R.I.P. Rachel Blanton (1974-2014)

I knew Rachel since we were both in the Floyd County Youth Symphony, so basically since High School.  While she and my brother Joe knew each other better (I believe they were in the same class) one of the unique aspects of classical music organizations in educational institutions is that folks are always interacting at very different age groups.

Continue reading “R.I.P. Rachel Blanton (1974-2014)”

5 Things Classical Musicians should know about being in a Band

So, why aren’t you in a band anyway? One of the things I think all Classical Music students (especially performers) should be required to do is play in a band.  No, this doesn’t mean they should take up a guitar, bass, drums, or sing.  What this does mean is that it should become an integral part of the performing experience–even if for just a semester.  Learning the ropes on how to put together a set, getting booked, and dealing with a non concert hall type of venue would do more for teaching kids about the business of music than a class would, I’d think.  Along the way, students would also be able to dispel a lot of myths about the Pop Music scene that we romanticize as a result of media representation or unrealistic portrayals of the industry through engagement with big name Pop Superstars.

Continue reading “5 Things Classical Musicians should know about being in a Band”

New Opera in Louisville


In my post about new new music groups in Louisville I neglected to mention the Thompson Street Opera Company, about which I knew little. Fortunately, one of my colleagues in Eight.dB, Claire DiVizio, is actually the founder and executive producer of the company.

Thompson Street Opera Company (founded 2011)

As you can see from their Facebook page, the Thompson Street Opera Company is

dedicated to producing works for the stage by emerging composers. Their inaugural production, the World Premiere of Ezra Donner’s “Antigone,” was a great success, and the Company continues to plan for future projects.

Here’s an excerpt of the Midwest premiere of Marcus Maroney’s “Dust of the Road”

The upcoming season will include these new works:

May 23-24 at 8PM, May 25 at 2PM: Emily by Eva Kendrick

May 30-31 at 8PM, June 1 at 2PM: The Rootabaga Stories by Yvonne Freckmann (WORLD PREMIERE) and Requiem for the Living by Ronnie Reshef

June 6-7 at 8PM, June 8 at 2PM: Ile by Ezra Donner

And if you’d like to contribute or donate, they company has started a kickstarter to fund this summer’s season!

Kentucky Opera

Olivia Douglas, Austin Bradly, Soonchan Kwon and Natalie Cummings star in the UT Butler School of Opera premiere of Daron Hagen’s “A Woman in Morocco.”

Next season of the Kentucky Opera will feature Daron Hagen‘s “A Woman in Morocco” in October. I posted a few news snippets about the piece at the NuMuLu site last December, so for more info about the piece please go there.

The composer posted a few video blogs about the work at his youtube channel (also included in the NuMuLu link above):


il Troubadore Klingon Music Project

il Troubadore performing "wa' SaD ram wa' ram je" at Trek Trax 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.
il Troubadore performing “wa’ SaD ram wa’ ram je” at Trek Trax 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Interestingly, I hadn’t thought about the fact that I’ve been involved in the premiere of an Opera in Louisville.  And it happened to be one I’d written. The il Troubadore Klingon Music Project is a side gig for my world music group, il Troubadore, and we premiered an excerpt of my Klingon Opera-Ballet, “wa’ SaD ram wa’ ram je” at the ConGlomeration Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention back in April of 2011.

Here’s an aria, “maS bom” (Moon Song), from the Opera (in Klingon, of course) from a more recent performance we did at ConGlomeration last year (April 2013):

The next post in this series featuring new music in Louisville will focus more on the underground experimental scene which is growing and thriving more than I would have though possible since I move back to the area in 2006.  Of course, I’ve transplanted at least one of my experimental projects down here from the Indianapolis area where I’d been based, and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate and work with dozens of local experimental musicians over the past few years.  I just can’t seem to keep my feet out of new music, it seems! 😛

One final thing–I didn’t have a photo to post in my blog about new new music in Louisville for Eight.dB as we didn’t have any photos to post of us.  Fortunately, at last night’s rehearsal, Claire DiVizio (who’s also a member of the group if you recall) took some photos of us while reading through Nate Tucker‘s score, “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  This was a posed shot before we started reading and didn’t include a couple of members who couldn’t make the rehearsal:

Eight.dB before reading Nate Tucker's "Choose Your Own Adventure" score.
Eight.dB before reading Nate Tucker’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” score.



New New Music Groups in Louisville


As I mentioned in my previous post, at least five groups have been formed in the past couple of years which focus significantly or exclusively on new music in the Louisville area.  This is not to say that this exhausts the list of new and experimental groups in the area. For a mosre complete (but by no means exhaustive) list, please check out the ensembles and composers pages at the NuMuLu website. Now to the recently formed groups (and again–full disclosure: I’m involved with three of these group).

