Category Archive: Press Releases

  1. Meredith Riley Hired as Alexandria Symphony’s Director of Education

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    Alexandria, VA—As evidence of Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s commitment to expanding Sympatico’s footprint in our city, Meredith Riley joins ASO as Director of Education this fall. An experienced chamber musician and teacher, Riley served as Assistant Principal Second Violin of the Richmond Symphony and currently tours with the Sphinx Virtuosi. Riley plans to strengthen Sympatico’s connection to its El Sistema roots and actively seek performance and collaboration opportunities to highlight this unique program.

    “After all the screen time and the complete absence of social engagement and live performance, our community needs live music now!” says Ms. Riley. “I will be actively seeking performance and collaboration opportunities to highlight this important and unique program that is so deserving of community recognition and support.”

    For 15 years, Meredith has worked with the Sphinx Organization, dedicated to the development of young Black and Latino classical musicians. In addition to her work with the Sphinx Virtuosi, Meredith has recently appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, Wintergreen Music Festival, Collectif 9, and the Smithsonian Chamber Players. Meredith is an adjunct violin faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    “Meredith’s musicianship and gift for working with young people will help us take ASO Sympatico to the next level,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “The kids will be able to see her perform onstage as a member of ASO, deepening the opportunity for musical connection.”

    “My experience with the Sphinx Organization has only strengthened my commitment and passion for diversifying the artistic canvas and making music accessible to all,” says Ms. Riley. “I look forward to working toward that in my home community of Alexandria!”

    About Sympatico
    Sympatico will resume in-person instruction beginning this fall. This award-winning music education program serves two Title I schools in Alexandria City, fully underwritten by ASO and offered at no cost to the students or the schools. Six ensembles will resume at John Adams Elementary: beginning and intermediate mallets (Orff), chorus, two bucket bands and mixed strings. At Patrick Henry K-8 ASO plans to resume instruction in the second semester with a mixed instrument ensemble. Both Patrick Henry K-8 and John Adams Elementary have diverse student populations, representing over 100 nationalities and speaking more than 40 languages. ASO expects the program to reach 180 students this school year.

  2. Alexandria Symphony changes October 2-3 Choral Program due to COVID Concerns

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    Alexandria, VA— Due to concerns about the rising Delta COVID-19 variant, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces changes for the upcoming ASO concerts on October 2 and 3, 2021.

    The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on Saturday, October 2, 2021 (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday, October 3, 2021 (3:00 p.m.) at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. This program is a repertoire change from the originally scheduled Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Alexandria Choral Society.

    “Choral singing has been found to create a particularly challenging environment for COVID safety,” said ASO Executive Director George Hanson.  “With recent infection rates increasing in Alexandria, we had to make the difficult choice to postpone our performances with the Alexandria Choral Society of Beethoven’s great Choral Symphony, the Ninth.”

    ASO is replacing the enormously popular choral symphony with another work of Beethoven, his iconic Fifth Symphony. Also on the program are George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with pianist Michelle Cann, Copland’s inspiring Fanfare for the Common Man, and Valerie Coleman’s work Umoja: Anthem of Unity.

    “We are delivering on our promise to ticket buyers by presenting three all-time orchestral favorites to replace the popular Ninth,” said Hanson.

    Renowned pianist Michelle Cann has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and others. The Philadelphia Inquirer described her February 2021 performance with Philadelphia Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin as “exquisite.” A champion of the music of Florence Price, Ms. Cann is recognized as a leading African-American performer dedicated to artistic excellence and community engagement.

    “The clarion call for transformation, diversity, unity and joy embodied by Beethoven’s Ninth is being honored in our choice to combine his Fifth Symphony with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Valerie Coleman’s anthem of unity, Umoja,” says ASO Music Director James Ross. “With Copland’s Fanfare kicking things off and Michelle Cann’s pianistic prowess, we’ve created a big musical tent to celebrate our return to the stage.”

    Note: the concerts will be presented with no intermission. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is committed to providing a safe concert environment for our patrons, musicians and staff. Schlesinger Concert Hall has been completely overhauled with a state-of-the-art ventilation system. At this time, audience members, musicians, staff, and volunteers will be required to wear a mask during performances. ASO is also requiring all attendees, musicians, volunteers and staff be fully-vaccinated. ASO will communicate with ticket buyers well in advance of each performance to establish what specific safety measures will be required to attend.

