March 12, 2016

Cirque de la Symphonie

Alberta Bair Theater | 7:30 pm

Cirque de la Symphonie is a new production formed to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall. It is an exciting adaptation of artistic performances widely seen in theaters and arenas everywhere.

Artists include the most amazing veterans of exceptional cirque programs throughout the world—aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers, and strongmen.

Each artist’s performance is professionally choreographed to classical masterpieces and popular contemporary music in collaboration with the Maestra.



Armando Munoz 01Armando Munoz was a Latin dancer at the beginning of his career. After winning medals at the 2010 and 2011 World Latin Dance Cup Championships, he explored the world of acrobatics. He was professionally trained in the arts of flying straps and fabric, and uses his skills to teach aerial hopefuls at Cirque School in Hollywood. Munoz was also the co-director of the Alma Latina Performing Arts School in San Diego for seven years.



Autumn Crockett 01Autumn Crockett focused her career in national entertainment. Her specialized experience as a contortionist, dancer, and acrobat gained her a full scholarship at The Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. Autumn has performed on television with LeAnn Rimes, CeCe Winans, appeared at the Video Music Awards, and was even in the film I Kissed a Vampire, directed by Christopher Nolan.





Marco Balestracci - Frame 04Marco Balestracci has a plethora of training in dance, contortion, acting, singing, and acro-gymnastics. His experience in ten years of competition led him to work with highly renowned choreographers, such as Adrienne Dellas-Thornton and Rudolf Kharatian. He has performed as a soloist on a nationally broadcast performance of The Nutcracker, and found his way to Broadway in 2008. Marco is currently the Head Acrobatics Instructor at   Cirque School in Los Angeles.




Sarah Sporich 02bSarah Sporich is a dancer and contortionist trained at the Talent Lab in Los Angeles. Sarah focused her career in stage shows and live performances. Her classical expertise led to performing for popular programs like GLEE, Jennifer Lopez American Music Awards, and even a live interpretation of Inside Out, Pixar’s 2015 box-office hit. Sarah is also head coach for the Cirque Kids program at Cirque School, where she also teaches Pilates and aerial skills.




Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978)

Selections from the ballet, Gayane


Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane had its premiere at the Kirov Ballet on December 9, 1942, in wartime. The ballet’s story concerns a young Armenian woman living on a collective farm of which her father is the chairman. Gayane helps entrap a spy bent on stealing Soviet geological secrets. The clunker of a Communist plot may explain why performances or recordings of the entire ballet have been hard to find in recent decades, even though Gayane spawned one of the last of the great orchestral warhorses, the Sabre Dance.


Originally part of a suite of ethnic dances in the ballet’s second act, the Sabre Dance is an irresistible piece of fun that’s known and loved far beyond the confines of classical music fandom. The neglect of the rest of Gayane‘s music is a shame, for the ballet has many noteworthy moments of folkloric flavor beyond the Sabre Dance. The story resolves itself in praise for the friendship among the various peoples of the Soviet Union, and gave the Georgian-born and Armenian-begotten Khachaturian plenty of room to explore the rhythms and textures of Central Asian folk music.


Since the 1980s, the Sabre Dance has been a perennial favorite on Symphony in the Park concerts, most recently programmed last June. The other two Gayane selections were first performed in February 1958.



Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Firebird Suite (1919)


It’s intriguing to speculate how the history of music in the last century would have been altered if the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev had not decided to gamble on a young, relatively unknown composer. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes – which the Russian émigré had established in Paris – was just starting to take the West by storm, and Diaghilev wanted a splendid new production for the climax of its second season in 1910. His initial plans for better-known composers fell through, so, on a hunch, he gave the commission to Stravinsky, then in his late 20s. It was a risk for everyone concerned, since The Firebird would be the first production by the emerging ballet company to feature an entirely new score.


