Academy helps young musicians explore their potential

Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Chris Howell | Herald-Times Layla Vamos, 10, practices a Joseph Haydn concerto during a private lesson last week with Mimi Zweig, director of the Indiana University String Academy.

When Layla Vamos’ bow touches the strings of her violin, she doesn’t need to watch.

Her body sways, and often her eyes close, allowing the music to take over while she plays. Joseph Haydn’s “Concerto in G Major” fills the walls of Mimi Zweig’s room in the round Music Addition building at the Jacobs School of Music.

Zweig, the program director of the music school’s String Academy, watches and listens, correcting Layla’s stance and providing encouragement after a particularly clean section.

Layla’s been playing the violin for years now and can hear when she’s a bit sharp — a tendency when pulling out of long notes. But by and large, the music flows from her 4-foot-nothing frame with an ease that comes from a thousand hours of practice.

At just 10 years old, the incoming fifth-grader at University Elementary School has put in the time to be great. Or, at least, to be on her way to greatness.


Worldwide appeal

Now in its 32nd year, Indiana University’s String Academy allows children like Layla who wish to study violin and cello to realize their potential in a world-class academic setting, Zweig said.

This year, 135 children are participating in the Summer String Academy, split over two sessions, with at least 20 students from Monroe County. There are also students from Iceland, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Mexico, Japan and China, among other countries, all living in the Forest Quad dormitory, eating at the Wright food court for lunch, just like college students.

The students were each required to send in an audition tape to be selected for the program.

“This school offers the environment to realize their potential in just four weeks,” Zweig said. “Mind you, not their full potential. It is just four weeks, but it is amazing to see the progress they make in such a short amount of time.”

Zweig attributes the String Academy’s worldwide lure to a top-notch roster of instructors and a reputation that regularly brings in world-famous musicians to perform. During the summer sessions, Zweig has secured nearly nightly concerts for the students, many with Hoosier ties to match this year’s “Made In Indiana” theme.

“Parents are always looking for excellence in their education, and this is one of those hot spots,” Zweig said.

Simin Ganatra can speak to both sides of that argument. Ganatra is a renowned violin player in her own right, as well as a professor of practice at the Jacobs School of Music. She is also Layla’s mother and a big fan of the String Academy, first enrolling her daughter at age 6. This is Layla’s second time through the summer session.

“It’s just such a great program. It’s a great networking opportunity for the kids, and they learn so much,” Ganatra said. “Mimi is an amazing teacher. She has so much energy and is always positive. (The instructors) expect a lot, but they do it with encouragement and passion.”

Preparing for a career

When Layla was 3 or 4 years old, Ganatra was rooting for her daughter to choose the cello, the instrument of choice for Layla’s father, Jacobs professor of practice Brandon Vamos. But Layla gravitated toward the violin (because, as Layla explains it, that’s what the girls in the house played).

Layla is reaching a critical age in her development as a violinist. The young girl who enjoys playing outside and is a fan of dogs is doing all the right things to be great, Zweig said, as are the other kids who are committing themselves to their craft this summer.

By around age 12 or 14, students who have “caught the bug” should be preparing for a rigorous life of training over the coming years, Zweig said, a life current Jacobs students know well.

Zweig has modeled String Academy participants’ days in much the same way. In the morning, they practice from 9 to 11 a.m., then attend chamber music coaching for the next two hours. This is where students break out into string quartets based on levels of ability.

After lunch at the food court, students have private lessons from 2 to 4 p.m., and then practice for two more hours before heading back to the food court for dinner.

“Almost every night, then, we have class, a lecture or a concert,” said Zweig, who spends no less than 14 hours at the school each day. “They need to know how they will function in an environment like this.”

Many flourish, and Zweig said she’s had more than a few String Academy alumni later attend Jacobs as full-time IU students.

‘That’s so beautiful’

Layla closes her eyes and begins again with a confidence beyond her years. Mom nods in approval.

“Good! That’s so beautiful,” Zweig says.

