Voices Rising and CSO Percussion Ensemble Get Ready for Welcome Yule Concerts

Wandered down to the South Rehearsal Hall last night and heard some exciting music and saw some excited students!  This year's CSO Welcome Yule concerts are going to rock this year!  Gary Fry has written some wonderful music for percussion ensemble and childrens' choir which will be featured on this CSO holiday concert tradition.  MYA's Voices Rising has been performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus since 2006, and there is just as much excitement and anticipation as ever under new director, Anastasia Black.  Ms. Black has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and know what it takes to get the group ready for these concerts.  So good to see such dedication and hard work happening!

VX Ensemble Auditions in November!

Being a part of the VX Studio Vocal Ensemble is something that you will never forget.

I remember the first day that I came to rehearsal and just that experience. When I first walked in, of course I noticed the big house and the fancy studio that was seen from the driveway, but when I walked in, I realized that there were all of these kids, ready to do what I wanted to do. We were all there for the same goal. That's why it was a great experience. It was the first time I saw a significantly magnified group that really focused on this one goal and we wouldn't stop until we felt proud of what we did.

-David Sucher, 2012 VX Member

"VX Recording Ensemble was one of the best things that happened to me during my singing career."

-Francesca Fridman, 2012 VX Member

I'm helping schedule auditions for this year's spring semester class.  When I read testimonials like this from students who participated in Gary Fry's class last year, I wish had an opportunity like this when I was in High School! If you are interested in this uncommon experience, auditions are posted at www.mya.org/audition/ or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at chelsa@mya.org or call 847.926.9898.

Submitted by Chelsa Peterson, Choral Program Administrator

Midwest Young Artists Top-Rated Nonprofit

Thank you to everyone who wrote a review!  It is heartwarming to know that the hard work of MYA faculty, board, parents and staff is appreciated.  You can't create the environment we have at MYA without the collaborative efforts of so many people, and we are grateful every day for the support we receive.  If you'd like to read what people are saying about Midwest Young Artists, CLICK HERE.

Introducing Soundbytes for Seniors

Ask anyone who works at MYA or another non-profit organization: perhaps the most rewarding thing about what we do is that we are provided unique opportunities to impact the lives of the people in our community in a powerfully positive way. 

I am very excited to share one of these opportunities with you today; but first, a story from Kat Jasieniecki, an Occupational Therapist and wife of MYA’s Director of Marketing and Communication, Carl Jasieniecki:

 “A patient with Alzheimer's was extremely rude and combative (through little fault of his own) unless he was talking about his late wife, or something reminded him of her. They had run out of things to talk about until one of the techs brought an iPad and guessed about what sort of music the patient would have listened to in the 1930's. He chose a song from a popular musical and the patient stopped yelling, calmed down immediately, and asked "how'd you get that song on the calculator like that?!? My wife and I used to sing that all the time!" And from that point forward, the patient would always be calmed down before therapy (which lead to more improvement) with the song played from the one iPad they had there, even if someone had to be summoned from across the building to provide it. When the patient was being discharged and sent home, he was saddened that he didn't have a way to play the song, and asked repeatedly "well, how am I going to play the song though? What will I do??”

The impact of music on patients with Alzheimer’s has been well documented. If you have the chance, I highly recommend watching this clip which shows a patient who begins slumped over and unresponsive and becomes energetic and enlivened when he hears his favorite song.

Midwest Young Artists is proud to introduce Soundbytes for Seniors.  Through early January, we will collect used iPods, headphones, chargers and speakers that we can load with familiar music and directly give to Alzheimer's patients.  We are working closely with the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Illinois as well as ManorCare Health Services on this project, and we need your help!

If you have any items to contribute to our drive, please fill out a donation form and bring your item(s) to the lobby on weekends or the MYA office during the week. We will have a station set up to accept all donations. In addition, we will need student and parent volunteers for projects including iPod cleaning and charging, care package assembly and delivery, and serving at a donation booth at our concerts on October 28 and December 28. A signup sheet for these tasks is posted on our Volunteer page accessed from the Members page of our website.

Thank you for your support! Your generosity will provide joy to so many people.

Submitted by Ben Rusch, MYA Volunteer Coordinator

The Changing Face of Fundraising

First let's start with what hasn't changed.  Non-profits receive 80% of their donations from individuals who are familiar with the organization's mission and believe in it.

So what are the changes, and how do they affect Midwest Young Artists?  This year for the first time since 2005, we didn't receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.  While we submitted a strong application, the NEA made the competition stiffer by readjusting their guidelines to fund a wider variety of youth arts organizations, comparing us to all youth arts organizations, not just music, and then just by granting less money overall.  We have applied for funding for next year, 2013-2014, but not getting funding this year puts us in the hole because we will not have the $58,000 we received last year.

As our online personas grow ever more important via Facebook and other accounts, corporations and foundations increasingly tie their giving into social media campaigns that increase their visibility and allow for convenient interaction with their Facebook followers.  MYA has been nominated to participate in the Chase Community Giving Program, but is unlikely to garner more votes than organizations possessing a national scope and network of constituents across the country.  For example, the Balanced Mind Foundation in Evanston recently won a Pepsi Charitable Project.  This organization provides on-line resources and chat rooms for families who are raising children with mood disorders.  They serve over 600,000 visitors who use their online resources every year.

Let us know what you think about these campaigns.  If you have no qualms about connecting and voting on Facebook or if you have a bank account at Chase, please VOTE FOR MYA at the links below by September 18!  We'd like to have more of a local reach than other Chicago organizations.

