The Guitar and Other Strings Series, held every July, features all styles of music — jazz, bluegrass, folk, Celtic, flamenco, classical and blues.
Begun in 1992, the series has presented nationally and internationally acclaimed artists in concerts and workshops. Artists who have performed on this series include Leo Kottke, Mark O’Connor, John Hartford, John Jackson, the Washington Guitar Quintet, Charlie Byrd, the Tony Rice Unit, the Del McCoury Band, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Pierre Bensusan and Stephen Bennett. The VCU Community Guitar Ensemble also performs annually on this series.
The mission of the Brubeck Institute is to build on Dave and Iola’s Brubeck’s legacy and their lifelong dedication to music, creativity, education, and the advancement of social issues including civil rights, environmental concerns, international relations, and social justice. Through performance, education, and outreach, the Institute continues Dave and Iola’s belief in our shared humanity and the power of music to connect audiences from all walks of life.
In García’s letter of appointment, University of the Pacific President Dr. Pamela Eibeck highlighted García’s international reputation as a performer, breadth of teaching and scholarship, and passion for using music to address social change.
The Brubeck Institute Advisory Board (BIAB) advises in the development of the institute’s goals, policies, programs, and activities. García joins current board members Darius Brubeck, Chris Brubeck, Donald DeRosa – Pacific President Emeritus, Richard Jeweler – Brubeck family attorney, Pacific Conservatory of Music Dean Peter Witte, and Dr. Mary Somerville, Pacific University Librarian.
After 30 extraordinary years, beloved clarinet professor Dr. Charles “Chuck” West is retiring from VCU.
The tenured professor served as the VCU Department of Music’s Coordinator of Winds and Percussion for 28 years. West headed the clarinet studio, and has taught more than 17 music courses at VCU. He has been active recruiter, consistently retaining a strong studio of 15 to 16 clarinet majors. In 2011 West received the VCU School of the Arts Award of Excellence, which is the highest honor bestowed on a faculty member by the school.
VCU’s Festival of Winds, Brass and Percussion, which marked its 30th year in January, has thrived under his leadership. West has nourished the growth and success of the VCU Music Department over the years and influenced the lives of students and faculty in an enormous way.
“His impact on VCU Music and all of our lives has been immeasurable,” said Dr. Sandy Goldie, Assistant Professor of Music Education. “No one could ever take his place in our hearts and minds.”
To celebrate West’s retirement, students, alumni and faculty surprised him with a special recital on May 6. The recital featured soloists as well as a clarinet choir spanning several generations. Many traveled from across the country to perform that day. The recital was organized in secret by Dr. Antoine T. Clark, Rebecca Anderson and Mary Jo West, Dr. West’s wife.
In addition to helping organize the recital, Clark conducted the clarinet choir and acted as master of ceremonies. From the stage, he spoke of the profound influence that West had on his life.
“I’m a clarinetist, I’m a woodwinds specialist, I’m a conductor and sometimes composer because I wanted to be so much like that man sitting over there,” Clark said of West, addressing the audience. “For a little black kid from rural Virginia that had the opportunity to go the wrong way, he was someone that gave me an image to follow.”
Dr. West with the clarinet choir and other recital performers. Photo courtesy of Antoine T. Clark.
Several of Dr. West’s VCU colleagues spoke at the recital, recognizing him not only as an outstanding clarinetist and educator, but as a loyal and selfless friend.
Dr. Austin and Dr. West. Photo courtesy of Antoine T. Clark.
VCU’s Director of Bands and one of West’s closest colleagues, Dr. Terry Austin, shared many warm anecdotes of their friendship. He recalled how West stood by him during difficult times, notably during a period of prolonged illness when Austin was not keen on giving up conducting.
“Almost every rehearsal, I’d turn around at some point, and Chuck would be standing right there,” said Austin. “He’d say, ‘Do you need my help? Are you okay?’ Every day. That meant a lot.”
In addition to his career at VCU, West has enjoyed success as principal clarinetist in six professional orchestras and opera companies on two continents, and has held teaching positions and conducted ensembles all across the globe. West has also authored three books on woodwind pedagogy and served as president of the International Clarinet Association.
Even with all the accomplishments West has enjoyed beyond VCU, he regards this place as his home.
“I’ll try not to get choked up, but these are my friends here,” said West. “I knew that this time would come. It’s been 43 years of college teaching for me. I just wanted to retire while I still had enough health and life in me to go do something else.”
