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Fall 2019 Issue

From the Chair of the Board

by Derek Raghavan MD PhD, Chair of the Board, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

It is a great pleasure to write on behalf of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. We all marvel, month after month, at the extraordinary collective talent of our musicians, and music lovers in this region recognize what a great asset they are. Prior to moving to Charlotte to establish the Levine Cancer Institute, I worked in Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Cleveland, each of which is home to a superb orchestra. In those cities, the level of government support for orchestras is amazing, and thus each of them has been able to expand, play the most interesting compositions, and even tour and record their work.


Sadly our wonderful Charlotte Symphony Orchestra derives NO government  financial support, a real travesty since our orchestra tours throughout the state, and does an extraordinary amount of community work. I suspect that our community doesn't realize the following:

• Our conductor is one of the most famous conductors of classical music, leading the London Chamber Orchestra when he is not in Charlotte; he conducted the orchestras for both of the recent royal weddings!


• The Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra has actively involved superb young minority musicians, and now approximately half of the orchestra is composed of musicians from minority groups.


• Our orchestra and its musicians regularly carry out educational and social support activities for under-privileged children and adolescents, such as Project Harmony, which provides access to wonderful music and music education for kids without resources.


• The orchestra regularly plays in brew pubs and other easily accessible venues, both in Charlotte and other parts of NC in order to engage more of our population in classical and modern music.


• We also have established a series of performances to movies with great scores, like Star Wars, and also we have performed the music of Queen.


Help may be here as there is now a REALLY important issue for our community  on the November ballot specifically, I urge you to vote FOR the new Mecklenburg  County Sales and Use Tax referendum, which is designed by our courageous county  commissioners to support parks, education AND the arts!! A positive vote will result in  a quarter cent sales tax being levied, excluding items like food and medicines. This will  allow a substantial amount of local government support to be dedicated to improving  education, making more parks available for our kids and ourselves, and very importantly  dedicated to the arts such as the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, the opera, the ballet  and a range of important community arts organizations. This measure will be hugely  beneficial to all of our community, and will contribute to making Charlotte move up the  national list of most livable and best cities. The future of all our children (rich or poor)  and subsequent generations is at stake, as many of these organizations simply cannot  survive in the modern era without at least some government support. The Arts &  Science Council will oversee the distribution of the funds available for the arts, which  will ensure fairness of allocation to those organizations that help our WHOLE  community the most. I really hope that you will support this important referendum and  allow the CSO and so many other organizations to improve the lives of all our  community!

Derek Raghavan is an oncologist who came to Charlotte 8 years ago to establish the Levine Cancer Institute for Atrium Health. He previously ran the cancer institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He grew up mostly in Australia and moved to the USA in 1991. He is the Chair of the CSO Board and is married with 3 daughters, 3 son-in-laws, 3 grandchildren and a schnauzer. He plays golf very poorly.


Summer Festival Adventures

Oliver Kot, Andrea Mumm Trammell, Monica Boboc, Calin Lupanu, Joseph Meyer at Colorado Music Festival in Boulder

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Samuel Sparrow at Verbier Festival in the Swiss Alps

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Brice Burton (third from right) with the percussion section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, maestro David Newman (in black) and composer John Williams (far right) backstage at The Hollywood Bowl

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Jenny Topilow says: My daughter, Edie, had her orchestral debut at the Breckenridge Music Festival by leading me off the stage to “go hiking” at the end of Haydn’s “Farewell Symphony." It was so sweet and fun!

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Edie enters stage right

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Jenny hiking with her children, Edie and Arlo

"This is how the Charlotte Symphony lead bassoonist juggles music and motherhood"

Courtesy of Lawrence Toppman and the Charlotte Observer

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The Charlotte Observer recently featured our very own Principal Bassoonist Oliva Oh, sharing her thoughts on life as a professional musician, being a mother of two young children, and what brought her to Charlotte from her hometown of Seoul, South Korea.

Click below to read the full article.

Queen City Violins, a New Shop by Violinist Carlos Tarazona

by Jeremy Lamb

Last April, Carlos Tarazona transformed a portion of his house in Cotswold into Queen City Violins, a string instrument shop dedicated to the sale of instruments.

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As a longtime performer and violin dealer, one might wonder why Carlos Tarazona waited until now to finally open his own shop. "I sold my first violin when I was seventeen," he says, referring not to a violin he owned but to his first commission sale. At the University of Louisville, Carlos' violin teacher quickly recognized his interest in the great violin makers of history, an appreciation lost on many professional string players. Together, they flew to Chicago several times a month where his teacher used his shop connections to give Carlos access to some of the finest collections in the world. "Try this. Now try that. I would play them back to back for five hours at a time, really seeing what they could do.” I asked him what advice he would give for those of us trying to assess the sound of a new instrument. He explains that you have to try each string separately and then compare those strings back to back with other instruments. “The ear is like the eye,” Carlos says. “What does that mean? It means that — like the eye — we cannot remember a sound unless we hear it compared directly to something else.”


