November 5, 2015

Nutcracker by the Numbers

Do you consider yourself a Nutcracker "nut?" Even if you think you know everything about the RPO and Rochester City Ballet's annual production of this magical holiday favorite, we bet we can still surprise and delight you with these fun facts! The Nutcracker returns to historic Eastman Theatre November 25, 27, 28 and 29. Kids' tickets start at $12.

Nutcracker by the Numbers

The RPO, Rochester City Ballet, and the Bach Children’s Chorus have collaborated every year together since 1999 to create Rochester’s longest running production of The Nutcracker.

credit Erich Camping
About 9,000 people attend The Nutcracker in historic Eastman Theatre every holiday season!
credit Erich Camping

The orchestra pit is located 10 feet below the stage, where 58 RPO musicians will perform.

175 local kids play pages, holly sprites, angels, party children and more. In fact, many RCB dancers got their start in the annual RPO/RCB Nutcracker!
credit Erich Camping
50 pounds of shredded polyethylene snow is dropped onstage each performance for the “land of snow” scene.

credit Erich Camping

The Bach Children’s Chorus includes up to 50 young voices every year. The chorus includes kids age 8 to 15!

39 handmade tutus adorn RCB dancers, and the cast wears 258 total costumes!

51 pairs of ballet slippers are hand painted to match certain costumes, most of which are the green ballet slippers worn by the Holly Sprites in Act II.

credit Erich Camping

29 painted drops making up the scenery for The Nutcracker.

460 stage lighting fixtures make up The Nutcracker, which require a total of 250 lighting cues!

credit Erich Camping
Special thank to the Rochester City Ballet's production and wardrobe team and the Bach Children's Chorus for sharing some of these numbers with us!

November 4, 2015

RPYO's first concert of the season with new Music Director James Mick

For many budding young musicians, there is a moment when a piece of music becomes a catalyst for something greater.
RPYO Music Director James Mick, Ph.D.

For James Mick, Ph.D., that piece of music was Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. Though he played violin and piano as a child, the Kansas native was ready to quit music altogether in middle school when his teacher encouraged him to join the school orchestra on double bass. Not only did he fall in love with the instrument, but it was a performance of Tchaik. 4 in the Wichita Youth Symphony that solidified Mick’s desire for a career in music. And that’s why Mick, recently appointed music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, chose this piece as the cornerstone for the first RPYO concert under his leadership on Sunday, November 22 at Hochstein Performance Hall.

“There are just certain pieces that I believe student musicians should be able to play by the time they graduate high school,” said Mick. “Because of the monumental aspect Tchaikovsky 4 had in my life, I knew that was the piece I wanted to start the year off.”

Mick is no stranger to teaching and inspiring young musicians. Last spring, he served as guest conductor of the RPYO’s season finale concert. He is on faculty at Ithaca College School of Music and holds degrees in music education from Texas Christian University, Ithaca College, and Florida State University. He also continues to play double bass, periodically performing with ensembles such as Symphoria (Syracuse), Binghamton Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of the Southern Fingerlakes.

“As a music educator, my biggest goal is to keep students involved in music for the rest of their lives—whether they go on to professional careers as musicians, play in community groups, or become season ticket holders to their local symphony,” said Mick. “I look forward to programming a broad range of repertoire, from baroque to 20th century composers, to continue to reach as many students as possible.”

“James Mick is everything we were looking for in a music director,” said David Lane, board chair of the RPYO and the RPO’s Education Committee. RPYO Manager Susan Basu echoed his sentiments. “Under his inspirational leadership, the RPYO will continue to provide young musicians with excellent, educationally rich, and personally rewarding musical experiences.” Mick follows former music director David Harman, who retired in 2014 after 21 years of service. Harman continues to serve as a mentor to Mick.

This year’s RPYO is comprised of nearly 100 middle and high school students from surrounding schools; students are admitted to the orchestra through an audition process each fall. Founded in 1970, many RPYO alumni—including current RPO Music Director Ward Stare—have gone on to successful careers as performers and music educators. RPYO musicians also benefit from proximity to the RPO; many of the students take privates lessons with musicians and the RPYO performs in an annual “side-by-side” concert with the RPO in Kodak Hall. Additionally, every RPYO concert features young musicians as soloists.

