Music

Toledo Symphony conductor Alain Trudel embraces his new community

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Alain Trudel came to Toledo to conduct an orchestra,  and to become part of a community. The Montreal native, who in September began his tenure as  Toledo Symphony Orchestra music director, said that he knew this was a place he wanted to be when he saw a poster in the orchestra’s office that spoke to its mission. It addressed, he said, the pillars that he also believes are essential. The first is artistic excellence — “to try to play the best version you can at any given time.” That’s essential, but not to his mind sufficient. Just as important, Trudel said, is being connected to the community. “Do you teach? Do you have a youth orchestra? Do you play chamber music in different houses?” And he was pleased to find “the orchestra does that.” That shows the organization “understands what it means to be relevant in your own community,” Trudel said. “If you are not relevant in your own community, you are in mortal danger.” The education part is the third pillar. The orchestra should be passing along the love of music to a young generation. Trudel has already attended and conducted a couple Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsals. He thinks of the members of those ensembles as his “younger colleagues.” Trudel will conduct his third concert as music director Saturday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.  The concert includes classics of the symphonic repertoire by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Stravinsky and a world premiere of a tuba concerto by Samuel Adler. Adler, a Perrysburg resident, is world renowned as a composer and educator. But he’s part of the regional music family, the conductor said. The solo part will be performed by the symphony’s tubist David Saltzman, who teaches at Bowling Green State University. During Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” artist Holly Carr will be on stage creating a panoramic silk painting. Trudel’s debut concert on the Classics series gave a clear indication of his direction. He opened with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that spotlighted the orchestra. Then the symphony played a composition by Christopher Dietz, of the BGSU faculty. The concert closed with dancers from the Toledo Ballet  performing excerpts from “Swan Lake.” This was arranged, Trudel said, before the merger of the ballet and the orchestra was even being considered. “I didn’t want it to be all about me,” he said of the program. “I didn’t want it to be all about the orchestra. I wanted it to be about connecting.” For Trudel that includes conducting at least one concert on all the symphony’s series, be it Pops, Family, or the Neighborhood concerts in venues throughout the region. “The public doesn’t migrate,” Trudel said. Those who go to hear the orchestra play the “West Side Story” soundtrack live will not for the most part come to hear Mahler.  “If you don’t show your face in each of the music series, you’re actually cutting yourself off from part of the audience.” Conducting a range of concerts is not a problem for him, he said. “My tastes are very eclectic. That gives me joy in all the series.” On March 9 when pianist Gene DiNovi joins the orchestra for music from the golden era of jazz, Trudel will be on stage with his trombone. Trudel, 52,…

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For Matt Wilson, music is about more than making sounds on his drums

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Matt Wilson is in the middle of it all. And the  jazz drummer and composer wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as the music, he said in a recent telephone interview, he was drawn to the jazz community. Wilson remembers as a teen going to festivals and watching in awe at the interaction among the performers. “I just saw the way players greeted each other … how they talked and showed their love and asked about families. I’d sit and see that from a cloud. Now I’m part of it. I love the social aspect.” The 54-year-old musician has gone on to play and teach with many of those he first admired, and he also passes that sense of community on to a new generation, not just as a teacher but as a fellow musician. Now he’s sometimes the oldest musician on the stage. This week Wilson will interact with the students at Bowling Green State University during a four-day residency. His visit will culminate in a performance with the jazz faculty and the Jazz Lab bands  at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall. Tickets in advance are $7 and $3 for students from bgsu.edu/arts or by calling 419-372-8171. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Wilson said his mother attributes his playing drums to his childhood. He was born with a clubfoot. Because of the treatment to correct the problem, he couldn’t run around. He’d be seated in one place with toys around him, like a drum set. And he used his imagination to find new ways to play with his toys. That approach to drums have earned him the respect of his peers. In 2017 he was named Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association.  His parents played a lot of music, not necessarily jazz, but instrumental music. Then he saw Buddy Rich on an episode of “The Lucy Show” in the 1970s, and he was hooked. “I liked the  look. I liked the energy,” he said. “I liked the way to brought people together.” Wilson started learning drums on his own. When he did start taking lessons, he found a teacher who was more interested in teaching music rather than just the rudiments of drumming. So when he was showing Wilson a bossa nova beat, the teacher would play along on bass. Budget cuts had taken their toll on his school’s music program. It had a band, but no jazz ensemble. He and his brother, a saxophonist, would by sheet music and play duets. They’d play for 4-H and PTA meetings, complete with some comedic schtick.  “I had to go in the community,” Wilson said. “I was around older musicians who gave me really great guidance.” Staring in his early teens he worked a number of jobs at weddings and dances. Once he was playing with a pianist at a nursing home. After the tune she asked: “We were playing ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ What were you doing?” Playing a solo, he said, taken aback. “I knew I had to play the song like everyone else.” Performing in a rock band that played original material taught him how to come up with drum parts when he didn’t have a recording as a model. Though he grew up…