Layla’s bow flashes back and forth as the fingers on her left hand slide along the strings. Her toes curl slightly into her flip-flops at the crescendo, and Zweig instructs her to hold the long notes longer.

“Do you hear the difference?” Zweig asks. “You opened up the space by using …”

“More bow,” Layla responds quietly but confidently.

“That’s right!” she says, flashing a broad smile, inciting Layla to do the same. “Now, let’s move on to Beethoven.”

Find out more

To learn more about the String Academy’s fall sessions, visit

By Jonathan Streetman 812-331-4353 | © HTO


‘Fledermaus’ sparkles in opera’s temporary home

An exuberant cast, a gorgeous production and Johann Strauss, Jr.’s irresistible tunes added up to a sparkling evening with “Die Fledermaus” to open the Cincinnati Opera season.

Performed in English, the text of Strauss’ bubbly operetta was given a witty updating by Robin Guarino, who was making her company debut as director. Her agile staging and clever twists kept the opening night audience engaged – and sometimes laughing out loud — from beginning to end. At its conclusion, the full house (seating 2,250 when the orchestra pit is used) stood and cheered.

At its heart, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”)  is a drawn-out tale of revenge for a long-ago practical joke. The operetta entertained the Viennese when it debuted in 1874, but its inside jokes and lengthy dialogue can grow tedious to modern audiences. Guarino’s adaptation and streamlining of David Pountney’s translation from the original German worked wonderfully.

It was a visual treat as well. For the new co-production with Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, Guarino and scenic designer Allen Moyer set the entire operetta in a fading, but still grand, hotel, where the Eisensteins are staying on New Year’s Eve. It’s an ingenious concept because the hotel setting provides an opulent ballroom for the ball and a “jail” lockup in the concierge’s office where Eisenstein is to stay for cheating at cards in the casino. The role of the jailer is merged into Frank, the concierge (performed with flair by Thomas Dreeze).

As the overture played, the curtain rose on a charming vignette in Vienna’s Imperial Hotel, as visitors checked in, children scampered and bellhops put on their own little pantomime. People entered and exited through a working revolving door, elevator and down a grand staircase. (Lest patrons were missing Music Hall, the elegant design included a grand chandelier.)

Heading the fine cast was soprano Nicole Cabell, who sang with a rich tone and delivered a nuanced performance as Rosalinde, wife of the philandering Eisenstein. One of the highlights was her soulful Czardas (in disguise as the Hungarian countess), which was beautifully expressive and enhanced by effortless high notes.

As her husband – now on the receiving end of a practical joke – tenor Zach Borichevsky offered robust singing and plenty of theatrical swagger in his company debut. One of the comedic highlights was his confrontation with his wife’s alleged lover, Alfred, using an umbrella as a weapon. She cooled them both off with seltzer water.

Also making her debut, soprano Nicole Haslett was alluring as the chambermaid Adele. Her crystalline voice and coloratura fireworks provided some of the evening’s most enjoyable moments. She is clearly an artist to watch.

The superb lyric tenor Alek Shrader impressed in the role of Alfred, the unemployed tenor who is locked up instead of Eisenstein. And just as impressive was Hadleigh Adams, who as Dr. Falke was a good match for Eisenstein in vocal heft and vitality as he sought revenge on his friend.

In the “pants” role of Prince Orlofsky, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor wielded a thick Russian accent and a mellifluous voice and acted the role of the bored prince with aplomb.

And of course, there were dancing girls in shimmery hot pants and top hats, with engaging choreography – complete with can-can kicks – by Cincinnati Ballet’s Sarah Hairston. The chorus, prepared by Henri Venanzi, shone as the exuberant revelers. In the end, they lustily agreed that “it was all the fault of the champagne.”

Then there was Strauss’ effervescent score – a Viennese time warp of waltzes, gallops and polkas. Leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, conductor David Charles Abell deftly caught the nuance and grace of the music. He allowed the music to breathe, and supported the cast flawlessly. The 62-piece orchestra responded with refined playing.