  3. Alexandria Symphony Announces 2021-2022 Season: All Together Now

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces its triumphant return to the concert stage with its 2021-2022 Season led by Music Director James Ross. The season offers masterworks, collaborations, a world premiere, and a timely new text for a centuries-old “Ode to Joy.”

    “As we see light at the end of our tunnel of quietness, the ASO’s vision for orchestral ‘coming-together’ that remained unrealized last season can now finally blaze into full life,” says Maestro Ross. “Our season theme of ‘All Together Now’ celebrates hope, joy and renewed connection—music that binds us as one again.”

    The season launches with a joyful noise on October 2 and 3, 2021 as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) is presented in collaboration with the Alexandria Choral Society led by Artistic Director Brian Isaac. Soloists Dara Rahming, Marquita Raley-Cooper, Rodrick Dixon and Daniel Rich appear courtesy of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA). Beethoven’s greatest masterpiece will be set to a new English text by former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer prize-winner Tracy K. Smith. The program will open with Bruckner’s Benedictus from Mass No. 3.

    In partnership with the Alexandria Film Festival the ASO presents Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film on November 6 and 7, 2021. Original films that were commissioned by the ASO and produced by local artists will accompany music from the Americana tradition including Higdon’s Blue Cathedral, Copland’s Our Town and John Henry, Griffes’ Clouds, Ives’ “Housatonic at Stockbridge” and Grant Still’s “Manhattan Skyline.” The program culminates with Mussorgsky’s well-loved Pictures at an Exhibition.

    On December 17 and 19, 2021, the ASO brings back the joy of live holiday music that audiences yearned for in 2020. ASO will accompany dancers from BalletNOVA with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Alexandria Choral Society joins the ASO for choruses from Händel’s Messiah and will lead the audience in popular holiday carols.

    “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Jim Ross and the ASO this season and look forward to continuing our work, building community through music performance with October’s Beethoven Ninth and December’s Home for the Holidays programs,” said Alexandria Choral Society Artistic Director Brian J. Isaac. “Singing is an expression of joy, and we’re ready to share that joy publicly for the first time in over a year!”

    Renowned pianist Sara Daneshpour headlines on February 12 and 13, 2022 with Rachmaninov’s stirring Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Daneshpour has garnered awards internationally and received acclaim as a sought-after touring artist. Strings take center stage with Beethoven’s last string quartet, expanded for orchestra by Maestro Jim Ross. The program also features George Walker’s Lyric for Strings and Sibelius’ epic tone poem, Finlandia.

    Brahms’ uplifting Symphony No. 1 provides a fitting and dramatic conclusion to the season, moving from profound sadness to unbridled joy. The performances on April 23 and 24, 2022 feature violinist Dylana Jenson, the youngest and first American woman to win a medal in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, in Samuel Barber’s sparkling and virtuosic violin concerto. The concert opens with the world premiere of Brian Prechtl’s Tribute, commissioned for the ASO by Classical Movements’ Eric Helms New Music Program, uniting ASO musicians onstage with students from our award-winning education program Sympatico.

    Note: October, November and December concerts will be presented with no intermission. Both performances in October will be performed at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. Masks are strongly recommended for non-vaccinated attendees by the CDC, our concert venues and the ASO. Seating is extremely limited at George Washington Masonic Memorial. For information based on current health guidelines, please visit our website prior to each concert.

    The 2021-2022 Season is generously underwritten by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Subscription packages start at $86. Adult prices start at $20, $5 for youth and $15 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available. Tickets go on sale August 2, 2021.

  4. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Performs for Alexandria Birthday Celebration

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    Alexandria, VA—Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) will present a free concert as part of the 272nd Alexandria Birthday Celebration on Saturday, July 10, 2021, at 9:00 p.m. The celebration, sponsored by the city and coordinated by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, culminates with fireworks at 9:30 p.m., underscored by additional music from the orchestra.

    The concert will include America the Beautiful, Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and the Armed Forces Medley followed by patriotic and popular classical favorites.  The grand finale will feature a spectacular fireworks display, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (without cannons this year) and other patriotic tunes.

