Violinist Nick Eanet announced Tuesday that he will leave the Juilliard String Quartet, due to a chronic acute digestive ailment that makes touring very difficult.
The Juilliard Quartet; Nick Eanet is second from right.
"It is with a heavy heart that I must give up my position with the Juilliard String Quartet," he said in a press release from The Juilliard School. "It has been a privilege to make music and work with such wonderful people and musicians. Unfortunately, my health will not allow me to continue but I will remember my time with the quartet as a high point in my musical career." He had been playing first violin with the quartet since September.
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Violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo bought a Domenico Montagnana violin for £630,000 last week from Brompton's – a record price for that maker, according to this article in Gramophone UK. The fiddle was well-preserved and retaining its original label, according to the article. The violin was being sold by Dr. Bertrand Jacobs. Before that, it was owned until 1962 by violinist Joseph Roisman, first violinist of the Budapest String Quartet, and also a friend of Laredo's, according to the article. Laredo also plays on a Strad.
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Violinist.com member Adam DeGraff is up to his ears in videos from violinists around the globe who have taken his Rocking Fiddlers Challenge and are trying to learn his arrangement of 'Sweet Child O' Mine', which most people know as a Guns N' Roses tune. Honestly, it looks like a lot of fun, and he's giving prizes to students and amateurs who learn the tune over the next few months, including a $17,500 violin by Jan Van Rooyen worth $17,500, two carbon fiber bows, plus some $20,000 in gift certificates from Shar. The sign-up page is right here, and he'll send you the music. So are you up to learning this?:
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Now that the fiddle is in the news, here's a nice review from April, when violinist Elena Urioste, 20, had the lucky task of taking the “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri – the fiddle that's got a price tag of $18 million – for a ride, playing Ralph Vaughan Williams' “The Lark Ascending” in her debut with the Chicago Symphony. She had it on loan from the Stradivari Society. It looks like a fun fiddle to play, here is a line from the review: “Urioste’s barely audible fade into the distance could not have been more sensitively rendered, the young soloist winnowing her tone to a barely audible filagree.”
Regina Carter has so much to say on the violin, sometimes she's had to reinvent the language of the instrument.
Like when she played her violin in the saxophone section of the Big Band in college.
Or when she introduced Paganini's "Cannone" violin to jazz.
Or take her recently released album, Reverse Thread, in which she has turned her attentions to the music of Africa.
Picture this rather unusual setup; Regina's on the violin. To her right is Yacouba Sissoko, playing the African harp (Kora) he made himself, a bedazzled gourd with 21 strings made of fishing line, tuned by pushing cowskin plugs up and down the long neck. On her left are virtuoso accordion player Will Holshouser, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Alvester Garnett. My daughter and I saw them live at the Grammy Theatre in Los Angeles, and the effect was stunning.
My favorite was a tune they borrowed from Ugandan Jewish culture, called "Mwana Talitambula," which means "the child will not walk." That sounds tragic, but the meaning is really that if your child won't walk, strap him to your back and keep on. She played an original field recording of the song, then their version, which started as a whisper: bass and violin sharing quiet pizzicato. Then the accordion enters, very, very high. The music widens, the volume rises, the melody soars. Then it contracts again, slowly, ending in a whisper as it began.
Mesmerizing in live performance, and brilliant still on the recording. Such a new mix of instruments – yet they seemed old, inevitable friends.
This is the kind of thing Regina Carter, 43, makes possible. We spoke a few weeks, ago, just before her LA performance.
Laurie: I've been enjoying your album, for me it's fun to listen to something that's not classical! What made you decide to play the violin in the first place?
Regina: Actually I started when I was four. When I was two, my older brothers were taking piano lessons. My mother said that one day when they were having their lesson, I walked up and started playing one of their pieces on the piano. So their teacher tested me and said, 'She's got an ear!' So she tried teaching me piano, but I was too young. When I was four, Suzuki was being offered for the first time in Detroit, so I started. I really loved playing, and I loved the instrument. Maybe a year into playing, our teacher gave us an opportunity to check out the other stringed instruments, to see if we wanted to switch. I went back to the violin; I said, 'No, I'm sticking with this.' I just really fell in love with the instrument. And with performing!
