Pre-concert Rituals: William Hagen

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 ask our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded. Here is what violinist and Utah native William Hagen had to say about his.

William Hagen, violin

My first instinct, when asked about a pre-concert ritual or routine, is to say that I have none, or that I’m still working on figuring out what mine is. However, I realize that there are two things that I do very consistently on concert days; the first is to make sure that I have reasonably good blood sugar when I walk on stage. I have Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to be aware of what’s going on with my body before a concert. To lower the risk of high or low blood sugar, I try to stick to low-carb food and I try not to eat 3-4 hours before a concert—this simplifies things and makes my blood sugar more stable and predictable. The second part of my routine is to make sure that I have no wardrobe malfunctions – there are many components of a tux that can go awry. Actually, there are many components of any kind of concert garb that can go (and have gone) awry. I’ve heard stories about people walking on stage in a suave tux, everything in order, only to look down for a moment to find that they are wearing white sneakers. What a performer is wearing really doesn’t matter too much to me, because the main focus should be the music, but a wardrobe malfunction can turn into a major distraction. It’s hard to take someone completely seriously when their fly’s down.

See William Hagen in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances November 3-4, 2017 here.

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Pre-concert Rituals: Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Patricia Kopatchinskaja Photo: Marco Borggreve

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 ask our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded. Here is what Patricia Kopatchinskaja who will perform with us in Fischer conducts Beethoven’s Fifth had to say about her pre-concert ritual.

The performing artist has to present a work of art. Her duty is to give this work the maximum of impact. To achieve this, the performer has to channel all her energies, all her talents, power, and personality into this performance. One could say that the performer has somehow to ‘become’ the piece.

Of course, the performer has to know the piece: its score, its history. She has to have the technique ready, which is the task of a lifetime. But most important is to carry in her heart and mind — her very personal and unrepeatable vision of the piece.

On performance day I try to avoid any distraction: no telephones, no visits, no interviews, no photo sessions, no bad news. On a nice day after breakfast I might jog outside for half an hour and then I might practice perhaps for half an hour, but one never should expend too much energy because it will be needed in the evening. The most important is the nap in the afternoon. There will perhaps be a stage or a microphone rehearsal but normally I just stay in the artist room and concentrate. I cannot eat before concerts, but I need half a banana and something to drink. And then I am ready for battle…

See what else Patricia had to say about her work here.

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Four divas. One stage.

Is there room on stage for more than one diva? In our opinion, the more the merrier! Our Broadway Divas concert will be one to remember because four incredibly talented women will share the stage October 27 and 28.

Get to know more about these incredible vocalists and hear previews of their music in the videos below.


There is no challenge this Bronx, NY native won’t take on. Her diverse repertoire covers 11 languages and about every musical genre you can think of. We think this rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from Bernstein’s West Side Story is particularly electrifying!

Christina DeCicco

Christina DeCicco is no stranger to the stage. She has recently performed in Broadway classics such as Evita and Wicked and is now coming to serenade us. We couldn’t resist this video of her performing Cabaret in a cabaret.

Christina Bianco

Move over Barbara Streisand because there’s a new Funny Girl in town. Not only does she have an enviable singing voice, but she can do hilariously accurate impressions of other singers—just take a look at her guest appearance on Ellen.

Kristen Plumley

Kristen Plumley can do it all. She has performed in operas as well as in pops classics such as Oklahoma! and Brigadoon. It’s never too early for the holidays, so watch this clip of one of her holiday concerts from a few years ago.

You won’t want to miss Broadway Divas! Get your tickets here.

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What Would Your Favorite Movie Sound Like Without a Score?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch your favorite movie without its iconic soundtrack? Romantic scenes would be less moving. Action scenes would be less gripping. And don’t get us started on what would happen to musicals!

One of the best parts of performing films in concert is the music brings the story to life and helps narrate the movie in a way that even the best dialogue cannot.

In honor of our Films in Concert series, here are some of the best reasons why we need music in our movies:

Some movies would be PAINFULLY awkward without music

Who doesn’t love a movie where the heroes come off triumphant in the end? Those moments deserve some sort of fanfare to set the mood.

