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Spring For Music: Looking Back

In its inaugural year, Spring For Music 2011 was a resounding success, particularly for the seven North American ensembles invited to present distinctive and adventurous programs at Carnegie Hall. As we look toward the 2012 festival this May, two past participants—The Toledo Symphony’s President and CEO Kathleen Carroll and Oregon Symphony’s Music Director Carlos Kalmar—reflect on the experience and the lasting impact of Spring For Music.

From Kathleen Carroll

I am standing on the concert stage with the Toledo Symphony. But this is not just any day. It is Saturday, May 7, 2011. And this is not just any stage. This is the storied stage that has measured the artistic accomplishments of thousands of aspiring performance artists for more than a century. This is Carnegie Hall.

Just one year ago, the pace quickened dramatically for The Toledo Symphony as we traveled the road to Carnegie Hall for the inaugural Spring For Music festival of North American orchestras. It is just 566 miles of highway, but a trip to the stars for northwest Ohioans. There, in triumphant unity, Stefan Sanderling, The Toledo Symphony musicians and the Glacity Theatre Collective exceeded musical and theatrical expectations for our debut performance. The Shostakovich Sixth Symphony was brilliant; Previn/Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was powerful.

Bunched inside my sleeve was a bright red “Toledo” hankie—one of 1,400 that were given to the patrons, friends, and family members from northwest Ohio and elsewhere who traveled to experience their orchestra’s Carnegie Hall debut. WQXR’s Elliott Forrest made a gracious introduction, during which he finished by asking the assembled Toledoans to “show us your colors.” Half the audience responded with unbridled enthusiasm, waving red emotion. It was heartfelt. It was stunning. The emotion hit those of us on stage like a huge warm blanket of love and pride. Musicians who were stoically anticipating Sanderling’s down beat experienced a suffusion of emotion. Tears flowed. The audience went wild!

The Toledo Symphony has been distinguished by a profound connection between the orchestra and its regional community for decades. On May 7, 2011, our community joined us for a transforming musical performance. We came to New York one orchestra and returned home changed for the good.

We remain firmly committed to sustaining the artistic achievements of our milestone at Carnegie Hall in each and every one of the hundreds of musical presentations—large and small—that we have presented in the year since our debut. Artistically, our musicians are standing taller, ready for the next challenge and opportunity.

The collective wisdom and professional expertise of our Spring For Music colleagues, coupled with the generosity of the funders who recognized the merit of their vision, provided the Toledo Symphony with the debut opportunity to experience the riot of red affirmation given by our best friends.

Our deep gratitude for this momentous evening is as endless as our desire to do it again—next time, even better.

Kathleen Carroll is president and CEO of The Toledo Symphony

From Carlos Kalmar

Our Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 was a very big deal for us. The Oregon Symphony had been playing in Portland and around the state of Oregon for more than 115 years, but we’d never been invited to one of the most important concert halls in the world. We’d played in civic auditoriums, school gymnasiums, small performance halls, and a big stadium. Our regular home is a renovated vaudeville house—lovely to look at, but very hard to play in.

And so we had never heard ourselves until the afternoon of May 12, 2011. When we arrived for our rehearsal, it was a revelation. We had a couple of hours to get used to the luxury of listening to each other, responding to each other, and working on performance nuances that just hadn’t been possible at home.

Nearly 450 Oregonians traveled to New York to be with us that night. They finally heard what we really sound like—and what we can do when we can all hear each other. It was a sensational evening and one we all treasure. Fortunately, it was captured for broadcast and for our CD Music for a Time of War on the PentaTone label. Highly respected music critics, including Alex Ross of The New Yorker, have called it one of the 10 best classical CDs of the year.

On a personal level, I want to say that the Carnegie Hall concert was a giant step. At first I was honored to be the music director who would take “his” orchestra to New York. Still, my personal reality told me that, as I have been conducting several times in other phenomenal concert venues around the globe, this was not such an unusual deal. But there was in the end a substantial difference: I was bringing the musicians with whom I have worked many years to the central classical music venue in the US. And although I knew the orchestra was in great form, the success that we all had simply exceeded whatever great expectation I had before. Plus, I have never seen a single concert to have such a great impact on the audience, both in New York and at home.

Our musicians are inspired and can hardly wait to get back to Carnegie Hall in May 2013, but they know it’s the hometown audience that pays the bills and they have been playing brilliantly week after week. The crowds keep growing as word gets out around to Portland and beyond.

As I write this, we’re preparing Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 5, which will be recorded live this weekend for future radio broadcasts and for a new CD. This is the third Vaughan Williams symphony we’ve prepared in three seasons: We played No. 6 in 2010 and No. 4 on the second half of our 2011 Spring For Music program. Of course, No. 5 is very diff erent ...

And so is our program for our return on May 9, 2013. We’ll perform it in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall as well as at home, before we load the truck and set out across country for our next engagement at Carnegie Hall.

Carlos Kalmar is music director of the Oregon Symphony

Related: Spring For Music 2012

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