Staff Picks: Mandi Titcomb

Not sure what symphony performance you want to see next? Take a look at what shows our staff—the people who live and die by classical music—would recommend for you! You’ll even get an idea of how to make a night of going to the symphony. We’re featuring Mandi Titcomb’s pick. She has a passion for all things musical theatre and is excited to see Audra McDonald.

What do you do?

I’m Mandi Titcomb, the Opera Production Coordinator. You could say that I wear many hats in my position, but essentially I provide administrative support to the opera artistic director, company manager, costume shop manager, technical director, and opera music staff.

Which performance are you most looking forward to and why?

Even though I mostly work on our opera productions I love attending the symphony, and the Audra McDonald concert has been on my calendar since it was announced last year. Not only is Audra McDonald a six time Tony winning actress, but she is one of the most talented and versatile singers you will ever have the opportunity to hear live. Her repertoire includes some of the most beloved Broadway tunes, as well as opera, jazz, and blues. I’ve got my fingers crossed she will grace us with her rendition of “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

What do you recommend doing before the show?

I prefer to warm up my musical palate before the concert by grabbing drinks at either Avant Groove or Lake Effect, where they often have live jazz bands playing. After the performance I like to head over to my favorite little local Mexican restaurant, Alberto’s, where you can get the best burrito in town and catch up with your symphony date into the wee hours of the night.

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Deer Valley® Music Festival Season Announcement

Summer is a time to escape the cares of everyday life and enjoy the warm weather, spending time with friends and family, and—of course—experiencing great concerts at the Deer Valley® Music Festival! This is our 15th annual festival, and we can’t celebrate 15 years of summer fun without an incredible lineup.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

Sutton Foster with the Utah Symphony – July 21

There will be no shortage of star power at the Deer Valley® Music Festival this year with Tony Award winner Sutton Foster! Enjoy the mountain venue while being serenaded by one of Broadway’s most versatile leading ladies.

 Rick Springfield with the Utah Symphony – July 20

You better love this concert. Grammy Award®-winning singer/songwriter Rick Springfield—whose chart-topping hits include “Jessie’s Girl,” “Love Somebody,” and “An Affair of the Heart”—is coming to perform this explosive concert with the Utah Symphony.

The Music of John Williams – July 28

Experience a thrilling night under the stars featuring music from John Williams’ greatest film scores, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.

The Music of Pink Floyd – August 11

This concert will be more than just “Another Brick in the Wall.” Hear some of their most popular hits like “Comfortably Numb” and “Hey You” in an electric performance powered by the Utah Symphony.


Broadway Hits by Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber – July 7

This show will have you singing along as you listen to some of Broadway’s greatest hits by Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The 1812 Overture with the Cannoneers of the Wasatch – August 10

No Deer Valley® Music Festival show would be complete without an explosive finish! The Cannoneers of the Wasatch will join us again in this spectacular performance that’s tailor-made for the outdoors. The Utah Opera Chorus will also provide their angelic voices

Chamber Concerts at St. Mary’s Church in Park City – July 11, July 18, July 25, and August 1.

With great concerts like the ones above, your weekend getaways will be easy to plan. But what if you need an escape during the week? We have four chamber concerts on Wednesday evenings during the summer which are sure to take your breath away. These concerts feature the Utah Symphony in the stunning and intimate venue of St. Mary’s Church with many of our principal musicians as featured soloists. Repertoire will include Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 2.

This summer will be filled with other great performances like Amos Lee, The 70’s vs. The 80’s, ABBA: The Concert, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, and Rachel Porter. See our full schedule here!

NOTE: Kristin Chenoweth was originally scheduled to perform on July 21. She must postpone her performances this summer due to ongoing complications from a past neck injury and will take time off so she can properly heal. We wish her a quick recovery. She will return to perform with us in 2019 on a date that will be announced at a later time. (Edit made 6/6/2018)

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Audra McDonald answers all your burning questions

We can barely contain our excitement for our upcoming concert with Audra McDonald! This award-winning artist in not just a great singer, but she’s an incredible actress! With millions of reasons to love her, you probably don’t need any more. But allow us to add to her long list of accomplishments: She can answer your questions in style. Just take a look at this video of her and Jimmy Fallon answering some hilarious questions from Yahoo! Answers:

Can’t wait for this concert? Get your tickets here.

