The Music Man—Meet Steven Reineke

Maestro Steven Reineke becomes the Houston Symphony's new Principal POPS Conductor this season.

Maestro Steven Reineke becomes the Houston Symphony’s new Principal POPS Conductor this season.

This season, the Houston Symphony welcomes its dynamic new Principal POPS Conductor, Steven Reineke. In addition to his new post in Houston, this in-demand conductor is also the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Get to know the charming new maestro and emcee of our BBVA Compass POPS Series in this exclusive interview. 

Houston Symphony: What inspired you to become a pops conductor? When did you know this was what you wanted to do?

Erich Kunzel led the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for 32 years.

Erich Kunzel led the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for 32 years.

Steven Reineke: I didn’t consider being a pops conductor (or any conductor for that matter) until my mid-20s. I started out wanting to be a professional trumpet player, but then my love of composition took over, and I focused on becoming a film music composer in Los Angeles for a few years. My path started to become clearer for me when I became Erich Kunzel’s assistant at the Cincinnati Pops in 1995. Although I was serving as the principal composer and arranger for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, I began conducting lessons with Maestro Kunzel within my first few years of working with him. I guess you could say that is when I caught a serious bug to become a conductor and to focus on popular music. I love the wide array of musical styles Pops offers, and I certainly love the showmanship and entertainment aspect of the job. By age 27 or so, I knew I had found my true calling in life.

HS: What was the first big break in your career?

SR: It’s so hard to pinpoint just one moment that I would consider my “big break.” One could be when I was hired by Maestro Carmon DeLeone (Music Director of the Cincinnati Ballet) to orchestrate his full length ballet version of Peter Pan. Carmon composed the music but asked me to do the orchestrations. This garnered the attention of Erich Kunzel which helped me land the job as his assistant. Another could be when I had to step in at a moment’s notice to conduct my first full orchestra concert when Maestro Kunzel had fallen ill. Yet another would be when the Modesto Symphony created the position of Principal Pops Conductor and offered me my first full time job as a conductor of an orchestra. I don’t believe there is truly one magical moment but a series of fortuitous events that lead a person to success.

HS: So far, what have been some of your most memorable concerts as a conductor? 

"...all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler..."

“…all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler…”

SR: One of my favorite concerts of all time was a family concert we created for The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, The Musical World of Jim Henson. I shared the stage with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets, all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler from their box seats in Carnegie Hall.

Another concert I’m very proud of was a recreation of Marvin Gaye’s iconic album What’s Going On that featured John Legend. In between songs, we incorporated commentary and poetry by teenagers of all backgrounds from around the country, juxtaposing their views on “what’s going on” now with Marvin Gaye’s brilliant lyrics and music of the ’60s and early ’70s. I helped create that show for performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with our National Symphony Orchestra, and we subsequently performed it at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic.

HS: While this will be your first season as Principal POPS Conductor, you have already appeared with the Houston Symphony many times. What have been your impressions of Houston so far?

SR: My biggest draw to accept the position was the incredible talent and musicianship of the orchestra, plus the fact that the players are such nice people who are very easy to work with. I’ve also made some friends outside the orchestra that I always enjoy seeing when I’m in town.

Steven Reineke conducting the 2016 Houston Symphony Star-Spangled Salute.

Steven Reineke conducting the Houston Symphony’s 2016 Star-Spangled Salute.

HS: In addition to being a conductor, you are also a widely-performed composer and arranger. How does your experience as a composer and arranger inform your work as a conductor?

SR: Orchestrations and arrangements in the symphonic pops genre are one of the most important keys to a successful concert. Even the casual listener can hear the difference between an ordinary arrangement and one that really makes the music pop. My background allows me to determine very quickly what arrangements are the best, and I also look forward to creating many of my own special arrangements and compositions for the Houston Symphony.

HS: As our new Principal POPS Conductor, what do you hope to bring to the Houston Symphony’s BBVA Compass POPS Series? 

