Interview with Marti Epstein

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The title of the piece you wrote for us for our Nov 26th concert, Komorebi, means the light that is filtered through the leaves of trees. Where did that image come from?

I have a book called "Otherwordly" which is where I found this beautiful word. The word inspired the piece- I love the image of the sunlight on the leaves. I often start the compositional process from a visual image.

Did the Winsor Music players' personalities and our friendship influence what you wrote?

While I don't really know Peggy, Rane and Gabby have played my music a lot, and I am friends with them - so absolutely both their gorgeous playing and their lovely personalities entered into my compositional process. Also, I do know Peggy's playing and was very much inspired by how beautiful her sound is.  

Is one instrument more difficult to write for than another?

Not really, but I played the clarinet (unofficially I still do) for many years and feel like I understand that instrument on a deeper level.

Who are your major influences? Do you think of them when writing?

Toru Takemitsu, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Morton Feldman, and Jean Sibelius are my biggest influences- I don't think of them consciously, but they're in the mix, for sure.

When did you feel like you found your compositional voice?

I was pretty young- if I played pieces for you from my freshman year, you would recognize them as my voice. I'm just a much better version of that now.

Are you writing for us, yourself, or the audience?

All three- but when I write for "the audience", I am putting myself in the seat of the critical listener and writing from that perspective. I am not interested in trying to guess what everyone in the audience will like; I'm more interested in inviting them into my world.

Your scores are always so beautiful. Is the care you take with making the score part of your process or something that happens after a piece is complete? Do you have a visually artistic side as well?

I am 100% a frustrated, no-talent visual artist! My calligraphy is absolutely part of the process, and the sound of my music itself is like aural painting (to me, anyway!)

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Come hear Komorebi  and a whole program of fabulous music on Winsor’s concert Nov 26th. More info here.  

Remembering "Remembering Gatsby"

 

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I first heard of John Harbison's orchestral work, Remembering Gatsby, as a kid growing up in Columbus, Georgia. My parents were both members of my home-town orchestra, The Columbus Symphony - my mom on piano and my dad on viola. (Fun fact: this orchestra was the second orchestra formed in the United States!). I would go to their concerts and always sit way up high in the balcony. One concert in particular is etched in my mind. I remember thinking the first piece on the program was super fun and made me want to get up and boogie. A few weeks later we acquired a cassette tape recording of the concert and I would secretly listen to it every single night under the covers on my Walkman while I was supposed to be asleep! I later learned that first piece was Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) by John Harbison.

 

A few years ago Emmanuel Music produced a concert version of Harbison’s opera, The Great Gatsby and both Rane and I were fortunate to play in that production. When we started the overture in our first rehearsal I thought to myself, “Whoa, this sounds really familiar!” The overture uses the same toe-tapping themes as that piece I loved as a child and memories of listening to Remembering Gatsby came flooding back. This past summer as Rane and I were thinking about programs for Winsor's 21st season I recalled the wonderful saxophone and violin solos in Gatsby, still fresh in my mind. My eleven-year-old self would never have imagined that someday I would know John Harbison well enough to ask if I could make an arrangement of Gatsby, and that he would say yes!

 

Rane Moore, John Harbison, Gabriela Díaz

Rane Moore, John Harbison, Gabriela Díaz

It's a luxury arranging a piece in which you'll also perform. In this particular case, that luxury meant indulging myself in a chance to play the flexatone, a cartoony-sounding percussion instrument which makes two appearances in Remembering Gatsby - I couldn’t resist (click here to listen)! Arranging this piece also gave me the chance to highlight the many talents of my fellow musicians. For example, Rane Moore: she is not only a gorgeous clarinetist, but a fantastic saxophone player as well!

 

I’m so looking forward to playing his piece, and I hope you will join us on October 15th for a whole program of incredible music.

 

-Gabby Díaz

Check out the orchestra version of Remembering Gatsby played expertly by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra here: 

Interview with Anna Weesner

Our March 26 concert will feature the Boston premiere of composer Anna Weesner’s Love Progression: A Personal Essay, for oboe and string quartet, a Winsor Music commission. Dr. Weesner is chair of the music department at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and describes her new piece as “equal parts reflective, studious, and cheeky.” Recently, we had a chance to talk with her about the premiere and her background.