Laurie: Were you one of those people who loved to be on stage?
Regina: Yes! (she laughs) My mother said I was a little ham!
Laurie: Who was your teacher?
Regina: Her name was Jean Rupert, in the Detroit area. There was a whole group of us; we would do our private lessons once a week and then group lessons. A great many of us from the Suzuki class still play. A couple are in the San Francisco Symphony, one is in the Chicago Symphony, and two are with quartets. It's pretty amazing that so many of us stuck with it.
Laurie: It's a testament to what they were doing in that program.
Regina: Yes. I really believe in the Suzuki method. I think it makes it so much fun to learn music. If you start out with a love for the music, you generally don't lose that.
Laurie: Do you teach?
Regina: I don't teach on a regular basis, but I do some workshops and masterclasses.
Laurie: I often think about the Suzuki method, and where it's going. I wondered what your perspective might be on the Suzuki method, especially for those musicians who don't necessarily want to go into classical music.
Regina: I think it's great. I think it's what helped me to be able to ease into the world of jazz and other genres of music, because it really stresses ear training, early on. When you're playing or learning any style of music, you have to listen. It's like any language, you have to listen to how the words are pronounced in order to speak that language. You learn to hear things that cannot be put on the written page, like how to grasp the sound and the phrasing of a certain style of music. You learn other nuances that can't be written down.
Laurie: Did your classical training help you grow into a jazz musician, or "crossover" musician, for lack of a better word?
Regina: Classical music was just my starting point; I thought that I would be in an orchestra when I first started, so that's the music that I learned the instrument with. But I think that whatever the music is -- whether your first music is Irish fiddle music, or American fiddle, or Indian classical music -- as long as you learn the basic technique for your instrument, then learning another language or another genre is easier. All music can help you add more depth to your playing.
Laurie: Tell me about the moment when you realized there was something more out there, besides the classical music you were learning.
Regina: When I was growing up, playing European classical music, I was listening to Motown -- I lived in Detroit. Back then, all the groups had live strings, so I'd play along, learn those string parts. But it never even dawned on me that, okay, those are strings, this is something else you can do. I didn't make a connection.
It wasn't until my dear friend, Carla Cook, who's a great jazz vocalist, started talking about people like Eddie Jefferson and Ella (Fitzgerald). She brought in records of Noel Pointer, Jean-Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli. That was my first introduction to jazz -- or something different on the instrument – and I was totally blown away. I thought, 'Man, you can do this?' (she laughs) This is a whole new world! I was so incredibly excited about it – so much so that I said, 'I think this is what I want to do.' I felt like there was a freedom in that music that I didn't have with European classical music.
That was what I thought then. Now, when I look back, it was just the way that classical music was being taught to me. There were all these restraints on the music, rules that accompanied it. I think that with younger classical players that are coming out now, they're breaking those rules. They have to; otherwise, the music was going to die along with those stodgy rules.
Music is alive, it's not meant to be placed on a shelf in a museum. If you have people playing the same concertos and pieces 50, 60, 80 years later, you've got to breathe some new life into them.
Laurie: It's true, and it can be very paralyzing to feel like there's this whole group of people who are going to jump down my throat if I play this Bach Sonata wrong....
Regina: Exactly. What they forget is that Bach was an improviser. Come on!
Laurie: Absolutely. All those – well, guys – were improvisers, weren't they?
Regina: They were. Those pieces weren't written out for them, they were improvising. Someone finished them for us, but we've lost that art, even in that music, of improvising it.
Laurie: When you decided you wanted to explore this world of jazz and other kinds of music, were you able to find a mentor who was a violinist. What did you do exactly, to explore it?
Regina: In the beginning, I just bought every record – which was a half a handful! (she laughs) – of jazz violinists. I would just study those, learn their songs and solos. And then my third year of college, I transferred to Oakland University in Michigan, and I joined the Big Band there. The Big Band teacher, who was a saxophonist, said, "Stop listening to violin players; there are too few of them in this genre. Listen to horn players and singers.' He put me in the saxophone section in the Big Band. So I just started buying records of saxophonists and singers.
