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From Executive Director Elizabeth Murphy:

Yesterday I attended a press conference in Richmond to mark the end of the first statewide arts endeavor of its kind: Minds Wide Open:Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts. First Lady Maureen McDonnell, along with four former Virginia first ladies, were on hand to help us announce the success of this creation.
MINDS WIDE OPEN: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts. Below are some comments from Peggy Baggett, Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts..

Thanks to those who joined us yesterday in Richmond to commemorate the successful conclusion of our inaugural MINDS WIDE OPEN effort, hear First Lady Maureen McDonnell announce the commissioning of portraits of her living predecessors, and proclaim the theme for our next statewide collaboration: Children and the Arts. Former first lady Anne Holton announced the final statistics, as follows:

“What started out as an idea among fewer than two dozen major arts groups became a massive statewide celebration that involved some 324 different organizations. Collectively, they produced 10,123 individual performances or exhibitions for residents of Virginia and visitors to our state. Almost 700 plays, musicals, concerts, exhibits, readings, and screenings took place in every corner of the Commonwealth and we have documented over 400 locations which hosted at least one Women in the Arts event. The goal of the Women in the Arts Celebration was to increase visibility of the arts in our state, promote the breath and diversity of our programs, and encourage partnerships throughout the entire cultural sector. By any measure, we have succeeded in this endeavor. The positive media coverage for MINDS WIDE OPEN was read by nearly 30,000,000 people with internet and broadcast coverage reaching even more audience members.”

Stay tuned for the 2012 statewide celebration: Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Children and the Arts, chaired by Gus Stuhlreyer (of Virginia Opera) and me! We are excited to make the next festival even more successful, and raise the profile of the arts in Virginia!
7 years ago |
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The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of the most prestigious music institutions in the country. At the most, the student body consists of two hundred pupils, enough to fill an orchestra, all with merit scholarships.

It was at this well-respected establishment in the late 1930s, a decade after the institution opened, where composition student Samuel Barber and violinist Iso Briselli collaborated to create what would become Barber’s Violin Concerto. The Fairfax Symphony looks forward to performing this work again on January 23, 2010, on the 29th anniversary of Barber’s death, with world-renowned violinist Augustin Hadelich.

Both Barber and Briselli exhibited musical talents from a young age, although their backgrounds were vastly different. Barber was a Pennsylvania native from West Chester and Briselli immigrated was a Russian immigrant. A fellow Curtis student, Gama Gilbert, recognized the incredible talents of Barber and Briselli, and convinced them to work together to create a concerto for violin and orchestra.

The two friends decided it would be an interesting and challenging task. Samuel Fels, a businessman and philanthropist, commissioned the work, offering Barber $1000.

Barber would compose the piece one movement at a time, and Briselli would realize it on violin, influencing the composition with his performance style. Barber finished the first two movements for Briselli, but trouble began to arise once he presented the third movement. Sources dispute the exact problem revolving around this movement. Was the piece lacking in Briselli’s standards or did he find the piece to be too challenging?

Either way, Briselli was unsatisfied with Barber’s work. Fels and Briselli both tried to persuade Barber to alter the third movement to make it more “playable,” but by that time, Barber was tired of their complaints. He was pleased with his arrangements, and he was also busy with other commissions. Barber left the Violin Concerto as it was, even when Fels threatened to take back his $1000 payment.

Barber neither let this dispute discourage him nor let it dissuade him from finding a way to present his composition to the world. He held onto his work, and that same year, in 1939, he found a violinist competent and able to play the concerto. Herbert Baumel helped Barber bring life to the work. He premiered and performed the piece during multiple live performances that year.

For more information on the Fairfax Symphony’s performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto and to purchase tickets, click here.

8 years ago |
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The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra invites you to give the gift of music this holiday season!

Concert tickets are a dynamic gift to receive! Even though the tangible ticket itself is small enough to fit alongside all your other stocking stuffers or inside of a gift envelope, the actual experience of live music will be one to remember.

