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Exhibitions and Events

Highlights: The New York Philharmonic’s 2017 U-M residency with UMS

By Sydney Hawkins

Gavin Creel (right) dances with Bette Midler and Taylor Trensch in "Hello Dolly!" Creel won a 2017 Tony Award for his role as Cornelius Hackl. Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes.
ANN ARBOR—When the New York Philharmonic came to Ann Arbor for their second major orchestral residency with the University of Michigan’s University Musical Society (UMS) Nov. 16–19, U-M students took center stage.

Actor Jeremy Irons performed Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 (“Kaddish”) to close the 2017 New York Philharmonic residency on Sunday, Nov. 19. Photo by Peter Smith.

The residency—which featured three main stage performances at Hill Auditorium, pop-up concerts at downtown Ann Arbor restaurants, master classes, lectures, and workshops—was part of “Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival,” which celebrated former Philharmonic music director and laureate conductor Leonard Bernstein on the centennial of his birth. This year’s residency deepens the relationship between UMS, the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) and the Philharmonic, which did a previous residency in Ann Arbor two years ago. As the orchestra seeks to expand audiences,the University Musical Society is a natural partner. The unprecedented partnership between a university and one of the world’s renowned orchestras brought world-class musicians to Ann Arbor and offered SMTD students an opportunity to study and perform with them. More than 2,500 students attended the three main stage concerts at significantly discounted ticket prices, accounting for 30% of the audiences. In addition, over 2,100 people attended the many free residency activities. Here are some of the highlights from their November 2017 visit.


To kick off their UMS residency on the evening of Nov. 16, U-M students performed side-by-side with New York Philharmonic musicians in two NY PHIL Off The Grid chamber music pop-up concerts. The last-minute, pop-up vibe has been a defining characteristic of NY PHIL Off The Grid concerts since the Philharmonic launched the series two years ago in New York, offering chamber music, food, and drinks in intimate settings such as bookstores, cafes, and smaller performance venues. Marking the first time the popular series had been presented outside of New York City, the downtown Ann Arbor locations were kept secret until the day before the event.
  • U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance tuba Student Evan Zegiel at "NY PHIL Off The Grid" at Avalon Cafe & Kitchen. Photo by Peter Smith
    U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance tuba Student Evan Zegiel at "NY PHIL Off The Grid" at Avalon Cafe & Kitchen. Photo by Peter Smith
  • NY Phil Brass Quintet at Off The Grid Ann Arbor Edition at Avalon Cafe. Photo by Peter Smith
    NY Phil Brass Quintet at Off The Grid Ann Arbor Edition at Avalon Cafe. Photo by Peter Smith
Over a thousand people entered the lottery for tickets, requesting more than 2,100 of them; only 300 spots were available. Lottery winners were notified on the morning of Nov. 15 about both locations and programs, adding another element of surprise to the event. Avalon Cafe & Kitchen featured the Philharmonic's Principal Brass Quintet: Christopher Martin and Ethan Bensdorf, trumpets; Richard Deane, horn; Colin Williams, trombone; and Alan Baer, tuba. U-M students joining them were Bret Magliola and Amanda Ross, trumpets; Arun Mangrulkar, horn; Zongxi Li, trombone; and Evan Zegiel, tuba. “It's a simple, brilliant idea to bring the live concert experience to people where they eat, work, play, and live,” said Christopher Martin, principal trumpet for the Philharmonic, who was the emcee for the Avalon performance. “Concerts like this are some of the most important we play.” The second concert featured New York Philharmonic percussionists Daniel Druckman and Kyle Zerna, and took place at Fred’s Ann Arbor. U-M students that accompanied them included Colleen Bernstein, Sofia Carbonara, Aaron Covey, Anthony DeMartinis, Nigel Fernandez, Danielle Gonzalez, Andrew Grossman, Griffin Harvey, Jonathan Mashburn, Colin McCall, and Tanner Tanyeri. U-M associate professor of music and director of percussion studies Joseph Gramley emceed the event. “The concert was really fantastic, and as their teacher, I’m proud of the students for stepping up to the challenge of performing with the highest caliber of professional musicians,” said Gramley. “Not only was it great for them to get this experience that was very similar to the high pressure situations they’ll encounter as musicians in the real world, but it also presented an opportunity for them to perform in a very different setting; it made them think about what audiences are looking for when it comes to new classical music today.”