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A Ghost Light Podcast Extra!

Music, musicians, and a healthy dose of ghost stories: This is what our podcast The Ghost Light is all about! After the stage is dark and everyone has gone home, general manager Jeff Counts digs deep into classical music gets juicy stories from acclaimed musicians. As a special treat for our loyal Ghost Light fans, you can read this transcript of his interview with Concertmaster Madeline Adkins:

Jeff: So, Madeline, tell us about this incredible instrument you’re playing now.

Madeline: It’s really very exciting. As you know, for the past 5 years I was playing on Marin Alsop’s Guadagnini, which she graciously allowed me to bring to Utah for my first season.  I took it into the shop of my friend, violin maker John Young, here in SLC to be cleaned up in preparation for its return and while discussing what I might possibly do next, he said “A friend of mine owns a beautiful Guad and may be looking to lend it to the right person.”

Jeff: You’re kidding. That almost seems like fate.

Madeline: I know! Turns out, John was a longtime friend of Jacques Israelievitch, the concertmaster of Toronto Symphony for 20 years and St. Louis before that. Sadly, Jacques died in 2015 from cancer at the quite young age of 67. His wife Gabrielle had been reluctant to loan the instrument at first, as she felt like this was the embodiment of Jacques and couldn’t bear to part with it. But she was thinking it’d be best for the instrument to be played.

Jeff: What can you tell us about Jacques?

Madeline: He came to the US as a teenager when his family’s business in France was destroyed during a wave of anti-semitism. On the plane over he met Oistrakh, if you can believe it! Anyhow, he bought this Guadaganini (the “ex-Chardon”) when he got his first concertmaster job in St. Louis and, as since he was the recipient of incredible generosity throughout his career and always maintained a commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation of musicians, Gabrielle felt compelled to pay it forward.

Jeff: Incredible. So, you went to meet Gabrielle. What is she like?

Madeline: Gabrielle Israelievitch is an acclaimed children’s book author, psychologist, and artist. A real Renaissance woman. She is truly an incredible spirit. We spent several hours speaking about Jacques and then it came time to play the instrument for the first time. It was right there in the living room, where Jacques had taught so many students over the years, and in fact only feet from where he had played the violin for the last time. The first notes I played were the slow movement of Bruch. Almost instantly, Gabrielle was in tears. “It sounds  just like Jacques” John (who was with me) said. Gabrielle face-timed with one of her sons so he could hear. The experience was incredibly emotional for all.

Jeff: I can imagine that this moment will always be one of the highlights of your career.

Madeline: Of my life! When I brought it back to Utah, that weekend was my first Scheherezade with the Utah Symphony. Although I only had played the violin for two days, that opening E of the piece was such a gorgeous note that I forged ahead and decided to make the switch immediately. So that weekend, only four days after playing the instrument for the first time, and on what would have been Jacques’ 69th birthday, I played Scheherezade. In my dressing room was a huge bouquet of flowers. The note read “Thank you from Jacques.”

Jeff: What an honor for you and for the Utah Symphony.

Madeline: It’s humbling. And also thrilling. I can’t wait to perform a concerto on this instrument!

We know you’re dying for more! Subscribe and listen to The Ghost Light here

Jeff Counts is Vice President of Operations and General Manager of Utah Symphony. He was program annotator for Utah Symphony from 2010 to 2014 and has been writing articles for Utah Opera for 6 years.

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Deer Valley® Music Festival celebrates 15 years


During the summer months when Abravanel Hall lies quiet to the reverberating sounds of classical music, the hills surrounding Park City come to life as the Utah Symphony retreats to its summer home at the Deer Valley® Music Festival (DVMF). Founded in 2003, the vision of the Deer Valley® Music Festival is to deliver a high quality and musically diverse experience in casual settings of unparalleled natural beauty – full orchestra concerts take place at a stunning outside hillside venue located at Deer Valley Resort.

The six-week festival provides as many as 18 chamber music, classical, and pops concerts in several venues throughout Park City: the Deer Valley® Resort Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, St. Mary’s Church, and salon events in private homes in the Park City area.

