“Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”

March 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I remember the situation quite well.  It was just before 8 a.m., and while I cannot recall the classroom number, I recall sitting towards the far right side of the room.  In one way, I was a typical college student, drinking far too much coffee, but in many other ways, I was not.  On this particular day, I was talking to some of my classmates about my upcoming plans to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.  I did not realize it, but my music history professor, Dr. Gross, had overheard this pre-class conversation.  He darted from the classroom, and in what seemed like a flash, he was back, placing two things on my desk: the score and a 78 recording of Missa Solemnis.  He said, “Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”  From there, he started class and we went about our business.


Despite not discussing it any further with Dr. Gross, I accepted his generous lending of the score and recording, and for the week prior to the concert, I spent a tremendous amount of time listening to the great masterwork, following along with the score and becoming engrossed in the music.  When the time came for me to take my nosebleed seats in Chicago’s Symphony Hall, I knew better than to simply take in the performance as a 90-minute sound experience, but rather to listen closely to Beethoven’s masterful weaving together of orchestral and choral writing.  I understood how Beethoven used the music to express some of his deeply complicated beliefs and ideas of spirituality.  My brain and my ears were prepared to understand this monumental work, and unlike any experience I had prior, I could more fully understand the music I was hearing.

Two opportunities exist in the coming weeks for you to enjoy a similar preparation experience in advance of the HSO’s performances of Mozart’s Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1, “Jeremiah.”  Begun in 2013, the HSO offers a series of presentations called Tune-Up Talks, intended to help interested patrons “tune up” (just like the orchestra does) to maximize their HSO concert experience.  In partnership with the area’s community colleges and adult education programs, these interactive presentations help to provide attendees with a “road map” of what to listen for and how to more fully understand the music they will hear.


This spring Tune-Up Talks presentations around the Mozart-Bernstein concert are being offered at both Tunxis Community College (Sat., Mar 29 at 10 a.m.) and Manchester Community College (Monday, April 7 at 7 p.m.).  Through the respective college’s enrichment and non-credit offerings, interested patrons can pay a modest fee of $25 for the lecture-presentation, and in doing so, receive a voucher which qualifies them for the student ticket price ($10!) at the coinciding performance (in this case, April 10-13).  More information and links to the hosting colleges’ registration pages can be found at the HSO website:


If you think you might be interested in “tuning up” before you hear Mozart and Bernstein, consider registering soon as space is limited and deadlines are looming!

Know that if you attend one of these presentations, I will not simply show up and plop a score and recording in front of you.  Through listening and learning about the composers and works that will appear on the upcoming concert, your ears and mind (and maybe even your heart) will be prepared for a rich and rewarding concert experience.  Whether in the Farmington Valley at Tunxis or east of “the River” in Manchester, I hope you will join me for one of these upcoming presentations.  In the words of Dr. Gross, “Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”

Update:The music sites need special functions from high speed hosting in order to have better results.

Jeff Martin

Director of Community Engagement & Education

Hartford Symphony Orchestra

Food Drive This Saturday

December 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is teaming up with the South Park Inn for a food drive at the time of year when our community needs it most. We encourage you to bring non-perishable food items to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’sHoliday Cirque Spectacular on December 21 to help out those in need this holiday season. The items that are most needed are:


Canned Chicken

Canned Fruit

Canned Vegetables

Canned Tuna



Granola Bars

Jarred baby food

Laundry Detergent



Peanut Butter



There will be drop off tables throughout the lobby at The Bushnell where you can leave your food donation.

Looking for a place to eat before or after the show? On December 21,Peppercorn’s Grill will donate 5% of their food sales to South Park Inn. Help feed someone in need as you enjoy a meal at one of Hartford’s finest restaurants.


Thank you for lending a hand to help our neighbors in need and see you at the Hartford Symphony’s Holiday Cirque Spectacular.

Bachtoberfest: Hartford’s Bach and Organ Music Festival

October 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


To kick off our 70th Anniversary Season, we are presenting Bachtoberfest, a new music festival featuring music by Bach and music written for organ, October 4-12, 2013. The Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is the primary community partner for the festival; their members will be featured prominently on many of the performances and events. The festival will culminate with our 70thAnniversary Opening Night Concerts at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on October 11 & 12.

