BGSU College of Musical Arts

Young at art: Youthful pianists display prodigious gifts at Dubois competition at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News No one landed a quadruple Lutz at the 2018 David D. Dubois Piano Competition Sunday. That wasn’t the only difference between the kind of athletic competition seen globally and that held in Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University. There were no cheering throngs, just a handful of listeners. But then no one flopped. No gold medals are handed out. But the winners collect checks, and all participants, even those who applied but didn’t make the semifinals are eligible for BGSU scholarships. Collecting the $3,000 top prize, was 16-year-old Raymond Feng, of Rochester, NY. Isabelle Liau, 16, of Novi, Michigan, placed second collecting $2,000 and bettering on her third place performance in last year’s competition. Third, $1,000, went to 13-year-old Angelina Ning from Charlotte, North Carolina. To compete classically-trained pianists in grades 8 through 12 (age 18 or younger) must prepare a 20-30 minutes long program of music from the last 500 years or so, with music from at least three stylistic periods, Baroque through contemporary. One piece must be a Classical Era sonata – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries. All must be memorized with the exception of pieces composed after 1945. Though most finalists played a contemporary piece, none took advantage of that exception. The only music visible was on the judges’ table in front Robert Satterlee, of the BGSU piano faculty, and the guest artists Ursula Oppens and Phillip Moll. Behind them sat Laura Melton, also of the piano faculty, who was the driving force behind bringing the event here, and continues to direct it. Robert Swinehart, who represents the Dubois Trust, said that staging the festival at BGSU was…


Camaraderie is a reward for pianists at competitions, guest artist Ursula Oppens says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Most of the 25 competitors in the David D. Dubois Piano Festival and Competition at Bowling Green State University this weekend will not have a spot in the winner’s circle. They won’t share in the monetary prizes, nor the recognition. That doesn’t mean, said guest artist and judge Ursula Oppens, that they won’t gain something. Certainly there’s the discipline and focus performing in such a high level competition brings. They also may very well find friendship. Oppens, who will be one of the judges in Sunday’s final round, said even as a young pianist growing up in New York City in the 1950s, she didn’t know many pianists. “Being a pianist is solitary.” When pianists do get together they can form close bonds. Just how close and enduring those bonds can be will be on display Saturday night when Oppens and childhood friend Phillip Moll, also a festival guest artist and judge, will perform music for two pianos. The Dubois competition begins Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall with a master class with the guest artists. It continues on Saturday with the semifinal round in which 25 pianists from around the country will perform, and concluding Sunday morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. with the final round. The Dubois attracts teenage pianists from around the country. The performance level is high, with the semifinalists boasting impressive resumes of triumphs in other competitions. They will be competing for awards of $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second, and $1,000 for third. Oppens said as a judge “mainly I just try to let go and see how exciting and wonderful I feel the music…


Conrad competition brings out the best in BGSU singers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The audience at the Conrad Art Song Competition finals Saturday night did a good job following instructions to hold their applause until the performers had completed all their songs. Holding their laughter was another matter. Several of the competitors offered up light hearted songs, and even if they were in a foreign language they managed in their gestures and facial expressions to draw a reaction. Soprano Caroline Kouma enlivened her performance of Leo Deliebes’ “Les filles de Cadix” with a coquettish manner. Pianist Rhys Burgess served as her musical straight man, punctuating her acting. That kind of interplay won the duo first place in the graduate division of the 19th Conrad competition. Winners in the undergraduate division were baritone Luke Serrano and pianist Yuefeng Liu. The event was created with a gift two decades ago by Conrad, a local doctor who resumed her vocal studies later in life. She passed away at 92 in 2014. Her spirit lives on through the competition, said Christopher Scholl, who coordinates the event. “She would be extremely proud of you tonight,” Scholl told the performers Saturday. Dean Southern, a vocal coach from the Cleveland Institute of Music, was one of the three outside professionals adjudicating the performances. BGSU “should be very proud,” of the competition, he said. “It’s definitely unusual and unique and to be celebrated.” Southern said he was impressed by the emphasis on the singer and pianist as a team, not just a singer with a pianist assisting. “That’s part of my DNA,” he said, noting that he studied piano before turning to voice. “The song will never be complete if those two parts are not…