The time period between the wars perfectly captured the aura of Viennese nostalgia that pervades this piece. Costumes by Candice Donnelly added a glamorous touch. The final scene, when the action moved back into the ballroom, was real “coup de théâtre” that drew applause. (Without revealing all, it was achieved by backstage staff pushing the massive set on wagons.)

Thursday’s show in Procter & Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center was also the debut of the company’s home for two years while Music Hall is a construction zone. Although not as acoustically warm as Music Hall, the Aronoff provided clear sound and excellent sight lines. I had trouble hearing some of the female singers, as well as the mid-range tones in the orchestra from my seat under a balcony.

Cincinnati Opera’s performances were dedicated to victims of the tragedy in Orlando. The opening weekend was dedicated as well to devoted supporter Dr. Robert J. Hasl, who died in April.


Original article can be found here at

Review: Durand Jones & The Indications Debut Album

Nothing gives us greater pleasure than to plug the debut album of a hometown group. Durand Jones & The Indications coalesced around a common love of gritty Southern soul and Delta blues by students at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The four core members of the band—Aaron Frazer (drums, vocals), Blake Rhein (guitars), Kyle Houpt (bass), and Justin Hubler (organ, electric piano)—are all graduates of the JSOM Recording Arts Department and performed together in the promising blues-rock band, Charlie Patton’s War.  Durand Jones—classical saxophone player by day, soul shouter by night—earned a master’s degree in music while also playing with the award winning Kenari Quartet. The NOLA-born musician was raised in his father’s hometown of Hillaryville, LA (population 750), where he sang traditional gospel in the choir at the local Baptist church, studied classical music, and played sax in his high school jazz band, receiving the Louis Armstrong Award.

These multi-talented forces collided a couple of years ago, when Rhein and Jones both had gigs with the legendary IU Soul Revue (founded, incidentally, by Dr. Portia K. Maultsby, who later went on to found the Archives of African American Music and Culture, home of Black Grooves). Rhein approached Jones and convinced him to front Charlie Patton’s War for a basement show, and a new version of the band was born—later christened Durand Jones & The Indications—which also includes members of the Soul Revue horn section (how fantastic that college students are still taught to be soulful!).

On their self-titled album of original songs, released on Ohio’s Colemine label, the band opens with one of their strongest tracks, “Make a Change.” This is old-school stuff in the very best sense—funky and hard driving, with organ riffs and raw vocals channeling soul singers several generations removed. Frazer lays down a steady groove on “Smile,” which gives the horn section a workout. This is followed by the slow burner “Can’t Keep My Cool,” a strong track that lets Jones stretch his vocal and emotional range. Things just keep getting better on “Groovy Babe,” a song guaranteed to shake up the dance floor, with Frazer given a chance to shine with a drum solo, while Jones shouts to the rafters. “Giving Up” is a classic break-up song with a sound straight out of the Stax studio—one can even imagine that Booker T (another IU alum) is sitting in on the B3. On “Is It Any Wonder,” Frazer takes over on vocals, injecting a softer, more tender timbre, enhanced with a bit of reverb. Jones comes back in full force on “Now I’m Gone,” a tour de force of heartache and disappointment that might unleash a few tears. The album closes with “Tuck ‘N’ Roll,” a rocking instrumental that showcases the band, in particular Justin Hubler on organ.

One can’t help but make a comparison to other soul singer fronted bands, like Charles Bradley (also reviewed in this issue). Let’s hope Durand Jones & The Indications are able to continue and achieve that level of success, now that members have graduated and scattered to different parts of the country (Frazer is now gigging in Brooklyn, and Rhein is employed by Numero Record Group in Chicago). We might be in luck, since a tour is apparently in the works, and Jones is already writing songs for a follow-up album, which might also find him “channelling his inner King Curtis” on sax. Meanwhile, locals might find Jones sitting in with his other regular groups, including the Jefferson Street Parade Band, Black Acid Orchestra, and the Liberation Music Collective.

