Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Passing of a True Leader

The world has lost a true leader with the death of Pat Summitt, former Lady Vols basketball coach and the winningest coach in any college sport, period. She was the face of collegiate women's basketball for more than 40 years as a player, Olympian, and coach. Her accomplishments earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and status as one of the most beloved public figures in Tennessee history. There is some common ground between the UT Women's basketball program and the Knoxville Symphony.

As part of a strong tradition of hosting celebrity guest conductors at the annual Ijams Nature Center concerts, Ms. Summitt led the KSO in an unforgettable rendition of The Tennessee Waltz in Sept. of ‘97. Before she gave the downbeat, however, she made an amusing “substitution.” She called out then-principal flutist Rob Cronin and instructed second flutist Jennifer Regan to take over first flute, claiming that Rob was suffering from a condition she called “loser’s limp.” During the ensuing performance, Pat looked at Larisa Bairomova and I on the front stand of cellos, and with arms waving, asked “How am I doing?” but the look on her face clearly indicated “WHAT am I doing?” I thank the day that I decided to become a musician, for it led me to that point where I would be sharing the stage with such a strong leader.

My wife and I would later be in contact with Ms. Summitt at AYSO soccer and Knox Youth Sports basketball games, where she graciously shared her knowledge of athletics and competition. She was the most amazing “soccer mom” you could ever wish to meet. Our son Thomas played with (and alas, against) her son Tyler in various venues across the county. I was just tickled pink one day when she approached me postgame with a box of Krispy Kremes. The smile on her face was just as radiant and real as her infamous “game face” stare was menacing. It was fulfilling to be acquainted with that side of her.

Memorial gifts may be made to The Pat Summitt Foundation by visiting www.patsummitt.org/donate .

The stare...

...and the smile of success

Thursday, June 23, 2016

String Camp Gets In Gear

It's not spring any more, but it is string season with the KSO Youth Orchestras' String Camp! More than 200 violinists, violists, cellists and bassists are descending upon Hardin Valley Academy's Music Department to build toward a final concert Friday, June 24 at 2:30. I am privileged to be a part of it this year, and my work with the kids in the cello sections has been sheer joy. They are not merely a talented bunch, (and it's a big bunch!) but inquisitive and courteous as well.

Four ensembles are derived from the total student body: the Prelude, Overture, Intermezzo and Finale. Conductors of these groups and combinations thereof are Erin Archer, Kathy Hart, Wesley Baldwin, Nina Missildine Mikos and James Fellenbaum. An overriding theme of the camp's repertoire is music of the movies, with selections from Starwars, The Avengers, The Sound of Music, and others being offered.

I have included some fine photographs of the proceedings at camp by Faithful Photography. Enjoy! Better yet, come on out tomorrow to see our talented musicians make sweet summer music.

Dan Thompson leads a contingent of bassists

Sarah Ringer with a passel of violinists

Yours truly demonstrating a pizzicato moment

Erin Archer leading the Prelude Orchestra

What it's all about.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Conductor Announcement!

The news is out! The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra has named Aram Demirjian as its 8th Music Director, after an exhaustive search stretching back to October of 2014. Holding a master's in conducting from New England Conservatory, he will be making a jump from his post at the Kansas City Symphony where, among other things, he initiated a weeknight concert series entitled “Classics Uncorked,” akin to our “Scotch and Strings” and “Beer and Beethoven” endeavors. His youthful enthusiasm and genuine personality were hits with the selection committee. There is a subtle circularity to Aram's appointment here. One of his mentors, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, can claim as his first music teacher Bernice Dryer, the mother of the recently deceased KSO violinist Norris Dryer.

From the musicians' standpoint, the wide range of the candidates' conducting styles and the spectrum of repertoire they've chosen have forged the orchestra into a formidable performing unit. (Cue Dwight Schrute from The Office giving that speech- “WE ARE WARRIORS!!”) We eagerly await the repertoire choices Maestro Demirjian (pronounced “de-MURR-gin”) makes to complement the solo repertoire which was chosen last November.

It has been a long journey with many high points. We can't wait to see what the Maestro has in store for us!