Everything you need to know about the “1812 Overture”

For us, it’s just not summer without an explosive finale at the Deer Valley® Music Festival. And what could be more exciting and brilliant than Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture? Every year, we perform this exciting piece, and it never fails to wow audiences!

Not sure which piece we’re talking about? You’ve probably heard some of the most famous parts immortalized in movies like V for Vendetta or commercials that need an extra dose of excitement. Even groups like The Melodica Men have parodied it:

Are you headed up to see it this year? Here’s everything you need to know about this iconic work:

The history of the piece:

Despite what the name might make you think, this work was actually composed in 1880 and first performed in 1882. Also contrary to what you might think, this work has nothing to do with the War of 1812 between the United States and the British. (Although it has become a patriotic favorite!)

This work was actually commissioned to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s armies in 1812. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the themes of the French national anthem (the Marseillaise) as well as some traditional Russian folk songs and hymns.

What makes this piece particularly exciting is that it has a strong narrative. You can almost see the battle waging between the French and Russian armies. Tchaikovsky even employed real cannons and arranged for bells to ring from neighboring churches during the first performance.

With all the excitement and fanfare of this piece, who wouldn’t love it? Answer: Tchaikovsky himself—he hated it. For one, he was never big on huge displays of patriotism. He once even called it “very loud” and “noisy” and thought it lacked artistic merit. To be completely fair, HE was the one who chose to use cannons.

What to expect at the concert:

We pull out all the stops when we perform the 1812 Overture! In addition to knowing what to expect at the venue (which you can read about here), you might be interested in some of the following facts about our Deer Valley performances.

We usually pair the 1812 Overture with other Tchaikovsky masterworks. If you love Tchaikovsky’s ballets, piano concertos, and other symphonic pieces, you’ll love this program. We also love to add in traditional, well-loved patriotic pieces to keep things interesting. The program changes from year to year, so you’ll have to look the repertoire up here.

We’ll also have real live cannons! The Cannoneers of the Wasatch join us every year to set off cannons. What could possibly be better than that, you ask? They will be in costumes based on uniforms from the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

One thing that makes this year’s performance extra special is we’ll be performing with the Utah Opera Chorus. Part of the 1812 Overture is based off a traditional hymn which is still sung in Russian Orthodox churches. Although it’s not part of the original score, we’ll be singing a version of it in English.

Are you ready for an explosive end to the season? Get your tickets to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture here

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Staff Picks: Melissa Robison

My name is Melissa Robison, and I’m the Front of House Director for the Deer Valley® Music Festival. This will be my 11th season enjoying my summers in Park City! My job is to make sure you enjoy your time on the hill, and I do that with a staff of 100 volunteers every night! From ushers, ticket takers to security and merchandise—we do it all! We have a great time, and if you ever want to join us as a volunteer, we’d love to have you! You can learn more about volunteering here.

Every year we start the Deer Valley® Music Festival season with our Patriotic Celebration concerts, and I look forward to starting my summer concert season with them every year! They play some of my favorite patriotic songs, have surprise guest conductors, and top it all off with amazing friends and family! The patriotic concerts include my favorite moment of the entire summer when we honor each branch of the military. Coming from a military family which has members in the Marines, Air Force, Army, and National Guard, it is a special moment to honor these men and women for the beautiful sacrifices they’ve made for us.

When it comes to food, our favorite place to stop is the Deer Valley Café right at the bottom of the roundabout as you’re heading to the Snow Park Lodge. They have the most amazing homemade chips and the open-faced tuna melts are absolutely to die for. We grab a couple sarsaparillas and enjoy them on the blanket side of the hill. We also throw in a plate of our favorite cheeses from the cheese bar at Harmons or Smith’s. The local cheeses in Utah are amazing, and our favorite is lined with coffee beans. Sometimes we make it up there with friends and family, but sometimes it is just nice to sit with my husband and enjoy the concert—just the two of us—and we each put something in the snack bag to surprise each other.

Don’t miss this first concert—if not for your pure enjoyment, then to honor those that fought for the freedoms we enjoy today!

