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 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.

Staff Picks: Lance Jensen

I’m Lance Jensen and my official job title is a bit long: “Executive Assistant to the Music Director and Symphony Chorus Manager.” I work closely with Maestro Fischer in handling communications and many organizational and administrative tasks, assisting the Maestro in his efforts as our Music Director. I also manage the Symphony Chorus, organizing singers and providing the coordination necessary to have a chorus on the stage during performances when the musical works on the program require one.

Which performance are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to the Utah Symphony Concerts on April 20 & 21—Grieg’s Piano Concerto.

This concert has a subtle theme—it features works by Nordic composers whose lifetimes spanned the 19th & 20th Centuries. I can claim Danish ancestry through both my mother and father, so maybe it’s this heritage that has me excited to attend! The works on the program are all among the gems of each composer’s compositions:

The Grieg Piano Concerto is one of those works of classical music that everyone has most likely heard (at least in part) whether you realize it or not. It’s an exciting concerto to the end, even if all you recognize are those first few opening bars from the piano.

Nielsen’s Helios Overture takes listeners on a voyage. Bookended by tranquility and peaceful musical passages, it builds to (and then descends from) exuberant and virtuosic playing.

Upon hearing the Sibelius Second Symphony for the first time, it was for me an instant favorite. Perhaps a bit lesser-known than the symphonies of Beethoven, Mahler or Tchaikovsky, Sibelius’ 2nd is no less musically satisfying. Sibelius creates a wide range of emotions and employs many different sound combinations and memorable melodies that keep me engaged throughout the symphony. It’s a great work that I am very much looking forward to hearing performed live by the fantastic musicians of the Utah Symphony.

What do you like to do before the show?

I like to find a good parking spot early with plenty of time to travel by foot to a nearby local restaurant for dinner before the concert begins. Attending the pre-concert lecture is always enjoyable and a great opportunity to hear from the evening’s performer (if present) and learn about his or her musical perspective and experience.

Three debuts. Three incredible concerts.

April is a big month for grand entrances—this month we have three marvelous musicians from all over the globe who will make their debut with us. Each of these talented artists will make an unforgettable entrance you won’t want to miss!

First on the schedule, internationally-acclaimed conductor Karina Canellakis will conduct a remarkable performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian” Symphony as well as Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Conrad Tao and Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit.

Her resume is quite impressive. In addition to being a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Juilliard School—and the winner of the 2016 George Solti Conducting Award—she is an accomplished violinist. As if that didn’t already knock your socks off, she conducted at BBC Proms last year. Watch an excerpt of her brilliant performance here:

On April 20-21 we’ll perform the Grieg Piano Concerto with Alexandra Dariescu. This Romanian pianist was recently named as ‘one of 30 pianists under 30 destined for a spectacular career’ by International Piano Magazine. In fact, her career has already been spectacular—and no doubt will only get better!

Not only is she an accomplished pianist—as we can see in this clip of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1…

… she also knows how to bring music to life! Recently, she re-interpreted the music of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and set it to choreography and animation using projection technology. You can learn more about it in the clip below:

Finally, we’ll end April with an unforgettable performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concertos No. 1 and No. 2 by Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg. He has been praised for his deep and insightful sensitivity as well as his compelling interpretations.

Don’t believe us? Watch for yourself here:

You won’t want to miss these incredible and historic debuts this month. Abravanel Hall awaits—find tickets here.

Inside the Music: Franck’s “Le Chasseur maudit” (The Accursed Huntsman)

In any given symphony season, it’s important to balance the giants like Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler with lesser-known composers who, despite their lack of widespread name recognition, have produced a great body of work in the symphonic medium. As for this weekend specifically, I don’t think I have to tell you why Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev are worth coming to Abravanel Hall to listen to, especially since we have one of our favorite pianists, Conrad Tao, back in Utah to perform Prokofiev’s famously bold and inventive Second Piano Concerto. To start off the program, though, the Utah Symphony will perform César Franck’s tone poem Le Chasseur maudit, or in English, The Accursed Huntsman. Franck’s name may be familiar to particularly avid classical music fans, but his name certainly doesn’t garner the same recognition as the other two composers that occupy this particular program. Despite Franck’s relative obscurity, The Accursed Huntsman is an incredibly thrilling, melodic, and listenable work, and should excite you just as much as the rest of the program this weekend.

