MUSIC REVIEW: Harpist Emily Levin

The glorious harp

By Peter Jacobi

 

On Saturday evening in First United Church, the USA International Harp Competition presented in concert the most recent recipient of its Bronze Medal, Emily Levin, a very young and formidable talent who did her undergraduate work in the Jacobs School with the eminent Susann McDonald as her harp mentor and now has started additional studies, for a master’s, at the Juilliard School.

If she’s at Juilliard to gain another academic credit, so be it. If it’s to enhance excellence, I wonder, because Ms. Levin is a remarkable performer already.  She played some 90 minutes, maybe more, of music, all from memory, all in necessarily shifting styles, all with total assurance, all in smashing fashion. She is a winner.

Her repertoire on Saturday, which she titled “Songs without Words,” was wide and varied.  She began the recital with Marcel Grandjany, the legendary French-born American harpist, a smashing performance of his “Rhapsodie,” which allows harp and harpist a world of opportunities to shape beauty.  She ended with “Variations on a Theme in the Ancient Style,” by another legendary French-born American, Carlos Salzedo, a piece that requires every possible skill to realize and which Levin certainly realized, so much so that the audience with enthusiastic applause begged for an encore. She responded generously with Franz Liszt’s “The Nightingale,” as transcribed for harp by still another legend, the French harpist and composer Henriette Renie.

In between, one heard a new work of Impressionistic nature, “Nebula Blooming,” by the Japanese composer Sayo Kosugi; Bach’s elegant French Suite Number 5; a subtle Spanish Dance Number 1 by Enrique Granados and a fiery and famous one by Manuel de Falla, the Number 1 from “La Vida Breve;” Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Harp, and Liszt’s “Un Sospiro” (again in a Renie transcription). Levin played from peak to peak, exhibiting technical wizardry and artistic intuition throughout.

 

© Herald Times 2014

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Jacobs alumna Natalie Salzman releases first EP

By Francesco Ferrara

 

Natalie Salzman, harp player and Jacobs School of Music alumna, recently released her first extended play, titled “Ebb & Flow.”

She said her main goal in release singles is to play music that people want to listen to.

“In the music world today, it’s better to release singles because people pay attention to singles more than an entire album,” Salzman said.

Salzman has been playing the harp since she was 7-years-old.

“I walked into a violin store and they had a harp for rent, and I didn’t want to leave the store until I took the harp home,” she said.

Her parents promised her they would rent the harp for the weekend, but the instrument ended up playing a huge part in the rest of her life.

“I loved music, and the harp has such a unique sound,” Salzman said.

She said the harp, which requires simultaneous hand and foot coordination from the player, is difficult to play.

“It takes an amazing amount of coordination and intellectual memory,” Salzman said. “It’s a real workout.”

Salzman lived in Boston for the majority of her life, but moved to Israel with her family as a teenager.

She originally planned to live in Paris during her college years, but said she got cold feet about living in a foreign country without any family or structured school system.

“If I went to school in America, I only wanted to go to Jacobs,” she said. “It was the only school I applied to.”

Because there are only a handful of harp teachers in the country, she said she was willing to sacrifice leaving her family to come to the U.S. to become a better musician.

During her time at IU, Salzman spent a lot of time with harp professor Susann
McDonald.

“Natalie was an exceptionally bright student,” McDonald said. “She was always eager to learn and practice hard.”

In addition to releasing her EP, Salzman has performed at several venues, including The Bitter End in New York City.

She has also found online success by posting adaptations of popular songs such as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” on YouTube.

“I want to make music because I love it,” she said. “I want to touch and move people.”

© Indiana Daily Student 2014

 

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Debut EP: Ebb & Flow

For the past month, Natalie Salzman has been recording her debut EP at the legendary FAME recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This studio is famous for fostering the careers of the biggest blues and soul artists of the 1960s and 1970s such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter. Since then, famous artists such as The Rolling Stones, Lynard Skynard, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger, Jimmy Cliff, Linda Rondstadt, The Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, and many more have made the pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals to find and hone their sound. She was very fortunate to have the opportunity to record with the original session musicians, who are now legends and rock and roll of fame inductees, that recorded on these iconic albums.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxUZqqol-uc

Natalie Salzman is originally a classically-trained harpist and received her BM under the guidance of Susann McDonald, but has pursued a career in performing and singing blues and country-rock on the harp since graduating last May. She performed all over NYC this past summer, and is now based in Nashville. The debut EP, titled “Ebb & Flow,” will be released this January 5th. There will be a release party and show that evening at the iconic Bitter End in Greenwich Village.