*The limited edition blue vinyl sold out prior to the release date, but you’ll be able to cop a black vinyl edition in the near future.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Original post and audio can be found here on

IU choral students meet the challenges of Honegger’s oratorio

Music review: ‘King David’

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | © HTO

The choral element in this year’s Summer Music round of concerts has been, as often in recent years, limited: to a single concert. This year’s single event was handed to Walter Huff, the Indiana University Opera Theater’s director of choruses and the Jacobs School of Music’s professor of choral conducting.

He chose Arthur Honegger’s 1921 concert oratorio “King David” (“Le roi David”), formally subtitled “Symphonic Psalm for Vocal Soloists, Chorus, and Orchestra,” to give his registered summer choral students something both challenging and different to do. The result of Maestro Huff’s choice was heard on Saturday evening by a receptive audience that filled Auer Hall. That result was noteworthy. The good-sized crowd that showed up had an opportunity to hear a work not often, one might even say rarely, available to devotees of choral music in the 21st century. For the singers and supporting instrumental musicians, a string-less band of them, the opportunity was to experience the preparation for and performance of a work most of them probably hadn’t even heard of.

The audience appeared to appreciate their exposure to the oratorio; listeners were coughlessly silent while listening and, when the performance was done, effusively approving. The performers offered a reading marked by generous proportions of energy and enthusiasm.

The Swiss-born Frenchman Honegger (1892-1955) is known for having expressed himself in music of various sorts, spanning the centuries from Bach and the Baroque to the late Romantic effusions of Richard Strauss and Mahler, from the subtleties of Impressionism to bold use of contemporary tricks of the trade. The ingredients came from those Honegger studied, suggesting the eclectic, but the ways in which he packaged his compositions gave the music a personal stamp. So it is with “King David.” The life story of the Biblical David contains adventure enough, and the libretto by Rene Morax covers that life inclusively, from childhood to death, rich fodder for the music to enhance.

Honegger’s score contains a vast array of tonal effects, from moments mysteriously soft to climaxes that were mighty, almost uncomfortably so. Huff kept full control of the 36-member chorus, of the nine soloists taken from within the chorus for extra duty, and of the 18-member orchestra.

As a whole, the chorus sounded well endowed, capable of meeting whatever the demands of the composer and of the conductor. The soloists, when separated from the full chorus, came forth courageously, some more successfully than others, but all steeped in what Honegger gave them and what Huff asked them to do. The orchestra took possession of the musical ideas Honegger left for a body of instrumentalists to complete; this body did just that in excellent fashion.

Tying all together was a narrator to tell the story that prompted the music. Zachary Coates, a doctoral candidate in the Jacobs School, handled that task superbly, tasking a spoken voice graced with flexibility to interpret the Biblical content and fueled by the heat, the drama in that content. The microphone was powerful enough to collaborate with Coates’ ample voice so everything could be distinctly heard. Bravo to that! But when his voice reached beyond a certain level of loudness, unfortunately, the mic tended to bark, to woof back. It wasn’t the narrator’s fault but that of the electronic instrument called upon to serve. Fortunately, the story still was well told and a critically important factor in the success of the concert.

Alumna Yura Lee Appointed 1st Violinist of New York’s Enso Quartet


The New York-based Enso String Quartet has today announced the appointment of 30 year old violinist, Yura Lee as their new 1st violinist – from the commencement of the 2016-17 season.

She will replace Maureen Nelson – who will leave the ensemble to take up a position with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

A graduate of the Indiana University and the New England Conservatory, Yura is a former major prize winner at the Leopold Mozart, Indianapolis, Hannover, Kreisler, Paganini and ARD International Violin Competitions.

“I feel very lucky that I get to spend time with, and explore this music with the Ensō Quartet … they are some of the most amazing musicians and people that I have been fortunate enough to know …” Yura has said.

Formed at Yale University in 1991, the Enso Quartet are former 1st prize winners at the Concert Artists Guild and Banff international String Quartet Competition.

