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Tuning Up: Literally (spoiler: it’s about orchestras)

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...

This morning we offer some news and notes from South Carolina orchestras. ICYMI: Three Mor-ihiko Years. The South Carolina Philharmonic announced a three-year contract extension for Music Director Morihiko Nakahara this week, keeping him in Columbia into (at least) 2022 for a total of (at least) 14 seasons. The Free Times caught up with the well-traveled maestro, who begins his 11th season, and the orchestra's 55th, Saturday, Sept. 29. Rock Hill Symphony debuts tomorrow night. Literally. As in, first-ever concert, not just new season. Pianist Marina Lomazov (an SCAC music performance fellowship recipient) is the featured soloist for the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto on Music Director David Rudge's premiere program, which also offers works by Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Smetana, and more. It is sold out (and has been), but check out the first season's offerings here. Season's greetings! Rock Hill joins 10 other professional orchestras in South Carolina. September and October are typically when orchestra season gets going. Here are start dates for others from around the Palmetto State: Did you have any idea South Carolina has so many orchestras? This doesn't even count the college and community orchestras. All 10 listed above will receive operating support (or more) from the S.C. Arts Commission in FY19.

Charleston’s new Gaillard Center prepares for community engagement

From the Charleston Post and Courier (Article by Adam Parker; photos by Brad Nettles)

Professional concert presenters tend to take a long view. They work a year or two, sometimes three or four, in advance in order to ensure that their performance halls are booked. Spoleto Festival USA is already putting the pieces in place for its 2016 arts extravaganza, even as it finalizes the details of next year's 17-day event. The Charleston Symphony, too, is charting its programs and other offerings for the 2015-16 season, the first to include newly named music director, Ken Lam. The recently formed Gaillard Management Corporation, responsible for booking the concert and exhibition halls, is faced with a unique challenge: It must ensure that construction is completed by spring and the facility's crew is ready for action in time for the April 2015 gala. It's got little time. The first full season begins next August. Going forward, GMC will strive to present 10-15 concert programs and other events each season, relying on local arts groups to fill out the rest of the schedule, according to Tom Tomlinson, who was named the organization's first executive director in March. Two weeks ago, GMC hired its new education director, Rick Jerue, former head of the Art Institute of Charleston.

'Maturing of the arts'

GMC board member Luther Cochrane said the opening gala will be a 10-day affair that begins April 17 and concludes two Sundays later. It will include "someone or a combination of people who will be nationally and internationally significant," he said. The concerts all will be acoustic. "The whole point is to showcase the hall," Tomlinson said, adding that negotiations with performers are still underway so details can't be publicized yet. Cochrane said the programming will likely include concerts for children, gospel music and presentations by local artists and ensembles, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. The concert and exhibition hall both will be used. "We will try to make it as diverse as we can," he said. The show featuring "internationally significant" artists will be an opening night fundraiser. "As programming for the building is done, it will be done in such a sensitive way as there will be something for everybody," GMC board member Renee Anderson said. Looking further ahead, the Gaillard could host holiday concerts, New Year's Eve galas, opera productions, touring orchestras, popular entertainers and more - in addition to performances by local groups, of course. Jason Nichols, director of the Charleston Concert Association said he was once concerned about whether and how his presenting organization and GMC would work together, but after a series of "very positive discussions," he is happy and optimistic. "I think things are going to work out beautifully for the two organizations," Nichols said. "I think what we'll see with the development of the new Gaillard under (Tomlinson's) leadership is a maturing of the arts community in a very positive way." Work on the building, a $142 million project, continues, now at a frenetic pace. Cochrane said the facility will be ready for public use in April, even if a few punch list items remain unfinished. In May, Spoleto Festival USA takes control of the Gaillard and is planning its own opening festivities, according to General Director Nigel Redden. "We will do our own celebration when we open the festival, trying to show it off in a variety of ways," Redden said. "We are planning a festival that will take full advantage of the Gaillard. We want to test its possibilities." That means a big opera production, dance, classical music concerts and amplified popular music shows. "And we've very excited about it," Redden added. "I think it's going to be a wonderful theater."