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Alumna Natalie Salzman (BM ’13) to release EP

999437_407875886006692_1536847021_nNatalie Salzman is currently recording her debut EP at FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. FAME has fostered the careers of many blues and soul artists from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Percy Sledge, and Clarance Carter. Other big names include The Rolling Stones, Lynard Skynard, and Simon & Garfunkel, Willie Nelson, The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, and many, many more.

Salzman’s EP, “Ebb & Flow,” will be released on January 5, 2014. A release party and show that evening will take place at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village. A short promotional video about “Ebb & Flow” is available here on YouTube.

Salzman is a classically trained harpist and studied with Susann McDonald while at Indiana University. Since graduating, she has focused on performing and signgin blues and country-rock music on the harp. This summer, Salzman performed widely in New York City and is now based in Nashville, Tennessee.

To learn more about Natalie Salzman, visit her website.

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Student Update: Natalie Salzman

Debut EP: Ebb & Flow

For the past month, I’ve been recording my debut EP at the legendary FAME recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This studio is famous for fostering the careers of the biggest blues and soul artists of the 1960s and 1970s such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter. Since then, famous artists such as The Rolling Stones, Lynard Skynard, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger, Jimmy Cliff, Linda Rondstadt, The Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, and many more have made the pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals to find and hone their sound. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to record with the original session musicians, who are now legends and rock and roll of fame inductees, that recorded on these iconic albums.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxUZqqol-uc
I am originally a classically-trained harpist and received my BM under the guidance of Susann McDonald, but have pursued a career in performing and singing blues and country-rock on the harp since graduating last May. I performed all over NYC this past summer, and now am based in Nashville. The debut EP, titled “Ebb & Flow,” will be released this January 5th. There will be a release party and show that evening at the iconic Bitter End in Greenwich Village.

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Chicago Harp Quartet announces plans to record debut album

CHQFounded in 2012 by Jacobs School of Music alumnas Emily Granger (B.M. ’10) and Cathy Litaker (B.M. ’08), along with Marguerite Lynn Williams and Katie Ventura, the Chicago Harp Quartet is excited to announce plans to record their debut album.

Plans for the album include a range of classical and contemporary music, as well as a world premiere. The group is currently fundraising via a Kickstarter campaign to cover production costs for the CD.

The Chicago Harp Quartet’s upcoming 2013-14 season includes concerts at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Fourth Presbyterian Church with the International Chamber Artists, a LIVE from WFMT concert, a featured performance during the Lyon & Healy 150th Anniversary Festival as well as at the American Harp Society’s 41st National Conference in New Orleans, LA.

In addition to a full season of performances, the Chicago Harp Quartet will launch the CHQ Composition Contest in September of 2013, made possible by a grant from the American Harp Society. The winning piece will be recorded live during the 2014-15 season.

During their time at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Litaker and Granger both studied with harpist Susann McDonald. Ms. Litaker recently completed her two-year engagement with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and continues to freelance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago and New World Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Granger is currently the Principal Harpist of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and serves on the faculty at the VanderCook College of Music, British School of Chicago, and the WISH Program at the Chicago West Community Music Center.

More information about the Chicago Harp Quartet and their upcoming album can be found at their website here.

 

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PREVIEW (HT): Harp Competition starts Wednesday

By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist | Posted: Sunday, July 7, 2013 12:00 am

HARP-300There’ll be 44 harpists. They represent 19 countries. And they are all descending on Bloomington to compete in the Ninth USA International Harp Competition which gets underway with an opening ceremony on Wednesday afternoon at 4 in Auer Hall.

Now a premier world competition, the USA International was but a dream-of-the-moment for Susann McDonald back in 1989, when the first was held. “I had no idea it would catch on, but here we are 24 years later,” muses McDonald, the Distinguished Professor in IU’s Jacobs School of Music who founded the competition and continues to serve as artistic director.

“It is a very prestigious competition, pre-eminent, with probably just the Israel on a par. But, you know, that one gets state funding. We must raise all the money to run ours. Somehow, thanks to so many friends and volunteers, we’ve moved forward from competition to competition, and here we are. I’m so thrilled. I’m so grateful.”

