Thursday, November 1, 2012

Symphonic Relief for Haiti II: a community-wide collaboration

Symphonic Relief for Haiti II, a concert on November 4, 2012 at Arlington Street Church at 3:00 p.m. in partnership with Partners In Health

On January 10, 2010, Haiti was rocked by a massive earthquake. The death toll was estimated to be nearly 250,000. Three weeks later, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra coordinated a concert of healing to raise funds for Partners In Health and to bring the Haitian community together in solidarity with Boston’s musical community. “Symphonic Relief for Haiti” was a success on many levels: it united 200 musicians, and was attended by 500 people, including members of Boston’s Haitian diaspora, raising $90,000 for Partners In Health. 

One of the outgrowths of “Symphonic Relief for Haiti” was the development of a partnership among several organizations committed to improving healthcare in Haiti: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Partners In Health, Partners HealthCare International, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Institute for Human Centered Design, and the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. Looking beyond the immediate disaster relief, these organizations were concerned about the long-term care that many of the survivors would require, including intensive rehabilitative care for the hundreds of newly disabled victims of the earthquake. 

To address this problem, the group approached Shepley Bulfinch Architects, to design a new rehabilitation and training center. As a result of this pro bono partnership, plans were made to establish:

CERE, the Center for Excellence in Rehabilitation and Education
Partners In Health

The Center for Excellence in Rehabilitation and Education (CERE) is planned as part of the PIH Hospital and Medical School in Mirebalais, Haiti.

IT WILL … be a catalyst in providing immediate and long-term delivery of rehabilitation services in Haiti while dignifying and normalizing the lives of people with disabilities.

IT WILL … establish new national standards for rehabilitative care in a country where ten percent of the population has some form of physical disability, a figure that spiked significantly following the January 2010 earthquake.

IT WILL … build capacity for care by training rehabilitation specialists, technicians, community health workers, and disability advocates.  

The project to date has been developed by Partners In Health (PIH)/Zanmi Lasante (ZL) with a network of partner organizations whose pro bono collaboration represents the fruit of the partnership model from which Partners In Health takes its name.

The Concert
Arlington Street Church in Boston has had a long history of charity in the community, including work in Haiti and work with Partners In Health. 

On November 4, 2012, Arlington Street Church will host the Longwood Symphony Orchestra to present Symphonic Relief for Haiti II, a concert led by LSO Music Director Ronny Feldman, that brings together musicians committed to healing the community through music. Each of the soloists has a direct connection to medicine, healing, Haiti, or rehabilitation. The concert will feature Vivaldi's Four Seasons, the Boston premiere of the Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra by Haitian composer/conductor Julio Racine and the rarely heard String Symphony in C, No. 9 by the 14 year old Felix Mendelssohn.

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
       Spring:   Sherman Jia
    Summer:   Sue-Jonnathane Celestin
          Fall:   Adrian Anantawan
     Winter :   Nicholas Kitchen 

Racine: Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra (dedicated to Jorge Montilla)
                  Jorge Montilla, clarinet
Mendelssohn:  String Symphony in C, No. 9

Following the concert, the audience will have the opportunity to meet the musicians, learn more about the Rehabilitation Center and meet leaders from Arlington Street Church, Partners In Health and Longwood Symphony Orchestra.

For more information on tickets or to support the program,  please click here.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Pianist Jannie Lo performs Tchaikovsky on the Esplanade

Pianist Jannie Lo, winner of the 2011 Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Concerto Competition will perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with Longwood Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.

Ms. Lo grew up in San Francisco, California where she started the piano at the age of three. She went on to study piano in Baltimore and in Freiburg, Germany. When asked what city she considers "home," she replied:

Because I have lived in a number of places, I have always had a desire to search for my real 'home', like how the Little Prince always yearns to go back home, but I am realizing lately that 'home' is perhaps in my own self, and to be at home everywhere I go, is to be at peace with one's self.

This is Ms. Jannie Lo's fifth summer participating in the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Annual Summer Festival. What makes it so special?

I have been to many summer festivals, and this is definitely one of my favorite places to be. The faculty are of such high caliber, and each of them are truly unique and special artists.Their lessons and master classes are wonderful. Having the opportunity to converse with them individually is an inspiration. Each conversation has been a mind and heart opening experience, and life changing because each of them has their own inspiring story to tell.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Summer Festival. Jannie Lo explains and essential part of its longevity and success.

Dr. Cathy Chan [the founder of the Foundaion] makes it such a well-rounded festival, with trips to Tanglewood, Tai-chi classes, etc. Dr Chan, the founder and director, is also one of the most generous and kind persons I know, and her spirit pervades the festival.