The festival includes free concerts and events at the Austin Organ Factory, Cathedral of Saint Joseph, Congregation Beth Israel, Hartford Public Library, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick St. Anthony, St. Brigid’s Church, First Church of Christ, United Methodist of West Hartford, and Central Baptist Church, amongst others.

HSO President & CEO Carrie Hammond says, “The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to fostering musical performances and inspiring others to present community-minded concerts. Bachtoberfest celebrates the uniquely rich musical offerings that are available in this area throughout the year. Hartford possesses a hidden gem in the Austin Organ Company, which has produced organs since 1893. Scattered throughout this region, including The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, are these world renowned instruments and performers who are drawn to this area to play them. We are thrilled to present this week-long series of events with the Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.”


Friday, October 4, 2013

Austin Organ Factory Tour
11:00 a.m.
A behind the scenes tour of the history Austin Organ Company and factory. Closed event for HSO subscribers;  events@hartfordsymphony.org for more information.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Organ Tour: United Methodist Church of Hartford
10:00 a.m.
Cheryl Wadsworth, organ

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: First Church of Christ
8:45 and 10:30 a.m.
David Spicer, organ
First Church of Christ Choir
8:45 a.m.
Bach Prelude
10:30 a.m.
Bach Postlude and Choral Anthem

Bach Prelude: Hilltop Covenant Church
9:30 a.m.
Carolyn Johnson, organ
Prelude (Fantasia) in G minor, BWV 542

Bach Prelude: First Church of Christ, Congregational
10:00 a.m.
Edward Clark, organ
Hartford Symphony organist Edward Clark will perform Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” BWV 653 on his morning service. Get a sneak peak of the talent that will be featured on the HSO’s Opening Night Performances October 11 & 12!

Organ Recital: Cathedral of Saint Joseph
10:00 a.m.
Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez, organ

Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: Christ Church Cathedral
10:00 a.m.
Deniz Uz, organ; Joshua Slater, music director
Choral Anthem: BWV 106b, O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht; Postlude: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548

Bach Prelude: First Church of Christ, Congregational
10:00 a.m.
Edward Clark, organ
Hartford Symphony organist Edward Clark will perform Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” BWV 653 on his morning service. Get a sneak peak of the talent that will be featured on the HSO’s Opening Night Performances October 11 & 12!

Bach Prelude and Postlude: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
10:00 a.m.
Deborah Gemma, organ

Bach Prelude, Postlude and Choral Anthem: St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church
10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
10:00 a.m. Mass
Organ Prelude:
Prelude in E Major (BWV 854), from The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Gallery Choir directed by Gabriel Löfvall, will sing Jesu, Meine Freunde, BVW 227
Organ Postlude:
Prelude in G major (BWV 860), from The Well-Tempered Clavier
5:00 p.m. Mass
Same organ prelude and postlude as at 10:00 a.m. Mass, plus:
The Treble Clef Choir directed by Pamela Johnson, Gabriel Löfvall, will sing Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier, BVW 373, and Den Tod, from Cantata BWV 4 (Christ lag in Todes Banden).

Bach Prelude & Postlude: St. John’s Episcopal Church
West Hartford
10:30 a.m.
Peter Berton, organ; Tanya Anisimova, cello
Prelude: All glory be to God on high, BWV 676, Postlude: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007,VI. Gigue

Bach Prelude, Postlude & Choral Anthem: St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
West Hartford
11:00 a.m.
Natasha Ulyanovsky, organ

Choral Sing-Along: St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
West Hartford
6:20 p.m.
Join the St. Brigid choir and soloists Kelly and David Boudreaux for this public sing along of Bach’s choral works.