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How to DVMF: 4 ways to get the most out of the Deer Valley® Music Festival

It’s just not summer unless you make some unforgettable memories! The Deer Valley® Music Festival (or “DVMF”) always has amazing concerts, but it’s not just about the music—it’s about the experience of escaping into the music.

Here are some ways to have a memorable DVMF escape this year:

#1 Prepare for the venue.

What could be more enjoyable than listening to live music in the open air? An outdoor venue certainly has its perks, and summers in Park City are usually nice, but you’ll still want to prepare for the venue.

The venue is at the Deer Valley Resort, and most of the seating is general admission. This means you’ll be sitting on a big hill that is usually used for skiing during the winter. To make yourself more comfortable, wear a good pair of walking shoes and bring a blanket or a short camping chair (no higher than 9” off the ground). Keep in mind that Park City gets chilly at night, so make sure to bring a blanket or a jacket.

Parking is free at the venue, but usually, traffic is heavy and parking is tight during the summer. Consider carpooling if you plan to meet with friends. You can learn more about the venue in our FAQ section.

#2 Pack a picnic.

What’s the best part about being at an outdoor venue? You get to bring your own snacks! With all the great options from local artisans, you’re sure to find all sorts of goodies to put in your picnic basket.

Of course, if you’re on the go, food and drinks are available at the concession stand in the venue, and you can even order a gourmet picnic bag from Deer Valley Resort. We do not sell alcohol inside the venue, but you are free to bring your own.

#3 Plan a staycation.

If you’re not a Park City native, why not make a weekend of it? Park City is filled with fun things to do. From the Olympic Park to historic Main Street, or from scenic hikes to the Park Silly Sunday Market, you can make an entire mini-vacation out of your weekend.

Not sure where to stay? We’ve got you covered. Thanks to our friends at Stay Park City, you can make reservations online here with any of our preferred lodging partners. Take a dip in Montage’s serene outdoor pool, stay close to the venue with lodging at Deer Valley Resort, enjoy Sunday brunch at Stein Eriksen Lodge, or treat yourself to a spa day at St. Regis. With five-star accommodations, you can’t go wrong!

#4 Make some memories!

You’ll want to have a reminder of all the great memories you make at the festival! Don’t forget to bring a camera or snap some pictures with your phone. We’d love to see all the fun you’re having, so please upload your photos to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tag us @utahsymphony and hashtag us with #DVMF.

Now that you are ready to come to the festival, which concerts are you coming to? See the full lineup here.

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Pre-Concert Rituals: Brant Bayless

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 principal musicians who have prominent solo roles to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded.

Spoiler alert: I don’t have a pre-concert routine. I mostly have pre-concert chaos, depending on the daily specifics of family life and the whereabouts of my wife, whose time, really, I share with the members of her Fry Street String Quartet. Some evenings I’ll be driving in from our home in Logan, fighting traffic and weather. Some other evenings I’ll be cooking up a storm for our voracious five-year-old at our downtown pied-à-terre before letting in the sitter and dashing off to Abravanel (hoping the scent of sautéing garlic blows away on the short walk).

It’s when I arrive at Abravanel Hall that the only reliably routine rituals begin. The viola case goes to its place on my locker. Phone placed next to it. Then to the dressing room. Clean shirt, check. Favorite cuff links (a wedding gift from my wife), check. Tailcoat (fretting over the shiny patch where my viola rests), check. Shiny shoes, check. Pants? Phew, check. Then back to the viola case for a quick swipe of rosin, and down to the stage to calmly go over the tricky bits in tonight’s program.

I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

Want to know more about the viola’s role in the orchestra? Watch Brant explain it in this video:

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2018-19 Films in Concert Series

What’s better than watching your favorite movie with your friends and family? Watching your favorite movie while its iconic soundtrack is played live by an orchestra! The 2018-19 Films in Concert series will take you on five musical adventures.

Who ya gonna call? The original Ghostbusters tells the story of a team of scientists who lose their cushy jobs at Columbia University and wage a high-tech battle against the supernatural. They stumble upon a gateway to another dimension—a doorway that releases evil upon the city. They’re New York City’s only hope against complete destruction!

From the moment Harry uses The Marauder’s Map to when the Patronus charm bursts from his wand, you’ll be transported back into the world you love.

