The Marin Symphony is thrilled to introduce you to the two newest members of our musical community!
At our Mahler concerts in April, we paid tribute to retiring long-time principal cellist Jan Volkert. We all look forward to continuing to see Jan in our audience and in the community. In the meantime, here’s the next part of the story:
She had barely landed on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport when she auditioned for the open principal cello position with the Marin Symphony. The soft-spoken Madeleine Tucker had just moved from New York to join the Risk team at Stripe, the online payment juggernaut whose headquarters are located in San Francisco. Born and raised outside of Boston, MA, Maddie graduated from Phillips Academy Andover. She went on to earn degrees in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University in New York and a Master of Music in Cello Performance from The Juilliard School under the guidance of Natasha Brofsky.In 2011, Maddie founded the Columbia University-based premiere cello ensemble, String Theory, which arranged and performed a variety of musical genres, including classical, pop, jazz, electronic, and more. Performing all over the country, String Theory was the official musical group for Google’s 2013 Zeitgeist Conference in Paradise Valley, AZ. After graduation, Maddie worked by day in the tech industry in New York, while at night she was an active freelancer and a member of the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra. As an orchestral and chamber musician, Maddie has performed in Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and Boston’s Symphony Hall as well as several music festivals including Yellow Barn and Tanglewood. Small in stature, Maddie packs an unlikely punch as a cello player that has won her many prizes for both solo and chamber music performances including a bronze medal at the 2011 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. And finally, Maddie just ran her first San Francisco Marathon in July proving herself to be an enthusiastic and engaged member of her new West Coast community. Join us in welcoming Maddie to San Francisco and to the Marin Symphony as principal cello. Maddie plays a 1991 Grubaugh & Seifert cello made right here in Petaluma, CA.
And, on the heels of Stephen McKersie’s retirement as Director of the Marin Symphony Chorus, we are thrilled to welcome Kevin Fox as the Chorus’s new Director.
Kevin Fox is a GRAMMY-winning choral director who started singing in choirs at the age of eight. He holds degrees in Music with Honors and Economics from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, where he received the Lipsky Prize for outstanding scholarship in choral studies. He has studied music at Oxford University, England, and Westminster Choir College.
Mr. Fox was the Founding Artistic Director of the Pacific Boychoir Academy of California. Starting with six boys, Pacific Boychoir Academy grew to serve more than 175 boys in the San Francisco Bay Area. Taking beginning singers, Mr. Fox turned Pacific Boychoir into America’s leading boys choir, and one of the leading boys choirs of the world. Under his direction, Pacific Boychoir opened a day school for boys in grades 4-8, the only choir school for boys in the Western USA. He created a music theory program that uses innovative techniques to teach sightreading and harmony at a college level to middle school students.
Mr. Fox has prepared choirs for most of the world’s leading orchestral conductors, including Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustavo Dudamel, and Kurt Masur. He has collaborated with numerous choirs and artists including San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Kronos Quartet, Tölzer Knabenchor, Dmitri Hvorostovky, Harvard Men’s Glee Club, and cellist Zöe Keating. Mr. Fox has been on over 40 choir tours to almost all 50 states, and to six continents. He has prepared choirs for a variety of clients that include the United Nations, Yahoo! Corporation, comedian Zach Galifianakis, and America’s Got Talent.
Mr. Fox has served as the Chorus Director for the Ojai Festival, and was selected as Classical Movements’ inaugural India Choral Fellow, leading workshops, teacher training, and special clinics for classical music institutions in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai in early 2017. He has been awarded “Heritage Keeper” status from the Friends of Negro Spirituals, has served as a judge for the USA’s Harmony Sweepstakes a cappella vocal competition, and is a voting member of The Recording Academy. In the Spring of 2017, Mr. Fox was the interim conductor of the UC Davis University Chorus.
Mr. Fox conducted the Pacific Boychoir in thousands of concerts around the world in repertoire that ranges from classical to pop music. With the San Francisco Symphony, Pacific Boychoir is on the GRAMMY-award winning recordings of Mahler’s Third Symphony (Best Classical Album, 2003), and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance, 2009). Mr. Fox directed the Pacific Boychoir on eight recordings that range from American spirituals to Rachmaninoff to covers of pop songs.
As a professional countertenor, Fox has sung with the choirs of Trinity Church in New Haven, Trinity Church in Princeton, American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, and Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys in San Francisco, where he also worked as Assistant Choirmaster.
San Rafael, CA, February 14, 2017 – The Marin Symphony returns to the Civic Center for its Masterworks 3 Program, Songs of Destiny, in early March. The performance features the Symphony and Marin Symphony Chorus, performing masterpieces by Brahms and Elgar. Per Marin Symphony Executive Director, Tod Brody, “You will not want to miss the unmatched power, joy, and beauty of 200 instrumentalists and singers live on stage – there’s nothing like it!”
