April 26, 2016

Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra to host annual spring gala

This Friday, the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will host the fifth annual spring gala and silent auction. The gala is the RPYO’s sole fundraising event, and proceeds will support the operational expenses of the youth orchestra. The gala will be held at Irondequoit Country Club and will include performances by RPYO musicians and a special performance by RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and RPO Principal Oboe Erik Behr.

Despite its nearly 50-year history, you might be unfamiliar with the RPYO.
Here’s the quick and dirty:
James Mick rehearses with the RPYO
  • The RPYO was founded in 1970 to provide advance-level student musicians grades eight through twelve the opportunity to perform symphonic masterworks. Entrance to the RPYO is by audition only, and the main season consists of three formal concerts in the Rochester area each year.
  • RPYO members are mentored by RPO musicians, and perform a side-by-side concert with the RPO every year in Kodak Hall.
  • James Mick, assistant professor of music education at Ithaca College, is the RPYO’s current music director. He succeeds (and is mentored by) former music director David Harman, who retired in 2013-14 after 21 years of service.
  • RPO Music Director Ward Stare, who grew up in Pittsford, played trombone in the RPYO under the baton of David Harman. Other RPYO alumni currently perform with the RPO and New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco, Chicago, and Cleveland symphony orchestras, and many additional professional and community ensembles.
  • The RPYO has performed around the world, and has been invited to play Carnegie Hall in 2017!

“This event demonstrates all that is wonderful about the RPYO, including students performing, parent and RPO musicians’ involvement, and community outreach” said RPYO Music Director James Mick. “There are too many great things to mention and all are important to the health and vitality of the RPYO.”

As an RPYO mentor, RPO musician Erik Behr is looking forward to performing at the gala for the first time. Behr will perform Bach’s Double Concerto with his wife, RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde, and the RPYO.

“We are both passionate supporters of the RPYO as we both had amazing experiences playing in youth orchestras as young people,” said Behr. “The educational value and friendships that are created by playing in orchestras and band programs are beyond compare.”

According to RPYO Board Chair David Lane, the gala is expected to draw 180 people. There will also be a silent auction with more than 80 items, including lunch for four with Ward Stare, RPO and Jazz Festival tickets, and restaurant gift certificates. There will also be a raffle for a 48” SONY HDTV.

“It’s a fun evening of chamber music in a relaxed environment—business casual attired is welcome,” said Lane, owner of DAVE Digital Audio Visual Environments and an ardent supporter of education at the RPO. “If the Gala is very successful, it will also help fund our trip to Carnegie Hall next year!”

If you go
RPYO Spring Gala and Silent Auction
Friday, April 29, 6-9:30 PM
Irondequoit Country Club (4045 East Avenue, Rochester)
$$: $25 adult, $15 student
Please call 585-454-7311 X224 to
inquire about ticket availability

April 21, 2016

Interview with a Conducting Fellow

As an Eastman Conducting Fellow, Boon Hua Lien has had the unique opportunity to immerse himself in the professional world of orchestral conducting, a world where he sees his future.
Boon Hua Lien
credit: rr jones

A native of Singapore, Lien is a doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at the Eastman School of Music. Throughout the RPO’s 2015-16 season, Lien has attended RPO rehearsals and shadowed RPO staff and guest conductors, making sure he is prepared to step in as a backup conductor for a performance if needed. Lien also served as intern to the RPO's education department this season.

Now, Lien has won the rare opportunity to be the featured conductor on the RPO’s upcoming Around the Town: Dances Around the World concerts, three free concerts taking place in the city of Rochester April 26-28. These concerts are sponsored by Xerox and the City of Rochester and will also feature a special performance by ROCMusic, a music program for city youth. We caught up with Lien to learn more about his experiences with the RPO this year and planning the Around the Town concerts!

You have been with the RPO all year as an ESM Conducting Fellow. Tell us more about that role.
I’m currently finishing up my doctorate in orchestral conducting at ESM. As the Eastman Conducting Fellow for the RPO, my work mainly comprises of being a cover conductor for the orchestra, which essentially means to be an understudy for the main conductor. I have to be ready to step in on a moment’s notice just in case something unfortunate occurs. On top of that, I also provide feedback regarding any balance or ensemble issues out in the concert hall. This provides me with the valuable opportunity to observe how a professional conductor works with the orchestra, and also to fine-tune the final product before presenting it to our audiences.