A great example is the throne room scene from Star Wars’ “A New Hope.” But you never realize how long of a walk it is for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to receive their medals when the room is awkwardly silent. Chewbacca’s blood-curdling screams put the cherry on top of a less-than-triumphant moment in a music-less scene.

For reference, here’s what it sounds like with John Williams’ genius score:

 Movies (and life) are boring without a soundtrack

Have you ever gone to the gym and had forgotten your headphones? You probably didn’t feel as motivated to exercise. You know who can relate? Rocky.

When you take the iconic music out of this scene, his exercise routine becomes tedious and even makes you feel exhausted. Music makes a huge difference even for mundane moments like driving to work or writing a paper.

A good soundtrack sets the mood of the scene

An epic adventure needs an epic score. Just ask the people who worked on Lord of the Rings. This award-winning score by Howard Shore makes you feel as if you are on a grand adventure with these beloved characters.

But what would it sound like if the music were different? This video shows how humorous it would really be:

In the end, music makes the movie what we know and love. Don’t miss our Films in Concert series! Get your tickets here.

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Social Snapshot

There’s no rest for the weary! After the Great American Road Trip, we wasted no time getting back into Abravanel Hall to start off our season. We kicked things off with Raiders of the Lost Ark from our Films in Concert series, helped celebrate the Utah Opera’s 40th Anniversary Gala, and started our Masterworks series on a high note with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Here are the best moments from these performances:


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Memories of the Great American Road Trip

After six days, seven concerts, and over 1,200 miles, we can finally take a deep breath! The Great American Road Trip was, in fact, great because we got to see the beauties of our state, interact with incredible people, and make memories at local schools.

Some of the greatest highlights were our incredible concert venues in Springdale, Bluff, and Vernal as well as our guest artists like Brent Michael Davids. But what made the trip most memorable was the people who came to our concerts. While we were all abuzz with the Duo de la mouche, our audience was all aflutter with tweets and snaps about the concerts. Here are the best comments about #UtahSymphonyRoadTrip:


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Q&A with Composer Brent Michael Davids

The Great American Road Trip is bound to be unforgettable—and one of the biggest reasons why is because composer Brent Michael Davids will join us to perform some of his work! Davids has had an exciting career scoring work for orchestras and films, and he has a unique style in which he combines orchestral music with unique instruments of his own creation.

Naturally, we are excited to have him on the tour, so we asked him a few questions about his work:

What was the inspiration for the two works, “Spirit Woman Song” and “Fluting Around, II” featured on this tour?

Guest artist and composer Brent Michael Davids

Jean-Philippe Rameau saw some Illiniwek (Native Americans) dancing in Paris and got the idea to compose a dance-opera. It utilized harpsichord and sounded nothing like Native American music. It was basically a Harlequin

romance novel set to the music of his time period, with an old chief, his pretty daughter, and two opposing suitors. There are Native composers that have written for orchestra, such as Zitkala Sa (“Red Bird”) who wrote the first grand opera in 1913, even winning “opera of the year” from the New York Opera Guild in 1938. Her studies at the Boston Conservatory of Music enabled her to fuse Dakota culture with Western European composition.

Today there have been others trail-blazing Native American orchestral music, such as Dr. Louis Wayne Ballard, a longtime dear friend of mine. He was a Quapaw-Cherokee composer of great accomplishment, a lifetime educator, and he mentored me for nearly 30 years. There are others too, such as Odawa composer Barbara Croall, Choctaw composer George Quincey, Navajo composer Raven Chacon, a wonderful young O’otham composer Tonya Wind Singer, and forays into orchestral composition by many performer-composers and pianist-composers. In fact, Tonya’s premiering a new work with Cape Symphony this Friday (August 25, 2017) for a Wampanoag singer and orchestra called “First Light.”

For almost 41 years now, it has been my mission to create a hybrid between Native American song traditions, and orchestral concert music. The two works featured on the tour are recent examples of this longtime effort!

In your work, you use a lot of instruments that are not common to traditional orchestras. What are some of these instruments and why did you pick them?