The program begins with two choral works from Brahms entitled Nänie and Schicksalslied. Brahms composed the first piece in 1881, in memory of his deceased friend Anselm Feuerbach. Nänie is a lamentation on the inevitability of death. With the Schicksalslied, Brahms created a very personal interpretation on the theme of fate in a timeless piece of music that will not fail to impress.
The concert concludes with a performance of Edward Elgar’s magisterial First Symphony. Best known for his Pomp and Circumstance marches and Enigma Variations, Edward Elgar was a not only a composer of enormous passion and imagination, but also a true master of composing for a large symphony orchestra. One of Maestro Alasdair Neale’s personal favorites, Elgar’s First Symphony is a generous and noble work, with a breathtakingly beautiful slow movement.
As Music Director, Alasdair Neale shared, “I’ve paired Brahms’ music alongside another great romantic composer, and one of my personal favorites, Edward Elgar. Many of you may know that I grew up in the United Kingdom, so for me Elgar’s music has always been part of the furniture, so to speak. But I know that, with the exception of the Enigma Variations, the Cello Concerto, and of course “Pomp and Circumstance”, his music is not especially familiar to audiences across the pond. I hope, then, that you’ll enjoy getting to know his First Symphony, which I think is an unqualified masterpiece.”
The concerts are played at the Marin Center Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael.
Pre-concert talks begin at 2:30 pm (Sunday) and 6:30 pm (Tuesday) and are free for all ticket holders. All concert attendees are also invited to the post-concert gathering at Gaspare’s Pizzeria in San Rafael, minutes away from the concert hall, following Tuesday’s performance. Tickets for the concerts are $40-$80 (adults) and may be purchased at https://tickets.marincenter.org/ or by calling 415.473.6800.
A Mozart Extravaganza!
The Marin Symphony and the Lark Theater are thrilled to present a sensational night of music and theatre. On Tuesday evening, Feb 7, the Lark Theater will host Music Director Alasdair Neale and members of the Marin Symphony. Mozart scholar, Marin Symphony Board President (and violist) Steve Machtinger will give a brief and entertaining presentation illustrating some of the connections between Mozart’s music — performed live on stage by Marin Symphony musicians — and his philosophies of life.
The evening concludes with an exclusive screening of the live broadcast of English National Theater’s production of Amadeus.
Special rates for the February 7 performance apply for Marin Symphony subscribers and Lark Theatre members. Get your tickets today!
San Rafael, CA, January 10, 2017 – Marin Symphony and Youth Orchestras and conductor Alasdair Neale welcome international violin phenomenon Midori for two concerts capping off a week’s residency focusing on community and school programs in January. As the sole recipients of Midori’s prestigious Orchestra Residency Program award this year, Marin Symphony and Youth Orchestra will host the violinist in a variety of venues and programs designed to enhance music education in the schools and community. She will then perform Britten’s Violin Concerto with the Symphony on a program that also includes Bay Area composer Mason Bates’ Devil’s Radio and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra at 8 pm Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28, at the Marin Center Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. Pre-concert talks begin at 6:30 pm and are free for all ticket holders. All concert attendees are also invited to the post-concert gathering at Gaspare’s Pizzeria in San Rafael, minutes away from the concert hall. Tickets for the concerts are $15-$80 and may be purchased at tickets,marincenter.org or by calling 415-473-6800.
“We are thrilled and honored to welcome Midori to Marin,” says Music Director Alasdair Neale, “and are grateful to the generosity of her Foundation for making it possible for Marin Symphony and Youth Orchestras to be the only organizations this year to present a full week of residency programs and concerts with her. Those familiar with the extraordinary caliber of our musicians and our acclaimed education programs know that the Marin Symphony is an exceptionally accomplished orchestra with deep connections to the community. Midori’s Award underscores this stature and recognition and supports an important bridge between it and the Youth Orchestra and our community.”
About Midori’s Marin Residency
Designed by Midori as a means of supporting the American youth orchestra, the Orchestra Residencies Program is a collaborative project which provides meaningful musical experiences for the next generation of classical musicians. The program aspires to help establish the youth orchestra as a presence in the community, as well as to build upon relationships with the local professional symphony, visiting artists and administrative staff.
In Marin, Midori will participate in a wide range of activities tailored to optimize the involvement of the youth orchestra. Through masterclasses, performance workshops, and meals with Q&A sessions, a substantial portion of the residency is devoted to the youth orchestra and its members. During her tenure in Marin, Midori will be participating in the following activities:
Symphony Day – Friday, January 27, 2017: 4th grade classes are invited to the concert hall at the Civic Center to hear Midori perform with the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra. Concert will be 45 minutes and tickets are free to Marin County Schools. Interested schools should visit the Symphony Day page to learn more and sign up at www.marinsymphony.org
Midori School Visits: Midori will be available for 30 minute visits to Marin County schools Thurs-Fri, January 26-27, 2017.