Relive the magic of your favorite wizard in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ in Concert. Based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, fans of all ages can now experience the thrilling tale accompanied by John Williams’ score performed live as Harry soars across the big screen.

Here’s looking at you, kid. Let Casablanca transport you to Morocco where Rick (Humphrey Bogart) struggles to do what is right for himself, and for his long-lost love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Watch the drama unfold as we perform Max Steiner’s moving score live while the entire film plays on the big screen.

Luke Skywalker begins a journey that will change the galaxy as he joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookie, and two droids to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Empire and learn the ways of the Force. Don’t miss Star Wars: A New Hope in concert, where we’ll be performing John Williams’s Oscar-winning score live while the full-length film plays on the big screen.

Get ready to fight a dragon, swim with merpeople, and find out just who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire™! The Triwizard Tournament comes to Hogwarts™ in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ in Concert with the Utah Symphony. Relive the magic of Harry Potter™ soaring across the big screen in high-definition and experience the music as we perform Patrick Doyle’s unforgettable score live to the full-length film.

Don’t miss a single moment of these incredible films! Learn more and subscribe to our Films in Concert series here.


Ghostbusters©1984 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
J.K. ROWLING`S WIZARDING WORLD™ J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s18)

Presentation licensed by Disney Concerts. In association with 20th Century Fox, LucasFilm and Warner/Chappell Music. © 2018 & TM LucasFilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved © Disney.

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Calling all students: Become a Utah Symphony Correspondent!

College is a busy time of life—with all of the homework, projects, and tests you have to prepare for, it’s hard to keep on top of everything AND take time out for yourself.

We want to change that for you—AND ramp up your social life.

Classical music can do a lot to heal the soul, and it can even help you with your grades. Researchers found that classical music often reduces stress and anxiety and makes you more receptive to learning.

The first thing you should know is any student can attend unlimited symphony and opera events for only $59 per person per season. Of course, going out on the town is more fun with friends, so you can also get a season pass for two people for only $99—hello, impressive date night anyone? If you think you can only get to one or two shows, select performances are just $15 per student.

Right now, we are looking for one college student “correspondent” to help us spread the word about the awesome experiences we offer at the symphony and opera. We would offer you a pair of tickets to a few select performances during the season, and you would get to take over the Utah Symphony or Utah Opera Instagram account for the night to tell everyone about your experience! (Not to mention the bragging rights of being a symphony and opera insider.)

The ideal candidate would be a college student currently studying music, journalism, or communications, who has a passion for classical music and opera, and a head full of ideas.

If you’re interested, email Kathleen at ksykes@usuo.org with your 1) full name, 2) phone number, 3) Instagram handle, and 4) a short paragraph about why you would be a great correspondent for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera.

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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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Off-Score: A look into the off-stage passions of Utah Symphony members

Principal Flutist Mercedes Smith strives to empower youth through the natural structure and leadership opportunities an orchestra provides.

“I’ve been here for five and a half years,” Smith said. “It’s such a beautiful place to live, it’s so wonderful waking up and seeing the mountains every morning.” Prior to living in Utah, Smith lived in Dallas as the Principal Flutist for the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet Orchestras. In her free time, she loves to cook, work with non-profit organizations, practice yoga, and slowly but surely renovate her home.

In March of 2017, Thierry Fischer and 14 Utah Symphony musicians volunteered during their spring breaks and teamed up with BLUME Haiti (Building Leaders Using Music Education) to teach 100 young Haitian musicians. Every section of the symphony, with the exception of tuba and harp, was represented. “I was slightly hesitant at first because it was my vacation week,” said Smith, “but I went and had the best time. It’s such a beautiful place.”

“The people are so positive despite all the hardships they’ve been through. They don’t lack in intelligence or work ethic, just opportunities, so we went there to create the opportunities for them.”

The musicians worked with students from 9 AM to 1 PM. “We would do everything from the basic fundamentals of scales and tone exercises, to private lessons, to masterclasses. Really anything that filled up four hours.” Following their instruction, the students rehearsed for their concert as an ensemble with Maestro Thierry Fischer.

