New School of Music wins award!

ImageArchitzer recently announced that the Suspended Theatroacoustic System for the new University of Iowa Concert Hall has won their A+ award (celebrating architecture’s relevency) in the fabrication category.

To say we are excited about our new building would be an understatement. Due to open in 2016, the new Voxman School of Music will be a state-of-the-art modern masterpiece uniting once again our faculty staff and students under one roof for the first time since 2008.

View images and information about the new building here at the LMN Architects website. (To scroll through the images, look for the << / >> at the top left of the page.)

Here is a diagram of how the system will work:






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Tubas in the News – March 2013 Edition

ImageA great gallery of photos of the “biggest tuba in the world” from the Houston Chron

Check out this story about a Norwegian “Ice Musician” in Turning a Glacier Into A Tuba from NPR.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class by tuba player and business student Andrew Schwartz from CNN.

Read about the new work by composer Michael Daugherty, Reflections on the Mississippi for Tuba and Orchestra from Broadway World.


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Atlantic Brass Quintet Recording


Last week, the Atlantic Brass Quintet did a recording session at Enlow Hall at Kean University in New Jersey. We recorded a album of jazz and Balkan music that we are very excited about. The title and label of the recording has yet to be determined, but here is the program, in no particular order:

Jazz Set:
Passages by Patrice Caratini (five movements)
Private Music by Dave Douglas (two movements)
Jazz Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich (three movements)
Kopi Luwak by Alan Ferber
Luteous Pangolin by Ben Monder

Balkan Brass Band set with Jon Wikan on percussion:
Zvonce Kolo

We’ve been performing this music for a while, so we were thrilled to record it in an amazing hall, and with Andy Bove – a fantastic engineer. With the help of Yelp and our friend Jim Leff, we also visited a few great restaurants and bars in the area. (Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House in Jersey City,  and Coppermine Pub in North Arlington, NJ)

The night before our first day of recording, we were in need of a rehearsal space (since our hotel wouldn’t allow us to rehearse there) and we found Wagon Wheel Rehearsal Studios. If you are ever in the Newark/New York City area looking for a rehearsal space, I’d recommend it.

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Flood Recovery Funding Secured!


We received some great new today regarding the progress of our plans for our new School of Music. According to this Iowa City Press-Citizen article,

“Federal officials are dropping their opposition to a decision to send million in reconstruction funds to the University of Iowa campus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had committed funds to rebuild a handful of campus buildings ruined by flooding in 2008. But earlier this year, federal auditors called some of that money into question, saying the projects didn’t qualify for reconstruction support. Wednesday’s announcement ensures those projects will move forward as planned.”

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Alloy Orchestra Plays Nosferatu

Tonight, my wife and I enjoyed a rare night out. We went to the Englert Theatre in Iowa City to watch the Alloy Orchestra perform their original live soundtrack to the classic silent film Nosferatu.

To start the night off, we went to Molly’s Cupcakes in Iowa City. They have a ridiculous variety of flavors, including Boston Cream, Pumpkin Spice, and Peanut Butter Nutella – which we brought home for our daughter. They also serve an impressive array of espresso drinks.Prior to the performance, the staff at the Englert told us that this was the Centennial of the theater and of the many special events being held to celebrate it.

They also recognized their many volunteers and has a very special surprise gift for their head usher, Ken, who just marked his one thousandth show since the theatre’s reopening in 2004. Ken is known for personally greeting every single person who enters the theatre in his tails.  They presented him with a custom-made had and coat, similar to those worn by fancy doorman at expensive hotels. The whole ceremony and community atmosphere of the movie made us feel happy to be part of this city. As a surprise, we were treated to the recently restored colorized version of A Trip to the Moon. Created by Georges Méliès in 1902, this silent classic was the centerpiece of the recent film Hugo. The version we viewed included a recorded soundtrack by the French group “Air”.

Also present were the founders of Film Scene, a local nonprofit “dedicated to enhancing the cultural vitality of the Iowa City area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form.” They have some exciting plans for the future and are one of the cultural gems of Iowa City.

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More Trouble for America’s Orchestras

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

The recent fervor over NFL replacement referees has come to a boil, and in a similar manner, American orchestras are facing labor disputes of their own. Fortunately, the Louisville and Philadelphia Orchestras have (partially) resolved their issues from last year, but the latest news of trouble with the Minnesota and Chicago Symphony Orchestras is alarming.

Here is an excellent article about the Minnesota Orchestra, featuring Steve Campbell, principal tubist. It tells of the players side of the story from one of the more common trends of major orchestras cutting back during troubled financial times.

Orchestra musicians have a big public relations task in this contract fight; justifying their salaries to the public. The state’s median household income is almost $57,000. The average Minnesota Orchestra musician makes $135,000 a year; the guaranteed minimum for the SPCO is almost $74,000.

Steve explains our side of the story; the years of training, the expense, the stress, the disappointment and the dedication required. I understand that the average players pay may be above the state’s median income, but compared to other professions, such as lawyers, doctors, and politicians, I think that the $135K is reasonable – and appropriate to attract and retain world-class musicians.

Here is a follow-up article from September 25th. It speaks of a possible lock-0ut on September 30th. The players are facing a significant pay cut. The chair of the negotiating committee said: “We are having a difficult time understanding a proposal of a 30 to 50 percent pay cut for musicians, while at the same time, building a $50 million lobby (at Orchestra Hall),” I sincerely hope that the situation resolves itself. The last time I heard that orchestra, it was an amazing experience (read about it on the post “Hammer Time!“)

In a few weeks I will return to Louisville KY for the Klezmerfest. Last year the Louisville Symphony went on strike and have come up with at least a one-year solution. I hope that Minnesota doesn’t get to that point. In related news, I was shocked to learn that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike this past Saturday.

Many things simply boil down to the issue of money, and in the current economic troubles, it is no surprise that organizations are having significant trouble maintaining a bottom line. N0 profession is recession-proof, and musicians have always been told to “have a backup plan”, but to hear that some of the nations top orchestras are having trouble is ominous. I hope the best for these orchestras and their audiences and sincerely wish them luck in resolving their differences. I would hate to see the orchestral version of “replacement refs”.

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“Tuba or Not Tuba” Goes to the DUMBO Festival

Next week, I will be traveling to New York city to perform at the DUMBO Arts Festival . (The acronym stands for Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass, a neighborhood in Brooklyn) I will be performing with dancers in “Tuba or Not Tuba (What is the question?”, which was choreographed by my colleague at the University of Iowa, Charlotte Adams. Two years ago, we performed the work in Santa Monica California at Highways Performance Space.

The work involves some improvising by myself and hornist Erin Vang. We “invade” the dancers space, blasting the dancers offstage, but the work has a surprise ending. Our performance is part of the DUMBO Dance Festival organized by White Wave Dance Company.

If you are interested in attending, the performance is at 9pm on September 29th on the Mainstage at the John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street (Enter on John Street) in Brooklyn.

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