BGSU College of Musical Arts

Former students to gather to honor legacy of late BGSU band director Mark Kelly

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATION They called him “The Chief,” and at 10:30 a.m. June 23, 101 of his former students will play at Bowling Green State University’s Kobacker Hall in his memory. Mark Kelly, who directed the BGSU bands from 1966 to 1994, died in November 2017 at the age of 91. The BGSU College of Musical Arts will host the memorial service Saturday. His daughter, Karen Kelly, brought together dozens of alumni and former students of her father to perform together as a band at the service. Capt. Ryan Nowlin, assistant director of the “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, will conduct the band during its performance. Karen Kelly ’75, ’82 is touched that so many alumni are coming back to the University to pay their respects to her father. “It speaks to the interest Dad maintained in the life and careers of the students, whether they continued in music, or completely different careers, away from music,” said Kelly, who was the band director at Van Wert (Ohio) High School for 34 years. “Outside of music, the careers included Air Force pilots, business entrepreneurs and scientists. His leadership was not music education specific.” Before Mark Kelly came to BGSU, he taught high school band at his alma mater in Centerville, Iowa, for several years. Three of his students from that time period will play in the memorial concert. Others are traveling from Washington D.C., Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Texas. Alumni performing Saturday include Lisa Welling Baker ’84, flute, a retired Shelby (Ohio) High School band director whose daughter is a twirler with the Falcon Marching Band; George Edge ’79, oboe, retired Grove City (Ohio) band director; Roger Kantner ’88, bassoon retired member of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band; Patty Ruckman ’90, clarinet, New Bremen (Ohio) choirs; Stan George ’80, alto sax, Perrysburg (Ohio) Schools; Ray Novak ’83, trumpet, retired (Toledo) Whitmer High School band director; Amy Horn ’89, French horn, retired member of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band; Dale Laukhuf ’67, trombone, retired Bath (Ohio) Local Schools; and Jeff Macomber ’75, euphonium, Missouri State Southern University. “To say that Mark Kelly made a meaningful contribution to BGSU as director of bands is an understatement,” said William B. Mathis, College of Musical Arts dean. “His influence and legacy is felt in the College of Musical Arts every day as students rehearse in Kelly Hall, through the Mark S. Kelly Band Scholarship and through lives and careers of the hundreds of students that he taught and mentored. “Anyone who knew Mr. Kelly knows of his caring personality, high standards and incredible passion for bands, music education and, most of all, students.” Kelly also will play bass clarinet with the band as it performs some of her father’s favorite songs. “It reflects the mutual…


Solungga Liu performs musical treasures at Mother’s Day recital at Toledo Museum

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Solungga Liu remembers the day well. A hot, rainy afternoon in her native Taiwan, and she was bored. So she randomly pulled a score from the shelf in her studio. It was the music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes. She did not know his work much beyond his piece “The White Peacock.” She sat at her piano and began to sight-read through the music. She played through the entire book. “Right at that moment I couldn’t stop,” she remembers. “I fell in love with his works.” That passion for the music of Griffes, whose work sits at the intersection of Romanticism and Impressionism, will be on display Sunday at 3 p.m. when Liu performs a Great Performances recital in the Toledo Museum of Art’s Great Gallery. The program will include Griffes’ transcription of “Les Parfums de la nuit,” the second movement of Ravel’s orchestral piece “Iberia,” a piece she premiered after its discovery. Music by Cesar Franck and Amy Beach, another little appreciated American composer, will also be on the program. Two years after Liu’s discovery of Griffes’ music, she recorded “The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan: The Piano Works of Charles Tomlinson Griffes” on Centaur Records. By that time Liu had joined the faculty of the College of Musical Arts at Bowling Green State University. The Toledo concert will be similar to the one she presented last November at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. It was there that the Debussy transcription had been discovered. Liu said that Griffes, who was born in Elmira, NY, had studied for four years in Berlin. He heard an early performance of Debussy’s “Iberia.” He was so taken with the piece, that he faithfully transcribed its intricacies for solo piano. Back in the United States he taught music at the high school in Tarrytown, NY, a job he hated. But it did give him access to New York City. He traveled to the offices of the publisher G. Schirmer, and played his transcription for two people there. That was, Liu said, the only public performance of the work. Copyright issues seemed to have scuttled hopes for publication, and the manuscript disappeared. Griffes seemed on the verge of a professional breakthrough when he died at 35. Griffes scholars, Liu said, assumed the manuscript was lost. Then in 2016 it turned up in the vast archives of the Library of Congress. Excited by the discovery, officials approached Liu to perform it. The program is filled out with Beach pieces, more Griffes, and Franck’s monumental “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue.” Like the other pieces on the program the Library of Congress holds the manuscripts. “The big purpose to give the concert was really to promote the manuscript collection,” Liu said. “When they asked me to premiere this piece, I couldn’t sleep for…