'A true civic center'

Jerue, like his GMC colleagues, hit the ground running. He is meeting with leaders in Charleston's arts community, gathering information about education programming here and elsewhere and thinking about ways in which the Gaillard can facilitate stronger outreach. "We don't want to duplicate what others are doing," he said. "We should find out the areas that aren't being served, (where) we might have the unique ability to move in and serve those areas." Eventually he will devise a plan of action. "My philosophy is that the Gaillard needs to be a true civic center that's embraced by the community at large, so I'm going to find ways to try to make that happen," he said, emphasizing the need to be inclusive so that all arts organizations, large and small, have a chance to collaborate with the Gaillard and, potentially, one another. "If it's done right, it's going to provide long-standing direction for the Gaillard." Meanwhile, Tomlinson is (among other things) working to schedule events. Already, 268 "use days" have been booked for the Gaillard Center's first 12 months of operation. Of those days when either the concert hall or exhibition hall is in use, about 170 are "public days" when the Gaillard hosts a performance or event, he said. (The rest are days when rehearsals, set-up and other activities are underway.) He's in discussions with a group in the Southeast that might hold its 2017 convention in the Holy City, and he's actively negotiating with local organizations, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Concert Association and Jazz Artists of Charleston. Leah Suarez, executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston, said she is "happy to be at the table" discussing opening festivities and other opportunities. "It says not only that the Gaillard is important but the whole musical landscape," she said. From her organization's perspective, the Gaillard presents some intriguing possibilities. "There are lots of opportunities to utilize the performance hall, as well as the exhibition hall and the outdoor spaces - pretty much the entire building," she said. Jazz Artists of Charleston produces the big band series featuring the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, among other initiatives. The CJO has made its home at the Charleston Music Hall on John Street since its inception more than six years ago, and that's not going to change, Suarez said. But that doesn't mean the CJO and other groups associated with Jazz Artists of Charleston can't present a variety of concerts, education programming and community outreach events in collaboration with the Gaillard, she said. The potential opportunities for engaging young people and drawing them to a major, centralized performance space, are particularly attractive, Suarez added. And the interest the GMC has shown in working with a variety of arts organization is encouraging. "We have a responsibility to make sure Charleston's imprint is diverse and inclusive, and that artists' integrity is intact," Suarez said. "There's plenty of room for everything. That's the feeling I'm getting. It challenges us to be creative as a community, and inclusive, and to collaborate."
Via: Charleston Post and Courier (more images available here.)

Charleston Symphony Orchestra appoints new music director

From the Charleston Post and Courier:
Ken LamThe Charleston Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday the selection of Ken Lam as its new music director. Lam was one of six finalists for the coveted position. All candidates came to Charleston during the 2013-14 season to conduct a Masterworks program and meet with musicians, staff and board members, patrons and benefactors. Lam led the fifth concert, which featured Stravinsky's "The Firebird Suite." He will begin the 2014-15 season, already settled, with the title Music Director Designate and work to firm up programming and educational outreach initiatives for the following season. He will take the podium as the symphony's new leader in the fall of 2015, when the orchestra first occupies the stage of the newly refurbished Gaillard Center. CSO Executive Director Michael Smith said the word "sincerity" kept coming up in connection with Lam. Smith said the 12-member search committee, which included five musicians, was enthusiastic about Lam, his charisma, humility, vision and potential for community engagement. "I think Ken, because of his musical experience and because of his personality, I think he'll become an asset to the community immediately," Smith said. Concertmaster and Acting Artistic Director Yuriy Bekker will remain in charge of the chamber orchestra series at the Dock Street Theatre. He will trade his artistic director title for Director of Chamber Orchestra. Bekker called Lam "a wonderful musician, a great conductor and a delightful person. I'm so looking forward to collaborating with him and continuing to present world-class music to the Charleston community," Bekker said. "I'm so honored to continue to lead the chamber orchestra series. I love the series, I love the intimacy of it." Lam, 43, will relocate to Charleston; he will likely maintain certain existing obligations and occasionally guest conduct other ensembles. He is currently resident conductor of the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina, education conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras, and associate professor and director of orchestra at Montclair State University in New Jersey. In recent years, Lam has made appearances with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Meridian Symphony Orchestra and at Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center Festival and Luminato Festival in Toronto. He spoke admiringly of Charleston and its symphony. "I felt very comfortable down in Charleston," he said. "I just think all the ingredients are there. It's rare that you go to place where musicians and management actually like each other. Everywhere I go I just feel this buzz about the orchestra. All know that the orchestra has gone through a tough period of time. People who stuck with it, I think they're immensely proud of what they've accomplished." The last music director, David Stahl, presided over the orchestra for 26 years, until his death in October 2010. Lam said the Charleston Symphony is on the cusp of greater success. He hopes to introduce challenging repertoire that stimulates players and audiences alike, he wants to expand education outreach programming and he expects to oversee the continued growth - physical, financial and musical - of the organization, he said. "The reason I was just so keen for this position, it just seems that there are not a lot of places where you go there and think the future is limitless," Lam said. "But here I really feel it's about to take off." Board president Cindy Hartley said Lam was the overwhelming favorite of the musicians and that he received great support and feedback from many others. She said that entire management team now is restored thanks to the recent appointment of Smith, the new leadership role for Bekker and the engagement of Lam. "We have the whole compliment in place," Hartley said. "A year from this coming season, we move into the new Gaillard. We are excited to no end. It will be Ken's inaugural season. A new hall, a new music director: it's kind of serendipity."
Via: The Charleston Post and Courier