SR: I’m looking forward to some incredibly entertaining and interesting programming and guest artists. I hope to reach out to the greater Houston community and expand our audience with a diverse mix of fun music. It’s also very important to me to continually raise the bar of excellence for the orchestra. The bottom line is that I want us all to have a lot of fun at each show and to be amazed at how incredible our magnificent Houston Symphony is.

HS: You’ve decided to begin your first season as Principal Pops Conductor with Ella at 100—a musical celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday. Why begin with Ella?  

"I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack."

“I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack.”

SR: I have often been asked in interviews “Who haven’t you worked with as a guest artist that you would like to work with?” Invariably, I throw them off with my answer of Ella Fitzgerald. I’m not often star-struck anymore, but I would give just about anything to have met Ella or to have seen her perform. She is my personal favorite “girl singer” of all time. When I’m cooking dinner or having a party at my place, I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack. Not only was she one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, male or female, but her repertoire is full of extraordinary songs. There is so much more I want to say about Miss Ella, but I’ll save that for the concert.

HS: What are some of the other BBVA Compass POPS concerts Houston audiences can look forward to this season? 

SR: I must say that the entire series is terrific—you won’t want to miss anything! To take one example, I’m very excited about November’s Broadway Today program, which I’ve done at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to rave reviews. It will feature a dear friend of mine named Betsy Wolfe, who is currently starring in the hit musical Waitress on Broadway. It contains some of the biggest hit Broadway songs of the past 30 years all the way up to today, including a few surprises—but you’ll have to be there to witness them.

I’m also really looking forward to our Very Merry Pops concerts this year, as I’m creating a new show with the brilliant Megan Hilty based on her incredible holiday album. Another highlight will be a show called One Hit Wonders with the inimitable Storm Large as guest vocalist. I’ve been wanting to create this show for years, and I’m so happy to finally debut it in Houston.

Don’t miss Steven Reineke at Ella at 100 September 1, 2 & 3. Get tickets and more info here.

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A Musical Mentor Celebrates Success

In May 2016, we published a post about a talented, young saxophone player named Salvador Flores. In the post below, Salvodor’s mentor, Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician David Connor, gives us an uplifting update regarding this young Houstonian’s most recent accomplishments.

Community-Embedded Musician David Conner with students at Galena Park High School in 2016.

Galena Park High School band director Jessie Meng and Community-Embedded Musician David Conner work with students in 2015.

Every once in a while, the Houston Symphony is fortunate to work with some of the music world’s rising stars. As one of the Symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians, I get to be on the front lines of these exciting partnerships by making regular visits to work with band and orchestra students through our annual High School Residencies. Throughout the year, the Houston Symphony musicians and I get to be a part of the musical growth of both ensembles and individual musicians. One such musician who has made all of us particularly proud is saxophonist Salvador Flores of the Galena Park High School Band.

Salvador (pictured at right, the first in the row) rehearses with fellow band students at Galena Park High School.

Salvador (pictured at right, the first in the row) rehearses with fellow band students (2015).

I met Salvador at the beginning of his junior year on my first visit to Galena Park High School. The students were getting ready for their solo and ensemble competition, and I was blown away by the preparation and fine musicianship that I heard from each of the musicians that played that day. When Salvador played a viciously difficult étude on the alto saxophone with the clarity and nuance that you would expect from a seasoned professional, I couldn’t believe my ears. Salvador had just started to take private lessons and had never left Houston to study with anyone else. I knew he wanted to pursue music, so I sat down with his wonderful teacher, Jessie Meng, and we came up with a plan.

Salvador was already first chair of the Texas All-State Band (no small feat as a sophomore), so we hoped to send him further afield to the kind of challenging environment that would push him to achieve more. He applied and was accepted to the Interlochen Center for the Arts for their two-month summer festival. Here he made an important connection with professor Timothy McAllister, who performed John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto with the Houston Symphony during our 2016-17 season. To say they hit it off would be an understatement based on how much Salvador grew over the summer.

Salvador performs for patrons before a recent Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall.

Salvador performs for patrons before a recent Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall.

