Category Archives: Events

Instrument drive seeks to gather 100 instruments at Prince tribute concerts

The Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis will host three concert/dance nights on June 3, June 4, and June 8. “This Thing Called Life” will feature performances by original members of the New Power Generation, Tracey Blake, Julius Collins, and more.

Collins Live, organizers of the tribute concerts, have partnered with arts education advocacy nonprofit, Vega Productions,  to host a month-long musical instrument drive that will kick off at these Prince tribute shows.

“Music can change lives. We are so excited to be a part of this incredible mission, helping to bring music to a child’s world,” said vocalist and songwriter, Julius Collins.

The goal of the drive is to donate 100 musical instruments to Minneapolis Public Schools. With a donation of musical instruments from Vega Productions, the instrument drive is already halfway to success.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Collins Live, members of the New Power Generation, and Prince fans to make music education possible for all students in Minneapolis Public Schools,” said Caitlin Marlotte, Executive Director of Vega Productions.

To donate musical instruments to the instrument drive, donors should visit to make a musical instrument donation. To provide financial support to cover the costs of instrument repair, visit the drive’s instrument repair fund on

Related Stories

Prince’s First Music Teacher

How should Minn. honor Prince? Fund music education

Play It Forward: Classical MPR’s Instrument Drive

High school students make music with Low’s Alan Sparhawk … and some robots

Composer Troy Rogers and Low's Alan Sparhawk (Publicity photo and MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
Composer Troy Rogers and Low’s Alan Sparhawk (Publicity photo and MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

From March 17 to 19, composer and robot maker Troy Rogers will be hosting a workshop in musical robotics at Two Harbors High School. The workshop is open to high school students from grade 6 to 12, and will teach them about both robotics and music as they collaborate to create a ‘robotic percussion ensemble’.

“It’s very exciting,” says Rogers. “Over the course of several days, students who may have never touched a soldering iron, built anything with electronics, or written a single note of music work collaboratively to make robotic instruments and write new music. In the process, technical and aesthetic concepts that may be boring or difficult in other contexts are rendered both comprehensible and fun.”

The workshop culminates with a public performance featuring the newly-created robotic instruments and special guest musician, Alan Sparhawk — guitarist and vocalist for the band, Low.

“Alan’s presence at the workshop will offer students a wonderful opportunity to interact with a a versatile, acclaimed songwriter and performer. Given his adventurous musical spirit and singular voice, I fully expect he’ll push the robots into previously unexplored territory, and it will be very exciting to share this unique experience with the students and audience,” says Rogers.

Learn more about Troy Rogers — his music, his robots, and his work in education — on his website. Here is a video featuring one of his more recent creations, Stemmetje, which is a robotic musical instrument capable of producing human voice-like sounds.

Enjoying classical music on the go

The day was sunny and warm and music flowed from every venue in St Paul’s Lowertown. I had the privilege of hosting a number of St. Paul Classical Music Crawl tours this past Saturday, Oct. 10.

What a great group of people and what a great collection of musicians. We heard a string quartet from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (at Union Depot), the excellent singers from Glorious Revolution Baroque (at the Baroque Room), student music from the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota School (at Black Dog Café), and members of the Minnesota Opera (at Nautilus Music Theater) all in the course of two hours.

In the photos below (taken in the various venues our tour group visited), we’re all smiles because the day was just that good!





The Young Artist World Piano Festival begins this week

Pianist Paul Wirth, left, talks with his student, William Yang. Wirth specializes in teaching and developing the talent of young pianists. (MPR Photo/Chris Roberts)
Pianist Paul Wirth, left, talks with his student, William Yang. Wirth specializes in teaching and developing the talent of young pianists. (MPR Photo/Chris Roberts)

Starting July 8th and running through July 18th, the Young Artist World Piano Festival takes place at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minn.

The festival was founded in 1990 by Dr. Paul Wirth and Sister Cecelia Schmitt as a way for pre-college aged pianists in Minnesota to study their craft and meet other Minnesotans with a shared passion. In the 25 years of its existence, it’s blossomed into a more international experience, bringing in pianists from around the world.

Highlights of the 10-day festival include:

• Special guest artist Marina Lomazov, who will judge the Concerto Competition and lead a master class.
• Guest faculty member Nelita True (hailed as ‘one of the world’s most sought-after and beloved pianist-teachers’), who will conduct two masterclasses.
• Pianist Horacio Nuguid, who (together with Marlene Pauley) will present Clara Schumann’s Konzertsatz — the first time the work has been peformed in the United States.

Dr. Wirth offers some of the history and background of the festival:

For more information, you can visit the Young Artist World Piano Festival website.