Being that close to Detroit, I started heading down to the city. I studied with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and worked with an organist Lyman Woodard. There was a jazz orchestra led by a saxophonist Donald Walden, and I'd sit in, in the different clubs. So I was being mentored, and I didn't need to be mentored by another violinist; I'm actually glad I wasn't. It's too easy to pick up their things that are violinistic, and I didn't want to do that. It's more about learning the language, and I can learn that from any instrumentalist.
After college, though, I did track down jazz violinist John Blake, who was recording and touring with McCoy Tyner and Grover Washington and had several of his own CDs out. I got a grant from the NEA and studied with him for a year.
Laurie: So what is some of your favorite sax music?
Regina: I love Ben Webster, because I just love his sound -- he's got that big sound with that vibrato that I love. I cut my teeth learning a lot of Charlie Parker, I just tried to learn as many tunes and solos as I could from him. And Paul Gonzales as well.
And I love Ella, Ella Fitzgerald is one of my favorite vocalists – she's basically an instrumentalist! (she laughs)
Laurie: That's so interesting, it's such a different path – to be in the saxophone section!
Regina: You know, I'm really thankful for that. (The director) would say, 'Whenever they breathe, you breathe,' because of course, we play stringed instruments, we don't have to breathe! (laughs) We should, but a lot of the time we don't. So literally, I learned physically to breathe out, and when I'd run out of air, stop playing. Then there was the way they would phrase the melodies or the lines. I got so much from sitting there and having them on either side of me, hearing that sound.
Laurie: Just thinking about the whole breathing idea, it makes so much sense. So many violinists hold their breath while they're playing.
Regina: I'm guilty of it, when I'm nervous. I hold my breath, and then I play all these run-on sentences! I remember playing once with Ray Brown, and he said, 'Quit playing all those notes, and swing!' I had to breathe. Sometimes when people hear me they say, 'I can hear you take these deep breaths...'
So? I need to do that, and it's okay.
Laurie: What was the name of your Big Band teacher?
Laurie: It's great that he was so open-minded, too. You were probably the only violinist in the Big Band, I'm guessing.
Regina: I was, and you know, I had gone to New England Conservatory for two years before that, and when I told them I wanted to play jazz, they kind of looked at me like I had two heads! In the classical world, at least they did. Jimmy Giuffre was one of the Big Band teachers there, and he didn't care. He said, 'Come on in.' It was like a band of misfits because there were some flute players in there -- that's another instrument that people forget is a huge part of the jazz idiom. But yes, I was really thankful, he didn't bat one lash, he said, 'Here, sit down here.'
Laurie: Tell me about Reverse Thread. First, I was curious about the name.
Regina: It's a name that can mean a lot of different things to different people, but for me...Let's say you have a loose thread on your garment, and you pull it. You think it's going to end at some point, but you realize it doesn't. It's kind of me following a thread; looking at where I am now, but tracing it back and saying, okay, where did some of this music come from? What was it influenced by? Where did the sounds and the rhythms and melodies come from?'
It's a project I've wanted to do since I lived in Detroit, and it's taken many different turns. At first it was going to be a world music record. I was so influenced by all the different cultures that were right there, in Detroit: by hearing music that had a scale system that wasn't Western, by hearing all these stringed instruments in this music and realizing that the violin could possibly be related to some of these instruments.
But it took me this long, because there were no radio stations to support this kind of music. Record companies would always say no. Having the MacArthur money,, I decided to just do it myself.
So I started with the continent of Africa. There are so many cultures of music that come that one continent, I only scratched the surface. It was interesting for me to sometimes hear the music and think, that sounds like Irish music, or that sounds like it could have come from Puerto Rico. We all, on this planet, are connected. All the different cultures have mixed, and sometimes you hear something you think was influenced from one place, and it really came from someplace else. That's what was so intriguing: realizing we're all connected. That thread, when you pull on it, it's all of us. We're all connected by that one thread.
Laurie: Did you actually go to Africa?
