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PVS Classical

Classical Roots

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Classical Roots

Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2025

Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2025
Orchestra Hall
2 hours
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Acclaimed composer Jessie Montgomery is one of today’s “most distinctive and communicative voices” (BBC). Experience two of her recent masterpieces. Co-commissioned by the DSO, Snapshots brims with “glowing washes and surges of sound,” (Dallas Morning News). Her Grammy Award-nominated Rounds, played by virtuoso Awadagin Pratt, evokes imagery and themes from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Opening the program is a world premiere by award-winning Detroit composer and trumpeter Kris Johnson.

Program

KRIS JOHNSON
(World Premiere)
JESSIE MONTGOMERY
Snapshots (Co-Commission)
JESSIE MONTGOMERY
Rounds

Artists

Na'Zir McFadden

conductor

American conductor Na’Zir McFadden is the Assistant Conductor and Phillip & Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the guidance of Music Director Jader Bignamini.

McFadden also serves as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra. Together, they’ll present three programs — exploring masterworks by Tchaikovsky, Valerie Coleman, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Margaret Bonds respectively.

Establishing his presence on the classical music scene, the 2023-24 season includes debuts with the North Carolina Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, and a return to the Philadelphia Ballet, in addition to maintaining several ongoing engagements with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He’ll also serve as a guest cover conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2022-23 season, he made his subscription debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, alongside bass-baritone Devóne Tines and clarinetist Anthony McGill. In March of 2024, he will conduct the DSO’s Classical Roots program, premiering two new works by composers Billy Childs and Shelly Washington.

Other career highlights have included debuts with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Ballet. Additionally, McFadden led a recording project with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago — featuring Hilary Hahn as co-collaborator and soloist.

This past summer, McFadden participated in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Conducting Seminar as part of the Tanglewood Institute, under the guidance of Andris Nelsons and Stefan Asbury.

In 2021, McFadden was named the inaugural Apprentice Conductor of the Philadelphia Ballet; a position he held until 2022. He also served as the Robert L. Poster Conducting Apprentice of the New York Youth Symphony from 2020 to 2021.

At the age of 16, Na’Zir conducted his hometown orchestra – The Philadelphia Orchestra – in their “Pop-Up” series, meeting their Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who has been a mentor ever since. The Philadelphia Inquirer praised his “great stick [baton] technique and energetic presence on the podium” in their concert review.

An advocate for arts education, McFadden strives to provide access to the arts for students in underserved communities. Currently, McFadden is a board member of Generation Music, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that provides classical music education to underrepresented youth in local school districts that can not afford to do so. His efforts have led to collaborations with youth ensembles in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

Awadagin Pratt

piano

Among his generation of concert artists, pianist Awadagin Pratt is acclaimed for his musical insight and intensely involving performances in recital and with symphony orchestras. 

Born in Pittsburgh, Pratt began studying piano and violin at an early age. At 16, he entered the University of Illinois where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he became the first student in the school's history to receive diplomas in three performance areas—piano, violin, and conducting. 

In 1992, Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the US including performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. His many orchestral performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, National, and Detroit symphony orchestras among many others. Summer festival engagements include appearances at Ravinia, Blossom, Wolftrap, Caramoor, Aspen, and the Hollywood Bowl. 

Also an experienced conductor, Pratt has conducted programs with the Toledo, New Mexico, Vancouver WA, Winston-Salem, and Santa Fe symphonies, the Northwest Sinfonietta, the Concertante di Chicago, and several orchestras in Japan. His most recent conducting activities include playing and conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh, conducting performances of Porgy and Bess with the Greensboro Opera, and conducting a concert featuring the music of jazz great Ornette Coleman with Bang on a Can at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In summer 2023, he begins his tenure as the Music Director of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra in Ohio. 

A great favorite on college and university performing arts series and a strong advocate of music education, Pratt participates in numerous residency and outreach activities wherever he appears. He has created a program called Black in America during which he tells about his encounters with the police, especially while driving, starting when he was a teenager and continuing through his post graduate studies and into his adulthood. His narrative is interspersed with live music performed by Pratt and students, followed by a panel discussion regarding the state of race in America today. Michelle Bauer Carpenter produced a documentary about Black in America which aired on 90 PBS stations across the country earlier this year. 

Pratt’s recordings for Angel/EMI include A Long Way From Normal, an all-Beethoven Sonata CD, Live From South AfricaTransformations, and an all-Bach disc with the St. Lawrence String Quartet. His most recent recordings are the Brahms Sonatas for Cello and Piano with Zuill Bailey for Telarc and a recording of the music of Judith Lang Zaimont with the Harlem String Quartet. 

Pratt is also the founder and Artistic Director of the Art of the Piano and produces a festival every spring featuring performances and conversations with well-known pianists and piano faculty members. This spring, he also organized the first Nina Simone Piano Competition for Black Pianists in collaboration with the Cincinnati Symphony, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the Art of the Piano Festival. The competition was made possible by a generous grant from the Sphinx Organization. 