Click here for link to Facebook vote page.

Click here for link to Chase Community Giving page.

Notes to MYA Parents

Parents will be receiving a letter from me outlining MYA goals for this special 20 Years Young Season. The first is just to celebrate this 20 year milestone!  The second is to increase our visibility so that more people know about Midwest Young Artists and our mission.  While MYA is well known nationally and at music schools across the country, we have a lot of work to do to be better known locally.  The third goal, like all non-profits, is to successfully meet our contributed income needs so that we can carry out our plans for this special year and beyond.  FYI, our goal for this year is $360,500, or about 27% of our total budget.  The rest comes from tuition, ticket sales and program ads.

For my part, to increase our visibility, I joined the Highwood/Highland Park Rotary Club.   Steve Greene (Scott/clarinet/Symphony) is a member and I'm thoroughly enjoying the meetings and getting acquainted with a wonderful group of people who really believe in the mission of this organization, service above self.  Allan was a member of Rotary when we lived in Iowa; in fact, we had a foreign exchange student from Denmark for 2/3 of a year when our girls were 9, 5 and newborn. Now I know why he enjoyed it so much.

I thought of MYA Parents when I ready my Rotary eBulletin today.  They are looking for volunteers to help with the Ft Sheridan beach clean up this Saturday, September 15.  If it's as beautiful as today, you might want to help out, especially if you've never walked down to the Ft Sheridan beach while your children are rehearsing.  Bring gloves and either meet at the McDonald's on Sheridan Road at 8:30 am, or stop by the office when you arrive at MYA in the morning and ask directions to the beach.

If other parents are Rotary members in other clubs, I'd love to know.

Meet Ben Rusch

We selected a new staff person!  We hope you will meet and welcome Ben Rusch this weekend. He will be around on both Saturday and Sunday.

It was an interesting selection process.  We read over dozens of resumes, conducted phone interviews, checked references, and brought in four candidates for interviews.  I think young people today are more mission driven in their career and job choices today, and non-profits like MYA, benefit from an awesome pool of bright, talented and resourceful candidates who really want to make a difference.

Ben was the first choice of the entire staff because he had all the skills and ability we were looking for and applicable experience working in the Chicago community music schools niche.  Ben was the Marketing Coordinator at the DePaul Community Music Division, and prior to that, he was Operations and Marketing Assistant at Chicago Youth Symphony.  He has a Bachelor of Music in Performing Arts Management with a minor in Business Administration from DePaul University where he had a Presidential Scholarship.  He also plays bassoon and did a stint in a drum line in his high school in Texas.


The only thing in life that is constant is change.  This wisdom was printed on a card I bought when I was in my late 20s, and I go back to that sentiment more often than I'd like.

At MYA we have had several recent changes.  Yesterday's Music & Family Fun Fest was moved inside after weeks of planning for an outdoor event.  Volunteers stepped right up and helped with the change in plans, we made the best of it, and although the inflatables and some of the "fun" was missing, our true mission, the music and rehearsals, went off well, in crowded rehearsal rooms packed with students, parents and our dedicated music directors.

Another big change at MYA is that we are saying good bye to our Volunteer Coordinator, Gena Andreasen.  We had a party at Bridie McKenna's last night after the Fun Fest to show our appreciation for her 10 years of dedication to our mission, and to wish her well as she goes back to school full-time to become an occupational therapist.  Those of you who know Gena can picture her patients laughing and trying their best to do whatever she asks them to.

We also received a phone call about a week ago that the print shop we have used for 20 years, Mumm's Print Shop in Evanston, had sold their press and was going out of business.  We will miss working with Bernice, Lester and their nice, Marilyn, who would take all those program ads and information in almost any format we gave them and deliver our program books within an impossibly short deadline.  They always pulled through and we're sorry they had to close their business.  Our Xerox copier/printer in the office does so many jobs that we used to also have them print.  If anyone has any contacts or connections to a good printer, please let us know.

What to Expect at Sunday's Music & Family Fun Fest

For those of you who are new to MYA this year or last, MYA's Music & Family Fun Fest used to be at the end of the year when it offered a final performance for all our large ensembles. This year, with conflicts with the Fischoff Competition at this time, and our prior May weather problems, we decided to make the event an opportunity to start the year out with all our families coming together for more of an open house, open rehearsal event. The goal of this event has always been to increase visibility within the neighboring communities, but more importantly this year, to build community among our MYA students and families.

This year's Music & Family Fun Fest will take the place of old parent meetings which the ensemble directors could not attend because they were rehearsing, and the parent parties of the last two years when  parents of young children found it difficult to attend an evening party.

Orchestras will have only had one rehearsal on Saturday, so the Orchestra Directors will have a little open rehearsal/demonstration and take time to talk to parents about their goals for the season and answer questions.  Voices Rising and the Big Bands will have their first rehearsals on Sunday, which will be open to the public.  At the end of each time slot or rehearsal, MYA Parent, Ann Cariola (Andrew, double bass, Concert Orchestra) has an Icebreaker game for all the students to get better acquainted with the students in their ensemble.

