January 7, 2016

"Musical Icon" Doc Severinsen blows into town this month

Long before he was a much in-demand conductor, composer, and arranger, Jeff Tyzik was just a kid who, like the rest of America, enjoyed watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As a budding trumpeter, Tyzik was enthralled by the house band and its charismatic leader/trumpet player Doc Severinsen. Little did he know his musical hero would eventually become a close friend.

Doc Severinsen and Jeff Tyzik blow the high notes
at Tyzik's 20th anniversary celebration in April 2014.
“I never imagined that someday we would make a recording together that would win a Grammy,” said Tyzik, who produced The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen Vol 1. in 1986.

Tyzik has honored his friendship with Severinsen throughout the years by featuring the musical legend on several RPO pops programs. Most recently, Severinsen performed at Tyzik’s 20th anniversary celebration with the orchestra in 2014. Severinsen returns to guest conduct and play trumpet at the RPO on January 22 and 23, with a program that features Gershwin and Mancini alongside Puccini and even Bach.

“Doc’s wit, talent, charm, charisma and flashy wardrobe are still as much his hallmarks as they always have been,” said RPO Principal Trumpet Douglas Prosser. “He’s got an ageless devotion to great music, especially big band standard rep, and is also one of the most devoted trumpet players around.”

Since completing his 30-year run on The Tonight Show, Severinsen has continued to be an active musician and conductor/bandleader. He also served as principal pops conductor with the symphonies of Phoenix, Milwaukee, Colorado, and Pacific, as well as the Minnesota Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic. In 2014 he released an album of Latin music with his group “The San Miguel Five.”

“Some of my earliest symphonic pops arrangements were written for Doc,” said Tyzik. “He’s a true American musical icon.”

If you go:
Doc Severinsen
Fri. Jan. 22 at 8 PM
Sat. Jan. 23 at 8PM

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22

January 6, 2016

Meet the Artist: Julie Albers, cello

Colorado’s Julie Albers started violin at age two before switching to cello at four. After winning grand prize at a competition for young musicians in France, she made her orchestral debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1998 and has since performed in recital and with orchestras around the world. This season, she joined the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota as principal cellist. Next week, Albers joins violinist Karen Gomyo to perform Brahms’ double concerto at the RPO under the baton of Parisian conductor Fabien Gabel.
Julie Albers
c Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

What has been your proudest moment in your career?
My proudest moment was my debut with Cleveland Orchestra because not only was it my first opportunity to play with such an incredible group, but it was also the last performance that my Dad saw of mine before he passed away. (sidenote: Albers' father was a piano teacher and choral director who influenced her decision to become a musician.)

This is your second time performing with the RPO. Your last performance was in 2009 and you performed Barber’s Cello Concerto. Do you have any memories of your last time performing with the RPO?
Strongest memory from my last performance was how scared of the Barber concerto I was! It was one of my first times playing it. I also remember it being a wonderfully collaborative experience with the RPO.

How are you preparing to play Brahms' Concerto, which involves another artist? Is it hard to prepare for a piece that features another artist when you aren’t together to rehearse?
It's always fun to prepare Brahms' double because every performance opportunity is so different depending on who you are playing it with. I grew up playing the Brahms with my older sister, so I have many wonderful memories of all of our performances together as I prepare for these concerts.

What do you like about Brahms' Concerto?
I love the sonority of Brahms! So deep and rich!

If you could only play one piece for the rest of your life, it would be
I've gone through about 10 pieces as the only piece I would play for the rest of my life and I can't decide! Maybe Bach Goldberg Variations? Perhaps one of the late Beethoven quartets? Or maybe Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 because it has my favorite chord of all time!

What would be your advice to young musicians?
My advice would be to follow your dreams and create a path for yourself even if it seems nontraditional! Work hard and learn from every situation you find yourself in.

