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Meet the Musician: Concertmaster Calin Lupanu

Originally from Timisoara, Romania, Concertmaster Calin Lupanu moved to Charlotte in the fall of 2003, when he won the Charlotte Symphony job. Here, he talks about his hometown, his 10-city search for the perfect violin, and how he gets in the zone before a performance.

How were you introduced to the violin?
I didn't have much of a choice. My mom was Principal Harp at the Bucharest Philharmonic and my grandfather was the Music Director of the Opera House in Cluj.

Is there an interesting story behind your instrument?
My violin is a Silvestre, 1857. I purchased it about 6 years ago. I did travel to about 10 major cities in the U.S. to see violins, and I saw 79 violins before I got to see this one.

Tell us a little bit about your hometown of Timisoara, Romania.
Timisoara is a beautiful city, architecture inspired by the Austro-Hungarian and the House of Habsburg. German and Hungarian communities are very prominent. Its nickname is "the Garden City" because of the numerous parks and gardens. River Bega runs through its downtown.

What goes through your head just before each performance?
Before the performance begins I am trying to focus and get into a musical "zone," if that makes any sense. I am trying to visualize the stage, the audience, and get in the right mood. We performers have one chance to get it right. We don't have a "delete" or "backspace" button that can redo any passages. A live performance is nothing like a recording. A recording usually has lots of takes, even the Live recordings. That creates a lot of mental pressure and you need to be able to stay focused for long periods of time. I have been dealing with this kind of pressure my entire musical life, from international competitions, to performances and tours, and playing for some of the greatest musicians, especially in the chamber music world.  

What would surprise audiences about your role as Concertmaster?
Everyone knows that a Concertmaster has to be a strong player and a good musician, but what would surprise people is the endurance required to play a major solo one day, a violin concerto the next day and a chamber music concert after all that. That is something that comes with experience, and they don't teach you in school how tough it is. Pacing yourself is paramount so you can always sound fresh. 

What would you do if you weren't a professional musician?
I only know music, and I can't imagine myself doing something else. 

What music do you listen to when you're not performing or rehearsing?
I listen to a lot of music, different genres, from Classical to Rock, Jazz, etc. The music on my iPod is a melting pot. 

What is something you can't live without?
I can't live without my family: my wife and my almost-7-year-old boy. At some point, I will have to learn to live without my violin, but I don't think that I could learn to live without my family. 

Tagged as concertmaster, CSO Musicians, interview, Musicians, Violin.

Meet the new CSO Musicians

This fall we welcome three new musicians to the Charlotte Symphony family! Meet cellists Sarah Markle and Marlene Ballena, and principal bass trombonist Scott Hartman.

Sarah Markle, cello

How did you spend your summer?
I recently moved to Charlotte from New York, so a lot of my summer was spent packing and finding an apartment! I got to do some slightly more fun things too: I played in my hometown's summer chamber music series, the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival, hiked in Jasper National Park, Canada, and got a lot better at rollerblading.

How did you get started playing cello?
My school required all 4th graders to start on a string instrument, and I picked the cello because my grandmother loves it, and also because pretty much everyone else picked the violin.

Where's the most interesting place you've played?
Last fall I played at Radio City Music Hall for a live TV broadcast of "America's Got Talent" that involved a lot of fog machines, crazy light shows, and a crowd of about 6,000 people. Thankfully we were just back-up musicians, basically serving as props, so I could look around and really take it all in while I was onstage.

What is the one thing you can't live without?
Chocolate. Typical, I know, but it's true.

What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
I got into ultimate Frisbee during my undergrad, and while I haven't played much since then, I'm always looking for opportunities! I also like reading anything by Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace.

Scott Hartman, principal bass trombone

How did you spend your summer?
I was at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts this summer. It was a terrific summer and it was a great experience to work with and learn from the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In my free time, I enjoyed kayaking and hiking in the beautiful Berkshires.
How did you get started playing trombone?
I got started on the trombone in the school band when I was 12. A few years later at a jazz camp they asked if I would be willing to play bass trombone, so I borrowed a bass and ended up loving it. After that I played both tenor and bass pretty equally for a few years before switching to bass trombone full time.

Where's the most interesting place you've played?
It's hard to choose, but one that comes to mind is a brass quintet performance in western Massachusetts, where we played on the grounds of a colonial house that dated to the 1760s. We sat at the base of a mountain facing toward the house and lawn that the audience was seated on. It was really cool to hear the quintet sound resonate through the woods and hills.

