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Musical Postcards

Throughout this 175th anniversary season, the New York Philharmonic has been celebrating its hometown, as well as exploring the meaning of home, through The New World Initiative.

This past Saturday, a very special Saturday Matinee concert gave audiences a particularly resonant look at the idea of “home” when Philharmonic musicians and Teaching Artists performed works written by students of the Very Young Composer’s Program (VYC), aged 9–22, some of which were inspired by original compositions by Middle Eastern children in refugee camps.

The concert was a result of the Musical Postcards program, through which VYC participants correspond with children in other countries and ultimately compose music in reaction to pieces written by their counterparts abroad. Works on Saturday’s program included “Musical Postcards” from New York composers to those in Venezuela, Israel, and Syria as well as a work by an Afghan refugee.

Jennifer Sime, Senior Vice President, United States Programs, of the International Rescue Committee, opened the concert with remarks about the current refugee crisis.

As Jon Deak, Artistic Director of VYC, said: “The spirit of these displaced children inspires us. Our New York kids have expressed solidarity by answering their counterparts with their own music.”

The works performed were:

Claudia Meléndez (Venezuela) El Secreto

Cassandra Stevens (New York) Where Is Home?

Naama Rolnick (Israel) Keep Walking

Chi-Chi Ezekwenna (New York) Sequence of War

Ram Shanati (Syria) Watar (String)

Nina Moske (New York) 11,000,000

Milad Yousufi (Afghanistan) Freedom

Above, New York Philharmonic musicians and Teaching Artists who performed pose with (left to right): Milad Yousufi, Naama Rolnick, Nina Moske, Cassandra Stevens, and Chi-Chi Ezekwenna.   

The performers, all of whom donated their services, encouraged the audience to reach out to children in need, naming three possible organizations to support: Doctors Without Borders, New York Philharmonic Education Fund, and International Rescue Committee.

“The healing and creative power of children is a wonder to behold. We feel that now, more than ever, it is important to listen to them,” Deak said. 

(Photo: Chris Lee)

Isaac Thompson Appointed Vice President, Artistic Planning at the New York Philharmonic

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Isaac Thompson as the Orchestra’s Vice President, Artistic Planning, beginning in July. Mr. Thompson will work closely with Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden and incoming President & CEO Deborah Borda on implementing the organization’s artistic vision, including through programming, artistic planning, and the engagement of guest artists.

Mr. Thompson has served as the director of Artistic Administration for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati May Festival since 2015, after serving as vice president of Artistic Planning for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. 

“As we welcome Isaac Thompson to the New York Philharmonic family, I very much look forward to an exciting and productive relationship,” said van Zweden. “We already share a similar musical philosophy, which will only grow and strengthen with time.” 

“Isaac brings just the right set of skills, energy, and vision to this pivotal position,” said Borda. “Although I’m not officially on board until the fall, it gives me special pleasure to begin assembling our full team and to fill critical positions.”

(Photo: Keitaro Harada)

New World Composition Challenge Winners: What’s New with The New World Initiative

The votes are in! Eleven winners of the New World Composition Challenge have been chosen.

Gregor Huebner will take the grand prize of $1,000 for his piece New World, Nov. 9th, 2016, a quartet based on themes from the second movement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony and influenced by last year’s presidential election. Michael Pineda, from the Bronx, Yazmin Morales-Vincente (Brooklyn), Luke Cissell (Manhattan), Joel Pierson (Queens), and Sabrina Isaac (Staten Island) are the second-place winners; each will receive $500. Five honorable mentions will receive $100: Teni Apelian, Dionne McClain-Freeney and Allison Sniffin, Miky von der Nahmer and Zack Childers, Norbert and Karen Stachel, and Sammy Sussman. Congratulations to all!

In other New World Initiative (NWI) news, six NWI participating ensembles have been chosen to perform on stage at the Concerts in the Parks, June 13–18, as part of Share the Stage, which presents local musicians performing in their home boroughs before the Philharmonic’s concerts. BombaYo will perform in Van Cortlandt Park, The Ebony Hillbillies and Zulal will perform in Central Park, The Queens Cartoonists and Slum Suit will perform in Cunningham Park, and The Side Project will take the stage in Prospect Park.

Finally, Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic’s critically acclaimed performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World is now available for download from all major download services, including  iTunes, Amazon, and is available for streaming on Spotify. The symphony was recorded live during the opening week of the 2016–17 season.

Don’t miss the conclusion of The New World Initiative in the Parks, June 13–16, including your chance to play and sing along with the New York Philharmonic. Click here for more information.