Decision Makers meeting: Midori will address and confer with an assembled group of Marin County decision-makers, including county Supervisors, mayor, school superintendents, and others. The meeting will focus on the importance of music in school and community settings, and the need to support youth music programs.
Orch’apalooza! – Concert with Marin Symphony Youth Ensembles: In the grand finale of her residency, Midori will perform with all three of our youth orchestras on Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm.
For inquiries about school visits or Symphony Day, please contact Jenny Douglass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Midori is one of the most admired violinists of her generation. In addition to performing at the highest levels internationally, giving master classes and participating in prominent artistic residencies, she has made a sustained commitment to the violin repertoire of the future, commissioning new concerto and recital works over a period of many years.
Beyond her performing and recording career, Midori has been recognized as a dedicated and gifted educator and an innovative community engagement activist throughout the US, Europe, Asia and the developing world. Among many honors she has received in recent years, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and received the prestigious Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In recent seasons, Midori has added several new recordings to her extensive discography: Bach’s complete Solo Sonatas and Partitas, a recital of sonatas by Bloch, Janáček and Shostakovich with pianist Özgür Aydin, and Paul Hindemith’s violin concerto with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Christoph Eschenbach in a recording that won a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium. In February 2016, Sony Classical released The Art of Midori, a 10-CD set containing some of her most important recordings for the label. DoReMi, the violin concerto written for her by Peter Eötvös and performed with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under the baton of the composer, was released in May 2016.
In 1992 Midori founded Midori & Friends, a non-profit organization in New York City that brings music education programs to underserved schoolchildren. Two other organizations, Music Sharing, based in Japan, and Partners in Performance, based in the U.S., also bring music closer to the lives of people who may not otherwise have involvement with the arts. Midori’s commitment to community collaboration and outreach is further realized in her Orchestra Residencies Program, which involves week-long residencies with American youth orchestras.
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at an early age. In 1982, Zubin Mehta invited the11-year-old Midori to make her debut at the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career.
Today, in addition to her performing and outreach activities, Midori serves as Distinguished Professor of Violin and holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. She is also a Guest Professor at Japan’s Soai University and at Shanghai Conservatory and an Honorary Professor at the Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music.
Midori plays the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù ‘ex-Huberman’. She uses four bows – two by Dominique Peccatte, one by François Peccatte and one by Paul Siefried.
SAN RAFAEL, CA — The Marin Symphony is excited to announce its 64th season at Marin Center with conductor Alasdair Neale celebrating his 16th season as Music Director. The 2016-17 Season will be a memorable one as the orchestra welcomes internationally acclaimed violinist, Midori to Marin. The Marin Symphony and its Youth Orchestra have been selected as this season’s sole recipient of her Prestigious Orchestra Residency Program Award. In addition to working with the youth programs and providing outreach to Marin schools, Midori will be the featured guest artist for the Orchestra’s Masterworks 2 program. Overall, the season offers four Masterworks concerts and one holiday pops concert, each putting orchestral power on full display.
The season kicks off October 30th with “Masterworks 1: Bold Beginnings” featuring works by Adams, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. The program leads with John Adams’ joyful exuberant piece, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, brilliantly scored for a large orchestra. This kinetic gem evokes the excitement-cum-terror of a late-night thrill ride in a sports car. Guest artist Jon Nakamatsu, will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” on piano. The evening concludes with Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Today many regard it as his finest music, perhaps even comprehensive enough to be his Fourth Symphony.
Next up is the ever-popular “Holiday Pops Concert” on December 13th. In its 4th year, this concert is quickly becoming a holiday tradition in Marin. With beloved holiday pop classics, traditional carols and holiday film themes, the concert usually sells out. Performances by the Marin Symphony Chorus and Children’s Chorus are included and always make for a special evening.
“Masterworks 2: Midori Comes to Marin!” will take place on Friday, January 27 and Saturday, January 28, 2017. The program features Mason Bates’ Devils Radio with equal parts darkness and groove. Midori will then perform Britton’s Violin Concerto, a demanding work which features both technically brilliant and elegantly lyrical elements. Finally, Bela Bartók’sConcerto for Orchestra, one of his most popular works, will delve into the rich tradition of Eastern European folk music.
The Marin Symphony Chorus is featured in the first half of the program for “Masterworks 3: Songs of Destiny” on Sunday, March 5 and Tuesday, March 7, 2017. They will perform two gems of choral writing by Brahms: Nänie and Schicksalslied. Best known for his “Pomp and Circumstance” March, Edward Elgar was a composer of enormous passion and imagination. His Symphony No. 1, a generous and noble work, with a breathtakingly beautiful slow movement, closes out the program.
