Jazz Concerts & Events

Menuhin Competition Postponed Until 2021

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and in line with recommendations from both international and U.S. public health officials, the Menuhin Competition Trust and the Richmond Symphony have decided to postpone the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 until May 13-23, 2021.

Participants, jurors and guest artists

All 44 competitors who were selected for the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 have been invited to participate in the rescheduled Competition. The competitors will play the same repertoire and will participate in the same division for which they qualified in 2020, even if they have aged out of this division in the intervening year. Updated information about participating competitors, jurors and guest artists will be released later this spring. Early indications suggest that many of our participants will happily be able to join us in May 2021, including the Sphinx Virtuosi, Mark and Maggie O’Connor, Regina Carter, and Intermission; as well as conductors Jahja Ling and Andrew Litton.

“I look forward to welcoming all the competitors, jurors, artists-in-residence and the audience to the Menuhin Competition next May,” said Gordon Back, Artistic Director of the Menuhin Competition. “Despite the world-wide coronavirus crisis causing us to postpone this year’s event, we are working hard with our partners, who really have made Herculean efforts to reschedule and ensure the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 is the most successful Competition ever!”

“I am positive that it will be a brilliant success,” Back added, “and as Menuhin himself said, ‘Our young gifted violinists will be the ambassadors of goodwill.’”

Executive Director of the Richmond Symphony, David Fisk, said on behalf of the host consortium of partners, “All of us involved in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 regret the need to postpone the event, but recognize the imperative to avoid any large gatherings until the COVID-19 danger has lifted. In the meantime, we hope everyone stays safe and healthy; music can be a source of uplift for all of us during this difficult and uncertain time. We look forward with great anticipation to hosting the Menuhin Competition in 2021, eagerly welcoming ‘the Olympics of the Violin’ to Richmond next May instead. The city is ready, our partners are ready, and during the coming year, we’ll work to make next year’s Competition even bigger and better than before.”

Ticketing information

If you purchased tickets to any of the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 events, those tickets will be honored in 2021. You will be contacted by box office staff to confirm your tickets or you can be issued a refund should you be unable to attend the Richmond 2021 Competition.

If you have questions, please contact the VCU Music Box Office at musictix@vcu.edu, or Menuhin Competition Marketing & Sales Coordinator Ashley Davis at 804-788-4717 ext. 124 or adavis@richmondsymphony.com.

Rennolds Series Update

The safety of our patrons, staff and performers is top priority and the coronavirus pandemic still presents many risks in gathering for live performances. As such, we plan to delay the start of our season until January 2021. This may change subject to COVID-19 outcomes.

At this time, artist contracts are still pending and we are not able to announce specific performers or concert dates, with the exception of the rescheduled Menuhin Competition Jurors Showcase. This will take place on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.

Circumstances permitting, we are hoping to announce next season’s artists and mail subscription brochures in the late summer or early fall. To make up for the cancellation of the April 4 Jon Nakamatsu concert, the subscription pricing for returning subscribers in the 2021 season will be adjusted.

We appreciate your patience and support during this time as we work to present the Rennolds Series while making health and safety a priority. We look forward to seeing you again and sharing great chamber music with you.

VCUarts Music COVID-19 Updates

In response to the spread of COVID-19, Virginia Commonwealth University has moved all classes online and the university is operating with mandatory telework in place for most employees. Music faculty and staff are working remotely and are best reached by email for the foreseeable future. Visit our faculty directory for contact information.

VCUarts facilities are closed effective Friday, March 20. All scheduled department events for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester are canceled. Ticket holders for Department of Music events and Rennolds Series subscribers will be contacted via email with more information.

If you wish to receive a ticket refund, please contact musictix@vcu.edu with your order number(s) and the first and last name associated with the order(s).

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we adapt to new operating procedures due to COVID-19. The university will continue to post updates at alert.vcu.edu. VCUarts will post updates at blogs.vcu.edu/artsdean.

“Show the Love” VCU Jazz Band Documentary

“Show the Love” is a short documentary that was filmed by VCU student Nicholas Smith. The film gives a behind the scenes look into VCU Jazz Orchestra I. The documentary also features VCUarts Music professors Taylor Barnett, J.C. Kuhl, and Antonio García.

Congratulations Virginia NATS Winners 2020

Congratulations to the Virginia NATS Winners 2020!  The students listed below were recognized at the auditions of the Virginia chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) at Old Dominion University on February 14, 2020.  Students who placed earned the top scores in their respective groups, while those who received honors scored at least 90 out of 100 possible points.

Lower College Treble
2nd place – Jhilian Bremby – student of Margaret Woods
Honors – Gemauria Fennell – student of Margaret Woods
Felicia Josey – student of Cynthia Donnell
Katarina Izdepski – student of Kenneth Wood
Allison Yablonski – student of Sarah Walston
Helena Ruiz – student of Michelle Gulick and Melanie Day
Kari Nordvig – student of Margaret Woods
Cvana Clarkson – student of Margaret Woods

Lower College TBB
2nd place – Jaden Brown – student of Kenneth Wood and Melanie Day
Honors – Zachary Short – student of Kenneth Wood
Travis Krickovic – student of Cynthia Donnell

Fourth/Fifth Year Treble
1st place – Jasmin Ward – student of Cynthia Donnell and Melanie Day

Third Year TBB
2nd place – Jonathan Carr – student of Cynthia Donnell and Melanie Day
3rd place – Jared Robles – student of Margaret Woods

Fourth/Fifth Year TBB
1st place – Kevin Mann – student of Kenneth Wood and Melanie Day


Those who scored 90 or above at the chapter level are eligible to compete at the regional level, which comprises South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. This year the regional auditions will take place at the University of South Carolina on March 13-14.