Library piano recital showcases the top talent from BGSU College of Musical Arts

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Entering her senior year as a piano performance major, Yuefeng Liu has a lot on her agenda. That includes preparing for the next stage of her career — auditioning for graduate programs. On Monday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m.  she’ll take time to join six fellow Bowling Green State University Piano students to perform a free public recital in the Wood County District Public Library’s atrium. The program will include music by Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, and Carl Vine. Liu, a student of Laura Melton, will perform two movements from Beethoven’s sonata in F minor, the “Appassionata.” That piece will be part of her audition repertoire. These recitals, said fellow pianist Hanqiu Xu, who also studies with Melton and has performed at the library in the past, tend to be more relaxed than those on campus. “It’s more enjoyable,” she said, and that can lead to a more expressive playing. Pianist Zhanglin Hu, a student of Robert Satterlee, feels the same way. But it doesn’t matter the venue or the audience. The goal is always to make beautiful music, he said. Solungga Liu, professor of piano at BGSU, said that though the students may feel more relaxed, it does not mean they and their teachers take these concerts, which happen several times over the year, lightly. Rather they take the library recitals very seriously and prepare diligently for them, she said.  “The selection (of performers) is very strict.” Only the most prepared students are selected to perform. “We only want the best. This is good exposure for the college,” Solungga Liu said. While the recitals have occasionally had themes, that’s only been by happenstance. The pieces are selected by the faculty members based on what the students have best prepared.  “The library is the most ideal environment outside the College of Musical Arts,” Professor Liu said.  “The audience is receptive and always very attentive. It’s very encouraging for the students. We need a venue like that. It makes students leave their comfort zone and have an opportunity to perform for a completely different group of people.” While there are familiar faces in the audience, she said, “there’s some new faces as well and more kids, and they stay quiet the whole time. It’s very nice.” Xu said at the library the performers also introduce their pieces, telling a bit about themselves and sharing background about the composition they are about to play. Some people who have come to the library to check out books also happen upon the music. And Hu said he enjoyed the chance to chat with community members after the concert. Solungga Liu said she appreciates the efforts Michele Raine and other library staff members put into staging the recitals. In the end it all comes down to the music. Hu said he always welcomes a chance “to share musical ideas.” “We’re performers,” Yuefeng Liu said, “so we should find many opportunities  to play in front of people.” 


BG Philharmonia opens 100th anniversary season

From BGSU COLLEGE OF MUSICAL ARTS One hundred is a notable anniversary, and the BG Philharmonia is celebrating this important milestone with a year of special events during 2018-19. Large concerts in December and May in Kobacker Hall are the premier events, and every concert throughout the season will feature something special. Under the direction of Dr. Emily Freeman Brown, the Philharmonia will welcome back alumni members and host guest artists. Talented young musicians from BGSU and local schools will join in some of the performances. And four performances will feature a “birthday” composition — three in the fall and one in the spring. “This is the beginning of a great year,” said Brown, director of orchestral activities. “I have a terrific group of freshmen and new people. The spirit, the mood, the enthusiasm and the energy are incredible.” The Dec. 2 gala concert will feature the return of Bowling Green native Zachary DePue, a well-known violinist who is part of a musical BGSU family. His visit holds special meaning for Brown, who was his conductor when he became the winner of the Young Artist Competition as a Bowling Green High School student. The centennial concert features DePue in Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” and Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.” Brown is also enthusiastically anticipating Bowling Green Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s “Semele” in April. Audiences will have the opportunity to see this infrequently performed work, accompanied by the Camerata di Campo di Bocce, the elite chamber group of the Philharmonia. “It’s a challenging piece and the music is so fantastic and so exciting,” she said. “It’s just out of this world.” The year culminates May 5 with the 100th anniversary concert and alumni gathering featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with all five University choirs and guest soloists. Advance tickets for the concerts are $3 for students and $7 for adults. All tickets the day of the performance are $10. Tickets are available online at bgsu.edu/arts or by calling 419-372-8171. As an added touch, each concert during the year will have its own concert program highlighting aspects of the Philharmonia, with photos, testimonials, past program notes and stories about the conductors. For the first performance, Brown sets the stage with an extensive history and timeline of the orchestra, aided by the program from the 75th anniversary season written by Lee Anne Snook and by Dr. Vincent Corrigan’s “100 Years of Music at Bowling Green State University,” written for BGSU’s Centennial in 2010. Brown said she was interested to learn she is not the first woman to lead the orchestra, but the third. During the second world war, as men left for the service, its first woman conductor, Lorlie Virginia Kershner, took up the baton, followed by Maribeth Kitt. Recounting the birth of the BGSU orchestra, Brown wrote: “From the very beginning, University President Homer B. Williams was determined to create what he called ‘the spirit’ of Bowling Green. He gave pep talks to students and faculty, always reminding them that because of their presence and efforts, Bowling Green was, indeed, a special place. He instilled pride and spirit in the young campus. . . In 1918, he decided that Bowling Green needed a group that could provide music at official events.” Made up of faculty members, the first “orchestra” was “more aspirational than actual,”…


