Native American Heritage Day: Get to Know 5 Native American and Indigenous Classical Icons

November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States, an observance which honors the cultures, traditions, and contributions of Native American peoples across the nation. On this Native American Heritage Day (November 26th), take some time to get to know five outstanding classical artists of Native American and Indigenous heritage, all of whom have brought unique perspectives and innovation to the art form. 

Louis W. Ballard

Known as “the father of Native American composition,” Louis W. Ballard’s passion for Native American music and musicians is evident in his work’s seamless blend of traditions. Though the symphony and dance piece Incident at Wounded Knee is perhaps his best known composition, he is also remembered for numerous ensemble pieces, choral works, and stage pieces, including the ballet The Four Moons. Ballard received a Lifetime Musical Achievement Award from First Americans in the Arts in 1997, and in 2004, he became the first classical composer to be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. 

Video: Louis Ballard’s Ritmo Indio

Dawn Avery

Committed to Indigenous language and cultural preservation, Mohawk composer, cellist, and educator Dr. Dawn Avery melds classical music with pop and folk elements to create a sound all her own. Avery is a prolific recording artist including the albums Our Fire (2011), Beloved (2019), Global Music Award-winner 50 Shades of Red (2016), and many others. Since 2006, she has toured with the North American Indian Cello Project, which commissions and premieres contemporary classical works by Native composers. Avery, who serves as a full professor at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, is the 2011 recipient of the United States Professor of the Year award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 

Video: Decolonization (North American Indian Cello Project – Dawn Avery)

Brent Michael Davids

Concert and film score composer Brent Michael Davids, a citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, is one of today’s best-known Native musicians. Davids’ work in film includes music for The Business of Fancydancing (2002) and a new score for the 1920 film The Last of the Mohicans, and he has composed works for ensembles and institutions including the Kronos Quartet, Joffrey Ballet, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Chanticleer. In his own words, “I strongly believe that when we collaborate and experiment in song, the benefits go beyond music itself. Our interactions as composers, performers, audiences, students and teachers – Indian and non-Indian alike – constitute important relational skills. If we can excite creativity and cooperation in each other, we have accomplished a magnificent thing!”

Video: Brent Michael Davids

R. Carlos Nakai

Described as “the world’s premiere performer of the Native American flute,” R. Carlos Nakai began playing the traditional flute in the 1980s with a background in classical trumpet and music theory. His extensive recording career has spanned over 50 albums, including Canyon Trilogy (2014), which became the first ever traditional Native American solo flute album to go Platinum. Nakai’s works have been nominated for 11 GRAMMY Awards in 4 categories, and he has sold over 4 million albums throughout his career. According to his website, “Nakai’s career has been shaped by a desire to communicate a sense of Native American culture and society that transcends the common stereotypes presented in mass media.”

Video: Phoenix Chorale – Desert Song featuring R. Carlos Nakai 2015

Gabriel Ayala

Gabriel Ayala, a renowned classical guitarist and member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, is known for his unique playing style incorporating elements of the classical, jazz, and flamenco traditions. Among numerous awards for his work, Ayala was named the 2011 Native American Music Awards Artist of the Year. An avid educator, Ayala shares his personal philosophy with all he teaches: “Love your children, honor your elders, and respect your women.”

Video: An Afternoon with Gabriel Ayala

You can listen to these selections on our Native American Heritage month playlist on Spotify.

Sources and Further Reading

BALLARD, LOUIS WAYNE (1931–2007) (Oklahoma Historical Society)

Dawn Avery – Bio (Dawn Avery Official Website)

North American Indian Cello Project (Dawn Avery Official Website)

Brent Michael Davids (The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Brent Michael Davids (Wikipedia)

R. Carlos Nakai (R. Carlos Nakai Official Website)

Gabriel Ayala (Sākihiwē Festival Website)

Gabriel Ayala (Tucson Meet Yourself)

Pictured: Dawn Avery of the Mohawk Nation by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office – PHFL+soNativeAmerican-p-1-Heritage, CC BY 2.0.

Thanksgiving 2021: Notes of Thankfulness from WDAV

It’s a simple question, passed around the table time after time: “What are you thankful for this year?” We may get tired of hearing it around this time of year, but no matter the season, taking a moment to reflect on life’s most precious gifts can give us new perspective and remind us what truly matters. In the spirit of the holiday, we asked members of the WDAV staff to share what’s filling their hearts with gratitude this Thanksgiving. 