VCU Opera professor Melanie Kohn Day published in Classical Singer Magazine

VCU opera professor, Melanie Kohn Day, recently interviewed prominent Broadway performer and director Dorothy Danner for Classical Singer Magazine. Day has brought Danner to work with her students three times in the past 10 years. Danner talks about her career as a dancer, actress, choreographer, and director.

Will you tell us about your start as a dancer, actress, and choreographer? 

I started dance lessons (ballet and a bit of tap) at 8. I started dancing as an equity union summer stock professional at 15 in St. Louis. I was not even able to attend my own high school graduation ceremony because at 18 I was hired for Broadway’s touring show of Li’l Abner and had to move to New York during the week of my graduation. I had already done 30 shows in St. Louis working 63 hours a week. Of course, in those days, there were no dance departments in colleges, so this was my only option. 

I had my very first vocal solo in this Broadway show. I’d never sung onstage before! Anyhow, I had a solo at the top of the show (she laughs) and it was scary. A few months after it closed, that show led to being hired for Once Upon a Mattress. I learned discipline and courage from the leading master of Broadway George Abbott, clowning from Carol Burnett, and physicalizing and comic dance ideas from Joe Layton. 

Did you have voice and acting lessons at some point? 

When I was 18, I realized what you had to do to stay in this business, so I started taking voice lessons from a teacher I had toured with in Li’l Abner. Someone eventually sent me to a voice teacher named Madame Tweety [laughter]—it was a Broadway style of singing. But she did make me sing Schumann’s “Ich grolle nicht.” I just had minimal talent as a singer. But I didn’t understand that until I started working in opera. 

Then, when I got hired for Once Upon a Mattress, Jane White (who was playing Queen Aggravain and who was a brilliant actress) watched me in rehearsal for two days and said, “You’re coming to my acting classes.” There was no choice with her! She saw some instincts in me, so she felt I should start training right away. She was a very technical teacher. 

I studied with her for years and then had another teacher after that for years as well. If you don’t get to go to university for training, then you have to figure it out yourself and keep your eyes open. Thank goodness I was always lucky enough to be employed, so I saturated myself by learning on the job. 

How did you get your start as a choreographer? 

Well, I fell into it because somebody opened a door and said, “We need your help!” And then I did Broadway show after Broadway show. At 22, I stopped doing it because I wanted to use the acting skills and comedy skills I had learned. So I did tons of industrial shows (they paid well) and then returned to Broadway about three years later.


Read the full article at Classical Singer Magazine.

Music professor’s love-hate relationship with practicing inspires guided practice journal

There’s help for musicians who need a little positive jolt in their practice routine. A Virginia Commonwealth University music professor has written a guided practice journal to help ignite their passion for practicing and help take them to the next level of playing.

“Many musicians feel they have no choice in the matter, they must make music,” said Susanna Klein, assistant professor of violin and coordinator of strings at the VCU School of the Arts. “For us, practicing has become a way of life.”

To help fellow musicians who are also driven to practice — which, she said, includes professionals, students and recreational players — Klein created the “Practizma Practice Journal: 16 weeks of Efficiency, Empowerment & Joy for Musicians.”

The book is a journey in creativity, discipline, courage and grit. It includes prompts for reflections, action challenges and goal-setting exercises. The reflections slow down the process and help connect musicians to what is important. For instance, one prompt asks you to write what makes practicing easy and what makes it difficult. Another asks you to recount your most meaningful experiences in music.

Read the full article at VCU News.

Singers in the hall: choir students prepare to belt ‘Carmina Burana’ in Carpenter Theatre

Everything about Carmina Burana is huge and imposing. It takes more than 100 performers to interpret it. Its libretto is written in Latin and Middle High German. And the whole production is based on medieval poetry encompassing life, death, pleasure and fate.

The VCU Commonwealth Singers mastered it in a month. And for three nights in September, they’ll join the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet and Richmond Symphony Chorus to perform it at Richmond’s Carpenter Theatre. They’ll also be accompanied by soloist and music alumna Zarah Brock (BFA ’15).

“The students have just taken it. They own this piece now,” said Erin Freeman, conductor, who is both the director of choral activities at VCUarts Music and the director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus. “It’s so fun to watch.”

Read the full article on the VCUarts blog.

VCU Music alumnus composes score for Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

There’s been a disturbance in the force! The anticipated video game, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, was released today and features music composed by VCUarts Music alumnus, Gordy Haab. Haab previously composed video game scores for Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire, Battlefront I, and Battlefront II.

“The John Williams element has to be there, at least for the audience to hold onto—to remind them that they’re in the Star Wars canon and the Star Wars universe,” Haab explained. “If you divert too far from that, you’re gonna lose people. Our goal was to see how far we could stretch and stray from that sound while still staying within the Star Wars universe. By doing that, we ended up creating something that is relatively new … Some of the music actually borders on gothic horror in some places and certainly dark, emotionally speaking. John Williams touched on it in some of the films, but I think this kind of lives there … The foundation of it is very much a dark score.”

Read the full article at Forbes.

Photo by EA

Antonio Garcia featured in DownBeat magazine December 2019 issue

Antonio García, Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies, is being featured in DownBeat Magazine. His article, Rules for Reharmonizing Melodies “On the Bus”, provides an in-depth lesson on how to reharmonize a melody without using an instrument. These advanced techniques give musicians more options and flexibility when rearranging their compositions. Readers who wish to learn more will have access to supplemental learning materials including online scores and audio examples.

Learn more here.