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Sound of Charlotte Blog

From Bohème to Broadway: The Stories Behind the Music



Before you head to Symphony Park for our final Summer Pops concert of the season, be sure to brush up on all the drama behind your favorite Opera and Broadway tunes with this handy guide, courtesy of Opera Carolina's Artistic Director, James Meena. 

Introduction to Act III from Wagner's Lohengrin
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts, first performed in 1850. The story is taken from medieval German romances and is part of the Knight of the Swan legend. King Ludwig II of Bavaria named his castle Neuschwanstein Castle after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig's patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to complete, build a theatre for, and stage his epic Ring Cycle. The most popular and recognizable part of Lohengrin is the Bridal Chorus, now famous as "Here Comes the Bride," usually played as a processional at weddings. The orchestral preludes to Acts I and III are frequently performed separately as concert pieces.

Musetta's Waltz from Puccini's La Bohème 
Marcello and his friends are in Paris' famous Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve having supper when Musetta, the famous beauty and Marcello's Ex, enters with her latest sugar-daddy, the doddering Alcindoro. When she sees Marcello, who she still loves, she mercilessly teases him by singing this famous waltz: "Wherever I'm seen, everyone stops and takes me in from head to toe."

Amor ti vieta from Giordano's Fedora
Count Loris Ipanov has killed his wife's lover, who was engaged to Princess Fedora. Fedora does not know the circumstances behind her fiancé's murder, but suspects it was Ipanov, who has been exiled from Russia as a murder suspect. As fate would have it, Fedora and Ipanov meet and he declares his love for her in this passionate aria: "Love forbids you to not love. Your soft hand which rejects me seeks my hand. Your eyes express "I love you", even if your lip says "I won't love you."

Habanera from Bizet's Carmen
The gypsy Carmen has a unique view on men and love: "Love is a rebellious bird that nobody can tame, and you call him in vain if it suits him not to come. Nothing helps, neither threat nor prayer. One man speaks well, the other's quiet; it's the other one that I prefer. He's silent but I like his looks. Love! Love! Love! Love!"

La donna è mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto
The Duke of Mantua has a similar view about women as Carmen, but far more dangerous and abusive. "Woman is fickle. Like a feather in the wind, she changes her voice -- and her mind. Always sweet, a pretty face, in tears or in laughter -- she is always lying. The man who trusts her is always miserable. The man who confides in her -- his heart will break! But one never feels fully happy who does not drink love!"

Sull' aria from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
The aging Count Almaviva has grown tired of his wife, and he intends to seduce her maid, Susanna. The women set a plan in motion to exchange coats and meet the Count in the garden late at night. The Count will think it is Susanna, when it is his own wife, and everyone will know how unfaithful he can be. To set their trap, the Countess dictates a letter that Susanna will deliver to the Count.

Che gelida manina from Puccini's La Bohème
Rodolfo is a poet. When he meets his neighbor, the seamstress Mimi, it is love at first sight. In this famous aria, he explains who he is, what he does and how he lives. "Who am I? I'm a poet. What do I do? I write. How do I live? I live. In my poverty I am a rich man. Verses of love and of dreams are my riches."

Chi il bel Sogno from Puccini's La Rondine
Magda is an aging beauty. Borne a peasant, she came to Paris at an early age to find her place in the world. Lacking money or skills, she becomes the mistress of the wealthy Rambaldo. At an evening party she is hosting for her patron, the poet Prunier entertains them with the story of Doretta, an aging beauty who never found true love, but he can't quite come up with the ending. Magda supplies it for him: "One day a student kisses her on the lips -- it was a revelation: It was crazy love! Crazy intoxication! Who could the subtle caress of such flaming a kiss ever describe? Ah, my dream -- my life! Who cares about riches if it never flourishes happiness! Golden dream to be able to love like this."

No puede ser from Zorozábal's La Tabernera del Puerto
La Taberna del Puerto is a Zarzuela by Pablo Sorozábal. Premiered in 1936, it tells the story of sailors in a small fishing town in northern Spain. Juan is using the beautiful Marola to manipulate Leandro into a crime. When Leandro learns this, he exclaims: "It can't be. This woman is good, she can't be wicked! In her eyes, like a strange light, I've seen she is unhappy. Those eyes that cry don't know how to lie. Gleaming in her eyes I saw two tears, and my hope is that they will gleam for me. Vivid light of my hopes, be merciful with my love. Because I can't pretend, I can't be silent, I can't live!"

