Louisville String Academy Locks in Grant

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We’re going to toot our own horn here. Or, more accurately, we’re going to sing the praises of the amazing work that SSMF artist-faculty members are doing. Brittany MacWilliams (violin), Paul York (cello), and Sidney King (double bass) are all involved with the Louisville String Academy, which just landed a major three-year grant from Starling Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting classical violin study at the highest level. We’re thrilled to have these three movers and shakers on faculty at SSMF this year.

Read the press release: Starling Foundation Awards Grant to Louisville String Academy

Sewanee Summer Music Festival

Brittany MacWilliams, Paul York, and Sidney King

Q&A with Peter Bond, trumpet

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Sewanee Summer Music Festival

Peter Bond responds to a question from SSMF Alumni  with advice on playing the piccolo trumpet.

Hello, *******

Regarding proficiency on the piccolo trumpet, practice, practice practice is right, but perhaps practice a little differently. It’s easy to forget that you are taxing your chops a lot more than on the Bb or C, so you have to rest more often, and perhaps longer.

There is always temptation to get right to the repertoire, but basic studies such as flexibilities, scales, and intervals are critical; we’re more likely to think about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it than when tackling Bach’s  b-minor Mass or Brandenburg #2. When playing exercises, rest as much as you play (four bars on four bars off), or even more than you play in high register (maybe 4 on, 6 off).

Beware too, of playing too loud. The piccolo projects like crazy, and you can use a much lighter and more delicate approach, almost as if you were playing a woodwind instrument. NEVER force it; if a note or passage won’t come out, change your approach, or rest… or both. Learn to “finesse” it. Think “small, light, delicate.” Depending on what kind of work you have coming up, you may want to switch often between your big trumpets and piccolo (orchestra audition preparation, for example).

Some techniques include playing studies such as Clarke #2 in parallel; on Bb, then up an octave on piccolo. You may also want to practice exercises LIGHTLY in the upper octave on your Bb with the piccolo mouthpiece, the move to piccolo trumpet. Start “weighting” your practice toward the upper register. For example, play scales and slur patterns from top to bottom and back, and linger (long tones) on the top notes. Hang out more in the mid-high register. Extend your “comfort zone.”

Remember to rest often. Do not practice on fatigued, swollen chops.

There are no “high notes,” just faster vibrations.

I probably talked to you at Sewanee about how your tongue position can be a great help in upper register playing. Here’s where it can pay off.

The upshot is that there are no hard & fast rules. Be creative, intelligent and (hardest of all), PATIENT. The cliches are true; there are no shortcuts.

Good luck,

Conductor Rossen Milanov will hold the podium in final week of SSMF

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Sewanee Summer Music FestivalRossen Milanov


“Milanov masterfully framed the piece with a traditional sense of pacing, light and shade, tension and release, beginning and end, that drew you so much into this idiosyncratic world that you no longer needed to probe it for logic. It effectively seeped into your consciousness … You couldn’t hope for a more inviting performance.” – David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“As Milanov seems to prove with every concert, to have players for a relatively short time, while keeping an orchestra consistently fine, takes vision and passionate dedication.” - Lew Whittington, The Huffington Post

A quick profile of Rossen Milanov: 

  • Geographically, he’s covered a lot of ground. In addition to his post as Music Director at the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Milanov also serves as Principle Conductor for the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA) in Spain and Music Director for Symphony in C out of Collingswood, New Jersey. He was named Bulgaria’s 2005 Musician of the Year and has led a large number of major international orchestras. (See his biography for details.)
  • He’s done some neat collaborations with some neat musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Midori, Christian Tetzlaff, and André Watts. He’s also worked with vocal powerhouses like Nicolai Ghiaurov, Vesselina Kasarova, Angela Meade, Measha Brueggergosman, Anne Schwanewilms and Krassimira Stoyanova. We’d say that’s something to write home about.
  • There are many sides to Milanov. He participates in an outreach program each year called “Link Up” that offers more than 15,000 children in grades 3 - 5 the opportunity to perform with a professional orchestra, he has collaborated artistically in the ballet and opera worlds, he supports new music, holds a masters in oboe performance and has culinary skills that he often dedicates to charities.

Read more about Rossen Milanov at

Read the full 2014 Conductor line up here.