She taught five young adults that all had their own students. Pupils that were too old for the program could audit the class, and students that were too young benefitted from trainings their teachers received. “There were around 100 students in the program last year, but I think we reached closer to 1,000, and that’s in schools all throughout Haiti,” she said.

Before arriving in Haiti, Smith had no idea what to expect. “I was surprised at the high level some of them played at,” she said. “It’s clear that had they had the opportunities that we have here in the U.S. … they would have been able to excel far more than the level they were currently at.”

Political crises, natural disasters, and economic struggle make upward-class mobility extremely difficult. “It’s nearly impossible to get out of the middle class—and it’s not like our middle class. It really is poverty.” BLUME Haiti provides leadership opportunities, teaching youth that they are not stuck—differences in their community are possible.

After returning from Haiti, Smith continued to think about music as an agent of social change. “The thing is, we have a bit of this problem in our own country too,” Smith admits. “Kids that are poor tend to stay poor, or I guess we’re now starting to understand that not everyone has the same upward mobility that we may have once had.” She partnered with Salty Cricket Composer Collective’s ‘El Sistema,’ a non-profit after-school music program that provides 17 hours of after-school music instruction, free of charge to Jackson Elementary students in Rose Park.

Ms. Smith found BLUME Haiti and El Sistema worked hand in hand. “[El Sistema] is essentially doing the same thing BLUME Haiti is doing—empowering kids and teaching them about teamwork and leadership,” she said.

Based off the Venezuelan music education program, El Sistema is located in cities all throughout the United States. “I don’t know how long this program has been going, but it’s new,” Smith tells me. “Maybe 3-5 years old.” Currently, it only offers violin instruction but will be expanding to cellos and violas next year. “They need instrument donations, and they need to expand their budget,” she said.

Wanting to raise awareness and involve the Utah Symphony even further, Smith created “Saturdays with the Symphony,” a near-monthly exchange where one musician spends two hours with young students and their parents. “It’s basically a show-and-tell that’s 20 minutes long because the kids are so little.”

The musician plays a few pieces, speaks about their instrument, and discusses their journey studying music. “Then they have a little orchestra rehearsal, and we have the symphony member sit and play the little ‘Ode to Joy’ tune they’re working on,” she said. Following the concert is a potluck dinner where students and their families meet the musician. “It’s really such a motivating thing for the kids!”

Smith has made it her mission to expand the program to its full potential by utilizing the world-class talent available in Salt Lake City. “I really just want to help increase the visibility of this organization,” she said. “I want the symphony to do everything it can to help—that’s why I started this very small gesture of having one musician a month reach out to our community.”

In her experience, local Salt Lake initiatives don’t hold nearly as well as a large-scale Haiti trip would. “It amazes me how easy it is to fundraise for Haiti than it is to fundraise for children in our own community,” she said. “Jackson Elementary is a five-minute walk from the Utah Opera Production Studios.”

Interested in getting involved? You don’t have to be a professional musician to directly impact the lives of Salt Lake City youth.

First off, this Friday, February 16th, MOTUS (musicians of the Utah Symphony) After Dark will be holding a fundraiser at the jazz club Avant Groove, starting at 9 PM. Tickets can be bought online or at the door for 5$, and all the money raised directly benefits to El Sistema. “I think we’ve almost sold out all the VIP booths,” she said.

Secondly, El Sistema is accepting donations to expand the program to its full potential. Donations can be made online here.

If donations are not possible, Salty Cricket accepts volunteers of all kinds. If interested, please reach out to Victoria at Victoria@saltycricket.org, or by calling (919) 274-3845.

“[El Sistema] is small now, but it’s growing,” Smith says. “I can tell it’s going to be a huge thing in the future that affects so many children’s lives.”

To learn more about El Sistema’s Jackson Elementary program, visit their website.


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Fall in love with “Dancing and Romancing”

Gershwin, Berlin, and Bernstein, oh my! Prepare to be swept off your feet this Valentine’s season with Utah Symphony’s “Dancing and Romancing” program February 9th and 10th at 7:30 PM. You’ll be swinging all evening to Hollywood golden-age classics, right alongside famed singers and dancers.