Carlos went on to sell many fine instruments including a violin made by the Voller Brothers, an English family from the late-nineteenth century known as the world's greatest instrument copyists (a story worth looking up if you have a little time). In addition to privately matching buyers with sellers for commissions, he used his knowledge to invest in pieces he suspected were underappreciated by the market at the time. Then, he would hold onto them for years while the market slowly came around. “You can't turn around and sell them immediately," he advises. "You wait, five, six, or seven years", and then, if you've made a smart purchase, that particular maker will be much more desirable and sell for more money. 


I asked him how much he's interested in the sound and playability of an instrument versus its historical significance. "I think it's both. I don't think you can be interested in having a great sounding violin without really knowing where its place in history is.”


For all his success as a private dealer, Carlos has discovered the limitations of working alone, without a shop to his name. "Selling violins is not easy. There are a lot of options... and having a shop gives you cachet." Carlos recognizes that when the time comes to sell his investment pieces, the shop will give him a leg up. One of those pieces is the instrument you'll see him playing if you come to the Symphony: a violin from 1752 by the great Italian luthier David Tecchler, a maker with some of the finest cellos and double basses in the world to his name.

Paws for Applause

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Practice Tips from CSO Principal Percussionist Brice Burton

by Jason McNeel

Have you ever wondered what kind of preparation goes into the beautiful and exciting music the Musicians of the Charlotte Symphony play each week?  Are you an amateur performer looking to improve your instrumental skills?  Of course, there are group rehearsals leading up to the concerts, but each performer also dedicates several hours of personal preparation before the first reading of a piece of music. Our musicians have spent decades honing their crafts and most hold Master of Music degrees from premier conservatories around the world.  In their time mastering the skills necessary to execute the difficult passages asked by the composer, they have learned to be expert problem solvers.  In this column they will offer up some tips they have learned along their way.


In this installment Brice Burton, principal percussionist of the Charlotte Symphony, offers up advice on how to use technology to improve your playing.  You have heard Brice play masterfully in this season’s finale performing the snare drum solo to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero along with many other works over the past two seasons.  He comes to Charlotte after completing Bachelor of Music (2015) and Master of Music (2017) degrees from the University of Southern California.  Brice serves on faculty at Queens University of Charlotte and coaches school and youth orchestras in the area.  Outside of leading the percussion section of the Charlotte symphony, he has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony.


“One crucial aspect of musical preparation for me begins with my cell phone.  Besides recording myself in lessons, auditions, and the occasional rehearsal for my own listening, I do a lot of work at home recording in slow motion video.  This not only allows me to check my movements to make sure they are efficient as possible (my philosophy is no wasted energy), but it often shocks me how far off my rhythm is from what I want.  Take, for example, a snare drum roll; the type of roll I perform has three "bounces" per stroke - known as an open concert roll.  Ideally, these bounces would be even in volume and spacing. Due to the physics of how things naturally bounce this is very difficult to achieve and takes many hours of practice.  When I record my roll, it sounds good. Even at half speed, it sounds good.  However, when I slow it down 4x or even 8x, then I can hear very obvious inconsistencies in the spacing of the bounces.  This is something that is barely perceptible, but could take my playing to the next level by helping my roll sound even better. I apply this technique to many different excerpts and aspects of my instrument; sometimes I will record myself in slow motion practicing with a metronome, and will be shocked at how I am not actually playing exactly with the metronome's beat. 


By recognizing my tendencies in this close of detail, it can help me fix bigger issues in my playing, such as general time and rhythms that just 'feel' off - often I won't notice anything until I really slow it down and realize that I am actually slowing down in one spot and speeding up in another.  This is something that any musician can do at home, and something that gives us that much more of a leg up on our predecessors, who didn't have access to this technology."

Holiday Recipe

by Allan Rosenfeld

In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, and the many Charlotte Symphony live music performances of Tchaikovsky’s  Nutcracker with Charlotte Ballet, here is a “nutty” recipe from a friend of the symphony musicians:

Betsy's Spiced Nuts

4 cups mixed nuts (any combination of whole unsalted almonds, whole unsalted cashews, and pecan halves)

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 small freshly grated whole nutmeg 

1 teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg white

¼ cup matchstick-sized cut strips of crystallized ginger (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all of the nuts in a medium sized bowl.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, allspice, cayenne, and salt until well combined.

In a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the egg white until it is foamy.

Pour the egg white over the nuts.  Toss and mix until the nuts are completely and evenly coated with the egg white. 

Pour the nuts into the spiced sugar mixture, and stir to coat them evenly. 

Place the nuts in a single layer in the pan on top of the parchment paper. If there is any extra sugar mixture in the bottom of the bowl that did not stick to the nuts, discard it. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring the nuts every 10 minutes with a spatula to bake them evenly. Be sure the nuts remain in a single layer. 

The nuts are done when they are golden brown, the sugar mixture is dry, and it has adhered to the nuts.  Your kitchen will smell wonderful. 

Place the pan of nuts on a cooling rack, and cool completely.

Transfer nuts to a large bowl, and gently stir in the crystallized ginger (if using). 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Birth Announcements!

Congratulations to CSO horn player Andrew Fierova and his wife Julia! They welcomed Evelyn Rose Fierova on July 2nd, 2019. 6 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches long.

Congratulations to CSO extra violinist Angela Watson and her husband Chris! They welcomed Maeve Estella Mary Watson at 12:05am on July 17, 2019. 5 lbs 11 oz.

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