Will Keible
Director of Marketing and Corporate Support

“I’m lucky – I have so much to be thankful for. I am blessed with a wonderful family, caring friends, good health, great colleagues, and a job that allows me to do meaningful work. What more could one ask for? Well, there is one thing for which I’d like to give a special shout out, and that is how thankful I am for all of the artists and musicians in the world. Art, in all of its forms, adds color, beauty, and depth to our existence. Not a day goes by during which I’m not moved by something someone has created, yet rarely do I ever have the chance to thank the person who made it. So, here it is. THANK YOU TO ALL ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE – FOR SHARING YOUR GIFT WITH THE WORLD.”

Heidi North
Administrative Assistant

“I am deeply grateful for my family, my colleagues, and my friends, especially during the pandemic. I am surrounded by a lot of supportive and kind-hearted individuals which made our surreal reality over the last year and a half much more bearable.”

Mary Lathem
Marketing & Digital Communications Specialist

“Everyone in the office is probably tired of hearing about her, but I have to be honest: this year I’ve been especially grateful for my cat, Flora. She’s been the best little buddy and source of comfort over the last year and a half, always following me from room to room, hiding in the laundry, and making me laugh. When I was working from home, she got so used to Zoom meetings that now she needs her own chair every time I’m on a call (otherwise she’ll yell about it). She’s completely ridiculous and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jay Ahuja
Corporate Sponsorship Representative

“I’m thankful we made it through the past 20 months relatively unscathed and not to have gone through this alone. Without Karen and our dogs, Tosh and Jango, I probably would have gone nuts. I’m thankful our families are healthy and we are too. I’m thankful our friends are fun, generous and caring. I’m thankful for music, art, books, newspapers, magazines, movies and sports. I’m thankful that we have concerts, travel, and cultural events of all kinds to look forward to. I’m thankful we work for organizations run by the best kind of human beings who look out for our best interests. I’m thankful for our co-workers, clients and volunteers. I’m thankful for meaningful volunteer work that connects me with wonderful people and sustains my creative juices. Lastly, I’m thankful I never joined Facebook.”

Ted Weiner
Music Director

“I am thankful for the Fall colors and the falling leaves that cover my car and interfere with my windshield wipers. It reminds me that life isn’t always so convenient just because it is beautiful.

I am thankful for being so lucky to work with the best group of people in all the 35 years I have been with WDAV and Davidson College.

Most of all, I am thankful for my good health and that of my two grown daughters, as well as my elderly siblings. Health… the most important thing. Without it, everything is just plain… doo-doo.”

Kendra Intihar
Assistant General Manager & Director of Community Outreach

“Over the course of the past year, many people I love have experienced profound losses. For better or for worse, this has made me unusually reflective about all the things in my life I’m grateful for. In 2021, I made a promise to myself to be intentional about noticing little bits of joy in ordinary places. Here are a few little things I’m grateful for this year:

  • the scented candle aisle at TJ Maxx
  • the sound of my toddler quietly singing the ABC’s to lull himself to sleep at night
  • mismatched linens
  • the way pothos and potato vines don’t apologize for the beautiful way they take up space
  • late night philosophical and theological conversations with my husband
  • independent coffee and book shops
  • getting random middle-of the day texts from my teenager
  • hammock chairs
  • the church bells across the woods from my house
  • the fact that my larger-than-life eight year old isn’t yet “too old” to ask me for a snuggle
  • re-reading the books my grandfather once read and finding his notes in the margins
  • Nutella
  • weekly lunch dates with my mother… and her hugs
  • the back porch at our house (pictured)
  • sentimental stories

Of course, I could keep this list going for hours. I’ll sum up, though, by saying that, as always, I’m so very thankful for my incredible colleagues here at WDAV. They are the smartest, kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and they have topped my ‘thankful things’ list every year since I began working here in 2013.”

Gratitude and Warmth: Thanksgiving 2021 Playlist

A collection of classical pieces that fill us with gratitude – and call to mind the memories closest to our hearts. 