Despite his stated dislike of the subject because it “demanded descriptive music of a kind I did not want to write,” Stravinsky seized the opportunity, setting aside his opera, The Nightingale, whose first act he had recently completed. “I had already begun to think about The Firebird when I returned to St. Petersburg from Ustilug in the autumn of 1909,” he wrote, “although I was not yet certain of the commission (which in fact did not come until December, more than a month after I had begun to compose; I remember the day Diaghilev telephoned me to say to go ahead, and my telling him I already had).


“Early in November, I moved from St. Petersburg to a dacha belonging to the Rimsky-Korsakov family about 70 miles south-east of the city. I went there for a vacation, a rest in birch forests and snow-fresh air, but instead began to work on the Firebird. I returned to St. Petersburg in December and remained there, until in March I had finished the composition. The orchestra score was ready a month later, and the complete music mailed to Paris by mid-April. I was flattered, of course, at the promise of a performance of my music in Paris, and my excitement at arriving in that city, towards the end of May, could hardly have been greater.” The premiere on June 25, 1910 was a glittering triumph and launched him into the front rank of contemporary composers.


The ballet is based on the Russian legend of the Firebird, a powerful good spirit whose feathers convey beauty and protection upon the earth. Other characters from Russian lore include the heroic Prince Ivan Tsarevich and the evil sorcerer Kastchei, from whom Ivan must rescue the princess he loves. It is only through the intervention of the Firebird, whose life he spares early in the ballet, that Ivan is able to destroy Kastchei and his followers and marry the princess. Part of his first creative period, Stravinsky’s score shows the influence of the colorful, folk-based style favored by his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov (of last month’s Scheherazade). Like his teacher, Stravinsky used folk tunes to depict in diatonic garb mere mortal beings, while used Chromaticism to represent the magic of the creatures.


Stravinsky arranged three suites from the full score of The Firebird, in 1911, 1919 and 1945. Tonight, the BSO performs the second of these, which is by far the most popular. Containing roughly half the music of the complete score, the 1919 suite follows the original sequence of the ballet.


Selections from Stravinsky’s groundbreaking work have appeared on numerous BSO concerts. The complete 1919 suite, however, has only been programmed twice: in February, 1990 and September, 2008.



Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Gopak from the opera, The Fair at Sorochynsk


Mussorgsky wrote the The Fair at Sorochynsk as a comic opera, based on Nikolay Gogol’s story about his Ukrainian home village and its annual fair. The fantastical plot is full of buffoonery and misunderstandings, happily resolved in a wedding and the dancing of the gopak. So beloved was the Mussorgsky’s Gopak—also referred to as Hopak or Cossack Dance—that Rachmaninoff himself made his own wild version of it to frequently play in piano recitals.  From its first measures where the fiddles saw away on open strings, through its fast-paced conclusion, and all the off-beat syncopations in between, Mussorgsky reminds us of why he is often called the most “Russian” of them all.


The BSO seems to program Gopak roughly every 27 years. Tonight’s performance is third in line after April 1962 and November 1989.



Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Claire de lune from Suite bergamasque


Clair de lune (“Moonlight”) is one of the impressionist composer’s most recognizable and popular works, and has been arranged from many different combinations of instruments, including tonight’s orchestration by Hubert Mouton. It is the third movement of the four-movement Suite bergamasque, originally composed for piano. “Bergamasque” refers to the northern Italian city, Bergamo, its music and an old peasant dance. This work has all of the hallmarks of Debussy’s creative genius – impressionistic harmonies, exotic melodies, and the evocation of dreamy/otherworldly senses that are so typical of his music.


The Billings Symphony last performed this piece in April, 1969.



José Pablo Moncayo (1882-1971)



The huapango is a lively, intricate Mexican dance of Spanish origin that is especially popular along the Gulf of Mexico. Performed by singers and instrumental ensembles ranging from a duo of guitars to a full mariachi band, it is characterized by a complex rhythmic structure mixing duple and triple. Moncayo’s Huapango of 1941, his first important work for orchestra, is based on three authentic folk dances: Siqui Siri, Balajú and El Gavilán. The piece is arranged in three sections, with fiery music at beginning and end recalling the manner of huapango singing in coplas (i.e., the song is shouted alternately between two men singers, here translated by Moncayo as a trombone—trumpet dialogue) surrounding a slower lyrical central portion. Huapango is a brilliant study in orchestral sonority and vibrant dance rhythms about which the French composer Darius Milhaud once said, “When in the grey light of a Parisian winter, I want there to be sun in my flat, I listen to a record of Huapango.”




