Manhattan School of Music in the Studio

Alexa Smith and students from Manhattan School of Music


Alexa Smith: Hello. I'm Alexa Smith. On tonight's show, we have students from Manhattan School of Music's College and Precollege. You'll hear music from Valerie Coleman, Janáček, Cait Nishimura and Bach today on this edition of The McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.

Now in its 47th year, the Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten by the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Throughout the show's history, we have frequently featured students and alumni of Manhattan School of Music, and we continue that tradition today. For over 100 years, Manhattan School of Music has churned out some of the greatest musicians and classical music from around the world. It was founded in 1918 by Janet Daniels Schenck as a neighborhood music school. Its original location on East 104th Street was in the Union Settlement Association and served many newly arrived immigrants.

Today, the school makes its home on the west side of Manhattan on 120th and Broadway and is led by Dr. James Gandre. I'm delighted to be able to share these students with you today as an alumna myself of MSM. We'll hear first from the opera program with soprano Sofia Gotch from a recent production of Janáček's opera The Cunning Little Vixen.

[MUSIC - Leoš Janáček: Cunning Little Vixen - Sofia Gotch, soprano; Xiaoyin Zhu, piano]


Alexa Smith: That was soprano, Sofia Gotch, with an excerpt of Janáček's opera The Cunning Little Vixen recorded in Neidorff-Karpati Hall in May of 2023. Sofia, welcome to the studio. We're so glad to have you. Um, and tell us a little bit about this role in The Cunning Little Vixen.

Sofia Gotch: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Um, in terms of this role, it was really gratifying to learn this role and portray this character. It happened to be my first like full role in opera. And the gratifying part about it was that I felt so connected to this character on a personal level, that it became a really magical happening when I brought it to life on stage with an orchestra.

Alexa Smith: Fabulous. Well, you sound amazing.


Sofia Gotch: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: Thank you for joining us today, and we wish you well on your musical journey.

Sofia Gotch: Thank you so much.

Alexa Smith: MSM's precollege program welcomes nearly 400 students from ages 5 to 18 every Saturday. The renowned program's alumni include a diverse range of artists from pianist Chloe Flower to singer-songwriter Charlie Puth. The students' weekly activities include private lessons, classes on theory, ear training, composition plus orchestra, chorus, and conducting. And they also participate in events like the annual concerto competition. We'll hear from one of last year's winners Perry Zou, with MacDowell's Piano Concerto in D minor.

[MUSIC - Edward MacDowell: Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23, I. Larghetto calmato - Perry Zou, piano]


Alexa Smith: That was Perry Zou performing MacDowell's Piano Concerto No.2 in D minor. Recorded in Neidorff-Karpati Hall at MSM with the MSM Precollege Orchestra in May, 2023. And we have Perry in the studio today with us. So welcome, Perry. It's nice to meet you.

Perry Zou: Hi. It's great to be here. I'm really honored to be here with WQXR.

Alexa Smith: Well, congratulations on winning the Concerto Competition.

Perry Zou: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: That's a big deal. And was this your first time playing a concerto with an orchestra?

Perry Zou: Yes, it was my very first time. Yes.

Alexa Smith: Wow. And what was that like for you?

Perry Zou: Um, it was a really fresh experience being able to play, um, piano in- with the orchestra and a conductor, you know, to an audience in such a great venue in MSM.

Alexa Smith: Wow. And, um, how long did it take you to prepare for that?

Perry Zou: Um, it-- I prepared over the summer of, uh, 2022. And, uh, the competition took place on December 2022. So I'd say about, um, six months. But, um, preparing with the orchestra was the, uh, most important thing leading up to the concert.

Alexa Smith: Wow. Well, it certainly paid off because you sound amazing.

Perry Zou: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: And you have such a great recording to cherish forever. Thank you for joining us today. It's great to meet you.

Perry Zou: Yes. Thank you so much.

Alexa Smith: I'm Alexis Smith, and you're listening to The Young Artists Showcase. Next, we'll hear from a flute guitar, viola cello quartet from the college with the first movement of Matiegka Quartet arranged by Franz Schubert. Here are students, Lorien Britt, Richie Johnson, Yuchen Tu, and Tom Readett.

[MUSIC - Wenzel Thomas Matiegka (arr. Franz Schubert) Notturno Op. 21, I. Allegro moderato - Lorien Britt, flute; Richie Johnson, guitar; Yuchen Tu, viola; Tom Readett, cello]

Alexa Smith: That was the first movement of Matiegka's Quartet arranged by Franz Schubert. You heard Lorien Britt on flute, Richie Johnson on guitar, Yuchen Tu on viola, and Tom Readett playing the cello. So we have Tom Readett here from the Quartet. Um, Tom, where's home for you?

