Composer Craig Hella Johnson calls it the “long sacred silence” – his way of describing a common audience reaction after choral performances of his recently published composition Considering Matthew Shepard. In an age when hate crimes are on the rise and divisiveness is rampant, Johnson’s work raises deep questions about our humanity. It focuses on how people can learn to love those who are different from them. Audiences often pause in silence before applauding; such is its impact. During a performance at the University of Southern California this year, one student performer described the reaction this way:
It was at a television station in San Francisco, California, where Deke Sharon realized how far his work in a cappella music had reached. He went to the station to complete a satellite interview for an Australian morning show when he struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was there to talk with the national media about military drone strikes. Sharon said the man, who was dressed up in an “FBI suit” and looked very serious, had an outburst of joy when Sharon said he was there to promote the movie Pitch Perfect 2.
Trying to keep track of all of your classes and ensembles is hard enough. Then concert planning time comes, and there is a sea of event planning details to remember as well. To try to make things easier, we’ve compiled a checklist of concert planning tasks, along with a few stories from the trenches that showcase ideas that worked and moments when things went unexpectedly wrong. First, here is the checklist. Follow the arrows to see the planning steps from beginning to end:
Two worlds collided for cellist Nicole Myers as she traveled back to her Pennsylvania high school to give a performance as a professional musician. She and her bandmates in a rock orchestra group called Cello Fury visited Ephrata High School on a rainy spring day for one of the many outreach concerts they do for schools. There she was greeted by her former cello teacher Galen Reed. Myers says Reed went above and beyond as an educator, including driving her to state orchestra events and supporting her work beyond high school.
J.W. Pepper talked to current and former teachers during one of our summer workshops to get some ideas for starting the school year right. Here are some of their thoughts on topics including class preparation and lesson planning in the weeks ahead:
A large wall photo at a Philadelphia exhibition shows Leonard Bernstein during one of the most poignant days of his life – a day in 1948 when he conducted a concert with a small group of Holocaust survivors in Germany. The picture and the story behind the moment are part of the Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History. The presentation marks what would have been Bernstein’s 100th birthday in August 2018.
Tom Dean says when he worked as a music teacher he faced a daunting task every summer – the job of sorting through mountains of new sheet music to find the gems that might work for his school choirs. That changed when he discovered a service called Editors’ Choice. It made finding quality music much easier. Now Dean is J.W. Pepper’s Classroom and School Choral Editor, and he is part of the team that puts together the Editors’ Choice lists.
David Kim paused after playing a few exquisite bars of music on his Italian violin. The concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra seemed concerned that his instrument may be echoing too loudly across the sweeping multistory lobby of the Kimmel Center, where other people were working or visiting. This moment during our Pepper interview showcased both Kim’s humble nature and his concern for others – along with his extraordinary talent.
Emmy-winning classical composer Julie Giroux says she didn’t know about any women composers when she was studying music, and when she first entered the field she didn’t meet any, either. Unfortunately, she is not alone in this experience. It’s only in the last few decades that women composers have begun to be recognized in some of the music industry’s top areas.
Quietly, in places ranging from convents to conservatories to farms, extraordinary women have written innovative music without the benefit of fame. Historical archives hint at the challenges they have faced. Critics called composer Ethel Smyth a “little woman” with “utterly unfeminine” works, and Florence Price echoed the concerns of other minority women when she penned in a famous letter: “To begin with I have two handicaps – those of sex and race.”