    “The ASO is thrilled to be joining forces with the City of Alexandria to send some fireworks flying in celebration of Alexandria’s Birthday,” says Music Director James Ross. “With musical works honoring our city’s rich history and diversity, it will be a sonic bash of the kind that will lift spirits—fanfares, blues, patriotic fare, Sousa marches and the best part of the 1812 Overture. What a joy to make big music again for our citizens!”

    As ASO partners in the celebration, the symphony thanks its concert sponsors: KSA Integration; Networking & Engineering Technologies; United Bank; Caudron Megary Blackburn; John D. Kling II, DDS; Sunrise of Old Town; Chadwicks; Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota and Burke & Herbert Bank.

    “The Alexandria Birthday Celebration concert is Alexandria’s ‘coming-out’ party, and we are thrilled to be part of it,” said ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “Our partnerships with the city and with our corporate sponsors enable the ASO to bring great music to our community.”

    The Alexandria Birthday Celebration is free and open to the public in Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison Street, Alexandria. Announcements begin at 8:45 p.m.; the ASO’s concert begins at 9:00 p.m. Masks are not required. Attendees are asked to spread out throughout the park.

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  5. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Renews Music Director Contract

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    Alexandria, VA—Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announces it has extended its contract with Music Director James Ross through the 2023-2024 season. Maestro Ross joined the ASO in 2018, appointed as the organization’s fifth Music Director in its 78-year history.

    “Maestro Ross has infused the ASO with energy and creativity from the moment he joined the team,” said ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. “His ability to invent new concert formats and his emphasis on performing works of underrepresented composers has propelled our organization forward and helped us to evolve, particularly in this time of uncertainty and upheaval.”

    Ross has led orchestras as diverse as the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. His principal conducting mentors were Kurt Masur, Otto-Werner Mueller, Seiji Ozama and Leonard Bernstein. Ross also continues to serve as Orchestra Director of the National Youth Orchestra USA at Carnegie Hall. He held a distinguished 16-year tenure as Professor and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Maryland at College Park.

    “Jim has been a marvelous colleague,” said ASO Executive Director George Hanson.  “His artistic vision elevates the ASO’s importance as a regional cultural force.”

    Ross’ innovations have attracted new audiences while the Alexandria Symphony necessarily shifted away from its traditional programming during the pandemic. In the past year, the ASO has produced virtual programs, multiple free community events with 2-8 musicians, and courtyard concerts with repertoire ranging from patriotic tunes to original compositions for strings and bandoneón.

    “Having been brought to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, ASO had to find ways of contributing to our world through the medium of music without actually giving orchestra concerts,” says Maestro Ross. “I’m proud of how we’ve pivoted and deepened our commitment to community, to values of equity, diversity, and access, to young people, and to the foundational power of live music. The ASO has become the center of my creative life’s work, and I look forward to us all being a vital part of the transition underway to build a new inclusive future for classical music.”

  6. 2021-2022 Season Subscription update

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    What an extraordinary journey this past year has been!  We at ASO are very grateful to our patrons for your continued moral and financial support as we continue to face the challenges of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our ability to bring music to our community.

    Normally you would be receiving notification of programming and subscription sales this month.  We remain optimistic that our indoor season will open this fall as planned. However, due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, we have decided to delay announcements and subscription sales until later this spring. We expect our primary venue partners, Schlesinger Concert Hall and George Washington Masonic Memorial, to announce policies that will guide ASO as we forge ahead with the exciting programs we have planned.

    Once on sale, subscriptions will be available for purchase as usual through alexsym.org or by calling 703.548.0885. 

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us directly at 703.548.0885 or email jordan@alexsym.org. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the concert hall as soon as possible, and thank you again for the continued support you have given the ASO during this time.

  7. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s Trustee Joins El Sistema – USA Board

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra proudly announces Trustee Linda Bunce has joined the Board of Directors for El Sistema – USA, the national alliance of El Sistema programs.

    Effective January 1, 2021 Linda will serve on the Board of Directors for a three-year term, supporting the activities of the national alliance that provides resources, training and collaborative opportunities to the more than 80 El Sistema-based program operating in the United States. Linda will continue to serve as Trustee on the ASO board, where she has served in various leadership roles since 2001.