Ghanaian master drummer Bernard Woma has wake up call for BGSU students

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Master drummer Bernard Woma has greeted presidents and royalty to his native Ghana. On Tuesday morning he greeted students in Bowling Green State University’s School of Art with the throbbing sound of drums, and the swirl of dancers. Most of those in the audience in the lobby of the Bryan Gallery were students in Rebecca Skinner Green’s African art class, but the ranks of listeners swelled as the rhythm reverberated around the building. They didn’t stay observers for long. On the second dance, members of Woma’s Saakumu dance troupe summoned those in the audience to join the line, instructing them as they danced, on the steps and gestures. “We share the music together,” Woma said. “We share the experience together, so you better understand.” Ghanaian music is participatory. Woma has been coming to BGSU every few years since 2001. This week’s two-day stay with his dance troupe will culminate with a free performance Wednesday night at 7 in the Eva Marie Saint Theatre in Wolfe Center for the Arts. He said that when he first opened his Dagara Music Center in 1998, a BGSU group led by Skinner Green and Steven Cornelius was the first to come to study there. Woma said he was born to be a drummer. He came out of his mother’s womb with his fists clenched as if gripping a pair of mallets. That marked him as a gyil player. His grandfather played the instrument, a Ghanaian xylophone, as did his uncle. While his father didn’t play he loved to dance. So Woma grew up in a home full of music and dance. At 2 he was banging out the melodies he’d heard. His musical education began long before his formal “European” education. When he completed that, he headed to the capital city of Accra where he joined the National Dance Ensemble. The government brought together the best musicians from the country’s more than 60 ethnic regions. By the time President and Mrs. Clinton came to visit in 1998, he was the master drummer of the troupe. Clinton was intrigued by the enormous ceremonial drum, and quizzed Woma on what it was made from. Elephant hide, Woma replied. He also greeted the Obamas when they visited Ghana in 2009. He recalled that he was planning to come to the United States at that time, but the embassy said he needed to stay for the Obama visit. He even taught Sasha and Malia how to play the gyil. “It was privilege.” As master drummer he also welcomed South African President Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth. With the founding of his school, Woma decided he needed to pursue graduate education. So he earned a master’s degree in African Studies from SUNY Fredonia and a master’s in ethnomusicology from the Indiana University. “It helped me understand the academic function of…


Composer Maria Schneider warns students about the future of the music industry

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Schneider is an award-winning composer with Grammys in jazz, pop, and classical. She’s also a pioneer in crowdsourcing her music. And she’s a champion for artists’ rights, rebelling against the current music business model. Schneider has written about the issue, appeared on CNN, and testified before Congress. She helped launch musicanswers.org with other composers, performers, songwriters, and producers to advocate for their rights. “I’m really doing it for your future,” she told students at Bowling Green State University, Friday in a session of digital music rights. She’s established enough that she could sit back and live off what she’s already created. Her model, ArtistShare, works well for her. Through the platform, fans help finance the $200,000 it takes to produce one of her recordings. She makes her living from her music, but she’s concerned the new generation of musicians may not have that opportunity. “I’m really doing it for your future.” She apologized for presenting such a bleak “outlook.” The session came on the last day of her three-day residency at BGSU, which concluded with Schneider conducting Jazz Lab I in a concert of her music. (Click to read interview with Schneider.) Her outrage at the compensation started when she’d made her first recording, and found out just how little she would earn after the record company took its share. She contacted older musicians, such as Bob Brookmeyer, one of her mentors in composition, and guitarist Jim Hall. They basically shrugged in resignation. Looking back on it, those payments were generous compared to the pittance that musicians get through the streaming model. Not surprising given Spotify was created by Daniel Ek who got his start in the illegal download business. When he launched Spotify he needed content so he went to the three major record labels, Sony, Universal, and Warner. In exchange for 6 percent of equity in Spotify, which will go public next week, they gave Spotify the rights to their catalogs. Millions of hours of music, the work of composers and performers and producers, who would now earn almost nothing. Certainly not enough to pay for their recording sessions, which record companies now expect artists to pay for unless they sign deals to share all revenue streams. This has been detrimental both to the download model, such as iTunes, which did provide decent income, and the sale of CDs. Only vinyl LPs are seeing an increase in sales.  But the cost of shipping vinyl is prohibitive for her. Schneider detailed her own battles to keep her music off YouTube and other free sites. Though YouTube makes it easy to download music without compensation to the creator, the process of getting that music removed, or keep it from being downloaded in the first place, is daunting, and even threatening.  The burden of…