The 4th Masterworks series concludes the season on April 9 & 11, 2017 with Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 5– a heroic journey from tragedy to triumph that invariably brings audiences to their feet.
New subscription sales begin July 1, 2016 and can be ordered online or by calling the Marin Symphony office at 415-479-8100. Single tickets go on sale August 1st, 2016 and can be purchased at the Marin Center Box Office in person, online or by calling 415-473-6800.
Midori Orchestra Residencies Program
Designed by Midori as a means of supporting the American youth orchestra, the Orchestra Residencies Program is a collaborative project which provides meaningful musical experiences now for the next generation of classical musicians. The program aspires to help establish the youth orchestra as a presence in the community, as well as to build upon relationships with the local professional symphony, visiting artists and administrative staff.
Over a period of five to seven days, Midori will participate in a wide range of activities tailored to optimize the involvement of the youth orchestra. Through masterclasses, performance workshops, and meals with Q&A sessions, a substantial portion of the residency is devoted to the youth orchestra and its members. During her tenure in Marin, Midori will be participating in the following activities:
Symphony Day – Friday, January 27, 2017: 4th grade classes are invited to our concert hall at the Civic Center to hear Midori perform with the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra. Concert will be 45 minutes and tickets are free to Marin County Schools!
Midori School Visits: Midori will be available for 30 minute visits to Marin County schools Wed-Fri, January 25-27, 2017.
Concert with Marin Symphony Youth Ensembles: In the grand finale of her residency, Midori will perform with all three of our youth orchestras on Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm.
For inquiries about school visits or to reserve tickets for Symphony Day, please contact Jenny Douglass at email@example.com.
SAN RAFAEL, CA – After a three-month national search, the Marin Symphony Association today announced the appointment of Tod Brody as its Executive Director, effective August 1st. Brody succeeds Jeff vom Saal, who was recently appointed Executive Director of the Spokane Symphony after a four-year tenure in Marin.
Brody comes to the Marin Symphony with fifteen years of executive experience in the performing arts, having most recently served for the past three years as Executive Director of San Francisco-based Opera Parallèle. During his tenure with Opera Parallèle, he oversaw a period of significant artistic and financial growth. Brody is also a professional flutist and a lecturer in Music at UC Davis. He and his wife, Susan Walker, live in Petaluma with their ten-year old son Gabriel.
Brody said that he is honored and excited to be appointed Executive Director of the preeminent organization in the cultural landscape of Marin County. “I’ve been part of the Marin Symphony community in a multitude of ways, for many years, and to have the opportunity to participate in leading the organization onward and upward is a really natural next step for me. I’m looking forward to making strong connections with the Symphony’s supporters, to partnering with the board, the musicians, the staff, and to working alongside Alasdair Neale, whom I’ve long admired.”
Neale, the Marin Symphony’s Music Director since 2001, said that he is delighted to welcome Brody to the Marin Symphony. “Tod brings with him a wealth of experience in the field. His background as both a gifted administrator and a respected professional flutist provides the ideal basis for a successful creative team. I’m very much looking forward to partnering with him to shape the next exciting chapter in the history of the Marin Symphony.”
“I’m thrilled to welcome Tod as our Executive Director,” said Steve Machtinger, President of the Marin Symphony Association Board of Directors. “Tod shares our commitment to live orchestral music, youth education and community engagement. He brings immense talent, experience and passion to our organization and I’m confident that we will thrive under his leadership.”
Robert Ripps, President of the Board of Directors of Opera Parallèle, shared this comment: “On behalf of the board and staff, we congratulate Tod on this new position and are grateful for his achievements during the three years that he was with us at a pivotal time in our organization’s growth.”
Established in 1952, the Marin Symphony Association is one of the oldest and largest cultural organizations in Marin County. It includes approximately 85 musicians and calls the historic Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium its home. Since 1954, the organization has supported a variety of youth programs, which today include the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Crescendo and Overture Ensembles and a growing musical outreach program at local schools.
Each year, the Marin Symphony presents up to five pairs of classical concerts from October through May. Additional specialty concerts include events such as the Holiday Concerts by Candlelight, the Holiday Pops Concert and Prelude Recitals and, since 2013, the popular Waterfront Pops at the Marin Center Lagoon. This year the January Masterworks will feature world-renowned violinist Midori.
The Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service
Congratulations to the Marin Symphony’s Beth Vandervennet, one of five exemplary orchestra musicians selected to receive Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service! A League of American Orchestras program made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund, the awards celebrate orchestra musicians and the essential work they do in their communities. Beth and her fellow musicians are receiving their awards at the League’s National Conference in Baltimore, June 9-11, 2016.
