Boulder Phil ends remarkable season with a remarkable concert

CU faculty Charles Wetherbee and Nicolò Spera featured in world premiere

By Peter Alexander

butterman.andorch

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic

Last night the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman ended a remarkable season with a remarkable concert, one of the most interesting they have done.

The mostly-Italian program included one of the most brilliant orchestral showpieces of all time, a world premiere, and several pieces that are rarely played. If you love making new discoveries, as I do,  this was a fun program.

First the world premiere—and the one non-Italian piece on the program: Invisible Cities, Double Concerto for violin, guitar strings and percussion by Stephen Goss. The composer is Welsh, although the concerto is based on the fascinating novel of the same title by the 20th-century Italian writer Italo Calvino. Soloists were Charles Wetherbee, violin and Nicolò Spera, guitar.

The novel imagines a series of conversations between Marco Polo and the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. In an intricate design, the novel has Polo describe 55 cities to the Emperor, all of which turn out to be facets of Venice, his home. Dispersed among the cities are a series of conversations, in which Polo and Kublai Khan are gradually able to communicate more clearly across their linguistic and cultural barriers.

SteveGoss_10

Stephen Goss

In a similarly intricate design, the concerto alternates between orchestrally accompanied movements representing cities and duos without orchestra representing the conversations. Particularly ingenious are the duos, which represent musically the growing accord between Polo and the Emperor through music of growing lyrical beauty.

The musical design is clever but not cryptic, and it is executed without ever seeming forced. The piece as a whole is accessible, expressively convincing and well constructed. This is a work of significance that should be taken up by other guitar-violin duos.

Wetherbee.1

Charles Wetherbee

The style is largely based in conventional gestures of contemporary orchestral music. If not original, the musical elements are used to good effect, as listeners can recognize and enter the expressive realm of each movement. Where the music is more imaginative, as in the interaction between the soloists, the creativity is never originality for originality’s sake; it always serves the expressive goals.

nicolo.spera

Niccolò Spera

The soloists played with sweet expression together, and with greater intensity when required. Their sounds were well balanced, reflecting prior work together as a duo. At their best they rose to all the demands of Goss’s pleasing new work.

The two works preceding the concerto were undoubtedly new discoveries for most in the audience, and both were 20th-century pieces based on older music. The first was Stravinsky’s Monumentum pro Gesualdo, orchestral arrangements of uniquely strange and adventurous Renaissance madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo.

Stravinsky’s setting is strange in its own way, with discontinuous bits of harmonic and instrumental color shifting about the orchestra and managing to sound like both Gesualdo and Stravinsky. This score, nicely played last night, fits the Boulder philharmonic and its outstanding individual players well.

That was followed by Luciano Berio’s Four Original Versions of Boccherini’s Return of the Nightwatch from Madrid. Sometimes an enfant terrible of modern music, Berio also wrote highly approachable scores built from older music, of which this is one.

Four different versions of a movement by the 18th-century Italian composer Boccherini are arranged for modern orchestra and layered on top of one another. At times they match perfectly, but at other times they do not, creating delicious and unexpected dissonances that pass quickly.

Depicting the approach and departure of the Nightwatch, the score culminates in a rousing setting of the tune, and then dissipates into silence. It was played with verve, as once again the individual contributions of the players fit well into the orchestral mosaic.

After intermission, Butterman and the orchestra gave an invigorating reading of Verdi’s Overture to Nabucco, with all the turns of mood well traversed and quite a bit of excitement for the explosive ending. Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, an ingratiating minor work, was played with expression, if not the plush, ermine-fringed sound one would like to hear.

Respighi

Ottorino Respighi

The concert ended with a sure bet, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, a piece guaranteed to rouse the audience from their seats. In the hands of the Boulder Phil, Respighi’s orchestra worked its magic: it shone when it should shine and sparkled when it should sparkle, the sudden contrasts were contrasting and the abrupt changes of scene were well delineated.