I’m sure you have learned so much this year from RPO conductors, and now you have the opportunity to conduct the Around the Towns. How did you get that opportunity?

That opportunity came when I was asked to assist Doc Severinsen in a Pops concert earlier this year in January. Doc wanted to take a break between his exhaustive sets and asked for a staff conductor from RPO to conduct Puccini’s Un bel di with his touring soprano, Vanessa Thomas. Thus I made my official debut with the orchestra, and the reception from the orchestra was very enthusiastic, prompting an invitation to conduct the Around the Town concerts. In a way, that was my audition with the orchestra!

Do you get to choose the programming for these concerts? Also, what’s your favorite piece on the program and why?

With regards to programming, I consulted with Dick Decker, vice president of artistic administration at the RPO to pick out the theme and repertoire that would be suitable for these concerts. His many years of experience in programming was an immeasurable wealth of knowledge, and we are very glad to come up with a program that will be exciting and captivating for our audiences.

It is very difficult for me to choose a favorite piece on the program because I love them all and they are significant to me in various ways. The Dance of the Yao People is special to me because the youth orchestra I used to play in brought it on tour to Vienna, and it was from that tour that I met the girl who is now my wife!

I’d always admired Khachaturian’s music and his Masquerade Suite is filled with memorable melodies and irresistible fun and brilliance. I’m very excited about having ROCMusic join us to present a number from Bizet’s Carmen Suite as well as former RPO percussionist Bill Cahn’s arrangement of Gahu Songs. Their youthful exuberance will be a real treat for us all.

What’s the best advice you received from an RPO staff or guest conductor this year?

I was very lucky to assist the venerable 85-year-old German conductor Günther Herbig earlier in February. I learned so much from being in his rehearsals, and his concept of music and orchestral sound was utterly inspiring. He had a gentle and down-to-earth demeanor, but was very persistent and demanding in achieving the results he believed the composer wanted. That in itself is already a very impressive lesson! When I did finally ask him for advice for a young conductor like myself, he told me to never give up believing in oneself.

As an aspiring career conductor, what advice would you give to other students interested in this path?

As a young conductor I can only say I’m figuring this out as I go too. Some say one only becomes a real conductor when they get to 60, and I’m only at the halfway mark right now! That said, I’d recently read a quotation from the late Dean Lowry of Eastman School of Music that resonated with me, and I believe is excellent advice for my peers:

"Don’t be afraid; just have faith in who and what you are. Music can be a paranoid art form, so we tend to underestimate ourselves all the time...but the less that you can second-guess yourself, the more you can live up to your talent potential. Because the thing is, we actually know who and what we are, we just sometimes don’t want to come to terms with it. Forget about whether people like it or not, and just come to grips with what you want to say. Trust yourself."

If you go
FREE Around the Town Concert Series: Dances Around the World
Tuesday, April 26; David F. Gantt R-Center (700 North St.)
Wednesday, April 27; Franklin High School (950 Norton St.)
Thursday, April 28; Edgerton R-Center (41 Backus St.)
All concerts at 7:30 PM
$$: Free

Sponsored by Xerox and the City of Rochester

April 7, 2016

Musicians honor local teachers

All of the Rochester Philharmonic musicians can name a teacher who inspired them to pursue a career in the arts. Many still keep in touch with these special individuals. And, even though our musicians are living their dream onstage, a large majority teach at area colleges and in private studios to inspire a new generation of budding musicians.
The 2015 RPO Music Educators Awards/c Erich Camping

On Thursday April 14, the RPO musicians will once again honor local music educators for their dedication to their students and commitment to the arts.

Four music educators were chosen from a pool of nominations submitted by educators and administrators: William Baldwin (Twelve Corners Middle School, Brighton Central School District); Brian Bohrer (Rush-Henrietta High School, Rush-Henrietta Central School District); Kelly Follman (Francis Parker School #23, Rochester City School District); and Kathleen Sullivan (Pine Brooke Elementary School, Greece Central School District ). They will be presented with awards onstage at the RPO concert featuring pianist Yuja Wang. This is the 28th year of the Awards.