Tom Readett: Um, I was born in Birmingham, England, actually.

Alexa Smith: Oh.

Tom Readett: Um, but I lived in Connecticut most of my life, Mr. Connecticut.

Alexa Smith: Oh, fabulous. And, um, talk to us a little bit about playing it in the ensemble that you have here. Um, obviously chamber music is a requirement in conservatories, but what do you take from it for your own playing?

Tom Readett: Yeah, I-I-I truthfully love chamber music. I play it a lot more than I play any orchestra or any solo repertoire. I love it. And this is an interesting quartet. I-I-I play lots of other quartets as well, but this is quite different because this piece was written by Matiegka long before Schubert took it up. And then Schubert took the piece and added an instrument. So, originally, it was just written for guitar, flute, and viola. And so if you-- So this- playing this piece is it quite interesting because flute and guitar and cello and viola aren't normally seen together in a- in a group, and also their balance and their sonorities are much very different from each other.

And so balancing all of those things together, these kind of- this piece that's out of time as well as these instruments that don't really work together, it's a very interesting quartet to kind of play.

Alexa Smith: Yeah, that is fascinating and also sounds incredible. [laughter] Thank you for joining us in the studio today.

Tom Readett: Yeah. Awesome.

Alexa Smith: And best of luck.

Tom Readett: Thank you so much.

Alexa Smith: You bet. It's time for us to take a quick break now, then I'll be back with more performances by these young artists from Manhattan School of Music, here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.

I'm Alexa Smith, and we're back with students from Manhattan School of Music. In its second century of educating young artists, the school continues to be one of the most important education institutions in the world with nearly half the students hailing from outside the US. Joining us next is Classical Guitarist, Richie Johnson, with the first movement of Matiegka's Sonata Number 5 in D Major.

[MUSIC - Wenzel Thomas Matiegka: Sonata No. 5 in D Major, I. Allegro moderato - Richie Johnson, guitar]

Richie Johnson: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: That was Matiegka's Sonata Number 5 in D Major, performed by Guitarist, Richie Johnson. And we're lucky enough to have Richie in the studio today, which is exciting. And now, so what types of things do you get to play at MSM? Obviously, you have the quartet. You have the solo piece, but what other types of things do you get into there?

Richie Johnson: So, um, what I really, really like about MSM is that they are pushing us to perform newer music. And especially my teacher, Dave Leisner, I have to give a shout-out to him. He encourages me a lot to, you know, push my boundaries with a certain type of repertoire in new music. And even now, like I'm-I'm composing, you know, and I- and I've never considered myself a composer ever. But, uh, I-I find myself even on my graduation recital be performing two, uh, two preludes that I wrote for a friend of mine who passed away that David has helped me, you know, really form.

Alexa Smith: Wow.

Richie Johnson: Yeah.

Alexa Smith: That's amazing. Yes, we need lots of new music and old music. [laughs]

Richie Johnson: Yeah.

Alexa Smith: Well, thank you so much for joining us today in the studio.

Richie Johnson: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: In addition to the school's talented students, it also attracts esteemed faculty from around the world. Composer, Valerie Coleman, whose works have been performed at many of America's top orchestras, is also a faculty member at MSM. Here's the first two movements of her Afro-Cuban Concerto, with students, Kyrese Washington, Aaron Haettenschwiller, Mateo Balboa Doldan, Peter Ecklund, and Taylor Krause.

[MUSIC - Valerie Coleman: Afro-Cuban Concerto, I. Afro, II. Vocalise - Kyrese Washington, flute; Aaron Haettenschwiller, oboe; Mateo Balboa Doldan, clarinet; Peter Ecklund, bassoon; Taylor Krause, horn]

Alexa Smith: That was the first two movements of Valerie Coleman's Afro-Cuban Concerto. And you actually heard those two movements in reverse. The students decided to play the second movement first, followed by the lively and exciting first movement. The piece was performed by flutist, Kyrese Washington, oboist, Aaron Haettenschwiller, clarinetist, Mateo Balboa Doldan, bassoonist, Peter Ecklund, and horn player Taylor Krause, live in the WQXR studio. And we're super lucky we have Kyrese Washington. Welcome to the WQXR studios.

Kyrese Washington: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: Kyrese, what's so special about being at MSM for you is that you have direct access to the composer. What's that like for you?