What is the one thing you can't live without?
I don't know that there's anything I really can't live without, but one thing I don't want to live without again is a car. I'm a big car buff (especially vintage cars) and I love driving. I didn't have a car when I was in Chicago and I quickly realized how much I missed driving.

What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
Growing up in Florida instilled in me a love of water recreation. I enjoy kayaking, boating, canoeing, and fishing, plus hiking and camping.

Marlene Ballena, cello

How did you spend your summer?
I attended the Beethoven Institute in New York and the Banff Centre Chamber Music Residency with my quartet. We enjoyed both the music and the beautiful scenery of the Canadian Rockies.
How did you get started playing cello?
Both my parents are musicians. They picked the cello for me. At the beginning I was unsure about their decision but eventually I fell in love with it.

Where's the most interesting place you've played?
I had the opportunity to perform in Doha, Qatar with my quartet. We played for the Queen!

What is the one thing you can't live without?
Chamber music!

What do you enjoy doing outside of performing?
I love running and salsa dancing.

Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Rondo from Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp

Principal Flutist, Elizabeth Landon and Principal Harpist, Andrea Mumm perform the Rondo from Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp during the performances of "A Little Knight Music" on March 28. The piece is one of only two true double concertos that the composer wrote. The full concerto contains three movements: Allegro, Andantino and Rondo Allegro.
Your Charlotte Symphony has only played the full concerto once, back in March of 1965. Since this a somewhat rare piece for the orchestra to perform, we asked Elizabeth and Andrea their thoughts.

Andrea "I'm excited to play this Mozart concerto since it is the only piece of music he ever composed for harp! This piece was a commission by a Parisian duke for himself (a flutist) and his eldest daughter who was a harpist. At the time, the combination of flute and harp was not common, and even considered an odd pairing since the harp wasn't an orchestral instrument and wasn't highly regarded by Mozart. Thanks to this concerto and many other pieces since, the combination of flute and harp is now standard in literature (good for me and Liz!)."

Elizabeth "The sound and color combination of the flute and harp is very special. What a treat to perform this work in the intimate Knight Theater which has been fashioned to resemble a palatial living room. Our patrons will feel like royalty!"

Apparently, after hearing the Mozart 'Concerto for Flute and Harp,' Viennese composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf remarked, "I have never yet met a composer who had such an amazing wealth of ideas: I could almost wish he were not so lavish in using them. He leaves his hearer out of breath; for hardly has he grasped one beautiful thought when one of greater fascination dispels the first, and this goes on throughout." [1]  We look forward to grasping many beautiful thoughts with Andrea, Elizabeth and your Charlotte Symphony when they perform this piece Friday evening.  

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Musician's Perspective: Martha Geissler

I have been participating in "Bridging Musical Worlds," celebrating the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. since January of 2009 (the date was the day before President Obama's first inauguration).

For the past six years A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas, a local jazz group, and musicians from the Charlotte Symphony (myself included) have presented a collaborative performance at The Historic Excelsior Club, the first African-American nightclub in Charlotte, to mark MLK Day.

"Bridging Musical Worlds" at Charlotte's historic Excelsior Club.

Among the goals of this collaboration for the Charlotte Symphony is to expose audiences who may not necessarily have been to a Symphony concert to classical music in a setting other than the Blumenthal, and I applaud that. However, I feel that these concerts have served as outreach in both directions, helping symphonic musicians expand our horizons too.

An attitude trend among some classical musicians is that classical music is the apex of musical art; however, I have learned that this can be a rather tunnel-vision view.

The Excelsior experiences have been extremely beneficial to me because they take me out of my classical comfort zone. When the Symphony ensemble performs with A Sign of the Times, Tyrone Jefferson, the leader, encourages us to improvise; for most classical players, if you ask us to improvise a tune by ear, we freeze because there are not notes on a page! This is a skill which is second nature to jazz players...basically composing on the spot, which actually used to be an expected performance practice for classical musicians back in the 18th and early 19th centuries. To do this is both rather frightening and liberating, and I am grateful to the fact that Tyrone is very accepting and encouraging of our baby steps in that direction, no matter how tentative.