The instruments are often my own designs and in collaboration with others. I’ve had several composer “periods” I suppose, and one of them was electronic music. I started composing for concert band 1976, then for small chamber avant-garde ensembles using extended instrumental techniques by creating sounds not normally produced on those instruments, and then a period of electronic compositions, tape manipulation, and “music concrete.”

What I learned in electronic music is the creation of wild sounds are often not reproducible on standardized acoustic instruments. I loved exploring new sounds, but I wasn’t enjoying electronic music so much. When leaving that medium, and going toward orchestral music, I wanted to find ways of creating wilder sounds for acoustic instruments. I started building instruments at that point, out of all sorts of materials, woods, plastics, metals, and even quartz crystal, and I had help from fabricators and even scientists. Many of the acoustic principles of the newly made instruments are ideas gleaned from traditional Native Americans ones.
Who and/or what inspired you most to become a musician?

My parents were the most influential, encouraging me to become musically literate. And I was greatly inspired by composer George Crumb. I first heard his work for electric string quartet called “Black Angels” and was awe-struck by it. It was the first instance where I heard music that sounded exactly like the title of the work; “Night of the Electric Insects” was a section of the work and it evoked exactly that, electric insects. I’d never heard anything like that before, and it drove me to learn more and to start composing myself. Later I learned that violinist David Harrington was also inspired by this work, prompting him to found the renown Kronos Quartet, for whom I have composed.

Your work appears to tell a story. Do you have a narrative in mind when you compose?

Always. In my view, any competent composers can create an acceptable work, passable by any nominal orchestration and composition standards. What excites me, however, are the works that tell something vital. Music works are like grand conversations really, with a beginning, middle, and ending. They are naturally story-like, evocative events occurring through time. But not all stories are alike, and not all stories are good ones. So I try my utmost to create adventures in my music, dynamic and striking tales in sound that have extra musical meaning. I want to tell good stories, and music composing is my best voice.

Besides composing, what other projects are you working on?

I’m composing a large requiem about the founding of the country, called “Requiem for America,” that relates the American Indian perspective of the original founding events in our shared American history. I’m composing an hour-long,  secular ‘anti-Requiem,’ spinning the traditional Christian Death Mass on its head to give voice to America’s invisible people: the American Indians.

I’m continuing to score several films, as well, including “Lake of Betrayal” which airs nationally on PBS this November, and several indie films. I am excited by a scoring project not for film though, but for fashion. I’ve been hired to score the runway show of designer Patricia Michaels for the International Fashion Week in Paris at the Louvre (18 Nov 2017). France’s top youth chorus, Mikrokosmos, has signed on to perform the work! Desert blooms, gentle rain, wind, and birds are musically portrayed by France’s most celebrated youth chorus. Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone voices warble, chirp, trill, and hum an environment of sounds for Michaels’ desert-inspired fashions.

I just finished composing a new choral work, available soon via See-A-Dot music publishing, called “Singing for Water” giving choirs everywhere an opportunity to sing the message of the Native American Water Protectors, with all proceeds going to Winona LaDuke’s Honor The Earth organization. It’s going to be an exciting fall!

Since this is a road trip – tell us about the best road trip you’ve ever been on.

I could weave together a great story about running through NASA security to stow away onboard a space shuttle into orbit, but my most exciting road trip is probably that time I stubbed my toe on a tree root that was obviously trying to knock me over because it did! I did drive to Zion National Park years ago to perform a small concert with a few others, most notably frame-drummer extraordinaire Glen Velez. But with an orchestra?! I’m super excited about appearing with the exceptional Utah Symphony!

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The Great American Road Trip: Best of Vernal

Capture the full experience of Vernal on your trip to see the Great American Road Trip! Here are some must-see attractions to visit.

Get prehistoric at Dinosaurland!

What is Dinosaurland? Only the best place in the world to come and interact with dinosaur bones and fossils! Come see and touch over 1500 dinosaur bones in their original resting place at Dinosaur National Monument.

Dinosaurs aren’t the only thing at Dinosaurland either. There are plenty of activities like hiking, biking, and swimming. There’s something for everyone!

