Bernstein at 100 at CU

CU Boulder and College of Music join in world-wide celebration

By Peter Alexander

It started Aug. 31 with the CU Marching Band’s half-time show.

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Leonard Bernstein

“It” is the CU Boulder contribution to the world-wide juggernaut that is the 2018 centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. If the CU-CSU “Rocky Mountain Showdown” seems an unusual place to celebrate the former director of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein is a unique figure in American music. He famously wrote everything from serious symphonies to smash-hit Broadway shows. Indeed, he was such a protean figure that he is identified on the university’s Webpage as a “composer, conductor, educator, musician, cultural ambassador, and humanitarian.

For the record, the marching band played arrangements from West Side Story at the CU-CSU game in Denver. They will repeat the performance, with assistance from the Dance and Theatre Department at the Folsom Field halftime shows Saturday, Sept. 15, and Friday, Sept. 28.

Locally, the observance of the Bernstein centennial actually started long before August. Last April, the Boulder Philharmonic presented a sold-out performance of West Side Story in concert, and several of the concerts at the Colorado Music Festival this last summer were arranged around music Bernstein wrote, conducted, or was influenced by.

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Andrew Cooperstock

With nearly 20 events on the calendar, the CU celebration will be the most wide-ranging Bernstein festival in the region. “We wanted to feature the University of Colorado, and involve as much of the College of Music as possible,” says Andrew Cooperstock, professor of piano in the College of Music and artistic director of CU Bernstein at 100.

“I think we’ve done that pretty well. We have faculty chamber music, we have student performances, we have all of the major ensembles, opera and wind symphony, and orchestra—and marching band! We have music theory and musicology as well, and extramural partnerships with the Program in Jewish Studies and the Department of Cinema Studies and Moving Image Arts.”

Cooperstock also noted the wide variety of Bernstein’s interests as a motivating aspect for the broad range of events. “Bernstein said he didn’t differentiate among different kinds of music,” Cooperstock says. “He had an interest in the Beatles, and Mahler, and jazz, and everything in between.”

Information about the CU Bernstein at 100 project can be found on their Web page, which also includes a calendar of all the CU Bernstein events. The calendar includes concerts and other performances, lectures, a masterclass, film screenings, and a full production of West Side Story by the Eklund Opera Theater. You can also find a page about Bernstein that has a brief bio and links to videos and essays about various aspects of his career written by people who knew him.

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Jamie Bernstein, the composer/conductor’s daughter

Among the authors is Jamie Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, whose remarkable book Famous Father Girl: A memoir of growing up Bernstein was published in June. Jamie Bernstein will be one of three special guests at CU during the week of Sept. 24–28, along with Glenn Dicterow, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Carol Oja, the William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard University and one of the leading scholars on Bernstein and his music.

Events involving these guests will be covered in more detail later this month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CU Faculty Tuesdays, free and live-streamed, offer a fascinating potpourri of repertoire

With several performances on the calendar, pianist David Korevaar’s plate is full

By Peter Alexander

The summer has ended and fall has arrived.

It may not seem like it when it reaches 90°, but you can be certain. Not only is it Labor Day Weekend, the official end of summer, but the fall music has season has, in fact, already begun. The first of the CU College of Music Faculty Tuesday concerts was already last week, when pianist David Korevaar and violinist Harumi Rhodes played a program of sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven, Janáček and Schumann.

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Grusin Hall, home of “Faculty Tuesdays”

That series continues tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 5, with a Faculty Tuesday debut by baritone Andrew Garland performing a program titled “The Quest” with pianist Jeremy Reger. Future Faculty Tuesday events, listed here, will feature guests from the Cleveland Orchestra Sept. 12, Korevaar and violist Geraldine Walther performing “Chopin on the Viola” Sept. 26, and a fascinating potpourri of other topics and programs through the fall.

