Summer Spotlight: Emily Nesbitt, Soprano

Emily Nesbitt performing at La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy

Soprano Emily Nesbitt has returned to VCU Music this semester with an even stronger love for opera than she had before. She spent five weeks this summer at the prestigious La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy, as the youngest singer in the Young Artist program. She performed the role of Maestra delle Novizie in Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” and covered the lead role of Mimi in Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

“This trip was one of the most important experiences I have had as a performer,” said Nesbitt. “I feel a lot stronger with my Italian, I feel like a different singer.”

The program was intensive, with rehearsals consuming most of her time every day. In addition to rehearsals, Nesbit studied Italian for up to 15 hours per week. She attended weekly coaching sessions with Rossini Opera Festival coaches twice a week and two voice lessons per week. This was her first experience in a touring show and she had the opportunity to perform throughout Italy, including the areas of Rimini,Talamello and Novafeltria.

Nesbitt described the performance experience in Italy as like no other.

“People love opera in Italy,” said Nesbitt. “Getting to perform for such enthusiastic audiences who could understand the text we were singing was incredible.”

Summer Spotlight: Alexandra Mattson, horn

Alexandra Mattson performing in a masterclass for Richard “Gus” Sebring

French horn player Alexandra Mattson was invited to attend the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar on scholarship this summer. The seminar ran from July 9-21, and was held at Tufts University in Somerville, Mass. The event included coaching, masterclasses, private lessons, and public performances in the university’s concert hall.

Mattson was assigned to a brass quintet for the two-week seminar and had a performance each week with her quintet. The seminar participants ranged from high schoolers to middle-aged musicians, and the faculty included members of the Atlantic Brass Quintet as well as Triton Brass. Mattson had the opportunity to perform in a masterclass for Richard “Gus” Sebring, associate principal horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and principal horn of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

“Performing at the seminar was probably one of the greatest experiences I’ve had personally and musically,” said Mattson.

Summer Spotlight: Caleb Paxton, Viola

Violist Caleb Paxton attended his third year at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, Vt. from June 25 to July 23. Paxton served as a resident assistant at the event this year, which included a scholarship. Festival participants ranged in age from as young as 13 years old, to older than 30. The festival included faculty and student performances, masterclasses, private lessons, and more. The intensive program required four mandatory hours of practice each morning, and three hours of rehearsal in the evening.

“The trip helped me stay focused on maintaining a certain level of playing,” said Paxton. “Being surrounded by people who are better than you is just the best thing, and that’s what happens to me every year at this festival.”

Alumni Kudos | Achievers and adventurers abroad

Alden Bean Blevins received the Phi Kappa Phi 2017 Love of Learning Award. One hundred of these awards are announced twice a year, and each carries a $500 scholarship for professional development.

Jared Broussard has accepted a full-time position as Lecturer in Trumpet at the University of Texas Rio Grand Valley.

Jonathan Forbes has accepted a high school music teacher position at Saigon South International School in Saigon, Vietnam. He will direct the band, orchestra, and jazz band, as well as teach IB Music.

Robert “Scot” Mitchell has accepted a full-time job at Forest Hills Elementary in Danville, Va. He’s will direct the fifth-grade band, chorus, and an Orff ensemble, and is also teaching general music.

No BS! Brass Band was named the top “Next local band that should be on late-night television” by Richmond Magazine as part of the 2017 Best & Worst poll.

Trey Pollard was featured in Style Weekly for his arrangements written for local musicians Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass, Tim Barry and Clair Morgan to perform with the Richmond Symphony.

Jon Schoepflin and Madeline Barker‘s chapter of Tri-M Music Honor Society at Elizabeth Davis Middle School in Chester, Va. was awarded 2017 Chapter of the Year by the National Association for Music Education.

Samson Trinh was featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for his Hamilton-inspired concert at Dogwood Dell in June. Trinh transcribed and arranged all the parts to fit his 26-member orchestra.


Faculty Kudos | Suzuki success and voted the best

Justin Alexander ‘s percussion duo Novus Percutere (with Dr. Luis Rivera, University of South Alabama) was recently featured on the debut album from the Music And / As Process Society on the UK-based Reductive Music Label.

Paul Bakeman was named by Richmond Magazine as “Best school art or music teacher” for the Hanover region as part of the 2017 “Best & Worst” poll.

Karmalita Bawar was accepted as a researcher for the International Suzuki Piano Workshop in Philadelphia and unanimously voted as Secretary to the Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation. This fall, Bawar will lead a Master Class Workshop hosted by the Atlanta Area Suzuki Piano Association (AASPA).

Steven Cunningham earned an endorsement with Cannonball Musical Instruments as a trumpet artist.

Erin Freeman and the Richmond Symphony Chorus were recognized by Richmond Magazine as the Best Community Band/Orchestra/Choir as part of the 2017 “Best & Worst” poll.

Sandy Goldie has published a new book, “String Instruments: Purchasing, Maintenance, Troubleshooting and More” through Meredith Music Publications/Hal Leonard. She will also present at the upcoming 2017 Society for Music Teacher Education Conference where she will discuss school-university teaching partnerships and highlight VCU Music’s partnership with St. Andrew’s School.

Alice Hammel has published a new book, “Teaching Music To Students With Special Needs: A Practical Resource” through Oxford University Press.


Student Kudos | A scholar and a delegate

Christine Hilbert was awarded the Richmond Music Teachers Association (RMTA) Collegiate Scholarship for the 2017-2018 school year. As part of the award, Hilbert has been invited to perform in recital at this year’s Playathon.

Robert Williamson III was named a delegate for the Australasian Trumpet Academy.

Antonio García to serve on Brubeck Institute Advisory Board

Director of Jazz Studies Antonio García has been appointed to serve a three-year term on the advisory board at the University of the Pacific Brubeck Institute.

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.

Clarinet professor Dr. Charles West retires after 30 years at VCU

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.

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Commonwealth Brass performs in Colombia

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.”

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Dr. Magdalena Adamek brings Polish heritage to VCU

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.

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