If you go:
Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique," plus Karen Gomyo and Julie Albers play Brahms
Thu. Jan. 14 at 7:30PM
Sat. Jan. 16 at 8PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22; student tickets $10 with a valid full time student id

See Julie Albers perform two songs in a van in this fun video by VDub Sessions, which documents musicians on the move in Oklahoma.

Meet the Artist: Karen Gomyo, violin

Labeled an orchestral “It Girl” by The Globe and Mail, violinist Karen Gomyo has established herself as a much in-demand soloist both in the U.S. and internationally since starting her professional career at age 15. While she was born in Japan, Gomyo grew up in Canada from age two until she moved to New York at 11 to study at the Julliard School.

In 2008, she was a recipient of a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, given annually to five young musicians deemed to have the potential for solo careers (alums include violinist Joshua Bell and recent RPO guest artist Simone Porter).

On January 14 and 16, she returns to the RPO for the second time, joining cellist Julie Albers to perform Brahms’ double concerto. We caught up with Gomyo to learn more about her training as an artist, what she likes about the RPO, and her advice to young musicians!

Karen Gomyo
c Gabrielle Revere
How old were you when you started the violin, and what made you want to pursue it as a career?
I was five years old. I had seen a concert of violinist Midori, who was 14 at the time. I told my mother I wanted to be like that "big girl." It was perfect because my mother, who is not a musician, had been contemplating getting a piano for me, but was worried it would be too big and expensive. She was right about the violin being smaller, but little did she know about what happens to the price tag when you graduate to a full size violin!

This is your second time performing with the RPO. Your last performance was in 2011 and you performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2. Do you have any memories of your last time performing with the RPO?
My 2011 performance of the Prokofiev No.2 with the RPO was my first time ever playing that piece. It's always impossible to tell how the first-time performance of a brand new piece will feel onstage, no matter how much you prepare it at home. So, I remember being particularly grateful how friendly and supportive the RPO was in making this first-time endeavor enjoyable and memorable for me.

How are you preparing to play the Brahms Concerto at the RPO, which involves cellist Julie Albers?
Julie and I will meet the evening before our first rehearsal with orchestra. We have never played together before, so it's important that we meet alone and go through the piece. From my experience, this piece has always been great fun to play. It's a big chamber music work, but the two soloists are also individuals. It's like watching two independent personalities with distinctly different traits learning to come together. I find it reflects the story behind the creation of this work.

What do you like about the Brahms Concerto?
Brahms had a fall-out with his esteemed colleague and violinist Joseph Joachim, for whom he wrote his violin concerto. Joachim had sided with Brahms' wife during the latter's divorce, thus ending their friendship. The Double Concerto was a sort of peace offering from Brahms towards Joachim. The first movement starts with a dramatic recitativo-like cadenza by the cello, later joined by the violin, and together they create one "giant instrument," as Brahms called it. It goes from the lowest register in the cello to the highest on the violin. Much of the second movement's melodies are played together, not only by the solo violin and cello, but joined also by the orchestra, as if ultimate harmony among everyone is reached. The final movement is incredibly fun to play; it has a gypsy flair, perhaps in honor of Joachim's Hungarian background.

If you could only play one piece for the rest of your life, it would be:
Probably Bach solo sonatas and partitas. There are endless challenges, possibilities, and meaning in those works.

What would be your advice to young musicians?
Always remember the real purpose of music. It's so easy to lose our heads in the everyday challenges and work that is required to play our instruments well. But the greater purpose of all this hard work is to be able to make music that will ultimately touch the human soul.

If you go:
Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique," plus Karen Gomyo and Julie Albers play Brahms
Thu. Jan. 14 at 7:30PM
Sat. Jan. 16 at 8PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22; student tickets $10 with a valid full time student id

See Karen Gomyo rehearse the Brahms double concerto in this video from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

January 5, 2016

Nominate a music educator for RPO musicians' awards

RPO horn player Maura McCune Corvington owes her success as a musician to the support of great teachers, people she still remains in close contact with today. As a result, Corvington was delighted to have the opportunity to join a committee that seeks to recognize local music educators for their tireless dedication to their students. On Thursday, April 14, the RPO musicians will honor outstanding music educators onstage prior to the Philharmonics concert featuring acclaimed concert
Leary Elementary School Music Educator Linda Rosebrough
shakes hands with RPO trumpet Herb Smith onstage
during the 2015 Music Educators Awards presentation last April
credit: Erich Camping
pianist Yuja Wang.