Miguel Zenon mixes jazz, Puerto Rican traditions to create a new sound

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Miguel Zenon’s music is rooted in the twin heritages of jazz and the music of Puerto Rico. The composer and saxophonist’s potent blending of those traditions has earned him a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius grant.” MacArthur Fellows website says that Zenon is: “Drawing from a variety of jazz idioms and the indigenous music of his native Puerto Rico to create a new language of complex, yet accessible sounds that overflow with emotion.” Zenon will visit the Bowling Green State University campus Wednesday, Jan. 24, and Thursday, Jan.25, to perform and work with students. On Thursday at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall, the Jazz Lab I, directed by David Bixler, will perform Zenon’s music with the composer as soloist. He will also sit in with the jazz faculty during their regular session downtown at Bar 149 Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. In teaching, Zenon said in a recent telephone interview, “I just try to give an idea of the things that worked for me. I feel what really works is looking back and trying to learn from that process.” He urges students “to trace it back to what happened before to try to discover themselves through that.” Zenon’s journey of discovery began in Puerto Rico. He didn’t come from a family of musicians, but was surrounded by music. There was the pop music his peers loved, and the music his mother played on the radio. And his father was an amateur percussionist. Zenon had the usual early elementary education, singing in choir and tooting recorder. “I was exposed a lot of folklore because it’s embedded in the culture,” Zenon, 41, said. He heard folk sounds…


Winners crowned in Competitions in Musical Performance at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Last week 87 students from the College of Musical Arts each had their eight minutes in the spotlight to vie for a chance to perform as a soloist with the Bowling Green Philharmonia. The instrumentalists and vocalists were part of the largest field ever for the Competitions in Musical Performance at Bowling Green State University, said  Caroline Chin, who teaches violin at the school and coordinated the event this year. In the preliminaries, the students performed for a panel of five outside judges. On Saturday, the eight finalists, four each in the undergraduate and graduate divisions, returned for a full reading of their selections, for a new panel of six judges. Those selected to perform on the Feb. 25 concert with the orchestra are: undergraduates Andrew Hosler, alto saxophone, and Zhanglin Hu, piano, and graduate students Kyle McConnell, trombone, and Caroline Kouma, soprano. Also, Kory Reeder won the composition award for “The Location of Lines.” The piece will be performed by the Philharmonia in October during the New Music Festival. Rhys Burgess received the Virginia Marks Collaborative Piano Award. Burgess, a student of Laura Melton, performed with three students during the competition and all three were finalists, including Kouma. Chin said the large field of competitors “shows the devotion of the studios to giving their students a lot of experience.” “For the competitors, it is a wonderful experience to learn what it’s like to compete, to figure out how to deal with their nerves. Some students compete every year, and you see a lot of improvement.” The competition offers them a way to prepare for moving on to the next stage of their careers,…


Library concert offers great piano music from BGSU studios

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Some of the greatest music written for piano will be performed in the atrium of the Wood County Library, Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. Performing on the library’s Steinway concert grand will be piano students from the Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts. Masterworks from German and French composers, from J.S. Bach to Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy will be the focus of the program. The performance continues a series of recitals by BGSU piano students, who hail from around the world. “It has been such a pleasure to have our beautiful piano in use,” said Michele Raine, the library’s assistant director. “The students give excellent performances, and I appreciate that they are so willing to share their talents with the community.” Thomas Rosenkranz of the BGSU faculty coordinates the programs. “These kind of community concerts are important for our piano majors because it allows them to get out of campus and share their music with people who might not normally be exposed to classical music,” he said. “Too often in academia, things are quite insulated and these kind of concerts allow for a more real life experience for our piano majors.” The concert will feature 10 pianists performing music by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel. College of Musical Arts attracts musicians from around the world. Among those performing on Monday will be Mengqian Lin, from China. Lin is working on a one-year piano performance certificate from BGSU. In selecting a piece to perform at the library, she reflected on hearing a friend play at the venue. She decided to play the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata, Opus 109. Considering the library’s “beautiful…