Monday, October 7, 2013

HSO Musical Dialogues Series: Bach’s Lunch
Hartford Symphony Orchestra String Quartet
Hartford Public Library, Downtown Branch
12:00 noon
HSO Musicians will discuss and perform works by Bach at this free lunchtime concert. Repertoire will include Bach’s Contrapunctus I, IV, & IX from The Art of the Fugue, Fantasia & Fugue in G minor, and Aria & Variations 1-8 from Goldberg Variations, plus Robert Schumann’s Fugues No. 3 & 5 from “Six Fugues on B-A-C-H” and Clara Schumann’s  Three Fugues on Themes of J.S. Bach.
Sponsored by Travelers

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Organ Recital: Happy Recollections at Congregation Beth Israel
West Hartford
1:00 p.m.
Natasha Ulyanovsky, organ; Peter Dzialo, cello
Program to include Toccata by Theodore Dubois, Happy Recollections by David Popper; Sonata in D Major by J.S.Bach; Strange Meadow Lark by Dave Brubeck; La Folia by Arcangelo Corelli; and Peacherine Rag by Scott Joplin.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Organ Recital: Midday Music at Central Baptist Church
12:00 noon
Kari Miller and Jason Roberts, organists
Program to include Bach’s Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland (‘Savior of the Heathen, Come’), BWV 659 and Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (‘All Glory Be to God on High’), BWV 662, plus Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593

Friday, October 11, 2013

Organ Recital: Aetna
11:30 a.m.
Brian Parks, organ
Concert is closed for Aetna employees only.

Friday & Saturday, October 11 & 12, 2013

HSO Masterworks Series & Special Event: 70th Anniversary Opening Night!
Mortensen Hall at the The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
8:00 p.m.
Hartford Symphony Orchestra; Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Edward Clark, organ; Connecticut Youth Symphony, Daniel D’Addio, music director; Wu Man, pipa
We’re rolling out the red carpet for Opening Night! Two of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, Saint-Saëns’ massive Symphony No. 3 and Bach’s glorious Toccata and Fugue in D minor, will be played on The Bushnell’s historic, Hartford-made Austin pipe organ with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

Musicians Care Project

September 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I will be the first to admit that, as a writer, brevity is not my strong suit.  It would be completely fair for anyone who reads my writing to accuse me of being both long-winded and verbose.  Well, in this post, I am going to fight that urge and let someone else do the talking (well, most of it at least).

Over the past year, the Community Engagement & Education team at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra has embarked on a new challenge called the Musicians Care Project.  Thanks to the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the HSO has been able to establish a strong presence and partnership with Hebrew Health Care.  Through this partnership, the HSO has been able to bring live musical performances to hundreds of people whose healthcare needs would prevent them from taking part in traditional concerts.  The HSO is committed to being a source of artistic excellence and community service in our community.  Knowing firsthand the power of music, we are hoping that the Musicians Care Project will help to broaden an understanding of how music can directly impact the wellness of patients, their families, their caregivers, and the musicians who participate.


I could certainly go on for a number more paragraphs telling stories of my visits to Hebrew Health Care during the pilot phase of the Musicians Care Project.  Some could bring tears to your eyes, while others would almost surely have you doubled over with laughter.  However, I am aiming to brief in this post, and I think there is a better voice to talk about the power of a program like the Musicians Care Project.

The video below is an interview I conducted with Pamela Atwood, Director of Dementia Care Services at Hebrew Health Care.  A musician herself, Pam is a certified gerontologist who has worked with HSO musicians in preparing for the Musicians Care Project and attended many of the performances at Hebrew Health Care.  I promised to be brief (or at least more so than usual), so I’ll let Pam’s words do the rest of the talking about the profound impact the HSO is making on our community through the Musicians Care Project.

— Jeff Martin, Director of Community Engagement & Education

5 days until LIFE: The Nature Conservancy

April 22nd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

As we count down to this Saturday’s performance of LIFE: A Journey Through Time, we will highlight our final LIFE community sponsors, The Nature Conservancy. On Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m., the Hartford Symphony will perform LIFE: A Journey Through Time, beginning with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Frogard Ryan, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. She, along with National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting and Daniel C. Esty, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, will discuss the impact that the public and the arts can have on Nature Conservation efforts around the state.