Manuel de Falla (1882-1971)

Ritual Fire Dance from the ballet, El amor brujo


Before Manuel de Falla, the most widely known Spanish music was written by French and Russian composers. “Truth without authenticity”— Falla’s rallying cry on his quest for a natural Spanish expression—is ultimately what sets his music apart, not only from that of his Spanish predecessors and the many contemporary faux-Spanish composers, but also from most of the other nationalistic work popular at the time.


The Ritual Fire Dance is from the ballet score, El amor brujo (Love, the Magician), the first of de Falla’s two ballets. Carmela, a beautiful gypsy, is haunted by the ghost of her dead lover, which threatens her hopes of finding happiness with Carmelo.  She and the other gypsies form a “magic circle” and on the stroke of midnight they begin the ritual fire dance in a vain effort to drive the spirit away.


The Billings Symphony previously performed Falla’s fiery dance in October, 1959 and April, 2005.



Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Selections from Capriccio Espagnol, op. 34


Following the success of his 1886 Fantasia on Two Russian Themes for violin and orchestra; Rimsky-Korsakov decided to create a companion piece on Spanish themes. He sketched the entire five-movement work before deciding to convert it into a showpiece for orchestra alone, though its origins can still be detected in its prominent solo-violin passages. At its October 1887 premiere, Capriccio espagnol was an instant hit. It had to be repeated by popular demand and, Tchaikovsky hailed it as “a colossal masterpiece of instrumentation.”


Indeed, the composer’s intention was that “the Capriccio should glitter with the virtuosity of its orchestral color.” The authentic Spanish songs and dances from which he drew his melodies, provided Rimsky-Korsakov “with rich material for employing various orchestral effects.” In each of the five linked movements, he first states the main theme in its original form, then allows his imagination to take over, varying the theme with great ingenuity. The movements are simple in structure and harmony, with melody always dominant, but the details are vivid and unpredictable, the accompaniments rich, the rhythms infectious.


Of the two movements heard tonight, No. IV, Scena e canto gitano, is based on a Roma song with a strange scale that gives the music an exotic color.  No. V, Fandango asturiano, is a Roma-style courtship dance usually played on a guitar accompanied by castanets. Near the end, the “Roma song” is recalled, then, in a whirling coda, the alborada tune which began the whole work returns to ensure a picture-postcard finale.


Just about every BSO conductor has programmed Rimsky-Korsakov’s signature work: Robert Staffanson in April, 1953; George Perkins, in April, 1959; Ernest Hagen, in December, 1965; and Anne Harrigan, in February, 2008.



Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987)

Galop from the opera, The Comedians, op. 26

Dmitry Kabalevsky’s work is distinguished by a glittering elegance and grace that are rare in Soviet music. While he contributed to many genres, including symphonies, operas, piano concertos and solo piano works, his most valuable legacy lies in the field of children’s music, including children’s opera, and a system of musical education.

In 1938, Kabalevsky provided incidental music for a children’s play, Inventor and Comedian, about the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg and a group of traveling buffoons. Two years later Kabalevsky extracted ten numbers from the score for The Comedians, a suite for small orchestra that would become his most popular work. While little is known about the original play and how the music related to the overall scheme of things, it is easy to conjure images of the performers through the evocative music. 

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April 16, 2016

Billings Symphony Chorale

Featuring Live Image Magnification

Mahler, Symphony No. 2

Alberta Bair Theater | 7:30 pm

The orchestra and chorale share the stage for Mahler’s immortal “Resurrection” Symphony. Get up close and personal with the musicians as they perform this massive undertaking that will leave you on the edge of your seat and wanting more!



