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)