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Jin Hi Kim Residency at Connecticut Mental Health Center

In the past, as part of the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence program, the NHSO has partnered with schools such as Wintergreen Magnet in Hamden and St. Martin de Porres in New Haven, to bring Jin Hi Kim and her Music and Meditation program to students. Ms. Kim, a recent MacArthur Award recipient, melds Korean and Western musical idioms in her compositions, and works with students blending hands-on musical performance with Korean meditative practice. Several weeks ago, the NHSO brought Ms. Kim to the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) to work with in-patients and the results were very positive and gratifying for Ms. Kim and for the NHSO. Below is a letter written by one of those at CMHC Ms. Kim had the pleasure to have worked with.

“I am in the current class at CMHC.   I have only occasionally listened to music and it has not been a part of my life.  I did try to learn music but I had difficulty learning to read music and keeping the pace with those around me.  I have never felt comfortable making loud sounds or anything that might draw attention to me.  I have been very timid around instruments.  To others I may be calm and relaxed but I find this very difficult. 
You have shown me that I am able start where I am and make progress.  This is very nice.  I found the meditation, chanting and your other instruction soothing and calming.  The music absolutely amazing.  I feel enriched to be having this experience.  Several of the students in our group and I work together to find peace and harmony in life.  I wish that there was a way for you to continue with us.  Perhaps, I speak in advance of others and perhaps it would be more appropriate to say I wish that there was a way that I could continue to learn from you.
I know you must be very busy.  I work with so many people that would benefit from what you have taught us.  Today after our class I was so happy and yet so sad.  I REALLY did not want to stop!

Do you ever taken on totally non-experienced students?  Do you have any other on-going groups?  Are there other ways that we can continue to learn from you and I don’t want to let go of these experiences.

Thank you again so much for providing this opportunity.”

A Young Composer Shares His Experience

The NHSO has been facilitating a Young Composers’ Project since last season with Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Augusta Read Thomas. Ten promising high school composers have been working with Ms. Thomas to hone their craft. The program culminates on May 15, 2011 with a performance of their works by NHSO musicians. The following is written by participant Daniel Zlatkin and how the program has affected his present and his future.

A few sentences cannot convey the tremendous effect, on a young musician’s life, of having a mentor such as composer Augusta Read Thomas. Having such a wonderful mentor has been a highlight of my past year, and something I think can really change the lives of people like me.
My intellectual friendship with this teacher has been life changing to me, since so much of the hard work that goes into becoming a performing musician and composer is quite solitary. Before I met Ms. Thomas, and was lucky enough to be selected for the Young Composer’s program, not many classmates in high school –or for that matter, other adults – were interested in talking to me about modern classical music. It is hard to understand for a lot of people. In the same way, many visual artists through history were not well understood when they were first creating their work.
I am extremely grateful to work with and learn from a world-class composer. Without her encouragement, and her willingness to be available almost always to answer my many questions, I don’t think I would be on the path I am now. I hope that is the path to becoming an insightful, and thoughtful professional musician and composer. She is one of the best teachers I’ve had – she has real insight, is always cheerful, but gives me seriously challenging guidance.
As a mentor, she has been enthusiastic, and gave me the feeling she cared about my work.  We’ve discussed many types of music, working through an extensive listening list. As a result, I’ve broadened my musical horizons and compositional awareness, and am much better able to express my compositional ideas in a coherent way.

Not only is she a great teacher, but Ms. Thomas is a working and productive composer, and she herself is on the cutting edge of creating new music. The opportunity to hear so many of her own works performed by the New Haven Symphony, and to have such a long term discussion with her about her own significant work as a composer, is also a huge part of this experience.
And, as a culmination of the internship, a piece I have written will be premiered publicly by an ensemble of the New Haven Symphony. The fact that any living composer’s music is to be performed and commissioned by a symphony is a generous honor, and is of paramount importance for the advancement of modernist and contemporary music in today’s culture. I am excited to have this early chance to participate in this process of introducing modern audiences to modern music – both as a composer in my own right, and as a student of Augusta Read Thomas’ work.

Augusta with the young composers. Daniel Zlatkin is the first on the right



New Canaan High School Students Meet NHSO Soloist Elissa Lee Koljonen

Elissa Koljonen at New Canaan High School

Elissa Koljonen at New Canaan High School

On the morning of Tuesday, September 14, 2010 band and orchestra students at New Canaan High School were treated to a private masterclass with NHSO guest violin soloist Elissa Lee Koljonen.  This came just one day prior to her solo performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto with NHSO the following night at the New Canaan High School Auditorium. 