O mio babbino caro from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi
Rinuccio Donati, heir to the wealthiest family fortune in Florence, loves Lauretta Schicchi, the daughter of the clever 'new man' Gianni Schicchi. The young couple want to be married but the Donati family and Gianni Schicchi want nothing to do with it. "What will I do for these people?" Schicchi yells: "Nothing!" How does a sixteen-year-old girl in love reply? "My dear Daddy. If you don't let me marry Rinuccio I will throw myself in the river." Dad's -- What would you do?

La calunnia from Rossini's The Barber of Seville
In this prequal to The Marriage of Figaro, the young Count Almaviva has come to Seville to woo the beautiful Rosina (later the Countess), who is the ward of Dr. Bartolo. Bartolo will do anything to prevent this. His servant, Basilio claims to be a master conniver. He will start a rumor against the Count which will drive him back to Madrid. He explains: "A rumor begins like a gentle breeze. Little by little it grows, hissing, flowing, buzzing from ear to ear until it explodes like a cannon. And the object of the rumor is sent home packing!"

All I Ask of You from Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
In 1984, Lloyd Webber contacted producer Cameron Mackintosh to propose a new musical. He was aiming for a romantic piece, and suggested Gaston Leroux's book The Phantom of the Opera as a basis. They screened the 1925 Lon Chaney classic and the 1943 Claude Rains motion picture versions, but neither saw any effective way to make the leap from film to stage. Lloyd Webber then found a second-hand copy of the original, long-out-of-print Leroux novel, which supplied the necessary inspiration to develop a musical: "I was actually writing something else at the time, and I realized that the reason I was hung up was because I was trying to write a major romantic story, and I had been trying to do that ever since I started my career. Then with the Phantom, it was there!"

Song to the Moon from Dvořák's Rusalka
The mermaid Rusalka has fallen in love with a human -- the Prince. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Rusalka's father, the Water Sprite, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. "Oh, moon, up in the deep sky, Your light sees distant places, You travel 'round the wide world, You look into people's houses. O, moon, stay for a moment, Tell me where is my love! Tell him, silver moon, that I embrace him, that he should for a while remember his dreams of me. Tell him who waits here for him."

Au fond du temple saint from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers
Childhood friends, Nadir and Zurga, are reunited after many years. They recall their friendship that was almost ruined when they both fell in love with a Hindu priestess. They swore never to set aside their friendship for her. "From the holy shrine, like a phantom she rose, a girl that haunts my soul. A hush descended around her. Look -- Behold the goddess. She lifts her veil -- Blessed site. The people fall to the ground at her radiant beauty." When the priestess returns to their village, their friendship is once again tested.

Maria from Bernstein's West Side Story
West Side Story was conceived by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and script by Arthur Laurents. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the story explores the rivalry between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white gang, the Jets. Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang's leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in musical theatre.

Nessun dorma! from Puccini's Turandot
Puccini's final opera is set in mythical China. The Princess Turandot has declared that only the nobleman who can answer her three riddles is worthy of her hand. Calaf, the prince of Mongolia has come to Beijing, escaping the coup d'é-tat that has made him an exile. A stranger to everyone in Beijing, he answers Turandot's riddles, but he wants her to marry him out of love. He sets his own riddle: "No one knows my name -- Tell me my name by morning, and you can kill me." The Princess orders that No One May Sleep (Nessun dorma) until his name is revealed.
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Posted in Summer. Tagged as summer pops.

“A Historic Event” the CSO Debuts at Little Rock AME Zion Church



This month, the Charlotte Symphony will make its debut at Little Rock AME Zion Church with a free concert filled with uplifting works that unite us all during challenging times. The Symphony, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees, will perform works by Barber, Mozart, and John Williams and will join forces with the Little Rock AME Zion Church Choir to perform favorites like, "Oh, Happy Day" and "Amazing Grace."

"It's an honor to join the beautiful singing heard every week at Little Rock AME Zion with the artists within the Charlotte Symphony string section," said Christopher James Lees. In a time when we as a society are faced with images of inhumanity on a weekly basis, music & this program will be a vehicle for healing, inspiration, and peace. From the sorrowful sounds of Barber's Adagio for Strings to the full assembly of forces singing 'Oh Happy Day' at the top of their lungs, emotions will run deep in this cathartic & uplifting program. The choir at Little Rock AME Zion Church, led beautifully by Sidney Oliver, has vocal power which matches the potency of their message, and we are privileged to come together with them for this evening of beauty & light."

