From Lara Downes: Here at the Exiles’ Cafe

lara photo blog

[From Greg: I'm happy to introduce the first of our guest bloggers. Lara Downes seemed like a perfect choice, because she'd already emailed me about some classical CD covers she likes, and because the explosion of comments on her own CD image almost cried out for a response from her. I'm happy that she made one — in a very friendly, companionable way — and I'm delighted to think we might hear from her from time to time about all of her work. She's a fine example of an entrepreneurial classical musician.] Well, I've been enjoying the lively … [Read more...]

Final mavericks: Jade Simmons and a Go-Go symphony

jade blog

Well, final only for now. Because, as I said in my last post — where I finished the list of readers' nominations — I'll be continuing this in the new year. So the name to conjure with, maverick-wise — the maverick of the year, if I had to name one — would be Jade Simmons. One look at her website (follow the link) tells you she's different. "Cyber Digs of Multifaceted Pianist Jade Simmons," it says. "Take off your shoes & stay awhile!" I don't know anyone in classical music who's so much at home in our outside culture, who does the same … [Read more...]

A lot of mavericks

from readers blog

  Finishing — for now — with the many, many suggestions I've gotten from readers. If I missed anyone (maybe a Facebook comment, or something on Twitter, or whatever else might have escaped my dragnet, forgive me! This isn't over. We'll resume in the new year. And then keep doing this! Because what we've done here is something badly needed. We're compiling a list of classical music alternatives — of the many new things that people have done, to change the face of this art form, and give it a new birth. From Andrew Lyon:  I am … [Read more...]

“We personalize what music is”

ROCO blog

Another maverick, one I've known about for years: The 40-musician River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, in Houston, founded in 2005. This has to be one of the most stunning entrepreneurial triumphs in classical music, since its founder, Alecia Lawyer, created it from nothing, using social contacts at her church and in Houston generally to lay a foundation. And then finding the best musicians she could, from Houston and elsewhere. And then building a large, stable audience. And then making an impact on the city. She was (as I just learned from ROCO's … [Read more...]

Mavericks — continuing

from readers blog

More classical music mavericks, as submitted by readers: From Geoffrey Jones: The Artists in Residence program at Strathmore [a major concert hall, between Washington, DC and Baltimore], some of them are breaking molds and have huge talents. Three suggestions from Brett Amacher: I think this is a great example of how to "reach outside the classical music bubble": 'The Speedbumps at the Canton Symphony' did that very well, imo (details on the blog post below). Tonhalle Orchester Zurich's "tonhalleLATE"... … [Read more...]

Path-breaking piano curriculum

from readers blog

Add this to the mavericks list. I'll continue with nominations from readers very shortly, but thought I'd add one of my own. This is an email from Heather Dawn Taves, a pianist and composer who teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada (an hour outside Toronto). Heather describes the piano program at the school, which more than lives up to its billing — in her email — as "the most innovative of the high-end performance undergrad programs in Canada." Or, I'd think, anywhere.  I wouldn't even know where to start in showing why … [Read more...]

The power of history

applause blog

The hurricane is on my mind -- the devastation in NY and NJ, which (though this is a minor part of it) hits me, even while I'm safe in Washington. I go to NY weekly, and my normal transportation (for a three-pronged trip, between DC, NY, and my home in Warwick, NY) just isn't available. I'll cope, while my heart goes out to people whose problems are much worse. And meanwhile… One problem we have, when we try to imagine the future of classical music, is that we don't know enough about its past. Take something that ought to be simple -- the … [Read more...]

A trip, and the new media trap

new media blog

I'll be at the University of Missouri this week, on Thursday and Friday, for a festival called Music and New Media at the Crossroads. Among other things, i'll be speaking on a public panel Thursday at 3 PM, about new media and the future of classical music, along with Matt Haimovitz, Tod Machover, my old friend Tim Page, and members of eighth blackbird, who, along with Matt, would count as newer friends. I'm looking forward to seeing all these people, along with the moderator, Robert Shay, dean of the U of Missouri school of music. Whom I know … [Read more...]

Programming for a new audience — things that worked

mysterium blog

So why does Lincoln Center's White Light festival matter? I mentioned it in my last new audience post, and listed next season's programs: U.S. premiere of Rian, performed by Ireland’s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre  Virtuoso Wang Li plays jaw harps and calabash flute N.Y. premiere of choreographer Akram Khan’s Vertical Road Cameron Carpenter plays Bach on the Alice Tully Hall organ Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, arranged for chamber orchestra, conducted by Matthias Pintscher, and  performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, members of the New York … [Read more...]

Video of that magical Faun

faun 13 blog

A video of the Debussy performance I raved about is now online, right here.  This was Afternoon of a Faun, danced by student musicians from the University of Maryland, while they play the music from memory. What moved me especially, as I watched the video, was the music. I should apologize for what I wrote in my earlier post. The playing, on the video, comes across far more touchingly than I said it did, even though I praised it. And the moments of not-quite-together playing I thought I heard near the start -- where are they? Now I don't … [Read more...]


liz lerman blog

If I'd known what I was going to see, I might not have believed it. Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun, played by the Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland School of Music, with choreography. But not choreography for dancers. Choreography for the musicians, who danced the piece as they played it (from memory), rising from the floor, flowing across it, falling, sometimes spinning, rarely grouped by sections, moving in ways organized visually, and also musically, with movements that began with the students improvising them. If someone … [Read more...]

More signs of the times

reinvent blog

Following up on a previous post, in which I talked about two concert series that used to be straight-down-the-middle classical, and how they're now going in new directions… Here's another example: the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Next season, they're presenting five operas: La bohème, The Magic Flute, Kevins Puts's Silent Night (which just won the Pulitzer Prize), Thomas Ades's Powder Her Face, and one of the least-performed Benjamin Britten operas, Owen Wingrave (in a student production by the Curtis Institute, which the opera company … [Read more...]

Signs of the times

Charles Lloyd - image from the Met Museum website

While we debate orchestra finances -- or re-re-re-redebate them -- the classical music world is changing. Changing quite a lot, I'd say. For instance: a press release arrived this week, announcing this year's Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York. The first highlight cited is an exploration of birdsong, featuring three Messiaen concerts (Messiaen, of course, since he's the most prominent composer who loved and used bird songs). Plus preconcert birding tours in in Central Park, and a sound installation at the Park Avenue … [Read more...]

Two paths

change blog

Classical music is changing quite a bit. And in fact I've made a list of many innovations -- some not well known at all -- for my Juilliard course on the future of classical music. But here's a thought about the changes. They happen, I've been thinking, for two reasons. The obvious reason is that classical music is in crisis, and people worry about its future. And especially about whether, in the future, there will be any audience. So changes get made, in an attempt to make classical music more accessible, more interesting to people in our … [Read more...]

There will be summer in Colorado

From John P, in a comment he posted here: I’ve learned from a post on our “Save the Colorado Symphony Web Site” that summer concerts ARE scheduled. Why they weren’t announced, or even that the concerts would take place, weren’t announced, I don’t know. But according to a member of the orchestra, summer concerts ARE on the schedule. I think this refers to the "Save the Colorado Symphony" Facebook page, where someone from the orchestra posted a rather annoyed comment, saying that summer concerts in fact were going to be part of the 2012-13 … [Read more...]