First, a quick primer on Franck: born in December of 1822 at Liège, in what is now Belgium, César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (yes, that is his real name!) spent most of his adult life as an organist in Paris. During his lifetime, he was known as an avid improviser with massive hands that allowed him to perform harmonic feats many pianists couldn’t dream of accomplishing. Eventually, his fame as a performer led him to receive an appointment from the Paris Conservatoire. Though his appointment was to teach organ performance, he tended to give unsanctioned composition lessons as well and was maligned by some of his fellow faculty members for not adhering to the widely accepted theories and strict rules that often govern composition technique, at least in the teaching stages. Franck did not gain much recognition for his compositions during his lifetime—his Symphony in D, which is now arguably his most well-known work, was badly received by critics and disliked by the Conservatoire orchestra who premiered the piece. Most of his other works followed this trend, only a few receiving real praise from his contemporary critics. Franck passed away of a respiratory infection in 1890, still known above all for his virtuoso solo career but loved nonetheless by his contemporaries, including the subject of our season-long symphonic cycle, Camille Saint-Saëns.

The Accursed Huntsman was composed in 1882 and premiered in March of 1883 to a long ovation, an unusual response for Franck in his time. Franck was inspired by the German Romantic ballad Der wilde Jäger (or The Wild Hunter) written by Gottfried August Bürger in 1777, which describes a Count who defies the Sabbath to go hunting. Though the work is through-composed (meaning there are no breaks between sections), there are four distinct scenes: The Peaceful Sunday Morning, The Hunt, The Curse, and The Demons’ Chase.

The work begins, as one might expect, with the horns blasting a hunting call at full volume (a great way to kick off a concert!) The horns then fade out, and a pure, singing passage in the cellos illustrates the gently rolling hills and faithful worshippers heading to church on a peaceful Sunday—until the horns interject once again with their hunting call. This time, the peaceful cello theme returns with church bells and woodwinds gently chiming, calling all to worship. Defiantly, the horns continue to build in the background until we reach a climactic, sweeping full orchestral moment. If you didn’t know any better, you might think you’d stepped into the third act of a Wagner opera or perhaps a Rachmaninoff symphony on accident—Franck uses the full power of the orchestra to create this glorious moment.

And then, we’re off! The second part of the work, “The Hunt,” begins suddenly with an abbreviated version of the horn call we’ve already heard a few a times before. This time though, the woodwinds respond as the collective voice of the faithful, repurposing the melody of the horn call as a desperate, and at times admonishing, plea to the Count to call off the hunt and find his rightful place in the pews of the church instead. The strings begin to build ominously with interjections from the winds and brass, ramping up the intensity of the hunt. Now the full orchestra is behind the Count, urging him on as he speeds through the forest at an electrifying pace. The woodwinds provide fleeting virtuosic passages and trills, while the brass act as the driving force behind this forbidden hunt. Soon though, the cello theme from the first section returns in variation, following the Count even as he leaves the church far behind. God is following him on his unholy hunt, just waiting for his chance to punish the foolish Count. Soon, the orchestra reaches a grinding halt, just a tremolo in the low strings remaining.

Now we begin the third section of the work, “The Curse.” In a cruel twist of fate, the horns who once championed the Count’s hunt are now the start to his downfall, their sound transformed by being played “stopped” (the horn players achieve this metallic sound by placing their hand in the bell). String tremolos fade in and out as a new “Curse” theme is intoned by the clarinets and trumpets, followed by the trombones. The Count cannot move and his horn will not sound—suddenly, a voice comes down from the heavens to curse him to be chased by demons for all eternity. The orchestra builds to a crashing triple-forte as the curse is complete, and suddenly the Count is off again! But this time, he is the one being hunted. Thus begins the final section of the tone poem, “The Demon’s Chase.” Here we hear echoes of Berlioz’ famous final movement of Symphonie fantastique depicting the witches’ Sabbath. The music once again dramatically builds in pace and volume as the Count furiously tries to escape the demons—fleeting downward scales and trills from the high woodwinds abound, as well as rapid interjections from the brass. The strings join in with their frantic ostinatos, and before we know it the orchestra fades to a whisper before providing a final, staccato G-minor chord, God’s final word to the doomed Count.

All this action takes place in 15 short minutes and will certainly kick off this weekend’s concerts with a bang! We hope to see you this weekend at Abravanel Hall to enjoy Franck’s The Accursed Huntsman alongside Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 “Little Russian.”

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.