Pianist Henry Kramer ’13AD ’19DMA receives Avery Fisher Career Grant

Henry Kramer

Pianist and Yale School of Music alumnus Henry Kramer ’13AD ’19DMA, the L. Rexford Whiddon Distinguished Chair in Piano at the Joyce and Henry Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, has been awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. The $25,000 award is designed “to give outstanding instrumentalists significant recognition on which to continue to build their careers,” according to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which administers the Avery Fisher Artist Program. Other 2019 grant recipients include the JACK Quartet, pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton, and violinist Angelo Xiang Yu.

Past Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients include pianist Hung-Kuan Chen, violinist Ani Kavafian, and clarinetist David Shifrin—all members of the Yale School of Music faculty. Several School of Music alumni have also received an Avery Fisher Career Grant, including cellist Carter Brey ’79, pianist Helen Huang ’09MM, bassoonist Peter Kolkay ’02MMA ’05DMA, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman ’67MM.

Kramer, who studies at YSM with Boris Berman, won second prize at the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Competition and has earned prizes at the Honens International Piano Competition, Montreal International Music Competition, Shanghai International Piano Competition, and National Chopin Piano Competition. He was the recipient of the Harvard Musical Association’s 2018 Arthur W. Foote Award.

Kramer has appeared with the National Orchestra of Belgium, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among others, and has worked with such conductors as Marin Alsop, Stéphane Denève, and Hans Graf. Prior to attending the Yale School of Music, Kramer earned bachelor and master of music degrees from The Juilliard School.

The 2019 Avery Fisher Career Grants will be presented on Friday, March 15, at 6 p.m., at WQXR’s Greene Space. The event, featuring performances by grant recipients, will be streamed live on the WQXR website.

Published March 15, 2019
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YSM Student News | March 2019

Sophiko Simsive. Photo by Marco Broggreve

Composers Ryan Lindveit ’19MM, Paul Mortilla ’20MM, Tanner Porter ’19MM, and Miles Walter ’20MM were awarded Charles Ives Scholarships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

As the winner of the Music Academy of the West’s 2018 Solo Piano Competition, Sophiko Simsive ’18MM ’19MMA will embark on a recital tour that includes appearances in London, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Pianist Gabriele Strata ’19MM was the winner of the 35th Concorso Pianistico Nazionale Premio Venezia (Venice Prize) and was awarded the Plaque of the President of the Italian Republic and the Medal of the Italian Senate.

Published March 12, 2019
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YSM Alumni News | January 2019

Reena Esmail. Photo by Rachel Garcia

Conductor Jordan Brown AD led his first concert as Music Director of the New Sussex Symphony in November.

This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity by composer Reena Esmail ’11MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, a work originally commissioned by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, was given its West Coast premiere by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in November at Walt Disney Concert Hall. In January, Esmail was named a 2019 United States Artists Fellow and was the Grand Prize winner of the S&R Foundation’s Washington Award. Trombonist Brittany Lasch ’12MM was among the Foundation’s Washington Award winners.

Joseph Fala ’17MM, who is in his second year as an Organ Scholar at Duke Chapel, performed a recital in December at Duke University.

Pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov ’18AD performed two cycles by Rachmaninov at Sudler Hall in November as part of a concert series titled Reflections of the Russian Exodus, presented by the European Studies Council.

Sarita Kwok. Photo by Kate Lemmon

Gordon College named violinist Sarita Kwok ’05MMA ’06AD ’09DMA the Adams Endowed Chair in Music. A celebratory performance was given by faculty and students of the college’s Department of Music in November.

Oboist Anna Mattix ’98MM and composer Caroline Mallonee ’00MM are featured on the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s newest recording. Mattix is the soloist on Vox Humana, a work commissioned for her, and Mallonee composed Whistler Waves on a commission for the BPO’s associate principal cellist.

Proving Up, an opera by composer Missy Mazzoli ’06MM, was listed as one of the year’s “Best Performances” in The New York Times’ “The Best Classical Music of 2018.”

Conductor Julian Pellicano ’07MM ’09MM led the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a performance of John Williams’s score for Home Alone as part of the VSO at the Movies series in December.

Baritone David Pershall ’10MM ’11AD sang the role of Silvio in Pagliacci at the San Francisco Opera in September.

Violinist Igor Pikayzen ’11MM ’12AD was featured in “Sounds for a Starry Night,” a concert held in December at the Westport Woman’s Club. Proceeds from the performance contributed to scholarships for Staples High School seniors.