Composer Maria Schneider BGSU Jazz Week guest artist

From  BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Composer and band leader Maria Schneider will conduct and teach at Bowling Green State University March 28-30 as the 2018 Hansen Musical Arts Series guest artist. Schneider’s music has been hailed by critics as “evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization.” She and her orchestra became widely known starting in 1994 when they released their first recording, “Evanescence.” There, Schneider began to develop her personal way of writing for what would become her 18-member collective, made up of many of the finest musicians in jazz today, tailoring her compositions to distinctly highlight the uniquely creative voices of the group. The Maria Schneider Orchestra has performed at festivals and concert halls worldwide. She has received numerous commissions and guest-conducting invitations, working with more than 85 groups from more than 30 countries. At BGSU, Schneider will conduct the Jazz Lab Band I as it performs her music at 8 p.m. March 30 in Kobacker Hall. Her residency activities include a question-and-answer session at 3:45 p.m. and a composition master class at 5:15 p.m. March 29, and a digital rights/music business master class at 2:30 p.m. March 30. All events are in Kobacker Hall and are free and open to the public. Schneider’s music blurs the lines between genres, making her long list of commissioners quite varied, stretching from Jazz at Lincoln Center, to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, to collaborations with the late David Bowie. She is among a small few to have received Grammys in multiple genres, including both the jazz and classical categories, as well as for her work with Bowie. Her recent collaboration with her orchestra and Bowie resulted in his single called “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” and brought her a 2016 Grammy (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals). Schneider and her orchestra also received a 2016 Grammy for their latest work, “The Thompson Fields” (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album). Her distinguished recording career with the orchestra has earned them 12 Grammy nominations and five Grammy awards. Unique funding of projects has become a hallmark for Schneider through the trend-setting company, ArtistShare. Her 2004 album, “Concert in the Garden,” became historic as the first recording to win a Grammy with internet-only sales. Even more significantly, it blazed the “crowd-funding” trail as ArtistShare’s first release. She’s been awarded many honors by the Jazz Journalists Association and Downbeat and JazzTimes critics and readers polls. In 2012, her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, presented Schneider with an honorary doctorate, and in 2014, ASCAP awarded her its esteemed Concert Music Award. Schneider has become a strong voice for music advocacy and, in 2014, testified before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property about digital rights. She has also appeared in CNN, participated in roundtables for the United States Copyright Office, and has been quoted in numerous publications for her views on Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Google, digital rights and music piracy. Most…


Renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw brings a world of vocal artistry to BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish share an easy rapport. That was evident Sunday night as they performed a recital in Kobacker Hall at Bowling Green State University. They were entertain us, and it seemed each other. As Upshaw would say later, she likes to create a true “chamber” setting for the music “like we’re in a living room rather than a big hall.” When Kalish played a solo piece, “The Alcotts” movement from Charles Ives’ second Piano Sonata,  the singer stayed on stage and listened, enjoying the piece as much as the paying customers. “It’s nice when one can enjoy one’s work,” she said in an interview on Monday. Upshaw, one of the most renowned singers of our time, is on campus through Tuesday. Her Helen McMaster Endowed Professorship in Vocal and Choral Studies residency started Sunday with the evening recital, and continues through today (March 20) with a question and answer session at 1 p.m. in the Conrad Choral Room in the Wolfe Center, followed by a master class at 2:15 p.m. She now heads the vocal arts program at Bard Conservatory in the Hudson River Valley, where she lives. “I’m very focused on that.” That’s one of the reasons that Upshaw has cut back on her performing schedule. “I feel like it’s been great for my voice I don’t find I get vocally fatigued as when I was at the peak. “I would love for my life to be a little simpler at this point,” she said. Anyone who has been at their profession for as long as she has will want to change. Her career dates backs to 1984 when she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist development program. She went on to perform in 300 productions. In 1992 she was the soloist in the landmark recording of Hendrik Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” the rare contemporary music recording that sold millions. She’s won five Grammy Awards, most recently for “Winter Morning Walks,” a collaboration with composer Maria Schneider, who coincidentally will be in residence at BGSU next week. As a teacher Upshaw said she emphasizes “a greater awareness of all the tools we have and how we use those tools to really connect with the music and what we think the music is really trying to say. I think finding the core meaning and being able to share that is of great importance.” Vocalists must find “our core sound that is uniquely you.” “I’m not sure we have much choice of what our sound is,” she said. “What we have to find is the depth. That’s one’s own private work. Teachers help to find routes to it. It takes … listening to your voice and your body and using your body without tension.” Working with…


Composer Ben Taylor brings together music & entrepreneurship to create a ‘blessed’ life

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Benjamin Dean Taylor has been making up his own music since he was a young child. He would play his original songs on the family piano. His mother was impressed, and, as mothers are wont to do, she’d ask him to play that song she’d heard a few days ago for his grandmother. “And I couldn’t remember them,” the now grown composer said. When he was 8, she started having him take piano lessons “so I could write down songs so I could play them for grandma.” Now his music entertains grandmas, mothers, and listeners of all ages. Taylor spent a couple days this week in the Bowling Green High and Middle schools, working with students who were preparing to perform his music in concert. The residency culminated with a Thursday night show with the eighth grade, concert and symphonic bands each playing one of his pieces. A saxophone quartet from Bowling Green State University were guests at the concert playing another of Taylor’s compositions. He went on to learn other instruments, including trumpet. “In college I loved playing,” he said, “but the thrill of writing and having all those sounds in my head come to fruition was the real kicker. That’s what got me started.” Devoting himself to composition meant graduate school. He came to BGSU for his masters where he studied with Marilyn Shrude and Elainie Lillios, graduating 2011. After BGSU he earned a doctorate at the University of Indiana in Bloomington where he and his wife, Allyson, and their five sons, one month to 9 years old, still live. It’s where he makes his living as a freelance composer.  He works by commission only, and has a year’s worth of commitments on the books. The demand for his work grew at first from friends, then others he knew through conferences and other encounters. Just recently, he said, he was approached by two strangers who asked him to write a piece for them. That was a first.  Taylor said he’ll accept after they talk for a bit. He wants some familiarity with the performer. The Brigham Young University graduate says that the life of the freelance composer has its challenges, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He makes enough to support his family, he said “We’re blessed.” Taylor gets up in the morning and sees his school age kids off, then composes until lunch which he shares with his wife and their youngest children. Then in the afternoon he teaches lessons, trumpet or composition. The schedule allows him to pick up gigs on trumpet or stringed instruments – guitar, banjo, and ukulele. He leads his own Dixieland Band. “And I have the time to dedicate to all the administration of running my own publishing company and maintaining a website (http://www.benjamintaylormusic.com),”…


Humorous & soulful sounds on tap as BGSU pianists take center stage at library atrium

