January 17, 2014

Timing is Everything

by Alan Lowne

Violinist Alan Lowne will join the musicians of the RPO on January 22, 2014, for the first-ever RPO / Community Orchestra concert. Read Alan's thoughts on the experience below:

Getting an email a couple of weeks ago telling me I’d made it into the RPO Side-by-Side Orchestra was a wonderful surprise--especially since my oboe-playing wife Carol had already gotten her acceptance letter. Then I checked the music to be played--Liszt's Les Preludes, full of fast-moving arpeggios--and realized this meant some hard work was needed. I re-read the email and noticed that it said “First Desk,” which meant that I’d be placed next to the illustrious Juliana Athayde (don’t panic!) So, some serious “woodshedding” occurred. But I needn’t have been nervous. Juliana and the other RPO musicians were so welcoming and friendly to us fresh-faced amateurs.

Playing alongside these world-class musicians is a marvelous opportunity, and the rehearsal last week went wonderfully. Paul Shewan is a very clear conductor who knows what sound he wants and clearly defines it.

In ‘real life’ I’m an electronics engineer and a small business owner (5’1” actually – I was downsized from Kodak; I used to be 6’3”). I am also Assistant Concertmaster of the Penfield Symphony Orchestra and Concertmaster of the Greece Symphony, but playing alongside the RPO performers instead of watching from the audience is a rare experience. The concert itself will be very exciting!

I realize that my most important task, however, is to turn the music pages at the right time for Juliana. Timing is everything. Make sure you are there to see if I get it right ...

"A dream only dies if you let it ..."

by Carol Lowne

Carol Lowne will perform alongside the musicians of the RPO for the first-ever RPO / Community Orchestra side-by-side, January 22, 2014. Our thanks to Carol for sharing the following reflections on her musical journey.

In kindergarten, they gave me a triangle for my concert debut in the nativity play. But I didn’t want to play the triangle ... and my parents didn’t want me to play anything ... ever! So, the doors to my musical education quickly and firmly, closed ... for the next 23 years.

At 27 and now married to a musically talented (violin-playing) husband, those doors swung open again for me when my husband stated bluntly that he thought I needed to learn to play an instrument. He picked the oboe for me, and it was to become my other soulmate. Until then, the sound of beeping monitors in an Intensive Care Unit of the famous London Hospital where I worked was the music that played in my ears.

Within a year, we had relocated to the US from our home in England, and I discovered the Eastman School of Music's Community Education Division, where I began to take lessons. Years and several excellent former RPO teachers later, I joined some community orchestras and was hooked on live music ... forever.

Then came the announcement that the RPO would host it’s first ever Community Musician side-by-side concert. Would we care to throw our hats in the ring for a chance to play alongside those musicians? My initial excitement and enthusiasm to complete the application was rapidly followed by panic. 

Imagine my surprise when I received an acceptance note, instructing me and all the participants when and where to show up for two rehearsals and the performance. Almost immediately, the thrill of an acceptance letter gave way to the overwhelming fear that I would fail to produce a single playable reed! I soon felt a strong desire to apologize and withdraw my name. Then I had a conversation with myself: "Remember the times you have wondered what it would be like to sit among musicians you’ve admired for years and play music that you love? Well, a dream only dies if you let it ..."

With my assignment and place in the section confirmed, I was determined to learn everything I could from Erik Behr (the RPO’s Principal Oboe) and from Anna Steltenpohl (the RPO’s wonderful English Hornist). Wedged between the two of them as part of the section for one performance, I was bound to learn something by osmosis ... right? 

With one rehearsal down and just one to go before the much anticipated performance next week, here is what I have learned:
    1. That waiting for one’s appointed rehearsal time in Eastman Theatre is a bit like waiting for a root canal experience in a rather plush dentist’s office.
    2. That greeting and rehearsing with Erik and Anna and the RPO members was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the butterflies in my stomach dissipated at the first downbeat from conductor Paul Shewan.
    3. That it was worth investing many hours of private practice over years for the excitement of this opportunity. And ...
    4. That regardless of our designation in life--that of a professional musician or community musician--the thrill of making music is always there and for me, at least...the dream lives.

