Been awhile since we rounded up recent news in Oregon classical music, so here’s some items that lit up our screens in recent months.
Laurels and Plaudits
• Composition Champ. University of Oregon composition professor Robert Kyr was one of four American composers to win this year’s American Academy of Arts and Letters $10,000 Arts and Letters Award for outstanding artistic achievement by a composer who has arrived at his or her own voice.
• Wonder Woman. Pacific Youth Choir founder and director Mia Hall Miller received the Oregon Symphony’s 2016 Schnitzer Wonder Award, a $10,000 prize that “honors an individual or organization that directly works to build community through the next generation of artists and/or student musicians.” Now in its 13th year, PYC boasts almost 300 singers in 10 choirs.
• Violin Virtuosa. Portland violinist Fumika Mizuno is the only Oregonian selected among the 109 young musicians (age 16-19) from across the country for the fourth annual National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. It’s her second stint with the NYO, which (after a training residency in New York) performed with the great pianist Emanuel Ax at Carnegie Hall in July, then played concerts led by Valery Gergiev at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, in Montpellier France, Copenhagen, and Prague.
• Operatic ascent. Portland tenor A.J. Glueckert was one of six winners of the $10,000 George London awards, one of America’s oldest vocal competitions.
• Trumpeter on the rise. Eugene jazz trumpeter and composer Tony Glausi has been named the recipient of the 2016-17 Laurie Frink Career Grant, a biennial $10,000 award to give a “young brass player an opportunity for serious study or to undertake a creative project.” One of America’s most revered brass instrument teachers, Frink, who died in 2013, played in some of the finest jazz orchestras (including those of Maria Schneider, Benny Goodman Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Gerry Mulligan, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue and more), performed with Broadway orchestras, co-wrote the definitive book on trumpet improvisation, and mentored some of today’s top trumpeters including Dave Douglas and Ambrose Akinmusire. Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch profile of Glausi.
The Marylhurst Chamber Choir performs at the 2016 Cork International Choral Festival.
• Choral Voyagers. Marylhurst University’s premiere choral ensemble, the Marylhurst Chamber Choir, was one of only 34 choirs from around the world, and the only American choir invited to perform at the Cork International Choir Festival in Cork, Ireland in May. It placed third to choirs from Sweden and Turkey in a close contest for the placed third in the festival’s top honor, the Fleischmann Award and won the Peace Award for the choir that best embodied the spirit of the festival.
• Cliburn Quarterfinalist. Northwest pianist Colleen Adent, who frequently performs with Cascadia Composers and. has performed around the world, was invited to one of the world’s most prestigious amateur piano competitions, the seventh Van Cliburn International Amateur competition in Fort Worth, Texas, in June, where she made it to the quarterfinals.
• Cello Champ. Cellist Jay Campbell, a 2015 Chamber Music Northwest Protégé Project artist, was named one of five recipients of a $25,000 Avery Fischer Career Grant for 2016.
• Junior Jazzers. PDX Jazz’s second annual Jazz Forward Competition, held in partnership with Portland State University, brought hundreds of students, directors and family members to this year’s PDX Jazz Festival to compete for opening spots in festival concerts. Among students from around the country who won awards, Portland’s Kanda Mbenza-Ngoma was runner up in the College Vocal Solo category, Portland legend Thara Memory’s American Music Program was runner up in High School Big Band, Battle Ground High School won the High School Vocal Ensemble competition, Portland’s Nika Vredevoogd was runner up in high school instrumental solo, and Portland jazz master Alan Jones’s Academy of Music ‘Builders’ was runner up in the High School Combo category.
• Young Soloists. Congrats to the winners of the Vancouver Symphony orchestra’s young artists competition, who triumphed in concert performances with the orchestra to earn scholarships: Camas cellist Richard Lu, Lake Oswego pianist Lauren Yoon, and Portland pianist Anthony Zheng struck gold (medals) and performed at the VSO’s April concerts. Six other area students scored silver and bronze medals and scholarships.
On the Move
Oregon’s two most prominent orchestra conductors announced plans to move on. Oregon Symphony music director Carlos Kalmar will depart after the 2020-21 season, when he will have been with the OSO for 18 seasons, the second-longest tenure of any music director in its history. Eugene Symphony’s Danail Rachev said the upcoming season will be the last in his eight year tenure as music director.
