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Steve Metcalf has been writing about the musical life of this region, and the wider world, for more than 30 years. For 21 of those years, he was the full-time staff music critic of The Hartford Courant. During that period, via the L.A. Times/Washington Post news service, his reviews, profiles and feature stories appeared in 400 newspapers worldwide.He is also the former assistant dean and director of instrumental music at The Hartt School, where he founded and curated the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series. He is currently Director of the Presidents' College at the University of Hartford. Steve is also keyboardist emeritus of the needlessly loud rock band Duke and the Esoterics.Reach him at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.

The Music Ticker: Arts Summit at UHart and New Seasons for Local Groups

Ash & James Photography
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will offer free admission to young people and students for its upcoming season.

Arts administrators don’t often get the chance to communally reflect on their precarious profession, but on Saturday, September 17, the University of Hartford will host an event that is informally being billed as an arts summit.

UHart's President’s College – an institution that offers non-credit lectures and mini-courses to adults on an impressive variety of subjects – will kick off its new season by presenting a day-long symposium on the present and future of the arts in our community, region, and state. The event was conceived and assembled by the director of the President’s College, Joseph Voelker.

The symposium is titled “Politics and the Arts,” but its series of morning and afternoon sessions will deal with virtually all of the issues that face arts presenters these days:

  • How to build audiences in an age of Netflix, streaming media and giant flat screen TVs;
  • The challenge of attracting public and private support at a time when pressing social needs are increasingly demanding attention from funders;
  • The relationship between the arts and social justice;
  • Programming, advertising and promotion, dwindling coverage in the press; and many others.
Credit Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
The University of Hartford's Harry Jack Gray Center, which will host an arts summit in its Wilde Auditorium.

Participants will include David Fay, CEO of the Bushnell; Steve Collins, executive director of the Hartford Symphony; Min Jung Kim, director of the New Britain Museum of American Art; Will K. Wilkins, the longtime executive director of Real Art Ways; Tom Loughman, the newly-installed director of the Wadsworth Atheneum; Betsy Cooper, the brand-new dean of The Hartt School; Rob Ruggiero, artistic director of TheaterWorks; and the Artists Collective’s ageless grande dame Dollie McLean, among many others.

The day begins at 9:00 am and runs into the late afternoon, with a buffet lunch served at 12:15 pm in the university’s 1877 Club.

Free Tickets in St. Paul, Minnesota

Speaking of arts initiatives, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra – which has for a long time been recognized as one of more forward-looking music organizations in the country – has caused a stir by announcing that it will offer free admission to all young people and students to all its concerts in the upcoming season.

And these are not last-minute “rush” seats or designated crummy seats in the balcony -- students 17 and older can simply go on the website and reserve a seat like any paying customer. Young people under 17 need to be accompanied by an adult, although the adult can bring as many four young'uns.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Credit Ash & James Photography / The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

For years, we’ve been told that money – mostly in the form of high ticket prices – has been one of the main impediments to attracting younger audiences at classical concerts. I’m sure that’s at least partly true. But I’ve also noticed that when Dave Matthews, Taylor Swift, or Beyoncé come to town, the venues fill up quickly, usually with ticket prices that range well into three figures.

So we wish the SPCO well with this inspired venture, and we’ll all be watching to see if it works.

Enterprising Local Groups Announce New Seasons

Concora, the all-professional choral ensemble now in its 42nd season (and second under music director Chris Shepard), will offer five wide-ranging concerts at five different venues. The season begins November 12 with an imaginative-sounding program of music set to texts of Shakespeare, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death.

And the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra – HICO to its friends – has also unveiled its new season. This inventive ensemble, featuring a roster of some the region’s best young instrumentalists, performs in a variety of spaces, including the Hartford Public Library and the Universalist Church in West Hartford.

Yuja Wang in The New Yorker

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having gone up to Tanglewood to hear the dazzling young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang.

Wang is now a certified international star, although not quite yet a household name, at least in many American households.

In this week’s (September 5) New Yorker magazine, there’s an intelligent and surprisingly intimate profile of Wang, written by the once-infamous Janet Malcolm. (I don’t have time here to go into why she’s infamous; Google her).

Yes, Malcolm spends a certain amount of time on Wang’s now-celebrated habit of wearing short, tight dresses and dangerous-looking stiletto heels onstage. But there is also serious talk about the classical profession, and even music.

Steve Metcalf can be reached at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.

Steve Metcalf is an administrator, critic, journalist, arts consultant and composer. He writes the weekly Metcalf on Music blog for WNPR.org, and is the curator of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at The Hartt School.
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