Kyrese Washington: Yeah, it's been such a dream come true. Um, I remember watching the Imani Winds perform, um, Piazzolla's Libertango, and that was a game changer for me 'cause I saw people who look like me doing the things that I didn't know I could do. And then now I'm here kind of living that dream. So working with her has been really great. She's, um, an amazing teacher, very picky, oh my goodness, going for every minute detail to the end of the note, to the middle and the beginning, and-and even before the beginning of the note. So, yeah, I've learned a lot from her so far.

Alexa Smith: Well, I promise you it all pays off, 'cause it sounds pitch perfect. It's so great.

Kyrese Washington: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: So bravo, bravo.

Kyrese Washington: Um, thank you so much for joining us here-

Kyrese Washington: Yeah.

Alexa Smith: -in the studio today.

Kyrese Washington: Thank you.

Speaker: Thank you.

Alexa Smith: This is Alexa Smith. You're listening to the Young Artists Showcase. We're almost out of time, but we'll hear from one last group, a brass quintet. Before we hear their selections, let's meet the group. With us today in the studio, we have Tanner Stegink, uh, who's our tuba player, and Sterling Davis, who's our trombonist. Welcome to the WQXR Studios.

Tanner Stegink: Hi, thank you for having us.

Sterling Davis: Yeah, same, thank you for having us.

Alexa Smith: Yeah, so Tanner, um, we were talking a little bit, um, before about the Nishimura piece, and you were talking to me a little bit about the incredible background of the composer. So I'd love for you to share a little bit of that.

Tanner Stegink: Yeah, so Kate Nishimura is a composer. She's around the same age as all of us, which is really awesome. We know a lot of people in common, which is always a really fun relationship to have as a performer to a composer and to be connected that way. I first learned of her through a solo piece of hers called Golden Hour, uh, which was originally written for the horn and then Jarrett McCourt of the Santa Fe Opera then recommissioned it for tuba. But this piece is called When the Clouds Break, uh, which you'll notice there's kind of a theme with natural sounds and natural inspirations throughout her entire catalog, which is really cool.

Kate Nishimura is based in Waterloo, Canada, in Ontario, and she also works as a forest therapy guide. So you can really hear a lot of these inspirations from the natural world and through kind of the calming effect that it can have on you through her music. So we-we hope you enjoy it.

Alexa Smith: That is amazing. I mean, also, what a cool job, right?

Tanner Stegink: Yeah.

Alexa Smith: And then you get to compose. [laughs] How great is that? Uh, now, Sterling, and what-what about MSM is special in terms of the types of music you play, um, and what you're asked to do?

Sterling Davis: Well, in addition to doing like all the standard repertoire that, you know, I didn't necessarily get to cover throughout my life, um, we get to do a lot of pieces from like underrepresented composers. So like, you know, you can kind of like dig into your like your own cultural heritage and find a classical musician who inspires you, who's like from your kind of background. It's really cool.

Alexa Smith: That's fantastic. Well, thank you for joining us in the studio, and now let's hear some music. You have two selections for us, Contrapunctus I from Art of the Fugue by Bach, arranged by Ralph Sauer, and When the Clouds Break by Kate Nishimura. Let's hear them.

[MUSIC - J.S. Bach (arr. Ralph Sauer): Contrapunctus I, Art of the Fugue - Lindsay Ross, trumpet; David Peebles, trumpet; Keegan McCardell, horn; Sterling Davis, trombone; Tanner Stegink, tuba]

[MUSIC - Cait Nishimura: When the Clouds Break - Lindsay Ross, trumpet; David Peebles, trumpet; Keegan McCardell, horn; Sterling Davis, trombone; Tanner Stegink, tuba]

Alexa Smith: You just heard a brass quintet made up of Lindsay Ross and David Peebles on trumpet, Keegan McCardell on horn, Sterling Davis on trombone, and Tanner Stegink on Tuba. They performed two pieces, Contrapunctus I from Art of the Fugue by Bach, arranged by Ralph Sauer, and When the Clouds Break by Cait Nishimura. And that's a wrap. Thank you to all of our wonderful student performers, and a special thank you to Nick Gonzalez at Manhattan School of Music. And thanks to you for joining us for this week's edition of The McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase, which is generously underwritten on WQXR by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.

Terry McGraw: Good evening, everyone. It's great to be with you, and it's always great being with the Young Artists Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on the Showcase, and I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR, and there's so much more to come.

Alexa Smith: Thanks, Terry. Many thanks to WQXR program producers, Laura Boyman, Max Fine, Eileen Delahunty, and Yueqing Guo. Our session engineer is Irene Trudel, and our generous program underwriter is The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Alexa Smith. Goodnight.


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