For a limited time, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra offers a bundled subscription package of the season’s final three concerts at a discounted price. Prices vary with seating arrangements.

This upcoming year will include three guest artists of high caliber. Violinist Augustin Hadelich will solo during Barber’s Violin Concerto in January. Then, In March, Alon Goldstein will present the East Coast premiere of Avner Dorman’s Piano Concerto, Lost Souls, composed specifically for Goldstein himself. The last concert of the season in May features Julie Albers on cello, performing Elgar’s Concerto in E Minor.

Order this subscription now and give the gift of music for the holidays! If you would like to have a personal message included with your gift, please call (703) 563-1990 or email Tara Nadel.
8 years ago |
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George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel both had the opportunity to explore and experience each other’s home countries in the early twentieth century. By doing so, these composers expanded and altered their musical knowledge, which became greatly influenced by the exchange in cultures. Ravel toured America and became fascinated by jazz and improvisational styles, leaving the country with a fresh outlook on his musical gatherings. Although Gershwin felt homesick in Paris, the impact of his stay was felt profoundly through his compositions.

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will feature Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang, performing works by both composers in its performance on Saturday, November 21st, at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts at 8:00 p.m.

In 1920, E. Robert Schmitz, a Franco-American pianist, founded the Pro-Musica Society to support North American appearances of rising European composers and performers. Schmitz kept trying to convince Ravel to take on an American tour, funded by Pro-Musica. It took some time, and a $10,000 grant, but in 1928, Ravel kicked off his first American premiere. His tour started and ended in New York, and lasted for four months, covering cities across the United States and even venturing into Canada. He spent quite a great deal of time in New York, either performing or visiting the city, and traveled mostly by train to various towns.

His tour was a very memorable one. In between stops, Ravel visited towns like Omaha, and absorbed the jazz scenes. One time in Chicago, Ravel’s performance started late, but this was only because he could not find his shoes. Some nights he produced stellar performances, only to lack energy in a performance the next day. As a French man, Ravel laughed at the idea of the prohibition, and was happy enough that there were no laws against smoking cigarettes. What Ravel saw developing in the American music scene was jazz. Jazz music excited him, and he thought it would be best for Americans to continue to pursue this style of music.

During Ravel’s travels, he met Gershwin while in New York, where the two exchanged dialogue. Gershwin played for Ravel and apparently overwhelmed Ravel with his style and ability. Interestingly enough, when Gershwin visited Paris and asked to study from Ravel, Ravel turned him away. Ravel’s experience in the United States obviously impacted his appreciation for Gershwin’s style and musicality, and he felt he had nothing more to teach him.

Gershwin left France with one impactful thing, his legendary composition, An American in Paris. As he created this piece, he fed off of the energy of the Parisian streets, struck by sensory overload. Gershwin used this method of responding to his environmental surroundings while creating Rhapsody in Blue. He traveled by train as well and heard music through noise, whether it was in the rhythm of the train’s movement or the atmosphere of a city. Through these experiences, and with his musical knowledge, Gershwin produced Rhapsody in Blue, a classic, well-loved jazz piece.

Join the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and Chu-Fang Huang at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. to hear the works by these composers for yourself.

Information source:

8 years ago |
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This Saturday, October 3rd, 2009, Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will be featuring an event.

One of the featured pieces will be Mendelssohn's Oveture to The Fair Melusine.

Melusines are half-women, half-serpent characters from European folklore, resembling mermaids. There are different stories that depict melusines; in one story, there is an actual character named Melusine. She was the love-child of a king and a fairy, and as many of these star-crossed, cross-breeded love affairs go, there ends up being dilemmas. The king ended up upsetting the fairy somehow, and Melusine, along with her two sisters, decided to seek revenge. Their actions, however, upsetted their mother more. She punished her daughters...Melusine's punishment turned her into a serpent waist-down. Stories inspired more stories....German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famously known for his work Fauste, wrote the novel Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre. This novel featured the story Die neue Melusine (the New Melusine). Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer, an Austrian playwright and poet, took part in the theatrical version of Goethe's story by creating a libretto for Conradin Kreutzer's opera Melusina. In turn, Mendelssohn wrote an overture for the piece.______________________________________________________________information found through internet research :