Dantes Rameau

Bassoonist Dantes Rameau ’07MM, founder of the Atlanta Music Project, which provides free music education in neighborhoods where school music programs are limited, was named one of the Top 30 Professionals of 2018 by Musical America.

In association with the Royal Canadian College of Organists, Sarah Svendsen ’15MM performed a recital and led a youth-oriented workshop on the pipe organ in November.

Tubist Antonio D. Underwood ’87MM was a featured keynote speaker at Hagerstown Community College’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Celebration in Januray.

Published January 24, 2019
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YSM composer presents “Stinney: An American Execution” in New York

Baltimore premiere of Stinney: An American Execution. Photo by Will Kirk, Homewood Photography

While pursuing degrees and performing at the Yale School of Music, students also actively engage in collaborations outside of Yale, and work to affect change in their communities and beyond. YSM composer Frances Pollock ’19MM has worked in conjunction with the Prototype Festival, French Institute Alliance Française, and Harlem Stage to present the opera Stinney: An American Execution, for which she wrote the score and co-wrote the libretto. Stinney was originally premiered in Baltimore in 2015, where Pollock earned a master’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory. Speaking about the premiere, Pollock said, “Part of our audience came to the show because of their profound dedication to new music. The other part came out of a profound dedication to the fight for human rights. I caught my first glimpse of how art can be a powerful unifier in a moment when there doesn’t seem to be a way to move forward.” Hailed by the Baltimore Sun as a “bold, bracing opera that pulls no punches and never flinches,” Stinney will be performed this weekend at Flourence Gould Hall in New York City.

Stinney tells the story of George Junius Stinney Jr., who was executed at age 14 for a crime he didn’t commit. According to the Prototype Festival website, “Having been wrongly accused and convicted of the rape and murder of two white girls in Alcolu, SC, in 1944, George became the youngest person legally executed in 20th-century America. Stinney tells the story of George, his family, his community, and the jury of ten white men that sent an innocent black boy to the electric chair. A new opera with roots in both gospel and electronic techniques, Stinney: An American Execution spotlights the anger and agony of the entire populous of Alcolu, connecting the dots to our own socio-political climate in 2019 and the pervasive ‘fear of the other.’”

We recently spoke with Pollock and the production’s music director, Alex Blake, about the opera and its importance in today’s world.

Q. What do you think is the role of an artist in tackling issues of racism and oppression? 

Blake: I feel like art should reflect the times that we are in and should reflect the struggles of a people. Art allows artists to reach people, a way to present difficult topics, and a way for audiences to enter into a conversation without feeling defensive or feeling like they have to respond to a topic in the moment. We tell stories and we open up dialogue in an emotional sense that push beyond the academic or intellectual spaces.

Pollock: The thing that I’m most interested in right now is challenging the systems in which art is created. In telling charged stories, we as artists must be aware of our limited perspective and make sure we are working with collaborators who will challenge that perspective in the creative process. For this project, it was crucial to decentralize the role of the composer and focus on establishing a team that is invested in crafting the story. For me personally, being in touch with the Stinney family and including them at every step was the only way to make sure that we were telling the story in a way that truly listened.

We are also trying out a new model for royalties on this opera. As the opera goes on, most of the royalties will go directly to the Stinney family. The cast and creative team will also continue to receive collaborative royalties as the show progresses. This model ensures that the team is recognized for role in the creative process even as the show goes forward.

Q. Why is this opera important? Do you think it is particularly important now, in our current social and political climate? 

Blake: This opera is extremely important. We have seen more and more cases of the struggles and interactions between police and people of color, including Black children. From a socio-political sense this piece definitely brings up questions that we need to respond to as a population in these times right now.

Musically, this opera is important because it involves a story of a community that rarely feels represented in classical music and more specifically in opera. To hear the story of someone in the community and to see members of that community represented on stage is an experience that has not been offered to people of color, and that representation is essential when we talk about the relevance of opera to an American populous.

The status quo for opera is dominated by heteronormative caucasian stories told from a singular perspective. This story about this African American boy and the American systems that have been detrimental to the success and progression of marginalized populations are beautifully represented in Stinney.

Pollock: I totally agree with Alex. It’s also important to challenge the spaces of western art music—spaces that are still predominantly white and predominantly wealthy. There is nothing wrong with canonic repertoire itself nor the audiences that attend these performances, but often these spaces pride themselves on being elite. Elitism often leads to exclusion, and the history of elitism in opera manifests in whole communities being excluded from classical music spaces.

