(IMG: eigth blackbird)
eighth blackbird

The concert was part of the award for the group's efforts in winning first prize in the 1998 Concert Artists Guild International Competition in February 1998. The prize includes two years of exclusive management under Concert Artists Guild, a commission from a composer, and a New York concert debut.

As if all that wasn't enough, in January 1999, eighth blackbird was awarded First Prize in the Touring Chamber Music Category of the Chamber Music CMA/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming. And in February, the ensemble was one of 10 groups showcased in a Chamber Music magazine cover story: "GenX+Beyond: they've got the edge now." The lead paragraph read, "Wherever chamber music is heading, these ensembles are most likely to get there first."

The group is composed of Molly Alicia Barth (flute), Michael J. Maccaferri (clarinet), Matthew Albert (violin), Nicholas Photinos (cello), Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Matthew L. Duvall (percussion). Formed during the 1994 fall semester at Oberlin, it was created as a select group for the Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), conducted by Timothy Weiss. They first rose to national attention after winning the 1996 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. They have since won the 1997 Coleman Chamber Ensemble and the Channel Classics recording prize with an appearance at the 1999 Rockport Chamber Music Festival in Rockport, Mass. They are currently enrolled in Cincinnati College - Conservatory's Artist Diploma in Chamber Music program.


by Michael Chipman


"I know noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms. But I know, too, that the blackbird is involved in what I know."
&emdash; Wallace Stevens, from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"


IT'S THE DREAM of any young performer: a feature on a top-rated, national television program, followed closely by a debut performance in the Big Apple. A group of six Oberlin alumni known as eighth blackbird did just that when it was featured in a November 8 segment of the acclaimed CBS Sunday Morning. (The CBS crew had traveled to Oberlin in April 1998, to film an eighth blackbird rehearsal and performance at Finney Chapel.)

Just 10 days later, the group experienced its New York City debut at Merkin Concert Hall. The repertoire featured "Petroushskates" by Joan Tower, "Fantasy Étuds" by Fred Lerdahl, "Come Round" by Jacob Druckman, and(IMG: eigth blackbird logo) "Thirteen Ways," a piece written especially for them by Matt's father, Thomas Albert, based on the Wallace Stevens poem from which the group takes its name: "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Allan Kozinn wrote in his November 23, New York Times review, "The group's principal assets are the players' highly polished techniques and evident depth of feeling for a variety of contemporary styles, as well as a sartorial casualness and open manner that recalled the spirit of Tashi's early performances in the mid-1970s." Kozinn also wrote a January 4 follow-up feature in The New York Times entitled "High-Wire Act Of Playing From Memory."


IN THE FIFTH WEEK of every fall semester, Conservatory seniors and artist diploma students compete for a few hotly contested spots on the Oberlin Orchestra's concert roster. Seven students were selected on October 10 from a pool of 23 finalists. This year's winners are soprano Angela Baade, oboist Zheng Huang, cellist Christophor Miroshnikov, violinists Esther Noh, Simon Papanas, Claude Sim and pianist Matthew Quayle. The winners will perform with the Oberlin Orchestra during the 1998-99 year.

The first performance involving a concerto competition winner was November 13, when Matthew Quayle played a concerto for piano and orchestra with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra. Other scheduled performances include:

February 28 - Angela Baade, Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs with the Oberlin Orchestra

April 2 - Esther Noh, Brahms Violin Concerto with the Oberlin Orchestra

April 9 - Christophor Miroshnikov, Shostakovich's Cello Concerto with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra

April 25 - Claude Sim, Neilsen's Violin Concerto with the Oberlin Orchestra

May 7 - Zheng Huang, Pasculli's Oboe Concerto, and Simon Papanas, Paganini's Violin Concerto with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra.

"There was a tremendous level of performance from all of the finalists," said Jeffrey Irvine, director of the strings division and one of the concerto competition judges. "It was exciting and impressive to hear how well the students played this year. Choosing the seven finalists was a difficult task"

According to the rules of the competition, final decisions are made solely on the quality of the performance and whether it reflects the highest performance standards of the Conservatory.