Any thoughts about the Tchaikovsky? Is it a work you have wanted to play? When did you first hear the work?

I have wanted to play this piece all my life, since I heard [Marta] Argerich's recording as a child. It was a coincidence that I entered the competition actually, because I had been learning it, and only realized later that it was the piece designated for the competition this year. I entered it thinking it would help me learn the piece faster.

Every time before I play the Tchaikovsky, I always think that the spirit is one of the highest nobility and the greatest generosity. The famous first theme is actually a Ukranian folk tune, a melody Tchaikovsky first heard performed by blind beggar musicians in the market. I read somewhere that the folk tune was about the coming of spring, but I have not been able to find any other source to verify the information.

Jannie Lo also reflected about Longwood Symphony Orchestra and its unique connection to music and medicine:

Dr Chan teaches us a Chinese character to all of us every evening at our meeting and explains the philosophical meaning behind the construction of each character. Tonight, it was the second character that makes up the word 'music' in Chinese -- "yue". She explained to us that it is the same character as medicine, minus three strokes on the top.

Thus, music is truly synonymous with medicine and healing. It is our mission as musicians, to help heal; it is something that is vital in this world, and we need to remember that everytime we are given the opportunity to do our mission on stage...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting to know Guest Conductor David Commanday

Guest conductor David Commanday will be leading Longwood Symphony Orchestra on August 17, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. for its annual FREE summer concert at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade.

Music Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra in Illinois, Commanday is no stranger to Boston, having previously attended Harvard University, and conducted the Boston Ballet and Greater Boston Youth Symphony.

David Commanday was recently named Conductor of the Year 2011 by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

We caught up with Maestro Commanday a few days ago and he shared his thoughts about music and healing:

1. Where were you born? Do you come from a musical family?

I was born and grew up in Berkeley, California. My father was a musician who studied at Harvard and Juilliard, He was conductor of choruses at U.C. Berkeley, and then later music critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. My mother was a pianist, but her profession was teaching languages.

2. When did you start the cello? Was this your first instrument? Do you play other instruments?
My first instrument was piano, starting around 6 years old, but the cello is what captured me, when I started at age 9. I had a magic teacher, Margaret Rowell, who brought up generations of wonderful cellists in the Bay Area.

3. What is it about the cello that you love most?
The cello is how I found my most personal musical voice. When I play there is a very deep connection to who I am and what I need to express. That connection is what brought me into music. For me keeping that connection alive, on the cello or with the orchestra, is what making music is all about.

4. When did you start conducting? What was your inspiration?
I began conducting in college -- first at Indian Hill (summer arts workshop in Stockbridge, MA), after my freshman year at Harvard, and then more and more. I conducted pick-up groups, mostly at Lowell House for special concerts we organized. Conducting the Lowell House Opera in my senior year was what really hooked me -- guiding and leading so many individual spirits in the re-creation of a work, which becomes far more than the sum of the individuals and far more than my self, was immensely rewarding. I was inspired and influenced by the conducting of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and Aaron Copland, when I played principal cello as a student at Tanglewood.

5. You mentioned that you first wanted to be a brain surgeon. What changed?
Around the time of the opera (despite having taking some pre-med courses and majored in psychology), I came to recognize that making music was my calling, and that this was my path to fulfillment. In considering future careers I believed it would be for me both the biggest challenge and the most rewarding path to follow. Experience has shown that I was right in both respects!

7. Do you consider music to be healing?
Music heals in deep and manifold ways. In shaping time it offers not merely distraction from the accelerated speed and intensity of our lives, but real refreshment and restoration. Hearts often suffer from stifled, overly-controlled emotions - so much goes on inside us which cannot be expressed. A song can be the flight of a beautiful bird released from a cage - released not only from the singer, but from the listener as well. To sing well (I include instrumental playing as a variety of singing) we must breathe, and breathe the right way. It raises the chi, and accesses our fundamental vitality and strength. Well-made music also sets right the listener (who makes the music as well, when truly taking it in).

8. Any comments about how you chose the repertoire for this program? Any piece that is particularly special to you?
In choosing repertoire for this concert I considered the outdoor informality of the setting. This is music that is moving and and thrilling, and has some humor as well. Fledermaus and Dvorak 8 I came to love during my conducting training in Vienna. I also played them as cellist in the Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, an experience which deepened by appreciation and sense of the Viennese tradition in these works. There are other connections with our encores, but I won't give those away quite yet...

9. Is there anything special to you about LSO in particular?
The LSO is a unique treasure - its musicians bring musical talent, intellect, imagination, and generosity of spirit to every rehearsal and every concert. They use all of these resources to transform their own pleasure in making music together into rich gifts back to the community - in the music itself and in significant and substantial fund-raising for essential philanthropic causes. Being part of the LSO in this concert is an honor and a pleasure.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Activities

During the summer, the musicians of the LSO have a chance to take a break from their usual rehearsals and schedules to pursue other interests. Some of them go away to do research, others find time for musical pursuits.

During the early weeks of August, here are some of the activities that our members have been engaged in:

Pan Mass Challenge:
As if they did not have enough to keep them busy, two of our musician members, Dr. Wolfram Goessling and Dr. Mark Gebhardt, have been toning up all summer in preparation for Pan Mass Challenge, the two-day biking marathon that raises money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Both have devoted their lives to treating cancer - Mark is an orthopedist who specializes in bone cancer and will be riding with one of his patients, a cancer survivor.

Wolfram is an oncologist specializing in liver cancer. For him, this is a personal journey as well. Wolfram rides in memory of his father (pictured below). He writes:

"My mission is to raise funds for our research on hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer that affects children. I am extremely proud to be riding for Team L.E.G.S. - Legs Ending Great Suffering - a team of very dedicated (and fast) riders who have supported our lab from the beginning. But the real reason for me to ride is my dad who passed away from liver cancer two years ago this weekend. The fight against cancer is not just a great scientific challenge, it is also personal, and we need to win it pedal stroke by pedal stroke and mile by mile."

Good luck, Mark and Wolfram!

Seeding Labs

On Thursday August 4, Longwood Symphony musician/scientists sponsored an reception to meet the 2011 Novartis Seeding Labs Fellows to talk about creativity and shared international interests. This remarkable group of medical school professors from Mali and Ghana are visiting the United States for an intensive 9 week fellowship in Boston, sponsored by Novartis. Their research varies from infectious disease interests in tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Leishmaniasis to public health and pharmacology, studying sustainable food sources and the search for bioactive compounds from natural products.

Seeding Labs CEO and Founder Dr. Nina Dudnik, launched the fellowship in 2010. She talked about how important it was to connect scientists around the world. Violinists Sherman Jia (a 5th year HMS-HST student) and Dr. Mark Emerson (post-doc in Genetics) found scientists who shared their similar research interests. Dr. Lisa Wong met Dr. Dr. Rita Dickson, a professor of pharmacology, who studied at King's College in London before returning to educate the next generation in her native Ghana.

The evening concluded with a music, as Ashley Lau, a 2nd year M.D./Ph.D. student and Lisa Wong performed works by Bach, Kreisler and Elgar. Following the concert, many of the guests shared that they had never heard a performance by violin and piano before. Some had never seen a violin, and a lively conversation about similar African stringed musical instruments ensued.

We look forward to continuing our conversation with these talented scientists, even after they have returned to their home countries, and are grateful to Seeding Labs for its vision.

Music on the Esplanade

On August 17 at 2011, Longwood Symphony musicians will come back together to launch the 2011-12 season with their annual summer concert at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade.

Guest Conductor David Commanday will lead the orchestra in a performance of Johann Strauss' Overture to Die Fledermaus, Tchaikovksy's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the winner of the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts concerto competition, and Dvorak's pastoral Symphony No. 8.

This free summer event is a season favorite--Bring your friends and family with a picnic and blanket to enjoy music under the stars.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Celebrating a founding member - Dr. Leonard Zon

Watch Len Zon on NOVA!

Dr. Leonard Zon has played first trumpet with the Longwood Symphony since 1984. Len is Grousbeck Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Director of the Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston.

His research focuses on two major developing areas: modeling human diseases in zebrafish, and stem cell biology. Dr. Zon is a member of the Institute of Medicine and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2008, Dr. Zon traveled to London with the Longwood Symphony. After giving the keynote lecture about his stem cell research and zebrafish model at a symposium on Innovations in Cancer Care in the Great Hall at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, he performed a Telemann trumpet concerto under the watchful eye of King Henry VIII.

We've recently learned that besides playing the trumpet, the multitalented Len Zon is also the shofar player for his synagogue.

This week, Len was featured on PBS's NOVA. Click here to learn many more interesting tidbits about his cancer research, love of music, and very special zebrafish!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discovery and Creativity at Hotel Marlowe

What is creativity? Are there different kinds of creativity for science and for music? do they overlap? What is the link between artistic and scientific discovery?

n Wednesday evening November 17, Longwood Symphony Orchestra and Hotel Marlowe held the first of a three-part series on Discovery and Creativity in the hotel's cozy library.

A string quartet of musician scientists from Longwood Symphony Orchestra were joined by Nobel laureate and MIT professor Dr. Richard Schrock for a thought-provoking fireside chat on creativity. They were:

Psyche Loui, Ph.D. Music and Neuroimaging Lab, BIDMC (violin)
Christopher Richards, Ph.D. Propulsion Physiology Lab, Rowland Institute (violin)
Michael Cho, M.D., MPH, Brigham and Womens Hospital (viola)
Heidi Greulich, Ph.D. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Broad Institute (cello)

The evening opened with a movement of Mozart's Quartet in G major. Then each musician spoke about his/her scientific work, from cancer biology to clinical research on chronic obstructive lung disease to animal movemnt to the neuroscience of music.

Dr. Richard Schrock received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005 " for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis." A professor at MIT, Dr. Schrock recalled his experience as a young scientist at the age of 8, when he received his very first chemistry set. "Even then," he said, "I remember enjoying seeing how I could combine chemicals to create new reactions...and I liked to blow things up!" While Schrock had little memory of his two years playing trumpet and tuba, he later developed a great love of music and a fascination of its structure, complexity and beauty.

A conversation ensued among the scientists comparing the study of music to the study of science, and comparing the composition of music to the development of a hypothesis based scientific experiment. They observed that both science and music require a high degree of discipline, attention to detail and a basic skill level as a baseline--but that creativity comes when one takes a risk and challenges expectations.

The evening concluded with a more Mozart by the quartet and wine and hors d'oeuvres, provided by Hotel Marlowe, but many felt the conversation on creativity had just begun.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joanna Porackova: Reflections on healing from the stage and at the bedside

On December 4, 2010, Longwood Symphony Orchestra will be joined again by internationally acclaimed soprano Joanna Porackova. Read her moving account of a life in healing - onstage and off.

After working for about 15 years as an intensive care nurse at Riley Hospital for Children, Childrens Hospital in Washington, DC. and the Boston Childrens Hospital, my goal was to complete my Master of Science degree in Parent Child Health Nursing so that I could teach nursing. Before pursuing my MS degree, while working in an adult Intensive Care and teaching nursing, I was accepted as a double major in Vocal performance at the Indiana University School of Music. I would teach nursing part time and then attend music classes.

What an adventure! I was also singing in the elite chorus at Indiana University, traveling to NY to perform. I then decided I would really concentrate on pursuing my Masters degree and moved to Boston. I received a federal traineeship grant to work in Parent Child Health. After receiving my MS degree I taught at BU, Mass College of Pharmacy and was Education Director at the Greenery Rehab Center (62 beds traumatic injury).

It was there that I formally combined my music and nursing by developing vocal programs for the brain injured. I have always sung to my patients and had a strong belief in the healing powers of the human voice. I started a research project observing the effects of the singing voice with brain injured clients.

It was during this time that my fellow nursing colleagues recommended that I study with a teacher at Boston Conservatory. I slowly got back into formal vocal study, and within four years or so of studying in NY with another teacher, Michael Trimble, I won a number of prestigious competitions... at the same time I was still teaching nursing! I would teach in the morning, and then drive to New York in the afternoon to attend Jerome Hines' Fellowship program Opera Music Theater International in the evening! I even sang Lady Macbeth in Verdi's MACBETH in NY after a week of teaching Nursing!

My voice career was launched and I sang all over the world: Paris Opera, Berlin Philharmonic, Salzburg Festival, Washington National Opera, and Hong Kong Opera, to name a few. When I returned home after a number of years singing in Europe, I wanted to get back into Nursing but without the stress. My daughter helped me find a job as a caregiver for the elderly with the Lexington Agency Homeinstead. I feel so grateful for my part-time work as a caregiver for elderly in the home. I have sung several programs at assisted living centers, but feel blessed to work on an individual basis-- not only giving home care, but using my voice in special ways to sing to and with my clients.

I continue my professional vocal life as well--I am returning to sing with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle in 2012 and look forward to singing with the Longwood Symphony in Dec. 2010 (both Wagner Programs). I feel so grateful that I have been able to combine my two careers of vocal performance and nursing. My intention in both careers is to offer healing. Each career has helped the other. When I sing a dramatic role, I use my experience as a nurse from all the wonderful clients who have helped me understand their lives--their courage, their heart, their love-- to find the depth in an opera role that I am singing. The music itself has also helped me understand the importance of vibration, color, dynamics, that can be used to heal. I have been called the singing nurse and I am proud of it!