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Laughter is not the usual response to music performed at a piano recital, but that’s the reaction Varis Vatcharanukul has gotten when he’s performed “The Body of Your Dreams.” The composition by Dutch contemporary composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis, known as JacobTV, will close the piano concert in the atrium of the Wood County Public Library Monday March 19 at 7 p.m. The rest of the program will features classics by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, and Chopin. Vatcharanukul said he wanted to tackle some contemporary music and his teacher Thomas Rosenkranz suggested “The Body of Your Dreams” for piano and boom box. JacobTV is an apt stage name for someone who uses fragments of TV dialogue to build his compositions around. In the case of “Body” he has sampled an advertisement for a body conditioning device. He shaped music lines inspired by the rhythms of the hyperbolic sales pitch. The pianist performs these in counterpoint to cut-and-pasted shards of male and female voices. The result is music easy to understand even for listeners new to contemporary music. “It’s not like that kind of new music,” Vatcharanukul said. It’s tonal and not particularly dissonant, with rhythms that evoke jazz rock. “That can catch audience,” he said. “Body” is also highly rhythmic, and it grows in intensity as the sales pitch continues. The piece is not simple though. Vatcharanukul said he’s not able to pay too much attention to the audience’s reaction because he has to concentrate, listening both what he’s playing and making sure it locks in with the voices on the tape. Vatcharanukul, who comes from Bangkok, Thailand, is in his last semester as an undergraduate piano performance major. He came to study with Rosenkranz. Over his five years at Bowling Green State University, he has played numerous times in the library’s atrium. He likes the mix of listeners. Some are knowledgeable about music, others aren’t. “It’s really nice I can do something for those people,” he said. Rosenkranz, who organizes the library recitals, said the students enjoy playing for their peers, in a less stressful situation. A pianist can feel isolated spending so many hours a day in the practice room. This gives them a chance to get out and share the music they have worked so long on. “They see it as a chance to grow,” Rosenkranz said. Ioanna Nikou came from Greece to study with Robert Satterlee after she met him when he presented a seminar in her native land. She knew she wanted to go abroad for graduate school, and Satterlee put Bowling Green on the map for her. She will open the concert with a piece that does not elicit laughter, J.S. Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasy.” She loves the spiritual qualities of the piece and the challenge of bringing out each…


Renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw to sing & teach at BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Soprano Dawn Upshaw, a five-time Grammy Award winner, is devoted to sharing her compelling love of music along with her tremendous vocal talent with people the world over. Now she returns to Bowling Green State University to present a public recital and work with BGSU voice students. With her will be her longstanding collaborator, pianist Gilbert Kalish, who will accompany her in performance and teach master classes to piano students. Except for the recital, all events are free and open to the public.Gilbert Kalish Upshaw and Kalish’s performance will begin at 8 p.m. March 18 in Kobacker Hall at Moore Musical Arts Center. Advance tickets are just $7 for adults and $3 for students, thanks to support from the Helen McMaster Endowed Professorship in Vocal and Choral Studies, sponsor of their BGSU residency. All tickets will cost $10 the day of the performance. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in the Wolfe Center for the Arts, by calling 419-372-8171, or purchased online. The concert will open with a selection of songs by Franz Schubert. Also on the program will be songs by Charles Ives, Bela Bartok, William Bolcom, Rebecca Clake, and Sheila Silver. Kalish will perform Ives’ “The Alcotts, from Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass.” “Dawn Upshaw’s visit to Bowling Green State University is an opportunity for our students to experience a singer of international stature live in concert,” said Christopher Scholl, an associate professor and coordinator of voice in the College of Musical Arts. “Ms. Upshaw is also well known for her passion to develop young artists. Her interaction with our students will be a priceless experience for our aspiring young professionals. The voice faculty and students are eagerly anticipating a residency filled with new concepts and professional inspiration.” Upshaw made her first appearance on the Kobacker stage in November 1998 as part of the former Festival Series, which brought world-class performers to campus. During the McMaster residency, Upshaw will hold voice master classes from 4:30 to 6 p.m. March 19 in the Marjorie Conrad, M.D. Choral Room at the Wolfe Center, and again from 2:15 to 4 on March 20 in the same room. In addition, she will hold a question-and-answer session from 1 to 2 March 20, also in the Conrad Choral Room. Kalish will present a piano master class from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 19 in Bryan Recital Hall at the Moore Center. In addition to his performing partnership with Upshaw, he had a famed, 30-year partnership with the late mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, and was the longtime pianist of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. Highly regarded as an educator, he is a Distinguished Professor at Stony Brook University and was on the faculty at the Tanglewood Music Center for many years. As a musician, Upshaw defies categorization. She…