New Canaan High School violinist, Anna Brissie, got a special up-close-and-personal opportunity to play parts of Barber’s Violin Concerto for Ms. Koljonen during the masterclass.  As her classmates observed, Anna got tips straight from a true professional on bow technique, phrasing and tone production as she played alongside Ms. Koljonen.   

The session ended with a question and answer period where students questions ranged from, “What do you listen to on your ipod” to “How do you find time to practice and maintain a very busy schedule”.  Ms. Koljonen related stories from her own experience as a developing musician and lessons from past teachers to the NCHS students.  The session ended with Ms. Koljonen performing excerpts of the Bruch Concerto that she would be performing on the same stage the very next evening.  She gave insights into how she practiced various sections of the pieces and spoke a little about dealing with nerves before a performance.  
Many of the NCHS students attended the concert with their families Wednesday night to see Ms. Koljonen perform again, this time backed up by the full New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

More Accolades for the NHSO’s William Walton Volume 1

From The Sunday Telegraph
August 1, 2010
by Michael Kennedy

If William Walton’s music has rather gone out of fashion since his centenary in 2002, performances like this make one wonder why. The Violin Concerto is surely one of the 20th century’s finest romantic concertos, and is marvellously well played here by the American violinist Kurt Nikkanen with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra under its music director William Boughton. The orchestra has access, via Yale, to a very large number of Walton’s original scores and these will be used in future recordings of his works. If they are all as good as this savage performance of the First Symphony, fashion will doubtless swing back his way.

Interview with Stacey Rose

Composer and pianist Stacey Rose sits down to answer some questions about her upcoming performance with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra: ‘Raisons d’Etre-A new work for solo piano’.

Q: What is the inspiration for the piece?
SR: As many creations, this work was inspired by nature, literature, and, of course people.  Certain phrases in Thoreau, certain patterns and wildlife on the water, certain life experiences–all co-exist in this piece.

Q: Describe the process that you go through as a composer when creating a work.
SR:I knew that sometime in my life I must compose a work that I could perform with orchestra. Beginning with short phrases and motifs, I continued to expand ideas that organically connected to one another. I sketched the piece for solo piano with a second piano accompaniment, and then eventually “colored in” the accompaniment with each instrument.   Once the general outline was developed, it was easy to hear which instrument best served which line. It’s like casting an actor–you just know the quality of sound that a given note requires.

Q:Describe the process that audience will observe at the event.
SR: This is such a unique and exciting opportunity for an audience because they will have a truly raw and personal view into the birth of a piece.  It’s a coming together of professionals who have prepared their respective parts as best as possible before the important and revealing union that takes place in rehearsal.  As a soloist, I’m always surprised (not always pleasantly!) at how I feel my part is secure and “ready to go,” until I come side by side with orchestra.  My equanimity is unexpectedly shaken. The rehearsal process is quite fascinating to witness.  The audience will be a part of this process, seeing and hearing how an ensemble most effectively works together to rehearse, right then and there molding the work into “performance ready” shape.  It’s enormously gratifying to observe how something that initially seems like a puzzle of separate parts fuses together to become a unified whole.

Q: What are you looking forward to in working with Masestro Boughton and the NHSO?
SR: It is a tremendous privilege and sense of confidence to know that my new work will be in the hands of such a master as Maestro Boughton.  It will be thrilling to share a first performance experience of my composition with a conductor who possesses such sensitivity to detail but also a keen understanding of and demand for clear musical architecture.  I feel assured that he will help me to project the piece in exactly the way I have conceived it, while also adding his personal insights.  He draws the best from this group of talented players.  I so look forward to collaborating with him, having a wonderful time in joining our perspectives to achieve a product that gives life to my musical ideas.

Win 2 Tickets – Or 20% off for Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

The New Haven Symphony is proud to be part of the GoogleHaven100.

As sponsor of GoogleHaven gift #9 of 100, we are giving away two tickets to our May 13 performance of Beethoven’s epic Symphony #9, Ode To Joy. This 2-ticket gift to our best seats in historic Woolsey Hall is yours if you’re the 12th person to email us.  Everyone else who emails from today to May 13 will get a 20% discount and no handling fees.

To qualify, please:
email us at boxoffice@newhavensymphony.org.
use subject line GoogleHaven100
tell us your name and why you want to see Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.

Orchestra has ‘new level of precision and excitement’

(Editorial published in the New Haven Register on Sunday, May 2, 2010)

The Register has been paying attention the the New Haven Symphony lately, and it should.

The April concert was spectacular, including Jin Hi Kim’s wild drumming as she played her own piece and the overwhelming Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, which brought an emotional audience to its feet.

It has taken a couple of years for word to get around that William Boughton is drawing out of the symphony a level of precision and excitement that we’ve never heard before, but now people are hearing this news, and the audience is growing.

