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Classical

BIGNAMINI & BRANFORD

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BIGNAMINI & BRANFORD

Friday, November 12—Sunday, November 14

Friday, November 12—Sunday, November 14
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

DSO Music Director Jader Bignamini welcomes three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis, for a program exploring American music. The 1930s saw composers such as George Gershwin giving their take on folk music in works such as Porgy and Bess. Meanwhile, the Paradise Valley thrived as the entertainment center of the Black Bottom neighborhood. This era in Detroit’s history serves as the inspiration for a world premiere from composer Jeff Scott.

To protect the health and well-being of its patrons, musicians, and staff due to the ongoing pandemic, the DSO has implemented new safety policies including mask and COVID-19 vaccine or test requirements and contactless e-ticketing. Visit dso.org/safetyplan for more information.

Program

AARON COPLAND
El Salón México
JOHN ADAMS
Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra
JEFF SCOTT
Paradise Valley Serenade (World Premiere)
GEORGE GERSHWIN/orch. BENNETT
Porgy and Bess: Symphonic Picture

Artists

Jader Bignamini

conductor

Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020-2021 season. He kicked off his tenure as DSO Music Director with the launch of DSO Digital Concerts in September 2020, conducting works by Copland, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Georges. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the season ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music.

In December, Jader returned to Detroit to lead a triumphant performance of Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”. He will return in May 2021 to conduct four programs including performances with violinist Midori and pianist Orli Shaham.

A native of Crema, Italy, Jader studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the operatic arias of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Jader explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival.

In the years since, Jader has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La Bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatoreand Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.

When Jader leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.

Branford Marsalis

saxophone

Growing up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, Branford was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands. A growing fascination with jazz as he entered college gave him the basic tools to obtain his first major jobs, with trumpet legend Clark Terry and alongside Wynton in Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers. When the brothers left to form the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, the world of uncompromising acoustic jazz was invigorated. Branford formed his own quartet in 1986 and, with a few minor interruptions in the early years, has sustained the unit as his primary means of expression. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured.

Branford has not confined his music to the quartet context, however. Classical music inhabits a growing portion of Branford’s musical universe. A frequent soloist with classical ensembles, Branford has become increasingly sought after as a featured soloist with such acclaimed orchestras as the Chicago, Detroit, Düsseldorf, and North Carolina Symphonies and the Boston Pops, with a growing repertoire that includes compositions by Debussy, Glazunov, Ibert, Mahler, Milhaud, Rorem and Vaughn Williams.

Under the direction of conductor Gil Jardim, Branford Marsalis and members of the Philharmonia Brasileira toured the United States in the fall of 2008, performing works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged for solo saxophone and orchestra. This project commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the revered Brazilian composer’s death.

Making his first appearance with the New York Philharmonic in the summer of 2010, Marsalis was again invited to join them as soloist in their 2010‐2011 concert series where he unequivocally demonstrated his versatility and prowess, bringing “a gracious poise and supple tone… and an insouciant swagger” (New York Times) to the repertoire.

In 2013, Branford served as Creative Director for the Ascent Series of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which included two week-long residencies as well as a number of concerts with the CSO.

Once again partnering with an esteemed ensemble for a tour of the United States, Branford joined the highly celebrated Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in Marsalis “Well-Tempered” on a 20-city US tour in the fall of 2014, performing Baroque masterpieces by Albinoni, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and others.

Raising the bar yet again, Branford took on the challenging Saxophone Concerto by composer John Adams, performing the piece with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Edwin Outwater, in October 2015.

To begin 2016, Branford traveled to Germany for a concert with the prestigious Bayerische Staatsoper at the National Theatre in Munich performing an array of selections including Ter Velduis’ Tallahatchie Concerto.

He then returned to Asia twice in the spring of 2016, first for his debut collaboration with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, followed by a trip to Kuala Lumpur where he performed two concerts with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Petronas Twin Towers. 

The fall of 2016 saw Branford returning to his home state of Louisiana where he was invited to be a guest soloist with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, presenting works by John Williams and Heitor Villa Lobos.

