A Cuban Reading List

The Minnesota Orchestra’s tour to Cuba is fast approaching, and I couldn’t be more excited. A while back, I had quipped that given the fact that I used to teach Cuban history, I was ruthlessly suppressing an urge to assign everyone a reading list.

I’m surprised by the number of people who approached me and said, in effect, “bring it!”

So before it gets any later, I thought I share a few ideas for those who are going along on the tour, following along at home, or are just curious about our Caribbean neighbor.  I’m happy to do so—Cuba is a fascinating place filled with fascinating people, and there are so many fascinating stories to share. I’ve linked the titles to Amazon.com… not as an endorsement, but only as a reference.

Enjoy! Continue reading

Defending the Minnesota Orchestra’s Season Announcement

Greg Sandow has written an article critiquing the current crop of season announcements springing up all over the orchestral world. But although he purports to critique all orchestras generally, nearly all of his criticism is aimed specifically at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Echoing the opening sentence in this piece, I don’t mean to pick on Greg Sandow. Or on anyone. But this article rubs me the wrong way. The irony is that while Sandow sees the Minnesota Orchestra’s press announcement as emblematic of everything wrong in orchestral marketing, I find Sandow’s article emblematic of everything wrong with arts writing in general.

I don’t really speak for the Minnesota Orchestra, but I’d like to make a few observations. Continue reading

Yet Another Tiresome “Death of Classical Music” Article

Oh boy. I think my last flicker of patience has finally burned out.

This week, USA Today published an article by Matt Daneman that once again trumpeted the death of classical music (“As Interest Wanes, Classical Music Hits Sour Note.”) The core of the piece was an interview of Robert Freeman, who previously served as director of University of Rochester’s Eastman School and president of the New England Conservatory, before moving to his current position at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Fine Arts.

With respect to Freeman’s enormous contributions to music education, and his familiarity with the classical music world, I have to take issue with many of his points… along with Daneman’s overall framework of the article.   Continue reading

Young Musicians Coming Into Their Own: GTCYS, Beethoven and Vaughan Williams

As a singer in the Minnesota Chorale, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in rehearsals over the years. Well… last night’s rehearsal was pretty special.

The Chorale is getting ready for the first concert of our YouthWorks project—a concert that brings us together with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) and apprentice singers from Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs. The program, also part of the Northern Voices Choral Festival sweeping through town, is about sharing music across generations, and helping young musicians put together their first performances of a pair of masterworks.

And I have to say, this concert stirs some very deep memories for me. Continue reading

A Concert Ascending

My introduction to the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams came when I was 17. A recent convert to vocal music (back in the day, I was more of a pianist and oboist, in that order), I was looking for music to compete with at an upcoming competition.

“You know,” my teacher at the time said, “I think this one would really suit your voice… and your entire personality. Give it a shot”

That is how I came across “Silent Noon.” Continue reading