Bartow Series Brings Sandbox Percussion to Campus
Blair’s spring arts season began with a “bang” on March 31 when Sandbox Percussion visited campus for a school-wide performance and follow-up masterclass for student musicians.Sandbox’s four ensemble members, Victor Caccese, Terry Sweeney, Jonathan Allen and Ian David Rosenbaum, shared their passion for percussion chamber music during their visit, broadening students’ musical horizons through exposure to unique works and the experience of seeing a percussion group in action.
“The members of Sandbox are all fantastic musicians from the upper echelon of the percussion world,” said Director of Vocal Music Nate Widelitz. “Our students will undoubtedly enjoy the performance and benefit from the opportunity of working closely with these talented percussionists.”
Sandbox Percussion was recently lauded by The Washington Post as “revitalizing the world of contemporary music” with “jaw-dropping virtuosity.” The group maintains a busy concert schedule at East Coast venues and has conducted masterclasses and coaching sessions at schools including the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Cornell University and Furman University. Sandbox Percussion has collaborated extensively with composers, performing 12 world premieres last season alone, and both Mr. Allen and Mr. Caccese have composed works that the group has performed. In each of their concerts and masterclasses, the percussionists seek to engage a wider audience for classical music as they share their love of chamber music and the joy of playing together.
Sandbox Percussion’s Blair visit is part of the School’s Bartow Series, a program endowed with the mission to expand students’ artistic experiences by bringing professional performers from far and wide to the Blair stage. The series honors Nevett Bartow, a dedicated music teacher and talented composer who helped shape Blair’s music program. Mr. Bartow taught at Blair from 1961 until his death from leukemia in 1973 at the age of 39.
In 2014-2015, instead of funding an on-campus event, the Bartow Series endowment helped to support a March 2015 European performance tour across Italy and Austria.
During the two-week trip, more than 70 members of the School's Orchestra and Singers attended master classes and performed concerts in Venice, Verona, Padova and Salzburg. The group also had the opportunity to tour historic cathedrals and museums, and engage with local residents during their travels, which continued to shape their studies for the rest of the spring semester.
Yale A Capella Group All-School Performance
On Monday, November 18, the Whiffenpoofs, Yale University’s a capella group, came to Blair to perform during a special mid-morning all-school program as part of the annual Bartow Series in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts.
The 14-member male ensemble, the world’s oldest collegiate singing group, has performed for audiences on six continents, including on nationally televised programs such as
“The Sing Off” and
Last year, the “Whiffs” also sang for President Obama at the White House.
“We are thrilled to welcome such a historic and impressive musical group to Blair,” said Jennifer Pagotto, chair of Blair’s performing arts department. “It has been a few years since we have brought a professional vocal ensemble to campus and I know our students are really going to enjoy this performance. Not only will the Whiffenpoofs present outstanding repertoire that will easily speak to a high school audience, but the Blair students will certainly find this performance relevant because they are so close in age to the performers.”
And one of the Whiffs has a special connection to Blair: Alex Ratner, Yale class of 2015, is the cousin of Rebecca Litvin ’10 and Andrew Litvin ’14. “Becoming part of this time-honored tradition has been invaluable, and I cannot wait to share our music with Blair Academy,” said Alex, who has visited campus a number of times to see Becca and Andrew.
During their visit to campus, the Whiffs also conducted workshops with the Blair Singers and A Capella group, giving students a unique opportunity to work one-on-one and get feedback about how they can improve their performances.
The Whiffenpoofs have been influential in music since 1909, with prominent members including Cole Porter and Prescott Bush, father of President George H.W. Bush. In fact, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Cole Porter’s graduation from Yale and the Whiff’s founding. The group’s signature “Whiffenpoof Song,” written in 1910, has been covered by Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee, among others.
Gallim Dance Performs as Part of Bartow Series
The Gallim Dance group performed on Blair’s stage for students and faculty members as part of the annual Bartow Series in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts on Friday, April 19. To watch a video of the performance, please click here
“We chose Gallim to perform at Blair this year because we wanted to provide students with a different genre of performing artists,” said Jennifer Pagotto, chair of Blair’s performing arts department. In recent years, musicians who have performed as part of the series have been either instrumental or choral artists, so choosing a dance team made sense, offering students more variety in their musical experience.
“This group has a terrific mix of artistry and athleticism in each piece they will perform,” Mrs. Pagotto continued. “Further, the team’s artistic director Andrea Miller is an engaging and interesting speaker, as well as amazing choreographer, and will surely be able to help our students understand what they see on stage as she speaks to them throughout the performance.”
During its morning performance, the group showcased portions of two pieces, including Mama Call and Pupil Suite. Mama Call is a production that stems from Ms. Miller’s Sephardic-American heritage that explores “ideas of displacement and alienation as it affected Spanish Jews during the centuries surrounding the Inquisition,” according to dance company’s website. Pupil Suite is a more upbeat performance that toys with the “madness of the imagination and the ecstasy of movement.”
Gallim Dance was founded in 2007 by Ms. Miller as a New York-based contemporary dance company with the ambition to perform unique and original works. The highly sought-after group has performed at venues all over the United States, including New York City Center, the Joyce Theater and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The dancers have also traveled to Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries around the globe, where it’s not uncommon for them to perform in front of audiences of 15,000 people or more.
