Concerts & Events

VCUarts Music sponsors and hosts over 200 concerts and events on campus and around Richmond each year. Sign up for our mailing list to get the latest department news and information on upcoming events from VCU Music.


VCUarts Music COVID-19 Event Cancellations

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.

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.

The Menuhin Competition has been postponed until May 13-23, 2021. Any tickets purchased for Menuhin Competition events will be honored for the 2021 Competition.

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 under COVID-19. The university will continue to post updates at alert.vcu.edu. VCUarts will post updates at blogs.vcu.edu/artsdean.

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.

Pianist Zaiendae Smith awarded Beverly J. Warren Scholarship

Zaiendae Smith always hoped to pursue higher education in some form, but he doubted that a four-year university was in his future.

“I didn’t expect to go to college for a number of reasons,” he says. “I knew my parents didn’t have the resources to pay for my education. Plus, I doubted that I would even pass my audition. I didn’t think I was a good enough musician.”

Now a third-year piano performance major in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Smith has come a long way. In 2017, he was accepted into VCU’s Department of Music, making him the first person in his family to go to college. VCU has been life-changing, Smith says, but navigating higher education as a first-generation college student hasn’t been easy.

“I’m trying to figure things out as I go along,” Smith says. “It just makes the process more difficult. Just getting the money I needed for school was a challenge. If I want help, I have to go and look for it myself. It’s a lot of knocking on doors and saying, ‘Hey, what help is available to me?’”

Read the full story at Invest In Me. 

Composer brings sound design expertise to music and cinema programs

Filipe Leitão—an award-winning Brazilian-born composer, music producer, sound designer and orchestrator—recently joined the VCUarts Department of Music as an assistant professor. He will focus on composition and sound design for cinema, games and motion media, and will also teach for the Cinema program.

In the following Q&A, Leitão talks about his experience in composition and film scoring, and what to expect in his classes this fall.

How would you describe your composition style?

Generally, my style is more orchestral. It’s a lot of work to make a digital computer score sound like an orchestra, but that’s something I really love to make.

My job is to make the music work for the film or the game or whatever the visual medium is. If a filmmaker or game producer wants something country, even though I don’t have much experience with country music, I need to learn how to do that.

Tell us about some of the films and games you’ve scored.

In one film, Grounded, I collaborated with a filmmaker in California, who was doing animation. I found the trailer online and reached out to the director and said, “I’d love to score your animation.” He told me to score the trailer and send it back, and I got the job. I did the entire score and sound for that film. The film has no dialogue from actors, so I had to communicate feelings through music.

I also did a puzzle game that was a collaboration with a guy in California. He found me online and he thought my tracks matched the mood he wanted for that game. What’s different for games is, I don’t have visuals. I’m not scoring to the picture. I’m scoring for something that could work for 10 seconds or 5 minutes.

Read the rest of the Q&A at VCUarts.

KI chair collaborates with music professor on new releases

Sound artist and chair of the Department of Kinetic Imaging Stephen Vitiello has a new collaborator: Justin Alexander, director of percussion studies in the Department of Music.

Alexander has played on a few of Vitiello’s projects recently, including a limited edition single, A New Glow/Simple Interference, and the upcoming LPI  D R E W  A  F I S H  H O O K, A N D  I T  T U R N E D  I N T O  A  F L O W E R.

Vitiello says he doesn’t often make clear cut rhythms and tempos, creating a challenge for percussionists, but Alexander “masterfully found a kind of central pulse” for the tracks on A New Glow/Simple Interference.

“Beyond playing wonderfully,” Vitiello adds, “Justin brought an element of accessibility to my music. I can hear elements of trip hop in the single, as well as the influence of the band Tortoise. I don’t think I’d ever have gotten that without the drums.”

Vitiello’s upcoming LP—which will be released on the French label IIKKI Books on Nov. 21—was made with sculpture alumna Molly Berg (BFA ’04). It features Alexander on drums for one track, as well as Jennifer Choi on violin, Mike Grigoni on steel guitar and Marcus Fischer on Bass VI. A limited version of the release will also come with a book of photography.

This article originally appeared on the VCUarts blog.

Victor Dvoskin featured in Washington Post

Victor Dvoskin, professor of jazz bass, was recently featured in the Washington Post for his instrumental role in “the longest running jazz gig in D.C.”

“It’s not your typical ‘I’ll walk the baseline for you while you solo.’ It’s more constant communication,” notes Geoffrey Reecer, a member of the Air Force’s Airmen of Note, and one of three regular guitarists who play with Dvoskin. Adds pianist and occasional guest Harry Appelman, “His intonation, his soloing, the way he gets around the instrument — there’s a certain classical technique there.”