Broadway has also welcomed Branford’s contributions. His initial effort, original music for a revival of August Wilson’s Fences, garnered a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in a Play and a Tony nomination for Best Original Score Written for the Theater. Branford also provided music for The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, and served as musical curator for the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Branford’s screen credits include the original music for Mo’ Better Blues and acting roles in School Daze and Throw Momma from the Train.

Branford formed the Marsalis Music label in 2002, and under his direction it has documented his own music, talented new stars such as Miguel Zenón, and un-heralded older masters including one of Branford’s teachers, the late Alvin Batiste. Branford has also shared his knowledge as an educator, forming extended teaching relationships at Michigan State, San Francisco State and North Carolina Central Universities and conducting workshops at sites throughout the United States and the world.

As for other public stages, Branford spent a period touring with Sting, collaborated with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby, served as Musical Director of The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno and hosted National Public Radio’s widely syndicated Jazz Set. The range and quality of these diverse activities established Branford as a familiar presence beyond the worlds of jazz and classical music, while his efforts to help heal and rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina mark him as an artist with an uncommonly effective social vision. Together with Harry Connick, Jr. and New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, Branford conceived and helped to realize The Musicians’ Village, a community in the Upper Ninth Ward that provides homes to the displaced families of musicians and other local residents. At the heart of The Musicians’ Village stands the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a community center dedicated to preserving the rich New Orleans musical legacy containing state-of-the art spaces for performance, instruction and recording.

Some might gauge Branford Marsalis’s success by his numerous awards, including three Grammys and (together with his father and brothers) his citation as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. To Branford, however, these are only way stations along what continues to be one of the most fascinating and rewarding journeys in the world of music.

Hannah Hammel

Principal

Hannah Hammel is the recently appointed Principal Flute of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Before joining the DSO, she held the position of Principal Flute of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra from 2017-2019.

As an orchestral musician, Hannah has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Richmond Symphony, and New World Symphony. Hannah has spent summers performing at festivals including Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, Pacific Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, and Round Top Music Festival.

An active solo flutist, Hannah has won first place in the 2016 National Flute Association's Young Artist Competition, 2016 Houston Flute Club Byron Hester Competition, the 2015 Atlanta Flute Association Young Artist Competition, the 2014 National Flute Association Orchestral Excerpt Competition, 2013 Central Ohio Flute Association Collegiate Division Competition and second place in the 2013 Mid-South Flute Society’s Young Artist Competition among others.

A native of Richmond, VA, Hannah began studying the flute with her mother, Alice Hammel. She holds a BM in flute performance and a minor in music theory from The Oberlin Conservatory (2015) where she studied with Alexa Still. She graduated with her MM in flute performance in 2017 from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music as a student of Leone Buyse.

Sarah Lewis

Assistant Principal Oboe

Prior to her time at the DSO, Sarah served as Second Oboe of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She has made guest appearances with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, and Lansing Symphony Orchestra.

A native of Petoskey, Michigan, Sarah made weekly trips to the Interlochen Arts Academy during high school to study with Daniel Stolper. She completed her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University, studying with Jan Eberle, where she was awarded the Louis Sudler Prize for outstanding achievement in the Arts.

Under the tutelage of Nathan Hughes, Sarah received her Master’s Degree from The Juilliard School, with additional studies from Elaine Douvas, Pedro Diaz, and Linda Strommen. Sarah also participated in the Chautauqua Music Festival and the Tanglewood Music Festival, where she was a recipient of the Mickey L. Hooten Memorial Award.

Sarah now spends her summer months performing the roles of Second Oboe and English Horn in the Festival Napa Valley and the Classical Tahoe Orchestra in Nevada. Sarah is also passionate about music education, as she enjoys teaching oboe privately and has served as guest lecturer at Michigan State University and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

When she is not playing the oboe or making reeds, Ms. Lewis enjoys yoga, baking, and hiking with her adventurous husband, McLain.