West is planning to stay busy in his retirement, continuing to conduct the Youth Orchestra of Central Virginia and serving as a clinician for Buffet Crampon and Hal Leonard, among others. He is also looking forward to traveling, carpentry, boating, gym workouts, cooking, and service activities both within and outside the music realm. “I’m pretty open to interesting things that come up,” West said.
Dr. West and Dr. Valvo enjoy coffee together at 3rd Street Diner. Photo courtesy of Dr. West.
West’s retirement ushers in a new chapter for VCU’s clarinet studio. This fall, VCU Music will welcome Dr. Tiffany Valvo as assistant professor of clarinet. Valvo holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Master’s Degree in Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Clarinet Performance from Florida State University. She has taught on the faculties at Eastman, Nazareth College in Rochester, and most recently Syracuse University.
“Dr. Valvo is clearly a people person, an elegant player, and very positive,” said West. “My hope is that she will build on the national reputation that we have established over three decades, and keep the image of VCU as a clarinet school in the national eye.”
What do you get when you combine eleven brass players, one professor, a trip to another continent, a music education nonprofit and an international music festival? One unforgettable experience.
Dr. Ross Walter, VCU Music’s associate professor of trombone, euphonium and tuba, has been taking VCU brass players to perform in Cartagena, Colombia for six years. This year he traveled with his largest group yet, Commonwealth Brass, which consists of eleven VCU student and alumni brass players. This annual trip not only provides an invaluable performing and cultural experience for the VCU musicians, but it also brings something very special to the community of Cartagena.
“You always hear people say that music is a universal language, but you don’t really understand it until you experience it first hand, “said VCU trumpet player, Hamed Barbarji. “I didn’t know any Spanish so I had to learn to teach and explain things through music.”
“The overall performing experience was great because not only are you getting more practice as a performer, but you are doing different things than you would do in the States,” Barbarji said. “You have to put yourself out of your comfort zone to make the audience happy and entertained.”
Evelia Gonzalez Porto, president of Fundación Tocando Puertas: para abrir futuros, invites Walter and his students to perform and teach in Colombia every year. The title of Porto’s foundation translates to “Knocking on Doors to Open Futures” and is dedicated to bettering the lives of children through music and education.
Over the years, Porto has brought many Colombian musicians and students to the United States for their education. It was through one of those students that Walter met Porto, and they have collaborated ever since.
Commonwealth Brass with the children of Bocachica
The Colombian dancers of Bocachica
Walter and Commonwealth Brass toured Cartagena from May 17-24, performing for a variety of audiences. They found a particularly interactive audience while performing at a local community center on the island of Bocachica. When Commonwealth Brass invited people to come conduct the ensemble, audience members young and old jumped at the chance.
The audience especially loved the song “Colombia Tierra Querida (Colombia Beloved Land).” As the ensemble played, the whole crowd began to clap and sing the lyrics to the song of their land. Each year Dr. Walter’s brass group learns this popular Colombian tune to perform in Cartagena, and it never fails to delight. The foundation considers this song to be its anthem.
The VCU musicians performed their largest concert in the beautiful Teatro Adolfo Mejía on May 22, where they wowed a near capacity audience. The Festival Internacional de Brass: dialogo entre dos culturas occurs annually, serving as the “grand finale” of the trip to Cartagena. The VCU musicians are featured as guest artists, and they collaborate with faculty and students from Colombian schools, culminating in one final performance of “Colombia Tierra Querida.” The students find that performing in the stunning Colombian theater for such an incredibly receptive audience is a rewarding and memorable experience.
“For some of us that theater is the most gorgeous place we’re ever going to play in our lives. To get that kind of experience is extremely beneficial,” said VCU alumni Jonathan Forbes.
Commonwealth Brass performing at Teatro Adolfo Mejía
Each year the VCU students also get the opportunity to teach and perform at Colombian schools. This year Commonwealth Brass visited and performed at two Cartagenan universities, the University Institution Bellas Artes y Ciencias de Bolívar and Corporación Universitaria Autónoma de Nariño.
They also performed at Comfenalco, a private school for children in Cartagena, and taught master classes to the young musicians there. The VCU students worked with the children one-on-one and in small groups to help improve their musicianship and technical abilities.
Noah Fotis and Gloria Ramirez teaching a student of Comfenalco
Hamed Barbarji teaching a private trumpet lesson
Walter and his brass players bring instruments to the schools of Cartagena and donate them through Fundación Tocando Puertas. This year, Walter and the Commonwealth Brass presented four trombones, a clarinet and an alto saxophone to the foundation. Over the past six years the program has donated a total of 40 instruments.
