Fall 2022

New Faces in the Charlotte Symphony

by Allan Rosenfeld

Colin Benton, Principal Tuba

What do you love most about your instrument?

The sound and the overtones of the tuba are such that all the other instruments can fit inside - so you can make a sound everyone can live in. It ties everything in the orchestra together.

Why did you pick your instrument?

I picked it because it was big. (I was 10 at the time)

What do you think is the most notable thing about your hometown?

I grew up in Peachtree City GA, and we drove golf carts everywhere. I drove one to school every day.

Ayako Gamo, First Violin

What were you doing before coming to work in Charlotte?

I have played in a few orchestras since 2003. My last stop was in Austin, TX. 

What’s your favorite place in the whole world and why?

Hokkaido, Japan. I spent only 4 years of my childhood in this beautiful island in northern Japan, but I have so many fond memories. The scenery reminds me of Switzerland.  I still visit there every year. 

Hanna Zhdan, First Violin

Why did you pick your instrument?

I was having a hard time deciding between violin and piano, so my mom told me that violin is the queen of music. That did the trick!

What do you find the most challenging thing about playing your instrument? How do you work on this?

It’s incredible how many things you can be unsatisfied with in your own playing as a violinist - intonation, tone quality, dynamic range, bow hold, variety of vibrato… It often gets overwhelming, so I just try to remind myself that you can never be perfect, but you can be better than you were yesterday.

Andrew Fierova, 2nd Horn

What were you doing before coming to work in Charlotte?

I was completing my master’s degree at The Juilliard School and making plans to move to the Carolinas anyway, as I had just won the Principal Horn job with the Augusta Symphony. I ended up as acting 4th Horn with the CSO in 2013 instead, and then won the Assistant/Utility Horn chair in 2015. I have been Acting 2nd Horn for the past few years and am happy to make it permanent!

Tell us a little something people would be interested in hearing about your life offstage?

I race mountain bikes, I love to BBQ on my 500-gallon smoker, and I have a 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

Matthew Darsey, Viola

What do you find the most challenging thing about playing your instrument? 

The Viola is a physically awkward instrument, compounded by the fact that I am a physically awkward person. Fortunately, in college I started studying with the fabulous Sheila Browne, who came from a lineage of playing that emphasized freedom of the body. A surprisingly large portion of my practice is just noticing how my body moves and feels. Even your toes can affect your playing! 

Any pieces you’re particularly looking forward to playing in the orchestra here?

Rhiannon Giddens has been one of my favorite artists for years, going all the way back to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Between her and Tai Murray playing violin on the Beethoven Triple Concerto, my bucket list is about to get a bit shorter.

Dustin Wilkes-Kim, First Violin

What do you think is the most notable thing about your hometown?

I am from Winston-Salem and I was so fortunate to be able to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in high school. It is unusual to happen to have such an education academically and artistically just down the road. The spirit of creativity I would say is a special quality of my home town.

Any pieces you’re particularly looking forward to playing in the orchestra here?

I basically look forward to playing everything we play here. I love that I get to experience such a vast swath of orchestral repertoire week after week. I love that we program all kinds of things.

wix headshot.jpg

CSO Ratifies New Contract

by Ben Geller

The beautiful and intricate sounds one hears at the symphony do not happen by chance. The group efforts our patrons see and hear on stage are initiated before the rehearsals, or even the seasons themselves begin. The pieces of art and entertainment presented are the culminations of decisions and agreements made when the concert hall is empty. The mesmerizingly beautiful music depends on aspirations and careful planning that is years in the making. And as Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, the plans and agreements that the CSO depend upon need to be just as dynamic.

Screen Shot 2022-10-24 at 12.24.43 PM.png

Between the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, when the whole world was grappling with a global pandemic and finding a “new normal”, the Charlotte Symphony’s five-year strategic plan was written as a committee driven aspirational guide to ensure that the Symphony remains a vibrant cultural cornerstone. This last summer, elected musicians from within the orchestra met with legal counsel and CSO’s administrative teams to expand and update existing systems as well as to create new programs and draw up new documents to enact the Strategic Plan’s proposals. As the Plan has a relatively short timeline for a 90+ year old cultural institution and the proposed programs are fairly ambitious, the resulting work contract had many changes and new programs. Oversight and accountability are paramount for an ambitious plan to succeed, and so the ensuring agreement is likewise only a brief two years. At the end of that second year, the CSO will have invaluable knowledge of its directional decisions. 