    Mrs. Bunce was recruited for her integral work in launching Sympatico, the El Sistema-based program underwritten by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Linda and her late husband, Elliott, were inspired by Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids and Soundscapes in Newport News. With symphony staff and OrchKids’ Director Daniel Trahey as consultant, they crafted an innovative program that now serves more than 150 students at John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8 in the Alexandria City Public Schools. Mr. and Mrs. Bunce provided crucial financial support when the program was newly established.

    “It’s been a privilege to watch Sympatico grow and see the impact that a music program has on children’s lives academically and socially,” says Bunce.

    Sympatico launched at John Adams Elementary School in 2013 with a handful of ensembles, growing to its current six ensembles and serving more than 10% of the student body. The program recently expanded to Patrick Henry K-8 in fall 2019 as a pilot program with two ensembles. Sympatico is recognized as one the most culturally diverse programs in the country, with the schools representing more than 40 languages and 100 ethnicities among the participants. El Sistema, which started in Venezuela in the 1970s, has inspired more than 300 independent programs in 50 countries.

    Besides helping to launch Sympatico, Linda worked on Capitol Hill for 26 years and is an experienced fundraiser, having worked as Development Director for Lynn House. She continues to play a lead role in advocating and fundraising in the community for the ASO, ensuring Sympatico thrives.

    “El Sistema is about social change through sharing, creating, and instructing music,” says Bunce. “I hope to contribute my experience and work with other leaders of El Sistema programs to learn how we can further this worldwide movement.”

    “The combination of Linda’s passion for the El Sistema model of music education and her experience with ASO Sympatico will make her a strong addition to the El Sistema – USA board,” adds ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox.

  8. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Engages New Artistic Advisor

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces a new addition to its artistic team, Dr. Lester Green, as Artistic Advisor. Green joined the ASO in October, furthering an overall organizational commitment to social equity that the orchestra established with its strategic plan in 2019.

    Dr. Green serves on the music faculty at the University of Maryland at College Park and maintains a voice studio at Morgan State University. He previously served on the faculty at Peabody Institute, Morgan State University, Howard University, and the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. For ten years, he was Minister of Music at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. He has since taken leadership roles as Artistic Director of the Coalition of African Americans in the Performing Arts and Assistant Director for the Children’s Chorus of Washington.

    “Lester is a tremendous addition to the ASO artistic and creative team,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “He will help ASO connect with diverse new projects, artists, composers and particularly vocalists. He will expand our collaborative reach within the community.”

    Green moderated a question-and-answer session with filmmakers Jane Pittman and Annette Brieger earlier this month as part of the Alexandria Film Festival. Pittman’s and Brieger’s An American Scene: Black Lives Matter was commissioned for the AFF’s and ASO’s joint project, Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film. Green is curating the program for one of ASO’s spring chamber concerts, serving as advisor for singers and soloists, and advising on all projects that build relationships with the Black community and people of color. He will contribute to ASO’s initiative to combat racism in classical music and provide a much-needed voice for social justice.

    “Lester Green is a deeply inventive thinker and performer whose breadth of ideas will provide a new source of vital impetus for the ASO in these times when classical music is expanding the canon and looking for ways to dismantle its role in systemic racism,” says ASO Music Director James Ross. “He understands ‘voice’ as something beyond beautiful sounds emanating from people’s throats, but as an open expression and confirmation of heritage, personhood, and conviction.”

    Green has contributed to a wide variety of genres through performances of solo piano, chamber, and vocal music. He has conducted opera performances in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and worked as a coach and assistant conductor with opera companies and initiatives, both in the United States and abroad.

    “As the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra continues to open doors to adventurous music-making, we are thrilled to have Lester join us in this exciting and important work,” says ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. “The ASO aims to take a leadership role in advancing the cause of social and racial equity in classical music.”

    Click here for Lester Green’s bio.

  9. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Produces “Sure on This Shining Night”

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Alexandria Choral Society will release a virtual winter concert later this month featuring ASO musicians and a guest appearance by ACS singers. The 30-minute video Sure on This Shining Night: A Message of Hope will be available throughout the month of December.

    “The question for the Alexandria Symphony has been how music can contribute at this fraught moment to finding a more accepting and empathetic, less partisan, common ground,” says ASO Music Director James Ross. “What can bring us together, even if apart? This project is our answer to that question.”

