Trombonist Amanda Stewart compares it to a slow-moving glacier – the gradual acceptance of talented women playing brass instruments in the United States’ most renowned orchestras. Stewart is the associate principal trombone for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and is among the 3% of trombone players in the nation’s top orchestras who are women. When she was younger, she did not realize women had a small presence in the brass sections of professional orchestras.
Voices from 120 countries unite in one of the most powerful moments in composer Eric Whitacre’s film Deep Field. After the viewer travels through the cosmos via a stunning array of Hubble Space Telescope images, the time comes to return to Earth. At that moment, 8,000 voices ring out above Whitacre’s moving orchestra music. They represent the largest group to sing in one of Whitacre’s “virtual choirs,” and many participants said they were moved to tears when they saw how the final film represented humanity.
Composer Eric Whitacre delved into the visual world of film after he received an invitation he could not refuse. After conducting his Deep Field orchestra piece, which is based on the Hubble Space Telescope’s findings, he was approached by audience member Scott Vangen, a NASA payload specialist, who invited Whitacre to come to the Kennedy Space Center for a visit. Just a month later, Whitacre was there.
Horror movies don’t just play on the minds of the audiences. They’re also a cerebral project for horror music composers like Joseph Bishara and Christopher Thomas. Bishara has composed music for the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises and Thomas for haunted amusement attractions and film productions. Both have spent hours, days, and months formulating ways to create unnerving sound tracks – a job that gives them a unique perspective on the world of fear.
Alex Meixner’s hands fly across his accordion when he plays crowd favorites at Oktoberfest celebrations across the country. The talented musician, who is known for the Hormel pepperoni commercials and his passion for the accordion, can play thousands of songs and has an encyclopedic knowledge about many styles of folk music. He began to learn how to play the accordion at age four; he now owns 14 accordions and travels with his band. Meixner says he loves how the accordion always gets a crowd reaction.
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:
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.
Each year when the annual celebration of our nation’s birth approaches, patriotic music becomes more prevalent in our daily lives. These songs paint a picture of our nation through their spirited melodies and inspiring lyrics. This Independence Day, Pepper has compiled some of our blogs about our national anthem, the “March King,” and other patriotic sheet music, along with interviews with some of the masters of military music.
Most people know Leonard Bernstein as a world-renowned composer and conductor whose contributions to music and culture can be heard in concert halls around the world. Less known are his contributions to education, but they are no less impactful. Since the 1990s more than 250,000 students have been exposed to an educational method Bernstein created called Artful Learning®.
Few movie franchises have caught the world’s imagination like Star Wars. For forty years, audiences have been enthralled by the trials and tribulations of the Skywalker family and their adventures in a galaxy far, far away. The heroes and villains of the Old Republic and the Galactic Empire are cultural icons.