Eat at the Vernal Brewing Company

Close to the Dinosaur National Monument the Vernal Brewing Company is a great restaurant that offers delicious food and craft beers. Locally-owned and operated, this restaurant has a new gastro pub menu. You can also book a special event or garden party in their patio space.

What makes this place even better? We’ll be having a chamber concert here. If you want a magical evening, enjoy your food while listening to incredible music.

Take the scenic Sheep Creek Geological Loop

If you have an hour to spare take a nice drive along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. The route runs about 13 miles along the beautiful Uinta Fault. There is no fee and the road is paved, so it’s safe for any vehicle. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even catch a glimpse of the bighorn sheep that live in the area.

Are you not sure what to expect from your concert experience? Make sure to check here for more information about the venues and what to bring. You can also get tips on how to enhance your concert experience here.

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The Great American Road Trip: Best of Bluff

If you’re stopping by Bluff on your way to the Utah Symphony’s Great American Road Trip performance here are some great places the locals recommend visiting.

Enjoy a meal at the Comb Ridge Bistro

This American style café has a long-standing tradition in the Bluff area. Established in 2005, Comb Ridge used to be a Navajo Twins Trading Post in the early 1970s. With excellent service and ambiance, the Bistro’s menu offers delicious food for every meal and includes a wide selection of alcoholic beverages for your enjoyment. The Comb Ridge Bistro supports the work of talented local artists displaying various landscape paintings, Navajo inspired artwork, and traditional stone jewelry.

Visit the restored Bluff Fort Historical Site

The Bluff Fort visitors center offers free guided tours daily with engaging staff ready to show you around and answer your questions Learn the history of the Mormon pioneers, who settled in Bluff, through audio-visual displays, a fully loaded covered wagon, and photography of the early residents and more. Take the chance to dress in pioneer attire and take a picture pulling an authentic pioneer handcart.

Walk the Hole In the Rock Trail

Through some of the most rugged and unforgiving terrain in North America, the Hole in the Rock Trail was built by the pioneers in 1879-80. The trail received its name from a crevice the colonizers utilized to gain access to the Colorado River gorge. Make unforgettable memories with a visit the trail! Marvel at its beauty and remember the challenges overcome by the original Bluff settlers.

Are you still not convinced this will be the best musical road trip of your life? Just take a look at this:


See you on the road!

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Get the Most out of the Great American Road Trip

It’s just not summer without an unforgettable road trip – and this summer, we’re embarking on an adventure to southern Utah. Pack a bag and plan for our concerts in Springdale, Bluff, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, and Vernal Brewing Company.

To make your trip even more memorable, here are our recommendations:

First Things First

Forget about the concert hall because we’ll be performing in the great outdoors! Since we’re outside, you won’t want to forget about the necessities. Bring something to sit on (a camping chair or blanket), a sweater for when it gets cold, bug repellant, sunscreen, and an umbrella (just in case!)

Pack a Picnic

The best part of being in an outdoor venue is that you can bring snacks. You could always bring sandwiches and celery sticks, or you could always make your picnic special by trying a new recipe or picking something up from a favorite local spot like Swig in St. George.

Make Memories

You’ll want to remember this extraordinary experience! Don’t forget to pack your camera and (dare we say it?) a selfie stick so you can capture incredible memories at the concert. We love connecting with people at our concerts, so follow and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and tag your photos with #utahsymphonyroadtrip.

Tune into a Playlist

What’s a road trip without the perfect playlist? Whether you’re traveling from Salt Lake to Springdale or from Blanding to Bluff, we have the ideal music to set the mood for your journey. Get a preview of our repertoire for the concert or listen to a list of music inspired by the majestic night sky of southern Utah.

Stay for a Star Party

The best part about being in southern Utah is being under the stars. Take your concert experience to a new level by staying after the concert for a star party. This collaboration between us, the University of Utah’s Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, and the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative will allow you to explore the night sky through lectures provided by park rangers and local astronomers, as well as have viewing opportunities on high-powered telescopes.

Register for a star party here.

You won’t want to miss these free concerts and star parties, so get your tickets here. Bon voyage!

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