For everyone, there will be:

  • A NOON performance by Fred & Teddi Koch and the 'Lil Cow Band, a little rock band by MYA Faculty members, geared to pre-school through early elementary aged students.  Teddi directs our Music & Movement Classes, and Fred, our Little and Mighty Maestros.  At the same time, Ronald McDonald will be visiting.
  • A 4:30 PM JAZZ Performance by MYA Alum, Michael and John Fatum and their professional combo which includes other MYA Alums.
  • Games:  our famous Cake Walk, Bingo, a retro video game room, Bungee Run, Head to Head Basketball, Moon Rocket Bouncy Tent and more!
  • Food:  Starbuck's Southern Mac 'n Cheese Truck, Sunset Foods, and Bridie McKenna's
  • $5 RAFFLE:  Drawings every half hour!  Prizes include: Season Tickets, an iPad, and lots of other donated items. 

Alexander Technique: What it is?

When I first entered college I had heard about a class called the Alexander Technique and I had NO idea what it was. During my first few college voice lessons my teacher asked me “Have you ever tried Alexander Technique?” You see, I tend to hold all of my tension in my jaw and as a singer that is a BAD thing. It kept me from going to that next step, it kept me from practicing more because it hurt, and in general it just held me back. So even though I still had NO idea what Alexander Technique was, my voice teacher convinced me to sign up for the Alexander Technique class, which is a hard thing to schedule when you are a double music major (no extra time, anywhere!).

On my first day of class, in walks the Instructor, Jane Comfort Brown, who has been teaching the Alexander Technique since 1975. She moves with an ease and grace that you do not see in a 70+ year old. She started off with the basics and as the semester moved along she would work with everyone individually to help them with their individual problems. It was amazing. When I actually thought about what the Alexander Technique has taught me, the tension in my jaw would disappear and I would be able to sing for hours on end. I continued to take at least one class a year to keep up with the thinking and it was one of the things that got me through my Vocal Performance (and Arts Administration) Degree. Not only did I use the thinking while I was singing, but also to help me play piano, to write papers, to sit in class, and to walk from one side of the campus to another. Just thinking about the Alexander Technique helps me to relax my muscles and release whatever tension I am holding.

If you are interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique, please join the MYA Family on Friday, August 17that 10am. Alexander Technique Instructor, John Henes (from Northwestern and DePaul) will be presenting a workshop at the MYA center in the South Hall.

This workshop is made possible by the generosity of MYA Voices Rising member, Jenna Getty who fund-raised for MYA as part of her Bat Mitzvah.  Jenna Getty has been a member of Voices Rising since the Fall of 2009.

This blog was submitted by Chelsa Peterson, MYA Auditions Coordinator, Summer Program Director, Choral Program Administrator (We all wear many hats at MYA!)

Fun, Friendships, and Music at International Music Summit

The first big event of our 2012-2013 20 Years Young Season is about to start.  Charlie Liu arrived this afternoon from New Jersey with his brother and dad, and Kate Lee and her mom arrived from Hong Kong yesterday. By tomorrow six Lang Lang Scholars will have made their way to Chicago for a week of educational workshops and coaching sessions and their orchestral debuts with MYA's Symphony Orchestra next Sunday, August 19, on the Pritzker Stage of Millenium Park.  The performance is at 6:30 p.m. (after the Air & Water Show) and will feature the Grieg and Chopin Piano Concertos and Dvorak Carnival Overture.

Six MYA families and music enthusiasts have opened their homes to these young students, all hand picked by international piano superstar, Lang Lang.  Symphony Orchestra members will start rehearsals on Monday evening, and MYA Chamber Music students will rehearse each afternoon, also getting ready for a chamber music recital at the MYA Center, next Saturday, August 18, at 3 p.m.  

Tonight, MYA Alum and Jazz Pianist, Adam Kromelow, will treat the classically trained young pianists to a jazz piano recital at 7 p.m., our first Music at the Fort recital of the season.

Festival Classique den Haag

Do you ever have times when things just flow and everything seems to fall into place?  That's how Dr D and I felt during the 9 days we spent in Europe.  MYA hosted the Versailles Youth Orchestra this spring, and from what I've heard from many MYA families, the social bonding that occurred during their stay is continuing nonstop with the ease of communication on the internet. Our trip was to check out concert venues in and around Paris where we could perform when we reconnect in France next June.  Within three packed days, we confirmed three and maybe four concerts in and around Paris.

What we didn't expect was that a contact in Amsterdam would lead to the possibility of performing at a unique European classical music festival.  If funding is maintained (a big concern in the Netherlands where the government is the largest patron for public art and culture), we were offered the opportunity to perform at next year's Festival Classique den Haag.  This festival is just 6 years and takes place in and around The Hague, the seat of Dutch government, foreign embassies and 150 international organizations including International Courts (Rwanda and Serbia war crimes trials).  Although the Hague is not the capital of the Netherlands (constitutionally it is Amsterdam), the phrase we heard is that in the Netherlands, money is made in Rotterdam, divided up in The Hague, and spent in Amsterdam!  

This year's festival starts this week and the goal is to keep classical music fresh and fun, while maintaining the integrity of the music.  How do they do this?  By bold programming, played in unexpected places, and concerts where new audiences may be attracted as much by a theme as by a composer, artist or piece of music.  The highlight is two nights of concerts played underneath the stars on the most beautiful floating outdoor 1200 seat stage in Europe.  The Hofvijver stage is build on 256 pontoons on the pond in front of the government buildings pictured above, and if all goes well, we'll experience this most unique venue next June.

For a better idea and more information, check out the festival website.   The big nights this year feature dancing to Holst's The Planets on Friday, and bringing the arts back to the Olympics (yes, the Olympics used to include art!) with top class athletics by both dancers and musicians on Saturday.  Let's hope the weather is beautiful and not rainy as it was our whole day in The Hague!

