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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 email@example.com 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.
Prof. Tiffany Valvo was recently featured by the Institute for Music Leadership at her alma mater, Eastman School of Music.
1. As a relatively recent Eastman graduate, how have you found the transition from DMA student to full-time applied professor?
There are a few things that really helped me bridge the gap between being a student to getting my first job as a full-time professor. First, I did a lot of adjunct teaching in the final two years of my DMA; it was crucial to have that work experience on my CV so that schools were taking me seriously, even though it was music theory experience and not applied teaching. (I don’t think the specifics are as important as a committee knowing you have experience in the professional workplace.) Secondly, through work on my lecture recital and classes in the Department of Music Teaching and Learning, I began to develop ideas about who I wanted to be as an educator. I was accepted to two national conferences with presentations focused on improvisation the summer after I finished my degree, and these experiences were paramount in developing my voice as a performer and teacher, helping separate me from others with the same degree. Thirdly, my internship with Ensemble Signal through ALP lead to employment with the ensemble after my internship was over. This position fueled my experience doing administrative work, and eventually I helped run projects with Signal in California and at the Lincoln Center Festival. These experiences helped shine light on the fact that I was multi-faceted, and I think gave those looking at my CV confidence that I would be able to deal with the administrative responsibilities that come with being a full-time faculty member.
Collecting these experiences while I was completing the degree, or very soon after, gave me a strong enough footing to get my first full-time job one year after I finished my oral exams, and so I would say the transition was fairly smooth.
However, there are certain aspects of being a full-time professor that were difficult at first. I didn’t realize how much the students in my studio would rely on me for all types of support. It can be emotionally draining, and I am still figuring out when I can give that support, and how I can support my students by helping them understand where they can get the help they need. In addition, I believe the majority of music departments and schools in our country currently have a wide range of skill levels represented. Meeting each student’s needs, while addressing a standard of competency that you believe essential, is tricky. I would say those are the two things that have been most difficult to navigate as I transitioned into a full-time roll at VCU.
Erin Freeman, director of choral activities, will serve as the artistic director of this year’s Wintergreen Music Festival in Nellysford, Va, as well as the associated Wintergreen Music Academy. This year’s festival features concerts of a wide variety of genres, from pop to classical and jazz, along with cooking classes and events at neighborhood breweries.
In addition to her work at VCUarts, Freeman is also the director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus and an accomplished conductor who has taken the stage with orchestras throughout the United States.
During the festival, Freeman will teach a five-day “Music Fundamentals” course, focusing on the mechanics of rhythm, melody, harmony and instrumentation.
The Wintergreen Music Festival runs from July 8 to August 4. See the full schedule of events at the Wintergreen website.
When the curtain rises over the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall at the start of “The Pirates of Penzance,” it’s easy to become absorbed in the story of Frederic as he celebrates his 21st birthday and the end of his apprenticeship to a band of pirates. You’re probably not thinking about how, just moments ago, the singers were backstage warming up their vocal cords while a violinist practiced that tricky phrase one last time.
As you watch Major-General Stanley’s wards dance across the stage, you don’t imagine that hours earlier Melanie Kohn Day, director and producer of Virginia Commonwealth University Opera, was surrounded by curling irons and wigs as the pirates flipped through stuffed costume racks, and the crew checked lights and ensured all the show’s props were in place.
You’re definitely not thinking about how these students didn’t just have to learn the music and movements to arrive at this performance, but also skills that transcend it, such as audition techniques, a variety of accents and how to file taxes as a professional opera singer. You might not realize that you are looking at the company with the longest-running tradition of full-scale opera productions in Virginia.
You’d be forgiven for these oversights because, after all, that’s the point. You’re here to enjoy a show. But the months-long preparation by this team of opera professionals and undergraduates balancing work and school and life? It’s worth taking note.
As a jazz guitar major in the Department of Music at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, Richard Albright did not expect to spend time in a lab uncovering the secrets of a gene that could give insights into Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition.