Elizabeth Vandervennet received a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan where she studied applied cello with Jeff Solow, Nina DeVeritch, and Jerome Jelinek. Upon graduation she received high honors in Music Theory as well as a Minor in Arts Administration. Her Master of Music in Cello Performance from Carnegie Mellon University was obtained under the guidance of Anne MartindaleWilliams, the Principal Cellist of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Vandervennet currently lives in Oakland California as an active freelance musician, teacher, and advocate for arts education. She is a member of the Oakland Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony, Marin Symphony, and Principal Cellist in Vallejo Symphony. Vandervennet’s chamber music posts include: cellist of Squid Inc, string quartet, and Rosin Coven, theatrical Pagan Lounge ensemble. In additional to teaching throughout the community of Oakland, she holds the post of Education Coordinator for the Oakland Symphony’s MUSE (MUSic for Excellence.) program.
Photo Credit: Seano Whitecloud
Learning to play music can be challenging for anyone. But the rewards of studying music are much greater than just being able to play your instrument. Somehow, the study of music exercises parts of your brain in a way that no other learning experiences can provide.
The folks at the National Association for Music Education and Bachelor’s Degree have put together a great list of ALL the benefits of musical training. And now that we are scheduling auditions for our Marin Symphony Youth Orchestras, we thought it would be a great time to share it.
- Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.
- A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.
- Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
- Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.
- A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.
- Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
- Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.
- Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures. They also tend to have higher self-esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
- Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.
- Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
- Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
- Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.
- Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.
- Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
- Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.
- Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.
- Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
- Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.
- Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.
- Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
What else can you get out of musical training? Let us know! Email our Youth Orchestra at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn more about our Marin Symphony Youth Programs, click here.
Mason Bates. (Photo by Ryan Close)
If you don’t know who Mason Bates is, you may want to keep reading. That is if you want to keep up with the latest technical advancements in classical composition and cross-over genres. Mason will be joining the Marin Symphony at the season finale, Masterworks 4: Intersections on April 12th and 14th. As we close our Love it LIVE! Season with a sonic boom, our program author, Jon Kochavi, helps explain the unique position held by our final guest artist of the season, electronica composer, Mason Bates.
Mason Bates is among the dynamic younger generation of American classical composers who have embraced the liberation afforded by transgressing the boundaries between “classical” and “popular” genres of music making. He has made it his business to live in this stylistic intersection. Bates spent time straddling these two worlds during his early career, finding ways to bridge them in ways that seem perfectly natural to him. While working towards his Ph.D. at Berkeley, concentrating on symphonic composition, Bates would spend his nights mixing techno beats at Oakland clubs. He maintains a presence in the Bay area club scene, appearing at clubs and lounges as DJ Masonic.
Elements of electronica, so prominent in the dance scene, have found their way into many of Bates’ symphonic scores, and he has explored the options available to him in the digital age by collaborating with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO). Under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, the YTSO commissioned Bates’ Mothership as both an audition piece for putting the musicians together from around the globe and as an inspiration for soloists to submit improvisations. Four improvisers were chosen to premiere the piece in March, 2011, with Tilson Thomas and the YTSO in Sydney, a performance viewed online by an audience of 1.8 million. See the video here.
Bates likens the piece to a “techno-Scherzo”, where the “mothership”—represented by the orchestra—sets up a driving rhythmic theme, eventually sending out a signal to the soloist begin a cadenza over a more subdued texture. There are two such solo sections, the “trios”, with the first projecting a jazz swing feel and the second a more melodic, lyrical feel. Bates calls these improvisatory solos “docking episodes”. In marrying synthetically produced sounds with acoustic, Bates creates a unique sonic palette here, remarking that “technological innovations have often given birth to musical innovations, and it is with a nod to history that Mothership will lift off.”
The Masterworks 4: Intersections concert includes a side-by-side performance of Sibelius’ Finlandia with the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra (in celebration of its 60th anniversary) and Poulenc’s Gloria by the Marin Symphony Chorus. Finally, Mason Bates takes the stage with the Marin Symphony Orchestra to perform his propulsive Mothership with a special multi-media projection experience for the final piece of the season.
“Mason is a personal friend and I’m truly looking forward to our collaboration. In fact, the entire program adds up to a spectacular season finale.” says music director, Alasdair Neale.
The Marin Symphony’s season finale, Masterworks 4: Intersections, takes place on Sunday, April 12th and Tuesday, April 14th at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are currently still available. Call the Marin Center box office at 415-473-6800 or order online here.
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Music, Memories and More
By Cari Lynn Pace
60 years ago, in 1955, dozens of young musicians auditioned to become part of the first Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra, as it is called today. They nervously performed for visionaries Hugo Rinaldi, Director of Music for the San Rafael City Schools, and Barry Boland, a Marin Symphony violinist. Aspiring musicians played every type of instrument and came from all walks of life, in all sizes, shapes, and ages. They had different personalities but one common bond: to elevate their love of classical music. Their goals were many: some primarily wanted the chance to improve their skills, some sought to perform professionally, and others wanted a social outlet for their musical interests.
The first concert of the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra took place on June 5, 1955, and featured 58 students, performing works by Haydn, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Humperdinck. Hugo Rinaldi’s philosophy resonated with his young students: “Honesty in music, work and commitment to that work, excellence in performance… and believing that through the music we play we become better human beings and have a better direction in life.” Mr. Rinaldi built MSYO on that solid foundation, and eventually earned a Steinway and Sons Award for the most innovative music program in the State of California.
Over the years, three ensembles were formed to provide stepped-up training to the Youth Orchestra: Workshop for Strings (Intermediate and Advanced) and Workshop for Winds. At one point, these ensembles were eliminated for financial reasons. Today, these programs are back and continue to expand. Crescendo offers students their first full orchestra experience, while Overture provides excellent early training to young string players.
Ann Krinitsky, Youth Orchestra Director, ensures this foundation remains strong as she enthuses, “I love being directly involved in a musical endeavor in which the group effort yields more than an individual could achieve alone. To be at the center of all that focused energy is one of the greatest feelings I’ve experienced. The music takes on a life of its own, and everyone is caught up in the flow.”
Anne Lerner-Wright, Director of Crescendo, has a group of about fifty 4th to 11th graders including brass, wind instruments, and percussion. She points to the skill set for improvement emphasized in the program. “This is a team effort, where students learn to take criticism gracefully – an important life lesson for sure.” She adds, “Our goal is to help students find answers to problems. We encourage them to always rise to the challenge, and break apart difficult pieces, and build on what they have already learned. Watching them grow is so incredibly rewarding.”
Ann Krinitsky adds, “We push ourselves to excel technically, but the true meaning and message is expression – feelings, ideas, stories. It’s very gratifying to watch students make progress – during a concert set as well as over the course of their years participating in the various Youth Programs ensembles. They often surprise themselves with their degree of improvement over time.”
Students learn self-reliance quite young as they take private lessons, practice on their own, and meet for weekly rehearsals. There are two performances each year, one on Mother’s Day and the other in December. Plus MSYO’s annual Sit-In Concert to introduce aspiring young musicians to the orchestra, and occasional special concerts such as this year’s Side-by-Side with the Marin Symphony. Both Crescendo and Overture, the smaller chamber orchestra of strings, can audition for the Youth Orchestra once they have achieved a certain level of proficiency. Once students reach 12th grade, they’re typically off to college or conservatory; many aspire to professional careers.
Do the students achieve their lofty goals? The proof is in the present.
Notable alumni include Joe Alessi, Principal Trombone of NY Philharmonic; Mark Isham, trumpet and award-winning composer; Wendy and Carol Tomlinson, cellist and violinist; Mariko and Dan Smiley, brother-sister team SF Symphony violinists; Charles Chandler, SF Symphony string bass; Scott Kluksdahl, cellist and faculty University of South Florida; Jennifer Steele, flutist, Pittsburgh Symphony; Gillian Benet, harpist, Cincinnati Symphony; Christopher Whiting, violinist and conductor; Tonhalle Orchestra (Switzerland); Rick Shinozaki, Del Sol String Quartet (SF) violinist; and Marin Symphony’s own Karen Shinozaki, Meg Eldridge, Erica Posner, Jan Volkert, and Renee Froman.
What of those musical youngsters whose goals are not as serious? Is it all work and no play?
Hardly – Andrei Gorchov, MSYO’s Manager and Assistant Conductor, reveals, “We played an outreach concert one time for very young children at Park Elementary school and we were doing the Toreador Scene from Carmen. One of my students had this great idea that I should dress up like a bull, steal the baton from the conductor, and finish off the piece on the podium. I can’t believe they actually got me to do that, but the next thing I knew I was up there conducting in a bull suit. They’ll never get me to do that again!” he laughs.
Ann Krinitsky chuckles, “While MSYO was on tour to Australia in 1983, I was chased by a kangaroo in a wildlife preserve. Back home, we used to have “Play-a-thons” at Northgate Mall to raise funds for the tour. One of the most popular pieces we played was the Star Wars theme, and Darth Vader showed up in full costume to conduct the orchestra. That was a big deal in the 1980s!”
Graduates of MSYO relate many fond memories of their bonding years together. Renee Froman remembers, “We were high school kids in the 70’s, just 22 of us, working with Mr. Rinaldi as the Orchestra Piccola, a small chamber orchestra. What a thrill we had when we were invited to perform in the Festival of Two Worlds at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. They even awarded us the Cultural Medal of Honor. I’ll never forget that trip.”