January 8, 2014

RPYO Musicians Reach Out

by RPYO Manager Susan Basu

Daphne Pickens and Casey Murray
The teen-aged musicians of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra may be intently focused on their instruments, engrossed in learning great symphonic works and delighting us with fine RPYO performances. But this is only part of their busy and creative lives. Many are deeply involved in volunteer work at hospitals, churches, and community organizations; participate in school math, science, entrepreneurship, and Model U.N. teams; play field hockey, soccer, tennis or run cross-country.

Their musical involvements also stretch well beyond the youth orchestra. Some of our students compose and perform their own music, some have their own teaching studios, and others work on developing their conducting skills for future careers in music teaching and ensemble directing.

They are all such interesting and delightful young people! Here are just four with especially wide musical involvements.

MARTINE THOMAS is a senior at the Wilson Commencement Academy. As co-principal violist of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Martine spent part of last summer rehearsing in New York and performing in some of the world’s greatest concert halls: New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, the Moscow Conservatory, the St. Petersburg Mariinsky II, and London’s Royal Albert Hall.

DAVID STEINHARDT, a junior at Pittsford Mendon High School, plays double bass in the RPYO but already occupies a prominent place in the world of classical guitar. He was the winner of the 2013 Youth Competition in the Montreal International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition. This past October, he was invited to San Antonio for a classical guitar residency that took him into local high schools and universities to give recitals and master classes.
DAPHNE KANACK-PICKENS and CASEY MURRAY, 12th grade violinist at The Harley School  and 11th grade home-schooled cellist, perform many styles of music and especially love traditional folk and string music. When their friend and fellow RPYO musician Eric Levy passed away unexpectedly this past summer, they wanted to create something lasting in his memory. With several musical friends they recorded a CD – entitled To Zamir after Eric’s Hebrew name –with mostly original folk/fiddle music performed on acoustic violin, cello, guitar, and mandolin.

Cirque de la Symphonie Delights Audiences

The amazing aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, and jugglers from Cirque de la Symphonie are back in Rochester with a new program January 10 & 11 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Designed to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall, Cirque de la Symphonie is the only cirque company in the world that performs exclusively with symphony orchestras – more than 100 worldwide so far – and includes among its members world-record holders, gold-medal winners, and Olympians.

Sagiv Ben Binyamin is one of the newer members of the company. A master of trapeze, hand balancing, and acrobatics, he has stunt credits in movies such as Polar Express and productions such as Universal Studios’ Spiderman Rocks. “When you think about the circus, you think elephants, lions – that’s how I grew up,” he says. “Here, I found a different type of circus where people are stars and it is more creative.” Click here to read a longer interview with Binyamin.

Several of the company members come from circus families, and are second- or even third-generation circus performers. Vitalii Buza competed as an elite gymnast with the Russian national team and at age 16, joined the Moscow State Circus. He had a role in the Walt Disney movie Enchanted. The youngest company member, Nate Nordine has performed with Cirque du Monde and Jamie Lee Curtis’s “Dream Halloween.”

Acrobat and aerialist Christine Van Loo has performed at two Grammy Awards, the Miss Universe pageant, the American Music Awards, Paul McCartney’s European tour, and also choreographed the aerials for Britney Spears World Tour and the Stars on Ice U.S. tour. Aerial performer Aloysia Gavre is best known as a veteran of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam and O.

And while you will see similarities to that other famous cirque troop, this time the performers will be sharing the stage with your Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, performing in front of and above the musicians while they play selections from works by Bernstein, Brahms, John Williams, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, and more.

Here is a video preview of Cirque de la Symphonie, recorded at the Sydney Opera House.

Cirque de la Symphonie at the Sydney Opera House from Dave Rosenberg on Vimeo.