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium

And it was!  The final day of our nine day concert tour planning trip was in Antwerp on Tuesday. After eight days of intensive travel, connections and visits to potential concert venues, we arrived in Antwerp.  We were told by people at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague that Antwerp had transformed itself since the year long ago when Allan studied there.  The day in Antwerp was a wonderful end to a very productive trip!

Although the city did look very different to him, Allan was able to take a tram out to the suburb and even walk to the house where he lived with a Flemish family.  The best night of our travels was the reservation Allan randomly made at a Coco-Mat hotel simply because a on-line review said it was a short walk from the train station pictured above.  You should really click on the CNN link about the Greek company who owns this hotel.  When we entered the lobby, it was set up with furniture, including a large bed and bunk beds for kids.  It looked more like a showroom than a hotel.  In fact, although it was our most expensive night's stay (130 euros), we took the elevator and opened the door to a two bedroom suite complete with kitchen, dining/living room, and a bath and a half, all furnished with furniture and linens manufactured by Coco-Mat.  Wished we had had family there to enjoy the expansive accommodations. Never in a million years were we expecting this in a European hotel. The company has gotten into the hotel business by partnering with hotels that fill their rooms with all natural furniture made by Coco-Mat.  Great marketing strategy!  It was truly the best night's sleep I have ever had (12 hours), which I'll attribute to the fabulous bed and luxurious bedding and not lack of sleep prior to this night.
The next morning, we discovered the great bicycle system in Antwerp.  From the hotel, we received a card for 3 euros each that enabled us to swipe at bike racks throughout the city.  You ride thirty minutes, park the bike, and then pick up another bike.  The best stop for Allan was a Frituur'tsteen near the harbor (french fries with mayonaise)! And, talk about real bike paths. . .traffic lights just for bikes and pedestrians and motorists all look out for anyone on a bicycle. Missed this when, inspired, we rode our bikes to MYA yesterday!
Oh, and did I mention the huge chocolate fountain in the train station selling the best chocolate covered strawberries I've ever had?  Then, the r&r was over, and we were on a fast train to Paris to take a plane back to the States.

I didn't blog while we were gone; too busy a schedule, and it was easier to post a few photos on MYA's Facebook Page.  Check back for more to come as we introduce more details of our June 2013 concert tour plans.

Let's Rock out!

Midwest Young Artists will be trying something new this summer. The MYA Summer Rock Experience has no fee and no application, we just want students to show up and have a good time. MYA invites all instruments and even vocalists to join Mark Adamczyk for five Thursdays this summer starting on June 21. Held at the MYA Center in Highwood, we'll be rocking out with our instruments and voices and pushing musical boundaries. "Rock and Roll," "Rhythm and Blues," "Hip-hop," whatever you want to call it, we'll be trying it: and yeah, with riffs, with microphones, with grooves, with a strong back-beat, with solos, and definitely with attitude. Join our "Chamber Jam" and challenge yourself as we give entirely new meaning to the term "ensemble playing." Besides no fee and no application, there is no audition, but students should be able to read music. Come for any one Thursday or come for five. And don’t wonder what it will be like, come and find out!

Heading up the Rock Experience is University of Illinois, Urbana graduate Mark Adamczyk. He has been actively involved with young people and music since he received certification from the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ. Mark works with over a hundred children each week, between instrument lessons and the Music Together classes he leads all over Lake County. He performs, with his guitar and his songs, at family events for area park districts. Mark is a composer of stage musicals at the nationally famous Theatre Building Chicago Writers Workshop and can also be caught gigging around the Chicago area performing jazz and rock.

Please join Mark Adamczyk and learn something new this summer! Check out our “trailer!” 

The MYA Summer Rock Experience will meet at the MYA Center from 7-9pm, Thursdays, June 21 through July 19, 2012.

For more information please visit www.mya.org/summer/rock.

Summer at MYA

The other day, someone asked if we closed down for the summer or if our workload lightened.  The answer is an emphatic NO.  Not only do we have many summer programs to get ready for, we are busy planning for next season, MYA's 20th Anniversary.  Allan and I will go to CSO's Keys to the City Chicago Piano Day performance at Symphony Center tomorrow to see David Hyde Pierce.  With his help, we are working on a collaboration with the Alzheimer's Association to jointly put on a concert in Symphony Center on December 28.  Then, we leave for France to scout out venues for our June 2013 concert tour to France, Belgium and The Netherlands.   Check back for news on how this is goes.  Will try to post to the blog during our travels.   

While we're gone, the Gena and Sandra will be working hard on planning and finding sponsors for this year's Music and Family Fun Fest which we have moved to Sunday, August 26.  Matt will be working on soliciting ads for next year's concert program book.  Please let them know if you have any ideas or can help.

The MYA office will be closed from July 28-August 5, but until then, everyone is hard at work getting ready for an exciting season!