Event information: October 3rd, 2009, 8:00 p.m. Center for the ArtsGeorge Mason University4400 University Dr., MS 2F5Fairfax, VA 22030 MENDELSSOHN: Overture to The Fair Melusine
MOZART: Clarinet Concerto in A MajorJon Manasse, clarinet
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4

The Center for the Arts is six miles west of the Beltway, at Braddock Road and Route 123 in Fairfax, Virginia.
8 years ago |
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As previously announced, The FSO has been selected to be featured in the 2009/10 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington! This year's Catalogue includes 36 nonprofits that were chosen both for their intrinsic excellence and because they are examples of the impact that the Catalogue has had on area nonprofits.

Here's the the excellent company from Northern Virginia we'll be keeping in the new Catalogue:

VA: Arlington County

1. A-SPAN (Arlington Street People's Assistance Network) - A low-barrier homeless services provider serving street homeless people
2. Doorways for Women and Families - Shelter and services for homeless families and domestic violence survivors
3. The Reading Connection - Homeless and transitional literacy programs for local children and families

VA: City Of Alexandria

1. Alexandria Seaport Foundation - Providing contextual, job-based GED program to at-risk youths
2. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra - Vibrant, innovative performing arts group engaging under-served audiences
3. Carpenter's Shelter - Services, education, and advocacy to end and prevent homelessness
4. Computer CORE - Job-readiness training in computer and lifeskills for low-income adults

VA: City Of Fairfax

1. Fairfax Area Christian Emergency and Transitional Services (FACETS) - Supportive housing, counseling, and emergency and transitional services for homeless, low-income people

VA: Fairfax County

1. Annandale Christian Community for Action - Faith-based collaborative meeting the needs of vulnerable neighbors, regardless of religious affiliation
2. Earth Sangha - Buddhist environmental group focused on ecological restoration
3. Our Daily Bread - Emergency assistance to struggling families in the Fairfax County area
4. Shelter House - Providing shelter and services to homeless families
5. Tahirih Justice Center - Protecting immigrant women and girls who are fleeing gender-based violence
6. Western Fairfax Christian Ministries - Premier provider of homelessnes prevention services in western Fairfax County
9 years ago |
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The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been selected to be featured in the 2009/10 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. This is the Catalogue's seventh year in the Washington, DC region. Supported by individuals, foundations (Harman, Meyer, Cafritz, Marriott, Graham, Fowler), and corporations (CGI, Booz Allen Hamilton, TTR Sotheby's International Realty) as a service to the community, the Catalogue profiles environmental, cultural, educational, human services, and international organizations with budgets below $3 million. Sixty-eight exceptional nonprofits were chosen this year from a field of over 250 applicants. A committee of ninety professionals from area foundations, corporate giving programs, family foundations, nonprofit organizations, and the DC government participated in the review process -- leveraging the region's knowledge about philanthropy for the benefit of the entire community.

This year's Catalogue includes 36 nonprofits that were first featured in earlier Catalogues; they were chosen both for their intrinsic excellence and because they are examples of the impact that the Catalogue has had on area nonprofits.

After an inaugural year in the District of Columbia, the Catalogue expanded to the Greater Washington region—adding nonprofits in Northern Virginia and nearby Maryland counties. 20-30,000 individuals and hundreds of foundations will receive copies of the Catalogue in mid-November. To date, the Catalogue has helped to raise over $8.5 million in donations for local nonprofits.

According to Barbara Harman, Executive Director of the Harman Family Foundation and President of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, "The Catalogue is designed to be a showcase for high impact, DC-region non-profits, and an inviting way for individuals and families to participate in charitable giving. In the midst of the worst economic downturn we have seen in decades, supporting these organizations -- which make a big difference in the lives of people throughout our community -- is more important than ever. And the Catalogue makes informed, targeted giving truly possible."