Many MSYO experiences become more than wonderful memories of friendships. Former MSYO student Wendy met fellow student Kevin Loder at MSYO rehearsals. The two must have made sweet music together as they remain happily married today. Loder laughs, “I remember a group of us Virtuoso girls being crammed into Hugo Rinaldi’s Ford Fiesta from San Domenico to Davidson for rehearsals, too. Fun times!”
What’s in the future? Lerner-Wright enthuses, “For two years now we have gone to Skywalker Sound to record a CD. The kids in Crescendo and Youth Orchestra raise money to have this annual “field trip”. These kids do a practice-a-thon with pledges to raise funds to experience this professional sound studio environment. It’s unbelievably exciting!”
Today, Overture, Crescendo, and the Marin Symphony Youth Symphony continue the 60-year legacy of a fun, powerful, and positive orchestral experience for over 130 young musicians. Students strive towards their full potential, enabling those who may be interested in a professional career in music to begin learning and preparing themselves. Regardless of ambition, all students cultivate a genuine and lifelong appreciation for what orchestral music offers participants and listeners. Gorchov notes, “We’re creating memories and experiences in our rehearsals and concerts that will be with these kids forever, just as they are with me and all the other alumni.”
Krinitsky sums up the program’s goals when she adds, “Future generations of young musicians in our community can feel both the historical connection with a centuries-old art form that has produced some of humanity’s greatest masterworks, and the vitality of music-making across contemporary genres and styles today.”
See the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra perform next to their counterparts at the Marin Symphony’s season finale, Masterworks 4: Intersections on April 12 & 14, 2015.
Get tickets here!
Jeremy Constant celebrates 20 years as concertmaster
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since first violinist, Jeremy Constant, joined the Marin Symphony as Concertmaster. He has built strong relationships with his fellow orchestra members over the years but his working relationship and bond with Music Director, Alasdair Neale, is particularly unique. We sat down with both of them for a Q&A to get their thoughts on Jeremy’s 20th anniversary as Concertmaster, their 25 year relationship and their parallel evolution into seasoned professionals.
Jeremy and I have been friends and colleagues for 25 years, 14 of them at the Marin Symphony in our capacities as Concertmaster and Music Director. The relationship between those two roles is crucial to an orchestra’s success, and in Jeremy I have the ideal partner: someone whose musicality, intelligence, wit and diplomacy I greatly admire and who can always be counted on to bring out the best in people. Our collaborations over the years have been some of the most richly rewarding experiences of my musical career. On the occasion of his 20th season with the Marin Symphony, I congratulate him warmly and look forward to many more years of music-making together.” – Alasdair Neale
Can you speak about the working relationship between Conductor and Concertmaster? How has yours grown, evolved and developed over the years? How does this relationship have an impact on the musicians, audience and concert experience?
JC: Our working relationship began before Marin Symphony in San Francisco over 25 years ago. It seemed like an extremely good fit even then. Alasdair was extremely easy to work with, had tremendous technique and a great spirit of generosity and yet knowing exactly what he wanted. After Gary Sheldon retired in Marin, Alasdair rose to the top of the conductor search very quickly.
AN: Around about that time as well, Jeremy also became Concertmaster of Sun Valley Summer Symphony. It’s a wonderful relationship that has just deepened over the years as we’ve grown as artists and I think set off one another in many ways, I think we bring the best out in each other and we’ve just had the right balance that needs to exist between the Conductor and the Concertmaster. We click very well together, always have and just like a good wine it has gotten better with age.
JC: I get a lot of questions from audience members about what a Concertmaster is. An enormous portion of what a Concertmaster does is dependent upon the personality of the Concertmaster and the Conductor. Much of how I do my job has been sculpted by Alasdair’s and my working relationship— in trying to determine where to make the best contribution without getting in the way and it’s always a balancing act.
AN: We have stylistic compatibility, Jeremy is a great talent but also a great diplomat.
This is the first time for Alasdair to conduct and Jeremy to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in its entirety.
JC: Because the Vivaldi is Baroque music, there is a huge gamut of available styles that you can use, you can have situations where a Conductor and Concertmaster can have different approaches and it can be very uncomfortable. The benefit of our long-standing work relationship became very clear and we were both on the same page with this piece.
AN: It’s a good barometer of our relationship, we found common areas of understanding very quickly and naturally because we understand how each other thinks and approaches music in general. We’re both flexible and sensitive enough that we didn’t come with our own fixed agenda. And when you have a high degree of mutual respect as Jeremy and I do for one another, then it’s not about scoring points or clinging to some idea of power, but it’s more a true collaboration and a conversation and an openness to the other person’s ideas and that’s that the nature of the collaboration and why I think it continues to work so well for both of us.