The winds deserve special recognition, from the brass flourishes in “The Pines of the Villa Borghese,” to the delicate woodwind solos of “The Pines of the Janiculum,” to the massive fanfares of “The Pines of the Appian Way.” Once again the Roman Legions advanced, a brass choir sounded from the balcony—although how effectively depended on where you were sitting—and Respighi brought the crowd to its feet.

You could not have a more rousing ending for a season.

CMF & CMA announce $1 million fundraising initiative

“Campaign for our Future” starts its public phase with $700,000 in hand

By Peter Alexander

The Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts have announced a new fundraising initiative, Campaign for our Future, in coordination with the CMF’s 40th anniversary.

With a total goal of $1 million, campaign co-chairs Jack Walker and TK Smith have announced that before the beginning of the pubic phase of the campaign, they already have in excess of $700,000 from more than 70 individual gifts. While it is normal for fundraising efforts to secure major “leadership gifts” before making a public announcement of a goal, 70% is an extraordinarily large portion to have in hand this early in the process.

“I think we surprised ourselves with our efficiency,” CMF/CMA executive director Elizabeth McGuire says.

chautauqua-boulder-colorado

Chautauqua Auditorium, home of the summer Colorado Music Festival

Two individual gifts were particularly significant in reaching the $700,000 milestone: $250,000 from the Glenn Korff Foundation in memory of long-time CMF supporter Glenn Korff, and $90,000 from the SeiSolo Foundation in memory of Hans and Dolores Thurnauer, which will support performances and special projects by guest artists. In another significant initiative, there was a $100,000 crowd-funded gift in appreciation of past president and board member Caryl Kassoy, who founded the CMF Young People’s Concert.

McGuire has been with the CMF/CMA for less than a year, but that time has seen real progress in securing the financial stability of the organization. “Some of the elements (of the Campaign for our Future existed before I came on board,” she says. “It was an offshoot of the strategic plan that was developed before my time.”

She said it was CMF/CMA director of development and community partnerships Melissa Fathman who designed the campaign, which was then launched by the CMF/CMA board in October.

Although there have been rumors in Boulder of the CMF/CMA’s financial concerns, McGuire stresses that the organization is currently debt-free. ”The donations to this campaign are not going toward any debt repayment or recovery,” she says. “They are specifically for initiatives outlined in our strategic plan.”

CMF.orch.onstage

Orchestral excellence is one of the goals supported by the campaign

Those initiatives are divided into four categories: education, orchestral excellence, innovation and sustainability. Of the four, McGuire singled out sustainability as particularly important. “That speaks to the organization’s future,” she says. “We wanted to create a cash buffer for the organization, so that we can withstand unforeseen or un-controllable circumstances.”

The current political climate in Washington, D.C., may be creating an immediate need. “We’ve written grants to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and received them for many years,” she says. “We applied in 2016 and received a letter from the NEA that said, ‘We don’t know that we can award grants. The future of the NEA is uncertain, so please be patient.’”

In addition to the early success of the Campaign for our Future, McGuire says “there are many other positive things that have been happening. We’ve had a substantial uptick in the amount of grants that we’ve not only applied for but that we’ve received in the past year—and I give Melissa (Fathman) credit for this.

“And I would say too, our sales for the festival are 30% greater than they were at this time last year. So there are a lot of things that contribute to rebuilding (the financial stability of CMF/CMA).”

CMUSIC-Logo-Horizontal1024x192-withJMZ-1024x192

You can learn more and make a contribution to the CMF/CMA Campaign for our Future and their “Support Us” Web page.

 

 

Ending with a bang

Boulder Phil concludes a historic season with Italian program, premiere

By Peter Alexander

SteveGoss_10

A Welshman among Italians: Stephen Doss’s concerto, based on a novel by Italo Calvino, will be premiered by the Boulder Philharmonic on it s season finale concert

The Boulder Philharmonic ends a spectacular season Saturday with the spectacular orchestral fireworks of Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

The 2016–17 season saw sell-out performances, a trip to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center and national recognition at the Shift Festival of American Orchestras. “We’re celebrating a successful season, and one that’s been historic for us,” says Michael Butterman, music director. “I wanted to have an exclamation point at the end of the season.”