"Charities were selected for excellence, innovation, cost-effectiveness, and financial transparency--and for what they can teach us about the extraordinary ways that philanthropy works," Harman said. "These are certainly among the best small charities in the Washington, DC region."

Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington
9 years ago |
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In an unusual and bold move, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra announced its 2009-2010 season in March prior to completing its search for a new music director. Today, the Orchestra announced that it now knows who that music director will be.

The Orchestra’s Search Committee reviewed the 249 applications of men and women from around the world, and narrowed the field to six finalists. After the audience and the orchestra had the opportunity to see him conduct one of the six Masterworks concert in the FSO’s 2008-2009 season, Christopher Zimmerman was chosen as the 3rd music director in the FSO’s 53-year history.

Marian Egge, Search Committee Chair, described the two-year process that led to the selection of Zimmerman. “First, the committee was looking for Artistic Leadership to take the FSO to the next musical level. Beyond that, we evaluated the ability of the person to take a creative approach to building deep and broad relationships within the community. We wanted someone who could help the FSO….and be a rich source of creative energy and inspiration. Finally, we were looking for a person to be an integral part of our educational programs and committed to their continuous development. The committee felt that Chris not only has all of these skills, but also an enthusiasm for Fairfax County, and demonstrated a real passion for building this orchestra.

Zimmerman emerged as the Orchestra’s choice because of his extensive knowledge of musical repertoire, enthusiasm and energy, and the overwhelmingly positive responses from the musicians and audience alike. “The selection of Chris Zimmerman ensures that the Fairfax Symphony will continue to explore and achieve artistic excellence for years to come,” said Jose “Pepe” Figueroa, president of the FSO Board of Directors.

I am so excited about working with Chris,” said Elizabeth Murphy, Executive Director of the Fairfax Symphony. “He has a real vision for this orchestra and its place in our community, and he brings a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm to our organization. The next few years will be thrilling ones for the FSO under his leadership.

Zimmerman reacted to the news saying he is, “honored, happy, relieved, excited and energized.

Zimmerman will begin a three-year contract with the FSO starting in the upcoming 2009-2010 season. He will continue to be Music Director of the Hartt Symphony and professor of the Mary Primrose Fuller Chair of Orchestral Conducting at the Hartt School in Hartford, CT. This past

March, the Orchestra announced the guest artists’ repertoire for the season, and Zimmerman will complete the repertoire selection in June. (One of the pieces already chosen, Dorman’s Piano Concerto will be played by pianist Alon Goldstein in March 2010 and is an east coast premiere.)
9 years ago |
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Ladies and Gents:

Perhaps you’ve heard the rumor I’m always hearing - the one about the demise of Classical Music. The rumor goes that the orchestra is a museum piece, a dinosaur - lumbering around, irrelevant, soon to become extinct.

Hmm….pretty resilient dinosaur, since there are more thriving orchestras in this country than there are soccer clubs in England.

The gloom merchants claim that symphonic music is no longer “relevant” to people’s lives and lifestyles. If they mean that there are numerous and diverse forms of entertainment available to people today which reflect their everyday lives more closely than a symphony concert does, sure, they are right. But that is exactly why the concert hall experience is special. This is a place to go to escape the myriad of activities, issues and concerns which consume our everyday life; a place to discover beauty and a wealth of emotional and intellectual experiences; a place to enrich our senses and inform our lives and, hopefully, to remind us of the truly important things in life. What could be more relevant than that?

At this Saturday’s concert, the Fairfax Symphony will perform three pieces of music of considerable diversity which give us three different insights into three great artists. An early-ish Haydn Symphony bursting with life, energy, exuberance, wit and some over the top drama; one of the things I love about this music is that you can feel that Haydn has somehow written into this piece his own sheer joy at being a virtuoso composer—a sort of mischievous arrogance!