DescribeCConover horizontal 2014d as a “jewel” with a “lovely timbre, perfect trill, and soaring top”, soprano Christie Conover is a rapidly rising star. Her voice, rich and warm, is partnered by a personal grace both on and off the stage. Her sensitive portrayal of characters such as Liù (Turandot), Juliette (Romeo et Juliette) and Micaëla (Carmen) have garnered her critical acclaim, as well as her fiery portrayal of Musetta (La bohème) and effervescent, comedic rendition of Clorinda (La Cenerentola). Often reviewed as “the standout” and “particularly impressive” she most recently reprised the role of Pamina with the Minnesota Opera and was referred to as “elegant” and with a “voice as rich and smooth as cream.”

The 2015-2016 season marks her professional international debut with the Komische Oper Berlin as Pamina in their tour of China. Ms. Conover first appeared in this groundbreaking production of Die Zauberflöte with the Minnesota Opera and “stole the show.” It incorporates film with live humans interacting with animated creatures. Of her was said, “Christie Hageman Conover, substituting for an ailing Layla Claire as the heroine, Pamina, stole the show with her strong and expressive lyric soprano. She performed a heartfelt ‘Ach, ich fühls’.” Other engagements this season include appearances with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, soprano soloist for Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Billings Symphony, two chamber opera appearances with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, and numerous concerts with the National Federation of Music Clubs as their Young Artist Voice winner.

Ms. Conover won the heart of Minnesota Opera’s Artistic Director Dale Johnson in 2012 and secured a coveted place as a member of the nationally renowned Resident Artist program. She made an impressive company debut as Anna in Nabucco and was reviewed as “one to watch” in the coming years. Following her debut, Ms. Conover appeared again with Minnesota Opera as Liù in Turandot and was noted as having a “tonally rich” voice and was “armed with enviable control and storytelling sensitivity.” She returned to Minnesota for a summer season encore of concerts in 2013 as Musetta in La bohème and was described as “full of fiery physicality,” her voice “mellifluous and lovely.”

A gifted performer of new works, Ms. Conover’s credits include: Caroline Abbott in Opera San Jose’s world premier of Where Angels Fear to Tread; Sister James (cover) in the world premiere of Doubt by Douglas Cuomo and Jocelyn Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate (workshop) by Kevin Puts, both with Minnesota Opera; Josefina in The Autumn Orchard with CU New Opera Works and Emily in Ned Rorem’s Our Town with the University of Colorado.

Past opera engagements for Ms. Conover include: Micaëla in Carmen with Livermore Valley Opera; Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Stockton Opera; Abigail Williams in The Crucible with Rimrock Opera; Juliette in Roméo et Juliette with Livermore Valley Opera; Micaëla inCarmen with Opera Fort Collins; Clorinda in Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s innovative production of La Cenerentola with Opera Colorado; Gretel inHansel and Gretel with Opera Colorado; and Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Musetta in La Bohème, and the Vixen in The Cunning Little Vixen with the University of Colorado.

Ms. Conover has also received national attention through esteemed competitions, most recently winning the National Federation of Music Clubs 2015 Young Artist Competition in Women’s Voice. In 2013, she won Second Place and the favored Audience Choice Award at the Irene Dalis Competition and in 2011 she claimed Third Place in the Rocky Mountain Region competition of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, followed by Regional Finalist in 2012. She also garnered First Place in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild in 2010. Ms. Conover earned a Masters of Music degree from the University of Colorado Boulder and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from San Jose State University (CA) where she studied with famed soprano, Erie Mills. Ms. Conover was proud to represent her home state of Montana as a contestant in the 2007 Miss America Pageant and traveled extensively speaking to students on a platform close to her heart: “Music Makes the Difference.”



