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Washburgh Timpani Seminar

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

On Friday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the final session of the Washburgh Timpani Seminar at Duquesne University. Now in its fourth year, the week-long program is led by the principal timpanists of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra, Ed Stephan and Jauvon Gilliam.

There are a handful of percussion workshops across the country, but only a few focus on timpani. What makes this one unique is that Mr. Gilliam and Mr. Stephan (who also chairs Duquesne's percussion department) bring different approaches to the instrument – everything down to the order in which they arrange the drums and the type of heads they use – and have found success with those contrasting styles.

WashburghPSO timpanist Ed Stephan gives a demonstration at the Washburgh Timpani Seminar at Duquesne University.

"Jauvon is very calculated. He has a very specific style [the Cleveland school] that works," said seminar participant Michael Kemp, 27, who resides on the North Side. "He has one sound he's achieving, and he's mastered it."

Mr. Stephan, on the other hand, is "like a child in a toy store, trying to find a new toy to play with," according to Mr. Kemp, who said admiringly, "he's a freak, as far as I'm concerned."

"I'm like Cajun stew," Mr. Stephan quipped.

It worked for Mr. Kemp, an alumnus of Duquesne's undergraduate and master's programs, who recently won a trial for the timpani job at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. A whopping five Duquesne students and graduates have earned percussion and timpani jobs in the last year, according to Mr. Stephan.

Fifteen students in their early teens to late 20s attended Friday morning's class. Those who don't live in the area stayed on campus or at a hotel. Thus far, the seminar hasn't had to turn away any applicants, who submitted a resume with their application. "We've had 60-year-old people in the past that are astrophysicists," Mr. Stephan said. "It's a cool mix."

At Friday's session on solo timpani works, Mr. Stephan discussed note lengths, muffling techniques and stick placement, among other topics. Participants were invited perform a mock audition for the group later in the day. Throughout the week, the seminar delved into various inside-baseball topics familiar to timpani students: preparing for auditions, wrapping timpani mallets, decoding orchestral repertoire and more. One session was devoted to pedaling techniques (changing the pitch of the drums using pedals with one's feet).

"I bring in AC/DC, Blink 182 and Nirvana," Mr. Stephan said. "They play the bass parts on timpani."

For additional information, visit http://www.duq.edu/academics/schools/music/summer-music-programs/washburgh-timpani-seminar.

 

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Quick Hits — Pablo Villegas (plus a Spotify playlist)

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The latest installment of Quick Hits is here, featuring the excellent recital of Spanish guitarist Pablo Villegas (presented by Chamber Music Pittsburgh). This review marks a first in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette history: We've added a Spotify playlist that includes tracks of each piece on Mr. Villegas' program. Many thanks to the PG web desk for making this possible. Happy listening!

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Staff news at Pittsburgh Opera

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Pittsburgh Opera has had a few staff changes in the last several months, most of them taking place in the development department, said general director Christopher Hahn.

Kathleen Iducovich, who as associate director of development was responsible for individual giving, left to become director of major giving at 90.5 WESA. She has been replaced by Charlotte Enflo, who previously worked at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Allison R. Hall came on board as individual giving and data associate, replacing Harmony Hodges, and the department added one staffer, Kelsey Patsch, manager of corporate development.

Cynthia N. McCormick, director of development and external affairs, is on medical leave. Working in her stead is co-director of development and external affairs Kathleen Butera, who has experience working at several professional orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Former music administrator Christopher Powell left the company to become director of administration and community engagement at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, N.Y. His replacement is Robert Boldin, who previously worked at Houston Grand Opera.

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Reza Vali's The Ancient Call (Calligraphy No. 13)

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Carnegie Mellon University School of Music faculty members Reza Vali (composition) and Neal Berntsen (trumpet) have joined forces for what looks to be an intriguing world premiere at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina. On Wednesday, CMU alumnus Keith Lockhart will conduct the Brevard Festival Chamber Orchestra in Mr. Vali's "The Ancient Call (Calligraphy No. 13)." The piece features Mr. Berntsen — a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony's trumpet section — performing on a microtonal trumpet. Because all roads lead to Pittsburgh, it's worth noting that the president and CEO of Brevard is Mark Weinstein, former general director of Pittsburgh Opera.

According to the School of Music, "'The Ancient Call' was written for Berntsen and is composed for a specially designed micro-tonal trumpet, which can perform up to 24 notes per octave, and orchestra. The fundamental elements of the composition (including the tuning, melody, rhythm, form, and polyphony) are all derived from the Persian modal system the Dastgâh/Magham.

"Vali's goal for writing the work was to create a dialogue between two different musical systems. The piece sets the Western Equal Temperament system, performed by the orchestra, against the Persian Dastgâh/Magham system, performed by the trumpet. The aim has been to elaborate on the inherent tensions that exist between these two interval systems and use it as a symbol for the existing political and cultural tensions between Persian and Western cultures."

 

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PSO invites brass community to come on stage

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

This is an awesome opportunity: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is welcoming brass players of all ages to join the brass and percussion sections for a neighborhood concert later this summer. More information from the PSO: 

PITTSBURGH – As part of Neighborhood Week, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is offering community brass players of all ages a unique opportunity to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony brass and percussion sections on Tuesday, September 1 at 7 p.m. at Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

This one-hour concert event is led by guest conductor Lawrence Loh and features a first half with the Pittsburgh Symphony only performing music by Dukas, Warlock, Sousa and Clarke. Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh and Principal Trombone Peter Sullivan will solo on Clarke's Cousins. Community members will join the symphony players during the second half to perform music by Arnaud, Wagner, Grainger and John Williams.

The event is free for both the audience and participants. Advance registration is required for players who wish to participate. The registration form can be found at pittsburghsymphony.org/brassnat and should be submitted by August 14. All participants need to attend a rehearsal with Loh at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland on Monday, August 31 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Rehearsal attendees are eligible to receive two tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony's "Neighborhood Week: Salute to Veterans" concert that evening at 7 p.m.

For more information, visit pittsburghsymphony.org/brassnat.

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