  1. Lyric Quartet: I. The Sentimental One (William Grant Still) – Oregon Festival of American Music Presents William Grant Still
  2. Divertimento: V. Turkey Trot (Leonard Bernstein) – Eiji Ouwe, Bernstein
  3. Harvest Home: III. Harvest Moon (William Alwyn) – Give Thanks: Classical Music for Thanksgiving
  4. O Dame Get Up and Bake Your Pies (Arnold Bax) – Naxos, My Playlist for Baking
  5. Young Birches, Op. 128, No. 2 (Amy Beach) – Joanne Polk, By the Still Waters
  6. The Wasps, Aristophanic Suite: III. March Past of the Kitchen Utensils (Ralph Vaughan Williams) – Vaughan Williams Piano Concerto
  7. Magic Hour (Kenji Bunch) – Ahn Trio, Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac
  8. Una Dia de Noviembre (Leo Brouwer) – Thibault Cauvin
  9. Das Jahr: 12 Characterstucke: No. 11. November (Fanny Mendelssohn) – Mendelssohn-Hensel: Das Jahr
  10. When Fall Arrives (Miran Kim) – Korean Women’s Voices
  11. 8 Miniature: II. Meditacion (Roque Cordero) – African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. 2
  12. Peace (Version for Clarinet & Piano) (Jessie Montgomery) – Here With You
  13. Simple Gifts (Aaron Copland) – Aaron Copland: Simple Gifts
  14. Tender Thought (Ulysses Kay) – Kete – Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora

You can listen to these selections on our Gratitude and Warmth playlist on Spotify.

Cox Conquers Knight Theater in Scaled-Down Symphony Program

By Lawrence Toppman

Twelve years ago, Christopher Warren-Green auditioned for the job of music director with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, guest-conducting a concert capped by a vivid rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” The wheel comes round again this year, as six guest conductors get a chance to show what they can do with the CSO before Warren-Green leaves in 2022.

Georgia-born, Berlin-based Roderick Cox began that process Friday night in Knight Theater with his hands partially tied by COVID-19: He led Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and Brahms’ Serenade No. 2.

None of these pieces exploits the full tonal range of a classical orchestra or plumbs many emotional depths. Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 would have done both, but management replaced it with the serenade to accommodate a reduced orchestra and allow additional spacing for wind and brass players, who can’t be masked. (The concert repeats Saturday; you’ll find information here.)

Yet despite the confines of the programming, Cox conducted with intelligence, sensitivity, precision and energy. He has set the bar high for the five young guest conductors who’ll follow.

Youth ruled the evening. Neither Cox nor solo violinist Benjamin Beilman has reached 35; Brahms finished the serenade at 26; Mozart composed this last authenticated violin concerto at 19. Wagner was 57 when he wrote the idyll as a birthday present for his second wife, but he was probably feeling his oats: He’d married Cosima just a few months earlier, legitimizing their two children.

The “Siegfried Idyll” can easily seem overlong, not music to wake up to – as Wagner meant it to be for Cosima – but a lazy lullaby that floats repetitiously along. Cox gave it no chance to sag, conducting at an unhurried but steady flow and emphasizing the dramatic links to the “Ring” cycle. (Wagner was polishing the third act of the opera “Siegfried” at the time.)

Beilman, who played the Beethoven concerto here in 2017, paired smoothly with Cox in Mozart. Together, they attacked the vigorous parts with swift sureness, especially in the mock-militant “Turkish” section of the finale. When left alone in the solos, Beilman often produced a sweetly intimate tone that anticipated the sentiments of the Romantic era. His 19th-century-style cadenza underlined that forward-looking feeling; I’m guessing it came from Joseph Joachim, Brahms’ favorite violinist.

Cox finally got a chance to imbue a score with a bit of mystery in the serenade. Brahms originally wrote that piece for a full orchestra, then re-scored it 16 years later for a chamber orchestra. He omitted violins in the revision, so the string lineup – eight violas, five cellos, three double-basses – creates a darker sound even in joyful moments.

Only the centerpiece of the five sections, an adagio non troppo Clara Schumann admired, can take much weight; there the musicians played with gravity tempered by a smile. They bounced genially through the other four movements, and Cox capped the piece with a bounding allegro that suggested hunters tally-hoing across spring fields. One can only guess what he could do with a broader musical palette, but I’d like to find out.

Pictured: Roderick Cox; photo by Susie Knoll.

Part 2: Paranormal Haunts and Happenings of the Classical Music Realm

For many listeners, hearing some of history’s greatest classical works can be a transportive experience. You’re sliding your headphones on one minute, and the next, a composer’s personality comes to life within your mind. Soon enough, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Rebecca Clarke, and Edvard Grieg begin to feel like old friends. But the effect might not be so comforting if, say, Beethoven showed up at your door one night. 