Twenty-two years and counting at the same spot in D.C.’s mercurial nightlife scene — still with no cover charge or minimum — is not an insignificant achievement, a throwback to an era when live jazz could be heard almost every night at most major hotels.

“There was a plethora of places, both big and small in D.C., and everywhere there used to be music: the Mayflower, the Willard, the bigger chains like the Ritz or the Sheraton and the Four Seasons,” says guitarist Donato Soviero, another Dvoskin regular. “But the day 9/11 hit, almost everywhere, the music was put on hold. And it never really picked up again,” he adds, noting that the digital music revolution also kicked in around that time, and hotels realized they could program their own musical choices for next to nothing in costs.”

Read the full article at the Washington Post.

Spotlight: Terralynn Mikell, violin

When Terralynn Mikell decided to apply to VCUarts, she was only focused on violin playing as a career. Fast-forward four years, and she was named among 12 of the Most Talented Photographers in Richmond by The Hub. What happened? Instagram (where she has over 30,00 followers!) helped, but skill building and hustling was the key to building a great portfolio and reputation – all the while pursuing her music studies.  Terralynn had a flair for expressing herself very early on, but it’s taken many different forms. “My first artistic memory is from when I was very young, about 2 or 3 years old –…I walked up to the stage in my church, grabbed the microphone, and started singing.”  From there, she started singing in church and school choirs. When she was in the fourth grade, her elementary school orchestra in Maryland performed at an assembly. Her violin journey started because of a classy pair of boots (noticing the visual!).  “It was a really simple thing,” she recalled. “There was a girl with cool boots and she played the violin…and I thought I want to do that, too!” She started playing shortly thereafter and became very serious towards the end high school. Meanwhile, Terralynn took lots of pictures on her iPhone, just as a hobby and a way to relax.  When she came to VCU, something happened that would take her hobby into a more serious direction.

“It all started with the VCU Workshop – the media center in the library,” she recalls.

The Workshop provides hardware, software, spaces, and expertise to VCU students and faculty for creative work of all kinds. Instead of signing out books from this part of the library, students can sign out cameras, recording equipment, 3-D printers, studios and more. It’s a library for hands-on making and exploring emerging technologies. “All of a sudden I had access to high-end lens photography equipment, that changed everything. The staff there was so nice, they even showed me a few techniques along the way.” Friends who needed recital poster pictures started asking her to take photos. After posting some of her recital pictures, demand for her services grew, and photography turned into a real side-hustle. She got better and better, and more well known.

Terralynn’s goals of becoming a great violinist didn’t change, she just added another passion.  It turns out that when are really passionate about something, a critical mindset quickly accompanies that passion – that’s something that the process of being a musician and a photographer have in common. “At first, I wasn’t so critical of my own pictures, but now that I’ve grown, I’m a lot more judgmental about my own work. Now I notice the smallest flaw and it drives me absolutely crazy.”

Well, that critical eye has paid off. She has built up a large portfolio of gigs, including taking pictures for Ebony Magazine at Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival 2019. At the same time, she has been playing church and wedding gigs on violin. She credits her friends at VCU with supporting and inspiring her along the way. First of all, she was surrounded by other artists. The VCU School of the Arts is not only one of the best, (consistently ranking in the top 10 of Art and Design Schools by U.S. News and World Report), but also one the biggest with 3000 arts majors.

So what’s next for Terralynn? “First, I’m taking a little break, just to chill.” After 4 years of pulling double duty and graduating cum laude in May, that’s well deserved!  But, then, as in all creative disciplines, it’s back on the horse. “I want to do both – music and photography – who knows where it will all lead me.”  If you want to see some of her pictures, you can follow Terralynn’s work on Instagram @ terra.xoxo or visit her website terralynnjoy.com.


Passion and discipline: how Rex Richardson masters the trumpet

Rex Richardson could not shake his cough all summer. No matter where he went—a residency in France, a jazz club in Austria, a festival in Spain—he wrestled with a respiratory ailment that was fighting for center stage. Not an ideal scenario for a trumpet player.

“After 25 years of touring, it’s the first time I’ve ever been sick overseas,” says Richardson.

Yet, he played on.

Richardson’s summer itinerary was packed—he couldn’t afford to bow out. In early May, he wrapped up final exams and boarded a flight to France the next day. By the end of the month he was in Vienna, Austria, for a weeklong engagement at the oldest jazz club in Europe: Jazzland.

“Then I was home for three weeks,” says Richardson. “I was very happy about that, because then I had to go to the Interlochen Trumpet Institute in Michigan.”

The rest of his summer saw him bouncing around Europe, from the Blekinge International Brass Academy in Karlskrona, Sweden, to a flurry of engagements as a featured soloist at Spanish, Italian and Finnish festivals. In August, he left Europe for one more festival in South Korea, only to return to Richmond just days before classes began.

Read the rest of the article at VCUarts.