"After many years of judging competitions I have found that the winners somehow stand out from the rest," said Gerald Crawford, director of the voice division and a member of the jury. "It is a combination of outstanding technical ability, musicianship and interpretation that all come together in the moment of their performance. I'm sure there were other finalists who could have performed equally well under different circumstances, but the seven winners definitely had it all in that moment. All of the judges were in consensus about all seven winners."

The competition jury is composed of one faculty member from each performance division, the orchestra conductor, one faculty member from a non-performance major, and an invited adjudicator. Teachers of finalists are not eligible to serve on the judging committee. The number of possible winners is determined by Paul Polivnick, conductor of the orchestra, according to his choice of repertoire for the season.



THOMAS ROSENKRANZ, senior piano major from San Diego, Calif., won first prize in the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Eastern Central Division, collegiate competition, held in January at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio. He will compete in the national competition in Los Angles in late March.

For the competition, Rosenkranz performed Scriabin's 5th piano sonata, Liszt's Fantasie and Fugue on the theme B-A-C-H, Haydn's sonata #55, and a Corigliano piano concerto.

(IMG: Thomas Rosenkranz)
Thomas Rosenkranz goes on tour in April. Photo: Ramon Owens

In April, Rosenkranz will go on tour with four concerts in the Fairfield public schools in Connecticut, and he'll present a concert with Con senior, violinist Esther Noh, in Houston, Texas. They'll perform pieces by Bolcom, Schumann, Messiaen and John Adams.

At the Conservatory, Rosenkranz studies with Robert Shannon, professor of pianoforte, who says of his work, "Thomas is an ambitious young pianist with an exciting temperament and a special affinity for contemporary music. He's growing fast and it's a pleasure to watch."



RUO HUANG, a junior working toward a double major in composition and music theory, was awarded Grand Prize in Composition, VI Level Award, at the European International Competition for Composers, held last summer in Ragusa-Ilba, Italy. Huang's works judged for the competition included "SI WAY- - -Four Dimensions" (for three piccolos and conductor), and "If To Live, To" (for cello solo).

Huang, a native of China, is the son of an acclaimed composer (father) and doctor (mother). By the age of five, he was studying piano and creating new compositions. Huang studied composition with his mentor Deng Erbo at the Middle School, Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He wrote his first symphonic work at age 15 - "Expression & Imagination" - a piece that was performed in 1995 by the Shanghai Youth Orchestra at The Spring Festival of Shanghai.

At Oberlin, Huang studies with Randolph Coleman and Benedict Weisser. Weisser said of his work, "Ruo is that delightful and rare combination of great talent, discipline and intensity. I find his intensity especially remarkable. In my experience as his teacher he has never failed to absorb and fully engage himself in the ideas he's presented with. He does so creatively, with curiosity and purpose. In addition, he always brings a fresh approach so that my perceptions are newly colored as well. He is entirely a pleasure to work with, and he is most deserving of this honor in all respects."

In 1995, Huang was honored with The Henry Mancini Fellowship from the International Film and Music Festival in Switzerland. A CD recording of "If To Live, To" performed by Oberlin alumni Alexander Waterman '98, was featured in the March 1998, issue of Layers Magazine. And "SI WAY - - - Four Dimensions" received its Canadian premiere in November 1998, at the "Forum 98 Festival" in Montreal, Canada.



WHEN THE OBERLIN JAZZ Septet took to the stage at the Ford Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival in September, it received a superior rating from the judges, scoring 90 out of a possible 90. Three members of the ensemble, all seniors, were honored with musicianship awards: Kevin Louis (New Orleans), on trumpet; Burny Pelsmajer (Cleveland Heights) on baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones; and Micha Patri (San Francisco) on drums. Other members of the septet are senior Allan Baker (Cleveland) on keyboards; senior Joseph Freidman (St. Louis) on guitar; and sophomore Matt Mueller (Lansing) on double bass.