Deborah Borda’s Curtis Institute of Music Commencement Address

NY Philharmonic Deborah Borda Curtis Institute of Music

How does music fit in with society at large? That was a question that Deborah Borda, who will become the New York Philharmonic’s President and CEO this coming September, asked graduates of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music — the elite conservatory responsible for training some of the top musicians of the 20th century and today, including many New York Philharmonic musicians and Music Director Alan Gilbert. She was the commencement speaker this past Saturday, when she was also conferred an honorary doctorate. As reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Deborah Borda spoke of the changing role of orchestras in today’s society, saying “everything I took for granted as a musician first and then managing America’s great orchestras has changed.Learn more about her call for the young professionals — whom she called “the elite of … the microkingdom of classical music” — to become “solders for music” and her thoughts on her close partnership with Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

PHOTOS: Breakfast at Tiffany’s Spring Gala

New York City co-starred with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the centerpiece of the New York Philharmonic’s 2017 Spring Gala at which the Orchestra performed Henry Mancini’s Oscar-winning score live, led by Assistant Conductor Joshua Gersen, while the complete film was screened. Gala guests bedecked in little black dresses and pearls converged at David Geffen Hall for a glamorous evening that began with a champagne reception and wrapped up with a fabulous dinner attended by Philharmonic supporters. In the immortal words of Holly Golightly, “Oh, I love New York!”

The New York Philharmonic Wants YOU

The New World Initiative — the Philharmonic’s season-long, citywide project revolving around Dvořák’s New World Symphony through performances, community outreach, and education projects on the occasion of the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season — is heading for an exciting finale.

At this year’s New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, we invite you to join the Orchestra in a community performance of the “Goin’ Home” theme from the Largo movement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony before the concerts in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, June 13–16. Music Director Alan Gilbert — in his final New York performances as Music Director — will conduct the crowd before leading the Orchestra in the complete symphony during the concerts.

Bring any instrument, and/or your voice. Novices are just as welcome as professionals. The simple, beautiful theme will be taught to the crowd beforehand, and vocal and instrumental parts will be available online before the concerts at newworldinitiative.com.

Throughout the 2016–17 season, 114 musical ensembles from all five boroughs, totaling more than 1,000 musicians, participated in The New World Initiative by performing the New World Symphony, selections from it, arrangements of it, or reinterpretations of it. The New World Symphony was introduced to 15,000 students and teachers at the Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts for Schools, and the Philharmonic’s Facebook Live broadcast of its Opening Gala Concert featuring the New World Symphony received 150,000 views.

(Photo: Chris Lee)

Alan Gilbert’s Final Weeks: Website Celebrates Highlights of His Tenure


Alan Gilbert’s final weeks as Music Director are under way, with a sold-out and critically acclaimed program featuring Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 concluding tomorrow night.

Relive the magic of the combination of Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic through the celebratory website that captures highlights of his tenure as Music Director through video, audio, and photos, available at nyphil.org/gilbertfarewell. Watch video of staged productions he led including Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, slideshows, complete concert audio, and more. You can even send a message of thanks and farewell to “the imaginative maestro-impresario in residence” (The Financial Times).

His final four programs — reflecting signature themes of his tenure and featuring works that hold particular meaning for him and musicians with whom he has formed close relationships — then continue with New York Premieres by Kravis Emerging Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen, plus Artist-in-Residence Leonidas Kavakos’s final residency performance with Brahms’s Violin Concerto; an enhanced concert production of Wagner’s complete Das Rheingold; and Alan Gilbert Season Finale: A Concert for Unity, celebrating the power of music to build bridges and unite people across borders.

(Photo: Chris Lee)

On the Cover: David J. Grossman

“I was drawn to the bass because it’s the foundation.” — David J. Grossman

This month’s cover musician, bassist David J. Grossman, found himself drawn to the bass not just for practical reasons (he’s tall!), but he also liked the fact that he was part of the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of the orchestra.

In fact, David’s connection to the foundation of the Philharmonic’s bass section can be traced back to 1880. He studied with current Philharmonic bassist Orin O’Brien, who studied with former Philharmonic Principal Bass Frederick Zimmermann, who studied with former Philharmonic Principal Bass Herman Reinshagen, who studied with former Philharmonic Principal Bass Ludwig Manoly. David continues to share the legacy of these great bassists in his teaching at the Manhattan School of Music.

Watch David’s Q&A video, above, to learn more about his artistic influences and his affinity for jazz.

David will take over our Instagram later this month, so follow along! And queue those Qs — he’ll be live on Twitter responding to your questions later this month. And finally, subscribe to our Spotify channel, where David will curate a playlist of his favorite music.

Stay tuned: June will feature Music Director Alan Gilbert in his final concerts in New York as Music Director.

Learn more about bassist David J. Grossman.

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