Toledo Symphony gives voice to BGSU student composers work

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Before Tuesday, this music was just a complicated series of marks on score paper, residing on computer hard drives and in the composers’ heads. Then the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Lewanski rolled into Kobacker Hall, and it all came to life in vivid orchestral colors. It filled the hall with brass chorales, tuba solos, swirling clarinets, flute melodies, the drone of double basses, harp glissandi, and swelling waves of strings. Sometimes the music was barely a whisper with the violins scraping their strings tonelessly and the brass players breathing through their horns. The music of future had arrived. Tuesday the sixth Toledo Symphony Student Composer Reading Session was held at Bowling Green State University. Each year five student composers, undergraduates and graduates, are selected to have their short orchestral pieces performed by the symphony. The five composers this year were: Kory Reeder, Graeme Materne, Adam Kennaugh, Chuanhao Zhang, and Ashlin Hunter. “For students to really hear these sounds played by high level professionals is quite exceptional. It’s really quite unusual,” said guest composer Andrew Norman, who would later meet with the composers to discuss their work. The Los Angeles-based composer said when he was asked to come to BGSU, “I expected to hear fabulous new music. “This university is known all over the country for being a center of really interesting progressive new music, and I wasn’t disappointed,” he said. “There was so many different kinds of music being made, such a wide diversity of approaches to the orchestra, and each composer had such a different sonic identity.” Merwin Siu, principal second violin and artistic administrator with the orchestra, echoed those sentiments….


Toledo Symphony establishes $10,000 scholarship for BGSU composition students

From TOLEDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The Toledo Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce an exciting new scholarship opportunity for Bowling Green State University students. Each year, two Toledo Symphony Composition Scholarships will be awarded to incoming students in the Master of Music in Composition degree program at BGSU. To be considered for this award, composition applicants must include a previously written work for orchestra and/or a large instrumental ensemble in their application portfolio.  A jury of composition faculty members reviews the candidates’ work based on an evaluation of their current abilities as well as the prospect of their continuing development as a composer of orchestral music. Scholarship recipients are awarded $10,000 for demonstrating such musical excellence in their program. During the second year of their degree, each scholarship recipient is guaranteed a spot in the annual Toledo Symphony BGSU Student Composition Reading Session. The annual TSO Readings at BGSU are a unique opportunity for students to hear their work read by a professional orchestra along with gaining knowledge and insight from guest composers. Once the scholarship recipients are chosen, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra has the ability to request exclusive performance rights for the newly composed works. Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony, considers the scholarship program an investment in the future of classical music and the Toledo community. “BGSU’s College of Musical Arts has cultivated many wonderful composers, and writing new music has become a major point of differentiation for the College. I am proud to further the relationship between our organizations by helping BGSU to attract the highest tier of up-and-coming composers. This brings great vitality, experimentation, and creativity to our region, and it represents a clear…


New Music Festival guest composers embrace the weird & beautiful in their work

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Steve Mackey and Sarah Kirkland Snider came into contemporary music through back doors. A rock musician in the mid-1970s Mackey was majoring in physics as his fall back plan if his rock star dream didn’t come true. Growing up Snider studied cello, piano and attended choir camp in the summer “Music was my favorite thing to do,” she said. That included writing music which she never showed anyone.  When she went to college she studied psychology and sociology and after graduating ended up working for the Center of Reproductive Justice. To fulfill a requirement in college Mackey took a music history class. Thus exposed him to the world of classical music including Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” which he called “his gateway drug” to new music. At the time, music industry types who heard his band were impressed but said the music was “spacey, weird and undanceable.” Well, Stravinsky’s ballet music was also spacey, weird and famously difficult to dance to. Mackey was impressed that in the “Rite” and other classical pieces “all of human experience was distilled into a listening experience. “ With the rock band he was accompanying beer drinking, flirtation, and fending off requests for Doobie Brothers’ covers. Living in New York, Snider was called on by friends to write music for theatrical productions. She was so involved she was being called on the carpet for missing work to compose. She decided to make the transition into music. Since she had not majored in music at 24, she set about undertaking a four-year personal music course. At 29, she started studying composition at Yale. Both now are recognized composers whose works are…