The sum raised for this year’s USA International: $250,000, according to executive director Megan Landfair, a sum, she says, “was not easy to amass. But we’re ready to go. We’re also so lucky to have the collaboration of the Jacobs School with its concert venues and practice spaces and 15 harps that contestants can use. Also, we have the wonderful support of Lyon and Healy, which not only lends us 15 harps but, of course, contributes the $55,000 gold harp that goes to the Gold Medalist.”

That Gold Medalist, in addition to the harp, earns two debut recitals, a CD recording, career promotion, and a $5,000 monetary award. Musicians who win second through eighth receive dollar amounts ranging from $5,000 down to $1,000. An additional $1,000 goes to the harpist who best plays the Carl Reinecke Harp Concerto in E Minor required of the finalists. And a prize of $1,500 is reserved for the contestant who bests his or her peers with a performance of a composition written expressly for the competition.

Titled “De l’obscurite II,” that eight-minute work was written by a young French composer, Benjamin Attahir,” who is coming to Bloomington to hear it played by contestants that reach the third stage in the competition and must include it in a 40-minute solo recital. Attahir’s composition was chosen from among 81 submitted. He received $2,000 for his victory.

The competition is designed in four stages. During each, the number of harpists is reduced so that only eight remain for the third stage and three for the final, which requires a performance from each of the Reinecke concerto, this in the Musical Arts Center on Saturday, July 20, with a full orchestra led by David Effron.

A jury of eight distinguished musicians has been named to determine who goes and stays each stage and who leaves with the gold harp. They include, among others, the 2001 Gold Medalist, Dan Yu of China; two-time Silver Medalist Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero of Argentina; Jacobs School faculty pianist Emile Naoumoff, and — as jury president — Sarah Bullen, principal harpist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The harpists, according to rules for the USA International, are evaluated on their musicianship, technique, and artistic presentation. “We have a whole outline of guidelines, very specific,” says Bullen. “We’re to have no contact with the players. We’re not to talk among ourselves. If we taught contestants, we refrain from judging them.”

Bullen previously served as judge in 1998. “It didn’t tire me at all, listening to the many contestants. I’m a harpist. I love the harp. I love hearing it. It’s a privilege to be a judge and aid a new generation.” Determining a winner is a challenge, she admits, “but it becomes clear as we go along who stand out. “There’s harp quality, exceptional mastery of the instrument that we’re looking for, someone who seems comfortable as performer, who has stage presence and a sense of artistry. A winner needs heart and spirit, someone who can relay the poetry and offer inspiration. Back in 1998, it was Xavier De Maistre who later became principal in the Vienna Philharmonic. He was remarkable. From the first time I saw and heard him, I sensed his confidence and smooth delivery.”

De Maistre is one of four USA International Gold Medalists from France, the others being Gaelle Vandermoot (1995), Emmanuel Ceysson (2004), and Agnes Clement (2010). Marie Casale of the U.S. won the first competition in 1989. Others who took the harp and prize were Jana Bouskova of the Czech Republic (1992), Dan Yu of China (2001), and Maria Krushevskaya of Russia (2007).

“They’re all quite distinguished now,” says Susann McDonald. “They hold chairs in major orchestras, teach at top institutions, and concertize prominently. I think we’ve had an impact. This year, we have a tremendous field of contestants, including some very experienced ones. The competition should be interesting.”

Ten of the contestants come from this country. There are four each from France and Japan; three from China, Germany, and the United Kingdom; two from Austria, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Taiwan, and single entrants from Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Thirty-three will be living with host families while in Bloomington. Says executive director Landfair: “It’s something special, really unique that we do to help the contestants, some of them so far from home, feel welcome in a close-knit environment. To have these families volunteer, to have all the other devoted volunteers, to have IU and the Jacobs School, it takes a village, you know, to make something like the USA International happen. We started right after the 2010 ended. It takes much time and many people.”

“Megan has been a fine addition,” says McDonald. “She’s a harpist. She’s come through the Jacobs School. She’s had arts administration training. She understands what we’re about and has taken many things off my back. We have a strong local board, tremendously devoted, and international advisors. We have the volunteers and the host families. And we’ve had Charles Webb and Gwyn Richards at the helm of the Jacobs School to faithfully support our efforts. The city is on our side. Without such community-wide assistance, we probably wouldn’t still be here. But here we are.”

So, starting Wednesday, there’ll be ten days of “here we are” competition, a once-every-three-years welcome addition to Bloomington’s musical summer.