“I believe that music education is a central part to every child's development,” said Kathleen Sullivan, who has been teaching vocal and general music in Greece for 26 years. “Children who participate in music programs tend to have more success in other subjects, and participation in music can be a
Kathleen Sullivan
life-long endeavor. I am thankful that the RPO places value on quality music programs and continues to recognize excellence within our community.”

As chair of the Awards committee, RPO musician Anna Steltenpohl was impressed with Sullivan’s commitment to her students.

“Kathleen is the very definition of an outstanding music educator,” said Steltenpohl, who plays oboe and English horn with the Orchestra. “She continues to inspire her students and other teachers as well. She passionately believes in the power of music and the affect it can have on young people. We are honored to take part in recognizing a person who has done so much for the community.”

Anna Steltenpohl
Sullivan was nominated by several colleagues, including fellow Pine Brook music teacher Kim Fink, who won an RPO Music Educators’ Award in 2015.

"As an instrumental teacher, Kathy certainly makes my job easier," wrote Fink in her nomination. "The students have such a solid musical foundation, all I have to do is teach them to work the instrument and they are good to go! Kathy is a great collaborator, team player, and music promoter. The students are devoted to her and I consider myself lucky to work with her!"

Congratulations to all winners!

If you go
Music Educators’ Night at the RPO"
Thursday, April 14 at 7:30 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22

Winner William Baldwin (Twelve Corners Middle School) feature in The Brighton-Pittsford Post
Read about all the winners on rpo.org.

April 6, 2016

Young inner-city musicians get opportunity to perform with the RPO

2015 Around the Town "side-by-side" at Edgerton Rec Center
As an instrumental music instructor to inner-city youth, Alexander Peña strives to inspire his pupils to develop a love for symphonic music. What better way than to give them an opportunity to perform “side-by-side” with the Rochester Philharmonic in concert?

On April 26-28, more than 60 students ages 6-18 will perform with the RPO in city neighborhoods as part of the free semiannual Around the Town Concert Series, sponsored by Xerox and the City of Rochester. The students are part of ROCmusic Collaborative, a music education outreach program that offers group instruction for economically disadvantaged children and teenagers from Rochester. The RPO partners with ROCmusic annually to perform “side-by-side” at the Around the Town series.

“Witnessing our ROCmusic at-risk youth rise up to the challenge of preparing a concert with the RPO is incredible,” said Peña, who holds a master’s in viola performance from the Eastman School of Music. “Giving them this annual experience of not only watching and listening to a professional ensemble perform, but integrating directly into such a strong musical force will give them a memory that will last a lifetime."

While Peña sees the lasting impact this experience will have on the students, the kids had a different reaction.
RPO flutist/piccolo Joanna Bassett with ROCmusic students

"After announcing to the students that we were going to be collaborating with the RPO 'side-by-side', the room was immediately filled with gasps, smiles, jitters, and chatter,” said Peña. “One student called out, ‘Wait, you mean like we are going to play WITH the RPO... seriously?’”

The annual side-by-side performance doesn’t just benefit the young musicians. RPO Assistant Principal Cellist Kathleen Kemp also looks forward to the collaboration.

“It's such a joy to see and hear the joyful sounds and positive activities our city children are able to participate in,” she said. “We hear too much of the negative. Music is such a positive outlet for all the stress in their lives. It's a wonderful opportunity to share with them.”

The concerts will be conducted by Eastman School of Music Conducting Fellow Boon Hua Lien, who has been mentored by RPO conductors and guest conductors all throughout the 2015-16 season before earning this amazing opportunity. Lien is a doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at the Eastman School.

“My opportunity came when I was asked to assist Doc Severinsen in a RPO Pops concert in January,” said Lien. “The reception from the Orchestra was very enthusiastic, prompting an invitation to conduct the Around the Town concerts. In a way, that was my audition!”

Stay tuned to the RPO blog later this month for Lien's story about working with the RPO and how he is preparing for the Around the Town concerts!