Soprano Dawn Upshaw with pianist Gilbert Kalish to perform & teach at BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Soprano Dawn Upshaw, a five-time Grammy Award winner, is devoted to sharing her compelling love of music along with her tremendous vocal talent with people the world over. Now she returns to Bowling Green State University to present a public recital and work with BGSU voice students. With her will be her longstanding collaborator, pianist Gilbert Kalish, who will accompany her in performance and teach master classes to piano students. Except for the recital, all events are free and open to the public. Upshaw and Kalish’s performance will begin at 8 p.m. March 18 in Kobacker Hall at Moore Musical Arts Center. Advance tickets are just $7 for adults and $3 for children, thanks to support from the Helen McMaster Endowed Professorship in Vocal and Choral Studies, sponsor of their BGSU residency. All tickets will cost $10 the day of the performance. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in the Wolfe Center for the Arts, at 419-372-8171, or online at bgsu.edu/the-arts. “Dawn Upshaw’s visit to Bowling Green State University is an opportunity for our students to experience a singer of international stature live in concert,” said Christopher Scholl, an associate professor and coordinator of voice in the College of Musical Arts. “Ms. Upshaw is also well known for her passion to develop young artists. Her interaction with our students will be a priceless experience for our aspiring young professionals.  The voice faculty and students are eagerly anticipating a residency filled with new concepts and professional inspiration.” Upshaw made her first appearance on the Kobacker stage in November 1998 as part of the former Festival Series, which brought world-class performers to campus. During the McMaster residency, Upshaw will hold voice master classes from 4:30-6 p.m. March 19 in the Marjorie Conrad, M.D. Choral Room at the Wolfe Center, and again from 2:15-4 p.m. March 20 in the same room. In addition, she will hold a question-and-answer session from 1-2 p.m. March 20, also in the Conrad Choral Room. Kalish will present a piano master class from 2:30-4:30 p.m. March 19 in Bryan Recital Hall at the Moore Center. In addition to his performing partnership with Upshaw, he had a famed, 30-year partnership with the late mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, and was the longtime pianist of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. Highly regarded as an educator, he is a Distinguished Professor at Stony Brook University and was on the faculty at the Tanglewood Music Center for many years. As a musician, Upshaw defies categorization. She is that rare combination of singer who can perform the operas of Mozart and concert repertoire as well as the work of contemporary composers and embrace all with the same infectious enthusiasm. Known for her warmth and generosity as a performer and teacher, she can regularly be found both on the stages of the world’s great symphony halls and inspiring young singers in master classes and…


Top BGSU musicians put their heart into concerto performances

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Long before the winners of the Competitions in Musical Performance step on stage in front of the Bowling Green Philharmonia, they need to strike up a relationship with the composition to which they want to devote a chunk of their lives. That means hundreds of hours of practice, then additional hours rehearsing with an accompanist before the December competition where they have their short time on stage during the semifinal and finals rounds until they hear the full force of an orchestra at their back. On Sunday at 3 p.m. that work will come to fruition on the Kobacker Hall stage during the annual Concerto Concert. Four musicians, two graduate students and two undergraduates, were selected from a field of 87 competitors back in December. Pianist Zhanglin Hu will open the concert with one of the war horses of classical literature. The sophomore piano performance major will perform the first movement of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. Hu said he and his teacher, Robert Satterlee, selected the piece because its grandeur and majesty fit Hu’s style. Having the support of the orchestra only accentuates those qualities, he said. “With the orchestra you can hear a lot of different voices,” he said. “The orchestra produces a richer sound.” That means as a soloist he must invest “more and more energy into his playing.” Hu said that he enjoyed working with the conductor Robert Jay Garza III, who brought his own ideas to the table. “The concerto is the story between the orchestra and piano,” Hu said. Saxophonist Andrew Hosler has a much smaller ensemble behind him for Walter Mays’ “Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Chamber Ensemble.” The ensemble has a dozen winds, strings, percussion, and organ. Hosler said some string parts can be doubled to make the orchestra larger but he and conductor by Alexander Popovici opted to stay with the original, spare orchestration. The piece, the sophomore explained, requires great interplay between the ensemble and the soloist. It does not have an actual meter, instead the performers have freedom to determine how long each segment can take, so he finds himself adjusting his tempo to match the flow of the ensemble. He heard part of a recording of the piece played by his teacher John Sampen, who commissioned it in 1974. Hosler knew he wanted to perform it. “Only a handful of people have played it,” he said.  “I want to be able to play it so people can hear it.” As a singer soprano Caroline Kouma will perform several arias from different composers instead a concerto. The arias she and her teacher Sujin Lee selected reflect a variety of characters. That means Kouma must be an emotional chameleon over the course of the performance. The aria by Franz Lehar, “My lips fiery kiss” in English,…