Respighi’s showpiece is the culmination of an almost all-Italian program. Everything on the concert is either by an Italian, based on Italian music or — in the case of the world premiere of a concerto by Welsh composer Stephen Goss — inspired by an Italian novel.

Goss’s piece was written for guitarist Nicolò Spera and the Phil’s concertmaster, violinist Charles Wetherbee, both CU faculty members. His Double Concerto for violin, guitar, strings and percussion is titled Invisible Cities, which is also a short novel by Italo Calvino that is a favorite of Spera.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Season Finale: Pines of Rome
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Charles Wetherbee, violin, and Nicolò Spera, guitar

Stravinsky: Monumentum pro Gesualdo
Luciano Berio: Four Original Versions of Boccherini’s Return of the Nightwatch from Madrid
Stephen Goss: Invisible Cities: Double concerto for violin, guitar, strings and percussion (world premiere)
Verdi: Overture to Nabucco
Puccini: The Chrysanthemums for string orchestra
Respighi: The Pines of Rome

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22, Macky Auditorium
Tickets

 

Changing of the guard at the Dairy

James Bailey, who transformed the Dairy Arts Center’s musical program, steps aside

By Peter Alexander

James Bailey, the music curator who has transformed the musical offerings at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, has stepped down from his position, effective May 1.

04-Dairy_Center_for_the_Arts

Dairy Arts Center

He will be replaced in the position by Sharon Park, a violinist and music administrator who has worked for and played in several of Boulder’s classical music organizations, including the Colorado Music Festival, the Boulder Bach Festival, the Boulder Philharmonic and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Park is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Bailey

James Bailey, outgoing curator of music for the Dairy Arts Center

After about two and a half years in the position, Bailey said he made the decision to step down just this year. “Over a period of weeks I got the feeling, ‘maybe it’s time for me to retire from this’, and open myself up to whatever happens next,” he says. “When I started looking at what’s involved with music at the Dairy, I realized that now is the time to do it, and to walk away and let that happen as it may.”

He has no specific career plans after leaving the Dairy. “It’s  business as usual for me into June,” he says. “I’ve got a couple of trips I’m taking. I probably won’t settle into ‘What am I going to do next?’ until mid-August.”

Speaking of his successor, Bailey says “I have complete confidence in Sharon. I know her as a musician and as an administrator, so I knew that she would be perfect for the job. I’m very glad she was available.”

Park

Sharon Park, new curator of music for the Dairy

“Its a huge honor to follow in Jim’s footsteps and carry on the platform he’s already created,” Park says. “Jim has been integral not only to music at the Dairy but in general in our community. I’m excited to carry on that platform that Jim has so wonderfully created for the past couple of years.

“One of the special things about the Dairy is that it really does break down the barriers of the traditional concert hall.”

In his time as music curator, Bailey took the Dairy from having almost no serious musical program to one of the most interesting and creative venues in Boulder, in part by focusing on things off the beaten path that no one else was doing. These have included world music, work by local composers, the combination of music and film, live music with dance, and jazz performed in a pure listening environment.

“I was very fortunate to meet Bill Obermeier (executive director of the Dairy Center) when I did,” he says. “We hit it off, we had the same vision, and we created it. We’ve gone from nothing to where we produce about 22 concerts a year.”

That same period has seen the renovation of the Diary, which now has a well designed entrance that provides about the best lobby space of any performance venue in Boulder.

Both Bailey and Park said that the current series at the Dairy—Soundscape, One Night Only, and Jazz at the Dairy—will continue for at least the coming year. But there are also some new developments planned as well.

“We’re starting a brand new series, which will be very exciting, called CU at the Dairy,” Bailey says. “This will involve faculty and graduate students from the University of Colorado.

“We have a new grand piano [a recent gift to the Dairy from the Louis and Elizabeth Tenenbaum Memorial Fund], and we have new sound equipment. And what won’t be noticed by the audiences is starting in late December we’re going to completely renovate the backstage area. The performers will be very happy about that!”

