Monday, January 31, 2011

Midwest Young Artists Citizen Musicians


Sunday was a wonderful day of both practice and performance.  Allan coached chamber music and was at Ravinia for orchestra string sectionals all day.  I headed downtown to take in the First Annual Voices of the Future - Coming Together concert at Harris Theater of Music and Dance.   This performance may not have been as well publicized as CSO's rollout of a Citizen Musician initiative over the weekend, but it was a good example of the concept. 
 
Gary Fry's friend, Ira Antelis, asked MYA’s Voices Rising and 7 other choirs from across the Chicago area to raise their voices together in a concert to benefit the Ronald McDonald House.  What a great experience to see and hear so many different choirs and songs, from the Loyola Academy Honors Chamber choir on their way to play at the Vatican later this spring, to the Soul Children of Chicago who will sing at the White House in April, the afternoon was inspirational.  After each choir sang 3 songs, they joined together to sing a new song, arranged by Gary Fry, called "The Future's up to Me and You."  The words seem to again relate to the concept of Citizen Musicians: 

We have power to change lives
We can make a difference
We can make change
Imagine all the good we can do
It's up to me and you


CSO’s Citizen Musician initiative was a call to action for professional, amateur and young musicians as well as music lovers, music educator's and music and education organizations to use their talent and passion for music to enhance the quality of life and address issues of concern in their community.  Yo Yo Ma took his cello to the Metra Station where the Chicago Childrens Choir did a flash mob performance.  He also played with other CSO musicians at Childrens Memorial hospital over the weekend.
  
This is all great news!  A major organization like CSO reaching out with their music and musicians into communities, and using their marketing and publicity departments to draw attention to the work that their own musicians and so many organizations across the Chicago area have been doing for years, will only raise visibility for classical music!

The concept of musicians giving back to the community and sharing their talents is not new to MYA.  Our own organization's mission is to build a home with the power of music to enrich the lives of our students and communities, a mission that was adopted by our board of directors in the summer of 2000 just after we moved into the MYA Center at Fort Sheridan.  Before we moved into our beautiful space, we did all our chamber music recitals in senior centers, nursing homes, schools, libraries, malls and hospitals.  We continue each year to do “Outside the Fort” concerts.  Every time we do this, I think the parents and students say, “let’s do more!”  It’s such a good feeling to play for people who might not otherwise attend classical music performances. 

On my way home, I had one more treat.  I stopped at DePaul University to listen to Christopher Gao play the first two movements of the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Oistrach Symphony Orchestra.  The concert featured winners of the 8th Annual DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers.  You will all be able to hear Chris when he soloes with Concert Orchestra on February 19th at Harris Theater!  Only this time, it will be Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.
 
I know we have lots of examples of Citizen Musician parents and students right within the MYA community.  Please do not be shy about sharing your Citizen Musician stories.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Midwest Young Artists Goes to IMEA!

Allan and I returned from Peoria last night.  This week is All-State for students in Illinois.  The IMEA conference is an opportunity for students who excel in music in their schools to go to Peoria and join others from across Illinois in jazz, band, orchestra and choral ensembles. I often think that MYA is like an All-State each week.

It is very nice though that music students are recognized, like school winning athletic teams, by their schools. I think the schools pay for transportation, hotel and sometimes even food for the students who are selected to play in the All-State ensembles.

For many years, MYA has gone to this conference.  Allan conducted the All-State Orchestra three years ago. This year the MYA Big Band played at a session.  Even without an excuse like this to attend, it is always fun to be there for our students.  Will and I counted names MYA student names on the seating results posted on bulletin boards in the Holiday Inn where they were rehearsing.  We had at least 3 dozen there this year!

Allan and I arrived on Thursday in time for the Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall where Carl and Will had set up the MYA booth.  Allan checked in on the students in rehearsals and we all went out to eat with Patrick Pearson who was there with six of his students from OPRF High School.  After dinner we went to the lounge in the Pere Marquette Hotel where the Directors All-Star Big Band was doing a New Music Reading session.  We had hoped to hear Chris Madsen's compositions, but they weren't played before the first set ended at 11 pm.  Had to call it a night and went to the Hampton Inn - - - the best beds and hotel- - -and got a good night's sleep!

Our Big Band followed a great performance by Mt. Prospect High School's Jazz Band on Friday morning.  We share two players, Robby Mack and Robert Osiol.  We were so proud of how well Chris and the Big Band's represented MYA!

Allan, Mr. Bassill, Mrs. Reagen and Mr. Pearson attended the ASTA (American String Teachers Association) luncheon where Hans Jensen was honored with the 2010 Artist Teacher Award.  We stayed and listened to his talk later in the afternoon on what inspired and guided his teaching --as expected, informative and entertaining.  If you’re missing Mr. Jensen at cello classes this year, you might want to know that he has been extremely busy.  First semester he also taught at Eastman School of Music, and this semester he is focusing on researching and writing a new cello pedagogy book that he is determined to finish before Northwestern starts up again in the fall.
 
 It's always fun to renew connections with school directors and teachers we have known for years!  When Allan finished bumping into and talking to colleagues and friends, we headed back to Chicago.

 Today it's back to work and our busy weekend.  If you're a parent of younger students and have questions about All-State, ask! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Midwest Young Artists - Jazz in January!


Since Allan and I began MYA with a small group of families 18 years ago, I have spent a lot of time on the front lines of MYA operations. This year, we decided to redirect my energy toward community relations and development. These two areas have much in common: both benefit from effective communication and both have a longer timeline than that of the day-to-day operations.  I have been enjoying this chance to reflect on some bigger picture issues that affect MYA, young musicians, their families and our country.  

In an effort to raise some of these ideas, I thought it would be productive and fun to start a blog so MYA families have a chance to look “inside” MYA.  When MYA first started, a number of people asked Allan what he did during the week.  It was obvious what he did on Saturdays, but what he did to get ready for that day was not.   Our families see and experience great concerts like our Jazz in January concert last Sunday, but not necessarily what goes on getting there or how we evaluate the experience afterward. 
 
The goal of Jazz in January has always been to offer an opportunity for our students to work with and be inspired by top musicians in the field jazz.  Past guest artists have included the late Johnny Frigo, Grad Goode, Bobby Lewis, Rich Fudoli, the late Barrett Deems, Mark Colby, Sean Jones, Rufus Reid, and Dick Oates.  Last year, we had Victor Goines, and this year, Chris Madsen recommended Steve Davis who had soloed with the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble last year.  

What a good choice!  It was obvious that Steve Davis really loved what he was doing!  And I think the word Chris used to describe him was “gracious.”  The thesaurus defines gracious as kind and giving.  Synonyms are: accommodating, amiable, approachable, big-hearted, charitable, compassionate, congenial, and considerate.  Not only did our students work with a great performer and teacher, but how great that they could see a gracious person as a role model! 
 
We had good attendance despite the Bears v. Packers game, but we lost audience after intermission so many students in the younger bands didn’t learn from listening to the Big Band.  Chris, Jarrard, Allan and Will decided it might be a good idea to shorten the concert next year by just featuring the Big Bands on the Sunday concert.  The guest artist would still work with the combos on Saturday and the combos would play in a jazz club on Saturday night.   

Besides shortening the concert, do you have any ideas for how we can get the students to stay for the whole event?