Q. What led you to begin this project? 

Blake: Frances Pollock called me and told me about this opportunity to perform Stinney in New York. I had already read about the first run-through and was both elated and horrified to be asked to be a part of it—you see, this is my first experience conducing an opera, and I remember asking if she was sure that I would be a good fit. I’m very honored and excited to be a part of telling this story.

Pollock: I have been interested in the conversation that surrounds race relations in the South since I was in high school. In college, I spent a little while working with the Innocence Project in North Carolina and became profoundly aware of systemic racism in the prison system. When I moved to Baltimore and began teaching in the public schools, I was faced with the reality that many of my students lived with daily—that low-income communities of color were chronically under-supported and over policed, which perpetuated the cycle of the school-to-prison pipeline. At the same time, I was confronted with the status quo of classical music training, training that felt wholly unaware of the social injustices that were taking place right outside the ivory walls of the conservatory. (Co-librettist) Tia [Price] and I started writing Stinney to start having a conversation with our colleagues.

Stinney: An American Execution will be performed on January 12, at 5 p.m., and January 13, at 3 p.m, with tickets starting at $30. On January 10, at 7:30 p.m., co-presenter Harlem Stage will host a moderated panel discussion, Democratic Ideals and Racism: An Examination of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, on the creative responses of artists as they witness, experience, and analyze the collective trauma of being Black in America. The discussion will feature members of the creative team of Stinney, and tickets start at $5.

Published January 10, 2019
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YSM Student News | December 2018

Maura Scanlin

Tenor Luis Aguilar ’18MM ’19MMA, bass-baritone Brady Muth ’19MM, mezzo-soprano Rachel Weishoff ’19MMA, and soprano Laura Nielsen ’20MM, were the soloists for the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Hartford Chorale.

San Jittakarn ’19MMA won third prize and Yun Lu ’20MM was one of eight semifinalists in the piano division of the 2018 Geneva International Music Competition.

Violinist Bora Kim ’16MM ’17MMA ’23DMA performed with the Sejong Soloists at Carnegie Hall in November for the ensemble’s Annual Gala Concert, which included works by Wagner, Vivaldi, Ewazen, and a premiere by Augusta Read Thomas MM.

Violinist Julia Mirzoev ’20MM was featured as a soloist in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364, with the Durham Youth Orchestra in Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

Violinist Maura Scanlin ’19MM has recorded albums with her two folk bands. The Celtic fiddle/guitar duo Rakish released a self-titled debut EP in October, and Pumpkin Bread, an experimental group that blends Celtic folk and jazz, will release its second album in March 2019.

Xiaoyi Xu ’20MMA placed third and Po-Wei Ger ’20MM placed fifth at the Panama International Piano Competition.

Published December 13, 2018
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YSM Alumni News | November 2018

Molly Joyce. Photo by Nadine Sherman

Flutist Amanda Baker ’00MM returned to Yale in April 2018 to become Senior Associate Director for Young Alumni for the Yale Alumni Fund. She was also a guest lecturer this spring at the University of Hartford, where she taught “Entrepreneurship in the Arts,” and continues to teach flute at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Double Bassist Mark Elliot Bergman ’97MM received a Performing Arts Fellowship in Music from the Wyoming Arts Council, one of four recipients in the state. Bergman’s winning original compositions include Ondine, The Temple, and Shenandoah Suite, a string trio commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of Shenandoah National Park.

Violist Emily Grace Brandenburg ’17MMA was named Administrative Assistant at the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. MORE

Published November 7, 2018
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Miki Sawada ’14AD brings music to rural audiences

Miki Sawada

Political divisions have had many musicians thinking about the artist’s role in society. “As a musician, what is the way forward?” pianist and YSM alumna Miki Sawada ’14AD began asking herself two years ago. “Playing piano like I’d always played piano was no longer an option.”

Sawada, an accomplished concert performer and music educator, decided that the way forward was to use the piano as an instrument of healing, a gathering place where people of all backgrounds could enjoy music together. The way forward was to bring performances to people who may not ordinarily have access to them. In August 2017, Sawada launched the Gather Hear project, which involved, to begin, touring Alaska for three weeks in a van with a piano and a filmmaker, documenting the journey and giving a total of 25 performances in the cafés, bars, parks, and schools of largely rural communities. Eventually, Sawada intends to tour all 50 states.

“Alaska has an almost mythical quality,” Sawada said. The state’s vastness and the sparseness of its communities appealed to Sawada, and the close-knit nature of people in rural areas allowed her to find collaborators. In addition to her own solo playing and engaging with audiences, Sawada connected with a young local musician at each venue. She ended up performing with students of all levels, from beginner violinists to high school pianists.