The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 50 years, the Connecticut Chapter has worked with its partners to protect and conserve Connecticut’s wondrous forests, rivers and shoreline. In 2012 alone, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut planted American Elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease in three communities to help restore elm populations, as well as the species they support;maintained the 14,000-acre preserve network while adding 212 more acres; opened 63 miles of river through dam removal; secured $50,000 in grant funding to help protect Brazil’s Atlantic Forest; focused our work in Long Island Sound to protect habitats and restore water quality; secured $200,000 in federal grant funding for coastal resilience to advance nature-friendly solutions, such as tidal marsh migration; assisted nine Connecticut communities with a climate preparedness planning process; and taken a lead in climate disaster-risk preparedness. This work and more continue every day, through our supporters’ generosity, so that we and future generations can enjoy our one-of-a-kind Connecticut life.



How Can I Help?

Donations to The Nature Conservancy can be mailed to 55 Church Street, Fl 3, New Haven, CT 06510. Phone donations can be made to Laura Brownstein at 203-568-6278 and Laura Weinberg at 203-568-6281. Online donations can be made to nature.org/connecticut (choose Connecticut in the designation field). General volunteers inquiries can be made to Laura Brownstein  at 203-568-6278 or Martha Rice at 203-568-6294; At Devil’s Den Preserve: Cynthia Fowx at  203-226-4991, ext. 116; and At Sunny Valley Preserve: Laura Shail at 860-355-3716.

You can contact The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut at:
55 Church Street, Fl 3
New Haven, CT 06510
203.568.6270 phone
203.568.6271 fax
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Let It Snow

December 21st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Featuring HSO Bassist Rick Rozie, HSO Jazz and Strings Pianist Walter Gwardyak, and Holiday Cirque Spectacular Guest Vocalist Shenel Johns.

Special Thanks to The Mark Twain House & Museum!

I Get Goosebumps Every Time…

November 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


I have always felt a great affinity for the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis ranks right up there with  my all-time favorite pieces. It evokes the timelessness of Stonehenge with the profoundly searching, lush quality of an exquisite English countryside viewed from the distance of memory. I get goose bumps every time I perform it. To be able to play it in the same season as the monumental  Sixth Symphony is to open a beautiful window into life’s ultimate questions. I am so looking forward to it!“- Anhared Stowe, HSO Principal Second Violin

The HSO performs Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallistonight through Sunday, November 30-December 2 at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.  Visit http://www.hartfordsymphony.org for information.

Extending an Invitation

November 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

It is mid-November, and while many (myself included) eagerly look forward to the holidays, I also want to reflect on the past two weeks of activity in the Community Engagement & Education Department at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  These have been busy times as we deliver materials to schools participating in Link Up, roll out the LIFE Student Art Contest, and have hosted more than 3,000 area students in the first two education concerts of the 2012-2013 season.  Despite the many misfortunes of Superstorm Sandy, the HSO was able to move forward with the Hoffman Foundation Chamber Orchestra Series performance of Prokofiev’s Peter & the Wolf.  Just last week, students were taken on an exploration of instrument families in a Lincoln Financial Discovery Concert that had Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra at its core.


As I think about these two concerts in particular, I am reminded of a characteristic that must remain at the core of an orchestra’s educational programming, and I would argue further, at the core of an orchestra’s overall mission.  The characteristic to which I refer is accessibility.  In its most basic form, accessibilityrefers to the capability that something may be reached.  This begs the question then, “What must orchestras do to allow students and other community members to reach classical music?”

Recognizing this as no small feat, I am proud to say that the HSO takes many steps to bring classical music within reach of students and many others across our region.  Thanks to the generous support of many corporate and individual donors, cost and ticket prices are not barriers that prevent schools from allowing their students to reach great works like Young Person’s Guide.  The HSO Community Engagement & Education Department creates and compiles lesson plans for teachers to use to prepare students for attending concerts, allowing students to develop insight and knowledge that brings the concert experience within reach.  Repertoire for education concerts is intentionally selected to coincide with learning standards in many disciplines so that students can access the music and draw connections with other aspects of their lives.  We strive to remove barriers that would make it difficult for students to reach the musical experiences we value so highly.