It will be a celebration of the unity found in our diversity!
~ Rev. Dr. Dwayne A. Walker

Little Rock AME Zion Church was founded in 1884 and has been located in Uptown Charlotte for over one hundred years. It is a church that has sought to open its doors to the community in an effort to uplift and empower those it is called to serve.

"We are delighted and excited to partner with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra!" said Rev. Dr. Dwayne A. Walker. "This will be a historic event. Our Minister of Music, Mr. Sidney Oliver and members of The Little Rock Choirs join me in looking forward to this collaboration. It will be a celebration of the unity found in our diversity! The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra is to be commended for their willingness to reach out to the community. We are honored to be a part of that effort."

The concert will take place at Little Rock AME Zion Church (401 N. McDowell Street) on June 8, 2022, at 7:30 pm. >> Learn more Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

Celebrating Sounds of Joy! with Blood Sweat and Tears

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Tables are set and the stage is ready at The Fillmore Charlotte for the Symphony's second Sounds of Joy! gala event, supporting the CSO's education and community engagement initiatives.
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Behind the scenes, five talented high-school musicians from CMS prepare for their debut with Grammy-award-winning band Blood Sweat & Tears. (L-R: Floyd Carroll III, Alexys Shivers, and Zoe Tarrant from Northwest School of the Arts. Ricky Edwards and Manuella Gbossou from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology High School)
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John Williams joins principal clarinetist Taylor Marino, CSO President & CEO David Fisk and David's wife, Anne O'Byrne, for a cocktail before dinner.
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Jeannette & Francisco Alvarado (right) and guests arrive for the celebratory cocktail reception.
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Kieth Cockrell, Alex & Ulrike Miles pose with Blood Sweat & Tears front man Keith Paluso.
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Sounds of Joy! attendees show off their "groovy cocktail attire."
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L.J. & Natasha Stambuk, and Macie Mata & Glenn Mincey toast to the Symphony before finding their table.
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Symphony supporters Deanna Kelly and James Howell pose for a quick photo before dinner.
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As dinner begins, CSO Board Chair Kimberly Parker welcomes guests and thanks the Symphony's generous sponsors for their leadership and vision.
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Guests of Ernst & Young, sponsors of Sounds of Joy!, enjoy a festive dinner.
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Ulrike Miles, Chair of the Symphony's Development Committee, enthusiastically speaks about the Charlotte Symphony's impactful education and community engagement programs.
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The party moves outside as The Fillmore re-sets the room for the Blood Sweat & Tears concert. Guests enjoy a dessert and coffee bar al fresco.
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The crowd rocks out to the band's #1 hit, "Spinning Wheel," with CMS student musicians holding down the bass line and the brass section.
 
 

The Fillmore Charlotte was filled with the Sounds of Joy! last night when supporters of the Charlotte Symphony gathered for a spectacular Gala evening featuring the incomparable Blood Sweat & Tears. Guests of the event enjoyed a pre-concert reception and al fresco dessert bar before rocking out to the Grammy-Award-winning band's greatest hits, performed alongside five talented CMS high school musicians. All proceeds from Sounds of Joy! go to supporting the Symphony's education and community engagement initiatives.  

The Charlotte Symphony gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors: Ernst & Young, Marand Builders, SteelFab, Ally, Domtar, KPMG, Honeywell, Spiracle Media, Albemarle Foundation, Atrium Health, Duke Energy, Kingfisher Capital, PDM US, The Dunhill Hotel, World's Greatest Golf Carts SC.  Read more

Posted in Support.

Amy Orsinger Whitehead Lends a Healing Hand



For over 20 years the Charlotte Symphony's Healing Hands program has sent musicians to perform in area hospitals, libraries, senior care centers, and shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Since the program's inception, CSO Flutist Amy Orsinger Whitehead, violinist Elizabeth Pistolesi, and cellist Deborah Kauffman Mishoe -- named The Laurel Trio -- have been using their music to enrich the lives of patients, residents, and community members throughout Charlotte. We recently caught up with Amy to discuss what makes this program so unique and special.  

Why is the Healing Hands program so important to you? 
Our trio has done lots and lots of Healing Hands performances throughout the years taking our music on the road to wherever the need exists. I think it's very important to meet people where they are because some get to a certain point where they're not able to come to the concert hall to hear us play. If we are able to take ourselves to where people live and give them the gift of beautiful music something they've enjoyed all their lives it's a privilege for us. I think, honestly, that we get as much out of it as the people we perform for. It's really a lot of fun and it's quite meaningful for us because we enjoy being able to make a little bit of a difference in someone's day with our music.  



How does the audience respond to your performances? 
This has been quite powerful for us. In a situation where we're playing in a dementia setting, you might see a resident that doesn't seem to be responding to anything around them, but you'll see them react and respond to the music and even start singing along! We have a Motown medley that has inspired a lot of spontaneous dance parties, too! The music reaches deep inside people and has an impact that might not be easily achieved outside of music, and that is just so incredible. It's actually pretty hard to play the flute when you feel like you're getting choked up or teary-eyed, and so it can be a bit hard for me, I have to tell myself not to get swept away by the emotion of it. Seeing the immediate impact that we're having to think that we're making even the tiniest difference for people is really wonderful, and we feel so fortunate to get to have that experience.  

Your trio performs a lot at senior care facilities and senior centers, but you've also performed at Moore Place, a supportive housing residence for chronically unhoused adults. 
Yes, we have! It's a whole different age range than we usually play for, and we love to hear them tell us about their stories and musical connections the songs they remember and the instruments they played in school. Music can help ground us to where we are currently, moment by moment, but it has such a great way to take us back to a previous time in our lives. It's pretty incredible when we get to see this happening and experience the music the way the people listening are experiencing it. It's nice to relive people's memories with them. 



How was the program able to adapt during the pandemic? 
We were able to pre-record two programs, one holiday program and another non-holiday program for people of all ages. We provided online performances where the video was played and each one of us would announce the next piece live. It was a really great mix of technology and heartfelt love between all of us! We loved being able to interact with the people who were zooming in and we always had a really fun chat thread during the performance. People were really needing something like this in their lives at that moment. And to be able to have a holiday concert in December, when we were so closed off from each other for so long was extra meaningful.  



Do you have a favorite memory from a Healing Hands performance?  
I think my favorite moment ever was when we were playing at a senior living facility called Renaissance West. That's the place where they have been known to break into spontaneous dance parties and they love to sing along! One time, during a holiday concert, I could see a lady moving from person to person and I could tell she was on a mission to get everyone in the room to do something. We didn't think much of it, but at the end of the concert they brought up to us a Christmas card that they had all signed. It was just so sweet, and I carry that with me in my folder because it's such a special memory. That was such a great day, I can't think of it without smiling.  

Learn more about the Charlotte Symphony's Healing Hands Program. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians, interview.

Alan Black on Stepping Back with Grace



A fixture of the Charlotte Symphony since 1986, Principal Cellist Alan Black is stepping back from his role of leading the cellists to continue playing in the section. Black will be ending his tenure on a high note at the end of our 2021-22 season, having played the solo in John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1 and capping off with his feature in the Music & Healing concert at Queens University on April 3. We talked with Alan about his decision to step back now, his favorite memory with the CSO, and his hopes for the section as he ends his tenure as Principal Cellist and begins the 2022-23 season as Principal Cello Emeritis.

Why have you decided to step back into the section at this time?
Well you know, I've been thinking about this for a couple years. I'm going to be 65 in a month and I'm thinking to myself, well, what else do I need to accomplish as a principal player? I've done all the solos....my colleagues are great cellists and I feel the talent level has risen. They're great players and so it's time for somebody else to do it. And the stress of sitting principal is actually fairly strong.... I want to enjoy playing without the stress of the job. And since I've done basically everything I've wanted to do and checked off all those boxes, I feel like it's kind of time for me to let somebody else take over the mantle; let somebody younger come on in and provide a fresh vision. 



How have the other players reacted to your decision?
I think a lot of them were surprised, which makes me feel good because they were like, "Wait a minute, what? Why are you doing that?" A lot of them didn't realize I was going to be 65 and that makes me feel good....I think my cello colleagues were surprised and they've been very gracious about it.

After so many years as Principal, you must have some great memories.
Oh, yes! The highlight of my career was in 2000 when Yo-Yo Ma was in town performing with us and I got to play the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Cellos with him. Aside from being the most visible and famous musician on the planet, he is also an amazing human being -- warm, engaging, and filled with humility. We had a great time together and hung out at the after-party on the 60th floor of the Bank of America center. I had a great time and will never forget this moment. Ultimately, it was because of this concert that five years later I was able to purchase the cello I bought from him. In many ways, he has been the most influential person in my musical life, and I am filled with gratitude for this. 



Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?
I felt like as a principal the most important thing I could do is manage the section in a way that creates a great working atmosphere; a collegiality within the section. That's been my most important goal for the last twenty years, that I want us to all get along and be happy together....To me, the most important thing is that you've got to treat your colleagues with respect and you've got to treat them right.

What are your hopes for the cello section, and the CSO as a whole, for the coming years?
I hope we can continue to have great dialogue with our management and the board; that we continue to work as a team the way we did during COVID. These have been the best two years of my entire career in terms of our working relationship....it's been great and that's what we should have. We should have a great working relationship: between the players, the management, and the board. We need to do that....and I'm really hopeful for that going forward.



What can you tell us about your part in Music and Healing?
Two years ago I commissioned Leonard Mark Lewis to write [I Will Wade Out] for cello and piano, and we played it at Davidson [College] when I was on faculty there. And I really loved that piece. So I was thinking about what I wanted to do -- because I want to go out strong, like "Yeah, I'm making this decision. I don't have to, but I am because I just want to go out on a high note." And I thought, "You know, the perfect thing to do was play Mark's piece," because Mark and I are very close friends. I really like it, and it will give him a chance as a local composer to be showcased and to have another orchestral piece out there. So I'm really excited about us being able to do that. We've done a lot of tinkering with it since we played it two years ago. So it's been really neat to sort of reconnect with it and find more things that are amazing about it. So yeah, it's going to be fun. I'm really excited about it and it's a new venue that we've never played in, so I think it will be a really nice addition to the program.

Is there anything you'd like to say to the audiences who have been with you for so many years?
I want to say thank you to everyone, it's been such an honor to be Principal Cellist of the Charlotte Symphony. It's been an absolute joy!


Join us at Queens University for Alan's final solo performance as Principal Cellist of the Charlotte Symphony.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians, interview.

The Charlotte Symphony is… Educating! With Youth Ensemble Conductor Eric Thompson



The Charlotte Symphony Youth Ensemble (CSYE) is a new training ensemble designed to bridge early music education with the Intermediate and Advanced Youth Orchestras. The CSYE is an introduction to music ensemble learning and provides regular coaching by Charlotte Symphony musicians and conducting staff. >> Learn more

We recently caught up with Eric Thompson, conductor of the Charlotte Symphony's new Youth Ensemble to hear about the group's first rehearsal and what he hopes students gain from the experience. 

How does the Youth Ensemble differ from the Symphony's Youth Philharmonic and Youth Symphony?
Sometimes students are discouraged by the audition process, they might not have a private teacher or access to this level of music education, but this is an ensemble that they are able to play in. In this group, the ensemble playing comes first, then the rest. 

I understand the Youth Ensemble recently had its first meeting how did it go?
It was absolutely amazing! The kids are very excited, many are playing in an orchestra for the first time. The excitement was certainly there and I can't wait to see what's going to happen!

What do you hope students will take away from their first season?
From this first season, I really hope that the students start that journey -- that lifelong pursuit and interest in music. I'm certainly hoping they learn to love music as much as I do. And I want to get them plugged into the music pipeline, not only the CSO's three ensembles, but other things, like Western Regionals, All-State, arts camps, and all the things they can get into with music. 



What other skills have you seen students develop from playing music?
Certainly, some of the skills that you gain from music and playing in an ensemble include a sense of community, confidence, motor skills -- but it's more than that. My brother started an El Sistema-based program in Philadelphia. Not too long after starting the program, the schools improved tremendously. The Principals thought that they were doing something like a study hall, but it was all the music. There are all these extra positive things that happen from being involved in music and an ensemble -- even without the kids knowing it! I'm really looking forward to seeing that happen. 

What would you say to students who don't think orchestral music is for them?
Music is for everyone. Music is absolutely universal. I remember hearing my first live concert -- the New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in the Park. It was just so exciting! I see so many students who are not interested in orchestral music. But if they give it just a little bit of a chance, they are always excited about it. I would encourage students to give it a chance and give it a try. There are so many things out there that we can close ourselves off to because we've been told that it's not for us, or we assume that it's not for us. But when I think about all of the music that's out there from all of these different composers -- it really is just wonderful. 