As you’ll soon discover, that hasn’t stopped long-dead classical music icons from (allegedly) returning to the land of the living, leaving orders and nuggets of wisdom in their wake. One word of caution: you might want to read these stories with the lights on.

Part 1 of this article is available here


Tears of the “Unknown Normal” 

Chopin’s death mask, by Clésinger
By JackGibbonsPianist, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Chopin’s restless spirit strikes again! In fact, this story is just one of several spooky experiences pianist Byron Janis has had involving the late composer. Feeling a supernatural link with Chopin, Janis was once gifted a rare cast of the composer’s face from Georges Sand’s estate, which he proudly displayed on his piano. One day, guests who were visiting Janis’ family at home asked about the mask – and suddenly, something remarkable happened. Salty fluid began to leak from the cast’s eyes, followed by a frothy foam bubbling forth from its mouth, leaving the family and guests in awe and “terribly shocked.” Janis’ explanation for the incident? The mask was crying tears of joy – and “Chopin was happy he could communicate, somehow, with the current world.” 

As for Janis’ attitude toward uncanny moments like this one, we’ll let him explain. “I don’t like the word ‘paranormal,’ I like ‘unknown normal, because that’s what it really is,” he shared in an NPR feature. “Things are unknown, and once they become known then they become normal after a bit.”


Chad Lawson’s Audience of One

Two years ago, North Carolina’s own Chad Lawson was wrapping up a soundcheck at Austin’s Paramount Theatre when he got the idea to snap a few pictures of the empty recital hall for social media. Three quick taps in rapid succession later, Lawson had what he needed and carried on with his day. However, while scrolling through the pictures to make an Instagram post later that night, he noticed something odd: although he believed he had been alone in the hall, someone was standing on the mezzanine floor in the second snap. In the first and third pictures, no one was there.

Soon, Lawson discovered that the theatre had a reputation for paranormal visits, in particular the specter of a woman in a white dress who often appeared in the mezzanine – exactly the type of figure that had appeared in his photo. Though there is no consensus about the spirit’s identity, some have guessed that she might be a relic of the Civil War era or a former projectionist, and audience members sometimes report an unexplainable feeling of discomfort in that area of the theatre. For now, all we can do is speculate (and get a glimpse of the haunting photos for ourselves). 

Chad Lawson: So, I wasn’t gonna post this because it freaked me out a good bit and hadn’t noticed until returning to the hotel. After soundcheck for our Lore Podcast show, I took 3 quick-tap photos from stage to share. In the photo you can clearly see someone in the mezzanine. Noticing it, I looked at the 1st & 3rd pics and the person is absent. So, i google “ghosts paramount theatre, Austin (see 2nd pic). Needless to say....I didn’t sleep too well last night.
From Chad Lawson’s Photos on Facebook

Koussevitzky Gives His Blessing

Serge Koussevitzky, Wikipedia/Public Domain

Even in death, conductor, composer, and double-bassist Serge Koussevitzky wouldn’t trust just anyone with his beloved instrument. Years after the Maestro’s passing, his wife Olga accepted an invitation to hear the New York debut recital of the up-and-coming bassist Gary Karr, unaware that an eerily familiar face would be in attendance. 

As Karr played, Olga was awestruck to see an apparition of her late husband, which appeared to embrace the young bassist. Olga would present Koussevitzky’s instrument to Karr as a gift days later, inspired by what she viewed as a sign from beyond the grave, and from that moment on the bass would be Karr’s faithful companion until his retirement forty years later. 

In a fitting way to return the Koussevitzkys’ generosity, Karr donated the coveted instrument (now known as the Karr-Koussevitzky bass) to the International Society of Bassists, which has lauded the gift as “perhaps the best known bass in existence.” The jury’s still out on whether it’s also the most haunted bass in existence – but some who have played it, including bassist Dennis Whittaker, have sensed something more historical than ghostly. “It’s impossible not to feel the heritage of the instrument. Some say they feel a presence,” Whittaker explained in an interview with Culture Map Houston. “I’d like to think that it’s the spirit of Koussevitzky making sure that we are playing music right.”