We are so fortunate to work with Tyrone, who served as the music director for the great James Brown. The things he learned about music (rhythmic feel, improv, etc.) from Mr. Brown he shares with his band, the young people who sit in on their rehearsals and with the Symphony players. Jazz has been called, on more than one occasion, "America's Classical Music." It is one thing for the Symphony to play arrangements of jazz works on a pops show, led by a classically trained conductor; it is a completely different level when one gets to play these pieces in a group which is steeped in that tradition and led by someone who thoroughly understands the style.

The performance venue and format of "Bridging Musical Worlds" at the Excelsior is quite different than a concert hall, but we Symphony musicians are given an extremely warm and gracious welcome by the audience and the jazz musicians. When we get into the jazz pieces, the classically trained musicians can be ducks out of water, but everyone from the band members to the people in the audience help us to swim.

There is a feeling of fellowship, mutual respect and goodwill that can be quite a rarity, and that has touched me deeply.

- Martha

Martha Geissler has been a violinist with the Charlotte Symphony since 1981. This year she is joined by fellow Charlotte Symphony musicians Jane Hart Brendle (violin), Joseph Meyer (Associate Concertmaster) and Matthew Lavin (extra/substitute cello).

At 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 19 at Charlotte's Historic Excelsior Club (921 Beatties Ford Road) A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas and the Charlotte Symphony present "Bridging Musical Worlds: Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." for the sixth consecutive year. The program is excited to welcome UNC Charlotte Department of Music as a new partner this year, 
The event is FREE and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Posted in Community, Education & Community. Tagged as Bridging Musical Worlds, community, CSO Musicians, Education, Musicians.

From the Feet Up

If you've attended a Charlotte Symphony concert, you know we're quite loyal to the classic black concert attire. However, as we move into the third season of our innovative KnightSounds Series, a series of concerts intended to put a fresh, intelligent, and audience-engaging spin on classical repertoire, we are beginning to experiment with our attire from the ground or shall we say 'feet' up.

On January 25, 2013, the symphony will partner with the Metropolitan Ballroom but the dancers aren't the only ones who will be sporting impressive footwear at the "Ballroom!" performance. The audience, conductor and orchestra musicians are all invited to wear their dressiest, wackiest, or fanciest shoes of all styles and colors for both the performance and the post-concert dance party.
If you've attended a Charlotte Symphony concert, you might have noticed that Assistant Concertmaster Kari Giles already wears pretty fancy shoes at her seat during concerts. We asked her a few questions on the topic 'at feet.'

When did you begin wearing fabulous shoes onstage? Why?
I always said I would buy myself a pair of fancy black shoes once I won my first job. So after I won the Charlotte audition, I found an amazing pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes on sale. From the first time I put them on I felt alluring and confident and I was hooked! What I love about shoe shopping is that even on a bad day, you can put on a great pair of shoes and get a lift.

Where do you shop for shoes? 
I absolutely love Zappos. I don't know how many hours I have spent trolling that site! Anthropologie, Nordstrom and Off Broadway are also fabulous.

If we looked in your closet right now, how many pairs of shoes would there be? 
Hmm, hard to say...60ish?

What type of shoes do you wear most often? 
In the winter I live in boots. Cowboy, Motorcycle, Mod, Vintage, Furry...I love them all!

What is the highest price you've ever paid for a pair of shoes?
It might have been around $250 for a pair of cowboy boots that fit me like a glove. I try to only 'invest' when it's a classic pair that I know will last me a long time. One of my favorite pairs of orchestra shoes were black velvet Mary Janes with a bow that I got at Target for $20. I got more compliments on those shoes! I think the key to great shoes is to find the ones that you love that speak to you and show off your style.
Kari is this month's Featured Family Member. Read the entire article here.
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Tagged as CSO Musicians, interview, Musicians.

2012 – A Year in Review

"The Symphony is a family, and that family embraces the audience--the people who work for the symphony, the volunteers, everyone who comes to concerts, everyone who listens on radio--it's a community; it's a family." - Christopher Warren-Green

2012 was a good year for the Charlotte Symphony family. We said good-bye to some individuals but welcomed many more new additions to our family. Here's twelve stories that highlight the organization's happenings in 2012. 