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Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as CSYO, Education.

I Am Queen Charlotte: Dr. Shanté Williams

As the Charlotte Symphony supports I Am Queen Charlotte, we're highlighting stories, experiences, and lives of Black Women who are part of the CSO, from the stage to the boardroom. We asked Dr. Shanté Williams some questions about her personal and professional background and her experience with the CSO.

What is your role with the Charlotte Symphony?
Member of the Board of Directors.

What is your background? How did you get to where you are today? 
Born and raised here in Charlotte. By training, I am a former Neuro-Oncology Translational Scientist. I am now the CEO of my own Healthcare Investment Firm. I got where I am today with a lot of hard work, persistence, faith, and most importantly, community. I come from a close-knit family that has supported me every step of the way.

What drives you?
Two things drive me: curiosity and justice.

I have always been a curious person. I often will watch a documentary or read a book just because I've never heard of the topic or the person.

A business owner I used to work with that became a friend of mine called me a peacemaker and a healer once. I thought that was a bit strange. She said, "peacemakers are warriors and warriors seek justice; justice brings healing and that healing gives communities a voice. You do that for many of us." That was incredibly humbling to hear. I hope to live up to that description. 

How do you connect with classical music?
I got introduced to classical music and opera in grad school. They both would transport me to a different place and help me unwind when I became stressed with studying. I began to realize the music seemed to activate my brain in a different way. 

What inspired you to join the CSO's Board of Directors?
In Charlotte, there had not been much diversity on some of the fine arts boards. I have a 16-year-old nephew and he has gotten to experience many new things that I was never exposed to. I wanted to make sure that other Black children saw the CSO as a place for them because there were people there that looked like them.

What is your favorite part of being involved with the CSO?
I have an opportunity to listen to and learn from so many different people. 

What do you appreciate most about the CSO's role in the community?
CSO is continuing to make strides in listening to the community and co-creating with the community an organization that will last for years to come.

What inspires you, and where do you find it in your everyday life?
I have the opportunity to speak with entrepreneurs on a daily basis, many asking for my help in securing funding for their dreams. That inspires me. It inspires me to see people, who may be experiencing a hardship or are on the receiving end of the inequity of the world, see an opportunity to help others who may be suffering. I like to sleep with the blinds in my bedroom open, and every morning when the sun rays peek through, that inspires me because it reminds me that despite the brokenness of the world, there is another day to build and make things better. 
  Read more

Posted in Community.

I Am Queen Charlotte: Denielle Wilson

As the Charlotte Symphony supports I Am Queen Charlotte, we're highlighting stories, experiences, and lives of Black Women who are part of the CSO, from the stage to the boardroom. We asked Denielle Wilson some questions about her personal and professional background and her experience with the CSO.

What is your role with the Charlotte Symphony?
Acting Section Cellist.

How did you find out about the open position in Charlotte, and what was the process like for being hired?
Last year, after becoming the string division winner of Sphinx's Orchestra Partners Audition Excerpt Competition, Charlotte was the first Symphony to offer me a one-year contract.

I did not know of the position beforehand, but I was extremely grateful for the opportunity. There were barely any auditions happening anywhere around that time. 

What inspired you to play cello?
My father chose the instrument for me, and I grew to like playing it quickly. The musicians who inspired me early on were Yo-Yo Ma and Jaqueline du Pré.

Did you always know you wanted to perform professionally in a symphony orchestra?
Not at first. I began playing in a youth symphony during high school, and it was a tough learning process for me. It wasn't until my last two years in undergrad that I decided to pursue an orchestral career seriously.

What do you like best about being part of the CSO?
The community -- I feel very welcomed here.

Do you have a favorite piece to play or a favorite CSO concert you've performed in?
I am looking forward to playing Sibelius' Second Symphony in April.

How do you hope to see audiences engaging with classical music?
I would like to see audiences ask more questions about it. I know it is not always familiar to everyone, but I sense that audience members don't think there is more to figure out about it after the live performance experience. I am curious to hear about what aspects of certain pieces stood out to them, or made them wonder. 

What inspires you, and where do you find it in your everyday life?
I am inspired by happiness being found. I seek to find it for myself and others in small ways every day, whether it is through a shared meal or a friendly wave.
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Posted in Community.