Walter finds that this trip enhances the music department as a whole. The rehearsal process alone greatly improves the musicianship and abilities of the brass students. Additionally, the performance experience is truly unique. The Colombian culture’s deep love and appreciation for music makes it extremely rewarding to perform there. The students who go on this trip return to VCU as more mature musicians and performers, and they enrich the VCU music ensembles through their experience.
“The students have to prepare for professional level performances, and when they perform in Colombia people really appreciate them. That is a very special thing,” said Walter. “Their brass ensembles might perform for a small audience here on campus, but when when they go there they perform for a big theater full of people who enthusiastically receive their music.”
Next year Walter hopes to travel with a new young group of VCU brass players and have alumni of the program come and join them on the final concert.
Dr. Adamek, left, with Kosciuszko Foundation House director Barbara Bernhardt
When many people think of Polish music, their minds might not go much further than Frédéric Chopin. Dr. Magdalena Adamek, Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano, hopes to expand people’s ideas about Polish music by sharing her extensive knowledge – with special attention to her favorite composer, Feliks Nowowiejski (1877-1946).
As a native of Poland, Adamek has an incredible passion for the music of her country and has devoted herself to sharing Polish music with the rest of the world. Nowowiejski has been a great inspiration to Adamek, and she has spent much of her life extensively researching his works.
“I want to stay as diverse as possible. I want to show and let people know that I do have my own interests and area of expertise that I more than desire to share, especially when it’s my passion for music from my own country… I take personal pride in introducing his solo piano works to the western audience,” Adamek said.
Feliks Nowowiejski (1877-1946)
Adamek’s journey with Feliks Nowowiejski started in Poland in 2001, while she was working with the independent Polish label, Acte Prèalable. The owner of the label introduced Adamek to Nowowiejski’s youngest son and daughter in-law, Jan and Janina Nowowiejski, who worked very hard to preserve the composer’s legacy and compositions.
Adamek was then given an incredible amount of the composer’s unpublished, handwritten manuscripts.
While Nowowiejski’s organ concerti, organ symphonies, choir works, oratorios, and opera, The Legend of The Baltic Sea, have enjoyed certain amount of popularity, his solo piano works have not been popularized. Only six out of the available 28 piano pieces have been published. Adamek hopes to establish his international profile as a composer of worthwhile piano music.
“My dream and my actual desire is that at least some of his piano works, especially the last ones, get published finally. It makes me a little bit sad that not enough performances, even from my own country, include his piano works. I see his songs being recorded, or orchestras performing his overtures, but not much has been done about his piano works,” she said.
As Adamek began to learn and interpret the handwritten manuscripts of Nowowiejski’s piano works, she found herself fascinated by his music and his ability to show national identity through art. She describes his late piano works as beautifully colorful, complex texturally and harmonically, and containing dramatic dynamic contrasts.
Adamek’s passion for Nowowiejski’s compositions and legacy eventually led her to perform and give lectures on his work all across the globe, as well as recording two CDs of his piano works, “Feliks Nowowiejski – Piano Works Vol. 1 and 2,” and making him the subject of her doctoral essay, “Piano works by Feliks Nowowiejski.” She also wrote her own book, “The Unknown Face of Feliks Nowowiejski: The Piano Works,” which was published by VDM In Germany in 2008.
Shortly after joining VCU’s faculty in 2015, Adamek was contacted by Professor Krzysztof Szatrawski from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, to contribute to his collaborative book, “Reception: New Research On the Music by Feliks Nowowiejski.” Her portion of the book is entitled “Feliks’s Nowowiejski’s masterful stylization of the Polish folk dance: Polish Dance No. 2 in D minor.” Adamek is still collaborating with Szatrawski and is currently writing an article for one of his interdisciplinary journals.
Adamek recently gave a piano recital on Polish composers at the Kosciuszko Foundation House in Washington, D.C. and has been invited to perform in Poland this summer at The Feliks Nowowiejski Music Salon in Poznan and The Feliks Nowowiejski Museum in Barczewo, the birthplace of the great composer.
Adamek hopes to enrich the culture at VCU by sharing her unique heritage and passion for Polish music.
“Hopefully while I am here I will help the community to see that it’s really worthwhile to reach out and enrich the place you live by bringing in other elements from a different country,” Adamek said. “When I look at Richmond, it’s so diverse…There are so many people from different countries that merge. I think at VCU we want to build that sense of community and diversity,” she said.