Lisa ChLisa Chavez full headshotavez recently hailed for “her buttery, richly colored Mezzo” by Opera News, just made her Carmen debut with Heartland Opera Theater, and New York City Opera Renaissance. Later this season she will return to the title role in Opera San Jose, and she will be singing as the Alto soloist in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with Billings Symphony. For the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons Lisa was a principal artist of Opera San Jose, appearing as Maddalena (Rigoletto), Isabella (The Italian Girl in Algiers), Harriet Herriton (Where Angels Fear to Tread), and the Third Lady (The Magic Flute), Meg Page (Falstaff), Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni). Operatic roles performed recently include Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), Geraldine (A Hand of Bridge) and Lorca (Ainadamar) with Opera Parallèle of San Francisco, Madame Larina (Eugene Onegin) with Opera Company of Middlebury, Elizabeth Proctor (The Crucible) and the Secretary (The Consul) for Dicapo Opera, and Suzuki (Madama Butterfly) for Shreveport Opera.

Awards received by Ms. Chavez include First Place and Audience Favorite in the Irma M. Cooper Competition (2013), Second Place winner in the Shreveport Singer of the Year Competition (2014), Third Prize winner in the Irene Dalis Competition (2013), Fourth Place in Opera Birmingham Competition (2014), Grant winner from Giulio Gari Foundation (2014), and Encouragement Award winner from Gerda Lissner Foundation (2009, 2011). In November 2008, she was a finalist in the worldwide Opera Competition with Mezzo TV, and was featured performing the role of Elizabeth Proctor (The Crucible) in over 40 European countries. Ms. Chavez received her MM from the Manhattan School of Music and her BA from California State University Hayward.



Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection”


As conductor Lorin Maazel explains, “Mahler is one of the most significant composers in the world, in all of history. The questions he sets out in his works are enormous. Why is his music so popular? It’s because in his music there is everything. It’s universal. You find nature, sarcasm, love, hatred, the grotesque, tragedy and comedy. Like finding his own face in a mirror, every listener can find something to relate to, a bridge into the content of the music. There is something for everyone – and people find echoes of their own fears, doubts and suffering.


The Second Symphony was composed between 1888 and 1894, and this span of years indicates its difficult birth. Later titled, Resurrection (although, not by Mahler), it has points in common with a requiem, and brings together numerous quotations from composers of the 19th century, Beethoven included. The long first movement began as a standalone symphonic poem based on a novel sonata-form structure with, to put it simply, two development sections. “I have named the first movement, Todtenfeier (Funeral Rites), and, if you are curious, it is the hero of my First Symphony that I am burying here and whose life I am gathering up in a clear mirror, from a higher vantage point. At the same time it is the great question: Why have you lived? Why have you suffered? Is all this merely a great, horrible jest? We must resolve these questions somehow or other, if we are to go on living—indeed, even if we are only to go on dying!” Answering these questions required Mahler to compose the largest symphony ever made in terms of forces, length, and harmonic boldness.


After confronting death in the opening movement, “the second [movement] is a memory – a shaft of sunlight from out of the life of this hero….there suddenly arose the image of a long-dead hour of happiness, which now enters your soul like a sunbeam that nothing can obscure – you could almost forget what has just happened.”


Mahler wakes us from the nostalgic dream with a grotesque and wickedly sarcastic scherzo based on his own song about St. Anthony of Padua preaching to the fishes: “[When you] have to return into the confusion of life, it can easily happen that this ever-moving, never-resting, never-comprehensible bustle of existence becomes horrible to you…Life strikes you as meaningless, a frightful ghost, from which you perhaps start away with a cry of disgust. This is the third movement.”

So far, there seems to be no answer to the questions of the first movement. The Andante, with its vision of worldly serenity, proved to be an illusion; the Scherzo manifested growing pessimism leading to despair. Then, with the very opening notes of the following movement, Urlicht (Primal Light), Mahler begins to point to a way out of the dilemma. Without pause he moves from the hollowly resonating C at the end of the Scherzo to the tonic D-flat that opens the song, suddenly lifting us to an entirely new plane. From here, unencumbered by the rush of daily events, one’s eyes can see clearly and penetrate to essential matters. The tone throughout is one of naïve, simple faith: ‘the expression of a child who thinks he is in heaven.’