©The Violin Channel 

Brennan Johns: Seizing every musical opportunity


Brennan Johns had an overarching goal for his senior recital: to make it unlike any other senior recital at IU.

In a traditional recital, he would stand in front of the audience and play his bass trombone or euphonium, interrupted by applause, for nearly an hour.

He had attended and performed in those recitals. His senior recital, he thought, should be different.

“I wanted it to be something that could adequately cap off my four years here and that people remembered,” he says. “An event.”

Brennan isn’t interested in the typical way of doing things. His time at IU is proof.

To get the whole story, visit Success Stories on the IUB webpage!

Watch Brennan’s recital


Indiana University | Success Stories

Music in Education: Making music helps strengthen other skills

Part 2 of a three-part series


Sixth Grader Isaac Webster, center, started showing signs of improvement in music and other studies when he was in the second grade. Isaac gives a lot of credit for helping him learn. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Isaac Webster, a sixth-grader at Grandview Elementary School, is a quiet kid. But hand him a drum or some spoons, and suddenly his volume goes up.

He says he likes music class because it makes him feel good about himself.

“I worked really hard on practicing (songs), and it makes me feel good when I get in front of people and perform,” he said.

Isaac “investigates” sounds using bongos, a drum set or beat boxing and says it’s hard to explain how he feels about music, but that he likes to have fun with it and play with sound.

ed 5

Lisa Voss uses her grade book to determine who hasn’t had a classroom award recently as students from Abby Seifers’ class line up for dismissal. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

That’s what he loves about Lisa Voss’ class at Grandview.

“Mrs. Voss lets kids do what they want in music. She’s really generous and nice. She’s the best music teacher I’ve ever had,” he said.

It isn’t just in Voss’ class that Isaac finds his own rhythm, though. His music lessons resonate throughout his other subjects.

“I like music because it gives me an inspiration and helps me in counting and finding patterns,” Isaac said.

It’s also a motivator when he’s working on a test.

“If I get off track, I think of me playing my drum set for a second, and then I can get back on task and work,” he said.

Isaac’s not the only Monroe County Community School Corp. student who has found out there’s a relationship between music and math.

Luke Kopp, a second-grader at University Elementary in Maggie Olivo’s music class, said he comes up with songs to help him with math. By putting numbers to songs, he’s able to do better. Music is also a relief and makes him feel good.

“It’s something to look forward to after math,” Luke said. “Music gets into my brain.”

Luke’s dad, David Kopp, says there’s no doubt he’s seen a difference in Luke due to music class.

“He is a very emotionally transparent kid. Period. And this is never more evident than when he is dancing and listening to music or playing and singing music of his own. His passion for music radiates,” Kopp said in an email.

Kopp’s noticed that music helps Luke let loose and be himself. It’s helped him overcome social anxiety, too.

“He not only enjoys that creative freedom and release, but he needs it to balance out his day. The biggest compliment I can give him about his approach and response to music class is that when I see him in the hall afterwards, with rosy cheeks, a sweaty forehead and his sweatshirt tied around his waist, it looks as if he has just come from P.E. instead,” Kopp said.

ed 2

Second-grader Bailey Morgan conducts during the singing of a memory song. Bailey volunteered for the task and his classmates followed along as he pointed at the notes. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Katy Strand, associate professor of music at Indiana University and chairwoman of IU’s music education department, is not surprised to hear that kids are finding music helpful in other subjects. What students at MCCSC experience in music class is born out in research, which shows links between musical training and stronger reading skills, memory and math skills.

“We’ve known for a long time music is one of the greatest mnemonic aids we’ve ever had,” Strand said referring to the alphabet song and “Fifty Nifty United States.”

The advantage of engaging in music goes beyond memorizing letters, states and numbers, however. Studies in neuroscience have shown music stimulates the entire brain in a way that no other learning experience does, she said.

At the same time, Strand asserts studying music has merits of its own, whether it has an influence across disciplines or not.

“Music is valid for study by itself. It’s ubiquitous. It’s been known to exist in every culture that’s ever been examined,” she said.