Hannah Standiford was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to further study keroncong music in Indonesia. She spent the 2014-15 school year studying gamelan and keroncong under the Darmasiswa scholarship after first participating in Gamelan Raga Kusuma, a community Balinese gamelan group based in Richmond. After returning to Richmond from Indonesia, Hannah founded Rumput, a folk group that mixes keroncong and Appalachian music. Learn more by watching her TEDxRVAWomen talk:
Natalie Quick, also a member of Rumput and Gamelan Raga Kusama, was awarded the Darmasiswa scholarship to study gamelan in Indonesia for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Robert Andrew Scott was selected to participate in the 16th annual Bang on a Can Summer Festival at at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass. The selection process is extremely rigorous with fewer than ten composers awarded acceptance.
Chris Johnston has been working in the film industry as a music consultant. He hires musicians, writes/records music, trains actors to play instruments and researches period music and instruments for scenes. Some of his recent credits include HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries, Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (Look for Dr. West in the beginning of the movie!) and AMC’s “TURN: Washington’s Spies.” Johnston is also director of orchestras at Thomas Dale High School Center for the Arts.
Brianna Sklute earned a Master of Music in Conducting from University of Louisville and was named band director of Clover Hill High School.
Denver Walker earned a Master of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.
Kevin Estes became the new Personnel Manager of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. He had most recently served as the Program Coordinator for the Performing Arts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, coordinating and expanding the live music and performing arts offerings within the hospital facilities.
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Yin Zheng has been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure.
Erin Freeman has been appointed to the tenure-eligible position of Director of Choral Activities at VCU and Director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus at RSO.
John Patykula was published in Classical Guitar Magazine. His article, “A Night to Remember: A look at the 1956 premiere of Villa-Lobos’ immortal Concerto for Guitar performed by Andrés Segovia,” appears in the Summer 2017 issue. Click here to see the article.
Susanna Klein was awarded a Presidential Research Quest Fund award (PeRQ), the highest research award at the university. Susanna’s project aims to design and develop a mobile app allowing players to self-regulate their practice habits. She is working in collaboration with Sandy Goldie and Molly Sharp, and with partner company Shockoe Mobile Solutions.
Dr. Terry Austin conducts the President’s Own Marine Band
Terry Austin will guest conduct the band at Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo, Japan this fall. This is Terry’s second invitation to Musashino. Terry also recently served as guest conductor for the President’s Own Marine Band at the American Bandmaster’s Association Convention in Lexington, Ky.
Colleen Potter Thorburn and Susanna Klein organized the first-ever VCU Harp Day in collaboration with the Virginia Harp Center. Harp Day was successful and well-attended, and included masterclasses, workshops, performances, and a concert from harp-voice duo Addi&Jacq.
Magdalena Adamek‘s research on Polish composer Feliks Nowowiejski appears in the newly published collaborative book, “Interpretation-Reception: New Research On the Music by Feliks Nowowiejski” edited by Krzysztof Szatrawski. Her chapter is titled “Feliks’s Nowowiejski’s masterful stylization of the Polish folk dance: Polish Dance No.2 in D minor.” She performed Nowowiejski’s works in recital at the Kosciuszko Foundation House in Washington, and was invited to perform in Poland this summer.
Steven Cunningham earned a Doctor of Musical Arts from University of Maryland, College Park.
Antonio García is the recipient of a Dean’s Research Reassignment Award and will be on leave in Fall 2017 to pursue various research projects including a book publication.
Horn player Alexandra Mattson won the 23rd annual Sigma Alpha Iota Scholarship Competition. Mattson was awarded a $350 prize and a performance opportunity for the Sigma Alpha Iota Alumnae Chapter of Richmond Alpha.
Euphoniumist Brian Harold won the Symphonic Wind Ensemble concerto competition and performed with the ensemble in April as a featured soloist.
Soprano Emily Nesbitt was accepted to the prestigious La Musica Lirica in Italy for their 5-week festival as the youngest singer in the Young Artist program. She will perform the role of Maestra delle Novizie in Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” and will cover the lead role of Mimi in “La Bohème.”
The dean’s list is a recognition of superior academic performance. A student is automatically placed on the dean’s list for each semester in which a semester GPA of at least 3.5 is attained, based on a minimum of 12 semester credits, with no grade below C. The following students have made Dean’s List for Spring 2017: