The Orchestra Rocks
About the Composers
Chuck Berry (1926–2017), often called the father of rock and roll, was a singer and songwriter born Charles Edward Anderson in St. Louis, Missouri. He took the basic elements of rhythm and blues and added his signature electric guitar solos, catchy lyrics, and great showmanship to birth a new style that became rock and roll. Berry’s hit songs, including “Maybelline,” “Roll Over, Beethoven!” and “Johnny B. Goode,” became rock and roll classics covered by countless artists, and his music was the inspiration for groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Berry was one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and he performed at Carnegie Hall seven times!
Concert Repertoire: “Johnny B. Goode”
Thomas Cabaniss (b. 1962) is a composer and educator born in Charleston, South Carolina. Residing in New York City, Cabaniss teaches at The Juilliard School and leads arts education programs throughout the city. His music ranges from chamber music to operas and film scores. He is a creative adviser for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program, and helped launch Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, which helps pregnant women, new mothers, and their families write songs for their children. Cabaniss uses his music to encourage collaboration and help institutions support partnerships between artists and communities.
Earl Maneein (b. 1976) is a violinist and composer whose artistic output stands at the unlikely crossroads of Western classical music, heavy metal, and hardcore punk. He is the founder of and main composer for the string quartet SEVEN)SUNS, a group that reflects this nexus of musical styles. Maneein’s unusual artistic voice is the result of his history playing and participating in the metal and hardcore scene, forming his first punk band at 14, and sometimes showing up to violin lessons with a black eye and a grin on his face. He has received commissions and performances of his music from soloist Rachel Barton Pine, the Phoenix Symphony, hardcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan, and The Dance Theater of Harlem, among others.
Concert Repertoire: “The Brightest of All Possible Futures”
Photography by Elle Pérez
Jessica Meyer (b. 1974) is a versatile composer and violist whose passionate musicianship radiates accessibility and emotional clarity. Meyer’s compositions viscerally explore the wide palette of emotionally expressive colors and rhythms that have inspired her over the years as a violist performing everything from rock to Bach. Her first composer-performer portrait album debuted at number one on the Billboard traditional classical chart, and her works have been commissioned and performed by many established ensembles, including A Far Cry, the American Brass Quintet, Roomful of Teeth, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. A passionate educator, Meyer is committed to awakening the creative capacities in students of all ages and has conducted hundreds of workshops for Carnegie Hall, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Caramoor, the Little Orchestra Society, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Concert Repertoire: “Go BIG or Go HOME”
Photography by Tatiana Daubeck
Carl Orff (1895–1982) was a German composer who began studying the piano at the age of five. Though his first composition was published when he was only 16 years old, he is most well known for his work in music education, particularly in connecting music and movement. Orff founded the Günther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich, and there, he developed a style of teaching and collection of music known as “Orff Schulwerk,” which is used today by many educators. (Students today may recognize his movement exercises and barred–mallet instruments from their own classrooms!) Orff’s best-known composition is Carmina Burana, a large-scale piece for orchestra and chorus based on various medieval poems.
Concert Repertoire: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was a Russian composer who began taking piano lessons at the age of nine. Though his father was a famous opera singer, Stravinsky’s own musical talent developed slowly. While studying law and philosophy at St. Petersburg University, he began taking composition lessons from famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who greatly advanced Stravinsky’s interests and skill in composition. Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird quickly earned him fame and recognition. He went on to write music for other ballets, including The Rite of Spring, which is about a pagan ritual. The opening night audience found the music and choreography so shocking that there was a riot in the theater! Stravinsky was forced to flee Russia during World War I, which led him to Switzerland, France, and eventually the United States. Stravinsky had a strong ability to compose with diverse influences, and his composition style evolved greatly throughout his life. Stravinsky conducted at Carnegie Hall 41 times, and the Hall has premiered 43 of his works.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) was born in a small village near Parma, Italy. He began studying the organ at the age of seven, and not long after became an organist at his family’s church. As a child, Verdi began composing pieces for the church and local orchestra. He wanted to attend the Milan Conservatory but was not accepted, so he began studying privately with a composition teacher and became the rehearsal director for a choral group, a position that inspired him to write his first opera. While some of Verdi’s early operas were not met with recognition and acclaim, he went on to become one of the most famous composers of Italian opera with works that include Il trovatore, Aida, and Rigoletto.
Concert Repertoire: “Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) grew up in Venice, Italy where his father, a professional violinist, taught him to play the violin and introduced him to some of the finest musicians and composers in the city. At the age of 15, he also began studying to become a priest. Because of his red hair, he was known as il Prete Rosso (“the Red Priest”). Vivaldi had to leave the clergy due to health issues, and he accepted several short-term musical positions funded by patrons in Mantua and Rome. It was in Mantua that he wrote his four-part masterpiece, The Four Seasons. He was also known for his operas, including Argippo and Bajazet. Vivaldi’s work, including nearly 500 concertos, influenced many later composers, including Bach.
Concert Repertoire: “La Follia”