Over the years, the festival has supported big-name stars including Earth, Wind and Fire, Tony Bennett, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Beach Boys, Jewel, and Broadway legends such as Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison and Leslie Odom Jr.

As part of the educational outreach mission of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, the festival education events offered three sessions of Pro-Am Clinics, in which Utah Symphony members coached 49 area community orchestra musicians and music students from Park City High School in strings, woodwinds, and brass sections.  Over the course of the 2016-17 academic year, Summit County school participation in Utah Symphony | Utah Opera education programs totaled 1,710 students and 85 teachers from nine schools.

But what has been more telling is the explosive growth that has seen audience numbers increase by 80 percent since the festival’s inception back in 2003 – even the last 2017 season reported a ticket sales increase of 25 percent from the previous year. The festival began under the direction of Utah Symphony Music Director Keith Lockhart and Utah Symphony & Opera President & CEO Anne Ewers.

And the resulting economic indicators illustrate the positive impact of the festival on boosting the region’s local economy as it continues to attract concertgoers from outside the area in search of the outdoor orchestral experience. Of more than 47,000 tickets distributed during the 2017 season, 78 percent went to non-Summit County residents, the majority of whom resided in Salt Lake, Utah, and Davis counties.

These festival patrons continue to boost the Summit County tourist economy through activities surrounding their concert attendance. Of the respondents to a 2017 post-festival survey, 87 percent indicated that they had eaten at a Summit County restaurant in conjunction with a DVMF concert, 64 percent went shopping, 48 percent visited Park City’s historic Main Street, and 17 percent visited the Utah Olympic Park.

What does the continued growth trajectory and exciting future mean for the 15th anniversary of the festival? A hootenanny “Barn Bash” of epic proportions is being planned at Blue Sky Ranch in celebration of 15 years of summer music in the mountains. The Western-themed fundraiser will feature a musical performance by American country group, Asleep at the Wheel. For more information or to purchase a ticket, please contact Heather Weinstock at 801.869.9011 or email her at

For more information, visit our website here.

As a resident of Park City, Director of Communications Renée Huang first fell in love with summer in the mountains while attending Deer Valley Music Festival outdoor orchestra concerts. As the festival celebrates its 15 year anniversary in 2018, she takes a look at the growth and impact it has had on the local economy.

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Get to know our volunteers!

We have over 600 volunteers annually that work as hosts, gift shop volunteers, light walkers, supernumeraries, docents, special events, Youth Guild, Guild, Gala, ushers, ticket takers, and more. We couldn’t function without the endless hours they dedicate to Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. Enjoy getting to know two of our wonderful volunteers and join us by emailing

Anne Polinsky is a Utah native and has lived here and in Idaho.  She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in accounting but is now retired. She also volunteers for several other local organizations, including Sundance Film Festival and Park City Art Festival.

How long have you been a USUO volunteer and what do you love most about being volunteering here? Carolyn Holloway was the person who first got me involved and we think it’s about 2006, so just over a decade! I enjoy working with the other volunteers and the patrons.  It’s nice to see the outreach that USUO does, and the younger people from Youth Guild and students attending performances.

Do you have any memorable moments or concerts? What made them so enjoyable? I think one of my favorite concerts (among many) is the first time I saw Pink Martini at Deer Valley and how the audience reacted to their talent.

Why is it important to you that you have classical music and opera in your life? I made a New Year’s resolution a couple of years ago to have more music in my life and this was a perfect way to do it. It not only helps with relaxation, but I’ve read that it also helps one’s brain from deteriorating, and who doesn’t love that?


Whit Wirsing was born in Roanoke, Virginia. He has a degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech and a degree in Spanish from the University of Utah. He teaches English as a second language for the Granite District and Continuing Education department at the University of Utah and Lumos School. He is the author of the “Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder” published by McGraw Hill in 2009. Whit is most often seen at the symphony intermission receptions acting as the head “sommelier.” His beautiful origami cranes add a bright spot to the tables.