Crossover Quartet Performs as Part of Bartow Series
In March 2012, Quartet San Francisco performed at Blair as part of the Bartow Series. Since its concert debut in 2001, this non-traditional quartet has redefined the sound of chamber music. Grammy nominated for their last three CDs, the group plays a wide range of music, including jazz, tango, pop, funk, blues, bluegrass, gypsy swing and big band.
The quartet performed for students and faculty and answered questions from the audience. During the afternoon, quartet members presented a master class for Blair’s Orchestra and Jazz Band, which included performances by Tae Hwi An ’14, Grace Kim ’12 and Sun Park ’14. Students then had another opportunity to ask questions about the group’s music and experiences.
Violinist Mikhail Simonyan Performs for School
In October 2010, violinist Mikhail Simonyan, sponsored by Blair Trustee Joel Kolbert, performed in Blair Academy’s DuBois Theatre as part of the 2010-2011 Bartow Concert Series. Mr. Simonyan, who hails from Novosibirsk (the same city that Vadim Repin and Maxim Vengerov call home), began to study the violin at the age of five. As part of the first generation of artists to forge careers in an era with substantially decreased government support, he has blazed a trail for young musicians in Russia. In 1999, at age 13, Mr. Simonyan made his acclaimed New York debut at Lincoln Center with the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra (ARYO) and his debut in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Mariinsky (Kirov) Theater in ARYO’s joint concert with the Mariinsky Youth Orchestra, performing the Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 1 (which he had just learned for the occasion).
Since beginning his career at such a young age, Mr. Simonyan has earned numerous accolades as a soloist, including first prize awards at the All-Russia Competition in St. Petersburg and the Salon di Virtuosi in New York. He is a recipient of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation Award. Recent career highlights include his debut performances with the New Jersey Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra, and his recital debut at Lincoln Center in December of 2009. In spring 2010, Mr. Simonyan debuted as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, performing Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto” with Bramwell Tovey conducting.
During his visit to Blair, in addition to his school-wide performance, Mr. Simonyan conducted an open rehearsal with Blair’s Orchestra and taught a master class on violin technique.
Bartow Series Performance on April 16
Cincinnati Boychoir Directed by Former Faculty
In April 2009, the Cincinnati Boychoir, under the direction of Christopher Eanes (a past director of the Blair Academy Singers), were the special guests of Blair Academy. The choir performed with the Blair Academy Singers and Blair Academy Strings on Thursday, then presented a Bartow Series performance at 10 a.m. on Friday for the entire Blair community. Performing Arts Chair Jennifer Pagotto notes that these talented young boys offer something quite unique to their audience – a performance that is “ethereal” in quality.
Founded in 1965, the Cincinnati Boychoir seeks to enhance the social, emotional, and musical development of boys by instilling in them a sense of dedication, self-discipline and respect. By striving for artistic excellence and learning a diverse repertory of choral literature, the boys are prepared for a lifelong love of music and ensemble singing. For more information, check out the choir’s website at http://cincinnatiboychoir.org/.
Christopher Eanes, a former director of the Blair Academy Singers, began as artistic director of the Cincinnati Boychoir on June 1, 2009, a week after moving to the Queen City from Los Angeles. Born and raised in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills, Chris studied conducting, voice and piano at Occidental College, the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and with several teachers in Milan, Italy. Chris holds a master’s degree in choral music from USC, and is continuing his doctoral work on the same campus. In October of 2006, Chris produced and conducted a University-funded production of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas; as a result of this project, he was appointed artistic director of the Chamber Opera of USC, in which capacity he oversaw and conducted several productions annually. As a performer, he has sung in Los Angeles with the USC Thornton Choral Artists under the direction of Christoph von Dohnányi, Carl St. Clair, and William Dehning, and in the USC Chamber Choir with Paul Salamunovich. Chris spends June and July of each summer coaching gifted high school musicians at the Hotchkiss Summer Portals program in Lakeville, Conn., where he has also been working on a project to edit and perform the sacred works of Baldassare Galuppi.
Blair Academy’s Bartow Mainstage Series presented Cyrus Art Production
Cyrus Art Production presents dance and theater through unique and thought-provoking cultural events. With high production standards and an interdisciplinary approach to performance and presentation, the organization develops projects, performances and art works designed to stimulate the mind with beauty and intelligence. Born from the founder’s vision to test the boundaries of dance presentation, Cyrus Art Production has evolved into an organization that brings together various artistic disciplines including dance, music, drama, video, photography and graphic art to create an experience that is accessible, intellectually engaging and entertaining.. As an independent artist, Cyrus directs, teaches and choreographs extensively in the United States, Europe and Asia. He has also produced and performed in his own solo concerts (The Black Male and Dancing a Dream) performing at the Studio Moliere (Vienna), E-Werk (Frieberg), Aster Plaza (Hiroshima) and Carl Orff Saal (Munich) among others cities.
Duane Cyrus is the artistic director of Cyrus Art Productions and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Cyrus holds an MFA from the University of Illinois where he was a Dewson Fellow and a BFA from the Juilliard School, which he attended on scholarship from the Aaron Diamond Foundation. He has traveled around the world as a director, choreographer, performer and teacher. He is also the author and editor of the book Vital Grace, a photographic essay published by Edition Stemmle featuring male dancers of color and interviews with Gregory Hines, Bill T. Jones and Evander Holyfield. This work has also been published as a poster and 1999 calendar by Pomegranate entitled Dancing a Dream.