JoAnn Falletta joins the SSMF Guest Conductor Line Up

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JoAnn Falletta

“One of the finest conductors of her generation.” - The New York Times Sewanee Summer Music Festival

“Falletta conducted with a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein. Faletta has won conducting awards named for Toscanini, Walter and Stokowski. That seems appropriate as her podium work draws on the legacy of all three-Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, and Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship.” - The Washington Post

Three things we want you to know about JoAnn Falletta:

  • She inspires us! Described as a “leading force for the music of our time” (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), Falletta serves as Music Director for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center. This is in addition to helping to build music audiences in her local community (Buffalo, New York) and guest conducting around the world.
  • The development of young musicians is important to her.* Falletta is a strong advocate and mentor for young professional and student musicians, as demonstrated by her numerous conducting appearances at top conservatories and national summer programs: Curtis, Julliard, Mannes, Manhattan School, Interlochen, Round Top and Brevard, among others.
  • You may have heard her conducting without realizing it. Falletta’s talent has not gone unnoticed. The maestro boasts an illustrious recording and broadcasting career. has multi-year recording agreements with the Virginia Symphony and the Ulster Orchestra and has released many recordings with orchestras led by Falletta. Her Naxos recordings have garnered nine Grammy nominations and won two Grammy awards and she’s been invited to appear on National Public Radio (NPR), the European Broadcasting Union, and PBS television. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. See her biography for more.
    — Bonus: JoAnn Falletta is the current artist of the week.
*It’s important to us, too, Maestro! Which is why we think you’re going to have a great time here at Sewanee. We hope you’re pleasantly surprised by the dedication and energy our students put into their work each summer.

Read more about JoAnn Falletta at

See the full 2014 SSMF Conductor line up here.

Guest Conductor for Week Two... Mark Russell Smith

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Sewanee Summer Music FestivalSewanee Summer Music Festival announces the 2014 Guest Conductor for Week 2…

Mark Russell Smith

“Conductor Mark Russell Smith brought energy to the podium, often choosing invigorating tempos and raising lesser-heard phrases to the forefront.” - Columbus Dispatch

But Smith and the Santa Barbara Symphony did more than present a competent performance—they gave it new depth, with perfectly balanced harmonies, and carefully measured crescendos, showing us the contours of the work with only our imaginations providing the images to accompany it.” - Santa Barbara Independent

Three things about Mark Russell Smith:

  • It’s all about the music. He has an “enthusiastic commitment to the art of music-making” and is passionate about his craft. Evidently, this translates to his conducting. To quote The Washington Post, “Smith’s gifts as a sympathetic Mahler interpreter were most evident in the slow movement, which achieved heartfelt eloquence in an aura of hushed intimacy.”
  • He boasts a broad swath of international engagements, including guest conducting with a number of prominent institutions: the St. Louis Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Virginia Opera, Orquesta Sinfonica de Costa Rica, the Curtis Orchestra… and many more (we’ll let you read the full list on his biography.)
  • He pushes the envelope in a meaningful way. Smith holds a strong interest in new music, and in making music accessible and relevant world wide. Often he accomplishes this with the use of technology*. This has been demonstrated by his involvement in contemporary, innovative projects such as St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Engine 408, Hún Qiáo (“Bridge of Souls”, a concert of remembrance with YoYo Ma and and members of the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota), University of Minnesota’s Britten Peace Project and the International Piano-e-Competition. Mark Russell Smith’s creativity is on a mission.

Read more about Mark Russell Smith at

Read about all 2014 SSMF Conductors here.

Week 1 Conductor Announced: Kenneth Kiesler

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We are proud to announce the 2014 Sewanee Summer Music Festival Week One Conductor…

Sewanee Summer Music Festival

Kenneth Kiesler

“There do exist great American conductors, and Kiesler is one of them! Standing on behalf of the music he serves, he conducts from memory with unaffected gestures both precise and passionate. Nothing is unecessary in his conducting; yet everything is there. Very beautiful work!” - Roger Bouchard (Ensemble Orchestral de Paris)

“Mr. Kiesler drew an assured, colorful performance, winning a prolonged ovation… The Account of Mahler‟s “Titan” Symphony was solid and winning…” - The New York Times (Manhattan Chamber Sinfonia and principal players of the New York Philharmonic)

Three things to know about Maestro Kiesler:

      • He’s a pioneer! Described as “… an intense and charismatic leader with a vibrant conducting style” (Omaha World Herald, Omaha Symphony Orchestra), and as having ”A refreshing Vision… allowing innate brilliance to come through” (Los Angelas Times, San Diego Symphony Orchestra), Kiesler blazes a trail both on and off the podium. 
      • – Bonus fact: In addition to his many noteworthy accomplishments in conducting, Kiesler is also founder of the Illinois Chamber Orchestra and Illinois Symphony Chorus. 
      • You probably want to go to him for travel tips. He’s led orchestras on at least three different continents and in several countries, including Mexico, Brazil, China, and Japan (that’s not even close to the full list - see his biography for more). We are guessing that the maestro knows his way around an airport.
      • New music is a big deal to Kiesler. In his own words, he is “a passionate advocate for new music and living composers”, having led premiers by Evan Chambers, Steven Stucky, Gunther Schuller, Leslie Bassett, Ben Johnston, Aharon Harlap, Gabriela Lena Frank, Kristen Kuster, Steven Rush, and Paul Brantley.