Camera Lucida (debut performance at the Commonwealth Gallery in Madison, WI on November 10, 2012)

Camera Lucida with dancers, Cherie Dawn and Holly Price, and special guest bassoonist, Jackie Royce, at Classical Revolution Cincinnati. January 12, 2014.
Camera Lucida with dancers, Cherie Dawn and Holly Price, and special guest bassoonist, Jackie Royce, at Classical Revolution Cincinnati. January 12, 2014.

While Camera Lucida, my interactive video, cello, and electronics project had its debut in Madison, Wisconsin, we do play the majority of our shows in the Greater Louisville Metro area. In the nearly 18 performances we’ve given since November 2012, only three have been well out of the area (St. Louis, Indianapolis, Madison). Here’s a video of one of our most recent performances at Dreamland premiering my piece, “Before Anaesthesia,” (February 27, 2014):

We also collaborate with local and touring musicians, dancers, like the Moving Collective, T.J. Borden, and my other new music group, the Mothership Ensemble.

Mothership Ensemble (debut performance at The Bard’s Town in Louisville, KY on December 9, 2012)

The Mothership Ensemble performing Louis Andriessen's "Worker's Union" at IU Southeast's Steifler Recital Hall on March 15, 2014. Interactive video projections by Roxell Karr.
The Mothership Ensemble performing Louis Andriessen’s “Worker’s Union” at IU Southeast’s Steifler Recital Hall on March 15, 2014. Interactive video projections by Roxell Karr.

I’d been having conversations with a number of local composers about starting a new music ensemble. Since a number of musicians at IUS and I have been performing works by composer, Rachel Short, it made sense to just give ourselves a name and start expanding.  The name was something of a fluke, and accident–which adds to the charm, so we were dubbed the Mothership at our first official outing as an actual new music group rather than just an arbitrary collection of musicians performing new works. The Mothership Ensemble functions something like a “community orchestra” in that we have players of a wide variety of skill levels and in various stages of their career as musicians.

Music students from UofL School of Music, IUS, members of the IUS Orchestra and other local, non-affiliated, musicians and amateur musicians get together to rehearse two times a week (once on the Indiana side and once on the Louisville side) and only ever fully play with each other as we do a show. We focus on large scale contemporary works with open instrumentation and smaller chamber works often written by local composers including me and co-founder, Rachel Short.  We’re pleased to have composer, Jacob Gotlib, as an artistic adviser.  I suppose we’ll have to call him Dr. Gotlib soon as he has just finished his dissertation in composition at SUNY.  The group numbers close to 20 musicians but the most we’ve had for any one performance is 12, I believe.

The Mothership ensemble isn’t the only large chamber group doing new music in the area.

Orchestra Enigmatic (debut performance at St Francis In The Fields Episcopal Church in Harrods Creek, KY on January 25, 2013)

Members of Orchestra Enigmatic warming up on the Shostakovich 8th String Quartet before the evening concert at St. Francis in the Fields. January 25, 2013.
Members of Orchestra Enigmatic warming up on the Shostakovich 8th String Quartet before the evening concert at St. Francis in the Fields. January 25, 2013.

This chamber orchestra had 18 performers (plus a baritone soloist) for their debut concert which included Terry Riley’s “In C” as well as works by Haydn, Barber, and Shostakovich.  As we can see the group pairs up new music with old–as their Facebook page states:

A new chamber orchestra in Louisville Ky, we seek to play good music, be it new or old. We’ll play Reich, we’ll play Tenney, and we’ll play them in the context of Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms.

Here’s some audio from their second concert of Dadá Malheiros’ “Baião Armorial” (world premiere):

The concert included Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony and another world premiere by P. Kellach Waddle’s “At the Snowy Bourbon Winter’s Twilight, Impression-Satz fur Kammersinphonie,” also a world premiere.

A/tonal (debut concert at Steifler Recital Hall in New Albany, IN on March 1, 2014)

A/tonal performing at the Steifler Recital Hall at IU Southeast in New Albany, IN. March 1, 2014
A/tonal performing at the Steifler Recital Hall at IU Southeast in New Albany, IN. March 1, 2014
A/tonal is another group which features both old and new music.  As their Facebook page states:
Contemporary music ensemble bridging the gap between traditional and new music with unique musical experiences.
The primary instrumentation is flute (Amy Ensel), clarinet (Carrie Ravenscraft), and piano (Jessica Dorman).  Cellist, Felix Borges (in the Orchestra Enigmatic quartet photo above), joined the group for the world premiere of one of two resident composers’ (Daniel Gilliam) works, “The Aggregate of Our Joy and Suffering,” which included a projected video by local video artist and filmaker, Ryan Daly.  See an excerpt of the performance in the video below:

Composer, Erich Stem, rounds out the group. The program of their performance was posted at their Facebook page, here, rather than in a more traditional printed programs.  As they state in their Facebook event:

A/Tonal was created with a mission to present music without the typical concert traditions. No paper program, no dress code, and phones on (but on silent) to share on your experience on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atonalensemble and Twitter @atonalensemble or with the hashtag #atonalshow

Eight.dB (will debut in summer of 2014)

Nate Tucker's "Choose Your Own Adventure" graphic score which will be premiered on Eight.dB's first show.
Nate Tucker’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” graphic score which will be premiered on Eight.dB’s first show.