Mirroring the city, the CSO is set to grow and regain its numbers by making its per-service (or part time) musicians full time and also fully staffing its ranks to 65. Most major orchestras in the nation have at least that many musicians, ideally corresponding to the 88 keys on a full size piano. In the US there are 52 full-time Symphonic Orchestras where multiple concerts are performed every week and the musicians employed and performing have often migrated from other cities around the nation or world to live, teach, and flourish in a culturally supportive atmosphere. These cities become homes to conservatory-trained specialists that embed themselves in the cultural fabric and the new musical ambassadors are dedicated employees and citizens that collaborate with schools and other sister arts organizations to bring world class cultural events to their new homes. 

Alongside the CSO’s main stage programs and more typically recognizable collaborations between longtime partners Opera Carolina and the Charlotte Ballet, the CSO will diversify its offerings to reflect the needs of its community and make it possible to place even individual musicians in schools and community centers all over the region for a variety of programs. Programs may range from more traditional musical concert offerings to an educational workshop or “Show and Tell.” 

Like all of us, artists come from all over and in every shape, size, and background. To help recognize this truth, the CSO is partnering with organizations like Sphinx and NAAS that promote and grant scholarships to talented artists. Resumes will also no longer be read to avoid any implicit bias that may simply signal historical economic inequality. 

 

Even the harrowing auditions themselves have been updated and restructured to eliminate any possible bias. The CSO has already been one of the first Orchestras to maintain its “screen” policy of hiding from view and rendering anonymous every candidate artist through all the rounds from the hiring panel. However, debates about artistic merit can bring dearly held personal emotional responses, and in an effort to build on the CSO’s tradition of promoting fair and equitable auditions, an anonymous signaling switch will inform a non-voting proctor if a candidate artist’s musical offering speaks to the heart of a member of the CSO’s hiring panel. 

In 1932 when Guillermo de Roxlo founded the Charlotte Symphony, he did so as an immigrant transplant and garnered the support of local musicians and patrons. The CSO has grown ever since, with some pangs and setbacks felt alongside its home. In our ever changing world, the symphony can seem to the sheltered uninitiate like an ancient artifact, better suited to a museum. However, any piece of visual media (e.g. movie, television show or video game) would lack emotional depth without its soundtrack. A varied color palette is more capable of nuance and reflective potential. If one considers a city’s Symphony as something like a House Band to a popular venue or a television show, then Charlotte deserves the best possible Hi Speed Streaming HD dynamic and excellent group of artists in its Charlotte Symphony.

Here, There and Elsewhere: Summertime Edition

by Sarah Markle

It was a busy summer for the musicians of the CSO, after wrapping up last season with the epic Music of the Rolling Stones concert in June. Some of us stuck around to continue various musical and non-musical pursuits: along with performing for her 31st summer at the Chautauqua Institution, violist Cindy Frank adopted a new puppy! And cellist Jeremy Lamb took salsa dancing lessons when he wasn't playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony or North Carolina Symphony.

 

Others skipped town to attend festivals and conventions, or to play with different orchestras. Principal Clarinetist Taylor Marino performed at Carnegie Hall and toured Europe with the Cleveland Orchestra. Principal Violist Ben Geller was back teaching and performing at Eastern Music Festival, "changing hearts and growing minds". Assistant Principal Second Violinist Kathleen Jarrell and horn player Bob Rydel toured Slovenia, Austria and Germany with the Pittsburgh Symphony. And violinist Hanna Zhdan had a particularly busy summer, attending both Music Academy of the West and her first rock concert (Red Hot Chili Peppers), AND getting engaged to her boyfriend of four years!

 

A few postcards:

Assistant Principal Second Violinist Kathleen Jarrell and horn player Bob Rydel in Elbphilharmonie Hall in Hamburg, during the Pittsburgh Symphony's European Tour in August

Violinist Hanna Zhdan and friends at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA (Photo by Phil Channing, #philchanning)

Flutist Erinn Frechette performing at the National Flute Association’s Annual Convention in Chicago

Violist Cindy Frank and her new puppy Dottie, a 9-month-old rat terrier adopted from Charlotte Animal Control. "She is even getting along with my 21-year-old cat!" says Cindy.

Birth Announcement!

Meet Norah Mumm Trammell, born on June 2nd to Principal Harpist Andrea Mumm Trammell and her husband Mike Trammell.