Park hints that there may be still more innovations to come. “Stay tuned!” she says. “There’s a lot of exciting things in the pipeline.”

Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News

“Blind” orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field.

By Peter Alexander

Missy.skyline

Missy Mazzoli was composer in residence with the Boulder Philharmonic in 2016

Sometimes a cliché is true.

For example, for women entering the field of classical music, there’s some good news and some bad news. Depending on the career goals, the prospects can be good, mixed, or troubled.

In a year when women’s status in society is daily in the news, this is a timely subject. For the purposes of this article, I will look at the orchestral scene, the most visible part of the classical music world and one where numbers are easily available.

First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.

The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.

The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.

Susan.Slaughter

Susan Slaughter

Susan Slaughter, the first female principal trumpet player in the U.S. was interviewed in 2009 when she retired after 40 years in the St. Louis Symphony. In the article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she recalled that orchestras were not interested—until they heard her play. She wrote to 30 orchestras when she was starting out, and was invited to three auditions.

When she auditioned for St. Louis, one string player on the committee later admitted that he actually got up to go get coffee when she walked onstage. “He waited to hear a few notes, just for form’s sake,” the article said. “He said, ‘Your playing made me sit back down.’”

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra Member Portraits Day 9

Elizabeth Baker

Violinist Elizabeth Baker, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1987, has experienced auditions from both sides of the screen. She does not doubt the importance of blind auditions. “The screened rounds were the main reason why women were able to advance and realize positions in major symphony orchestras,” she says.

She has seen this in her own family. Her mother, Virginia Voigtlander Baker, was one of the first women in a principal string position in an American orchestra. She was engaged as assistant concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony in 1972, shortly after the introduction of screened auditions, and held the position until 1993.

Baker’s belief is supported by scientific research. In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.

610612971

A violinist prepares to play an audition behind the screen.

The numbers are striking. According to the most recent information from the League of American Orchestras, the percentage of women instrumentalists has gone from 38.2% in 1978, the earliest year that these records were kept and already after the first screened auditions, to nearly 50% today. Some individual orchestras have up to 60% women.

The numbers are similar locally. Based on the rosters on their Web pages, approximately 44% of the Colorado Symphony and 58% of the Boulder Philharmonic is female. Significantly, the concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony is a woman, as are the assistant concertmaster and several principal players in the wind sections of the Boulder Phil.

The numbers were much lower before screened auditions were introduced. In the 1950s and ‘60s, orchestras were considered a male preserve. Older women instrumentalists often recall being explicitly told to get a college degree so they could teach, because “orchestra jobs are for men.”

Today blind auditions are just about universal in American orchestras. The Code of Ethical Audition Practices that professional orchestras follow does not specify screened auditions, although it does prohibit discrimination of the basis of sex, and they often are required in union contracts between orchestras and musicians.

# # # # #

Individual women composers have seen some well publicized successes recently. In December the Metropolitan Opera produced L’Amour de Loin by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho to great acclaim—the first opera by a woman at the Met in 113 years. The Santa Fe Opera premiered Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in 2015, and Opera Colorado premiered Lori Laitman’s Scarlet Letter in 2016. But while such widely publicized events may open doors for other women, they do not tell the whole story.

higdon_wide-cd87583ceddcb0d5b5f267516da7d0ed99b82584

Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain” was premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in 2015

For one thing, composers do not have the advantage of auditioning anonymously. Music directors and board committees know whose music they are choosing. “We’re completely at the mercy of the people who do the programming,” Higdon explains. “We have no control over our careers, basically, especially in the orchestral realm.”

A highly successful composer by any standard, Higdon is an exception, a Pulitzer prize winner with more than 200 performances every year. But that does not mean she has not met casual sexism in her career. People still tell her “I can’t believe a woman wrote that piece!” and she was even asked by a documentary filmmaker once if he could get a shot of her ironing.

“I was like, ‘What? Did I hear that correctly?’” she recalls.