Reach Peter by sending an email to features@heraldt.com with “Jacobi” in the subject line.


Ninth USA International Harp Competition

Schedule of Events

  • Competition events are free and open to the public.
  • Wednesday afternoon at 4 in Auer Hall — Opening ceremony.
  • Thursday, 9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. and 3 — 6:30 p.m. in Recital Hall — Stage 1 Competition.
  • Friday, 9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. and 5 — 6:30 p.m. in Recital Hall — Stage 1 continues.
  • Saturday, 9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. in Recital Hall — Stage 1 completed.
  • Saturday evening at 8 in Auer — Laureate recital featuring 2010 Gold Medal Winner Agnes Clement.
  • Next Sunday, 9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. and 3 — 6:30 p.m. in Recital Hall — Stage 2 Competition.
  • Monday, July 15, 9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. and 3 — 6:30 p.m. in Recital Hall — Stage 2 completed.
  • Tuesday, July 16, 10 — 11:30 a.m. in Recital Hall — Composer’s Forum featuring Harp Competition Contest Winner Benjamin Attahir.
  • Tuesday, July 16, 3 — 6:30 p.m. in Auer — Stage 3 Competition.
  • Wednesday, July 17, 10 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. in Auer — Stage 3 completed.
  • Wednesday, July 17, 7 p.m. in Recital Hall — “Stars of Tomorrow” recital featuring talented young harpists from around the nation.
  • Thursday, July 18, 11 a.m. in Ford-Crawford Hall — Performance Preparation and Presence Seminar.
  • Thursday, July 18, 8 p.m. in Auer — Jazz harpist Park Stickney in concert.
  • Saturday, July 20, 7 p.m. in the Musical Arts Center — Final Stage of Competition.
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IU harpist Alexandra Mullins wins top award at American Harp Society National competition in Los Angeles

mullins__alexandraJacobs School harpist Alexandra Mullins, who studies with Susann McDonald, has won the Young Professional division of the American Harp Society’s National Harp Competition held last week in Los Angeles.  As a result, she is now an AHS Concert Artist and will perform multiple concerts in this role.

Mullins also won First Prize in the Serbian International Harp Contest this summer and the Rodrigo Harp Concerto competition last semester at IU.

Read a Q&A with Andrea on the Harp Column website >

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The Jacobs School mourns the passing of alumna Eleanor Fell

The IU Jacobs School of Music and its Harp Department mourns the passing of Eleanor Fell, a Jacobs School alumna and a good friend. Eleanor died on June 16, 2013.

An obituary was published in the Herald Times >

The following article was also published June 17:

HeraldTimesOnline.com

Celebrated pop harpist Eleanor Fell dies

By Mike Leonard331-4368 | mleonard@heraldt.com

Eleanor_Fell-350It has been said that Eleanor Fell did more than any other person to popularize the harp as a contemporary instrument, capable of playing contemporary music.

The near-lifelong Bloomington resident, musician and business owner died Sunday of complications from leukemia at Hospice House at age 68.

Vivacious and humorous by nature, Fell was a beloved figure both to those who knew her personally and those who only knew her as a performer. “The whole harp world is grieving today because she was a friend to everybody,” said Susann McDonald, a distinguished professor and chairwoman of the harp department in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. “She was just a wonderful human being. The last time I had dinner with her, a few weeks ago, I was saying, ‘You are the only person who can make me laugh like this.’”

“She was a character,” said Melissa Dickson, director of development for the Jacobs School. “She was not only a great, great friend to the school, but I knew her growing up as the mother of one of my friends, her son, Scott. She was one of the fun moms.”

Born in Chicago, Fell grew up in Bloomington and attended University School from pre-school through high school. She attended Stephens College for one year after high school and returned to Bloomington and IU to earn her music degree in harp performance in 1965.

“She thought she was just going to play at the Metropolitan Opera right away and learned that they already had a harpist,” McDonald recalled. “She learned that the same was true at other major jobs, although she did play with the Santa Fe Opera and some other good places.”

Her brother, Art, a pianist, urged her to join him in Africa in the early 1970s and she took a job playing harp in the elegant Hotel Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan, in West Africa. Her life took a completely unexpected turn there after the hotel manager innocently asked the classically trained musician if she could play a popular song at the time, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”

Fell discovered that people loved hearing contemporary music played on the harp and began arranging and playing Gershwin, Ellington and even the Beatles. She began getting invitations to play in Japan, Germany and Switzerland and soon landed in New York City, where she became a cultural phenomenon.