Albright spent his first year at VCU taking classes focused on jazz, classical guitar, ensembles and music theory. But Albright said being exposed to other disciplines in college piqued his interest in science. He decided to take a semester off to explore other interests by taking introductory science classes at a community college and to complete basic emergency medical technician training.
“Once I had taken those courses, I knew I had to return to VCU and give science, specifically biology, my attention,” Albright said. “It’s difficult to put into words, but although I had a deep passion for music, being in a university exposed me to possibilities.”
Albright, a member of the Honors College, will graduate in May 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and music. Although seemingly disparate, both disciplines complement and improve the skills of the other, he said.
Music alumnus Gordy Haab (BM ’00) has built a career composing for films, television shows and video games. Haab is particularly known for his sweeping symphonic works—deeply influenced by his musical hero John Williams—that provide a soundscape for gamers as they navigate worlds from Star Wars to The Walking Dead.
Here, he talks about getting his start, how his analog process works in a digital world, and what it’s like to hear his work come to life.
Did you always plan to compose for video games? Or was that a natural evolution from working in film and television?
While I was in grad school at the University of Southern California, I met a friend who went on to become the head of music at LucasArts, which was Lucasfilm’s video game division. Around the same time, I had scored this Star Wars fan film called Ryan vs. Dorkman. We recorded it with an orchestra and it kind of blew up on YouTube back before blowing up on YouTube was a thing. Somebody at Lucasfilm saw it and reached out to my friend to say, “You should check this guy out.” He said, “Actually, we went to school together. I know this guy.” He called me up and I got hired to do this Indiana Jones video game, which was my first game.
It sort of snowballed from there. That led to scoring Star Wars: The Old Republic, which was my first big Star Wars title. From there, I became the go-to guy for Lucas and doing Star Wars-type music for their game projects.
How is composing for video games different from composing for film?
When you’re scoring for a film, you’re dealing with a fixed timeline. You write a cut for this scene, and the music leads up to the moment when they kiss, and then the music leads to the next cut to a new scene—and that timeline never really changes. With video games, it can be different every time the player plays the game. It’s the musical version of choose your own adventure books. I’ll write a one-minute piece of music for a battle sequence, and at the end of that minute, based on what the player’s doing, triggers within the game will tell the audio engine, the player is about to lose or about to win, or there are more enemies attacking or fewer enemies. At the next logical downbeat in the music, it might translate to a completely different version of that same piece of music that sounds more like you’re winning, or like you’re about to lose, with an impending doom kind of feel. Or it may dial back the intensity of the music and it becomes more of a dialogue-type of scene.
Jaylin Brown, Music student, talks about her VCUarts experience as a singer.
myVCUarts is a series that captures the experiences of student at VCU School of the Arts in their own words. These short videos take a candid look at the technical and conceptual work that VCUarts students undertake every semester. Learn how our students devise innovative ways of making, discover new ideas in research, work through creative challenges and explain why they love doing what they do.
Hamed Barbarji may only be a junior in the music department at VCUarts—but his résumé reads like a professional musician in the making. The trumpet player has subbed with the Richmond and Williamsburg symphonies and No BS! Brass Band. He leads his own jazz combo and picks up regular freelance gigs, performing both classical and jazz.
He’s even had the chance to sit in with his personal role model—Wynton Marsalis—during a rehearsal with Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“My senior year in high school, I was asked by the Virginia Arts Festival to busk outside of his concert,” Barbarji says. “I emailed him and told him everything that I do. I actually got a call from him and we talked for a good 30 minutes. He told me to let him know anytime I was in New York.
Taylor Barnett (MM ’04), assistant professor of music and jazz trumpeter, was interviewed by WCVE PBS on his new album Loose Ends. While every track was recorded with live musicians in one room, the album spans two sessions: one from 2005, and another from 2008.
They just have never gotten released for various reasons, so I figured it was time to clear the queue and get these out into the world. But now that such an amount of time has passed, it’s interesting to listen back and hear where I was creatively, and also where all these Richmond music artists were. So many of them are still here, but yet have gone on to bigger and better things, in some ways.