Sewanee Summer Music Festival

Looking forward to having you here at Sewanee, Maestro!

Read Kenneth Kiesler’s full biography on

See all 2014 Festival conductors here.

Thank you for 2013.

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As I look out my window today on bare trees and gray skies, it is wonderful to remember how that view looked last June, and what delightful sounds accompanied it! Sewanee Summer Music Festival has one purpose – to provide young people a summer home in which to grow, explore, find their voice in the future of music. It exists for one reason – you believe in those young people, and you make it happen!

In the relative calm of winter, I remember the fantastic craziness of last summer! We put on 25 concerts in 30 days! We brought a new piece of music into existence – our own Sidney King’s Entre dos luces, in celebration of new Resident Conductor, Octavio Màs-Arocas (which received a performance last month by the Louisville Orchestra. Yes, Sewanee is finding its voice and sharing it with the world!). We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring. We so loved a piece by student violist Nick Bizub that we added it to our program on our final weekend. For one crazy, exciting month we watched 200 young musicians collaborate with our devoted faculty, build a community around great music, and make us believe that the future of music is in very good hands indeed.

In a few short months we will invite a host of great musicians through Sewanee’s gates once again. This year’s we’ll welcome Béla Fleck, from whom we’ve commissioned a new work to feature SSMF faculty and students. We will be expanding our piano program. We are programming great works of the past alongside new pieces to excite your ears. We can’t wait to show you what’s next!

As we bid adieu to 2013, I want to express my tremendous gratitude to you. Your devotion, support, open ears, smiles and applause mean everything to our students. If you would like to include SSMF in your year-end giving plans, click here on or before December 31. Your support, in all the ways you offer it, means so much to us!

We at SSMF wish you and yours a most joyous holiday season.

- Katherine Lehman,  Festival Director

The Knights (with Brooklyn Rider) perform in Sewanee, April 2012

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The New York-based chamber orchestra, The Knights, will perform on the Sewanee Performing Arts Series, April 14, 2012.  The orchestra includes the members of Brooklyn Rider, SSMF 2011 guest artists in residence.  Brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen, are co-artistic directors.  Eric serves as the group’s conductor while Colin and violinist Johnny Gandelsman share concertmaster duties.

The Knights are an orchestra of friends from a broad spectrum of the New York music world who cultivate collaborative music making and creatively engage audiences in the shared joy of musical performance. Led by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they expand the orchestral concert experience with programs that encompass their roots in the Classical tradition and their passion for musical discovery.

Follow the exciting work of the Knights on their website, and if you live nearby, mark the date on your calendar!

SSMF Faculty to Perform "Trout" at LSU

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On Sunday, November 20, 2011, five SSMF faculty will join forces to perform the beautiful Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 114, D. 667, “Trout”, at Louisiana State University. The members of the ensemble include Lin He, violin; Hillary Herndon, viola, Paul York, cello, and Sidney King, bass. Also on the program is Schubert’s magnificent work, the Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D. 821, performed by violist Hillary Herndon and pianist Kevin Class (SSMF 2011 guest artist.)

To our faculty colleagues: break a leg!

Lehman and O'Dell Perform in Michigan

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On Oct. 1, 2011, clarinetist Justin O’Dell and violinist (and SSMF Director) Katherine Lehman joined Gwendolyn Burgett Thrasher, marimba, to perform Kevin Puts, “And Legions will Rise” at the eighth annual Clarinet Spectacular on the campus of Michigan State University. SSMF alumni and students of O’Dell, Devin Langham, Jennifer Tinburg and Michelle Lewandowski offered enthusiastic support from the audience!

The work, which was performed on the Faculty Chamber Music Series this past July, was composed in the summer of 2001, and is about the power in all of us to transcend during times of tragedy and personal crisis. Puts says, “While I was writing it, I kept imagining one of those war scenes in blockbuster films, with masses of troops made ready before a great battle. I think we have forces like this inside of us, ready to do battle when we are at our lowest moments.”

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