Jóhann Jóhannsson Brings ‘Chaconne’ and ‘Drone Mass’ to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johan Johannsson

Following the acclaim of his Golden-Globe-winning score for The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson is set to premiere two pieces at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  on Tuesday, March 17. Uniting with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and the 2014 Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth; Jóhannsson will perform pieces titled Chaconne, featuring violinist Yuki Numata Resnick; and Drone Mass, which “uses texts based on the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians.”

Jóhannsson’s art, impressive as it is on record and on screen, is even impressive in a live setting; often, the composer includes an electronic visual media component that shows him to be an experimentalist at heart—a composer who knows how to bridge classical music and a contemporary milieu.

The specific venue for this performance, however, will be anything but contemporary: the Met’s Temple of Dendur. If you’re going, don’t forget the kids! Though adult tickets are $40, kids can come for just $1.

#RACHparty with the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale

Square - RachParty graphic v9c

Welcome to the Classical MPR landing page of the #RACHparty: hosted by #TheChoralStream , the Kansas City Chorale, and the Phoenix Chorale.  Our stream will deliver the world premiere broadcast their “Rachmaninoff: All-night Vigil” CD at 8pm CDT. After the broadcast, please join us for an exclusive live video interview/hangout with both choirs and artistic director, Charles Bruffy.

Before the #RACHparty begins that evening, American Public Media’s Performance Today will broadcast a sneak preview of highlights from the new release to a national audience. During the broadcast, Performance Today host Fred Child will speak with artistic director Charles Bruffy and Dr. Vladimir Morosan, president of Musica Russica and a leading expert on Russian choral music. Child and Morosan will discuss the audience reaction to the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers and why the piece is still relevant today.

Listen Here


Google Hangout LIVE YouTube Feed

Official Google Hangout Event Page

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Link to KC Chorale Google+
Link to Phoenix Chorale Google+

Twitter Feed

We want your questions, so tweet using the hashtags #RACHparty and #AllNightVigil and your question might be used during the interview with Charles Bruffy and the choirs.

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Audio Sneak Peek

Music for Remembering

Before video-streaming services, people turned to television to view Rodgers and Hammerstein’s telling of the Von Trapp family’s musical ascent and their subsequent escape from Austria after the Anschluss. Nearly every year during my childhood, my family and I watched The Sound of Music on TV, captivated by the story and the songs.

One year stands out in particular. When I was about seven years old, the next morning after watching the film, I sat at our kitchen table with scrap paper and crayons. A confusing image lingered in my mind from the previous night’s viewing, so I began tracing the jagged symbol I had seen in the film — something my childish brain took to mean not much more than “the bad guys.” In the midst of this naïve artistic endeavor, my dad walked into the kitchen and stopped me. “We don’t ever draw that,” he said firmly.

Putting my crayons aside, he proceeded to explain — in terms perfectly tailored to a boy, aged seven — the Holocaust. He described how men, women and children were taken away and murdered for no other reason than for being Jewish. Because one of my very first friends was Ari, a boy in my neighborhood who often came out to play wearing a yarmulke, there was added poignancy to what my father said.

Since that early conversation with my dad, my grasp of the atrocity and scale of the Holocaust has been reinforced through reading The Diary of Anne Frank at school and by reading Elie Wiesel’s Night and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning at college. I’ve been able to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and just last year, I visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Ill., for the first time.

Fountain of the Righteous at Illinois Holocaust Museum
Fountain of the Righteous outside the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Ill. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)

The latter two articulated the fact that the Holocaust happened in modern times. Although people in the 1930s and ’40s didn’t carry smartphones, their lifestyle was a lot like ours: They listened to the radio. They went to the movies. They lived in cities and worked in offices and drove cars and used public transit and cooked dinner and washed dishes and went shopping and wore clothes not much different from our own.

And they listened to music.

January 27, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In his book, Desperate Journey, Auschwitz survivor Freddie Knoller describes growing up in Vienna and loving music. After the Anschluss, he fled his native Austria for Belgium, where he worked for a while as a cellist in a young people’s orchestra. When Belgium was invaded, Knoller was forced to flee again, and advised to carry only the essentials. “My cello was not an essential, but how I hated leaving it behind,” Knoller writes. “With its loss, I felt I was leaving part of myself, the part which tied me to my life in Vienna, to my parents. When I played, I always thought of home.”

Knoller’s parents died at Auschwitz. Knoller himself lived as a refugee for a few years but was ultimately transported to the death camp. By dint of his unrelenting survival instinct and no small amount of random luck, Knoller survives to this day.

Viktor Ullmann, a composer, conductor and pianist, did not survive. His music, however, lives on, as evidenced by this recording of his Violin Concerto No. 3, from the album, Uplifting Discoveries from a Generation Lost: Music of composers who died in the Holocaust (Centaur 2342). Ullmann’s work is performed by the Colorado Chamber Players:

[apmaudio id=”/minnesota/classical/performances/2015/01/26/20150126_ullman_str_qtt_no3_20150126″ site=”classicalmpr” date=”Jan 26, 2015″ title=”Viktor Ullman, String Quartet No. 3″][/apmaudio]

It stirs recollection of a lesson about the Holocaust from another family member, my maternal grandfather. During World War II, he had been part of an Allied railway brigade, charged with rebuilding the rail infrastructure as the Axis powers retreated from North Africa, Italy, France and ultimately, into Germany.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s Disease mercilessly stole my grandfather’s delightful wit and steel-trap memory in his final years, but there was a late moment of lucidity that remains permanently inscribed in my mind. It was something he had never told me before.

He and I were watching television, and a news story about a Holocaust commemoration came on. My grandfather spoke, his tone angry. “There are people who say that didn’t happen,” he spat incredulously. “But I saw it — I saw those people liberated from the camps. Their faces —” he gripped his own face and squeezed his cheeks together to describe the emaciated survivors’ appearances. “I saw it. It happened. Don’t forget that.”

With stories and with ceremonies and with music, people the world over take time to remember.

Composer conversations get at the heart of making music

Missy Mazzoli
“All music was once new,” goes the sign off each day for The Composers Datebook.

Maybe that’s self-evident, yet to fans of classical music, it can still sound a little startling. We cherish classical music in large part for its timelessness — the capacity to speak across generations and centuries. At best, its power is at once enduring and time-specific, universal and personal.

But if great music tunes us in to the eternal, it’s still grounded in the time and place of its original creation, the moment of its being “once new.” It’s easy to forget, as we return again and again to our favorite masterworks, that classical music (broadly defined) is a living art form, not only because centuries-old works continue to invite exhilarating new interpretations, but as importantly because it continues to incorporate the present-day works of living composers.

Intended for music lovers of all stripes, Composer Conversations is an informal sit-down with some of our time’s best emerging and established living composers, and some of the artists who perform their music. Now in its third year and hosted by Top Score‘s Emily Reese, the series explores its guests’ inspirations, artistic history, and current projects, offering a glimpse into the processes and people behind the compositions.

The 2015 Composer Conversations will welcome Kevin Puts (Feb. 18); Bryce Dessner with special guests Carolyn Shaw and Richard Reed Perry (April 2); Fred Lerdahl (April 22); and Missy Mazzoli (May 8). All conversations take place at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul. Tickets are free, but reservations are required.

Past Composer Conversations guests include Laurie Anderson, Maria Schneider, John Luther Adams, Shawn Jaeger, Nicola Campogrande, John Harbison, Sufjan Stevens, Vivian Fung, Timo Andres, Gabriel Kahane, and Dawn Upshaw.

Joshua Bell brings music to Union Station once again

Remember this 2007 story that got everyone talking (albeit briefly) about classical music? Violinist Joshua Bell played incognito at a Metro station in Washington, D.C., during rush hour, in an “experiment” designed by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten:

Commuters brushed past one of the great musicians of our time — he was almost universally ignored — and Weingarten’s WaPo story won a Pulitzer Prize.

On Tuesday this week, Joshua Bell got a do-over of sorts, playing a well-publicized event in the main hall of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station … and several thousand folks showed up. There are more details here from PBS’s News Hour.

Said Bell to the crowd: “This is more like it!”

Minneapolis boy's handmade front-yard piano concert ad goes viral

Dylan Spoering Piano Concert.jpg

Dylan Spoering, a young boy living in Uptown Minneapolis, is planning a piano concert tomorrow afternoon in his front yard — and a hand-made sign has earned him publicity he could never have dreamed of. Well, then again, he seems like the type of kid who dreams big.

Neighbor Thomas Rehbein noticed Dylan’s sign in the front yard of the boy’s home at 25th and Bryant, and was so charmed that he created a Facebook event to promote Dylan’s concert. Rehbein later returned and found Dylan “out in front of the house promoting the concert to everyone within earshot. It will be on the front lawn. He and his whole family are pretty excited about you coming.”

As I write, the Facebook event has over 700 invitees and nearly 60 confirmed attendees. The concert has been featured in l’etoile magazine’s weekend event recommendations; among those who plan to attend are local musicians Gabriel Douglas (the 4onthefloor) and Cobey Rouse (Batteryboy). Local actress Anna Hickey also talked with Dylan, and reports that he’s promising an ice cream social as well.

There’s no word yet on what pieces Dylan will play, but the sign indicates that he’ll be tickling the ivories from 2:30-3:20 p.m.


Update 7/12, 12:30 p.m.: A day later, Dylan’s fame has spread. There are almost 500 attendees confirmed on Facebook, and there are plans to live-stream the concert when it begins at 2:30. Watch the stream, provided by Travis Lee, here.