullivan
Musical training: Eastman School of Music: Degree in Music Education, Piano Primary, Secondary Voice. I also played violin until high school.

Favorite book with music connection: Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot:Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential by Richard Restak, M.D.

What makes this book special? Early in high school, we were tasked with coming up with topics for our senior thesis. I decided to write about music and the mind. While I did a lot of analysis of different studies, parts of the brain that are enlarged due to musical exposure, etc., I also picked up this book from Richard Restak (who at the time, was at the forefront of this research).

This book was 28 chapters designed to help you focus and maximize your brain’s potential (which, being a kid with ADHD, was something I found very interesting and helpful). Ironically, I took a lot of these tips and tricks to help me focus on writing the 20-page paper itself, but it has helped me immensely in the rest of my career.

Kara Aymerich
Office Administrator

Kara Aymerich
Musical training: I earned a degree in vocal performance from Roberts Wesleyan College. 

Favorite book with music connection: The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

What makes this book special? This book was recommended to me by my voice teacher. Though it is about tennis, the principles that are outlined by Gallwey are surprisingly relevant to performers. So often, performers and athletes have thoughts in their mind that impede their own progress or concentration. Gallwey focuses on having the player feel what is happening within their body. He explains how to identify success or failure without creating either a crippling sense of anxiety due to a mistake or the almost greater anxiety that one will not be able to repeat the same positive action.

Many of his anecdotes, especially relating to his days as a young competitive player, reminded me of the struggles that my peers and I face every day when practicing or performing. The same occasionally irrational and nonconstructive criticism that performers can give themselves is also a trait of professional athletes, and for that reason, I highly recommend this book for any performer.

Katy Judd

Marketing Manager

Katy Judd
Musical training: I studied violin and trombone, and minored in music in college.

Favorite book with music connection:
The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard by Leonard Bernstein

What makes this book special? One of my favorite books about music is Leonard Bernstein’s The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard, which I first came across in college. The book is a transcript of a series of lectures that Bernstein gave at Harvard in the 1970s. Throughout the talks, Bernstein encompasses many genres—from classical to pop—relating this music to outside disciplines like linguistics, poetry, and philosophy, and focusing on music’s capacity to express a universal “language.” A celebrated conductor and composer, Bernstein also had a tremendous gift for music education, and these lectures are a great example of his talent for presenting musical subjects in an engaging, thought-provoking way.