Missy Mazzoli, a 2016 composer in residence with the Boulder Philharmonic, points out that women composers often cannot know when discrimination occurs. “It operates on different levels, a lot of which I would be the last person to be aware of,” she says. “I’m not behind closed doors where people are making decisions, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.”

What the numbers say depends on which ones do the speaking. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, the period that still forms the largest part of the classical repertoire, women were discouraged, when not actually prevented, from being composers. That is no longer the case, so while there is little music by women from the core of the classical repertoire, there is a great deal of newer music by women.

Statistics kept by the Baltimore Symphony reflect that discrepancy. They show that only 1.8% of all works performed by major orchestras in 2014–15 were by women. But when limited to works performed by living composers, that number jumped to 14.8%.

Kuster

Boulder native Kristin Kuster

Still, that remains a smaller share of the repertoire than the growing numbers of women composers would suggest. Kristin Kuster, a composer from Boulder who teaches at the University of Michigan, reacted when the figures were first released, writing, “These numbers are both abysmal and embarrassing, particularly in this day and age.”

She knows first-hand how many women are moving into composition. “We are seeing a gradual increase in the number of female composers applying to our undergraduate and graduate programs” at Michigan, she says today. And at last summer’s “Composing in the Wilderness” workshop in Alaska (covered in Boulder Weekly in October), open registration attracted five women and four men.

Local figures hover around the national averages. In the 11 seasons under conductor Michael Butterman (including the current season), the Boulder Philharmonic has played six pieces by six different female composers. That is approximately 3.2% of all the repertoire programmed on major concert performances, slightly above the 2014–15 single-season national average . Among living composers, it is 15%, almost exactly the national average.

That is a stark difference from the orchestra’s early years. In all of the recorded repertoire before Butterman, back to 1966, the percentage of women composers on concert programs was exactly 0—unless you count the 1995 “performance” of “Happy Birthday” by Mildred and Patty Hall.

For the Colorado Music Festival, it is more difficult to calculate percentages, because there are so many different genres and ways of listing programs. What can be gleaned from the records is that in the first 20 years of the festival, through 1996, there were seven works played by women—six of them by Betsy Jolas, who is also part of the upcoming 40th anniversary season.

More recently, Michael Christie’s 13 years with the festival featured nine works by seven women. Looking only at Festival Orchestra concerts that have full program listings in the record, three women make up 1.3% of all composers and 9.4% of living composers in the Christie era, below the national averages. For the CMF Chamber Orchestra in the same period, however, the figures are slightly above the national average: five women represent 2.5% and 17.9% respectively.

HannahLash1

“Click” Commission winner Hannah Lash

Since Christie left, the only works by women were Hannah Lash’s “Click” Commission winner in 2016, and the upcoming piece by Jolas.

The “Click” Commission choice is particularly interesting. The commission has been granted in five festival seasons between 2011 and ’17. The winners of the commission are selected by the public, who vote with their pocketbooks by making contributions.

In those five years, there have been 14 men and three women candidates. Of these, the voters selected three men and two women—Kuster in 2013 and Lash in 2016. This is a far higher rate than women have been programmed locally or nationally. Since there were two women candidates in 2013, voters have actually chosen a female composer every time one was available. This is a very small sample, but it suggests that, at least in Boulder, audiences are more willing than program committees and music directors to choose female composers.

This adds up to a mixed picture for female composers: progress, but well short of representation in proportion to the numbers of active composers. For her part, Kuster calls on everyone to be part of the solution. “We all have a responsibility to change our culture to be more inclusive, and to represent the reality that there is a vast diversity of musical voices to be heard,” she says.

# # # # #

The most prominent musicians at orchestral concerts are the soloists and conductors. For soloists, the rise of women in orchestral positions has been paralleled by women with solo careers, particularly violinists. The rosters of three of the largest artists management companies in New York—Columbia Artists, IMG and Opus 3—together list 37 violinists, of which 16, or 43.2%, are women. Female pianists fare less well, with 13 out of 59, or 22%.