Chopin In The Shadows: The Supernatural Adventures Of Byron Janis (NPR Classical)

This pianist thought he was alone in the concert hall. His photo tells a different story. (Classic FM)

Phantom of The Paramount? Artist performing at Austin theater shares chilling photos (KVUE ABC)

Karr-Koussevitsky Bass (International Society of Bassists)

Serge The Musical Ghost: Great haunted instrument makes a spooky Houston debut (Culture Map Houston)

Paranormal Haunts and Happenings of the Classical Music Realm

For many listeners, hearing some of history’s greatest classical works can be a transportive experience. You’re sliding your headphones on one minute, and the next, a composer’s personality comes to life within your mind. Soon enough, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Rebecca Clarke, and Edvard Grieg begin to feel like old friends. But the effect might not be so comforting if, say, Beethoven showed up at your door one night. 

As you’ll soon discover, that hasn’t stopped long-dead classical music icons from (allegedly) returning to the land of the living, leaving orders and nuggets of wisdom in their wake. One word of caution: you might want to read these stories with the lights on. 


A Violinist Summons Schumann

(And Wouldn’t You Know It, He’s a Fan)
Jelly d’Aranyi
By Unknown author

If your cousin’s wife’s middle school friend is to be believed, ouija boards are bad news – but Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi must have been willing to take a risk. D’Aranyi and her sister Adila, both accomplished musicians and lovers of the supernatural, reportedly spoke to the ghost of Robert Schumann through a gadget similar to a ouija board at a séance. Schumann instructed d’Aranyi to find and perform a long-lost work of his, and just like that, Jelly d’Aranyi had been chosen to premiere Schumann’s Violin Concerto from beyond the grave. 

Despite this compelling news, a battle broke out over who should be the first to perform the work when its existence became public knowledge. After the dust settled, d’Arányi gave the concerto its third performance in London with great success (though it’s unclear whether this outcome was disappointing for Schumann’s restless spirit). 

Schumann’s Violin Concerto has since gained recognition as an important work – and to think, we might have never heard it had it not been for his meddling ghost. 


Scott Joplin Comes Home

Scott Joplin
By Unknown author
Palisades Virtuosi, Public Domain.

It’s closing time at the Scott Joplin House in St. Louis, and the museum’s curator is getting ready to lock up for the night. The curator turns to tell the final guest it’s time to head out, but the man, who had been idling by the window seconds before, has disappeared without a trace. Later, it occurs to the curator that the guest had looked extremely familiar – and in fact, the museum was once his home.

Well, that’s what the curator told author Tananarive Due (who was subsequently inspired to write the novel “Joplin’s Ghost”), and whether the story is true or not, there is another way we might feel Joplin’s phantom presence. In 1959, a St. Louis music collector uncovered player piano rolls that may have been punched by Joplin himself, and the rolls remain in good enough shape to be used today. According to Due, the sound the rolls produce “is almost like having a ghost in the room.”

More from Tananarive Due – and snippets of what could be Joplin’s handiwork at the piano – can be heard here in a 2006 NPR segment


Masterpieces from Beyond the Grave? 

Rosemary Brown
By Louis-Maxime-Dubois
Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A visit from a spectral stranger in a long black coat would set anyone’s nerves on edge, but for seven-year-old Londoner Rosemary Brown, the alleged encounter marked the beginning of a very unusual career path. The spirit claimed to be a long-dead composer, explaining that he would return to make her famous one day – and years later, Brown identified the visitor as none other than Franz Liszt. 

In her late 40’s, Brown began to report ghostly visits from Liszt and nearly a dozen other classical music figures, claiming that the composers would dictate new works to her as she sat at the piano. Liszt’s promise was soon fulfilled: after a media firestorm erupted, Brown briefly became a household name. She went on to publish several books detailing her experiences, including “Unfinished Symphonies: Voices from the Beyond” (1971) and “Immortals at My Elbow” (1974). 

But was Brown’s story too good to be true? Some psychologists and composers believed the tale, mostly because Brown’s musical training was viewed as too limited to have written such convincing imitations of famous composers’ works. Others felt Brown was simply a genius who had pulled off the ultimate hoax. Whatever the truth may be, surviving recordings of Brown’s works baffle classical music fans – and inspire conspiracy theories – to this day. 


David Bowie Meets the Ghost of Chopin

David Bowie
By AVRO – Beeld En Geluid Wiki
Gallerie: Toppop 1974, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl.

Nestled in the French countryside a stone’s throw from Paris, the 18th century castle Château d’Hérouville began a new life as a recording studio in the 1970’s, attracting many of the era’s most high-profile artists (Elton John, Pink Floyd, and Cat Stevens, to name a few). However, when David Bowie arrived to record his 1977 album Low, he may have been greeted by more company than he anticipated.