Accessibility cannot simply be a removal of roadblocks or a “weeding” of the path to the concert hall.  There is an element of accessibility that I believe does more than simply put something within reach.  It is invitation.  Sure, so we have cleared the path to make classical music reachable, but are we making it inviting?  Do students and other community members feel welcome at our concerts and performances?  We believe wholeheartedly in the transformative nature of music, not only for children and students, but for communities and society at large.  Let’s not only “clear the path” and put great classical music within reach for our students and community members, but let’s make sure that we also offer a warm and genuine invitation for them to take part.  Only when we do this can we say that our music has been truly accessible.

The Eye of the Hurricane

October 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


As you may know, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Jazz and Strings Series will start this Friday  with a tribute to legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard at First Light: A Tribute to Freddie Hubbard on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. at the Theater of the Performing Arts at the Learning Corridor in Hartford.  Featuring Grammy award winning trumpeter Brian Lynch on Hubbard’s solo lines, other performers for this concert will include Jazz and Strings Artistic Director and HSO principal timpanist Gene Bozzi, HSO bassist Rick Rozie, frequent HSO arranger and pianist Walter Gwardyak, members of the HSO string section, and dance majors from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.


Freddie Hubbard was one of the greatest hard-bop trumpeters of his era and was perhaps one of the greatest trumpeters ever to play in the jazz idiom (and arguably the most influential). He launched into mainstream popularity with his release of one of the first soul-jazz crossover albums “First Light.” The HSO will recreate some of Don Sebesky’s masterful arrangements for classical and jazz instruments, such as “Lonely Town” and “First Light,” as well as some of Hubbard’s hard bop classics, including “Arietis” and “Bolivia.” To highlight the unique rhythmic elements of Hubbard’s style, the HSO and Lynch will be joined by more than a dozen dance majors from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts on “First Light” and “Sky Dive.”

So as we all look forward to Friday night’s concert, here’s Hubbard on Herbie Hancock’s Eye of the Hurricane to get you through the next couple days…

Music Moves Us

October 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In early May of 2013, nearly 2,500 Hartford Public Schools students will take part in Link Up, one of our most popular education programs.  The theme for the program is “The Orchestra Moves,” and it asks students to think about how music relates to movement.  During the concert, students will hear Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5 as they explore how a musical motive can move throughout the orchestra, while Johann Strauss’s Waltz of the Blue Danube shows the movement of melody through leaps and steps.  Whether we are tapping our feet or listening to a beautiful theme move through the different instrument families, music moves us.

Not surprisingly, this year the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s theme is Music Moves Us.  We believe that music can move us in so many ways — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and beyond.  Most of us can recall a time when listening to or performing music has led us to become emotionally moved.  For example, it is hard for me not to be moved when I hear some of my favorite works like Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, arias from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, or Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night.   I’m sure many of us could go on and on for quite some time about the different pieces and ways that music moves us.

Late last month, music moved me in a very different way.  The HSO’s Instrument Petting Zoo is a favorite education program for children (and adults) and makes appearances in schools, daycare centers, festivals, and more.  Last month, we had the privilege of hosting an Instrument Petting Zoo at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford.  In addition to learning about the many instruments of the orchestra, thanks to the amazing staff at ASD, students were also given the opportunity to try to play the different instruments.  As I watched, I was moved as the eyes of a little girl widened and brightened as she felt the vibration of a violin against her neck and shoulder, and a young man laughed aloud after feeling the buzz of a trumpet against his lips.  They were moved by the sensations of music, and I was moved by observing their new and exciting experience.


A young student at the American School for the Deaf feels the vibrations of drawing a bow across the strings of a violin at the HSO Instrument Petting Zoo


A middle school student at the American School for the Deaf tries his hand at playing the trumpet.

As you experience music in many different ways, pay attention to its movement.  Listen to how melodies flow, harmonies progress, and rhythms drive forward.  Allow yourself also to be emotionally moved by music for the impact it has on you, as well as the profound impact it has on others.


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