The arts can save the world, opera composer Jake Heggie believes

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When composer Jake Heggie comes to campus next week, he has a charge for music students – bring back the arts to schools. “This is a critical moment,” he said. “Arts can save the world.” They build empathy and understanding, and without that human beings’ more destructive tendencies take hold. Heggie, composer of the operas “Dead Man Walking,” “Moby-Dick,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and others, will visit Bowling Green State University Sunday, Oct. 22 through Tuesday, Oct. 24 as guest resident for the Edwin H. Simmons Creative Minds Series. He will give a free public lecture on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center for the Arts. He will also give talks about his work, present workshops, and offer master classes Monday and Tuesday. Visit for www.bgsu.edu/CreativeMinds the schedule. All events are free. Heggie knows well the power of music to give solace and bring people together. Growing up in Bexley outside of Columbus, he started to study classical piano, and around the house he heard the big band music his father, an avocational saxophonist, loved. His father had dreamed of becoming a musician, but the son of Hungarian immigrants, he went into medicine and became a doctor. He suffered from depression and committed suicide when Heggie was 10. Music helped Heggie deal with the emotional “shrapnel” of his father’s death.  “I found solace in piano and musical theater. That’s where I found strength.” He started about this time to write songs with his idols in mind, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Peggy Lee, and the other musical storytellers whom he loved. He did not, he said, in a recent…


Master guitarist John Scofield brings street smarts to class at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For jazz guitarist John Scofield was coming up as a teenager in Connecticut in the late 1960s, his classrooms were the Fillmore East, the Village Vanguard and other New York City music hotspots. His teachers were the stars on stage, Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, B.B. King, and Miles Davis. His school bus was the train into the city and then back where his parents were waiting to pick him up at 1 a.m. the next morning. They were all maybe a little naïve, he conceded. “It was dangerous.” But he’s survived to become part of the scene, and one of the most respected guitarists in music, playing straight-ahead and groove-based jazz. On Saturday he’ll travel to Bowling Green State University to headline the Orchard Guitar Festival. Scofield studied guitar from the time he was 11. He studied all styles. His first love was the blues, but he didn’t see a place for himself in the blues. Instead after his guitar teacher introduced him to jazz, he headed down that path. Yes, there was a stage band back in his high school, but “it was pretty bad.” He only knew one person in his town who played jazz, a teacher who played piano on the side. Unlike now when jazz has become an academic subject, then it was a music of the streets. When it came time for him to go to college, there was only one option to study jazz guitar, Berklee College of Music in Boston. Scofield joined a long line of noted musicians for whom the school was a way station. After two years, he was working with big names including Gerry…


American Brass Quintet gets down to business during BGSU residency

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even at the top of their game, the members of the American Brass Quintet still understand the importance of daily practice. John Rojak, the bass trombonist for the ensemble, said he started practicing for four hours a day back when he was an undergraduate, and he’s just now easing off on that routine. Not that it’s easy given the musicians’ heavy workloads as teachers, freelance performers, and members of a pioneering brass ensemble. The American Brass Quintet has been in residence at Bowling Green State University since Wednesday as guests of the Hansen Musical Arts Series. They’ve performed a mini-recital, held instrumental classes, coached, and consulted with student composers. Their visit will culminate tonight (Friday, Sept. 22) with a free concert at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center. On Thursday afternoon they met with students to talk about the business side of music. While the quintet represents the core of their work artistically, it is just part of how they earn their livings. They all play in a variety of settings, from chamber orchestras such as Orchestra of St. Luke’s or the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to Broadway shows. Rojak spent years in the pit of “Les Miserables.” Those hours in the practice room at what was then Lowell State College were the bass trombonist’s launching pad. Lowell State was his “safety school” and he was playing so he could get out. He ended up transferring to the Juilliard School of Music. But Rojak said he got the most important music lesson playing in amateur bands. He recalled during the celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial he marched a lot. “I…