JC: It’s a jointly developed interpretation, but it’s one that is very spontaneous. We will do things in the performance that we haven’t done in the rehearsal, and our communications are so solid that it will work technically but it will work musically.
AN: For instance, body language is so key, and the fact that Jeremy and I have worked in close quarters for so long means that he understands that when I flick my index finger in a certain way or I turn my wrist, that means something and he knows in the context what the gesture will mean. Or vice versa if I see him moving his bow in a certain speed or the way he breathes before he puts his bow on the string, I can almost read that like a radar and know what’s coming.
You both perform and conduct in other areas, San Francisco Symphony, Sun Valley Symphony– what is special about Marin, why do you stay?
AN: There is a very special feeling within the orchestra itself and within the audience. We have such a devoted audience and an appreciative audience that really understands that everybody on the stage is giving of themselves in a very meaningful way when we perform. There’s a really special something that is projected from the proscenium arch and it comes back at us in the form of appreciation and that makes a huge difference. I just love the symbiosis between the musicians and audience and I love the fact that the orchestra and I have grown a lot in the last fourteen years, like any good relationship continues to deepen and become, I believe, stronger. I learn from the musicians and I think the musicians have learned from me as well, we’re all in it together and are just trying to bring these wonderful pieces of art to life and continue to make them relevant parts of people’s daily lives.
JC: For me it’s the people and the music. We have a group of folks affectionately known in the Bay Area as the “Freeway Philharmonic” who make many difference orchestras their home; many of them are very long-time friends. In talking to them about various orchestras, it became very clear, very quickly that Marin Symphony held a special place in everyone’s hearts and it was the volunteers, the audience, the board members; the vibe was palpably different in Marin than in all of the other orchestras. And so that intrigued me when I was asked if I would be interested in the position, which was one of the things that made me say yes. And then it became very clear that people were here to play great music and enjoy collaborating with each other. When Alasdair arrived as music director, it really kicked it up because really what makes things enjoyable is when you can leave a concert saying, “that was a good concert.” Playing really well in a concert is what we all live for. It’s just wonderful to be part of it.
JC: When I was very young, what got me interested in the violin was that I heard a record and it was the violin, the physical beauty of the sound, not the piece of music specifically that I wanted to play. Then I did my studies and played in competitions and eventually played in my first youth orchestra and it was this giant amplification of the emotion of the music that grabbed me. Later on I was good enough to play in the adult orchestra and all of the sudden it was “wait a second you can make a living doing this?” And that was it, that was all I wanted to do, make a living playing in as good of an orchestra as I could get into. And as I got better and more experienced, I began to be able to discern good from bad orchestras and it made it very clear that I need to work really hard to be able to play in a good orchestra and that was what really motivated me. Everybody likes to play with players who are better than they are, because it makes you sound better. So one of the things that always drove me was to “fool” people into thinking I was better than I was, so that I could play with people who were better than me. It’s a psychological trick that makes you practice your tail off and get better.
Jeremy— how has your practice and preparation changed over the years of your career?
JC: We learn to be more efficient. One of the aspects is that in working as much and as hard as we do, just the physical amount of training is limited, so you learn to really be very aware of maximizing every moment you are playing to benefit yourself, there can be no wasted time. The wear and tear on your body is such that you can’t be playing and not getting something out of it, otherwise you’ll start going backwards. We learn to weed out the extraneous. What many people notice, as performers get older, is that they seem to be less physical in their playing. And sometimes that can come across as aloof or unengaged. The more and more experience you get, the more you get to be really efficient and what winds up not looking very impressive, that means that everything is going into the sound production and conveying that musical idea, without any extraneous or superfluous actions for either the musician or the audience. You get very efficient as you get older with both practice and performance.
Alasdair—how has your role within the music changed or developed recently?
AN: Over the last three or four years, I’ve figured how to conduct. I’m not quite sure what it is that I’ve figured out, I can’t name one thing that is the key, but I feel like I’m on the other side of things now, that I’m able to realize more things in my mind and I’m able to figure out how to get them more efficiently. With experience comes the understanding of how to better use energy and I know how to channel it in a way that has the most direct, right into the blood stream results for the orchestra. At the same time, the more that I realize I know comes with the humbling thought that there is more I realize I don’t know, and accepting those limitations as I get older is something I’m learning to do reasonably gracefully. I know more now that I did ten years ago and I’m a better conductor than I was ten years ago. I’m constantly challenging myself to take things to the next level, to get myself out of a comfort zone, to look at music I know really well, in a fresh and different way to see what I can glean from the score the next time I look at Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as well as with music that I haven’t done before or that I’ve known my whole life but haven’t conducted before. I’m constantly mindful of how lucky I am to do what I do for a living.