Not a dancer? Even better! Join us at 6:30 for dance lessons with local professionals Marcea and David Hess as they teach the basics of the waltz, cha-cha, and fox trot in the lobby. You might want dance all night, but after the class you’ll get to hear romantic show tunes played by the orchestra while Kirby Ward and Joan Hess sing and dance to the music.

The Irving Berlin song “Cheek to Cheek” was written in 1935 for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ movie Top Hat. It quickly rose to the top of the charts and was named the #1 song of 1935.

In 1956, beloved jazz singers Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald featured “Cheek to Cheek” on their 1956 album, Ella and Louis.

Today, “Cheek to Cheek” stands as an American classic, inspiring the name of a 2014 jazz album featuring Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

Who doesn’t love Chicago? Rouge your knees and roll your stockings down for the sultry “All That Jazz,” sung by Joan Hess and Kirby Ward.

After such a hot performance, cool down with Nacio Herb Brown’s song “Singin’ In The Rain.” First performed by Doris Eaton Travis at the Hollywood Music Box Revue, the song quickly became a smash hit, being recorded by a number of artists, including Cliff Edwards, Annette Hanshaw, and Judy Garland.

The song became a centerpiece for the classic 1952 musical film Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.

This superb collection of songs will entrance audience members of all ages. Grab your loved ones and enjoy Utah Symphony’s evening of reminiscing and celebration of life today.

Get your tickets to Dancing and Romancing here.

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Bernstein at 100: Celebrating the legacy of an American icon

In the year 1918, American composer, conductor, pianist, and music educator Leonard Bernstein was born. Over the course of a storied career that spanned the globe (he was one of the first musicians born and educated in the United States to receive worldwide acclaim), he became nothing short of a legend. In the year of his 100th birthday, many orchestras are looking back at Bernstein’s legacy and how it has shaped the American musical landscape.

When one considers what Bernstein gave to classical music, the scope and depth of his work are astounding. He was highly sought-after as a conductor, holding a long tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and guest conducting with some of the best orchestras in the world, most notably with the Vienna Philharmonic. Bernstein didn’t just conduct, though─also a highly skilled pianist, Bernstein often “play-conducted” the piano concertos of Ravel, Mozart, and others, always an impressive feat. Furthermore, Bernstein produced a staggering number of recordings with the New York Philharmonic and numerous other orchestras, many of which still stand as pillars in the recorded catalogue today. In fact, Bernstein was instrumental in the first complete recorded cycle of Mahler’s nine symphonies, from which Maurice Abravanel surely took inspiration when he recorded the same cycle with the Utah Symphony in the 1960s and 1970s.

Conducting was just one small piece of Bernstein’s legacy, however. Many of us also know and love him as a composer─his musical West Side Story was an immediate hit when it was released in 1957, and music from this groundbreaking work is still played by orchestras worldwide. He was able to capture the sound and mood of late 1950s New York City in this musical, and that’s a substantial part of what makes all of Bernstein’s music so captivating. He drew inspiration from styles that many may have considered to be at odds with each other─Austro-German classical music, jazz, Jewish music, and the idioms of Broadway musicals all found their way into his compositions to create a tapestry that is distinctively and uniquely American. And yet, the themes Bernstein conveyed in his music were themes of global importance. His favorite idea to come back to was the individual’s search for faith, an idea that remains especially relevant today─he explored this theme in his Symphony No. 2 “Age of Anxiety” as well as in Chichester Psalms, both of which will be performed during Utah Symphony’s “Bernstein at 100” festival.

Beyond these incredible accomplishments, each enough for one lifetime on their own, Bernstein also catapulted classical music into the public psyche by televising the New York Philharmonic’s young people’s concerts on primetime television, starting in 1954 and continuing for almost two decades. He taught millions of Americans how to appreciate classical music through a new and exciting entertainment medium, furthering the reach of the American orchestra and guaranteeing new audiences for the future. So in the year of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, the Utah Symphony pays homage to the man that transformed the American classical music scene, propelled it into the 20th century, and fostered generations of musicians and music-lovers alike.

Utah Symphony Artist Logistics Coordinator Erin Lunsford takes care of the many guest artists and guest conductors that perform with the orchestra and enjoys writing about music in her spare time. You can take a look at some of her other in-depth articles here and here

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