Its functions are varied, including communication, expression, art, ritual and play. In addition, music affects the way children understand themselves and the universe.

“If we as a culture turn back to educating the whole child, arts are tremendously important,” she said. A good teacher doesn’t hurt, either.

Music education hasn’t been exempt from the statewide teacher shortage the Indiana Department of Education has been studying lately, but Strand doesn’t seem too worried.

ed 6

Fourth-grader Brayden LaGarde asks questions about the music the students will be rehearsing for the Veterans Day program at Grandview Elementary last fall. Voss has directed a Veterans Day show since she started teaching in 2001. Chris Howell|Herald-Times

“Teaching is a hard profession. There is a shortage, but there are still people wanting to enter the field,” she said. “Students coming into the music education program say they were inspired and motivated by their music teachers. They have great energy, and eight out of 10 are inspired by a teacher who showed them the joy and passion of music, and they want to pass it on.”

The significance of what she’s doing in the classroom isn’t lost on Voss.

“It’s mind-blowing to think how much influence you have as a teacher, but I have a lot of influence to impact their future even if they don’t go into music education, but just simply learning how to enjoy it, how to appreciate it,” she said.

  • By Mary Keck Former H-T Staff Writer © Herald Times Online

Grammy Winning Violinist Joshua Bell Guest-Stars on TV’s Royal Pains


Josh Bell Royal Pains


ROYAL PAINS– “The Good News Is” Episode 807– Pictured:–(Photo by Giovanni Rufino/USA Network)

Superstar violinist Joshua Bell makes a very special guest appearance on the TV Series “Royal Pains,” airing on the USA Network on Wednesday, June 29.

Playing himself, Bell performs an original song by Tom Kitt in a scene with Cloris Leachman, who guest stars as a London West End diva. Also making special guest appearances are Henry Winkler and Christine Ebersole.

This is the second to last episode of the final season of the series which stars Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma  Shetty, Brooke D’Orsay, Ben Shenkman, and Campbell Scott.

The episode, titled  “The Good News” was written and directed by Michael Rauch (who also co-wrote the lyrics with Tom Kitt). Executive Producers: Michael Rauch and Andrew Lenchewski.

The writers, Michael Rauch and Antonia Ellis, have worked with Joshua Bell on Rauch’s show “Love Monkey,” and are huge fans of his.

Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era, and his restless curiosity, passion, and multi-faceted musical interests are almost unparalleled in the world of classical music. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2011, Bell is the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.

Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader, Bell’s 2015 summer highlights include a South American and European tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a tour to South Africa, including appearances with the Johannesburg Philharmonic and Starlight Classics, performances in New York and Shanghai with the New York Philharmonic and summer festivals including Verbier, Tanglewood, Mostly Mozart and Saratoga.

In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award, he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.

Photo attached courtesy of USA Network

Left to right: Joshua Bell, Christine Ebersole and Henry Winkler



Pacifica Quartet says farewell to founding member and violinist

Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist

The Pacifica Quartet

The Pacifica Quartet

A few matters to write about.

A developing story

Word came quietly from Norman Lebrecht’s music website and then from the website of the Jacob School’s resident string ensemble: “The Pacifica Quartet has announced the departure of founding member and first violinist Simin Ganatra. Ms. Ganatra, who has been the first violinist of the ensemble since their founding in 1994, will be leaving at the end of the 2015-16 season to assume an expanded role at Indiana University’s Jacobs School… and pursue other musical opportunities. The Pacifica Quartet will announce Ms. Ganatra’s replacement at a later date.”

On behalf of his Pacifica colleagues, violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson told us in the news release: “We are so very proud of Simin and wish her nothing but the best on her new adventure. As we say farewell to Simin, we look forward with much excitement to the next leg on our musical journey.”

On behalf of herself, Simin Ganatra said: “The decision to leave was not an easy one, but after 22 years with the ensemble, I feel ready to explore other musical opportunities. I will excitedly watch as my colleagues continue to grow artistically and further develop this remarkable ensemble into the quartet of the future.”