Regina: I did not, specifically for this project; I had gone a couple years ago, to play, and then I hung out for a while. Of course when I was there I bought a bunch of CDs. But when I decided to do this record, I didn't go back. I had friends there who sent music, and some of the musicians in the band, Mamadou Ba, who's from Senegal, and Yacouba Sissoko from Mali, gave me music to listen to. Then I went to the World Music Institute and purchased a lot of music. So I had a lot of different resources.
Laurie: It sounds like a really massive, but really fun, project.
Regina: At first it was daunting, where am I going to start? And then I decided to just start listening to music and see where I landed. It's something I want to continue; I think maybe for the next record it will be a little more focused, because I'm now trying to focus on the different string music that comes from the continent. I know that's even still a huge project! So maybe I'll narrow it down as I develop it.
Laurie: You said you'd had this idea for a long time, where did it come from?
Regina: Like I said, at lot of it come from listening in Detroit, hearing all this Middle Eastern music, and Greek music. That music was always very attractive and beautiful for me -- the other scales and notes that were used, that weren't a part of the Western scale system. And hearing the way these strings, these whole string orchestras, and the way they phrased together. I'd just sometimes go in the record store and I would have no idea who I was listening to; I'd say, 'What is this I'm hearing?' Back then, that's what was so beautiful, you could go in a record store and hear something and be turned on to something you may not have ever heard unless you just walked in.
There's so much music on this planet that we're not going to hear on the radio. One record I really love is from Youssou N'Dour. He made a movie, I Bring What I Love about this music, it's religious music, basically. A lot of people will be angry with him for doing this music, because it's music of the religion, and they felt like you're not supposed to play that, perform that and record it, but it won several Grammys. And it's just amazing when you hear the orchestra play with him.
Laurie: How did you decide what made the cut, with so much material?
Regina: (she laughs) That's the hard part! We started playing this music live maybe two years ago. Some things we planned, and then after performing we might decide this isn't working, why isn't it working? So it would go through many changes and cuts. From its inception, even some of the instruments in the band changed. You just kind of start to see: this works, this doesn't work. Playing it live, this seems to really work with this group of musical instruments, and people seem to really respond to this – and so this is what's going to go on.
Laurie: Was it the kind of thing where you would use a full melody, or would you just get inspiration from a fragment? How did that work?
Regina: We took the full melodies on a lot of these. With some of this music, people say it's so simple-sounding. And it is. They're beautiful, folk-like melodies that are very simple. And sometimes those are the hardest pieces to play, because as a jazz musician, you're used to improvising and using all this technique. But with this, you don't want to mess it up. It's already beautiful as it is. It's a matter of trying to keep its beauty while giving it a contemporary arrangement. So in some of them, we left parts of the melody off. And then some of it we re-harmonized; for example, we reharmonized the changes, slightly, that would go under the solo section and then come back to what was originally there. But it went through so many changes, because sometimes the changes were just too much – we're trying way too hard, here, and it's detracting from the beauty of it.
Laurie: Did you write out charts for it, or did you guys mostly do it by ear?
Regina: A lot of the arrangements I had friends do; some of them, we all would listen to the tune, or I would write out a skeleton of what the chart was, and we'd just play it. We'd just keep playing it and say, 'What do you think here? What do you think there?' We'd keep trying stuff at rehearsal until it just finally came together. For some of these tunes, it took a year for them to finally take on a life – or for us to decide, when you have to try this hard, leave it alone.
Laurie: I understand that you played – and recorded – on the 'Cannone' a few years back. What kind of violin do you play?
Regina: It says it's a copy of a Storioni from the late 1700's, but of course all the parts on the violin have been replaced, so who knows what it really is! It sounded good when I was looking for a violin and it fit my pocketbook!
Laurie: It's not easy to find on that fits the pocketbook! So you don't use an electric violin or anything like that?
Regina: No. I used to, I started off with one, when I first started playing, and then I just wanted to concentrate on playing the music and trying to get as many sounds out of the instrument, without having that. Which has been a lot of fun because I had to really explore the instrument itself. Plus I just didn't want to carry all that stuff around! You can really get into it!
Regina and Laurie
When my daughter, Natalie, gets inspired, she draws. Here's the drawing she made of Regina's band, as they played at the Grammy Theatre May 29.
I was listening to the radio today when Robert Schumann's third symphony came on.
"Ahhh," I thought. "The Rhenish Symphony. Schumann is my favorite composer of symphonies…" I thought about how Schumann related to Brahms, personally and musically. You really do hear it in the music. Yes, sometimes it sounds like Brahms.
Brahms, who is my favorite composer of symphonies. Who can resist the fourth symphony? And the first symphony of Brahms, written when he was 42! Nice that life begins at 42, since I'm 42. He only wrote four, not nine, like Beethoven.
Beethoven, who has to be my favorite symphony composer. That slow movement of the seventh symphony gets me every time, the way it starts, like a heartbeat. And the ninth symphony -- that he composed his Ode To Joy as a deaf man! Nine symphonies, who wrote more? Oh yes, Mahler. Talk about symphonies.
Mahler is the man, what more can we do with a symphony? From the frolicking first symphony, and that awesome scordatura stuff in the fourth, to the slow-drip death, is that at the end of the ninth or the tenth?
But then there is the symphony about my country, Dvorak's New World Symphony? It speaks to me, as an American. I truly think he captured it well. In fact, it's my favorite symphony.
Besides Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, which is astounding and which I would drop anything and everything to play again. If you liked that check out the hugeness of this movement) And speaking of Symphony No. 5's, how about Shostakovich's?
This list is not exactly complete, as quite a lot of composers have written symphonies!
Montreal violinist Alexandre Da Costa, 31, won the $25,000 Virginia Parker Prize for young Canadian classical music performers. Da Costa studied at Conservatoire de Musique du Québec, then studied in Madrid with Zakhar Bron. Between 2003 and 2006, he played the 1689 “Baumgartner” Stradivarius from 2003 to 2006, after winning the Canadian musical instrument bank competition. He currently plays the 1727 Di Barbaro Stradivarius with a Sartory bow, on lona from Canimex, where he is musical development director. He made world premiere recordins of violin concertos by Portuguese composers Luis de Freitas Branco and Armando José Fernandes and will record next with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under Pedro Halffter. Da Costa performs and teaches.
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Violinists helping violinists: How to get on stage, when you've broken your foot? Violinist Chee-Yun broke her foot the day before her season-opener performance last Friday at the Innsbrook Institute Music Festival and Academy, near St. Louis. But this stopped nothing, St. Louis Symphony concertmaster and Innsbrook music director David Halen carried Chee-Yun and her 1708 “Exauss” Strad on stage, where she performed with the help of a stool, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Violinist Regina Carter was named Violinist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in its 14th annual JJA Jazz Awards. This year the group gave awards in 41 categories. Other violinists nominated included Mark Feldman, Jenny Scheinman, Billy Bang and Mark O’Connor.
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Conductor Marin Alsop is moving her family from Denver to Baltimore, where she has served as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for three seasons, according to this article in the Baltimore Sun. Alsop and her partner of two decades, Kristin Jurkscheit, will move to Baltimore with their son, Auden, 6. Jurkscheit will take a leave of absence from the Colorado Symphony, where she has been associate principal horn. Locals are looking at the move as a sign of deepening commitment to the orchestra, where Alsop has found innovative ways to reach out to the community, such as her BSO Academy for amateur musicians. "We're already way down the path toward redefining what a 21st-century orchestra is," Alsop told the Baltimore Sun. "Orchestras will have to be multidimensional, with more ancillary projects, getting engaged with people on different levels. It feels great to work with musicians who are willing to look at the landscape in fresh ways. Some orchestras only use a 19th-century lens."
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The Philadelphia Orchestra has signed Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, 35, to a seven-year contract as Music Director. He will begin immediately as Music Director Designate, officially taking the title Music Director in the 2012-13 season. Charles Dutoit will remain Chief Conductor through the 2011-12 season. Nézet-Séguin has been Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra since 2008, Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 2008, and Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal) since 2000. Nézet-Séguin studied piano, conducting, composition, and chamber music at the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec in Montreal, then continued studying with Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini. Here is more about the appointment from the Philadelphia Star.