Jamie Colburn and Jessica Gomes-Ng of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance joined the New York Philharmonic on Hill Auditorium’s stage on Nov. 18 to perform the roles of Tony and Maria, respectively, in selections from "West Side Story" as part of one of the Philharmonic's popular Young People's Concert series.
Musical Theatre majors Jamie Colburn and Jessica Gomes-Ng joined the New York Philharmonic on Hill Auditorium’s stage for the Nov. 18 Young People's Concert. They sang a selection from West Side Story as Maria and Tony.

Musical Theatre majors Jamie Colburn and Jessica Gomes-Ng joined the New York Philharmonic on Hill Auditorium’s stage for the Nov. 18 Young People's Concert. They sang a selection from West Side Story as Maria and Tony.

The casting extended the second year of the New York Philharmonic's five-year orchestral residency with UMS to the U-M Department of Musical Theatre, which is one of the top programs in the country and currently the most represented on Broadway. "This was such a great opportunity for the students, who traveled to New York had the chance to work directly with the New York Philharmonic for this mainstage concert, but also for the Philharmonic, which had the opportunity to see firsthand the incredible talent at the University of Michigan," said UMS president Matthew VanBesien. Inspired by Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts that were televised from 1958 until 1972, the Nov. 18 Young People's Concert explored the composer's indelible contributions to American concert life, Broadway musicals and opera. Colburn, a U-M junior working toward his BFA in musical theatre, is the founder and artistic director of Exit Left Theatre Company, located in his hometown of Holland, Mich. His performance credits include Connecticut Repertory Theatre's production of "1776," Encore Musical Theatre Company's "Sweeney Todd" and Festival 56's "The Drowsy Chaperone." At U-M, Colburn has performed in productions of "The Winter's Tale" and "A Man of No Importance." "I was a musician growing up and so was my dad, so it's not lost on me that I got to perform with some of the top musicians in the world, which is such a privilege," Colburn said. "What's even more exciting to me is that, on a personal note, my dad has always talked about watching the original Young People's Concerts by Leonard Bernstein when he was young, so this performance was really for him." Gomes-Ng is a musical theatre senior from Auckland, New Zealand. Recent credits at the university include "One Hit Wonder," "The Little Mermaid," "Hotel California," "The Tempest" and "Big Fish." "To say that I'm excited to have had the chance to perform with the New York Philharmonic is an understatement," Gomes-Ng said. "And to have performed the role of Maria—it resonates with me not only because of everything happening in the world today, but because of my personal story of overcoming cultural adversity. It was just such an honor."


Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin led the Philharmonic in the finale of the Bernstein Festival and UMS residency on Nov. 19. Evoking the chanted Jewish prayer of mourning, Bernstein’s powerful “Kaddish” Symphony was written in 1963 and is dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated just weeks before the first performance. The program opened with Richard Strauss’s witty vignettes of the bumbling knight-errant Don Quixote, the work that introduced Leonard Bernstein to New York Philharmonic audiences when he famously filled in with only a few hours’ notice, and without rehearsal, for an ailing Bruno Walter.

UMS and Interlochen Public Radio Broadcast: New York Philharmonic from UMS (University Musical Society) on Vimeo. The Sunday concert was broadcast live to communities in more than 20 counties in the northern part of Lower Michigan by Interlochen Public Radio and streamed online at Detroit’s WRCJ and East Lansing’s WKAR also carried the broadcast. The broadcast’s pre-concert hour was hosted by IPR’s Nancy Deneen and New York Philharmonic associate director of media production Mark Travis. Audiences can listen to the full broadcast here. Additionally, the concert will also be part of the syndicated radio concert series “The New York Philharmonic This Week” with a delayed broadcast nationally and internationally through the WFMT Radio Network.


No Safety Net, a three-week look at stage work that delves into socially relevant topics: slavery, terrorism, transgender identity, and recovery from addiction and depression. The four productions are animated by a community platform for important dialogue opportunities through an extensive contextual residency. Features two U.S. premieres, Jan. 17 -- Feb. 3 at Arthur Miller Theatre and Stamps Gallery. UMS Biennial Songfest, featuring four events in Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre:
    • What’s in a Song? Curated by Martin Katz, with performances by Nicole Cabell, Daniela Mack, Nicholas Phan, and John Relyea on Sat. Jan. 6
    • Janai Brugger, soprano on Wed. Jan. 31
    • Gabriel Kahane’s 8980: Book of Travelers on Fri. Feb. 2
    • Ian Bostridge / Schubert’s Winterreise on Sun. Feb. 4
Urban Bush Women, dance company from New York. Fri. Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Power Center. Russian Renaissance, 2017 winner of U-M’s M-Prize. Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium (includes free sensory-friendly open rehearsal at 11 a.m. that day). The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Sat. Feb. 17 at Hill Auditorium. A co-presentation of UMS and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  

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