Category Archive: Press Releases

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

  4. 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.”

  5. Alexandria Symphony Garners National Recognition

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is capturing attention across the nation for exciting and creative programming during the time of COVID-19.  ASO’s socially-distanced and safety-conscious events—with diverse concert programs, unusual outdoor venues and wide community reach—were recently featured on the cover of Symphony Magazine, the industry’s national trade publication.

    “The need for social distance gave us an impetus to reimagine our traditional indoor concert venues,” said Melynda Wilcox, President of the ASO Board of Trustees.  “A whole new world of interesting and unexpected venues has opened up, many of them overseen by community leaders who are partnering with us to develop new and inspiring ways to bring symphonic music to our neighborhoods.”

    During these challenging times, ASO is among the most active American orchestras in its budget size.  According to Executive Director George Hanson, ASO has developed three new streams of programming, presented by groups of two to eight musicians in outdoor spaces:

    • ASO on the Patio serves senior care facilities such as Goodwin House and Aarondale Community.
    • ASO on the Go brings music to neighborhoods such as The Crest of Alexandria.
    • Ticketed events such as ASO in the Secret Garden on October 3 and 4 at The Rectory in Old Town offer the public a live musical experience in an outdoor concert setting. These sold-out performances are generously sponsored by Renner & Company, CPA.

    “When the world was closed down and live music was happening nowhere, we began to look for ways to bring some beauty and a sense of normalcy to our community,” said Music Director Jim Ross. “At our first outdoor performance after nearly two months of quarantine, the joy of live music was evident not only on the masked faces of our socially-distanced audience, but on the faces of those of us performing.”

  6. ASO Postpones Main Series to Fall 2021

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announces the postponement of concerts originally scheduled for the 2020-2021 main subscription series.

    “ASO Music Director Jim Ross put together a thrilling package of programs for this coming season,” said ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “It breaks our hearts not to be able to present them as planned due to the current health crisis. To preserve the integrity of Jim’s vision, we have moved the entire season’s programming, virtually intact, into the 2021-2022 season.”

    For the current 2020-2021 season ASO will continue to present live music in outdoor venues around Alexandria with small ensembles and limited, socially-distanced audiences. If conditions permit, indoor venues may be incorporated in Spring 2021.

    This summer the symphony convened a task force consisting of Trustees, musicians, staff and community members to consider the feasibility of presenting the main subscription series, which was planned and announced prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The task force recommended the postponement to protect the health and safety of its patrons, musicians, staff and volunteers.

    “The global pandemic has sadly forced many arts organizations to cancel or postpone performances,” says ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. “We look forward to presenting this exciting series when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, ASO remains active, bringing live music to the community in creative new ways.”

    The plans for ASO’s 2020-2021 season, now slated for 2021-2022, involve collaborations with arts groups including the Alexandria Choral Society, Alexandria Film Festival, BalletNOVA, and the National Symphony Orchestra horn section.

    “Our 2021-2022 season will be bursting with energy—full of masterworks, collaborations, and imaginative presentations,” says Maestro James Ross. “By next fall we expect to be able to move indoors with the large-scale programs we had planned. It will truly be a meaningful and unforgettable season, one that will inspire people to re-gather.”

    In the fall, our ASO Sympatico program will continue to serve students at John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8 school through online sessions modeled after those that were provided this spring when school buildings were closed.

  7. ALEXANDRIA SYMPHONY LAUNCHES VIRTUAL SYMPATICO WORKSHOP

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    Alexandria, VA—In collaboration with the Collective Conservatory and led by Daniel Trahey, upper-level students from Alexandria Symphony’s Sympatico program are participating in a one-week pilot workshop via Zoom from April 27 through May 1. Students from the Sympatico ensembles at John Adams Elementary will hone musicianship skills including body percussion, composition and improvisation.

    “Our students are processing a lot of change right now,” says Sympatico Program Director Kyle Tilman. “Besides missing school and their friends, they are missing their daily music instruction while trying to make sense of the world around them. Making music with Sympatico is a safe place for them to express themselves, take ownership and feel powerful. I am honored that we can offer this distance learning opportunity for them.”

    During the pilot week, students will learn how to create music in their home environment, including involving family members. They will compose spoken word rap compositions to express their range of emotions. They will also create melodies and rhythms through improvisations and have a chance to share their creative ideas as solos with the group.

    “These kids have so much to say,” comments workshop leader Daniel Trahey. “Their insights are wise and inspirational, and I am delighted to discover what creative ideas they craft through this process. Music brings us together in ways that nothing else can.”

    Mr. Trahey is the Artistic Director of Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids Program and has served as consultant to Sympatico since it launched in 2013. Trahey also leads Sympatico’s January annual composition workshop week, where more than 150 students from John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8 school create original compositions and perform them for friends and family. Colleague Pete Tashjian will be joining him as a teaching artist along with Sympatico ensemble instructors for the online workshop.

    In addition to music-making, the students will learn mindfulness with specialist Ari Urban and participate in exercises to promote both mental and physical wellness. “We expect this pilot week to be a great success, and we’ve already planned two more week-long sessions with a larger group of students in mid-May,” says Alexandria Symphony Board President Melynda Wilcox. “Sympatico is the shining star of our organization, and I am very proud that we can provide these workshops during these challenging times.”