But it is as conductors that women appear least successful. In this area, management rosters may slightly underrepresent women. The management companies represent 153 conductors and only 11 women, or 7.2% of the total, whereas the numbers of women in actual orchestral conducting positions are slightly higher.

The League of American Orchestras reports that among all conductors at league orchestras—including both music directors and assistants—14.6% are women, almost exactly the same rate at which women are included in orchestral programs. At the highest level, 9.2% of all music directors of LAO orchestras are women. However, the discouraging fact is that both numbers have changed very little over the past 10 years of league records, and throughout the same period there has been only one female music director in the top 24 U.S. orchestras by budget, Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony.

Whatever numbers you look at, women are underrepresented at the top levels of the orchestral world. When asked about this, women refer over and over again to the same issues that face women in leadership positions in business and other fields: it is more difficult for women to be taken seriously as strong leaders.

falletta.virginia2012.beloff

JoAnn Falletta

JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Symphony and one of the senior women conductors today, explains it this way: “Probably the greatest factor is that [symphony] boards are run by people who believe very strongly in the status quo. And that means board members trusted generally in an older man, and I think that has lasted for decades.”

Beverly Everett, music director in Bismarck, N.D., and Bemidji, Minn., is well accepted in both communities, but says that in many cases boards’ “perception of leadership is someone who can go out and be buddy-buddy with someone on a golf course.” One position that she considered, she recalls, “I had a friend who knew some of the people on the board, and they told him flat out that they would not consider a woman.”

Laura Jackson, music director of the Reno Philharmonic, says the perception of a conductor is often even more narrow than that, of an older European male—a long-term prejudice in the U.S. that can hamper younger men as well as women. “The average person has in their mind a Toscanini, sort of an Einstein-looking character,” she says. “The young male conductors suffer from the stereotype as much as I do.”

Laura Jackson conducting

Laura Jackson

The good news is that it is not usually the musicians in the orchestra who have a problem with women conductors. “Most people just want somebody competent on the podium, period,” Jackson says. “If you’re an iguana and you do what you do well, they’ll take it.”

She has seen more concern about the gender of the conductor from the public than from musicians. When she was a conducting fellow at Tanglewood, Mass., she says, “It was the patrons who said, ‘Do you realize how long it’s been since we had a female here? This is really freaky!’”

That perception in turn puts extra pressure on women conductors, who may be seen as representing all women. “It was scary because I felt like one false move, if anything was wrong, it would end up being blamed on my gender,” Jackson says.

Another challenge that is familiar to all women in all fields is the difficulty of being assertive—which goes against society’s expectations of girls and women. For example, Falletta had to learn at the outset not to be apologetic. “There can be a subtle sense of apology in what women say,” she says.

Jorge Mester, a conductor who was Falletta’s teacher and mentor when she was younger, puts it more bluntly. “It’s the teaching that little girls are given about being subservient,” he explains. “I said to her, ‘JoAnn, do you want to be a nice Catholic girl, or do you want to be a conductor?’”

In other words, women have to step outside the traditional social role to exert leadership—but if they are too assertive they run the risk of being perceived as shrill, or worse. “The most difficult thing is figuring out the window of leadership where you can be commanding and make a point passionately without being seen as angry, where you can be not seen as brittle and mean,” Jackson says.

Another challenge familiar to women in business is dress. “For any performer male or female, the way you look is very important,” Jackson says. “With a woman there are many extra layers to getting that right. If a man walks in and his shirt is a little wrinkled, he’s a disheveled genius. If a woman looks like that, she’s incompetent.”

“Concert dress is something men may not even think about,” Falletta adds. “With a woman, it seems to be more laden with social importance.”

Women like Falletta and Jackson and Everett have shown that women can be successful orchestral conductors. But is that career path one that is becoming more open to women generally? The evidence is mixed. As noted, the numbers recorded by the League of American Orchestras have been static for at least ten years. And individual experience varies widely.