There were immediate questions without answers.

One: When is “a later date?”

Two: What are the specifics about Simin Ganatra’s new job, the job with “an expanded role at IU?

Three and Four: As for the Pacifica and its change of personnel — Will the group stay here and continue its important efforts to heighten student enthusiasm for chamber music training? Or will the Pacifica depart to headquarter elsewhere?

Five: What are the why and wherefores for these changes?

I emailed the Pacifica’s usual spokesperson, violinist Sigurbjorn “Sibbi” Bernhardsson. Sibbi answered: “Dear Peter. Thanks for your email. Sorry for the late reply. I am en route to Japan. The short answer is that we are all very much staying and will continue our work at Jsom. We have had over 20 wonderful years with Simin. She has taken a more expanded role at Jsom. The Pacifica Quartet will continue on, and we are in the midst of finding a replacement. Please write to Brandon [cellist Brandon Vamos] and Simin directly about this for future clarification.”

I wrote back: “Thank you, Sibbi. That’s great news. Happy journey!” Then I wrote Brandon and Simin.

She answered: “I just arrived in Japan and am reading your email now. Hope it is not too late to respond. I am taking on a more extensive role at Jacobs which I am really excited about. I absolutely love the school and love that I will be able to do even more on campus. I plan to still perform extensively, and more in Blooomington than I have been able to, and look forward to exploring other repertoire. As you may or may not know, Brandon and I have two wonderful girls, ages 5 and 10, and this new position allows me to pursue the dreams I have for my career while at the same time not leaving them home 3-4 days every week with a nanny. I also know that I will be able to devote more time to my students. Thanks for your interest and support.”

What more can I say except to emphasize the good news: that, after all, we’re not losing anyone, and we’ll be gaining another violinist for the Pacifica package. My frown has changed to a smile.

BLEMF remembered

If you read my reviews of five Early Music events that took place during an extended Memorial Day weekend, you’re undoubtedly aware that I was pleased by what some devoted and gifted musicians managed to contribute to the town’s musical scene and, thereby, keep BLEMF’s footprint distinct.

Just the idea of doing it took courage on the part of performers and, perhaps even more, on the part of planners: the board members of Bloomington Early Music, the faculty and students at the Jacobs School’s Historical Performance Institute, and the leaders in the student group Gamma Ut. They all apparently felt the need to test whether or not Bloomington misses BLEMF, its Bloomington Early Music Festival, enough to attempt a revival. I think the test validated the belief of local enthusiasts that public reaction to the event was encouraging and that what we saw and heard merited future efforts.

This time around, the musicians worked for free so that audiences could come free of charge. In the long run, that won’t work and would hinder growth. Local talents, from the Jacobs School and from loyal alums, are far more likely to do their parts without compensation, but adding musicians of note from greater distances becomes another reality: paying musicians, which is only fair, requires paying customers.

So, not all the tests have been taken. But I’m encouraged that there are enough musicians of serious interest to sustain the desire, and there will be, I think, a continuing interest from those of us who listen (and, yes, pay for tickets) if the offerings promise sufficient pleasure. The wonderful thing is that Bloomington had and has and will continue to have contingents of talents for BLEMF-like endeavors, a talent base from and with which to start. Then, depending on the budget’s health, decisions about celebrity invites can be made.

I’m encouraged.

At the auditorium

Somehow, I always wish for more when the brochure detailing the IU Auditorium’s next season arrives in the mail. I always want more to be chosen from the classic arts. But how valid can my argument be when the coming season holds two hardcore classical ensembles in the month of January: the Cleveland Orchestra and Dance Theater of Harlem?

The Clevelanders give a concert at the Auditorium on the 18th (the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto Number 2 with Yefim Bronfman as soloist and the Sibelius Symphony Number 2). The orchestra’s stay also includes, as is becoming a wonderful custom, a residency that gives IU music students opportunities to engage with the orchestra’s musicians through master classes and additional small ensemble concerts, which all Bloomingtonians are able to take advantage of.