I usually hear symphonies on the radio and at each concert I’m amazed again at the brilliance of a live orchestra as the sound of horns soars over Woolsey Hall from one direction, flutes from another.

The symphony will play Beethoven’s Ninth on May 13 with the Hartford Chorale. This promises to be an even more exciting evening, if possible.

Alice Mattison
New Haven

10 Questions with Composer-in-Residence and guest artist Jin Hi Kim

Q: When did you know that you wanted to make a career in performance?

A: I thought I was not going to be komungo soloist when I came to the USA, but I met Henry Keiser (guitarist) in San Francisco and we started improvising together, then I was introduced to many other leading musicians and invited to festivals throughout the world as a komungo soloist. So I became a professional performer. Over three decades I have been the soloist for my own composition with  orchestras and chamber ensembles.

Q: Did you have a particular teacher or mentor that influenced your career / performance choices? If so, how?

A: As many American composers were influenced by Cage, so was I by getting to know about his musical philosophy. I interviewed him for Korean music magazine, and  In 1989 I was invited to a gathering of composers in a residency with John Cage called “Composer to Composer” in Telluride, Colorado, which was directed by Charles Amirkhanian. I was deeply inspired by Cage, because he was a rare model for crossing Asian philosophy with America?s liberal spirit. His works are full of message and surprise. I recalled the Asian ritual aesthetic of irregularity through his works of happening. I am very familiar with silence in music through my Korean court music, but his silence dealt with physical sound around the silence. This fascinated me, because he was the first composer who challenged my old traditional belief of silence in music.

Q: Describe what it’s like to be a composer/performer as opposed to simply a composer or simply a musician. What are the inherent challenges?

A: I have double pleasure being a composer and performer. I want to introduce many Korean instruments to the west, but I can’t find a great Korean musicians in the USA, so I compose new pieces using my primary instrument komungo, and my new invention electric komungo, tall and colorful barrel drums and janggo drum. It is real pleasure to create new music, and perform my own music with other musicians. I like the collaborative process of learning new piece together, and I can improvise my part further during the performance, which is very luxury situation.

Q: If you could play any other instrument other than your own, what would it be and why?

A: I play various drums as I mentioned before. In Korea all musicians play janggo drum because the music is based on highly stylized rhythmic cycles on janggo drum. They do not have a conductor in traditional orchestra, instead musicians listen to the janggo rhythmic cycles. So every body including singer and dancer plays the drum. Once learning the various rhythmic cycles, it is easy to play another drums like dancer’s barrel drums that I will play in my Monk Dance with NHSO on April 22 at Woolsey Hall.

Q: If you could play (or sing) any piece (regardless of instrument) what would it be and why?

A: Improvisation. I love to make new sound every time as every day is different in our life.

Q: What do you feel is your greatest musical accomplishment?

A: My work is all about collaboration between Korean and non-Koreans. My intension of cross-cultural music creativity is for aesthetic balance and aesthetic equality between Korean and Western (dominated musical power) as well as collaboration with world music masters. I have devoted to learning and understanding other cultures besides my Korean music.  I have had the privilege and opportunity to collaborate with many leading improvisers around the world in various traditional and contemporary settings.  These experiences have made my life richer and helped my musical creativity to expand in scope. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for me to be creative in my life and respect and embrace unique individual voices with respect to cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  I believe these cross-cultural efforts may contribute to a deep and healthy exchange of many different attitudes in music making.

Q: What is the non-musical accomplishment you are most proud of?

A: I was grown up under Confucianism attitude in Korea: Male is better, the Older is better.  I was rare Korean woman who has become very strong with individual belief. I know that young generation of female in Korea are impressed and influenced by me.

Q: How does “Monk Dance” speak to the performer and the audience?

A: I composed Monk Dance for Western orchestra and Barrel Drums. The orchestra captures the feeling of slow monk’s dance, and I develop a vivid energy on drums. So the whole performance balances yin and yang, slow and fast, gracious and vigorous. The drum solo is derived from the Buddhist monk’s drumming on a big barrel drum for enlightenment. My way of playing drums is dance like. (not dancer’s dance, but musician’s dance). The rhythmic patterns, inner energy and body movements are all integrated on the drums and drum sticks.

Q: What should the audience be listening for in terms of technical and thematic areas during the piece?

A: Imagine a female monk is dancing when the orchestra plays slowly and graciously, and enjoy the vigorous energy from the drums. Be ready for new sound from the orchestra. It is good to be shocked once in your life.

Q: What do you find most challenging about “Monk Dance”?