End of Season Performances

We concluded our 2011-2012 season today with a Woodwind Chamber Music Recital.  Here's a few photos from other end-of-season performances.
Patsy Dash and Doug Waddell directed a final performance of our Percussion Ensemble on April 30th. Patrick Loftus used the occasion to perform his senior marimba recital before he heads off to Brown University to study Math, Computer Science of Philosophy.  
On May 20th, we heard bass solos played by Alum and graduating seniors, and Mars (from The Planets), The Pink Panther and My Girl (My Bass) performed by the Bass Ensemble led by Dr. D you see pictured.
The Ebony Clarinet Quartet (Scott Greene, Liah Watt, Steven Zhang and Torin Bakke) performed for Wuhan Night at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on May 18th.
On Thursday, Symphony Orchestra performed Holst's The Planets at Ravinia as part of their Reach*Teach*Play Outreach Program.  The audience included MYA Alums, Peter Kupfer and Shannon Mahoney with their nearly 3 month old daughter Sophie and Naomi Bensdorf Frisch with one year old Elise!  Check out MYA on Facebook for more great photos from this beautiful day. 

The Long Haul to Fischoff

We are very humbled by the amount dedication and commitment our students, particularly those in our Intensive Chamber Music Program, have to their music.  It hit me, especially this week, as I've traveled to performances by the ensembles from MYA who are heading to South Bend tonight for the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition which is this weekend at Notre Dame University.  On Sunday night, I drove to Mt. Prospect where Contrapunctus String Quartet performed in a church for family and friends.  Last night, I drove to Aurora where The Alpaca String Quartet performed  for Emily Camras's colleagues and teachers at IMSA (Illinois Math and Science Academy).

That these students drive such long distances every week (and further) to participate in MYA, reminds me of the efforts of an athlete preparing for the Olympics. It is so gratifying to watch the students work all year towards the goal of a competition, and as Allan says over and over, it is the process that's important.  They have been coached weekly, have practiced weekly, participated in master classes and performed on the Sunday recitals we have 2-3 times a month.  Whatever the outcome this weekend, they all have prepared to do their best.  Also competing from MYA is the Meshugene String Quartet, and No Strings Attached, a woodwind trio.

Did you know?

  • 136 ensembles applied and 48 ensembles were accepted.
  • 28 nationalities are represented in the entries
  • The competition on Saturday and Sunday will be streamed live.  Check out the Fischoff Website for information.  
  • The last 4 Grammy Award winners in Classical ensemble music have been Fischoff alumni
  • MYA Faculty members Julie Fischer, Mandy Dennis and Rose Armbrust are Fischoff Alumni

The Planets

MYA students in Symphony Orchestra are starting rehearsals today on Holst's The Planets for a May 24  performance at Ravinia. The performance will be sure to please the thousands of students who will attend this concert which is part of Ravinia's Reach*Teach*Play program.  This popular orchestra suite of seven movements is intended to convey ideas and emotions associated with the influence of the planets on the psyche.  The composer did not count it among his best creations.  He was, however, partial to his own favorite movement, Saturn.  Pluto was discovered in 1930, four years before Holst's death, but he had no interested in writing a movement for the new planet.  He became disillusioned by the popularity of the piece believing that it took too much attention away from his other works.

MYA Launches E-Auction to run until May 8

This year's MYA E-Auction will launch April 29 and run through midnight on Tuesday, March 8.  This is an opportunity for everyone to support the work MYA does.  You could think about deciding the amount of your donation and then select a premium from the many items available at MYA's on-line E-Auction.

One of our Alums donated his sports memorabilia collection which included a baseball autographed by Mickey Mantle.  Our parents and faculty also donated many music lessons.  There are also many fine restaurants and dining experiences, including Dr. D delivering a delicious home made apple pie (and, of course, staying to eat it with ice cream)!

This auction is on our own secure website.  Everyone who REGISTERS TO BID will be entered in a drawing for a pair of seasons' tickets to all MYA 2012-2013 concerts.

Thank you to all the generous auction donors who have contributed items! Please thank them when you see them or visit their businesses! And, thank you for bidding to make all this work worthwhile!

John Bruce Yeh: He's Our Man

John Bruce Yeh has had a special relationship with MYA since 2001, when he was our guest artist for a performance of the Corigliano and Copland Clarinet Concertos with Symphony Orchestra.  He returns next Sunday, April 29, to perform a Chicago premiere of Liquid Melancholy, a piece MYA commissioned from James Stephenson, MYA parent (Deanna/violin/Concert) and composer.  Pictured below is the rehearsal with the orchestra before John left on tour to Russia with the CSO.  For those of you who think you don't like "new" music, you won't feel this way when you hear Jim's listener friendly, driving and energetic piece. You won't want to miss the artistry John always displays and hearing this wonderful new solo for clarinet. Tickets will be available at the door at Pick Staiger Concert Hall.  The concert starts at 6 p.m.  All MYA students receive comp tickets to this concert and any other they aren't performing in.

John Bruce Yeh accepts the MYA Take Note Award at the 7th Annual MYA Benefit on April 14, 2012

Au Revoir, Bon Voyage

Thank you to all the MYA families who hosted 40 students from L'Orchestra du College Jean-Philippe Rameau from Versailles, France.  The youth orchestra arrived in Chicago last Sunday and stayed at Hostelling International on Congress Parkway in Chicago until Thursday night when the students aged 18 and under were taken home by MYA families for the rest of their stay.  They just boarded buses for O'Hare and their return flight back to France.

A big thank you also to The Peoples Music School and Merit Music School. .  The French orchestra's performances at their schools were met with enthusiasm and interest by attentive audiences both at Merit Music School and Hibbard Elementary School where The Peoples Music School has 170 students in a wonderful program modeled after the Venezuelan El Sistema program.  They also played a concerts at Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center and last night at Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia.