Not only did he come back with an incredible command of the instrument, he had a determination and focus that you don’t typically see at his age. He knew what competitions he would apply for and what college he wanted to attend. At this point we got to all sit back and watch as Salvador won a prize at the prestigious YoungArts Competition in Miami in January. Later that spring, he was accepted into his top choice college, the University of Michigan with professor Timothy McAllister! We are so happy to see Salvador flourish and to be a part of his network of support.

We expect big things from Salvador, who throughout his journey has remained humble and continues to lift and support his colleagues in the Galena Park High School Band. If you would like to help Salvador make the next step, you can help provide the much-needed funds for Salvador’s books, supplies, and flights to and from the University of Michigan through his gofundme campaign. We’ll all be watching Salvador, and we look forward to seeing him in Houston and wherever his path may lead him!

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The Houston Symphony Chorus in Prague

The Houston Symphony Chorus performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at Prague's Smetana Hall.

The Houston Symphony Chorus performs Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at Prague’s Smetana Hall.

The Houston Symphony Chorus recently completed a highly successful series of concerts in the Czech Republic. Chorus Manager Anna Diemer shares her memories and impressions below.

Pedal-boating on the Vltava

Pedal-boating on the Vltava

When I accepted the offer to become Manager of the Houston Symphony Chorus, I never imagined that in two short years I would be pedal-boating down the Vltava River in Prague with my fellow singers. Yet there I was, enjoying the mild summer weather and admiring the majestic medieval castle rising above the city.

The Houston Symphony Chorus was invited to sing with the Prague Symphony Orchestra for their season-closing program, which featured the Te Deum by the beloved Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The tour was announced in November of 2015, and I spent a significant part of the following year and a half helping to organize the logistics.

The Chorus was also asked to participate in the Smetanova Litomysl Festival, which takes place annually in the small town where composer Bedrich Smetana was born. Citizens of the Czech Republic take great pride in their musical heritage, and we were delighted to learn several months before our departure that all three of our performances were sold out.

How do you get to Smetana Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

Before we could board the plane to Prague, we had a lot of work to do! During the month of May, the Houston Symphony Chorus premiered a brand new work by our composer-in-residence, Gabriela Lena Frank, and helped bid adieu to outgoing Principal Pops conductor Michael Krajewski in his Classic Broadway concert. In order to prepare for our tour in addition to all of our engagements with the Symphony, we scheduled extra rehearsals on Sunday afternoons, plus Monday through Friday evenings the week before we departed. Preparing and polishing the music was grueling, but our director, Betsy Cook Weber, led us through it with a smile—and her impeccable ear! By the time we were ready to depart, I had gotten to know the tour choir quite well and was looking forward to traveling with my 81 fellow singers and their guests.

Per Betsy's orders, we brought our water bottles to stay hydrated on the long flight.

Per Betsy’s orders, we brought our water bottles to stay hydrated on the long flight.

On Sunday, June 11, we were off! I only caught a few hours of sleep on the plane, but the adrenaline of shepherding the group to our closely-scheduled connecting flight at Heathrow kept me wide awake and chipper. As our plane descended into the Prague airport, my eyes were glued to the window as I took in the rolling green hills and red roofs of the Czech countryside for the first time.

Our first rehearsal with the Prague Symphony Orchestra was in Smetana Hall on Tuesday morning, and I ogled the pink marble and magnificent Art Nouveau chandeliers that adorned the lobby. The acoustic of the hall matched its decor—as we began the choral fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, the warm, rich sound of the cellos and basses resonated beautifully throughout the hall. At that moment, I truly recognized what an honor it was to be singing with a renowned European orchestra in an historic hall, whose ornately decorated walls had heard the echoes of Beethoven’s Ninth hundreds of times before.

A Czech Ode to Joy

"Maestro took a blistering pace for the ending Presto section."

“Maestro took a blistering pace for the ending Presto section.”

The night of our first performance, we walked to the hall together in a conspicuous parade of black gowns and tuxedos that must have looked funny to the passing crowds of tourists. As we filed onstage, the audience clapped from the appearance of the very first singer until the very last assumed his place. I was exhilarated as soon as I heard the opening triplets of the timpani in Dvořák’s Te Deum, which is one of my favorite choral-orchestral works. The Chorus embodied the wildly joyful spirit of the piece with ease—we had made it to Prague, and we were singing Czech music with a Czech orchestra! I could not stop grinning during the finale, as the majestic brass fanfare leads the listener up to the gates of heaven.