How long have you been a USUO volunteer and what do you love most about being volunteering here? I’ve been volunteering since September 2011. I enjoy several things about volunteering.  I want people to enjoy the experience of coming to the symphony, to have a good time, and want to come back.  Second, I like the people that I work with.

Do you have any memorable moments or concerts? What made them so enjoyable? I remember the night of a post-reception when the whole orchestra, the staff and the board were in attendance.  The champagne was flowing, and everyone was in high spirits. Another night that was memorable was about 3 years ago when it was a Latino night.  I loved that because I speak Spanish, and the Latino community that likes classical music fits like glove with the rest of the music-loving community. 

Why is it important to you that you have classical music and opera in your life? My grandmother was a concert pianist.  She mostly played with symphonies in the Roanoke and southwest Virginia area, but once she played Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations.  I have a CD of it, and my CD is no better than what my grandmother played that night.  My mother also played the piano (she died when I was 12), and both my aunts played.  So it’s in the blood.  I can’t imagine life without it.  And we are the organization for people whose love of music is in their blood. 


Melissa Robison is our Front of House and Publication Manager who also managers our Volunteer Network and has the pleasure of working with over 600 volunteers each season.

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Pre-concert Rituals: Alexandra Dariescu

Professional musicians often spend much of their lives on the road performing in concert venues around the globe. Amid the hectic travel schedules, rehearsals, practice time and adjustments to a different time zone, culture and climate, regular routine is sacrificed. We asked two of our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded.

My ritual starts in the morning with a positive attitude. You never know what can go wrong on the day of a concert (flights canceled, trains running late, piano missing…) so an optimistic outlook is incredibly helpful. I like to practice slowly in the morning, on the score, looking at every detail and refreshing the memory. If there’s a rehearsal with an orchestra, I usually save energy for the evening performance. Lunch consists of fish, rice and lots of veggies. A nap is always welcome but if I can’t fall asleep, I lie down and breathe 3 in 7 out, a ritual I’ve had for years. I also visualize the hall, coming in and feeling free.

Freedom, inspiration and being in the moment are my essentials for a great performance. As musicians, we always practice for tomorrow’s concert, think what we’ll play in two year’s time. But when the spotlight is on, ‘now’ is the most important! Forget anything else and live the moment, think only about the music and then the magic happens! I like a good cup of coffee and chocolate about an hour before the concert, followed by warming up (Grindea technique) and the 30 min prior to the performance I spend alone, no talking, no phone, just thinking about the music, what I want to communicate to the audience. Every concert is a blessing and I sincerely feel grateful for every opportunity I have to perform, to do what I love!

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Pre-concert Rituals: Boris Giltburg

Professional musicians often spend much of their lives on the road performing in concert venues around the globe. Amid the hectic travel schedules, rehearsals, practice time and adjustments to a different time zone, culture and climate, regular routine is sacrificed. We asked two of our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded.

It would be so cool to have a formula that would guarantee you a good performance! No stress, no worries, just do a) b) c) and d) and you’re fresh and in top shape, every single time. (That might sound a little boring, but, oh, it would be such a hard thing to refuse). Unfortunately, despite dreaming of such a formula for years and thinking, multiple times, that I’ve stumbled on it, I haven’t really. The closest I came is finding that there is—perhaps!—a formula, one that would work for one specific day and one specific performance. But how to find it, without the help of hindsight or a personal coach?

An afternoon nap is good—unless you wake up with a heavy head. A relaxing walk to take your mind off the performance is good—unless you’re so excited that your brain seems to contain ten Energizer Bunnies who wouldn’t stay quiet. Even the bowl of pasta you always swear by («slow-burn energy!») may find itself sitting uneasily in your stomach next to the superfluous pannacotta, both not quite helping concentration. Or you may be in a country where no serious food is to be found at all between 2:30 PM (when you’re still rehearsing) and 7 PM (by which time you’re already warming up backstage, your heart so thumping with adrenaline that no thought of even a sandwich would dare to encroach). Even practicing—the most obvious thing to do—can sometimes reach a point at which it’s more beneficial to close the lid of the piano and go outside for some fresh air.

So, a concert day might be a combination of some (or all) of the above—but the moment of going onstage and playing for the audience is the highest point of the day, guaranteed, and with no formula needed.

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