Bill Murray Gets Classical; Soprano Nadine Sierra is the Country’s Top Young Singer; The LA Phil Rules; So do the Arts; Kalamazoo Symphony Opens Doors to Refugees

Happy Earth Day! Here are the top five stories in the classical music (and arts) world this week.

Bill Murray Takes on Classical Music

Actor, funny man, and avid Chicago Cubs fan Bill Murray is taking the show on the road. As a stand-up comedian, Murray is no stranger to telling stories in front of a live audience. This time though, the added twist is his performance partner, renowned cellist, Jan Vogler. The duo’s Bill_Murraynew show, New Worlds will be comprised of classical music, spoken word, and probably even some funny business. The fearless Murray will sing songs by George Gershwin and read poetry by Walt Whitman. The band backing Murray consists of Vogler, violinist Mira Wang, and pianist Vanessa Perez. The tour begins in Northern California on July 20 at Festival Napa Valley and will close in New York City in October at Carnegie Hall. The first performance will be released as an album in August. More at www.npr.org.

Soprano Nadine Sierra Wins 2017 Tucker Award

“My first exposure to opera was when I was 10 years-old. I watched the 1982 production of La Bohème at the Met. It was on a VHS tape that my mother took from the library. And we actually never returned it, so we kind of stole it from the library..” That’s what 2017 Richard Tucker Award-

Nadine Sierra- Rosalina Garbo
Nadine Sierra. Photo by Rosalina Garbo
winner, soprano Nadine Sierra admitted to Opera News’ Take 5 just before winning one of the most prestigious opera awards in the country. Consider the VHS tape of the Puccini classic a tiny sacrifice on that library’s part, if it did indeed inspire one of the most exciting singers of a generation. Since 1978, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation has been giving out their top tier award to the most promising singer in the United States. Previous winners of the honor include notable divas Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, and Joyce DiDonato. The 37th award winner, Sierra says she is “humbled to receive the award and to follow in the very footsteps of those who have preceded me.” President of the foundation, Barry Tucker told Opera News, “Having known her since she was an undergraduate in college and been in awe of her talents even back then, I could not be more impressed by how she has developed as a singer.” Barry Tucker is the son of the foundation’s namesake, tenor and opera legend Richard Tucker. At just 28, Sierra has already performed at some of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and Paris Opera to name a few.

The LA Phil is at the Top of Its Game

New York Times reporter Zachary Wolfe is calling the Los Angeles Philharmonic “the most important orchestra in America. Period.” Why? Well for starters, major orchestras in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, and Philadelphia are presenting a combined three works by female composers in the coming 2017-2018 season. By contrast, the LA Phil has

VIENNA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Gustavo Dudamel. Photo by Chris Lee
music by four different women during the first half alone. Not to mention the fact that the orchestra has a plethora of new works peppered in among the masterworks of Mozart, Stravinsky, Bruckner and all of the other usual suspects. The organization is clearly not afraid to take artistic risks with their programming in a day and age when classical music is in dire need of a more diverse and current sound. This is why they are leading the way for orchestras in this country and all over the world. Kudos to Deborah Borda who has been the ring leader in LA for the last 17 years. She takes the reigns of the NY Phil in September and hopefully she’ll be able to work her magic on the east coast. It’s a coup, to be sure, for the Big Apple. Hopefully, the organization is willing to pay attention.

Arts and Culture Sector a Nearly One Trillion Dollar Contributor to U.S. Economy in 2014

Well, more like three-quarters of a trillion dollars, but I had to get your attention somehow. And God knows, a piddly number like $730 B won’t do the trick. The arts and culture sector contributed to more than four percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2014 and has seen steady growth since 2006 according to the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account. ACPSA is a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Leading industries within the Arts and Culture Sector are Broadcasting, Motion Picture and Video, and Government. Performing arts companies and promoters of the performing arts have contributed more than $25 billion to the country’s GDP in 2014. Interesting, right? There is a lot to unpack here so check out the two links below:

NEA Arts Growth

https://www.arts.gov/news/2017/latest-economic-data-tracks-arts-and-cultural-jobs-state

And at the Bureau of Economic Analysis website

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Announces Education Outreach for Children of Refugees

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra has introduced a new education initiative called Orchestra Rouh. It is meant to serve the children of refugee families settled in Kalamazoo, MI. According to a recent press release, the word “rouh” is Arabic for “hope” and “spirit,” and the program was created to “nurture the emotional well-being of children through music.” Orchestra Rouh was founded and is led by violinist Ahmed Tofiq, cellist Bashdar Sdiq, and Arabic instructor Hend Ezzat Hegab. All three have been involved in refugee work in Kalamazoo for the last year. Check out the press release here.