12. First Annual Ulysses Festival

The CSO along with  N.C. Dance Theatre, Opera Carolina and other regional cultural partners participated in a month-long celebration of the arts community. The theme for the inaugural festival was The Music of Tchaikovsky.
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11. Entire Artistic 'Family' Takes the Stage

For the first time in Charlotte Symphony history, members of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) and Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO), the Winterfield Elementary Youth Orchestra, the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, and Charlotte Symphony musicians performed together on the Belk Theater stage. 
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10. Violins of Hope

Charlotte had the great honor of hosting the North American premiere of this exhibit which restores the memory of the nameless millions, including the musicians and artists who were lost in the Holocaust. Numerous events took place throughout the city and culminated with the performance,  Triumph of Hope: Violins of Hope with the Charlotte Symphony
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9. 11th Summer Pops at Symphony Park

The CSO continued its tradition of delighting audiences with special outdoor performances at the beautiful Symphony Park including an Independence Day concert and fireworks show. 
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8. Instruments for Kids Program Launch

Donated instruments are used in the symphony's extensive education and community programs, creating a lending library of musical instruments for students who don't own their own.
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7. Live Image Magnification 

An All-Tchaikovsky program gave audiences the chance to view the orchestra in a brand new way via video cameras and a large screen.  Patrons also voted by text message for the encore piece. 
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6. Martin Heads to Dallas and Donor Steps In

After four great years, Jonathan Martin left Charlotte to become president and chief executive of the Dallas Symphony.  Shortly after this announcement an anonymous donor came forth to offer financial assistance in the search for a new executive director. 
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5. Stickler named Interim Director 

Former Bank of America executive Robert Stickler is our interim executive director as the orchestra seeks a new leader. Stickler has served on the orchestra's board of directors since 2008 and is a former president of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte. 
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4. Wells Fargo Challenge Grant

The bank offered assistance to the organization by matching up to $100,000 of contributions to the orchestra's general operations and $100,000 of gifts to CSO programs on
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3. World Premiere of Weinstein Digital Animation

A partnership between the CSO, the Knight Foundation and Mint Museum of Charlotte brought Matthew Weinstein's work to the city. Audiences experienced brilliant animation in sync with the hypnotic music of Ravel's Bolero. 
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2. Celebrating Eighty-One Years of Music

The 81st season opened in September with "The Music of Billy Joel" in the Pops series and and an All-Beethoven program in the Classics series. 
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1. Christopher Warren-Green Renews Contract

Our Music Director Christopher Warren-Green renewed his contract through the 2015-2016 season. His vision for the future of the organization includes artistic excellence, increased partnerships with other organizations, innovation through new programs and service to the community. 
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We look forward to what 2013 will bring. We thank you so much for being part of our Symphony Family!
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Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, CSYO, Education, Musicians, summer pops, symphony park.

A Cellist’s Life, by Dorothy Cole

I didn't want to wear a tutu or a tiara.  As a five-year-old my dream was to play the cello.  This cello enchantment all started the first time I saw a cello in the home of my silver-haired Seattle neighbor, a retired Seattle Symphony cellist and the first woman member of that orchestra.  I was at once smitten by the cello's dark graceful shape and its warm voice.  A few years later we started instrumental music at my school and were given the opportunity to pick any instrument which we would like to play.   No question: cello for me!  I came home one day and discovered my wish granted; there was a cello waiting for me.
Later as a teenager I joined the Seattle Youth Symphony, and my inspiration exploded.   The more I studied and played, the more I wanted to study and play.   My next big step was to go on to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Soon I was performing with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and later the Greensboro Symphony, playing chamber music, and teaching lessons.  

In 1977 I won an audition with the Charlotte Symphony, and since then this symphony has been my career, and Charlotte has become my home. If I had to name one high point in all of my Charlotte years, it would be the performance in the spring of 1986 when I was principal cello and the concerts featured Alicia de Larrocha in Brahms's Second Piano Concerto, which is largely a duet for piano and solo cello.   I was honored and thrilled. There have been so many wonderful concerts throughout my years with the Symphony but I think this season, my 34th, is best of all. I am enjoying every concert with our new conductor, Christopher Warren-Green.  

I will always be a cellist, and the Charlotte Symphony will forever feel like my orchestra, my musical family. Now I am silver-haired and proudly ready to retire. What next?   Retirement will give me more time to spend with my grown son and daughter and my two grandsons. It will also give me time for making pottery.  If you happen to be going to the airport, you can see some of my work in the pottery exhibit on Concourse A.

CSO Cellist Dorothy Cole retires at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
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Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

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