Jazz guitarist to share his passion for music at BGSU Orchard Guitar Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News  When jazz guitarist Mike Stern stumbled on a sidewalk in New York City on July 3, 2016, and fell and broke both his arms, that seemed bad enough. Then five days later before he was to go in for surgery he developed nerve damage in his right hand. Then, he admits, he panicked. “It was amazingly scary because I love to play so much,” he said in a recent telephone interview. So much of his life is revolves around playing the guitar. More than his career, it’s his passion. So in a way he didn’t have a choice but to address the problem. “I settled down and figured it out.” Stern found a specialist who could treat him, and he devoted all his energy to recovering. Within several months he was back performing. That required adjustments. He used wig glue to affix his pick to his finger. He learned that trick from a drummer who lost most of the joints in his hands from burns when he was a child. “I always encourage students to keep going,” Stern said. Stern will be visiting Bowling Green State University, where he last played in winter, 2014, on Saturday, Sept. 29,  on the second day of the two-day Orchard Guitar Festival http://bgindependentmedia.org/mike-stern-headlines-orchard-guitar-festival-at-bgsu/. He’ll share that advice, talk about his love of bebop, and more at a master class at 2:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. At 8 p.m. that night he’ll perform with the faculty jazz ensemble in Kobacker Hall. Tickets for the evening concert are $7 and $3 for students in advance from bgsu.edu/arts or 419-372-8171, and $10 the day of the show.  The more someone plays “the closer you get to the music,” Stern, 65, said. Life has no guarantees, he said. “The only guarantee in music is that you’re going to have the music and no one can take it away from you.… You’ll have the music no matter what you have to do to make bread.” But the more someone puts into the music, the more options they have whether that’s performing or teaching. “The most important ingredient,” Stern said, “is you’ve got to water the flowers.” That’s means practicing. Musicians also need to “keep learning new stuff.” Guitar offers a world of new styles and techniques to learn. The instrument has flourished around the world from country music to transcriptions of lute music by Bach. The guitar basics are easy to learn, though mastery is difficult to achieve.  Stern incorporates as much of that into his own work. “When I write I like to put some of those influences in.” He reaches beyond his instrument though. He studies pianists such as Herbie Hancock, and horn players such as Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt., and incorporates that into his playing. “It feels natural when I do it. It feels like that’s what I’m meant to do.” More and more Stern brings a vocal element into his music. He encourages his students to sing along with their guitar lines, even inaudibly. “It makes it feel like it comes from the heart.” His new album, “Trip” — the title a darkly humorous reference to his accident — employs those vocal sounds. Sometimes it’s actual voices, sometimes it’s the way Stern uses electronic effects. Recorded after…