“I benefited endlessly from stellar classroom and private music instruction,” said Corvington, who grew up outside of Chicago and joined the RPO at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. “I would not have pursued and succeeded in music without these experiences. Music educators deserve to be commended as often as possible for deeply enriching others’ lives!”

Since 1988, the RPO Musicians' Awards for Music Educators has served to strengthen the relationship between local music educators and the musicians of the RPO. Anyone is welcome to nominate a music educator (vocal, instrumental, or music specialist) through a simple application process on the RPO’s website.

Five educators were honored at an RPO concert last spring, including Linda Rosebrough of Leary Elementary School (Rush-Henrietta School District). In her nomination for Rosebrough, Leary Elementary Principal Jennifer Tomalty cited the teacher’s work to inspire and mentor new music teachers in the district, as well as the outstanding participation rate of Leary students in orchestra and band (over 90 percent!), as well as chorus.

“It’s wonderful that such a well-regarded organization would want to recognize music teachers such as Linda,” said Tomalty. “It is only through these educators that children will grow up to have an appreciation of music, the arts, and a conviction that they have the talent, drive, and skill to make a living in the arts.”

Following the nomination deadline of Friday, January 29, the awards committee (which includes RPO musicians and local educators) will choose finalists and then send a representative to make school visits.

“We want to see how they engage students in the classroom, and how they are creating an atmosphere of excitement toward music,” said Anna Steltenpohl, chair of the committee and RPO oboe and English horn player. “We want to see how they are bringing music alive.”

“It was such an honor to receive this award in 2015,” said Linda Rosebrough, who has been teaching for 23 years. “I want to thank the RPO for continuing with this program and taking special note of the many fine music educators that we have in the Rochester area.”

2016 award winners will be notified prior to the concert on April 14, and will enjoy a free ticket to the concert as well as onstage recognition and an invitation to a private party later that evening.

For more information and to submit a nomination, visit rpo.org/education
Deadline: Friday, January 29

January 1, 2016

From the Stage: RPO Principal Flute Rebecca Gilbert

RPO Principal Flute Rebecca Gilbert tells us why she feels connected to Copland's Appalachian Spring, the featured piece on the next Sunday Matinee at Hochstein Performance Hall on January 10 at 2 PM. Listeners will recognize the last movement of the piece featuring a beautiful variation on the classic Shaker melody Simple Gifts ('Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free...).

Conducted by Michael Butterman, the program also includes works by Wagner, Strauss, and Mahler. Tickets are $25.
Rebecca Gilbert, flute
The Charlotte Whitney Allen Chair
Rebecca Gilbert
credit: Roger Mastroianni

In his 1990 New York Times obituary, Aaron Copland was dubbed “Dean of American Music” because of his distinctive harmonic language and vivid settings of quintessentially American subjects. In his ballet Appalachian Spring, written for choreographer Martha Graham, the storyline of the transformation of a pioneer woman and the passing of traditions, strength, and resilience is described in eight beautiful scenes. The feminine voice of the flute is featured in a very prominent role throughout the work and the flute solos are some of the loveliest and most satisfying to play in the entire repertoire.

This is one of the first pieces I shared with my children after they were born because of the beautifully soothing and nostalgic feeling that permeates the music. The joyful, ennobling innocence in this music continues to give me great comfort on the great journey of motherhood. It makes me feel connected to the countless generations of women who have forged their own paths and, each in their own way, contributed invaluable wisdom and insight to our collective evolutionary well-being.

If you go:
Appalachian Spring

Sunday, January 10 at 2 PM
Hochstein Performance Hall
Tickets are $25
Visit rpo.org for more details