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of the Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, is the only female orchestral conductor in the front range area. “When I was at the Peabody Conservatory, the conducting class was 50-50, male-female, all talented,” she observes. “At each new level of my career, there were fewer women. In top masterclasses and summer programs there would be fewer women. I would be the only woman at several professional auditions and now there are many music director searches where no women are auditioned.”

As it happens, that has been exactly the case in the most recent high-profile searches in this area.

In 2010, the Colorado Symphony had eight guest conductors, all European males, and hired Andrew Litton from that field. Six years later, Brett Mitchell was hired to replace Litton, without any other candidates appearing with the orchestra. Around the same time, two other men were hired in conducting positions, Associate Conductor Christopher Dragan and Assistant Conductor Andres Lopera.

In 2014, the Colorado Music Festival featured four official candidates to replace Michael Christie, all male. The two or three other names that were informally discussed were also male. The Longmont Symphony is currently searching for a new conductor, and once again all the finalists are male.

That’s the local picture, but it may not be broadly representative. Jackson believes more women are coming into the field. “In the past three years it’s like the floodgates are opening,” she says. “I think we are on the cusp. I think that I have probably done my last music director audition where I am the only woman.”

She sees some situations where being a woman may even be an advantage. “For an orchestra that needs a big change, when they see your résumé and see your picture, you are automatically that change, that clean slate,” she says. “That can put you in a category where people will ask, ‘Why not?’

“I think it’s going to be less and less of an issue.”

Falletta believes that the publicity around some recent high-profile women conductors helps. The Finnish conductor

SusannaMalkki

Susanna Malkki conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2016

Susanna Malkki, chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic who also who led Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin at the Metropolitan Opera is one example. Another is Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, new music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony in England. In 2013, Alsop became the first woman to conduct the BBC’s “Last Night of the Proms” in London.

“Once it’s happened on a high level, people are more open to it,” Falletta says. “All of us  tend to look to orchestras that are bigger than us as models. As they start to have more women on the podium—and more women composers, as well—I think smaller orchestras will do the same.”

At least the way is now open for women to learn the skills as conductors. University and conservatory programs are accepting women, and the Dallas Opera has made a 20-year commitment to its Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors. The League of American Orchestras has held special programs for women conductors, as did the Lucerne Festival in 2016.

In the end, it all comes down to fairness, and the opportunity of talented women to pursue the career of their choice. But Higdon has her own perspective on the whole issue, that opening doors to women is good for classical music generally.

“Young people don’t come to classical concerts because it looks so un-hip,” she says. “One reason is because there are so few women represented. They are used to women being part of the scene from popular music and hip-hop and everything else they listen to.

“If you want to be more hip and appeal to younger audiences, program more women!”

NOTE: An abridged version of this story appeared in Boulder Weekly.

Edited lightly to correct typos and clarify the numbers that are provided, 4/13.

Ajax Quartet chosen for Takacs Quartet residency

New graduate ensemble wins audition for two-year appointment at CU

By Peter Alexander

The Ajax Quartet, a string ensemble that is less than a year old, has won the audition to study with the Takacs String Quartet at the CU College of Music, starting in September. They will succeed the Altius Quartet in the highly coveted position as the designated graduate string quartet-in-residence at the college.

IMG_0177watermark

Ajax Quartet

The four members of the quartet—violinists Tom Yaron, Renée Hemsing-Patten, violist Mario Rivera and cellist Eric Haugen—came to the CU from different parts of the country. “There’s not any way we could have met up before CU,” Hemsing-Patten says.

“The faculty members, having auditioned all of us and knowing our playing, seemed to think we would play well together. So they introduced us to each other, and they were completely right! We hit it off right away.”

Only three weeks after they had starting working together, the Takacs asked the Ajax Quartet to play one piece for an event at The Academy. Members of the Takacs Quartet offered to coach the new group prior to that performance.

“We hadn’t even thought about auditioning for the Takacs program at that time,” Hemsing-Patten says. “But as things progressed over the fall semester, we just began to feel like everything was working out really well, and decided to go ahead and shoot for that. There was an official audition in early February.”