Young patrons are a “Remix” for Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Charleston City Paper reports on a new effort by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra to revamp classical music's image with a young patron's group.
If classical music makes you think of old, Austrian men with funny wigs who wear knee-grazing britches, let the Charleston Symphony Orchestra remix that for you. The CSO’s new young patron group — appropriately named Remix — wants to show you that classical music has a story to tell, and that tale isn’t stuffy. That’s a pretty big task in itself. But that doesn’t scare Hugh McDaniel, a Remix committee member. He’s passionate about the CSO, about music, and about Remix. Remix is going back to some of classical music’s roots, which seems kind of counter-intuitive. Using history to bring the music of wigged old men into modern times seems like it would just induce more snores, but Remix wants to utilize the fun part of the history. And yes that does involve parties, but not ragers. Instead Remix will reintroduce the salons of 18th-and 19th-century Europe, which were ways for people to gather, listen to music, and discuss cultural events in small, private settings. Remix’s salons will do the same, with the first one scheduled for Sept. 27 at Redux featuring the Remix Quartet. They’ll perform amid Gwyneth Scally’s nature-inspired exhibit, which is currently hanging in Redux’s gallery. By offering classical music in an intimate setting, Remix will be able to explain how the composition came to be and make it relatable. “Our generation is just not very open to paying good money for symphony tickets to sit in a dark hall and stare at a bunch of musicians on stage,” says McDaniel. “I love it, we love it, but unfortunately our generation just doesn’t do that as a common habit. So what we want to do is to really bridge that gap.” Sometimes those explanations will be about how Beethoven was inspired by Haydn, but other times they could be more personal, like how the composer was dealing with heartbreak or death. These backstories can resonate with listeners and help them hear the music in a new light. “Context makes a piece so much more relative, and we want to give listeners a key to understanding the music,” McDaniel says. Jonathan Gray, a musician, Jump Little Children bandmate, and a Remix member, has always been a fan of the CSO, but he’s really excited to see how Remix can bring the orchestra musicians into different types of venues with new audience members. “Even if the music is 300 years old, it can still relate in today’s world,” he says. The CSO just needs to present it to audiences in ways that can show that, which is what Remix’s events will do — and why Gray is so hopeful and happy to be part of it. Another element of Remix’s programming, called Fusion events, involves collaboration with other artistic groups around town. They’ve already teamed up with the Charleston Library Society and have plans to work with the Charleston Historic Foundation. McDaniel is a big fan of working with a wide range of organizations. By intermingling, it’s easier to reach different audiences. And it doesn’t hurt to learn how other groups handle events and fundraising efforts. One of the key differences between Remix and other young patrons’ groups is its dedication to hosting family events. This is a two-fold win. By making events more inclusive, Remix has an edge over other more networking- and party-focused groups around town. Second, they’re introducing classical music to the next generation. “We’re out to inspire the next generation of symphony supporters, and we’re doing that through innovative programming with a younger audience,” says McDaniel. While it may be a while before the kids at a Peter and the Wolf family event can financially contribute, it’s never too early to familiarize people with classical music. And with a busy fall and spring season planned, Remix has a pretty good idea of where they see themselves in the future. Sure, they want membership to grow (currently they have about 50 members), but they don’t want the events to grow too large or lose intimacy. “We’re all about the music, first and foremost,” McDaniel says. Well, play on Remix, play on. Remix’s first fall event is at Redux Contemporary Art Studio on Sept. 27. Their first family event is Sept. 29 with a performance of Peter and the Wolf at Charles Towne Landing. Individual tickets are available for the event, or join Remix for $100 ($150/couple) and receive a discounted ticket price to both events. To learn more, visit charlestonsymphony.com/remix.
Via: Charleston City Paper