NEW The Language of Music Revealed: A Real Easy Way for Anyone to Learn to Read IN SPANISH!

NEW The Language of Music Revealed: A Real Easy Way for Anyone to Learn to Read IN SPANISH! Finally, a music fundamentals book in Spanish for the non-musician: first of its kind, now available in the US.

EL LENGUAJE DE LA MÚSICA, AL DESCUBIERTO: Un Método Tan Fácil Que Cualquier Persona Es Capaz De Aprender A Leer Y Escribir Mú



Reflections on “Music from the Americas”

The University Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra and I will present the “Music from the Americas” concert this Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 8 PM in Wilson Hall, Lexington Virginia. Tickets are required. Go to the University’s website for information and to purchase tickets >click here.

The program includes the beautiful music from the Americas featuring Villa-Lobos (Brazil), Ginastera (Argentina) and Randall Thompson (United States). MaryAnne Vardaman will perform Bruch‘s Kol Nidre.

As I study the two pieces from South America, I can’t help but recall and reflect on my visits to both countries.

Hector Villa-Lobos 1887-1959

Hector Villa-Lobos 1887-1959 (photo credit:

Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2, with its sensual and suave tenor sax solos juxtaposed to the rustling sounds of the desert and the chugging sounds of the little countryside train of Caipira, capture the swaying rhythms of a country I proudly call my second home. Villa Lobos’ homage to Bach, captures the unique spirit of Brazilians; kind-hearted, full of humor, and proud of their beautiful country.

In contrast, the stylized more aggressive percussive style of Estancia by Ginastera portrays a country which gave birth to Tango; not only the dance but the song. Tango dancing contains sharp, definitive moves that often bring the two dances close in proximity but far in a personal sense; almost a battle of two wills. The songs of Tango are sad melodramas perhaps influenced by the difficult history of a country still defining itself.  “Maambo,” the final dance is a wild, out of control dance that ends the Suite in an explosive fashion–so different from the train from Caipira.

I met many Argentinians in my travels; often sharing stories with me of sadness and profound loss. It is a humbling experience hearing about a friend who passed away, leaving a loving family to grieve or a talented singer going it alone even after so many disappointments. The long melodic lines of the second movement of the Ballet gives us time to pause and pray for a better life.

Thompson’s home-spun Second Symphony is from an era of innocence and patriotism. Though parts of each movement often reflect the new machine age with its repeated highly rhythmic motifs, there are countless singable, folk-like melodies that dot the entire work. Though the composition doesn’t incorporate the jazz rhythms that were showing up in concert pieces during the same time, the “American sound” sung by the strings at the end of the last movement leaves us with feeling of pride and hope. Whatever country you call home, we all cling to hope…all of us.

Van Cliburn, Cold War Musical Envoy, Dies at 78

Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 -

Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 –

An international legend for over five decades, a great humanitarian and a brilliant musician whose light will continue to shine through his extraordinary legacy. Van Cliburn was the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career. Perhaps it was the pressure of stardom thrusted upon a 23-year old was too much and as a result, by 1978, he retired from the stage. He was praised for his technical strength, musical poise, and manly lyricism unmarred by eccentricity.

A Fateful Day in 1963; and in 2011

“One Red Rose” recalls a national tragedy, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, through specific impressions, filtered through 50 years of subsequent insightImage and experience. The three-movement work is for string quartet; its title derived from a detail reported by a Secret Service agent who examined the presidential limousine.

Recently, the Brentano String Quartetperformed this deeply emotional and thoughtful work by composer, Steven Mackey. The finale, “Anthem and Aria,” similarly juxtaposes collective anguish and acutely felt private grief.

I was on my way home from a chorus rehearsal, just 12 years old, and I heard the news on the radio not really knowing the true meaning of this horrifying news. I came home finding my Mother working on her stenography with the many LP’s of voices dictating letters at all speeds. When I told the news that Kennedy was shot and killed, she stopped and froze; it was the first time I ever saw my Mother weep.

I knew only then what really happened and that my message to her, blurted out by an innocent and naive child, wasn’t a news bulletin at all but more like daggers to the heart. It was only some five decades later that I saw that same profound sadness in my Mother’s eyes but amplified to deafening decibels; at my Father’s funeral.


What’s Next? Not a happy time for British Orchestras

This is not a happy time for British orchestras.

Local government authorities are slashing their arts budgets by anything up to 100 per cent and managers still await the financial decisions of the newly emasculated Arts Council.


So “What’s Next” would seem a fitting theme for this year’s annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras, held in Leeds this past  January 23-25.

I wish them all the best.

Playing Jekyll and Hyde With Exotic French Flavors

Inconsistent performances have dogged the New York Philharmonic for decades. As CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM points out in a recent New Times reviewImage“Two orchestras showed up on Thursday evening at Avery Fisher Hall. One featured a band of uninterested players policed by a conductor who, for the most part, seemed content to beat time. The other was a tight-knit group of musicians who offered an incandescent performance under the direction of an artist with a fine sense of line and color.”

There times, you just want to walk out during the first half of a typical concert, no matter who is at the helm only to be amazed at the playing virtuosity that inevitably occurs after intermission.