Codirected by Peter Dominguez, associate professor of jazz studies, and Neal Creque, teacher of jazz piano, the septet offered two sets at the Kowalski Riverfront Deli and Café stage, performing original compositions and arrangements created by Creque and group members.

"These guys hail from music centers all over the U.S.," said Dominguez. "Individually, they spent the summer playing all over the country, and then they came together for this festival. The Ford Montreux festival was a terrific venue, made all the more special because this festival rarely considers student groups from outside the state of Michigan."



TWO CONSERVATORY STUDENTS took second and third place honors at the Great Lakes Region Metropolitan Opera Auditions held in December at Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall. Hugh Russell (Manitoba, Canada), a first-year artist diploma student studying with Richard Miller, was awarded a second place honor. Senior Carolyn Betty (Wilmington, Del.), a student of Daune Mahy, placed third. Both received cash awards for their performances.

Nine singers participated in the regional competition, with three finalists each from the Montreal, Detroit and Cleveland districts. The competition required that each singer select one of five prepared arias to sing, after which the judges asked for an additional aria. Russell began with "Bella siccome un angelo" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale. The judges then asked him to sing "Warm as the autumn light" from Gerald Moore's American opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe.

Betty opened with the "Garden" aria from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. "Then the judges asked me to sing two more arias: 'Porgi Amor' from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and 'Adieu Fort' from Tchaikovsky's Joan of Arc." said Betty. "I was the only one who had to sing three arias. The first aria I sang is relatively light. I think they wanted to hear me sing some heavier stuff."

Following the competition, all singers met with the judges for performance feedback. Betty described the judges' comments as encouraging and constructive. "Most often they told us to take our time &emdash; to not sing the heavier repertoire too soon."

Betty's teacher, Daune Mahy, professor of singing, agreed with the judges' assessments. "Choice of repertoire is always a problem with a voice like Carolyn's. She has been working on the lyric mezzo repertoire and is moving into soprano repertoire, and I want to make sure she is comfortable singing it. I would encourage her to do the competition again but I don't want her to win too soon. A singer has to be ready to take advantage of winning a competition like that."

Senior Marie Lenormand from Fontenay sur Vegre, France, was also a winner in the District Met Competition, held in October at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She also sang in the regional competition. She opened with"Cruda Sorte" from Rossini's 'L'Italiana in Algieri, and Stephano's aria from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.



"IT IS NOT A HUGE stretch to imagine him as the first oboist to forge a legitimate and international solo career." That's how Greg Hettmansberger, reviewer with the Santa Barbara News-Press, described Con senior Zheng Huang's August performance at the Music Academy of the West festival in Santa Barbara.

During the festival, Huang was named one of six Music Academy Concerto winners. Each winner received a $500 cash award and a soloist turn with the Festival Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Sanderling. The concert and awards were made possible by a gift from the Myers Family Foundation. Festival literature describes audiences as enthusiastic for both the open dress rehearsal and the sold-out evening performance.

At Oberlin, Huang studies with James Caldwell, professor of oboe. Caldwell said of Huang, "He arrived having been so well prepared by his earlier training and he was so driven to excel that it was only a matter of finding a sort of wavelength. He never takes an opportunity for granted. And he's developed a wonderful sense of humor, which is terribly important in this world. Oh how I love having students like that."



FROM A POOL of 160 applicants, violinist Bin Lu, a first year artist diploma student, has been selected to become a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. "It was very competitive so there was a lot of pressure," Lu said. "But my friends were very supportive. They gave me a lot of hope. Other than that, I just practiced a lot."

Lu studies with Marilyn McDonald, professor of violin, who said of his work, "I consider Bin a true Oberlin success story. He took advantage of the rich musical atmosphere here and really availed himself of the opportunities. He wasn't shy about asking for help."

Bin Lu takes a breather by the Conservatory pool before heading to the New York City Ballet. Photo: Ramon Owens
(IMG: Hugh Russel)
Hugh Russell, center, as Mercutio in the Opera Theater production of Romeo and Juliette. Photo: John Seyfried


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