A: The orchestra members have to put some Korean spices on notes. In string sections there are many graphic symbols for performing techniques, which is I call “Living Tones”. This is different attitude of making music.- each note has own life, tone gestures and energy.  I think the musicians may find the Living Tones strange first, but it will be only for the first time. I am sure that they will get to use to that and they may like them as they try Korean food first time.

Don’t miss our Family Concert this Sunday!

The NHSO presents Big Blue Marble this Sunday April 11 at 2:00pm for our last Family Concert of the season. The Instrument Discovery Zone begins at 1:30pm. The symphony performed the concert for student groups from grades 2-8 on Tuesday April 6 at Woolsey Hall to thunderous applause! Big Blue Marble is themed on the sea and its inhabitants and includes some of the most unusual guest artists you will ever hear on a concert stage – a recording of humpback whales!

Here are some of the enthusiastic responses from Tuesday’s concert:

“The concert was wonderful.  Our kids were enthralled and so appreciative.  I loved that … the theme of water was expressed in so many different ways. Thank you and thank you to the symphony!” – Susan Wiles, Country School, Madison

“Thank you for the lovely concert yesterday!!  My students truly enjoyed the performance and the presentation. Students and parents alike had great things to say about the performance!” – Jane Postovoit, Baldwin School, Guilford

“I liked the whales!” – Fourth Grade Student, Barnard Elementary, New Haven

Tickets are $5 for children, $15 for adults and $10 for seniors. To purchase tickets please Click Here https://www.choicesecure01.net/mainapp/eventschedule.aspx?Clientid=NewHavenSymphony. TICKETS CAN ALSO BE PURCHASED AT THE DOOR BEGINNING AT 1PM ON SUNDAY.

Woolsey Hall renovations?!

For nearly 117 years the NHSO has performed mostly in Yale University’s historic Woolsey Hall. Known for its grandeaur, elegance, and yes, those famed wooden seats,Yale Daily News reporter Nora Caplan-Bricker explores the University’s long-term plans to renovate our famed concert hall:

Woolsey on ‘wish-list’
Administrators say renovation needed but unlikely

One of Yale’s most iconic spaces may be in need of a face-lift, but it’s unlikely to get one any time soon.

The spacious Commons eatery and the 2,700-seat Woolsey Hall auditorium often house large-scale gatherings, from formal meals like the Freshman Holiday Dinner and traditional events like Convocation. University President Richard Levin said these spaces have fallen behind much of Yale’s newly renovated campus. But other projects have consistently taken precedence and, especially in light of the recession, will continue to do so.

“They’re vast spaces, and they’re going to be quite expensive to renovate,” Levin said. “While they are certainly deserving of a renovation, they’re serviceable, and they still have an aura of elegance and grandeur and importance in our community.”

While the economic downturn has forced the delay of $2 billion in building projects, Levin said Commons and Woolsey were not among them. New residential colleges, the School of Management building, an updated biology facility and the renovation of the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory would all have broken ground if not for the crash, but Woolsey and Commons remained “on the wish list, but not the to-do list,” Levin said.

They have been there for years. Although administrators looked into tentative renovation plans and budgets nearly a decade ago, Provost Peter Salovey said administrators have never found refurbishing Woolsey and Commons as pressing as other projects, such as building Loria Hall, Rosenkrantz Hall and a host of new buildings on Science Hill and renovating the 12 residential colleges, the Rudolph Center and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Still, a quick walk through the Woolsey rotunda reveals cracked floors and discolored walls.

University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said administrators dreamed of receiving a gift to fund the renovations upon Yale’s tercentennial in 2001, the 100th anniversary of the building’s construction. She added she still hopes the University will find a donor for these spaces in the next decade, but with the development office focusing on the two new residential colleges and the SOM building, they are far from the top of the list.

Levin said the cost to renovate Commons was estimated at over $50 million nearly a decade ago, and Woolsey was expected to cost more than $100 million. Those numbers would be higher today, he added.

Each space presents its own engineering challenges. In Commons, the question is how best to install air conditioning to make the dining hall more pleasant in the early fall and late spring. But given the room’s size, and a lack of convenient places to conceal air condition ducts, this won’t be an easy task, Levin said.

In Woolsey, Levin said the echoing acoustics —which have led members of the Yale Concert Band to affectionately call the space a “toilet bowl” — need an update. The auditorium was built for organ music, which requires a great deal of reverberation, which is why the seats are wooden and don’t have cloth padding that would absorb sound. But the hall’s excessive resonance can sometimes swallow up orchestral music or the spoken word, Levin said.

Levin said he hopes to someday install mechanical elements into Woolsey’s ceiling, making it possible to change the acoustics to fit the occasion at hand.

Published for Yale Daily News March 25, 2010

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