The Charlotte Symphony is… Music in Our Schools


More than 11,500 fifth-graders from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools packed the Belk Theater for the annual "One Musical Family" concerts held March 1-3, 2022.

For more than 30 years, March has been designated Music In Our Schools Month by the National Association for Music Education, and what better way for the Charlotte Symphony to celebrate than to welcome every CMS fifth-grader to a concert!

Since the 1950's, thousands of school children have been attending special Charlotte Symphony concerts that introduce them to orchestral music. It's all part of the Symphony's mission to nurture a passion for orchestral music in our community through diverse programming and top-notch instruction.



At this year's annual concert, funded by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, students enjoyed music by Rossini, Mozart, Brahms, and more; including a new work by Syrian composer Kinan Abou-afach about the displacement of refugees. Students prepare for the concerts months in advance, using the Symphony's study guides, lesson plans, worksheets, and special activities.


The Symphony trip for CMS students is vital to the implementation of a comprehensive arts education," said Windy Fullagar, Performing Arts Specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. "Not only does it support our arts mission, but it also enables students to see and experience instrumental music in hopes they will want to explore it in the middle grades."



For nearly 70 years, the Charlotte Symphony has inspired and educated local school children through the power of music, and each year the Symphony's educational mission is growing stronger. 

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Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

Visionary: Valerie Coleman



A visionary composer, flutist, and entrepreneur, Valerie Coleman has made significant contributions to modern music. From being named 2020 Classical Woman of the Year (Performance Today) to receiving a nod as one of the Top 35 Woman Composers in Classical Music (Anne Midgette, Washington Post) and a Grammy nomination, Coleman has earned high acclaim, and for good reason.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1970, Coleman had an interest in composing music from an early age. She began formal music education at age 11, and started writing symphonies on a portable organ. Advancing her hobby, by the age of 14 she had written three full-length symphonies and won local and state competitions. She studied music at Boston University and earned a Master's degree in flute from Mannes College of Music. Debuting as a flutist/composer at Carnegie Hall, Coleman has since regularly performed at major music halls across the United States and has collaborated with other performers including Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, Paquito D'Rivera, David Shifrin, Orion String Quartet, Harlem Quartet, Miami String Quartet, Dover Quartet, Wu Han, and many more. With enormous interest in her work as a composer, many orchestras, ensembles, associations, and festivals have commissioned her work; notably, Coleman became the first African-American woman to be commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera. 



Coleman's composition style infuses modern orchestration with jazz and Afro-Cuban traditions, ideas, and social commentary. She incorporates poems and speeches from such diverse figures as African American poet Margaret Danner, Cesar Chavez, Robert F. Kennedy, and A. Philip Randolph in some of her works. Josephine Baker: A Life of le Jazz Hot celebrates the life of Josephine Baker. She honors "the legacy of Native Americans and former African slaves (adopted into Native American tribal membership through emancipation or marriage)" in a chamber piece and recounts stories of trafficked humans in a flute sonata. Coleman is among the most-played composers living today, and her works are deeply relevant contributions to modern music . Umoja, her signature piece for wind quartet, is named after the Swahili word for unity and is listed by Chamber Music America as one of the "Top 101 Great American Ensemble Works".

Coleman's experiences in music from childhood to college inspired her to establish her own chamber music ensemble, Imani Winds, for which she is the resident composer. Using the name "Imani", the Swahili word for faith, she formed the chamber ensemble with African American woodwind players who might approach the music from a similar cultural background. From its beginning, they focused on repertoire inspired by African, Latin American, and North American cultures, and championed non-European composers that were underrepresented in contemporary music. In an interview with NPR, she recollected, "I used to be in the youth orchestra [as a child], and there were so many African Americans. But somewhere along the line, when I got to college, I was the only one in the orchestra. So I wondered what in the world happened here? It came to my mind that role models are needed."



The ensemble and their music has been met with high honors: winner of the Concert Artists Guild competition, resident-artists of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and winner of multiple ASCAP awards. The music industry recognized not only the musical qualities of Imani Winds' performances and studio albums, but the significance of their work. NPR Music acknowledged, "Imani Winds' members have earned a reputation for expanding the recorded wind-quintet repertoire, but in a way that's culturally significant." In advocacy and mentorship of emerging artists and ensembles, Coleman created the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival in 2011, a summer mentorship program, which invites musicians from over 100 institutions around the world to advance their own careers from the ensemble Coleman created with her vision of raising up underrepresented musicians. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as composer.

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