While a lot of work and effort on everyone's part, these cultural exchanges are so valuable in young people's education, giving them an expanded perspective on the world.  We look forward to pursuing additional opportunities.

If you have additional photos, please send them to Carl.

Why is David Hyde Pierce Coming to MYA's April 14 Benefit?

David Hyde Pierce (born April 3, 1959) is an American actor and comedian. He is best known for playing the psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on the NBC sitcom Frasier, for which he won four Emmy Awards during the series' run. Why would he fly to Chicago to make an appearance at a music school benefit?  What's the connection?

David may be a famous actor, but he is also a musician, and for Dr. D, Founder and Director of MYA, who rarely watches television (except football games) and never caught an episode of Frasier, he is known as a classical pianist who soloed with the high school orchestra in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he taught years ago.  The piece was Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, and even back then, he was a huge talent.  Reconnecting recently at a Ravinia performance, David confirmed that he found acting easier than practicing hours and hours to be a classical pianist.

What a successful career, and what a wonderful person to come to Chicago for MYA's event, paying his own way, because he believes in our mission and the value of arts in our society.  We are most grateful that in addition to his appearance at the benefit, performing You Wont' Succeed On Broadway from Spamalot, with MYA's VX Studio Vocal Ensemble and members of our Big Band, David will also be rehearsing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Symphony Orchestra that afternoon.  What an act of kindness, surely to inspire our students.

Midwest Young Artists College Night

Congratulations to the MYA Young Professionals Board for an incredibly informative, insightful and interesting program last night.  It was truly well-done in every way.  The panel was diverse and balanced and each one of them contributed tremendously to the discussion.  The entire event was professionally executed - from the start with the printed panelist bios and well prepared, all encompassing questions from the moderator (George Ferguson) - to the end with questions from the audience, and the beautiful reception where people could meet and speak with the panelists.

Thanks to the panel which included: Ross Beacraft, Director of Admissions for the DePaul University School of Music; Naomi Bensdorf, performer and educator; Rachel Epley, music therapist and Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care in Chicago; Frank Feger, Associate Consultant at Mercer; Jarrard Harris, Director of MYA's Jazz Combo Program; Jason Heath, double bass performer, educator, blogger and podcaster; and Patrick Zylka, Coordinator of Music Admission and Financial Aid in the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music at Northwestern.

MYA Ensemble Travels to Utah for From The Top Broadcast

Broadcast on over 200 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on radio.  And, this week, MYA had yet another chamber music ensemble tape for this program.  Photos are from Dr. D who is in Salt Lake City with MYA's Meshugene String Quartet, winners of the 2011 Discover National Chamber Music Competition, and this year's Rembrandt Chamber Music Competition.

Meshugene was wonderful explaining string quartet rehearsal practices, playing for school children and getting them excited about music.  They tape for the radio show tonight!  Do you know what Meshugene means?

Midwest Young Artists Hosts Pizza Party for Competition Participants

This weekend is a great example of why I love my job. Two weeks ago, Allan suggested that we have pizza party for the students who were coming in from out of state for the Discover National Chamber Music Competition. Could we have more things to organize?  We already had a wonderful private Soirée in a board member's home last Sunday, and the jazz combo concert was scheduled at the MYA Center on the same night.

But at MYA you can put an idea out there and it can happen!  Ember sent an email out with the invitation for pizza and a room to practice and 74 students expressed interest. She then worked with Matt to coordinate room availability. I ordered the pizza and helped Matt and students set up the South Performance Hall for the combo concert cafe style. He got the video camera set up along with the popcorn machine for the combo concert.

Thanks to jazz parent volunteers and MYA Board member, Ken Michaels, everything ran smoothly and a great time was had by all. Ken got DVDs out from last Year's Summer Program to play in the lobby (great idea since many of the students had participated in our residential summer chamber music program last year and our own students stayed to see their camp friends.) He also picked up and left a spotless kitchen while Allan and I were listening to the combos play. 

Sunday's competition was also possible thanks to parent volunteers!  Two parents, Valerie Szotzek and Jennifer Leventhal, are still coordinating volunteers and providing a fabulous lunch for the judges and volunteers, even after their children have graduated from MYA.  We couldn't provide this experience to chamber msuic ensembles from  NYC, Minneapolis, Cleveland, St. Louis, Chicago, and eighteen of our own chamber music ensembles, without volunteeer help! 

The competition was a wonderful opportunity for the students to prepare repertoire, to experience performing under pressure, and to receive feedback from a wonderful panel of judges.  The judges this year were:  Jon Boen, principal horn of Lyric Opera, Grant Park Symphony, Music of the Baroque and the Chicago Philharmonic; Yvonne Lam, violin, and Nicholas Photinos, cello, both with the 2012 Grammy Award Winner ensemble, Eighth Blackbird; Timothy McGovern, Bassoon Professor at the University of Illinois; and Tom Vignieri, Music Producer of From The Top
Pictured above is Schwarzenbach & Sons, MYA Honorable Mention in the Strings and Piano category (Michael Brown and Rania Adamczyk, violins; Boris Schwarzenbach, cello; Kyle Stalsberg, viola; and Nick Trimark, piano).  They are coached by Rosie Armbrust Griffin who will be the soloist on our March 4 Music at The Fort Recital.  If you missed her recital last year, you won't want to miss this year's.

Got to love this job!

Midwest Young Artists Hosts Chicago Bass Fest


This past weekend, about a half hour before the New York Giants and New England Patriots kicked off Super Bowl XLVI, Chicago Bass Festival III was wrapping up the their faculty recital at Bennett Gordon Hall and another successful day for Chicago area bass players, educators and enthusiasts.

 The festival featured 19 bass clinicians, representing a large swath of Chicago area schools and performing institutions. Some of those include DePaul, Roosevelt, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Iowa, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and several more.  The clinicians led a total of 27 master classes, technique classes, performance classes, talks and performances for the more than 40 bassists in attendance.

Some of the highlights of the day included a performance by the Chicago Bass Ensemble where they premiered Autogenous Mining by Michael Wittgraf, a piece for four basses and interactive electronics – Engineered and orchestrated by the composer using a Nintedo Wiimote and a laptop on stage.  Two pieces at the final recital that delighted were a fast paced and energetic performance of the Passacaglia by Handel, arranged by Johan Halvorsen originally for violin and viola, but performed by Han-Jui (Henry) Chen on bass (playing the viola part) and Elias Goldstein on viola (playing the violin part). Both performers are on faculty at Ball State University – and a flawless interpretation of Francois Rabbath’s thrilling and ethereal Poucha Dass by University of Iowa professor Volkan Orhon.

Today's post is submitted by Matthew Jenetopulos who was the staff coordinator for this year's Chicago Bass Fest.   Mark your calendars for next year's Bass Fest:  Sunday, February 3, 2013 (Super Bowl Sunday) 

Midwest Young Artists To Host Youth Orchestra From France

Bonjour tout le monde!  James Rein here, the chamber coordinator from last year, and I’ll be your guest blogger today.  I hope you are doing well back in the States!  I am currently an English-teaching assistant in a couple public schools in Lyon, France.  My purpose is to bring authentic English to the classroom.  Life is good!

Did you know that MYA is going to host a French youth orchestra soon?  One of the things I’ve been working on for the past several months is organizing the April 2012 Chicago tour for the l’Orchestre du Collège Jean-Philippe Rameau de Versailles.  To simplify things, let’s just call them the Versailles Youth Orchestra.  They’ll be coming to Chicago from April 15th to April 23rd to give concerts, take a look around town, and get a feel for American life.  Ça va être intéressant! 

Organizing a tour for even just a week is quite a lot of work.  I’ve spent countless hours on googlemaps finding restaurants, checking precisely where el stops are, and trying to calcuting walking times for them given that:
  • the average French student hasn’t been to America or seen any cities with buildings taller than 20 stories, so for every one minute spent walking, the next minute will be spent craning their necks trying to see the tops of all the skyscrapers.  I will refer them to my old naprapath;
  • the average French student is used to walking everywhere for everything so they can walk miles a day if need be;
  • they will not find baguettes here so I fear they will get hungry easily and thus fatigued;
  • they will, however, not be able to drink wine legally here so they won’t affected by that particular brand of French torpor, heavy legs.
As you can see, there are a lot of details to consider when planning each and every movement of the Versailles Youth Orchestra corps

All kidding aside, I’ve been greeted by the French in only the warmest way possible.  For instance, this past Thanksgiving I took off from my classes Wed-Fri (gotta bring a little of my country’s culture over here don’t I??) to visit the orchestra director Christophe Junivart and his family right outside of Paris.  Christophe, like Dr. D, is a go-getter, can do it all, and can do it well.  The 70 students in his youth orchestra are between ages 15-22, some who even continue to play with him though they’re at conservatory in Paris.  This includes their principal hornist who will be playing Mozart’s Concerto No. 4 for one of their concerts in Chicago.  Very cool!

The Junivarts were wonderful hosts for my 5-day sojourn in Paris.  Christophe and his wife are both music teachers, and all three of his kids were really nice and they all like to cook!  The family managed to keep me well fed the entire time, which all the MYA staffers know is a big challenge.  Christophe took me to a Baroque concert in the Chapel at the Palace of Versailles (awesome!), his older son trounced me in Call of Duty, and I helped his daughter prepare for an English test.  Only a 25-minute train ride from the Notre Dame, I could sleep in half the day and still have a long, fulfilling day exploring Paris.  Unbeknown to him, Christophe also treated me to Thanksgiving dinner in his favorite bar in Versailles.   Salmon, tomato and cheese sandwich?  With a light beer?  Not bad, but I think I prefer American Thanksgiving.

The tour plans are almost done for the French.  I’ve just to figure out a couple more restaurants and such so I can maximize their American intake, both caloric and cultural.  They’ll be staying downtown for their first 4 nights, and then we’ll be looking for host families for about 35 of them for the next 4 nights (Thursday April 19th – Sunday April 22nd).   MYAers, take it from me if you don’t have any personal experience, international exchanges are the * best *. 

If you’re in Symphony, please consider hosting a French student for those 4 days in April.  It will be awesome, I assure you.  Even if you can’t speak a lick of French except voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?  which maybe you could try on one of them while they’re here, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to meet someone from another culture and continent.  And I don’t mean just meet them and chit-chat for an hour, I mean actually get to know them and start to understand them by spending a couple days with them.  How are they different?  How are they the same?  What funny American-isms do they know?  Then, who knows, if you go on the tour that MYA is thinking about for next summer 2013, you could be the guest in your guest’s home!  Or maybe you study abroad during college or end up over here like me at some point, and then you can meet up with and have a jolly good time in France with your old exchange student.  That’s how it works!

You will also notice in this post a picture of me with my new haircut, product of Itlay.  Now, Dr. D can finally stop thinking to himself, gosh James needs a haircut, which I assure you he thought out loud to me every day of my last 3 months of work there.  My hand is striking the traditional Italian hand-language perfetto pose, with my Italian-sized coffee in the other hand.  I spent the Christmas break at my new Italian friend’s house, gorging on pastas, gaining an inch around, and tying my scarf like an Italian.  Behold the beauty of international exchanges!  And Italian haircuts!

All right, I hope you have a wonderful and warm enough winter.  MYA families, if you come to France/Western Europe anytime in the next 6 months, please let me know I would love to try to meet up with you and share a bottle of wine!  Or maybe a rond du fromage, my treat!  Seriously, that would be awesome.

OK, see you soon!  Au revoir!

~James ('95 Alum, Horn)

Midwest Young Artists: Special Sunday

Couldn't leave work today without telling you what a great day I had yesterday.  Many of you remember Peter Kupfer ('97 MYA Alum, bassoon) who taught our theory classes for six years while he was a student at the University of Chicago.  He and his wife, Shannon (also '97 MYA Alum, viola) are expecting a baby girl in March.  His parents invited us to a brunch yesterday.  Jara Kern Burney (another '97 MYA Alum, flute) was there with her daughter and expecting another in May. Won't be long before we have children of Alums enrolled in our programs!  See photo below of Naomi Bensdorf Frisch  ('95 MYA Alum, MYA coach and oboe teacher) and Carrie Dennis Sullivan ('95 Alum, viola) who met up in LA last week with their children.

The afternoon was even better.  Voices Rising performed on the Voices of the Future concert at Harris Theater presented by Artists & Brands and Jira Productions to benefit for Ronald McDonald House Charities Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.  Ben Gray and the students represented MYA so well with their selections including Hear Comes The Sun as part of the special tribute to the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles.  They were followed by six other choirs from around Chicago, including the energetic and wonderful youth gospel choir, The Soul Children of Chicago who had the house on their feet with their rendition of Come Together by The Beatles.  The audience was larger than last year, and those who attended definitely walked away inspired and uplifted.

Midwest Young Artists Staff Has Fun at IMEA!

Matt and Carl went down to Peoria on Thursday morning.  You saw the new banners on my last post, and here they are set up at the MYA booth.
It's always a great time to be there for the students who participate in the All State ensembles!  Carl and Matt got out the popcorn popper Sarah Barnes and I bought years ago, and had a lot of fun!  Next year, it will be the karaoke machine which they brought, but couldn't hook up to the computer monitor.  

This year, Allan was honored at the ASTA (American String Teachers Association) luncheon with a Distinguished Service Award.  It meant a lot to him to be recognized by his colleagues.  Those of you who might remember his speeches to the graduating seniors before he started pre-recording them, will know how his acceptance remarks went. 
Thank you to New Trier Orchestra Director, Peter Rosheger, who nominated him, and Robert Bassill who was assigned the job of making some introductory remarks.  Know Robert struggled with what to say, but appropriately, he pointed out just two incidents within the past week that showed what Allan (and so many others) have created at MYA and how encompassing his service is.  Robert said that to his amazement, when Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for the first time last Saturday, he heard the solo line coming from the middle of the violin section.  Given that the winner of the Open Division wasn't at the rehearsal, it demonstrated just how strong a program MYA has.  The second story illustrates that there is nothing Allan won't do to help.  Robert said that when he stopped in the office on Tuesday night Allan was in his suit (a rare occasion) getting ready to go to a funeral when a mom came in whose son was taking bass lessons in the building.  They were having trouble getting the end pin out of his bass.  Allan, with his suit on, got on the floor and quickly figured out and fixed the problem.  While Allan said the award was for MYA, not him personally, we all know that he is the leader who demonstrates daily what it takes to carry out MYA's mission, to build a home with the power of music to enrich the lives of our students and communities. Kudos to him and thanks to those who made this recognition possible!

Midwest Young Artists Gets Ready to go to IMEA!

All the staff just left the lobby where new banners were set up in anticipation of getting MYA's booth ready for the Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conference in Peoria tomorrow.  Thank you to Kristi Licocci (MYA Alum Parent of Kyle '10/trumpet/Big Band) of American Outfitters, Ltd. and Carl Jasieniecki for working together to create beautiful, portable banners for each of our programs!  What a team effort to get these designed, printed and delivered within such a short time frame!  Watch for more photos from Peoria this weekend.

Midwest Young Artists Voices Collaborates to help fund Ronald McDonald House

Thank you to Jessica Jordan, our Choral Program Administrator, Ben Gray, VR Director, and the students and parents who let them take a bit of time off from school today to publicize the Voices of the Future concert this Sunday, January 29 @ 2:00 p.m. at Harris Theater at Millenium Park. Go to WGNtv.com to hear their performance in the WGN studio this noon!

This is a 2nd Annual Event.  Choirs from all over Chicago participate so it is a wonderful opportunity for our students to hear a wide range of vocal ensembles.  I attended last year and enjoyed the experience immensely.  Our students heard so many diverse choirs and repertoire from the exciting and energizing Soul Children of Chicago to the Loyola Academy Honors Chamber Singers, who sang selections they were preparing to perform at The Vatican.   

This year, each choir will perform a Beatles song to commemorate the Beatles 50th anniversary!  All funds go to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. . .in the midst of a campaign to build the largest Ronald McDonald house in the world right here in Chicago!  Tickets are $25 each and available at: the Artists Brands Website.