Crowds of tourists and celebrities began flocking to her engagements at Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, the Waldorf-Astoria and the St. Regis Hotel. Fans included Jackie Kennedy and her sister, Lee Radziwell, Arthur Fiedler, Marvin Hamlisch and artist Salvador Dali, who autographed sheet music for her with Dali-esque doodles on them.

Blond and attractive, Fell eschewed the orchestral black dress for fashionable evening gowns. At the Rainbow Room, the manager advised her to keep her husband, Lee Caulfield, from coming around. “He said, ‘Every man out there needs to think he can take you home tonight,’” she recalled in a 2001 interview.

She laughed that the glamour didn’t always work to her advantage. While she was walking through a hotel area in the Waldorf-Astoria one night, a security guard stopped her and she explained she was working at the hotel. The man placed his hand around her arm, stopped her and called for more security. “He thought I was a hooker!” she recalled with an uproarious laugh.

Fell was, instead, the most famous harpist in the world outside of classical music circles, sharing billings with Dave Brubeck, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Lionel Hampton, among many others.

She formed Vanderbilt Music with her husband, Caulfield, in 1977 and decided to leave New York City and take the company, and their son, Scott, to a more comfortable environment in her hometown in 1984. “She wanted me to have a normal childhood like she did,” Scott Caulfield said this week. “In fact, I grew up in the same house she grew up in, on Arbutus Drive, across from Forest Quad.”

“She helped so many music students over the years by giving them jobs at Vanderbilt Music (one of the leading harp, harp strings and harp music companies in the world),” McDonald said. “Every year five or six of our harp students would work there and be able to make a little money while they were in school.”

Fell and Caulfield continued to operate Vanderbilt Music as partners after divorcing. They sold the business in 2012. About three years ago, she married Lamar E. Peterson.

Fell developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma around 2006 and that disease went into remission. A few years later she developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which she unsuccessfully tried to manage. “For somebody who was always in control, it was tough for her, but once she said, ‘I’ve had it with the treatment’ it was almost liberating,” he said. “She almost got kicked out of Hospice House because she stopped declining and she joked about that, too,” her son said. “She said, ‘Can I be the poster child for Hospice House rejects?’ She was always making jokes, even when she was very sick.”

Fell insisted to friends such as McDonald that she did not want anyone to buy flowers and, instead, to make donations to either the Eleanor Fell Harp Scholarship at IU or Hospice House. Fittingly, there will be a remembrance planned at the upcoming ninth USA International Harp Competition at IU, July 10-20.

Visitation will be from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at The Funeral Chapel of Powell and Deckard with services at 1 p.m., followed by burial in Beth Shalom Gardens at Valhalla Memory Gardens.

“It’s very comforting to know that she was able to know her only grandchild and it meant so much to her,” said McDonald. “She was very, very excited to have that opportunity.”

James Irving Caulfield was born Jan. 17, 2013, and was named after Eleanor’s father. “We had some deep, deep talks at the end and she was at peace,” said Scott, her son. “She said, ‘I’ve been everywhere I wanted to go and I’ve eaten everything I’ve wanted to eat and loved everyone I wanted to love,’” he said. “She said her only regret was not going to be able to see James grow up. She said, ‘I just wish I could see who the hell he’s going to look like.’”

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2013

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Student Liza Wallace produces CD and concert by the ‘Present Time Ensemble’

front-cover-300Jacobs School student Liza Wallace founded the Present Time Ensemble three years ago with clarinetist Liz Gorman. Fast-forward to this month and she will celebrate the release of her CD “Waken” April 19 at 8pm at the Ivy-Tech John Waldron Arts Center in downtown Bloomington.

The concert will feature the music from the CD which consists of Liza’s original compositions and arrangements. Her work draws from Venezuelan, Brazilian, and Cuban styles as well as North American Jazz and Folk music.

A native of Berkeley California, Liza has studied harp with Susann McDonald and will graduate in May. The concert culminates her time here in Bloomington. She will be joined by Gorman, percussionist Bruno Cabrera, violinist Daniel Stein, cellist Guilherme Monegato, bassist Jon Nadel, and special guest pianist (and brother) Eli Wallace. Come out for a wonderful night of music and dance!

The concert is free and will include a one-time only discounted price for the CD.  More info at lizawallace.com.

 

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