Members of the Houston Symphony Chorus sing the finale of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

Members of the Houston Symphony Chorus sing the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

During the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th, the hall fell into a rapt silence at the first, quiet statement of the “Ode to Joy” theme. When the full Chorus finally chimed in with the theme, many Chorus members were moved to tears. Maestro took a blistering pace for the ending Presto section. It’s one of the most thrilling moments in the classical canon as excitement builds and erupts within the chorus and orchestra. The audience applauded for a full four minutes as the Maestro, Betsy, and the soloists were all presented with flowers. Our second and final performance with the Prague Symphony Orchestra was just as well-received.

Sharing a beverage with our Musical Ambassador, Carlos Andrés Botero, who came to hear our concert in Litomysl. The Chorus was honored to have his support!

Sharing a beverage with our Musical Ambassador, Carlos Andrés Botero, who came to hear our concert in Litomysl. The Chorus was honored to have his support!

When we weren’t singing, Chorus members had time to discover Prague’s many charms, from drinking cheap beer and eating trdelník, a cylindrical cinnamon-sugar pastry, to going garnet shopping and visiting museums. I made a pilgrimage a few metro stops south to the 17th-century fortress Vysehrad, which enclosed the cemetery where both Dvořák and Smetana are buried. I will never forget the melodious sound of the noon bells tolling as I wandered through it to pay my respects at Dvořák’s resting place.

On our last full day, we piled into buses to ride to Litomysl for our festival performance. The Chorus sang in the breathtaking Piarist Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross, and all singers soldiered on admirably through our marathon three-hour rehearsal of Mozart’s Mass in C, Dvořák’s Te Deum, Bernstein’s Missa Brevis and four American spirituals.

The Chorus performs to a sold-out crowd at the Piarist Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross in

The Chorus performs to a sold-out crowd at the Piarist Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross as part of the Smetanova Litomysl Festival.

Our hard work paid off during the concert, and we received a true standing ovation, a rare gesture for European audiences. Maestro was an effusive, young Czech gentleman, and it was clear that he put his heart and soul into the music he conducted, which was reflected in the Chorus’ enthusiastic singing. I could not stop the tears from falling during the Te Deum’s jubilant “Alleluia.” I realized how beautiful it was for the maestro to conduct the music of his homeland and how privileged we were to be a part of that.

At our farewell dinner that evening, toasts were made and the last liters of Czech beer were drunk to celebrate our successful tour. The Chorus members and their guests had an overwhelmingly positive response to the trip, and I know that many of the singers shared a transformational musical experience that strengthened the bonds within the group. I am excited to share a glimpse of Prague with the Houston Symphony when we perform Dvořák’s Te Deum again in September, and I look forward to the next adventure that brings our voices and our hearts together.

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Meet the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalists! Part 2

Ten outstanding young musicians were selected as semi-finalists for the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition. From throwing tantrums to wearing fancy dresses – these contestants share their fondest memories of their musical backgrounds.

Hear these talented contestants perform in the 2017 Ima Hogg semi-finals competition Thursday, June 1, at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Kiril Angelov, 24

Kiril Angelov, xylophone

Kiril Angelov, marimba

Kiril grew up in the north part of Bulgaria in the small town of Pleven and started playing the snare drum and xylophone at 6 years old.  

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

KA:  My mother is a piano teacher in the high school I graduated from. That was very important and had a big impact on my musical views and practice methods.  I was also playing piano back then and always tried to compare and find similarities and differences between percussion and piano.  This helped me to see and understand music from different perspectives. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

KA:  I only remember my very first lesson in which I felt really energetic and excited even though I was probably nervous.  I liked standing behind the instrument from the very first moment.  

HS:  Who is your favorite composer and why? 