The Dance Theater of Harlem’s performance on January 28 will also be enriched by a short residency designed for ballet and dance students, a most welcome add-on.


I missed the recent welcoming event in the City Hall Council Chambers for Sean Stamowitz, hired by Mayor Hamilton and Linda Williamson, Bloomington’s interim director of economic and sustainable development, to become assistant director for the arts. Sean succeeds Miah Michaelsen, a terrifically productive predecessor who has moved on to become the Indiana Arts Commission’s deputy director.

We, on the Bloomington Arts Commission, miss Miah. I miss Miah. But Sean Stamowitz appears to have a rich background for his new job, along with the right temperament. I express regret for having missed the City Hall get-together but look forward, as a member of the BAC, to working with him. Belatedly, I say, “Welcome, colleague.”

Contact Peter Jacobi at

Show times

• Competition sessions for the 10th USA International Harp Competition set for this week are open to the public. Second stage sessions are scheduled in Recital Hall on Monday and Tuesday mornings starting at 9 and afternoons starting at 3. Third stage sessions are set for Auer Hall on Wednesday morning starting at 9 and Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. Free.

• In addition, this afternoon at 3 in Auer, the 10th USA offers a recital by Yuying Chen, winner of the most recent Israel Harp Competition On a later date, the USA reciprocates by sending the winner of its current competition to Israel for a recital. The local recital is free.

• Thursday evening at 7 in Auer, the 10th USA sponsors a “Stars of Tomorrow” concert, featuring young harpists considered to be stars in the making. Free.

• Friday afternoon at 3 in the Memorial Union’s Alumni Hall, a Competition Celebration Gala honors its founder, Susann McDonald. Featured is the performance of “Fantasie for Madame McD, “ a tribute composed by Don Freund to be played by McDonald’s faculty colleague, Elzbieta Szmyt. Free.

• Saturday evening at 7 in the Musical Arts Center, hear the three finalists of the harp competition perform with orchestra. Following this final stage, the judges will announce their choices for medals and other honors. Free.

© The Herald Times June 2016

Caleb Young to be Assistant Conductor for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic

Philharmonic to welcome new assistant conductor

| The Journal Gazette

caleb youngThe Fort Wayne Philharmonic will welcome a new assistant conductor in October, the organization announced Wednesday.

Caleb Young, 27, will work closely with music director and conductor Andrew Constantine, conduct the orchestra in a variety of concerts and play an active role in engaging audiences and the community.

Young’s conducting debut will be the Family Series Halloween Spooktacular concert on Oct. 30.

“The Fort Wayne Phil has such a fantastic reputation, not only nationally, but internationally, and I have had colleagues who have been involved with this orchestra in the past, and every one of them said, ‘You need to apply,’ ” Young said in a phone interview from Dallas.

Young said he sees his opportunities with the Philharmonic as being more than just the stage. He said he wants to be in the schools, interacting with students and local music educators.

“Having as much impact as I can outside of the concert hall is important to me. That means being a full-time member of the community,” he said. “I am moving to Fort Wayne, which I’m super excited about. I went to (Indiana University) for three years , but also my dad is from (Franklin,) Indiana, so I feel like I have some roots in Indiana.”

Young will replace assistant conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin, who is moving on to another assistant conductor position after working with the Philharmonic since late 2014. She will return for the Philharmonic’s Patriotic Pops concerts scheduled at the end of June and July.

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Young began his musical training at 3 years old. He earned his bachelor’s degree in euphonium performance from the University of Alabama, and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Young has been a part of high profile programs for the Salzburg Festival, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and he served as assistant conductor for the National Music Festival.

Young said that his position with the Philharmonic will be his first professional job as a conductor.

“My teacher always said, ‘Always come to the podium with a great sense of empathy,’ because people come to the concerts, they see the musicians on stage, and I think there can be a disconnect of how hard it is to sit in that seat week after week. There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “So I come to the podium understanding that.”