Interview with Njioma Grevious

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Njioma Grevious, of Newton, Massachusetts, is a 17-year-old violinist who has been a scholarship recipient of Project STEP’s string training program since she was 5 years old. A student of James Buswell, Njioma recently performed as a guest artist at the White House in a Project STEP string quartet and with the President’s Own Marine Chamber Orchestra during a State Dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama. As a member since its inception of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra led by maestro Benjamin Zander, Njioma has performed in concert halls throughout Europe. Njioma is passionate about chamber music, currently performing in ensembles including Winsor Music’s mentored Whistler Quartet, a New England Conservatory Preparatory School piano quintet, and with her siblings in the Mahewa Trio. From a recent conversation with Winsor Music:

As a senior in high school, do you find it hard to balance academic subjects with the demands of practicing? Do you have a planned schedule to make sure everything gets done?

It is hard to find a consistent balance so I take a flexible approach to getting everything done (or at least trying to!). I am always ready to adjust to any day’s biggest demands by shifting my homework or practice or rehearsal schedule to accommodate so much to do. But my basic structure is getting a good night’s sleep, finishing up any homework before school, either beginning practicing right after school or later in the evening on school nights. Because I have a lot of rehearsals in addition to practice, each day depends on what makes the most sense in terms of being efficient and how I am feeling.

What’s it like studying with a great musician like James Buswell?

It is absolutely wonderful studying with Mr. Buswell. I feel tremendously fortunate and I really enjoy his inspirational and intellectually rewarding approach. I am thankful for the high expectations he has for me and I love reaching for them.

You’ve been a player in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra since its founding, and traveled with the BPYO to Europe. Can you tell us something about that experience?

My experience with Mr. Zander and BPYO has also been life-changing. I can’t imagine what these last four and a half years would have been like without the great opportunity and excitement of developing as an orchestral musician under Mr. Zander’s leadership, and performing with amazing musicians and traveling to so many countries to make music even before reaching college. BPYO is such a high-level orchestra, and when we play amazing repertoire including works by Mahler, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Gandolfi in some of the world’s greatest halls, it is pure joy.

Do you find that you preference for chamber music or orchestral? Does your approach to music differ between the chamber groups you play with?

I love them both because each is collaborative! My general approach is always the same: bringing my love for the music and music-making. But I do bring a different kind of discipline to practicing and expressing myself to meet the unique demands of large ensemble and small ensemble playing.

You recently performed for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House, which must have been very exciting. What was that like?

Performing at the White House and meeting President and Mrs. Obama is still something that I have to pinch myself about! It was more than exciting!! The Obamas are such wonderful and warm and incredible role models to me and so many people I know. And to be able to play in the White House with a Project STEP quartet and with members of the President’s Own Marine Orchestra—it was surreal.

Apart from the appearance with Winsor Music on December 3, what other performances do you have coming up? Do you have a past performance that was particularly memorable for you?

Coming right up, I will be performing with The Whistler Quartet, a Winsor-mentored quartet this weekend at an assisted living and nursing home facility. Outreach concerts are meaningful to me because they are a chance to hopefully add joy to at least one person’s day who doesn’t regularly get to hear live classical performances. Performing with Saul Bitran, our coach, Alma and Peter helps me develop and is so much fun because they are excellent musicians and friends. In addition to the Brahms we’ll be playing, I’ll also be performing a movement from a Bach sonata for solo violin. In addition to the White House performance, I remember another performance where I felt a particular kind of satisfaction. This was on tour with BPYO in Madrid as we successfully finished recording Beethoven’s Eroica. I also will always have sweet memories of the many times I have had the opportunity to play really beautiful music with Peggy at Winsor benefit concerts since I was about 7 years old.

What are your plans after high school? Is there a conservatory or college that you dream of attending?

Right now I am in the process of applying to colleges and conservatories and for scholarship opportunities to afford college. I want to continue my violin studies with the goal of a professional chamber and orchestral career. I am truly excited about my next four years of violin performance learning from great teachers and peers.

We’re looking forward to your performance on December 3rd of the Bach Concerto for Oboe and Violin. Is this a work that presents special challenges for you as a performer?

Playing Bach is always a challenge and is always an opportunity to learn something new and improve both technically and musically. With that said, rehearsing and playing this concerto with Peggy Pearson, one of the most amazing musicians I have ever heard, only adds to that challenge! And added to even that I will also be performing this moving piece as a Young Artist with six other amazing professional musicians who I admire. This is definitely a very special opportunity. Thank you Winsor Music!

Lev's Interview

Our opening concert this season features the Boston premiere of a work by one of our dear friends, Lev Mamuya.  I have known Lev through Project STEP since he was about 3 feet tall and eight years old!  He is currently entering his second year of the Harvard/NEC program, and I am honored that he took the time to write a piece for Winsor Music (our 5th from him). 