Podium Progress. The Oregon Symphony named Norman Huynh (currently currently assistant conductor of Maine’s Portland Symphony) as its new associate conductor. OSO Resident Conductor Paul Ghun Kim was one of five conductors selected to perform in the League of American Orchestras’ 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview with the Nashville Symphony in May, where he received mentoring from NSO Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, a former Eugene Symphony music director and Walter preview selectee himself.
• Cuban Connection. Eight Northwest composers will be visiting Cuba to hear their music performed by leading Cuban musicians at Havana’s Contemporary Music Festival in November. As part of an exchange program, Cascadia Composers produce three Portland-area concerts that include works by eight Cuban composers.
• Changing of the Guard. After a year of auditioning three finalists for the music director position being vacated by founder and long-time conductor Bernie Kuehn, Hillsboro’s Oregon Chorale chose Jason Sabino, who apprenticed with Ethan Sperry at Portland State, as its new leader.
• Adieu de Boheme. Another victim of rising Portland rents: wine bar Vie de Boheme, which presented so many excellent performances of classical, jazz, world and other music, is corking the music for good this weekend, just weeks after Classical Revolution PDX had adopted the club as its new home for classical jams when they overcrowded its funkier, more relaxed former home, The Waypost, in March.
• Creative Gamble. Portland’s invaluable epicenter of out-there improv music, the Creative Music Guild, named guitarist/composer/improviser Mike Gamble as its new leader, succeeding long-serving Ben Kates.
• Receiving the Baton. Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras has appointed University of Oregon music prof David Jacobs as its new conductor.
• New MYStro. Portland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony named Raúl Gómez-Rojas its next music director. He most recently served artistic director of the Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra, and founded an orchestra in Baton Rouge “designed to foster social change and nurture promising futures for youth.”
• Full Time Leader. After a decade of double duty — Portland Baroque Orchestra’s Director of Development and Marketing and Cappella Romana’s part time director — singer Mark Powell has accepted the first full-time position as executive director of Cappella Romana, just in time for the choir’s 25th anniversary. Powell’s longtime colleague at PBO, former executive director Tom Cirillo, was named director of development at the expanding Portland Japanese Garden.
• Opera Mentor. Former Portland Opera chorus master and associate music director Rob Ainsley has been named director of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and American Opera Initiative.
• Lab Test. Opera Theater Oregon has launched Opera Lab, which brings benefits artists developing creative new work that uses music to tell a story by leveraging the indie opera company’s expertise at making opera relevant to 21st century audiences.
• Bunch on the air. One of Oregon’s — and America’s — great 21st century composers, Kenji Bunch, gets a deserved national spotlight on the public radio show Performance Today.
• Jefferson Revival. University of Oregon student Charles Demonnin is reviving Portland’s Jefferson High School’s “Sounds of Jefferson” jazz-funk ensemble, which like the rest of the school’s music program fell victim to budget cuts two decades ago. A community-led campaign brought back the band, which hired Demonnin on the recommendation of UO prof and Jefferson alum Michael Grose. Demonnin is a member of the UO’s DuckTet, a tuba euphonium quartet, which beat out a couple dozen ensembles from around the world to take 3rd prize at the 2016 International Tuba Euphonium Conference at the University of Tennessee.
• Healthy music. The Eugene Symphony has introduced Symphony Connect, a community engagement program that brings chamber music to bars, restaurants, hospitals, social service agencies, and businesses throughout the southern Willamette Valley, with the goal of identifying how live music benefits everyone’s health and well being.
We’ll close by noting the passing of a couple of important figures in Oregon music. Drummer Alan Tarpinian, a fixture on Eugene’s jazz scene who founded the city’s jazz orchestra and performed with ensembles and orchestras throughout the region, died in May. During his long career, Tarpinian performed with many jazz legends.
Longtime Lewis & Clark College ethnomusicology professor and composer Vincent McDermott died in February. A major contributor world music in Oregon, McDermott brought the century old Kyai Guntur Sari gamelan instruments to the college in 1980. The Venerable Showers of Beauty ensemble he founded then still performs frequently and just recorded a CD of the music of McDermott’s friend Lou Harrison, the Portland-born composer who mentored the gamelan ensemble in its early years. McDermott lived in Indonesia — the home of the gamelan music he so cherished — for many years after his retirement, and performed with VSB on his last visit to Portland in 2015.
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