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Jun 28

The Passing of a True Leader

The world has lost a true leader with the death of Pat Summitt, former Lady Vols basketball coach and the winningest coach in any college sport, period. She was the face of collegiate women's basketball for more than 40 years as a player, Olympian, and coach. Her accomplishments earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and status as one of the most beloved public figures in Tennessee history. There is some common ground between the UT Women's basketball program and the Knoxville Symphony.As part of a strong tradition of hosting celebrity guest conductors at the annual Ijams Nature Center concerts, Ms. Summitt led the KSO in an unforgettable rendition of The Tennessee Waltz in Sept. of ‘97. Before she gave the downbeat, however, she made an amusing “substitution.” She called out then-principal flutist Rob Cronin and instructed second flutist Jennifer Regan to take over first flute, claiming that Rob was suffering from a condition she called “loser’s limp.” During the ensuing performance, Pat looked at Larisa Bairomova and I on the front stand of cellos, and with arms waving, asked “How am I doing?” but the look on her face clearly indicated “WHAT am I doing?” I thank the day that I decided to become a musician, for it led me to that point where I would be sharing the stage with such a strong leader.My wife and I would later be in contact with Ms. Summitt at AYSO soccer and Knox Youth Sports basketball games, where she graciously shared her knowledge of athletics and competition. She was the most amazing “soccer mom” you could ever wish to meet. Our son Thomas played with (and alas, against) her son Tyler in various venues across the county. I was just tickled pink one day when she approached me postgame with a box of Krispy Kremes. The smile on her face was just as radiant and real as her infamous “game face” stare was menacing. It was fulfilling to be acquainted with that side of her.Memorial gifts may be made to The Pat Summitt Foundation by visiting www.patsummitt.org/donate .The stare......and the smile of success

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Jun 23

String Camp Gets In Gear

It's not spring any more, but it is string season with the KSO Youth Orchestras' String Camp! More than 200 violinists, violists, cellists and bassists are descending upon Hardin Valley Academy's Music Department to build toward a final concert Friday, June 24 at 2:30. I am privileged to be a part of it this year, and my work with the kids in the cello sections has been sheer joy. They are not merely a talented bunch, (and it's a big bunch!) but inquisitive and courteous as well. Four ensembles are derived from the total student body: the Prelude, Overture, Intermezzo and Finale. Conductors of these groups and combinations thereof are Erin Archer, Kathy Hart, Wesley Baldwin, Nina Missildine Mikos and James Fellenbaum. An overriding theme of the camp's repertoire is music of the movies, with selections from Starwars, The Avengers, The Sound of Music, and others being offered.I have included some fine photographs of the proceedings at camp by Faithful Photography. Enjoy! Better yet, come on out tomorrow to see our talented musicians make sweet summer music.Dan Thompson leads a contingent of bassistsSarah Ringer with a passel of violinistsYours truly demonstrating a pizzicato momentErin Archer leading the Prelude OrchestraWhat it's all about.

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Jun 5

New Conductor Announcement!

The news is out! The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra has named Aram Demirjian as its 8th Music Director, after an exhaustive search stretching back to October of 2014. Holding a master's in conducting from New England Conservatory, he will be making a jump from his post at the Kansas City Symphony where, among other things, he initiated a weeknight concert series entitled “Classics Uncorked,” akin to our “Scotch and Strings” and “Beer and Beethoven” endeavors. His youthful enthusiasm and genuine personality were hits with the selection committee. There is a subtle circularity to Aram's appointment here. One of his mentors, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, can claim as his first music teacher Bernice Dryer, the mother of the recently deceased KSO violinist Norris Dryer. From the musicians' standpoint, the wide range of the candidates' conducting styles and the spectrum of repertoire they've chosen have forged the orchestra into a formidable performing unit. (Cue Dwight Schrute from The Officegiving that speech- “WE ARE WARRIORS!!”) We eagerly await the repertoire choices Maestro Demirjian (pronounced “de-MURR-gin”) makes to complement the solo repertoire which was chosen last November. It has been a long journey with many high points. We can't wait to see what the Maestro has in store for us!

