How Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Kurt Elling developed his chops singing motets by J.S. Bach

Though Kurt Elling is one of the most well-loved and highly praised jazz singers of our time, he first developed his chops singing Bach motets. As Elling returned to his native Chicago for performances at City Winery, he spoke about how classical music has influenced him throughout his life. Though Elling confessed, “I never thought of a professional career in music,” becoming a ...

5 Rising Stars in Classical Music Who Got Their Start in Chicago

Many musicians have started their careers in Chicago, and some of them have also studied at the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago. Founded in 2006, the Academy was established to serve as a training center for gifted pre-college classical musicians. The program is designed for piano and strings. “The Academy was modeled after another program, the oldest of its ...

Chicago Fringe Opera Brings Rarely Performed Glass Opera ‘In the Penal Colony’ to the Windy City

At 79 years old, Philip Glass has composed 27 operas. Yet, only a handful have been performed in Chicago, though the composer spent formative years in the Windy City as a student. Still, Chicago has been home to a couple of important Glass premieres. In 2002, the Goodman Theatre presented the world-premiere of Galileo Galilei, which the theater also commissioned. Two years earlier, his In the ...

How Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ Became an Opera

“Opera is an irrational art form,” Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec reflected as he prepares for the world premiere of his latest work, The Shining, at Minnesota Opera. “The first question that a composer must ask when writing an opera is: why are the people singing? There has to be a reason why these people standing on stage are singing ...

15 Books About Music For the Young & Young at Heart

Every library could use more books! Here are our top books about music for the young and the young at heart.

Conductor Mariss Jansons on Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony, Music, and Politics

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, titled “Leningrad,” was written during one of the most horrific sieges in history. From 1941 to 1944, Hitler’s army surrounded Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and over one million civilians died. Conductor Mariss Jansons, renowned for his interpretations of Shostakovich symphonies, has a particularly interesting connection to Leningrad. Jansons was born in Soviet-controlled Latvia. Later, he would ...

Leif Ove Andsnes on Becoming Beethoven, Brahms

Like most musicians, Andsnes does not always get to pick and choose what he plays. In recent years, however, Andsnes has been able to immerse himself in some of his favorite repertoire. “I just finished a four year Beethoven journey where I immersed myself in the music of this great composer, especially his five piano concertos,” he said. “I basically just played Beethoven for years.”

The Truth About the “Worst Singer of All Time,” Florence Foster Jenkins, Told by Her Accompanist

Florence Foster Jenkins couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Yet, she made her Carnegie Hall debut to a completely sold-out house on October 25, 1944. In fact, tickets were so in-demand that the night of the performance, 2,000 people hoping to grab seats to hear Jenkins were turned away.

Tenor Javier Camarena on His History-Making Met Encore

Tenor Javier Camarena made history on March 12, 2016, when he performed an encore during a performance of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Metropolitan Opera, making him one of three singers to offer encores so in the company’s recent history. He spoke about performing the encore, the music itself, and other exciting moments in his career in anticipation of his upcoming performance in ...

“Rhythm is universal”: Tabla Player Zakir Hussain on Music, Politics, & Cross-Cultural Collaboration

When Zakir Hussain, one of the world’s greatest percussionists, speaks about his childhood in Mumbai, it’s easy to understand how his career has led him to collaborations with diverse artists from Ravi Shankar to Yo-Yo Ma to Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. “Every day I grew up studying the Quran, singing Christian hymns, and playing Hindu devotional music,” Hussain said ...

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