The Faculty Tuesday concerts are all at 7:30 in Grusin Music Hall, and all are free. Even better, you can watch from home and avoid the parking free-for-all around campus: the College of Music will provide live streaming of these events, available through the “CU Presents” button on the Faculty Tuesdays Web page listing of each event.

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Pianist David Korenaar, Helen and Peter Weir Professor of Piano at CU, Boulder

None of the music faculty will be busier this fall than Korevaar, who shows up on four more Faculty Tuesdays in addition to his series-opening recital with Rhodes last week: “Chopin on the Viola” with Walther Sept. 26; “Finnish Celebration” with eight other faculty members Oct. 24; “Schubert and More” with violinist Charles Wetherbee Oct. 31; and “Signs Games+Messages” with Rhodes, Walther and cellist David Requiro Nov. 28.

Not letting any grass grow under his feet or on his keyboard, Korevaar also inaugurates the new CU@The Dairy series at the Dairy Arts Center on Thursday, Sept. 7, playing and conducting two of Mozart’s piano concertos. And as if that weren’t enough, he will be performing Beethoven’s Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, op. 80, with the Boulder Philharmonic at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 in Macky Auditorium (tickets here).

“Yeah, there’s a lot on the plate,” Korevaar admits.

Thursday’s concert at the Diary, titled “Miraculous Mozart,” will feature two of Mozart’s piano concertos, K449 in E-flat major and K450 in B-flat major. They were both written in the same year, 1784, and of the two Korevaar identifies the second as the more difficult. “Mozart wrote a letter to his father,” he says, “and he said [K450] is the hardest thing he’s ever written. I might not disagree—it’s a tough piece, so obviously virtuoso.”

You will be able to read more about Korevaar, the Mozart concertos, and CU@The Dairy on this Web page and in the next issue of Boulder Weekly on Thursday, Sept. 7.

CU music faculty will appear on a new concert series at the Dairy Center

“CU at the Dairy” opens Sept. 7 with “Miraculous Mozart”

By Peter Alexander

Two of Boulder’s eminent arts organizations have joined together to inaugurate a promising new collaborative music series this fall.

The University of Colorado College of Music and the Dairy Arts Center have announced a series of concerts jointly sponsored by both organizations, to be held during the year in the Dairy’s Grace and Gordon Gamm Theater. “CU at the Dairy,” featuring music faculty members in collaboration with one another and other local artists, will supplement the free Faculty Tuesdays series of recitals in Grusin Hall.

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The lobby of the Grace and Gordon Gamm Theater at the Dairy Arts Center

Based on early listings, the Grusin Hall Faculty Tuesday events will be more traditional recitals, while the CU at the Dairy will be more exploratory, collaborative, and in some cases will be multi-media events. In a news release from Aug. 16, the Dairy’s music curator, Sharon Park, says that the CU faculty “have such great ideas and projects they want to present. The Gordon [Gamm Theater] gives them an intimate venue to pair visual art, silent film, dance or any other art form with music.”

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David Korenaar

The series gets underway Sept. 7 with “Miraculous Mozart,” featuring Helen and Peter Weil Professor of Piano David Korevaar playing and conducting Mozart’s piano concertos K449 in E-flat major and K450 in B-flat major. The small orchestra for these performances will include violinist Charles Wetherbee from the music faculty along with other faculty and alumni of the College of Music.

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Alicia Svigals performing “The Yellow Ticket” in Vancouver

The following week a multi-media event will bring together representatives of the College of Music, CU’s Program in Jewish Studies and International Film Series. Yonatan Malin, faculty in the music theory area of the College of Music, will host the screening of “The Yellow Ticket” a silent film from 1918. The film, about a young Jewish woman studying medicine in Tsarist Russia, will be accompanied by Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and jazz pianist Marilyn Lerner performing Svigals’s original score live. Malin will also moderate a panel discussion with the performers and CU faculty members about film, music and cultural awareness.

“CU at the Dairy” will continue in the spring with a performance by Thompson Jazz Studies director John Gunther and friends. More details about these performances will appear on this Web page and in the pages of Boulder Weekly.