The ray of hope which shines through in Urlicht—which, incidentally, was the last movement Mahler composed to complete the symphony—illuminates the path of the gigantic Finale. Mahler saw this path as leading from the despair and chaos of the Scherzo (he opens the movement, again linked without pause to the preceding one, with an intensified version of the Scherzo’s “scream of despair”), through his vision of the Last Judgment, to the promise and sure knowledge of renewal after death and of the continuity of man’s spiritual ascent through the ages. “And behold—it is no judgment—there are no sinners, no just. None is great, none is small. There is no punishment and no reward. An overwhelming love lightens our being. We know and are.”


While Mahler certainly had a program in mind when he composed his Second Symphony, he loathed spoon feeding it to his audiences, complaining to critic Max Kalbeck: “Beginning with Beethoven, there is no modern music without its underlying program. But no music is worth anything if first you have to tell the listener what experience lies behind it. And so yet again, to hell with every program! You just have to bring your ears and a heart along and—not least—willingly surrender to the rhapsodist. Some residue of mystery always remains, even for the creator.” Indeed, the magic of Mahler’s music is that it succeeds as music alone, requiring nothing but itself to make its point.



Like so many other listeners, Gilbert Kaplan fell in love with Mahler’s Second. But while most of us manage to live with our fantasies, Kaplan turned his into an obsession, dedicating himself to intensive research into the symphony’s background, sources and history. Now one of today’s most authoritative and acclaimed interpreters of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, he has conducted the work at the invitation of more than 65 orchestras. His 1987 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra is the best-selling Mahler recording in history, with sales approaching 200,000 copies. A second recording, with the Vienna Philharmonic, based on the New Critical Edition of the score for which Kaplan served as co-editor, was released in 2003. With sales of almost 50,000 copies, it is the best-selling recording of Mahler’s Second since the date of its release. With his third recording, based on a live 2014 performance at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Kaplan sought to provide the opportunity for chamber, community and regional opera orchestras to perform this work which normally requires more than 100 instrumentalists (there are only 69 on stage tonight).


While reducing the instrumentation, Kaplan and his co-arranger Rob Mathes remain faithful to Mahler’s musical intentions and orchestral colors. They take a page, of sorts, out of Mahler’s book – the composer made numerous arrangements himself, often adding (rather than subtracting) instruments to symphonic staples by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. In another nod to history, the Kaplan/Mathes chamber arrangement recalls Schoenberg’s scaled down versions of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Symphony No. 4.


Tonight’s performance is not only the Billings Symphony’s premiere of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, but the U.S. premiere of the Gilbert Kaplan-Rob Mathes reduction. Why a reduction? Mahler’s Resurrection score—like all of his symphonies—is a sprawling work, calling for




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April 22, 2016

Alberta Bair Theater | 7:30 pm


In the 2014-2015 season, the 32nd of violinist Midori’s professional career, she will play the world premiere of a new work by Johannes Maria Staud – Oskar (Towards a Brighter Hue II), Music for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion – at the Lucerne Festival and the Vienna Konzerthaus; she will make two new recordings, one of Bach solo sonatas and partitas (on Onyx) and one of DoReMi, the violin concerto by Peter Eötvös (on Naïve); she will continue her community engagement work in Japan and throughout the U.S., while doing her usual complement of recital, chamber music, and concerto appearances throughout the world. In another highlight of 2014-2015, Midori will conduct a week-long festival at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, which will feature four concerts, each with a different program. The week will include a presentation by children with physical and developmental challenges from her Music Sharing organization; a concert featuring Midori playing 4 complete violin concertos; two recitals (one of new music, one of standard repertoire) with pianist Özgür Aydin, and more. She is particularly excited to be recording one new violin concerto (the Eötvös) and playing the world premiere of another (the Staud) in the same year. Midori has been given the prestigious title Artiste Étoile by the Lucerne Festival, which co-commissioned the Staud concerto along with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Konzerthaus, and the Vienna ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere was performed with James Gaffigan conducting the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, on 27 August 2014.