You see, Frédéric Chopin and the writer George Sand were guests of the chateau at the height of their ill-fated romance in the 19th century – and there’s a persistent rumor that their spirits roam the chateau’s halls, causing mayhem and passing on ghostly messages. The story goes that Bowie instantly refused to sleep in one bedroom upon his arrival, citing inexplicable cold spots and general unease. Producer Tony Visconti, who took the room in Bowie’s place, told Uncut magazine that “there was certainly some strange energy in that chateau… but what could Frédéric and George really do to me, scare me in French?” As for whether Chopin and Sand made any appearances on the album, well… you’ll have to listen for yourself. 



The Séance and Robert Schumann (The American Scholar)

Ghost Stories: The Rediscovery of Schumann’s Only Violin Concerto (Strings Magazine)

Joplin’s Ragtime Style Lives on in Print and Song (NPR)

All hail Rosemary Brown – the dinner lady who played like a pianist possessed (The Guardian)

Château d’Hérouville: The Castle Studio Where Bowie, Elton, and Pink Floyd Recorded (Reverb)

Secret History: David Bowie and the Ghost of Chopin (Slipped Disc)

The Return of the Honky Chateau (BBC)

Bowie Golden Years: Low

Six Next-Generation Hispanic and Latinx Musicians to Watch

By Lorelei Lin

Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15th, a date which also marks Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Today, musicians of Hispanic and Latinx heritage are doing incredible work and gaining visibility in the U.S. classical music sphere, an industry that has historically excluded artists of color. This year, we’re observing Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting up-and-coming classical musicians and composers of Hispanic and Latinx heritage.


Amaryn Olmeda

Violinist Amaryn Olmeda is the Sphinx Competition’s newest champion. She won the junior division, open to musicians ages 17 and under, at just 12 years old! The Sphinx Competition prize is the latest addition to Olmeda’s extensive list of other national and international awards, including first place at the Auburn Symphony Young Artists Competition and the Bach Award at the United States International Music Competition. When she’s not dazzling audiences throughout the US and Eastern Europe, Olmeda enjoys collecting American Girl dolls and gardening on her family’s hobby farm in Northern California. Listen to her first place performance below.

Sphinx: Amaryn Olmeda – Junior Division Violin


Johanny Navarro

Are you an opera fan? If so, keep an eye out for Johanny Navarro’s ¿Y los Pasteles?. The Puerto Rican composer has written a wide variety of works, many rooted in Caribbean musical aesthetics. She has an extensive list of solo and ensemble credits, including work for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and is now developing her second opera. ¿Y los Pasteles? features a love triangle, a Christmas party, and desserts! Watch her first chamber opera, Frenesí, below.

Frenesí (Chamber Opera)- Johanny Navarro


Mari Esabel Valverde

Activist, composer, and singer Mari Esabel Valverde has been commissioned by organizations across the United States. Her work honors her half-Indigenous, transgender, and female identity, with lyrics exploring LGBTQ+ history and experiences. Valverde, who is multilingual, has translated numerous vocal works, most notably a libretto from Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. Valverde has taught voice for many years and currently teaches singing and transgender voice training for TruVoice Lessons. Her piece “Crossing” interprets a poem by Amir Rabiyah as a metaphor for coming out. Listen below!

Crossing | Mari Esabel Valverde


Francisco Fullana

Originally from Mallorca, Spain, and now residing in the US, violinist Francisco Fullana performs internationally to great acclaim as a chamber musician and soloist. A lover of Baroque music, Fullana was recently named Artist-in-Residence for the GRAMMY-winning Baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire. He has released two solo albums and will be featured on Apollo’s Fire’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, coming out October 21st. Listen to his thoughts on Bach below.

Bach’s Long Shadow: Francisco Fullana’s New Album


María Dueñas

Violinist María Dueñas made waves at just 14 years old after winning first prize at the Zhuhai Mozart International Competition in China. Now 18, the Grenada, Spain-born artist was recently named a BBC New Generation artist for the 2021-2023 cohort. She has an extensive list of first place awards, including at the 2021 Menuhin Competition, and upcoming debuts with symphonies around the world.