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May 26

The Road to Tanzania

As the KSO's 80thseason winds down, it's an opportunity to take a look at what some members of our orchestra will be doing this summer.  There is one more concert, and it's tonight at 7:30 at Maryville's Theatre in the Park.  You guessed it, it's an outdoor concert, but the rain should be ending any minute now.  Resident Conductor Jim Fellenbaum will lead us in a fun, family-friendly show that is a repeat of our Market Square concert (which actually happened at the Bijou).  After that, it looks like HEAVY PARTYING as we await the announcement (annunciation?) of the selection of our new Music Director. As happened in a previous summer, principal clarinetist Gary Sperl will be flying across the pond to teach with the Daraja Music Initiative in Moshi, Tanzania.  Actually, his previous stint there was for an entire school year, (during which Peter Cain was our principal clarinetist), but rest assured, he will be back in the fall for the new MD's first season.  He will be joined by violist Hillary Herndon and violinist Rachel Loseke this summer in this VOLUNTEER teaching mission.  Gary's project there started a while back and is also known as Clarinets for Conservation.  In addition to the obvious music education value, C4C seeks to educate about the plight of the mpingo tree, which is unique to Tanzania and from which comes the wood used to make clarinets.  Last summer Hillary started a sister project called Daraja Strings, which involved some of her UT students.  Rachel is very excited about the trip, and has set up a Gofundme account to help defray costs.  Hillary also has set up a fundraising mechanism through UT called Volstarter, which can be accessed byclicking here.  We wish them the best of luck this summer!

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May 12

Grand (Opera) Finale

The KSO's May Masterworks concert pair offers a grand opportunity for grand opera music.  The centerpiece of the concerts will be The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure, which is music from the four operas making up Wagner's Ringcycle, arranged by Henk de Vlieger.  The lighter side of this music was presented in January, 2015 as part of our “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” Pops concert, along with footage of Bugs and Elmer as Siegfried and Brunhilde.  While there won't be any singing on our concert, there will be a massive orchestra featuring a rarely heard instrument that was invented just for these operas: the Wagner Tuba.  (And please remember, his name is pronounced “VOG-ner”). The Wagner tuba is an instrument that is doubled by French horn players.  I can't find the words to describe the difference between a French horn's sound and a Wagner tuba's sound, but the difference is real, and worth coming out to experience.  One unusual thing about this concert is the presence of not one but TWO pieces of music that have offstage brass.  At two different points in the Wagner, principal horn Jeffery Whaley will step off the stage and play the vaunted Siegfried horn calls that every horn player loves.Our Wagner Tuba Quartet, from left: Sean Donovan, Mark Harrell, Mitzi Hall, Katie Johnson.A better look at the Wagner tuba (right) compared to French horn (left). The concert will open with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3,one of four overtures Beethoven composed for various productions of his opera Fidelio.  More like a movement of a symphony than an overture per se,this work features principal trumpet Chase Hawkins rendering two fanfares from different parts of the house.  There is also a demonically difficult violin lick shortly after the fanfares, you can't miss it.  The work is considered the best of the four overtures Beethoven composed for Fidelio,but it has been criticized for overwhelming the music which follows it in the opera-- in essence, for being TOO good. Between the Beethoven and the Wagner comes a work which is decidedly not from 19th-century Germany.  American composer Christopher Theofanidis (rhymes with “free this”) has written a three-movement suite based on Australian aboriginal creation myths.  Theofanidis' musical language is reminiscent of Adam Schoenberg, whose Finding Rothkowe performed last month, and of Gian Carlo Menotti.  I find it remarkable that the four horns that lead off the work seem louder than the 11 (or so) horns that populate the Wagner orchestra. A special tribute will be offered after the Beethoven. Keyboardist Carol Zinavage, who is resigning at the end of the season, will be honored for her 31 years of playing with the orchestra.  When I was new in town, she and I became fast friends, and soon began a long string of (roughly) annual recital collaborations.  We discovered that our musical interests had a lot of overlap, especially concerning Rock n' Roll, and it was so heartening to know another person who “gets” my sense of humor.  We'll miss ya, Carol!

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Pat Summitt once conducted the KSO! Blog Post: The Passing of a True Leader #ThankYouPat https://t.co/Fwma70AyJC https://t.co/6n9n3nUbCKWed, June 29, 2016

String Camp grew to 250 kids this year - that's a lot of music to be made! https://t.co/mOwtvrBYNjWed, June 29, 2016

RT @FrankMurphyCom: I hope to see you at World's Fair Park for the #FestivalOnTheFourth2016! (Thanks to @ahuff29 for the nice photo!) https…Wed, June 29, 2016

Forecast is looking good for #KSOJuly4! https://t.co/STsurMPOwYWed, June 29, 2016

RT @NAfME: Share how YOUR music teacher inspired you for a chance to win $1,000 for his/her school! #MusicEdIdol https://t.co/p8g4QhBQ3uMon, June 27, 2016