Today Midori is recognized as an extraordinary performer, a devoted and gifted educator, and an innovative community engagement activist. In recognition of the breadth and quality of her work in these three entirely separate fields, in 2012 she was given the prestigious Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Yale University. In 2007, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In essence, over the years she has created a new model for young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with a hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives.

Named Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Southern California in 2012, Midori works with her students at USC’s Thornton School, where she is also Jascha Heifetz Chair. Midori thrives amidst the challenges presented by her full-time career as educator at a major university. To these commitments she adds a guest professorship at Japan’s Soai University, and substantial periods of time devoted to community engagement work.

Midori’s involvement with community engagement began in earnest in 1992. Then just 21 years of age, she started an organization to bring music to underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and Japan. What started with just individual personal appearances by Midori in classrooms and hospitals has blossomed over the last 22 years into four distinct organizations, whose impact is felt worldwide. The underlying idea inspiring Midori’s community engagement work is that the joy of music should be available to all.

Because people in wealthy or privileged circumstances have easy access to the performing arts, Midori’s organizations focus on bringing music to the less fortunate. Since 1992,Midori & Friends has enhanced the lives of over 225,000 New York City children who have little or no access to the arts, through high quality music education that nurtures their creativity and self-confidence (; Partners in Performanceoffers recitals by Midori and others to chamber music lovers in small communities throughout the U.S. seldom visited by established touring artists (;Orchestra Residencies Program brings a week-long residency by Midori to two U.S. youth orchestras with winning applications each year (; andMusic Sharing provides both traditional Japanese music and Western classical music performances and workshops to children in schools, hospitals and institutions, as well as learning opportunities in Japan and Southeast Asia for young artists (chosen by audition from all over the world) who are interested in community/music engagement work ( Both Orchestra Residencies Program and Music Sharing also conduct satellite programs with Midori internationally, in such countries as Costa Rica, Myanmar, Bulgaria, Mongolia, and Cambodia.

Midori’s enthusiasm for playing and supporting the music of our time has blossomed into a significant and ongoing commitment. Over the years she has commissioned works for a great variety of forces. Over all, the individuals Midori has sought out to create new repertoire for the violin represent an impressive array of some of the most talented of today’s composers, including Lee Hyla, Rodion Shchedrin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Derek Bermel, Brett Dean, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Michael Hersch, Pierre Jalbert, Peter Eötvös, and now Johannes Maria Staud.

Midori’s two most recent recordings join an already extensive discography on two other labels, with fourteen recordings on Sony Classical and two on Philips. In 2013, Finnish label Ondine featured Midori in a rare recording of Paul Hindemith’s violin concerto, in collaboration with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, which won a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium. Later in the season the British label Onyx released a recital program by Midori with pianist Özgür Aydin in sonatas for violin and piano by Shostakovich, Janácek, and Bloch, which was nominated for an International Classical Music Award.

In 2004, Midori joined the ranks of published authors with the release in Germany of a memoir titled Einfach Midori (Simply Midori), for the publisher Henschel Verlag. It was updated and reissued in German-speaking territories in 2012.

In 2000, Midori received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Gender Studies at the Gallatin School of New York University, graduating magna cum laude, and in 2005 earned her Master’s degree in Psychology, also from NYU.

Midori was born in Osaka, Japan in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at a very early age. Zubin Mehta first heard Midori play in 1982, and it was he who invited her to make her now legendary debut – at the age of 11 – at the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career. Today Midori lives in Los Angeles. Her violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù “ex-Huberman.” She uses three bows – two by Dominique Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.

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June 26, 2016

Join us for our 44th annual Symphony in the Park! The largest concert, and most visible component of Explore Music!, wraps up another season and introduces many to live, symphonic music. This is a favorite Billings Tradition! Bring your blanket or lawn chair and relax to an evening of music under our big Montana Sky while enjoying picnic fare from participating food sponsors.

  • Concessions
  • 4:00 PM Instrument Petting Zoo
  • 5:00 PM Billings Community Band Concert
  • Young Conductors’ Contest
  • 7:00 PM Billings Symphony Orchestra Concert

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