“The caliber of this orchestra is just incredible,” said Mick. “They are fantastic musicians but also excellent kids. I never dreamed that I would get to work with a group like this so early in my career.”

If you go:
RPYO presents “Musical Genius: Mozart to Tchaikovsky”
Sun, November 22 at 7:30 PM
Performance Hall at Hochstein
$: $10, available at or by calling 585-454-2100. Tickets also available at the door.
The RPYO's 2015-16 season

November 3, 2015

Meet the Artist: Simone Porter, violin

At just 19 years old, violinist Simone Porter has already made a name for herself. Since making her professional debut in her native city with the Seattle Symphony at age 10, Porter has given performances in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world. She also is a recent winner of the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant for promising young musicians (alums include violinist Joshua Bell).
Simone Porter
credit Jeff Fasono Photography

Next up, Porter will perform Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the RPO and conductor Ward Stare on Thursday, November 19, and Saturday, November 21 at Kodak Hall. In an interview with The Seattle Times, her teacher Robert Lipsett (LA’s Colburn Conservatory) said “one of her gifts is nerves of steel. It’s not pressure the way most people would feel it. It’s food that nurtures her soul.” Lipsett also said that her 2014 performance of the same Barber Concerto for 10,000 at the Hollywood Bowl moved the audience to tears.

We caught up with Porter to learn more about her career and advice to young musicians.

How did you get introduced to the violin?
I started when I was 3 years old. I was introduced because I fell in love with opera. My parents had this one CD of Puccini arias that I just became obsessed with, so they started taking me to orchestra concerts and ballets. [From these concerts] I became infatuated with the violin and pestered them until they let me start!

Tell us about the Barber Concerto you will perform at the RPO
I adore Barber; it’s one of my favorites to perform because it's gorgeous and unique. The first and second movements are quite lyrical. The first movement is very contemplative; it crescendos into this incredibly dramatic and sensuous climax. The second movement is my favorite; it’s the soul of the concerto. It starts with this oboe solo. Barber finds this breadth and depth in the most private place of one’s self. The third movement hits the ground running and never stops. It’s perpetual motion and ends the concerto with quite the bang!

What do you like about performing with an orchestra?
The collective energy, onstage and in the hall, is at its maximum when performing with an orchestra. The conversation and the collaboration onstage is just so massive, being onstage and experiencing all that, you really feel like you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself. You feel like you are more than the sum of your parts. It’s overwhelming and incredible.

What has been your proudest moment thus far?
Last March when I became the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and then the next day I signed my first major management deal with Opus 3 Artists. There are so many past recipients of this grant that I have looked up to, so to be included in that list is humbling and inspiring because I want to get to that level. It just spurs me onward.

You were 11 years old the first time you appeared on NPR’s From the Top Live with host Christopher O’Riley (coming to the RPO January 17!) How did that experience set you up for this life?
I think From the Top changes the life of anyone who goes on it. Not only does it introduce you to other likeminded young people, but it emphasizes the importance of music outside the concert hall. They do a lot of programs to take music to schools and in untraditional venues. I think I have an obligation as a classical musician in the 21st century to introduce this incredible art form to people who aren’t familiar with it or don’t have the privilege of benefitting from it in terms of its incredible transformative power. I love talking about classical music with young people, especially elementary level. They are a great audience!

What are your favorite bands/composers?
Classical- favorite composer of all time is Beethoven. Also, one of my favorite violinists to listen to is Lisa Batiashvili. Outside the classic sphere, I have very eclectic tastes. I listen to everything from Snarky Puppy to Queen to Ella Fitzgerald and everything in between!

What’s your advice to young musicians?
Love the process more than the goal.

If you go:
Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, plus Simone Porter plays Barber
Thu. Nov 19 at 7:30PM
Sat. Nov. 21 at 8PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22; student tickets $10 with a valid full time student id

See samples of Porter's three performances on NPR's From the Top