Remembering Roberto Cassan

All of us at Winsor Music were shocked and saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of our friend and colleague Roberto Cassan.  Roberto was a talented and expressive musician with an enormous heart.  We will miss this beautiful soul.

How George Li Captures Time

It's been a big year for George Li, and for someone who had already performed at the White House for Barack Obama and Angela Merkel by age 15, that's saying something. A Lincoln Center/New York concerto debut, a silver medal from the Tchaikovsky Competition, a string of high profile recital and concerto bookings, and a $25,000 Avery Fisher Career Grant... and those are just the highlights. Did we mention that he's also in a dual degree program at Harvard and NEC?

Living Among Legends: Andreia Pinto Correia's Life and Work

Andreia Pinto-Correia is an award-winning Portuguese composer, a student of John Harbison, and the featured composer on the final concert of Winsor Music's 2015-16 season. The prestigious Jornal de Letras wrote: "The music of Andreia Pinto-Correia has been a major contribution to the dissemination of Portugal’s culture and language, perhaps a contribution larger than could ever be imagined."

Open Doors, Open Minds: Rupert Thompson's Mission

Rupert Thompson's life story is a testament to the power of mentoring and the necessity of arts education in public schools. His belief in and advocacy of these ideas is compelling and urgent, grounded in his own history and lived every day through his work at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. You can come and meet Rupert and the other members of the Apple Hill String Quartet, at our concert on Sunday, April 24, at 7:00pm, at St. Paul's Church in Brookline. 

Autumn in Springtime: Yi Yiing Chen's Oboe Quartet

Winsor Music is honored to present the world premiere of a personal, powerful new work by a young composer, Yi Yiing Chen. Her credentials are impressive, but her intellect, empathy, and openness shine her writing, both verbal and musical.  We are so grateful that she has shared her story with us in her music and in this vivid and thoughtful interview. 

Bruce Creditor Remembers Gunther Schuller

On November 23rd, at 7pm, at St. Paul’s Church in Brookline, our featured contemporary work will be the Sonata for Oboe and Piano by composer, conductor, author, and educator Gunther Schuller, who passed away on June 21st this year at the age of 89. Our concert is the last in a series of events honoring Mr. Schuller, and to learn more about him, we spoke with Bruce Creditor, a long-time friend and colleague of both Mr. Schuller and our artistic director, Peggy Pearson. 

Look What We Hatched!

We are beyond delighted and grateful to be able to tell you that we not only met but exceeded the goal of our Hatchfund campaign! Because of the generosity of our campaign supporters, we were able to add three new students to the mentoring program, and we are delighted to introduce them to you now.  

Full Circle: Marcy Rosen on Chamber Music

Marcy Rosen is an acclaimed cellist: soloist, chamber musician, teacher, and mentor. Somehow, in the midst of a stunningly rich career, Marcy and four of her equally gifted and in-demand friends (among them, our Artistic Director Peggy Pearson) made the time to form the La Fenice Quintet. She spoke to us on the role of chamber music in her life and career, the power and benefits of mentorship for both the mentor and protege, and why making music with friends is her preferred coping method in times of great trauma and grief.  

An Interview with John Heiss

John Heiss is an active composer, conductor, flutist, and teacher. His works have been performed worldwide, and Winsor Music will give the world premiere of the oboe version, created for Peggy Pearson, at its first concert tonight, October 4th, 7pm at St. Paul's Church in Brookline, MA. Tickets are available in advance at discounted prices until 6pm.  Professor Heiss shared his thoughts on the composition process, the history of this piece, and how each of us can learn and love new musical languages. 

Megan Henderson's Many Songs for the Spirit

Many of you know and love Megan Henderson from her work as a pianist with Winsor Music's concert series and outreach program. We're so pleased to introduce her to you anew as a composer of our newest Song for the Spirit (although anyone involved in the Boston-area Shape Note community has known this side of her work for many years)! We discussed her history of writing music in (and bending the rules of) the Shape Note tradition, how she navigates between many musical traditions and practices, and why, for her, every song looks to the Spirit. 

An Interview with Mitsuru Yonezaki, violin

Mitsuru Yonezaki is our featured young artist for the first concert of our 2015-16 season, and a founding member of Winsor Music's first mentoring ensemble, Violobos! She began her violin studies at the age of four and currently studies with Joanna Kurkowicz. She took time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about how she has embraced chamber music, how singers and wind players like Peggy inspire her, and how music fits into her present and future.