Bent Frequency to perform Elainie Lillios composition at BGSU concert

From the BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Innovative saxophone and percussion duo Bent Frequency will perform at Bowling Green State University Sept. 25 as part of the Music at the Forefront concert series sponsored by BGSU’s MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music. The 8 p.m.concert in Bryan Recital Hall at the Moore Musical Arts Center is free and open to the public. The duo of percussionist Stuart Gerber and saxophonist Jan Berry Baker will perform “ Hazy Moonlight” by composer Dr. Elainie Lillios, a professor of music composition in the College of Musical Arts. in Lillios received a highly competitive 2016 Barlow Endowment Commission for Music Composition to write a work specifically for Bent Frequency, and has collaborated closely with Gerber and Baker on the piece. (See a story on the commission here.) The duo are known for cutting-edge new music and have commissioned more than 20 works and given numerous performances of this new repertoire across the United States, Mexico and Europe since 2014. The Lillios composition will not be the first Barlow commission to be performed by Bent Frequency, who have also premiered one by composer Mark Engebretson. Their work is international in scope, including commissions from seven American composers and two European composers. In 2015-16 they premiered a composition by Laurent Durupt funded by a grant from the French American Cultural Exchange, along with works by several others. In addition to the work by Lillios, their 2017-18 agenda features commissions by John Liberatore and Zack Browning. Music at the Forefront is an annual concert series featuring performances by accomplished and innovative performers of contemporary music.  


KEAR here to surround BGSU with electro-acoustic sound

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Joe Klingler didn’t spend a lot of time at Bowling Green State University. He studied composition with Marilyn Shrude for a year, 1990-1991, as well as taking courses with Burton Beerman. He already had several degrees in engineering and music from the University of Toledo and then founded a software company. That pulled him away from his graduate studies in music, and deeper in the world of technology. Now he lives in California and writes thrillers. Not surprisingly, those always have a musician as a character and technology figuring in the plot. He’s still plugged into BGSU. Five years ago, at the suggestion of BGSU composition professor and electro-acoustic composer Elainie Lillios, Klingler funded a residency program for composers of electro-acoustic composers. Once n fall and once in spring, a composer will come and spend two weeks on campus, working in the university’s Multichannel Ambisonic studio and working with composition students. Klingler says he’s a strong believer in the importance of these personal relationships in education. This weekend the BGSU College of Musical Arts is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the founding with performances and workshops. The event culminates tonight (Saturday, Sept. 16) with a concert in Kobacker Hall featuring work by the eight composers who have been residents as part of the Klingler Electro-Acoustic Residency. The composers are: Adam Basanta, Brad Garton, John Young, Jonty Harrison, James Andean, Louise Harris, Adrian Moore, and Robert Normandeau. Most of the compositions, Lillios said, will be multi-channel works. Using speakers arrayed around the hall, the composers will surround listeners with music. One piece will employ live performers interacting with electronics, and another uses video. All this…


Trumpeter Kevin Cobb returns to his BG roots with American Brass Quintet

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When trumpeter Kevin Cobb takes the stage with the American Brass Quintet next week it won’t be the first time he’s played brass chamber music in Bowling Green. The Bowling Green native got a chance to play with the Tower Brass as a teenager. His teacher was Marty Porter, a member of the quintet. Now he’s returns as a member of one of the world’s most esteemed brass ensembles. The American Brass will be in residence at Bowling Green State University Wednesday, Sept. 20 through Friday, Sept. 22. The ensemble’s visit will be capped with a free concert in Kobacker Hall Friday at 8 p.m. The visit is part of the Hansen Musical Arts Series. Cobb, 46, joined the 57-year-old ensemble in 1998. The American Brass sets itself off from more popular quintets, the Empire and the Canadian, by its dedication to playing only music written for brass in five voices, Cobb said. Early on, he said, there was “a split” between members who wanted to play ragtime and other accessible forms, and those who wanted to focus exclusively to brass quintet repertoire. The latter faction won. That means it plays early music and contemporary music. From the beginning, the American Brass has been active in commissioning music by new composers. The ensemble also sets itself apart by using a bass trombone, not tuba, as its lowest voice. The founders felt that the bass trombone’s lighter sound was more akin to the sound of a cello in a string quartet and was truer to the textures of early music that was scored for three trumpets and two sackbuts. John Rojak is the bass trombonist….