Booked into unorthodox and often noisy venues, Sawada’s biggest fear before embarking on the tour was that no one would want to sit quietly and listen. “The night before I left, I got cold feet,” she said. She thought, “What if no one wants to hear me?” But her experience was quite the opposite. “There was total silence,” she said, noting “a change in the room” when she began to play, wherever she was.

While the Gather Hear Tour was sparked primarily by a desire to connect with diverse audiences, Sawada had long been interested in taking classical music beyond the confines of the concert hall. “I always envied my friends who could take their instruments and perform in pop-up concerts,” she explained. While taking a piano on tour requires some extra labor, Sawada has shown that it can be done. The instrument with which she toured Alaska is a hybrid keyboard with no strings to tune, equipped with its own amplification. However more difficult the instrument is to transport than a flute, the piano is a necessary, central focus of the project — a gathering place where people are encouraged to stop and listen, and to participate in the music-making.

Following the Alaskan tour, Sawada turned her attention to West Virginia, where Gather Hear performances featured a new work by composer and fellow YSM alumnus Brendon Randall-Myers ’14MM, a West Virginia native. Randall-Myers’ new work, A Kind of Mirror, combines classical repertoire with original music. Created to reflect the mission of the Gather Hear project, A Kind of Mirror calls for audience participation, with theatrical prompts shaped with the help of director Daniel Pettrow. At one point, an audience member is asked to make tea on stage, and the ending of the performance involves a large amount of bubble wrap.

While performances of A Kind of Mirror are somewhat structured, there is room for collaboration. “The show is built in a way so that piano players in the audience could potentially, spontaneously take the stage,” Sawada said, “or if I meet a classical musician in town when I arrive at a tour stop, I could work a collaborative performance with them into the show.”

Sawada seems flexible when it comes to life on the road, which she has found enjoyable. States on the radar for future Gather Hear tours include Missouri, Michigan, and Florida. Sawada may even attempt to tour all three within the next year. She is in no rush, however. “If it takes 50 years, that’s fine,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how the project changes over time.”

MIKI SAWADA

Published November 6, 2018
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Violinist Vijay Gupta ’07MM earns MacArthur Fellowship

Vijay Gupta

Violinist Vijay Gupta ’07MM was working on Skid Row with Street Symphony when the MacArthur Foundation first tried to contact him in September. Not recognizing the number, he ignored a few calls until he was in his car, on the way to his day job at Walt Disney Concert Hall. “I was pretty dumbfounded,” Gupta said of learning that he had been named a MacArthur Fellow and would receive a Genius Grant for “providing musical enrichment and valuable human connection to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities in Los Angeles,” according to the MacArthur Foundation website.

The Foundation awards “unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Gupta, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, founded Street Symphony in 2011. The organization’s mission is to put “social justice at the heart of music making by creating authentic, powerful engagements between professional and emerging artists and communities disenfranchised by homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County.”

The MacArthur Fellowship, Gupta said, “means that people have belief in me and belief in the work” he is doing. It is “affirming,” he said, a “vote of confidence.” It is also “pretty daunting” to think about how he will use what the Foundation calls a $625,000 “no-strings-attached award.”

“It’s overwhelming to think about all the possibilities,” Gupta said. The question he is asking himself is, “How do I use this for the deepest, most authentic self-evolution?” After all, “the opportunity to invest in oneself is so rare.”

The Fellowship, at its core, reflects his own belief in what he has been doing. The “validation of trust” that comes with the grant, he said, is forcing him to identify, in a way, who he wants to be through the work that he does, and “to be all that I am.”

Published October 15, 2018
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YSM Student News | October 2018

Ethan Braun

Organist David von Behren ’19MM toured the U.K. this past summer, performing recitals at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Clare College, Cambridge University, and Chester Cathedral. Von Behren also joined the teaching faculty of this year’s American Guild of Organists’ Pipe Organ Encounter Plus program in Rockford, Ill.

Two major works by composer Ethan Braun ’21DMA were premiered this fall including an evening-length work performed by Ensemble Klang and the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in The Netherlands, and a work for brass quintet and electronics performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. An opera commissioned by the City of Berlin’s Hauptstadtkulturfonds will be premiered in December.

Tubist Jake Fewx ’18MM ’19MMA won first prize in the Tuba Artist division at the 2018 Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival Competition in August.

Violinist Bora Kim ’16MM ’17MMA ’23DMA successfully auditioned for the chance to borrow a 1747 Palmason Januarius Gagliano violin (valued at $425,000) for three years from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank.