KA:  I very much enjoy the music of Bach.  His music is so special that it can sound and be accepted in so many different ways.  Also the fact that it is playable on most of the instruments we have now is fascinating.

Michael Ferri, 21

Michael Ferri, violin

Michael Ferri, violin

Michael was born in Italy and began studying violin at age 3. He’s currently studying at Rice University.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

MF:  My parents raised me in a very musical setting.  As soon as I started speaking, I began to ask my parents to play an instrument.  Even before this, I could frequently be found watching orchestras on PBS, conducting them with a chopstick. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances? 

MF:  Although I greatly enjoyed practicing and performing, I spent my first full year of violin lessons throwing tantrums and crying on the floor. Come to think of it, most of my violin lessons at present are quite similar.  Among my first memories of performances, one in particular stands out:  while playing a Suzuki concert, I played the last note of my piece, and accidentally lost control of my bow, sending it flying into the audience. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

MF:  The art of Ivry Gitlis, Michael Rabin 1936-1972, Heifetz playing Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn, The Doors: The Best Of, Tom Waits – Blue Valentine. 

Rainer Crosett, 25

Rainer Crosett, cello

Rainer Crosett, cello

Rainer grew up outside of Boston and started on piano at age 5 and cello at age 9. 

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances? 

RC:  My first cello teacher was a wonderful school orchestra director, but she was mainly a violinist, so for a while, I had a violin-style bow grip! The first orchestra rehearsals I had at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School were defining moments for me; I was blown away by the range of sounds an orchestra can make. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

RC:  Ben Zander, who has been one of my mentors ever since I played in his youth orchestra in Boston, has been one of the most powerful influences in my life.  His boundless enthusiasm for music and his profoundly optimistic perspective on life have deeply affected who I am today. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

RC:  Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2(Cleveland/Fleisher/Szell, Mozart Divertimento K563 (Kremer, Kashkashian, Ma), Dvorak Cello concerto (Chicago/du-Pre/Barenboim), Beethoven Piano Sonata in E Major Op. 109 (Richter), Beethoven Violin Sonata in G Major Opl 96 (Kavakos/Pace)

Rachel Ostler, 24

Rachel Ostler, violin

Rachel Ostler, violin

Rachel grew up in Dallas in a musical family and started playing the violin at age 2.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

RO:  I am so lucky because I grew up with siblings who were all musically inclined, and we played string quartets all the time!  Chamber music has always been close to my heart, at least partially because of this.  Even though none of my siblings have pursued music professionally, they are extremely supportive. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

RO:  The obvious answer is really my parents.  Such an incredible amount of support from them.  But, artistically, speaking, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s writings quite heavily impacted me when I first discovered him, and are still a source of inspiration for me. 

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod? 

RO:  Barber Violin Concerto 2nd movement, Bach Andante from the A minor sonata, and probably a couple Radiohead songs. 

Vijay Venkatesh, 26

Vijay Venkatesh, piano

Vijay Venkatesh, piano

Vijay grew up in Southern California and began playing the piano at age 4.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career? 

VV:  My older sister is a violinist and we love to collaborate in performances. Sibling bickering in rehearsal has taught me the element of reaching an agreement! While my parents are not musicians themselves, they inculcated in me a love for music through recordings and taking me to live performances.    

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you? 

VV: Some of my inspirations include my parents because they always supported me in everything I set out to do. Musical influences include my professors Norman Krieger and Jeffrey Kahane.  They inspire me to push the limits of my imagination, creativity and courage;  always encouraging me to be fearless.    

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

VV:  Brahms 2nd Concerto with Norman Krieger and the London Symphony, the entire discography of Dinu Lipatti, Murray Perahia playing Bach, Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler 1, Fritz Kreisler performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition on June 3! Get tickets and more info here.

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Meet the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalists! Part 1

Ten outstanding young musicians were selected as semi-finalists for the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition. From throwing tantrums to wearing fancy dresses – these contestants share their fondest memories of their musical backgrounds.