Through the Art of the Piano Foundation and inspired by a stanza from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Mr. Pratt commissioned seven composers—Jessie Montgomery, Alvin Singleton, Judd Greenstein, Tyshawn Sorey, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Paola Prestini, and Peteris Vasks—to compose works for piano and strings or piano, strings, and a Roomful of Teeth. Singleton’s work was premiered with the New World Symphony in April 2021 and during the 2021–2022, 2022–2023, and 2023–2024 seasons, Pratt has or will have performed the Montgomery concerto with more than 30 US orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee symphonies and the Minnesota Orchestra. All seven works were recorded in summer 2022 with the chamber orchestra A Far Cry for New Amsterdam Records. 

In July 2023, Pratt joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a Professor of Piano. He was previously a Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati for nineteen years. 

In recognition of his achievements in the field of classical music, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University as well as honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and Illinois Wesleyan and delivered commencement addresses at those institutions as well as at Peabody Conservatory. 

Pratt is a Yamaha artist. For more information, please visit awadagin.com

Kris Johnson

trumpet

Kris Johnson is an award-winning trumpeter, composer, and educator based in the Detroit metro area. 

As an artist, Johnson’s work focuses on music that spans the depth and breadth of Black American music. The influences that have shaped his artistry include Terence Blanchard, Thad Jones, Nicholas Payton, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews, Clifford Brown, Roy Hargrove, and many others. 

As the leader of The Kris Johnson Group, he has recorded several studio albums including Odd ExpressionsJourney Through a Dream, and The Unpaved Road with Lulu Fall. Many of his projects in recent years have combined his music with technology and often address poignant themes, including his 2020 self-produced and entirely self-performed audio-visual album SAFE, which features his abstract illustrations and animation and explores childhood memories. In 2021, Johnson compiled the music produced for a social media series, which examines the idea of breaking free from generational trauma, into an album, #looptherapy, vol. 1. Lighter in mood but no less impressive is his series of videos with the Kris Johnson Big Band, a project dreamed up during the pandemic of 2020, which uses clever video editing to create a an entirely virtual large ensemble, the players of which were gathered from Johnson’s diverse circle friends and professional contacts from around the globe. 

Besides his own projects, Johnson’s career has been filled with incredible moments working as a trumpet player for hire. He toured the world with the illustrious Count Basie Orchestra from 2008–2019 and has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues including the Apollo Theater, the Blue Note Jazz Club (US and Japan), Sydney Opera House, Blues Alley, and the Hollywood Bowl. Johnson has also had the opportunity to perform with many jazz greats including: the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Patti Austin, Wes Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Jon Hendricks, Monty Alexander, Christian McBride, Jamie Cullum, and was featured soloist in the 2013 standup-comedy film Make Me Wanna Holla starring Sinbad. 

Johnson has a keen sensitivity to the nuances of film and a knack for storytelling through music, as is evident in his award-winning film scores for various web series, documentaries, short films, and feature films, and the two full-length musicals he has written. Kris scored the Dui Jarrod web series King Ester which was picked up by Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel “Issa Rae Presents.” The series was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards in 2020. Johnson received an Outstanding Score award for his work on the comedic web series, The PuNanny Diaries, at the 2011 LA Webfest and wrote the score for Searching For Shaniqua, which won HBO’s Best Doc Award at the 2016 Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. 

The Plowshares Theater (Detroit, MI), in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, recently commissioned Johnson to compose a musical influenced by Detroit’s historic Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. Hastings Street: the musical is currently in development with music/lyrics co-composed by Johnson and playwright/actor John Sloan III who also wrote the book. Johnson was awarded a grant in 2014 from New Music USA to fund a studio recording of his original musical Jim Crow’s Tears with a book by Gary Anderson of Plowshares Theater (Detroit). 

In addition to his work on film scores and musicals, Johnson has been commissioned to write compositions and arrangements for the Count Basie Orchestra, Ken Thompkins (Principal Trombone, Detroit Symphony Orchestra), the Arts League of Michigan, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, the Clark Sisters, the Farmington Community Band, Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Youth Ensembles, the Ferndale Community Concert Band, the Motor City Brass Band, Troy High School, New Trier High School, and many others. In 2012, Johnson received an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers award and was selected as one of 25 Detroit performing and literary artists to receive a $25,000 Kresge Artist Fellowship. 

Johnson’s journey as an educator began with his own education at Michigan State University, where he received his bachelor’s and master's degrees in jazz studies in 2005 and 2007, respectively. He has gone on to serve in the role of Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah from 2015–2019; a Project Director for Pontiac School District, leading a US Department of Education Arts in Education—Model Development and Dissemination Grant; and as the Education and Digital Programming Manager for the Motown Museum. Additionally, he has served on the teaching faculty at The Ohio State University, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Ensembles, and as an Artistic Liaison for JazzEd Detroit through a partnership with ArtOps and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. Currently, Johnson is the Director of Michigan State University’s Community Music School in Detroit. 

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