Composer Alexis C. Lamb ’20MM will have her first work for orchestra premiered in March 2019 by the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra. Lamb will also perform with the world music sextet Projeto Arcomusical in the premiere of a new concerto by Elliot Cole.

Ingram Lee ’19MM won the position of Second Trombone with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine.

Composer Aaron Israel Levin ’19MM had two pieces performed as part of the National Conference of the Society of Composers: Springbokkie was performed in Tacoma, Wash., last March, and Operating Room was performed at Indiana University in September.

Violinists Gregory Lewis ’19MM and Marianne di Tomaso ’17MM ’19MMA participated in the Violin Competition at the Virtuoso & Belcanto Festival in Lucca, Italy, in July. Tomaso earned first prize and Lewis earned second prize.

As the grand prize winner of the New York Youth Symphony’s First Music program, Ryan Lindveit ’19MM was commissioned to write an orchestral piece that will be premiered in Carnegie Hall in May 2019 and performed by Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra in July 2019.

Liliya Ugay

Trumpeter Chloe Swindler ’19MM was selected to tour as an Associate Artist with the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass for its 2018-2019 season. The tour includes performances in New York, Vermont, Arizona, Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Texas, and Iowa.

Composer Liliya Ugay ’16MM ’22DMA was a Baumgardner Fellow at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival’s Choral Workshop. Ugay was also selected as a composer-in-residence at the American Lyric Theater, where she will work on a full-length opera in 2018-2020.

As the first-prize and audience-prize winner in the Young Artist Division at the 2017 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival, organist Grant Wareham ’20MM performed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hartford in September.

Published October 10, 2018
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YSM alumni lead social-justice-focused vocal ensemble

Inspire: A Choir for Unity

In fall 2012, guitarist Mark Barden enjoyed playing a few gigs with his children James, Natalie, and Daniel. Then, on December 14 of that year, Daniel, a 7-year-old drummer, was among the elementary-school students who were murdered in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. “I made my career as a musician up until the day of the tragedy,” Barden said. “A lot of folks would’ve assumed that music was my comfort” in the aftermath of the massacre. It has not been. “I had to get away from it for a while.” While Barden will not ever get away from the loss of his son, the loss drives him to protect others from gun violence. Barden is the founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, whose mission is to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

On Saturday, September 15, Sandy Hook Promise will partner with the New York City-based choral ensemble Inspire in presenting a vocal program called “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen.” A similar program was presented in November 2017 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. As that program did, “this concert commemorates all those lost to gun violence and seeks to inspire unity and peace,” the ensemble’s website indicates. Inspire, a “choir for unity” that “seeks to promote unity through the power of song,” per its mission, is led by soprano and YSM alumna Megan Chartrand ’13MM, who serves as the group’s executive director. “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” is designed, Chartrand said, to take the audience “through a series of emotions that somebody who’s experienced gun violence might go through.” The program will feature members of the Yale Glee Club.

“All people appreciate music,” Barden said. “To use that as a platform to connect people is just so powerful.” Representatives from Sandy Hook Promise will share the organization’s mission and objectives with the audience at the September 15 event.

“I think it really gets to the core of what the value of art is in our society,” said Yale Glee Club Director Jeffrey Douma, who is a member of Inspire’s artistic advisory board. “The arts make connections between people, and I think music does that particularly well. It’s something we all have in common.”

In organizing Inspire, the performances the ensemble presents, and the partnerships it enters into, Chartrand sought to use her artistic skills to make a difference in the world. “I feel on a daily basis overwhelmed by things I would like to help and improve,” she said. “Music is a skill that I possess, that everyone in Inspire possesses, and it’s a very powerful tool. We want to alleviate some of the pain in the world.” Beyond the choir’s performances, she pointed out, “we’re introducing people to organizations that fight this battle on a daily basis.

“We feel sort of powerless,” said Inspire soprano Eleanor Killiam ’15 BS, who sang with the Glee Club as an undergraduate at Yale. “This feels like a really great way to use our talents for good, and that feels really rewarding.”

Knox Sutterfield ’14MM, one of Inspire’s associate artistic directors, studied choral conducting at the School of Music. “This idea of community building,” he said, “is so essential to our mission.”

Inspire: A Choir for Unity will present “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” on Saturday, September 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Yale University’s Marquand Chapel. Learn more here.

INSPIRE: A CHOIR FOR UNITY

SANDY HOOK PROMISE

Published September 10, 2018
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