Sunday, January 19, 2003

CSO adopts diversity, inclusion policy

Classical Music notes


The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is trying to make more people aware that classical music is for everybody.

For the first time in 108 years, the CSO board of trustees has adopted a new Diversity and Inclusion Policy for its entire operation.

The board has appointed a committee to monitor the new policy's implementation, as well as to study all diversity and inclusion issues at the CSO, and to recommend goals and strategies.

The policy is one of the first among American orchestras, something that music director Paavo Jarvi hopes will set an example for other arts organizations in our city.

"It is a clear response to what is going on in our community," says Mr. Jarvi. "I think it would be premature to talk about how it will change or have effect. But it is a step in the right direction."

The symphony orchestra, a European art form, has historically been a mostly white (and mostly male) venture in this country. The policy is not just about hiring more African-American musicians - which is a lengthy process, CSO management has said.

"I see it as a much bigger and more involved campaign," Mr. Jarvi says. "Now that we have a board mandate, it would be much easier to try to get the funds for different type of programs that are going to hopefully help us involve the African-American community in the whole experience."

Dan Hoffheimer, board president and ex-officio member of the committee, says it is important for the CSO to take a first step.

"If we are the pre-eminent cultural institution in our city, we have to be a leader," he says. "Obviously, the city is nearly half African-American, the neighborhood we live in, in Over-the-Rhine, is impoverished, and yet we are the single greatest reason why people who don't live here come to visit Over-the-Rhine."

Aurelia "Candie" Simmons, co-chair of the orchestra's Multicultural Awareness Council, is cautiously optimistic.

"There is a definite improvement in the past three years (in the areas of diversity and inclusion at the CSO). However, we are not there yet," she says. "The audience will not be diverse until the `stage' is diverse. The CSO still needs to make every effort to seek African-American and Hispanic artists as permanent members of the orchestra. ... My ultimate dream is that there is no need for a Multicultural Awareness Council."

The Right Rev. Herbert J. Thompson chairs the committee. Members are U.S. Magistrate Judge Jack Sherman Jr., Rebecca Aicholtz; CSO trustees Dennis Broderick, Stanley Goodman, Fred Newton, James B. "Rick" Reynolds, Sandra Rivers and Jack Rouse; CSO musicians Norman Johns and Denisse Rodriguez-Rivera; and CSO staff members Charlotte Brothers, Kathy Jorgensen-Finley and CSO president Steven Monder.

Amernet premiere: More than 300 came out last Sunday to hear the Amernet Quartet perform in Greaves Hall at Northern Kentucky University. Their engaging program included the String Quartet by Germaine Tailleferre, in one of the few performances presented locally of music by a woman.

New members Misha Vitenson, violinist, and Michael Klotz, violist, have added not only a freshness and exuberance to the group (which includes founding members Marcia Littley, violin, and cellist Javier Arias) but are cultivating a sound that is warm, vibrant and alive. Their opening work, Turina's "La Oracion de Torero," was striking for its Spanish moods and Impressionistic colors.

The ensemble shifted seamlessly to a rare performance of Germaine Tailleferre's neoclassical String Quartet (1917-19), performing its lean textures and sometimes biting dissonances with precision, clarity and a genuine feel for the French style.

Other ensembles might do well to investigate this well-crafted, scintillating piece. Interestingly, the Tailleferre Quartet score turned up in a collection of music once owned by the Cincinnati Quartet, a 1920s-era ensemble of CSO musicians.

NKU's new music department chair, baritone Paul Kreider, took a bow in Barber's "Dover Beach." Dr. Kreider's impressive opera credits include six seasons with Lyric Opera of Chicago, PBS national telecasts and a recording of La Boheme conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He projected a resonant, burnished baritone, while the quartet backed him with great waves of sound.

The afternoon ended with a stunning performance of Mendelssohn's Quartet in D Major, Op. 44, No. 1, which had the crowd on its feet.

Watch for the Amernet Quartet to step up its national and international touring soon.

Their longterm dream, says cellist Mr. Arias, is to find rare instrument collectors who would be willing to loan the quartet a matched set of priceless instruments. Takers, anyone?

Opera news: David Daniels, onetime student at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and now the renowned "King of Countertenors," will make his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Feb. 1, in the role of Arsace in Handel's comic opera, Partenope. His autumn included a U.S. recital tour that brought him to Cincinnati, and culminated in his debut at Carnegie Hall

His Chicago performances continue through March 6. Tickets: (312) 332-2244.

Daniel Okulitch, a member of Cincinnati Opera's Young Artist Program, has been cast in the role of Schaunard in the Broadway production of Baz Luhrmann's La Boheme.


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