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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 67

October 1, 2006 at 11:47 PM

9/29/06 – A Boston Globe article provides a rare insight into the hiring and “initiation” of new members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And, even better, the article focuses on a violinist, new member Julianne Lee:

“Last year at this time, Lee was just another first- year graduate student at New England Conservatory. But Lee's violin teacher, impressed by her playing, suggested that she apply for an open slot in the BSO. In March, Lee beat out more than 200 players to score a seat in the orchestra. Tonight, the 22-year-old -- the youngest in the 94-member BSO -- plays her first concert with the orchestra….

[New England Conservatory] is where she caught the ear of former BSO violinist Marylou Speaker Churchill. As part of Churchill's orchestra excerpts course, Lee performed a mock audition at Symphony Hall. ‘I heard all the things that an audition committee is looking for’, remembers Churchill. ‘Beautiful rhythm. Beautiful intonation. Musical phrasing. Exquisite timing. Everything was in place’. As Lee walked off the stage, Churchill pulled her aside. The teacher offered a suggestion she had never given to another student. Send your resume in to the BSO, Churchill said. They're auditioning violinists. Lee had never considered trying out.

Over two days in March, Lee competed at Symphony Hall for a position. The BSO had whittled the list of 225 resumes to 23 violinists. From behind a canvas screen -- the BSO audition process, until the final round, is blind -- the players competed. Late on March 21, BSO Assistant Personnel Manager Bruce Creditor delivered the good news to Lee and Jason Horowitz, 34. They had been selected.

[Retiring BSO cellist Ronald] Feldman has advice for Lee, who will be vying for tenure -- new players are on probation until given permanent status -- in a section of the orchestra traditionally difficult to score points with. Just last year, the BSO denied tenure to assistant concertmaster Juliette Kang, who promptly went on to win a post with the Philadelphia Orchestra as associate concertmaster.

‘Play your music, mind your business, be friendly, but wait until you're actually a member before you let loose’, said Feldman, now director of instrumental activities at Williams College. ‘Everybody appears to be your friend and they're very welcoming but the reality is you're really not a member of the fraternity or the sorority until you actually pass probation’. There is no fruit basket, no formal welcome wagon at the BSO, and until this week, Lee had met fewer than a handful of her new colleagues.

On stage Wednesday, before leading the orchestra, conductor James Levine asked new players to stand and be introduced. With each new name, the orchestra members applauded. By the first break, Lee said she felt comfortable. ‘I still can't believe it’, she said. ‘I think I won't believe it until I'm sitting there. It seems like a miracle’."

Read the entire article here:

Musician News

The New York Philharmonic has announced the addition of several string players to its roster. Min Young Chang is a Juilliard-trained native of Seoul. Mei Ching Huang studied at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University following emigration from Taiwan. Na Sun followed studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music with an artist diploma from Boston University's College of Fine Arts. Two cellists have been selected, too: Sumire Kudo of Japan, formerly cellist in the Avalon String Quartet, and Ru-Pei Yeh, a founding member of the Formosa Quartet in her native Taiwan, have been named to the cello section.

Violinist Christina Jensen has been appointed development-marketing manager at the New York Youth Symphony. She holds undergraduate degrees in violin performance and communications, and received her master's degree in arts administration from Boston University.

10/8/06 – The Ying Quartet is playing at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.

9/30/06 – Violinist Rachel Lee performed—what else—the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Rockford Symphony.

9/29/06 – The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that violinist Anne Akiko Meyers played the Tchaikovksy Violin Concerto to open the season of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. [Granted, this is a cornerstone of the violin repertoire, but of all the season-opening notices I’ve read in recent weeks that involve a violinist and an orchestra, just about every darn one has played the Tchaik. Sibelius, Beethoven, or Brahms, anyone? Anyone?]

9/29/06 – The Guardian (UK) ran a profile of the violinist Kennedy in which he reveals that he is going to release a jazz album in the near future: “[B]ut for a slightly different set of circumstances, he might easily have pursued a jazz career. The standard biography relates that the young violinist was the protege of Yehudi Menuhin. What is less well-known is that Kennedy also caught the attention of the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, who he looked upon as his jazz godfather. Although temperamentally and professionally polar opposites, Menuhin and Grappelli were close friends and recording partners, which left Kennedy ideally placed to absorb the influence of both. ‘Yehudi and Stephane were at the height of their powers when I got to hang out with them as a kid’, he says. ‘One day I'd see Grappelli getting ready for a gig with his brandy and a spliff; on another it would be Menuhin with his muesli and his wife combing his hair’."

Read the entire article here:

9/29/06 – According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sir Andrew Davis, artistic advisor to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, has told the orchestra he has 'decided to step down when his three-year contract expires at the end of the 2007-08 season.' He will fulfill his duties as artistic adviser and hopes to return to guest conduct, but he will not be interested in extending his formal relationship."

9/28/06 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiled violinist Leila Josefowicz, who performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Josefowicz has "reinvented herself as a performer of contemporary music within the orchestral circuit and her career has taken off as an adult performer." The violinist herself says, "The one criticism I have of classical music and the way people are trained is that it really is not a given that people have to go out and really try new things ... I started working with a lot of great living composers, and that just opened my eyes completely to this whole new world of thinking and being part of a process of creating. It totally just brought me to the next level, inspiration-wise, with my career."

9/28/06 - The Houston Grand Opera has extended the contract of its music director, Patrick Summers, by five years, insuring that he will remain with the company through 2014. Summers made Opera News's list of the 25 most powerful people in U.S. opera this year.

Orchestra News

Professional Musicians of Central California, AFM Local #12, has announced that musicians of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. It provides a 17 percent increase in pay, a 3.5 percent increase in pension payments, guaranteed services, a defined orchestra complement, and "other improvements."

10/2/06 - The New York Philharmonic and the WFMT Radio Network have announced the third season of "The New York Philharmonic This Week." Debuting October 2, the two-hour weekly radio program will be broadcast and syndicated nationally over 52 weeks by the WFMT Radio Network. The New York Philharmonic continues to be the only U.S. orchestra to broadcast weekly on a national basis.

9/29/06 - The Florida West Coast Symphony and the American Federation of Musicians, Florida Gulf Coast Local 427-721, announced a new three-year agreement. It increases pay for core and per-service musicians, a first-time short-term disability policy, a sick leave policy, a personal leave policy that resembles one currently in place for FWCS staff, and adoption of the AFM's EP Pension plan in year three.

9/28/06 - The New York Times ran an update from Baghdad on the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. "Throughout more than three years of war, the orchestra has striven to lift the country's spirits and give succor through art. But orchestra members are finding that while art can sometimes provide a brief respite from grim reality, it cannot stand forever as a bulwark against the maelstrom of conflict." Four musicians "fled to Syria and Dubai" this summer, and the orchestra's 59 musicians face equipment shortages and must frequently rehearse without electricity in the former royal concert hall "near the crumbling historic heart of Baghdad, with armed guards surrounding the compound." Some musicians report having to practice in secret to avoid offending extremists who have "deemed music to be un-Islamic." But the paper quotes trombonist Ali Nasser, who braves the "Triangle of Death" as he travels four to six hours each way for thrice-weekly rehearsals in Baghdad: "[My wife] tries to prevent me from coming, but I have to come. We can't survive without music. It's like oxygen."

From Richard Hellinger
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 1:30 AM
Wow.. I live like 20 minutes from Rochester, NY/Eastman and I had no clue the Ying quartet was comming to town... thanks for the info!
From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 2:07 AM
Re: Kennedy Interview:
pillock=idiot, with a risque connotation.
From Karin Lin
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 7:01 AM
Loved the Julianne Lee story! Just a comment, though...the way you excerpted the article, I was confused because it sounded like it was at the first BSO concert where she caught Churchhill's ear, which doesn't make sense chronologically.
From Karin Lin
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 7:01 AM
Loved the Julianne Lee story! Just a comment, though...the way you excerpted the article, I was confused because it sounded like it was at the first BSO concert where she caught Churchhill's ear, which doesn't make sense chronologically. I had to read the entire article to make sense of it.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 8:32 AM
I like Churchill's language. I dug up the original article too. Julianne Lee also plays the viola. The competition she missed was a viola competition and I don't think the article caught that. She seems pretty untypical and it would be interesting to know more about her.

The article said that in 1967 there were only 20 applicants for a job compared to 225 for this job. What a mess. I'm not that old, but I can remember myself when things were a lot easier than they would seem today!

From Kelsey Z.
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 2:31 PM
It seems that the warhorse concertos are being played in abundance this year. The Okanagan Symphony is doing the Tchaik mid-season with Erika Raum and last year the Vancouver symphony I believe had Mendelssohn, Brahms and Beethoven in their lineup.
From Darcy Lewis
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 3:33 PM
You're right, of course. Problem fixed.



From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 4:22 PM
I read the comments before the article and thought there would be a bizarre story about Winston Churchill's ear getting caught on a wayward violin bow.

Still a good article. BTW, my daughter's viola teacher was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra (nb: not "Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra) by age 21 or 22.

From Karin Lin
Posted on October 2, 2006 at 5:30 PM
Ha ha, Elizabeth! Much clearer now, Darcy, thanks.
From Darcy Lewis
Posted on October 4, 2006 at 9:44 PM
You're absolutely right about the Philadelphia Orchestra's name. Shame on the Boston Globe and shame on me for missing that one.


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