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 a wise decision. He attends every year, and every year, he said, the field of pianists improves. “This is a phenomenal event.” He was a close friend of David Dubois for 20 years, he said. Starting as a high school math teacher, Dubois applied his knowledge to management systems beyond education in books, speeches and consulting. He also loved music, and sang in the National Cathedral choir. He wanted his estate to benefit young musicians, Swinehart said. That took the form of the competition at BGSU as well as organ scholarship at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. “He would be a very happy man to see how well the money is being used for the further education of the students,” Swinehart said. In addition to the competition, the festival includes a master class for the university students by the guest artists, a performance by the guest artists, and scholarships to BGSU. Those are open to all pianists who participate, including those who apply but are not selected as semifinalists. The semifinalists performed Saturday. Two Dubois scholarship recipients now study in the College of Musical Arts. Melton said she…


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 is.” She said that “winning gives a person a great deal of confidence. Not winning shouldn’t destroy it.” And the recognition that comes with victory helps when advancing in the musical world. Her former teacher Rosina Lhevinne said “she wants her students to do competitions so they will practice on Saturday night instead of going to the movies.” The competitions themselves, Oppens said, are social occasions. “This is a way to hang out and make friends.” Oppens and Moll met when they were both studying with Leonard Shure. They attended the music festival in Aspen, Colorado. Their friendship continued when he went to study at Harvard and she attended nearby Radcliffe. They will reprise a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major that they did with the Boston Pops on the occasion of their 50th college reunions. Saturday they will perform with the Bowling Green Philharmonia, conducted by Emily Freeman Brown. Whether the pianists have known each other as long as she and Moll, or are new acquaintances, playing together is like playing with a friend. Moll, who resides in Berlin has made his reputation as…


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 there together.” Southern was also impressed that the duos were required to perform at least one song by a living composer. “That’s really important.” Adam O’Dell, who recently received his master’s in composition from BGSU, agreed. As an undergraduate, he said, the vocalists focused on Mozart, Schumann, and the like. But at BGSU he could have a singer, Luke Schmidt, perform his song “There Will Be Rest” in a showcase event. Singers are required to perform six songs, at least one each in German, French, Italian, and English with no more than two in English. During the preliminary round held during the day Saturday, Kouma, a student of Sujin Lee, performed a piece in Icelandic. She loves languages. Between her undergraduate work at Nebraska Wesleyan University and her graduate studies at BGSU, she served in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan. She learned enough of Azerbaijan to be conversant. “It was the first time I learned a language so I could live in,” she said. It is like being a different person. “I like singing in different language and be able to step into that perspective.” A trip to Iceland several…


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 at parties and holiday celebrations. “I was exposed to certain rhythmic things.” At 11 he was admitted to a performing arts school. He was asked to select an instrument. He wanted piano, but the school had enough pianists. Of the available options, he picked saxophone. “I just wanted to play music more than any specific instrument,” Zenon said. His musical studies were strictly in classical music. His first music jobs were playing in salsa bands. At this point, he wasn’t considering a career in music. He loved math and natural science, and was headed in that direction. Then some friends played him the music of jazz masters Charlie “Bird” Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. That flipped his outlook. The young saxophonist was drawn to the element of improvisation. The musicians played spontaneously in “a very developed language that was very intellectual and very heartfelt.” “When I heard them use this language, I wanted to dig in deeper,” he said. His desire to find his own path through jazz led him into higher education. He moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music, and then after graduating continued…