The latest group is Eight.dB, which had its first rehearsal last weekend. As the Facebook page says, “8dB is an experimental new music collective founded by Tim Miller and based in Louisville, KY.”

Lineup is currently:

Traci Bluhm – FLUTES
John Moore – TENOR SAX
Russell Shartzer – TUBA
Adrienne Fontenot – PIANO
Sara Soltau – VIOLIN
Jon Silpayamanant – CELLO
Claire DiVizio – SOPRANO

This is the other new new music group I’m involved with and we’ll be focusing a lot on group improvisation, graphic scores and non-traditional notations, and electro-acoustic performance–all pretty standard new music techniques. I’m currently working on a graphic score which will be projected and manipulated in real-time (I’ll probably blog about this in the near future) which the group will perform at our first show.


And that rounds out the new new music groups in the area, and shows a wide variety of performance styles, instrumentation, and size.  Given that the Louisville Orchestra will also be featuring a number of contemporary pieces and world premieres during their next concert season, the Louisville area is just brimming full of new music awesomeness.  Add in the already flourishing underground experimental scene and University related computer, and improvised new music activity it shouldn’t be a surprise that one can easily find a show with new music to attend nearly every day of this month, and with luck the future!

Visit the NuMuLu website for info about New and Experimental Events in the Great Louisville Metro Area: http://numulu.org

Musical Chairs in Louisville Arts Music Culture 2011-2014

 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Photo of orchestra at Mullins Hall.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Photo of orchestra at Mullins Hall.

As we approach the three year anniversary of the work stoppage of the Louisville Orchestra and as I’ve been doing a significant amount of research into the local Greater Louisville Music and Arts scene I’ve realized how interesting the past three years have been. I’ve constructed a short (and by no means complete) timeline of significant events within the that three plus year period starting with the Louisville Orchestra’s attempt to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection in December of ’10.






Notice how many changes happened during the period Louisville was without it’s premiere Orchestral Institution. By the end of the year of the work stoppage of the LO in May 31, two local community orchestras also underwent significant changes.  The Jewish Community Center Orchestra and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Orchestra both “dissolved” in 2011.

Within three months, the JCC Orchestra reformed as the Louisville Civic Orchestra under the auspices of Bellarmine University and by early 2012 the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reformed as a musician run organization, the Louisville Philharmonia (otherwise known as “The Musician’s Orchestra”). I’ve heard various stories as to why the Jewish Community Center and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary revoked their sponsorship of their orchestras, but I haven’t confirmed anything (more due to lack of time than anything else) so won’t speculate.  The link for the Seminary Orchestra is to a member of the group and her blog about the change.

Also in 2011, the Louisville Bach Society, after 47 years closes its doors. This has only become more bittersweet as founder, Melvin Dickinson, passed away earlier this year. While I can’t say if the formation of the Louisville Chamber Choir had any direct relation to the dissolution of the Bach Society – especially given the span of time between the two organizations – the LCC was apparently making some appearances for some time before finally having their debut in February of 2013.

I’ve included the new music groups as it is interesting to have five form within such a short span of time.  Well, to be fair (and full disclosure), I’m involved with three of them having founded two myself.  But more on these in a later post.

As you can see, the Louisville Orchestra finally returned to the stage in 2012, and by that time the other two orchestras have settled back into some sense of normalcy (the Louisville Civic Orchestra eventually became the official university orchestra of Bellarmine University). Also note that after the dissolution of those two community orchestras, the Kentucky Opera, which normally uses Louisville Orchestra personnel ended up hiring a number of players from those groups as a “substitute” orchestra for their Merry Widow production in February of 2012.

It was a whirl wind of changes during those two to three years, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it given how much of it overlapped.  See, the thing is, the JCC Orchestra had practically been in existence since 1915-16 (depending on whom you ask) as the Young Hebrew Mens Association Orchestra (which initially fed into the Louisville Orchestra at its inception in 1937).  It was later renamed the Jewish Community Center Orchestra when the JCC was built in the late 60s.  While I’m not sure how long the Seminary Orchestra had been in existence, most of what I found says at least the 80s though this image implies it existed in some form as far back as 1932.

That two orchestral organizations with such a lengthy history folded at roughly the same time as the LO was undergoing difficult labor relations and a work stoppage is…curious. That the Louisville Bach Society, which also often hired LO musicians for their orchestra, also folded during this time is probably coincidental. But all four organizations within a six month period? That’s just bizarre!