    Program highlights include harp melodies near the hearth, a Swedish holiday song with voice and guitar, Prokokiev’s Troika (Sleigh Ride) with brass quintet, and the “Pastorale” from Handel’s Messiah. The centerpiece will be an appeal for kindness and healing: Morten Lauridsen’s Sure on This Shining Night produced with the Alexandria Choral Society.

    “This is another example of how the ASO has forged new paths to expand our audience during the pandemic,” says ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. The video will be posted on YouTube and distributed widely through email and social media. “At a time when so many of us will not be with family and friends over the holidays, the ASO’s musical message of hope is a poignant and meaningful alternative to a greeting card or stocking stuffer,” adds Wilcox.

    Early access will allow sponsors to send the video as a virtual holiday gift to friends, family and clients before it’s released to the general public. Sponsor support covers production costs and allows the ASO to share the video as a message of health, peace and healing to the widest possible audience. Sponsors receive public acknowledgement.

    “Music has the power to uplift and inspire both listeners and performers,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “This shared musical experience brings hope and feelings of togetherness during these challenging times in a way only music can.”

  10. Alexandria Symphony Announces Micro-Grant Winners

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces seven recipients of its micro-grant program. Each project will be completed by June 2021 and accomplish at least one of the following objectives: confront systemic racism in classical music, connect to all parts of our community, promote underrecognized artistic voices, and improve the lives of children. Several projects specifically serve students in ASO’s Sympatico music education program, operating in the Alexandria City Public Schools, as well as ACPS students in middle and high school.

    “I wanted to animate and harvest our musicians’ quarantine-inspired creative thinking and invite them to invent, present, and realize projects that are singularly apt for this strange ‘concert-quiet’ year we are facing,” says ASO Music Director James Ross. “These projects might never have come to the fore in normal times. If we can’t play together, we can at least invent together!”

    • Alexandria Symphony’s Concertmaster Claudia Chudacoff will record Chia Patino’s mournful Wild Swans with string quartet. This will be the first known recording of this piece. The Ecuadorian composer was inspired by poetry, expressing a range of emotion and speaking to those in isolation. The final video will be shared on social media.
    • Animation artist Alexi Scheiber will provide a virtual artist talk for Sympatico students about setting her film A Cardinal Among the Clouds to music (Clouds by Charles Tomlinson Griffes). After learning about animation from Ms. Scheiber, students will make traditional and digital paper puppets. The original film was commissioned by the ASO as part of Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film, and it will premiere during the 2021-2022 season.
    • Avalanche Bass Quartet, led by ASO musician Kimberly Parillo, will present a socially-distanced outdoor concert at the Mason District Amphitheater in Annandale. Performing a variety of classical and popular repertoire (including video game themes), the unconventional quartet will highlight messages of racial and social justice. The performance will be free and open to the public.
    • A premiere woodwind quintet, WindSync, led by ASO oboist Emily Tsai, will present a virtual workshop to Sympatico students. The musicians will introduce the five instruments of the woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, horn), teach the science of how wind instruments work, instruct rhythms and melodies to create a “play along” performance, and share videos from WindSync fully-staged and costumed performances. WindSync will provide future opportunities for students to attend in-person performances.
    • QuinTango, led by ASO violinist Joan Singer, will teach ACPS students to play a tango. Orchestra students from Hammond Middle School, George Washington Middle School, and T.C. Williams High School will review recordings of their parts and a complete performance by QuinTango. After coaching and practice, the students will perform their parts virtually playing along live with QuinTango.
    • Spark Media will test Humanities.Games, a platform in development to empower students to learn through art-related games. Through interactive workshops, students from ASO Sympatico will help create music-based games that will be further developed by Spark Media. The final product, underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be a range of educational games for students with limited access to computers.
    • ASO assistant principal cellist Jihea Choi and violinist Sonya Hayes will present a workshop to middle school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Ms. Choi and Ms. Hayes will demonstrate secret string techniques and begin a conversation about systemic racism in classical music via Zoom. Students will be invited to ask questions about musicianship and music careers.

    “These outstanding and original projects are emblematic of ASO’s commitment to creativity in service to our community,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “We look forward to seeing them come to fruition in the coming months.”