Having won the CU residency is the realization of a dream for the members of the quartet, she says. “I listened to recordings of them because my grandma was a violinist in quartets since I was a kid, so I’ve known who they are through my entire life. And I know the other guys have as well. It’s a dream to be able to work with them.

“We have all wanted to play in a quartet in different points in our lives, and have just never found the right group, so for us it’s something we’re really serious about pursuing.”

There will be opportunities to hear the Ajax Quartet in Boulder in the coming weeks, before their official performances as graduate quartet-in-residence next fall. At 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29, they will play a full concert at the Carillon, and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, they will share a concert at the Academy with the Altius String Quartet. For the second program, the Ajax Quartet will play Dvořák’s American String Quartet, and both groups together will play Mendelssohn’s popular Octet for Strings.

Both performances will be free and open to the public.

# # # # #

Ajax Quartet
4 p.m. Saturday, April 29
The Carillon, 2525 Taft Dr., Boulder

Ajax Quartet and Altius String Quartet|
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9
The Academy, 970 Aurora Ave., Boulder
Dvořák: String Quartet in F major, Op. .96, “American” (Ajax Quartet)
Work TBD (Altius String Quartet)
Mendelssohn: Octet in E-flat major for strings

Both concerts are free.

CU College of Music adds Fourth Named Program

$2 million gift endows the Roser Piano and Keyboard Department

By Peter Alexander

The Roser Piano and Keyboard Department joins the Thompson Jazz Studies Program, the Ritter Family Classical Guitar Program and the Eklund Opera Program as one of four named programs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music.

Roser.2

Becky Roser. Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado.

The name is the result of a $2 million endowment created by Becky Roser, who has helped support the College of Music in a number of significant ways. She is currently the chair of the music+ campaign committee, a fundraising effort that aims to raise $50 million for the College of Music in advance of its centennial in 2020.

Roser’s is the first major gift to the music+ campaign since it’s public announcement earlier this year. Roser says the gift reflects her love of the piano from childhood. “My mom and dad bought me a piano back in 1951,” she said in a statement from the university. “I played that piano from the time I was young, and then my daughter Nicole played it, too.”

shayrobert

Robert Shay

“This is an individual of unique vision and leadership and commitment,” College of Music Dean Robert Shay says. “Becky was determined to make this happen, and it really comes from the heart, it comes from her passion, from her love for music generally, but I think her love for this College of Music in particular.

“I want to highlight from my perspective how much Becky means to all of us here in the college and how appreciative we feel of this very generous effort. These kind of funds really allow all of us, our faculty especially, to kind of dream big.”

Korevaar2

David Korevaar

David Korevaar, the Helen and Peter Weil Faculty Fellow and acting chair of the piano and keyboard department, says it will take some time for the faculty to realize what the gift will mean. “It’s a whole new world as far we’re concerned,” he says. “We’re all still sort of just getting our heads around this. We’re going to end up in a situation where we can be thinking more strategically, and thinking bigger than we’ve been able to think.

“We have this great feeling that Becky, who has been such a friend to the College of Music, is willing to make this amazing investment in keyboard. That’s just kind of a stunning, wonderful thing.”

Korevaar said that the faculty have discussed several opportunities that the funds would create. These include a summer piano festival in Boulder, residencies by distinguished keyboard artists that would include both teaching and performances, and increased support for scholarships and professional development for students. Such plans will develop over time, he says.

The statement from the university quoted Roser saying “It makes me happy and it brings me joy to be able to do this. An endowment goes on forever, and now more than ever, it’s important to have done this.”

Prior to heading the music+ campaign, Roser served on the College of Music Advisory Board, and led a fundraising program to refinish the pianos in the Grusin Music Hall and Chamber Hall.

The contribution to the piano and keyboard department is only the latest in a series of gifts from the Roser family to the CU Boulder campus. The Roser Visiting Artists Program brings artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers to campus as guests. In 2009, the ATLAS Institute’s home on campus was named the Roser ATLAS Center in honor of a gift by Becky and her late husband Jim Roser.