Mike Stern headlines Orchard Guitar Festival at BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Acclaimed jazz guitarist Mike Stern, who first made his mark in the early 1980s playing with Miles Davis, will headline the 2018 Orchard Guitar Festival at Bowling Green State University. The festival will take place Sept. 28 and 29 at the Moore Musical Arts Center, and also features guitarists Adam Schlenker and Jack Petersen. To contemporary jazz guitar aficionados, Stern is regarded as one of the true guitar greats of his generation. He is a player of remarkable facility whose searing lines are informed mainly by bebop and the blues while also carrying a rock-tinged intensity. Stern launched his solo career in 1985, and has released 17 recordings as a band leader, including six Grammy-nominated albums. “I love to meet with music students,” Stern said. “It’s really fun, especially at BGSU. I’ve been there a couple of times over the years, back when (retired professor of jazz guitar) Chris Buzzelli was still teaching there. Usually, I learn more from the students, but I love doing whatever I can do in terms of helping them out. “I’ll probably play a little bit at the teaching clinic, but do more talking because I like to keep it kind of loose so everyone is comfortable and can ask questions. I’ll try to get everybody involved as much as possible. It’s fun and I hope, certainly, informative for other guitar players.” Stern suffered a serious accident in the summer of 2016 that left him with two broken arms and nerve damage in his right hand that prevented him from even holding a pick without some extra support. “I had a bad fall in New York and broke both of my humerus bones and I developed some nerve damage in my right hand,” he said. “I found a way to keep playing within a couple months because I wanted to keep going, which I recommend to everybody. No matter what brings them down, to try to fight it and keep going.” His latest album, “Trip” (2017), is his first since recovering from his accident. Stern is back on top of his game, playing with typical authority and prodigious chops on this all-star outing, which features longtime colleagues trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans, bassists Victor Wooten and Tom Kennedy and drummers Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers and Lenny White. Stern said he had a difficult time trying find a way to play after the accident. “I wrestled with a few different methods but now I use glue to hold the pick because I had a couple of surgeries on my hand, including some tendon transfers, and was able to support the pick, but not enough without this glue I use,” he said. “I had some ulnar nerve damage so my hand is kind of crunched or bent a little bit, but you find ways of getting through stuff. It’s improved since then and I feel much more comfortable now in terms of playing.” Through all of his struggles, Stern has been able to keep his sense of humor as well as his world-class talents. “I called my latest album ‘Trip,’” he said, laughing. “The first half-year after the accident was hard, but I still went on the road and did what I had…


Deeply moving ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ leaves BGSU audience at a loss for applause

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News “Considering Matthew Shepard” ended in silence. A packed Kobacker Hall went quiet as the C-triad softly hummed by the members of the vocal ensemble Conspirare and the 100 singers filling the mezzanine faded out. At first it seemed the usual pause at the end of a concert. But the silence extended in length, and somehow increased in depth. The conductor-composer Craig Hella Johnson stood in front of the stage head bowed. Silence. Then his head rose and his gestured to the performers on stage. The audience erupted. The applause rapturous, as loud as the previous moments were soft. On their feet, the audience called the ensemble out for three curtain calls. The applause did not so much break the silence as let loose the emotions it contained. The listeners and performers had for the past 100 minutes lived the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten and left for dead in October 1998 outside of Laramie, Wyoming. When he died several days later he became an icon for those who opposed hate crimes and longed for greater tolerance.  The oratorio was performed Monday by Conspirare at Bowling Green State University. When, a few minutes after the performance ended, about 150 members of the audience assembled in Bryan Recital Hall, members of the panel who were there to discuss the work and the meaning of Matthew Shepard, said it was hard to speak about the experience. Katie Stygles, assistant director for Diversity Education and LGBTQ+ Programs at Bowling Green State University, said she was still processing the experience. “I still have tears flowing over. It’s just so beautiful.” She sees the students she serves in Matthew Shepard. Susana Pena, director, School of Cultural and Critical Studies, said that when the news of Shepard’s death came, the nation had reached a point where it was open to hearing this tragic story, and acting on it. Olivia Behm, a graduate student, said she grew up in the world shaped by Shepard’s death. “Considering Matthew Shepard,” she said, was more than research into the facts, but allowed her to be emotionally absorbed in the story. The oratorio had plenty of facts, drawn from court documents and news reports. It included Shepard’s own words from journals and childhood jottings. It also had long passages of reflection. Johnson composed the piece over a long period of time, drawing on various texts, and in several instances collaborating with poet Michael Dennis Browne, credited as co-librettist. Johnson’s discovery of another poet’s work gave him the guiding image for the piece. Leslea Newman wrote a series of poems from the point of view of the fence on which Shepard was tied and left to die. He hung there for 18 hours barely alive before he was discovered. The man who found him at first thought he was a scarecrow. Those pieces form the skeleton of “Considering Matthew Shepard.” The first poem “The Fence (before),’ a robust bass solo, prefigures Shepard’s fate. “Will I always be out here exposed and alone?” Later in the oratorio, we hear the speech Shepard’s father gave in court. His son, the father said, was not alone. He had the stars and moon, which he’d studied as a child. He had the wind from the plains. The…