Tickets for all “CU at the Dairy” performances are available through the Dairy Center Box Office.

 

 

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

Scenes from Zach Redler’s new opera offer a glimpse into the artistic workshop

CU NOW presents a work in progress with libretto by CU alumnus Mark Campbell

By Peter Alexander

Librettist and CU Alumnus Mark Campbell, who is returning to campus for CU NOW. (Photo by Laura Marie Duncan)

Librettist and CU Alumnus Mark Campbell, who is returning to campus for CU NOW. (Photo by Laura Marie Duncan)

It’s mostly hard work.

It looks like magic from the outside, the process of creating a large-scale, complex work of art like an opera. But the more you are able to see inside the process, the more you see the hard work it takes to get from an idea to a viable piece of art to a fully committed production in front of an audience.

It is part of the wonder of the University of Colorado, Boulder College of Music CU NOW (New Opera Workshop) program that it offers a glimpse into the magic-producing hard work of making a new opera, while advancing students’ careers and the world of opera.

The program, started six years ago by Leigh Holman, director of the CU Eklund Opera Program, and Patrick Mason, a professor of voice, opera and choral studies in the CU College of Music, brings composers to campus to work on developing a new operatic work, working over a couple of weeks with student singers in the CU College of Music. In a win-win-win situation, the students benefit from working closely with a composer on a new work, developing skills useful in the professional world; the composers benefit from hearing their work performed as they write it; and audiences benefit from seeing inside the creative process.

This year’s CU NOW program will come to fruition Friday and Sunday (June 12 and 14) with performances of scenes from an opera in progress by composer Zach Redler and librettist Mark Campbell, a CU alumnus whose other libretti include Kevin Puts’s Silent Night, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer prize in music, and the recently premiered Manchurian Candidate.

Composer Zach Redler

Composer Zach Redler

Scenes from Redler and Campbell’s A Song for Susan Smith will be performed with a cast of CU student singers at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the ATLAS Black Box Theater on the CU campus. The scenes will be stage directed by Holman.

The performance will feature six or seven of a projected 15 scenes in a one-act, 90-minute opera. Based on the notorious 1994 case of a woman who was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of her two sons, A Song for Susan Smith does not dramatize or feature the killings. Instead, it focuses on the period between the killings and Smith’s eventual confession nine days later, and on Smith’s mental state during that time.

Between those two performances, CU NOW will also present the Composer Fellows’ Opera Showcase, scenes by CU student composers who have been working with Redler and other operatic professionals brought to campus for CU NOW, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13, in the Music Theater inside the CU Imig Music Building. All CU NOW performances are free and open to the public.

A Song for Susan Smith started as a scene that Redler wrote for his wife, soprano Brittney Redler, to sing for a doctoral voice recital. The text came from a completed libretto that Campbell had never used and forms a prologue to the opera, portraying Smith before the killings. That scene has now been performed several times, including as part of the Ft. Worth (Tex.) Opera’s Frontiers program. It will not be included in the CU performances but can be viewed on the composer’s Website (scroll down to the video, featuring the composer at the piano and Brittney Redler singing).

Redler is not unaware that Susan Smith is a difficult subject for an opera, one that might be disturbing to some audience members. “I’m drawn to characters that are hard to comprehend,” he says. “Susan Smith has been through a lot, but because [infanticide] is a too common thing—500 cases a year!—I don’t think it’s exploitive. I think it’s using a very specific instance to tell a very general story.

“It’s a horrible problem, because it’s not that these people are necessarily inherently evil. Susan came from an extremely dysfunctional childhood and household. So it’s about mental health and about mob mentality (when the town turns from supporting Susan to shunning her). A lot of the music is kind of trying to show Susan’s perspective.”

Leigh Holman, director of the CU's Eklund Opera Program and CU NOW (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Leigh Holman, director of the CU’s Eklund Opera Program and CU NOW (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Holman and Mason started CU NOW to give students experience tackling completely new music and new roles. At the time, there were few programs devoted to new opera, but that has changed in the past six years.