Things to know:

15,279: The number of miles our semi-finalists will travel to Houston for the competition

181: Combined years spent learning their instruments

4: number of contestants who are the only musicians in their families

1: number of times someone has run off stage crying

Hear these talented contestants perform in the 2017 Ima Hogg semi-finals competition Thursday, June 1, at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Alan Woo, 25

Alan Woo, piano

Alan Woo, piano

Alan grew up in Northern Virginia and began playing piano at age 4.

HS: What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

AW:  I remember in one of my first performances I sat down at the piano bench and decided not to play.  I vaguely recall running out and crying in the car before my mother convinced me to go back inside and try again.

HS:  Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?

AW:  My teachers have been my most profound influences.  It is already inspiring enough to experience their great musicianship, but I also think their willingness to help future generations of aspiring artists through our inevitable struggles is truly inspirational.  They are certainly my role models. 

HS: What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

AW: Right now, Taneyev Piano Quintet, Schubert Piano Sonata D. 959, Chopin Cello Sonata, Mozart Marriage of Figaro, and Bartok Miraculous Mandarin.

Charles Seo, 21

Charles Seo, cello

Charles Seo, cello

Charles began his musical journey right here in Houston and started playing the cello at 9 years old.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

CS:  My mother majored in music composition; my father, visual art.  However my father served in the Korean Military Band so he knows how to play a lot of wind and brass instruments.  When I was very young, my mother placed me underneath the grand piano she played at church.  I believe that’s where my musical talent comes from.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

CS:  I remember playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto with the Houston Youth Symphony at Stude Concert Hall many years ago.  When I perform at the semi-finals in Stude Hall again, it will be a very nostalgic experience.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

CS:  I am such a lucky person to have met great mentors.  Brinton always encouraged me to try new things and pushed me very hard.  Getting me to learn violin pieces on the cello and challenging me to learn other difficult repertoire was his specialty.  Without him, I would have never gotten the chance to learn pieces like that, and I wouldn’t even have that mindset.

Churen Li, 21

Churen Li, piano

Churen Li, piano

Churen grew up in Singapore where she began piano studies at age 5.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

CL:  My grandparents teach Yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) in a Chinese university.  My grandfather has early Parkinson’s and we can’t communicate much, but I love seeing the sparkle in his eyes when he listens to me play.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

CL:  One of my first performances was of a piece I wrote for my mother on her birthday, titled “To Mother with Love.”  I simply adored the euphoria of being onstage. I was also very excited about wearing my first fancy dress and putting on makeup for the first time.

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

CL:  Bach – St. Matthew’s Passion, Bill Evans – Someday My Prince Will Come, Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel, Walton Violin Concerto 

Joseph Morris, 26

Joseph Morris, clarinet

Joseph Morris, clarinet

Joseph grew up in California and started playing clarinet at 9 years old.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

JM:  I remember my middle school band program had a system of “challenges” where you could attempt to usurp the chair of the person ahead of you in a head to head playing contest.  I feel like the clarinet section took this to the extreme and the healthy competition of it all kept me both enthusiastic and practicing. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

JM:  The most profound influence by far has been my clarinet teacher of nearly ten years, Yehuda Gilad.  He prioritized sincere and expressive musicianship above all else and that has remained very important to me.  Additionally, he felt it was important to encourage his students to be good and ethical human beings.   

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

JM:  The Beatles “Rubber Soul”, Richard Strauss’s ballet “Schlagobers”, selections from Verdi’s “Don Carlos”, Snarky Puppy “We Like it Here”, and Kendrick Lamar “untitled unmastered”.

I-Jung Huang, 22

I-Jung Huang, violin

I-Jung Huang, violin

I-Jung grew up in Taiwan and came to the United States at age 18 to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. She started playing the violin at 7 years old.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

IH:  My brother also learned a little bit of violin.  He was the person who actually got me started playing the violin. I am very grateful for my family because they support my music with all their effort.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

IH:  My teacher from NEC, Miriam Fried, has long been my biggest influence.  She has an admirable work ethic and a confidence that she shares with all her students.   

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

IH:  For now, I have the Beethoven String Quartets recorded by the Guaneri Quartet.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition on June 3! Get tickets and more info here.

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