Max Bruch: Violinkonzert Nr. 1 g-Moll mit María Dueñas | NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester


Angélica Negrón

Can vegetables make music? In Angélica Negrón’s hands, they definitely can. The Puerto Rico-born, New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist arranges for robotic instruments and toys in addition to her work for chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her work has been heard at numerous festivals, in film scores, and even at a marathon, and she has upcoming premieres set for the LA Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Listen to her piece Hedera performed by Recap, a NY-based percussion quartet formed by female musicians of color.


For more music from Hispanic classical musicians, tune in to Concierto, WDAV’s bilingual program presented in Spanish and English, Sundays at 6 p.m. or at the WDAV archive.

Pictured: María Dueñas photo by Tam Lan Truong.

Charlotte Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Concert Looks Mostly to the Future

By Lawrence Toppman

Except for the inevitable Christmas “Nutcracker,” the Charlotte Ballet season-opener at Belk Theater represents Hope Muir’s farewell as artistic director. (She’ll take over the larger, better-connected National Ballet of Canada on January 1.)

She could have dwelt entirely in the past for the 50th anniversary celebration, which runs through Oct. 9 and comes a year late because of the pandemic: Robert Lindgren founded N.C. Dance Theatre, the company’s initial version, in 1970 at N.C. School of the Arts. Instead, Muir picked one classic from 1993 – Salvatore Aiello’s “The Rite of Spring,” as explosive now as it was then – and three pieces new to the company that show where it might go.

The fireworks opened with a squib Thursday night, with Christopher Stuart’s vaguely amiable “Then, Now, Forever.” Stuart, who’ll be interim artistic director once Muir leaves, set repetitive swirls and lifts to Philip Glass’ music. The presence of Charlotte Symphony Orchestra members in the pit, usually a rare boon for the ballet, backfired: The rusty, hesitant musicians started out of tune and achieved the proper rhythmic vitality only near the end. Then you noticed the disconnection between Glass’ pulsating score and the slower movements of the dancers.

Crystal Pite’s “A Picture of You Falling” raised the temperature immediately afterward. It’s written for two dancers (Amelia Sturt-Dilley and Andrès Trezevant, both razor-sharp on opening night), who spend the piece alternating solos and finally come together for a pas de deux. Muir has long wanted to get a piece by Pite, and you could see why: The innovative presentation, dramatic movements and ambiguous but thought-provoking psychology struck home.

My companion thought it might be about an unhealthy relationship marred by domestic abuse. I wondered if Pite explored gender identity: The man and woman dress identically in black and white, and the narrator’s voice suggests they may be the same person. The lighting, sometimes pitilessly revealing and sometimes encircling the participants like stanchions in a bullring, added menace.

Meanings became a little clearer with “Ibsen’s House.” Choreographer Val Caniparoli bit off more than anyone could possibly chew by depicting male-female behavior in five of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in about half an hour. The Belle Epoque costumes and darkened ballroom created by Sandra Woodall set the right tone, but the characters ran together in these brief snippets.

You might rightly have inferred that her obtuse husband didn’t satisfy Hedda Gabler, or that Nora Helmer rebelled against a stifling spouse in “A Doll’s House.” But the behavior in “Ghosts” and “Lady from the Sea” can’t be encapsulated that way, and nobody could have guessed that Rebecca dominates Rosmer in “Rosmersholm.” What prompted Caniparoli to set such brooding people in motion to Dvorak’s mostly buoyant Second Piano Quintet I can’t guess, but five Charlotte Symphony members played it with skillful brio.

Aiello’s “Spring” rocked the room, as it always does. I attended the world premiere 28 years ago and remembered the most lurid moments: the final sacrifice of an exhausted virgin, the cannibalistic devouring of a fallen warrior, the dashing and stomping brutes who look like prehistoric cave paintings come to life. I had forgotten the moments of whimsy – look at those waggling, elevated toes on prone bodies – and even some lyrical repose in the second half.

James Kopecky, often the company’s go-to guy for anguish, tore into the Young Warrior’s writhing solo and exulted in the defeat of the old chieftain (Ben Ingel). Nadine Barton’s dignified Earth Mother and Sarah Lapointe’s frenzied Chosen One bookended the action nicely, Lapointe, who’s usually used for elegance and poise, must have found it liberating to leap and twist about in rage and ecstasy, then douse herself in white body paint before flailing to her death. That final tableau still takes away your breath.

Pictured: NC Dance Theater performs The Rite of Spring – Afternoon of a Faun. Photo credit: © Charles & Mary Love.