If you go
FREE Around the Town Concerts
All concerts at 7:30 PM
Tuesday, April 26; David F. Gantt R-Center (700 North St., Rochester, 14605)
Wednesday, April 27; Franklin High School (950 Norton St., Rochester, 14621)
Thursday, April 28; Edgerton R-Center (41 Backus St., Rochester, 14608)

Concerts sponsored by the City of Rochester
Around the Town Concert Series sponsored by Xerox

April 4, 2016

Billboard's most-charted Jim Brickman realizes dream in Rochester

Jim Brickman
He's Billboard's most-charted Contemporary artist of all time, but you might not recognize Jim Brickman by name. However, pull up a clip of hits like "Valentine," "The Gift," and "If You Believe," and you'll instantly recognize his music. With a career spanning more than 20 years, the Cleveland native is known for romantic piano melodies, pop instrumentals, and vocal collaborations with artists like Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, and Kenny Loggins, to name a few. Brickman brings his talent and signature wit to his RPO debut at Eastman Theatre on Thursday, April 30, a performance he calls "a realized desire." Find out why in our exclusive Q and A!

This if your first time playing with the RPO, but you have performed in Rochester before, right?
Yes. I’ve played there about 15 times. I usually play the Auditorium Theatre at Christmas and have also performed solo shows and with special guests at Nazareth College and in the Finger Lakes. I’ve always wanted to play the Eastman Theatre. I actually applied to Eastman School of Music and didn’t get in! [side note: Brickman attended the very prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music] I plan on telling the audience "I got here finally, that’s what I wanted!” It's a realized desire.

What will we hear you perform with the RPO?
I always play the hits. I’m lucky to have them so I think they should be played in every concert. I will also debut some material I just wrote for the Olympic Games in Brazil. The rest ranges from Kermit the Frog to Deep Purple’s "Smoke on the Water" and even an electric violin concerto.

And you have an electric violinist who tours with you, right?
Yes. Tracy Silverman is a Juilliard-trained musician. He plays with symphonies all over the world. He provides a cinematic quality to the concert. He will perform a concerto for electric violin that I wrote called “Serenade.”

Tell me about vocalist Anne Cochran who will also perform with you.
I’ve known Anne since we went to high school together. She was my female vocalist in high school and still tours with me. The Rochester fans know Anne. If she wasn’t here, they might turn around and leave! We have been performing together for 35 years. She is a charming and wonderful performer.

You started playing piano at age five. Was that choice or your parents?
Starting piano was my choice. My parents are extremely unmusical. It’s just part of me. I grew up taking classical piano and pop improvisation. At the core I think of myself as a songwriter who plays the piano. I am fortunate to get to soar with the beauty of an orchestra of such high caliber like the RPO.

When did you start writing music?
I started writing at 12 years old. As a teenager, I got jobs writing commercial jingles. Jingles are a great job for a songwriter at that age because you aren’t evolved enough to write love songs. When you write about kitty litter, you don’t have to have an emotional connection to the cats!

When did you decide to make a career as a musician and songwriter?
I never thought of doing anything else besides music. I wasn’t interested in being onstage. I wasn’t that kid who was seeking the spotlight. I just loved music and it took shape in performing. I’m just me onstage, and it’s that authenticity that attracts people to me.

As a songwriter, who are your musical influences?
It’s a combination of pop songwriters: Carole King, some Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. I write in a very melodic and cinematic way, but its origin is in my classical training.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
About a year ago, someone I did not know proposed to me by sending a live dove via FedEx. I was pretty scared at the time. I didn’t know live doves could be mailed and it was still alive. My agent contacted them and said, “We appreciate you being there for Jim, but you can’t do that!”

Wow, I can see how that would be scary but it’s a funny story to tell! You also host a national radio show every week. Tell me about it. (Airs Sundays on Warm 101.3 8AM-11 AM)
It’s a lifestyles show that’s aired for over 20 years. We cover everything from health and wellness to money and finances and Hollywood news. It’s basically “The Today Show” on the radio. I have spent so much of my adult life being interviewed and this gives me a chance to be on the other side. I am a naturally curious person.

If you had to pick your favorite song you’ve ever written, what would it be?
It changes every now and then, lately it’s a song called "Simple Things". Every day is a brand new chance to be or do something that you want to do. That’s what a new day represents. It will definitely be on the RPO program.

If you go
Jim Brickman

Saturday, April 30 at 8 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22

A limited number of post-concert meet-and-greet tickets are available for $100 per person. Call the box office at 585-454-2100 to purchase. Quantities are limited!

Jim Brickman shares a special message with Rochester!