Ralph Skiano

Principal Clarinet

Known for his beautiful sound and expressive playing, Ralph Skiano was appointed principal clarinetist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2014 after having served in the same position in the Richmond Symphony and the Des Moines Metro Opera. He has also appeared as guest principal clarinetist of the Seattle Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Ralph has been involved in numerous music festivals, including the Mainly Mozart Festival, The Peninsula Music Festival, the Britt Music Festival, Festival Lyrique-en-Mer, and the Tanglewood Music Center. As a soloist, he has been featured with ensembles in the United States, France, Germany, and Switzerland. In 2010, Ralph was a guest artist at the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium and he was a featured soloist with the Baton Rouge Symphony at the 2014 International Clarinet Association Convention. Ralph appeared as a soloist several times with the Richmond Symphony, most notably performing Concerti by Mozart, Weber, and Copland. He made his Detroit solo debut with the DSO in March of 2015, performing Mozart's Concerto for Clarinet.

Ralph has served on the faculty of the schools of music at James Madison University and the College of William and Mary, and has presented masterclasses at UVA, Towson University, Louisiana State University, California State University Northridge, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Maryland.

Under the guidance of Richard Hawley, Ralph completed his BM at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2002.

Michael Ke Ma

Acting Principal Bassoon

Michael Ke Ma started his professional career in 2000 when he was appointed Principal Bassoon of the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra (now the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra). In 2004, he was appointed the Assistant Principal Bassoon of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by Neeme Järvi, making him the first Chinese wind player to earn such a title in a major US orchestra.

Michael was born in Shanghai, where he started violin lessons at the age of 5. After switching from violin to bassoon for only six months at age 11, he was accepted by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music to study with Professors Zhun Zhao, Zhi-Hong Song and Zhao-Lu Liu. In 2001, he was invited by Stephen Maxym, former Principal Bassoon of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, to study in the US under a full scholarship at the University of Southern California. He was Stephen's last recruit, and upon his passing, Michael continued his studies with Judith Farmer, former Principal Bassoon of the Austrian Radio Orchestra.

Since then, Michael has given solo recitals, chamber music and orchestral performances at many music festivals and venues around the globe, including the Banff Center for the Arts, Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, Sunflower Chamber Music Festival in Kansas, Asian Youth Orchestra, Spoleto USA Festival Orchestra, Beijing International Music Festival, Shanghai International Arts Festival, and the Tongyeong International Music Festival in Korea. Michael recently served as Principal Bassoon of the Global Chinese Festival Orchestra and was invited by Maestro Myung-whun Chung to play with the Asia Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Korea and comprising elite musicians worldwide. In 2015, Michael spent 2 months with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra as their Guest Principal Bassoon. He has also made guest appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in its 2010-2011 season. Michael has been interviewed by the Shanghai OTV and Detroit Fox2News, and his performances can often be heard on the radio at KUSC and K-MZT in Los Angeles; and WRCJ 90.9 and WWJ 950 AM in Detroit.

A dedicated teacher, Michael is very active in music education. He has taught master classes at Interlochen Arts Academy, participated in the Professional Panel at Michigan State University, coached private students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Macau Youth Symphony Orchestra, and worked with the DSO's own Civic ensembles. He has regularly been invited by Yongyan Hu, Dean of the EOS Orchestra Academy of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and Long Yu, President of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy in Shanghai, to give master classes to their students.

Michael has collaborated with luminaries such as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Charles Dutoit, Lang Lang, John Williams, Fabio Luisi, Paavo Järvi, Kathleen Battle, Placido Domingo, and the late Kurt Masur. He currently travels between Detroit and Shanghai, where Maestro Long Yu invited him to be the guest principal with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

Scott Strong

Horn

In 2014, Scott Strong was named Third Horn of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He was born into a family of musicians in Iowa, and raised in the Dallas, Texas, area. He received his undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University, and completed his graduate studies at Rice University before joining the Louisiana Philharmonic. Scott is an active participant in many festivals, and has held positions in the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet orchestras, as well as the San Antonio Symphony. Scott has studied with Gregory Hustis and William VerMeulen.

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Supported by the feathery touch of Faulkner’s brushes, the concluding note of each phrase emerged from the bell of Marsalis horn like a poppy’s bloom rendered in time-lapse photography. ”

—Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Classical Voice
Gabriel Prokofiev Saxophone Concerto with Branford Marsalis
Artwork for Orchestra Hall
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3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI
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