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Violinist Joshua Bell was in Taipei to perform with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra Tuesday at the National Concert Hall. On the program was the Mendelssohn Concerto (with his own cadenza) and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, which Bell was to conduct from the concertmaster's chair.
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Ernest Fleischmann, 85, who ran the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1969 to 1998, died Sunday in Los Angeles. Fleischmann, trained as a conductor, was known for his prickly persohality as well as his ability to identify talent. He was key in bringing conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Carlo Maria Giulini to the LA Phil. Even after his retirement, he traveled to Venezuela as an octogenarian to help in the selection of Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil's current conductor. Before coming to Los Angeles, Fleischmann managed the London Symphony Orchestra from 1959 to 1967. A native of Frankfurt, Germany, he emigrated to South Africa in 1936 and then to England in 1959. Here are links some of the obituaries written for Fleischmann:
An appreciation: Ernest Fleischmann by Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times
E. Fleischmann, Impresario of Los Angeles, Dies at 85 by Bruce Weber of the New York Times
Ernest Fleischmann by the UK Telegraph
If you need amusement, just watch a violinist turn a page during orchestra. What to do? We have a bow in one hand, a fiddle in the other, and sometimes those page turns need to happen fast.
Recently, V.com member Smiley Hsu asked how to turn pages faster, and that is my inspiration for this blog, along with my own struggles.
I'm left-handed, and for many years, the thought never even occurred to me that I could simply turn the page with my right hand. I kept putting my fiddle down, stretching my left hand way across to the right…until one day I was sitting with my good friend Margaret Carpenter, and excellent violinist and teacher. She saw my struggles and put a stop to the madness, "Look, just do THIS…"
And "this" is what I've recorded below, for your viewing pleasure. I wanted a nice-looking video this time around, so I turned to a pro: my nearly 10-year-old son, Brian. He set me up with his home-made green screen, so we could have the nifty colorful background. He also helped with the dramatic "bad page turn," which he had the idea to put into slow motion. Plus, he added the credits, did the filming and editing, etc. Thanks Brian!
Violinist Mikhail Simonyan will give his New York Philharmonic debut – a rather big deal for anyone – in just a few weeks. But weighing equally on his mind is a project close to his heart, an initiative he started called "Beethoven, Not Bullets," to support efforts to bring music education – and for that matter, music itself – to the children of Afghanistan.
Benjamin Beilman, 20, a student of Ida Kavafian at Curtis, won the first prize (Can$30,000) last week in the 2010 Montréal International Music Competition, held this year for violinists. On this page is is a video of an excellent performance he gave of the Sibelius Concerto at the Gala Concert following the competition (I particularly enjoyed the second movement). The second place winner was Korbinian Altenberger of Germany and the third place winner was Nikita Borisoglebsky of Russia. Here is more information about winners of special awards at the competition.
World Busk for Haiti will take place from June 7 through June 13, with the aim of raising $50,000 to help rebuild music schools in earthquake-damaged regions of Haiti. The event was organized by Musequality, a United Kingdom-based charity that aims to bring music education to poor and developing countries. Musicians are asked to sign up and then go busking! The first Musequality World Busk involved 811 buskers in 75 locations in 17 countries on 7 continents, raising £14,719, according to Musequality, which supports projects in Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, India and Thailand.
Rock violinist Antonio Pontarelli will perform with World Civic Orchestra on June 20th at Carnegie Hall. A senior at the University of Southern California, Pontarelli has already played a number of cool gigs, including appearances with with Jethro Tull, the San Diego Symphony and David Benoit, and opening for Earth, Wind & Fire, Seal, Jason Mraz, and Brian McKnight. He also played on the red carpet at the 48th, 49th and 50th Annual Grammy Awards. For this event he'll play his own version of Gershwin's Summertime.
The last time I spoke with Gil Shaham, he was playing Sarasate and running from bulls. It sounds like the Sejong Soloists kept Gil on his toes as well.
"Playing the Mendelssohn Octet with Sejong is a little bit like going into a room and playing basketball with seven Michael Jordans – they're all considerably younger than I am," Shaham said of touring and recording with the group. "Here I am, with my graying hair, and I'm struggling to keep up!"
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Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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