    Sympatico is modeled after El Sistema, a global movement of social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need, which began in Venezuela more than 30 years ago. Sympatico uses intensive music instruction and frequent performance opportunities as a vehicle for increasing academic performance, improving school attendance, and fostering important life skills. Sympatico is a member of El Sistema USA, a national alliance of El Sistema-inspired programs. Sympatico is fully underwritten by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, offered at no cost to the students or participating schools, thanks to contributions from generous individuals and multiple foundations.

  8. ALEXANDRIA SYMPHONY CANCELS MAY AND JUNE PERFORMANCE

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    Alexandria, VA—In order to protect the health and safety of its audiences, staff and musicians, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is cancelling all performances in the months of May and June 2020. This includes its season finale originally scheduled for Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17 as well as its “Brandenburgs & Brew” concert scheduled for June 12.

    “These are extraordinary times, and we all must do our part to slow the spread of this virus not only for our community but also for our first responders and health care professionals,” says ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. “When it’s safe, the ASO will be back on stage, ready to inspire our audiences with exciting programs.”

    The Saturday, May 16 program included a premiere of an original work by Baltimore Symphony’s percussionist Brian Prechtl entitled Tribute, commissioned by Classical Movement’s Eric Helms New Music Program. It features ASO musicians alongside students from its award-winning education program, ASO Sympatico.

    “This premiere required more than a year of planning, and I’m heartbroken we won’t be able to present it this May,” says Maestro James Ross. “But we have added it to next season’s opening concert on Saturday, October 3, 2020 as a prelude to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Brian’s work is inspired by Beethoven, so it’s a natural fit.”

    Ticket-buyers have already been notified of the cancellations, and musicians will be partially compensated for the loss of income. “Our musicians are our most important asset,” says Executive Director George Hanson. “They have been hit hardest during these challenging times, and we want to show our support and gratitude for them.”

    The ASO will turn its attention to planning for the 2020-2021 season launch in October. Orders from state and local jurisdictions currently in effect prevent public gatherings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through mid-June.

    “The Alexandria Symphony’s 2020-2021 season with the theme ‘All Together Now!’ has some exciting collaborations and inspiring masterworks in store,” says Maestro Ross. “We look forward to A future when sharing music in live performance can bring us BACK together again.”

  9. ASO Subscriptions for the 2020-2021 Season Now on Sale

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces its 2020-2021 Season led by Music Director James Ross. The season offers familiar masterworks and multiple collaborations with local arts organizations.

    The season launches with a joyful noise on October 3 and 4, 2020 with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 featuring vocalists from the Alexandria Choral Society. Saturday’s performance premieres Tribute, an original work by Brian Prechtl featuring students from ASO’s award-winning education program, Sympatico. Tribute was commissioned by Classical Movement’s Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program. Sunday’s performance welcomes members from the National Symphony Orchestra’s horn section performing Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück.

    In partnership with the Alexandria Film Festival the ASO presents Homegrown: Stories in Music and Film on November 7 and 8, 2020. Original film works submitted by local artists will accompany music from the Americana tradition including Aaron Copland’s Our Town and John Henry, Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Clouds and William Grant Still’s Manhattan Skyline. The program culminates with Mussorgsky’s well-loved Pictures at an Exhibition.

    On December 18 and 20, 2020, the ASO brings you a holiday concert like none other. ASO will accompany dancers from BalletNova with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Alexandria Choral Society joins the ASO for choruses from Händel’s Messiah as well as leads the audience in popular holiday carols.

    Renowned pianist Sara Daneshpour headlines on February 20 and 21, 2021 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 Ross. The program also features George Walker’s Lyric for Strings and Sibelius’ epic tone poem, Finlandia.

    ASO’s season finale on April 17 and 18, 2021 sparks joy with Dylana Jenson and her rendition of Barber’s Violin Concerto. Ms. Jenson was the youngest and first American woman to win a medal in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor reflects youthful optimism paired with Guido López-Gavilán’s Mojito con saoco, commissioned for the Cuban American Youth Orchestra.

    The 2020-2021 Season is generously supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Subscription packages are now on sale and start at $90.

  10. ASO’s Sympatico Program Receives Dominion Energy’s ArtStars Award

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) was recently honored as one of five 2020 Dominion Energy ArtStars for inspiring people of all ages in creative endeavors for its music education program, Sympatico. Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation chose organizations with annual operating budgets under $1 million, selecting one from each of five regions of Virginia to receive a $10,000 grant to support their winning arts or cultural education program.

    Alexandria Symphony’s Sympatico program serves 180 students in two Alexandria City Public Schools: John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8. Students choose from a variety of ensembles including Chorus, bucket band, strings, and mixed instrument ensembles. The 2019-2020 school year marks the sixth full year for the program, basing its model on the El Sistema method of music instruction with social impact, first introduced in Venezuela over 40 years ago. Besides musicianship, students acquire leadership skills, confidence, ownership of a project and creative composition. Instruction is offered at no cost to the schools or participating students, providing a value of more than $2 million if they were to seek comparable private music instruction.

    Other winners included the Arts Depot (Abington, VA), Lime Kiln Theater (Lexington, VA), Sandler Center for the Performing Arts (Virginia Beach, VA), and Studio Two Three (Richmond, VA).

    “This year’s winners prove everyday what a powerful impact art can have on a community’s culture and history,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, president of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Virginia is very fortunate to have these talented organizations committed to the vibrancy of local communities across the Commonwealth.”

    Sympatico is fully underwritten by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Program support relies on generous contributions from individuals and foundations as well as grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Alexandria Commission for the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts.