Thursday, August 26, 2010


Mozart was a child prodigy. He gave his first public concert very early and was composing music at an age when most children are just beginning to read. These days we have musical prodigies who excel at performing, but it is quite rare to find a child who is both an extraordinary performer and composer.

Emily Bear
is eight years old and has only been playing the piano for three years, yet she has a longer and more impressive biography than most adult musicians I know. She is a remarkable musician and has an impressive talent for composition, too. Watching her perform gives one a glimpse of what it must have been like for audiences watching Mozart as a child.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Opera and IBS

Opera can have some pretty bizarre plots. Giants, Bird-men, curses, and women masquerading as men masquerading as women all have a home on the opera stage. I recently read of an plot that, even for opera, is a stretch. A playwright in London has written his first opera, a 30 minute work entitled Intolerance. The opera is about one woman's quest to cure her irritable bowel syndrome. Hmmmm.

will not be a part of Knoxville Opera Company's 2010 - 2011 season. Sorry! Never fear, though, because you can quell your disappointment with productions of Madame Butterfly, Manon, and I Puritani. More information about KOC's upcoming season can be found on their website.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coming Soon!

The beginning of the season is rapidly approaching. In no particular order, here are some things I'm most looking forward to next season:


Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, our first Family Concert of the season which will feature the wonderful poetry of Jack Prelutzky.

October's all Gershwin Masterworks concert. Norman Krieger, Danisha Ballew, Michael Rodgers, great music --- bliss!

November's 75th Anniversary celebration concert. I'm particularly looking forward to this because I will be playing the viola that belonged to KSO founder Bertha Walburn Clark! (More on this later!)

The 24th Annual Clayton Holiday Concert


Beethoven 9!

All the concertmaster search happenings - the Masterworks rehearsals and performances and the recitals.

What are you looking forward to this coming season?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Penny Performances

As a performing artist and a mother, I strongly believe in and support arts education. I also have a first-hand understanding that, financially speaking, exposing children to live performances can be difficult. For our family, and I expect for many other families, the cost to see a live performance is often a little bit more than the budget will bear. Thanks to a new program, we will be able to enjoy live performances on a regular basis.

This year the Knoxville Symphony is one of 28 local arts groups to offer "Penny Performances." This is a new initiative by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Greater Knoxville. According to the Penny 4 Arts website, the purpose of this program is
"(To) give every child in Knox County, including home-schooled and private-schooled students, an opportunity to attend arts and culture events/activities at the maximum cost of ONE PENNY when accompanied by an adult during the 2010/2011 academic school year. The Penny Performances program meets the local arts community’s long-term goal of serving and educating East Tennessee's children."

I looked at the calendar of events currently scheduled for Penny Performances and I'm floored. There are so many performances listed, you could take your child to something different just about every single week from now through May. Symphony concerts, artist exhibits, dance performances, opera performances, plays... the variety is enormous. I'm looking forward to taking my daughter to many of these events and I'm also looking forward to seeing some young people in the audience at the symphony this season.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In The Black Again

2009 - 2010 was a rough season for orchestras around the country. Several closed their doors, many others were forced to made some serious cuts. Large organizations are not immune to the difficult economic climate: musicians in the Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, and Philadelphia Orchestra among others have all taken salary cuts in the past few years. Ending the season in the red has become the norm for groups that are managing to stay open. The New York Philharmonic ended the 08 - 09 season with a deficit of 4.6 million dollars and was predicting a similar shortfall for this past season.

What about Knoxville? Well, Knoxville is a pretty extraordinary place (but you already knew that...).

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra ended the 2009-2010 season IN THE BLACK!!!!!! That is an amazing achievement in itself, but it also marks the fourth consecutive season we've managed to end with a surplus!

So, how did this happen? The short answer is that it was possible with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work. Everyone in the organization - management and musician alike - has worked their tail off to make this work. In particular, KSO Director of Development Judith Folz deserves a prize for the work she's done. Every time I see Judith she has a big smile on her face, which is amazing to me because her job has been incredibly difficult the past few years. Thank you, Judith!

We at the KSO also owe a thank you to you, the patrons of the orchestra. By coming to concerts and making donations however large or small, you have helped keep us in the black. We are your symphony, Knoxville.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


As I mentioned before, I've been using my time off this summer to rehab from a hand injury I suffered last February. Until now this has meant taking it easy playing-wise. I've played this summer but not nearly as much as I do during the season. I even took three weeks completely off from playing. I can't remember the last time I took that long of a break. I'm sure it was more than 10 years ago. It was refreshing.

I recently received the symphony schedule for next season. I started to panic a little bit when I looked over the month of September. This September the KSO schedule is crazier than any I have been around for. Don't get me wrong - it's great to be busy! I'm nervous because right now my hand is working really well. I'm pain free and I want to keep it that way. Going back to a rigorous schedule like we have in September could be disastrous without careful preparation.

To get ready for the upcoming season, I've switched back to the viola (from violin) and have started to systematically increase the length of my practice sessions. It's similar to a couch to 5K approach. Right now I'm playing for a little over an hour a day. By the time the season starts I should be back to playing roughly four hours a day - two in the morning and two in the afternoon. On days that we have two rehearsals (aka a double) this is approximately what is required of us.

In my quest to come back strong and healthy, I have found the work of Janet Horvath invaluable. She is the Associate Principal Cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra. She has written a book for musicians called Playing (Less) Hurt and has an extremely informative website. I encourage anyone with even a twinge of playing-related pain to investigate her site.

Monday, August 2, 2010


One of the events I'm most looking forward to next season is the KSO's collaboration with The Clarence Brown Theatre. We kick off the season together with a run of Amadeus. I don't have a whole lot of details on the show yet, but I can tell you two things: the musicians will be on stage and we will not be wearing wigs. I asked about the wigs. I really love stage props. I carried a fake moustache and kazoo around in my viola case for several years after a Young Person's Concert just waiting for another opportunity to use them. I'm a little bit disappointed that we won't be in costume, but it is still going to be an unforgettable production. Without exception it is the event that every single musician mentioned when I asked what people were anticipating about this upcoming season.

Tickets for Amadeus went on sale today. The show will run from September 8th through September 19th. More information can be found on the KSO website.