“When we started this six years ago, there weren’t many people doing what we’re doing,” Holman says. “Now, people are doing it everywhere.

“The most important thing that was happening at the Opera America Conference two weeks ago was new works—composers there, librettists there, all these big companies looking for new works to do. That’s what audiences want. That’s where the market is now. Six years ago it wasn’t.”

CU’s unique niche in this world is taking works in progress that have not been completed or received a commission, works where the composers are just getting started, and giving them the chance to mold it to living, breathing singers. “We like to do brand new things,” Holman says. “We want our students to have the opportunity to work with a brand new piece.

“The composers are hearing their piece for the first time with our students. And our students get the opportunity to work with the composers. Our students can’t listen to a recording and learn it. There’s no other singer that has already said, ‘This is how it’s supposed to sound.’ It’s really their own interpretation.”

Redler seconds Holman’s comments. “It’s really great for (the students),” he says. “In professional opera companies, it’s the young artists who are doing the workshops and the readings of new works. It’s just such an important skill for them to have, to be able to pick up a new piece of sheet music that no one has ever recorded and learn it.”

He is equally enthusiastic about what the program means for him as a composer. “Hearing scenes that I’ve only heard in my head is just so important,” he says. “The piece changes in front of an audience as well, so to get to see that is fantastic.”

And the value for the audience? You can tell the rest of us: Go to the performances, and post your reaction here afterwards! You too might help open doors for new creations.

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Scenes from A Song for Susan Smith
An opera in progress by Zach Redler and Mark Campbell
7:30 p.m. Friday, June 12
2 p.m. Sunday, June 14
ATLAS Black Box Theater on the CU campus

Composer Fellows’ Opera Showcase
Operatic scenes by CU student composers
7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

All performances free and open to the public

CU College of Music receives gift for endowed chair of Baroque music

College of Music receives its fifth $1 million-plus gift in 18 months 

By Peter Alexander

Baroque music lovers can look forward to greater riches to come.

An endowed chair of Baroque music in the College of Music is one part of a $6 million estate gift to the University of Colorado, Boulder, by a music-loving economics alumnus of the university.

The $6 million commitment by donor Eugene D. Eaton Jr. is the largest gift CU-Boulder has received since 2007. Funding from the gift will endow two faculty chairs—one in economics and the one in Baroque music—and create a travel sabbatical program for undergraduates in economics.

Boulder is already the home of the Boulder Bach Festival and the Seicento Baroque Enemble. With the addition of the CU chair in Baroque music and the expected expansion of programs in Baroque music at the College of Music, Boulder will become even more of a center for the study and performance of Baroque music.

CU College of Music Dean Robert Shay

CU College of Music Dean Robert Shay

The $2.36 million directed to the College of Music represents the fifth gift of more than $1 million received by the college in the past 18 months. Last month, the college received gifts to establish endowments for the Eklund Opera Program and the Ritter Family Classical Guitar Program. In December 2013 the college announced a scholarship endowment for top performing student-musicians and in early 2013 an endowment for the Thompson Jazz Studies Program was established.

“The CU-Boulder College of Music deeply appreciates Eugene Eaton’s significant bequest, which will enable us to expand our offerings in Baroque music through the creation of a new faculty position in this area,” Robert Shay, dean of the College of Music, said. “This gift is a real testament to the impact of music, which in this case crossed disciplinary lines and clearly touched the life of a former CU student in a lasting and meaningful way.”

Eaton earned three economics degrees from CU-Boulder: a bachelor’s in 1965, a master’s in 1967 and a doctorate in 1971. While economics engaged his mind and led to his successful career as a consultant in Alaska, it was music that riveted the economist outside of the classroom. As a student, Eaton attended many of the College of Music’s concerts and embraced deep discussions with the economics faculty; from afar he continued his interest in CU until his death in 2013.

Read the CU news release announcing Eaton’s gift here.