Throwback guitarists Benjamin Verdery and Andrew York highlight CSUMB’s second annual California Summer Arts program

Monterey County Weekly

By Adam Joseph

Benjamin VerderyWhen Ben Verdery arranges Jimi Hendrix’s fuzzed out “Ezy Rider” or Johann Strauss’ waltz “The Blue Danube” for classical guitar, he approaches them with equal intensity.

“I’m essentially creating a new piece for the classical guitar, so my concern is, how can I make this great on the classical guitar?” he asks. “Arrangements are somewhat trial and error.”

The renowned classical guitarist has been chair of the guitar department at the Yale University School of Music since 1985 and artistic director of art of the guitar at the 92nd Street Y in New York City since 2006. His collaborators include Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist John Williams (John Williams Plays Vivaldi), guitarist Andy Summers of The Police (First You Build a Cloud) and steel string guitarist William Coulter.

As part of CSU Monterey Bay’s second annual California Summer Arts event (see story, p. 38), Verdery will perform a solo recital Wednesday at the World Theater. He will also be on hand through July 7 to teach a master class in Dominguez Hall.

Along with Verdery’s repertoire of original compositions spanning 22 albums, some of his most dynamic work comes in arrangements of songs by other musicians, including many tunes you’d never expect to hear on classical guitar.

Verdery’s most recent record Happy Here features a mellow rendition of Cream’s psychedelic classic “White Room.” Though the time signature is slower than the version rocked by Baker, Clapton and Bruce, Verdery captures the essence of the tune.

“I always try to find that game changer,” he says. “When something sounds great on the classical guitar, that’s when we have something we can work with.”

Prince’s “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” “For the Tears in Your Eyes” and “Let’s Go Crazy” are probably the most unexpected of any of the music Verdery has taken on, but they work very well – “Let’s Go Crazy’s” main guitar riff translates seamlessly to classical.

“It’s important to go outside of your comfort zone,” he says. “When people stay very close to their comfort zone they don’t progress. As a teacher, if I can give [students] the confidence to go forward and believe in themselves, that’s great.”


Published June 27, 2013
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Adam Pajan ’10MM wins second place in Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition

pajan_adamAdam Pajan ’10MM took second place in the Longwood Gardens Organ Competition, one of the largest international organ competitions in the world, on June 22.

The competition challenges students to acclimate themselves to the highly specific aspects of a 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ. Each competitor receives photos and a tour of the organ, then is given a limited amount of time to prepare for preliminaries and the final round. Pajan’s performance earned him the $15,000 Firmin Swinnen Prize. MORE

Published June 25, 2013
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Daniel Wohl Releases Debut Album, ‘Corps Exquis’

Paris-born and Brooklyn-based composer/performer Daniel Wohl releases his debut album Corps Exquis today on New Amsterdam Records. The electroacoustic album was recently honored as a WQXR/Q2 Music Album of the Week and features acclaimed new music ensemble TRANSIT as well as guest performances by So Percussion, Julia Holter and Aaron Roche.

To celebrate the album’s release, a series of nine rarely-seen videos inspired by each piece on Corps Exquis is streaming exclusively on music site I Care If You Listen today through Friday, June 28. The videos are typically only shown during the live multi-media performances of the project, making this is the first and only opportunity to stream them online all at once.

Created by some of today’s brightest young visual artists — Antoine Catala, Alexis Gambis, Satan’s Pearl Horses, Andrew Steinmetz & Teddy Stern, Brina Thurston, and Yui Kugimiya — the videos take root in the “exquisite corpse” parlor game popular in Surrealist circles in 1920s Paris in which a group of artists creates a piece of art by working separately on different components that are later pieced together into one surprising whole. In the case of Corps Exquis (a French term that translates in English as “Exquisite Body”), each video focuses on a different piece of the work as well as part of the human body.


Published June 25, 2013
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Hannah Lash to be Assistant Professor (Adjunct) of Composition at YSM

lash_hannahHannah Lash ’12AD has been appointed as Assistant Professor, adjunct, of Composition. In announcing the appointment, Dean Blocker cited Lash’s acclaimed creative work and teaching ability.

Among Hannah Lash’s prizes are the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Naumberg Prize, the Bernard Rogers Prize, and the Sernoffsky Prize. Throughout her formal education at the Eastman School, the Cleveland Institute, Harvard, and Yale, Lash was the recipient of numerous academic awards including the Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters.

Prestigious commissions from the Fromm and Naumberg Foundations, the Aspen Music Festival, MAYA, and others have led to performances of her compositions at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Institute, Le Poisson Rouge, and the Chicago Art Institute. Her orchestral works have been performed recently by the Minnesota Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


Published June 24, 2013
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[ music in schools ]

Symposium affirms diversity of music education in American public schools


The 2013 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools concluded on June 8 with an affirmation of the quality and diversity of music education in the public schools of America. Fifty Yale Distinguished Music Educators, selected from over 300 nominations, from 32 states, convened in New Haven to discuss “The Role of Music in School Reform.”  A lively series of presentations culminated with a two-hour discussion amongst the teachers,  seeking their solutions to ensuring the value of music instruction as schools continue to evolve.  This discussion will be posted as an online video by the end of the summer. MORE

Published June 24, 2013
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Sean Chen ’14AD wins third prize in Cliburn Competition


Sean Chen ’14AD has been awarded Third Prize (Crystal Award) in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

In the final round, he played two concertos with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “The Emperor,” and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor. MORE

Published June 24, 2013
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[ alumni in the press ]

Avue Magazine features So Percussion

Avue Magazine, published by Adams Percussion, featured So Percussion in a three-part series about playing Steve Mackey’s It Is Time. Read the feature below.


Published June 23, 2013
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David Kurtz ’80MM wins two more Emmy Awards

David Kurtz and Dean Blocker

David Kurtz and Dean Blocker

Composer David Kurtz ’80MM added two more Emmy Awards to his collection this year. The Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards were presented on June 16th, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The team of Kurtz and Jack Allocco won for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series, for their work on The Bold and the Beautiful on CBS.

Kurtz and lyricist Allocco also won the award for Outstanding Original Song for a Drama Series, for their song “Only Love Goes on Forever” on CBS’s The Young and the Restless.

Kurtz is the winner of several previous Emmy Awards for his work on television shows such as The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. He has also contributed to the music for movies including The Big Chill and Instant Justice. In May, the Yale School of Music honored him with the Sanford Medal.

Published June 20, 2013
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Videos from the 2013 Symposium on Music in Schools

The Yale Symposium on Music Schools took place June 6–9, 2013 and focused on The Role of Music in School Reform.

Watch these videos of the lively and thought-provoking talks from the event, featuring David Myers, Scott Shuler, Garth Harries, and keynote speaker Anne Midgette.

For more details on the Symposium, please see this post. If you cannot play the video below, click here.

Published June 19, 2013
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