You Can Be a Hero to Cuban Music Students

I’ve learned about a campaign underway to change the lives of Cuban music students that we met during the Minnesota Orchestra’s recent tour to Havana… and I think it will resonate with you, my readers.


Julie Gramolini Williams, Marni Hougham, Lauren Ríos Hernández, and John Snow in Havana.

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Astonishingly Bad Analysis of the Minnesota Orchestra

Approximately two weeks ago, Twin Cities Business published a story about the Minnesota Orchestra that is, to be blunt, terrible. The entire purpose of the piece is to raise questions about the sustainability of the Orchestra’s future, based on suggestions that the recently-signed contracts with the musicians and Music Director Osmo Vänskä are overly extravagant.

Every aspect of this piece is bizarre—its underlying premise, its use of evidence, its timing, its assumptions, and its overall approach to non-profit management.

With respect, the only questions it truly raises are those pertaining to why it was published in the first place.

Emily Hogstad has debunked several points over on her blog, Song of the Lark, and her points are well worth reading. But the piece irritated me enough that I’m going to post a rebuttal of my own. Continue reading

Recording With a Great Symphony Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra just finished (…or perhaps “Finnished”) recording its CD of Sibelius’s Third, Sixth, and Seventh Symphonies for the Swedish label, BIS.  Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano posted his thoughts on the recording process over on his Facebook page; it was such a good piece, I asked if he’d allow me to cross-post it here on my blog.  He agreed!  Please enjoy—I think it gives a fantastic insider look into the creative process.  I’ll keep you posted on when the CD is released! 


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Lots of you know this past couple of weeks has had the Minnesota Orchestra recording in addition to playing our season finale and “Inside the Classics” concert. But precious few really know the inside baseball of putting out a memorable recording with a great orchestra. Here’s your chance. I hope I do the process justice. Continue reading

Final Thoughts on Cuba

For some time now, I’ve been planning on doing a final wrap-up about my time in Cuba with the Minnesota Orchestra. My last tour-related article for MinnPost was a more analytical overview of what the tour meant on a broader scale, and I’m quite proud of it.

But at the same time, the tour touched me deeply on a personal level, and I wanted to capture my personal feelings with a post here on my blog—one that would serve as my final thoughts about the tour, provide profound wisdom that would set the Internet ablaze, and no doubt win me not just a Pulitzer, but a Nobel Peace Prize for my ability to bring two hostile countries together. Continue reading

A Look Backstage from Cuba

One concert down… one to go.

In case you are just making your way to my blog, I’m currently in Havana covering the Minnesota Orchestra’s historic tour to Cuba. And as a man who makes a living from writing, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m having a hard time describing everything that’s going on… it feels like mere words are simply not enough. Continue reading

Upcoming Eric Whitacre: Deep Field, Godzilla, and More

I experienced a profound, deeply moving moment at rehearsal last night.

We in the Minnesota Chorale are preparing for a big concert week with the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by choral music superstar Eric Whitacre. As part of the program, we’re giving the world premiere of Eric Whitacre’s new work, Deep Field. This piece was inspired by the “deep field” photo taken by the Hubble Telescope—a photo created when NASA trained the telescope on what was previously thought to be an empty area of the night sky, and left the recorders running for several days. The resulting photo was remarkable; the sky wasn’t empty, but filled with nearly 3,000 celestial objects. It wasn’t just a picture of stars being born, but whole galaxies being born, moving across the universe, and colliding. There were sweeping nebulae that spanned incomprehensible distances. Cosmic life, cosmic death that stretched back nearly to the moment of creation. “Emptiness” was revealed to be fullness.


Through his new composition, Eric has tried to capture this incomprehensible cosmic glory in sound. The music slides slowly and gently into focus, as if the human mind isn’t able to take it all in at once. The shimmering, otherworldliness of the vocal part is gorgeous, and I think most of us were profoundly moved by the experience of preparing this new work.

But then…. Continue reading

A New Season with the Minnesota Orchestra!

Earlier today, the Minnesota Orchestra announced the lineup for its 2015-2016 season. In truth, “announced” seems far too prosaic a word for such an incredible, bursting-at-the-seams extravaganza.

Perhaps “unleashed” is a better description.

Well, I’m falling all over myself with excitement, but let me take a few minutes to share my highlights, and explain why you will simply have to see each and every concert. (For reference, the season calendar is here.) Continue reading