Then a piece by Sylvie Bodorova, a Czech composer who lives in Prague. I am happy and honored to call her a dear friend and I have had the good fortune to present Sylvie’s music in this country several times over the years, as well as on her home turf. This piece is a one movement, violin concerto, 15 minutes of calm, serene, even spiritual music — the spinning out of an extraordinarily beautiful often wistful, melody. I think it truly reflects the character of the composer herself who, in all circumstances, manages to radiate a kind of grounded joy. Despite its overall serenity, this work does however build up to a kind of “cadenza diabolica” where the soloist can give free flight to her virtuosity—and Chee-Yun, our soloist, will certainly give you that, believe me.

Then, the mighty Shostakovich 10th. This is an epic work by a composer who perhaps more than any other—yes, even Beethoven—expressed in his music the world that he lived in. His music is both a reflection of the repressive regime of Stalin’s Soviet Russia under which he lived and worked, and a response to it. Despite, or because of, the grim horrors that he lived through and witnessed, Shostakovich’s music has a raw emotion which is agonizingly beautiful as well as, at times, vehemently brutal. He had to write this music and was in many ways a voice for his people and thus I hope you will hear the compassion that underlies this predominantly dark and powerfully emotional work.

We hear a lot about music education these days - too often about it getting cut from schools. I know Fairfax County has a public school system that endorses and supports a comprehensive music education for its children, but I also want to encourage you to lead the way from home. Our children don’t always know when we’re giving them access to something wonderful and life-enhancing - my 13 year old daughter thinks classical music is so, like, “yesterday” - but keep bringing them and, in my heart, I believe they’ll thank us later. Music education doesn’t always mean being told what to listen to, or which instruments are playing. Sometimes it just means sitting in a darkened hall and being enveloped by great sound.

In most businesses when you apply for a job you go through an interview process and find out pretty quickly whether you’ve been successful or not. For conductors it’s usually different, more protracted, a bit more like a courtship, which one hopes will end in a strong marriage. And now this week is the first time I get to meet the whole family, so as you can imagine I am excited to be here!

During the last two years I’ve tried to learn about Fairfax, both the Symphony and the area. What I see is a proud orchestra, supported by an enthusiastic community in a dynamic and fast-changing region. More importantly, I see a potentially limitless future where the reach of the Symphony is extended and the orchestra performs with ever more quality and impact.

I am sure that you are as excited by the possibilities open to your Symphony’s future as I am to have the chance to be the one helping make them happen.

See you on Saturday,

Chris Zimmerman

9 years ago |
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(in response to Anne Midgette's blog post, "Jackson to Reno - and Fairfax?")

This season in which 6 highly qualified and artistically individual Music Directors have visited and conducted in our Fairfax community with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been in the words of audience members around me been 'Exciting! You are going to have a tough job choosing!, "Next season we are definitely going to be season subscribers - we love them all!", "They are all so talented and creative, how are you going to choose?", etc.,

As a member of the Search Committee, we have loved the audience reaction and participation both on paper and online! We have been excited to see the buzz that word of mouth has created in the community as ticket sales have increased with each performance; this despite a difficult and challenging economy!

We have spent the past 18 months or so on a global search for the perfect fit in conductor selection to lead our orchestra to a new level of excellence and a bold vision for the future!

More than 240 applicants from around the world were reviewed, and then narrowed down to the 6 finalists who have been our conductors for our past season.

Each conductor has spent a week with us : attending a Board reception, meeting with our education leaders with FCPS, meeting with locally elected officials, and of course rehearsing, meeting with our subscibers and members of the public, and culminating in what can only be described as 'exciting performances' for all involved!

Our 6 finalists include a woman, 3 of international background, and hail from communities across the nation. They are exceptional artists in their own right, are highly committed to educational programming, and have excellent public speaking and community relation skills. Each have impeccable references, and in the words of 2 experts in selecting new conductors whom we have consulted with through our search process, have been 'excellent choices'!

We are excited as we near the end of our search process with our last candidate, Chris Zimmerman who will conduct on May 2nd at George Mason University. We encourage the community to attend and join us in our search!

You can learn more about all of our candidates by visiting

Yes, this will be a very difficult decision in the end because each of them would be an amazing choice to lead our community symphony to the next level of excellence, and to bring our young people into an even greater understanding, passion and appreciation of symphony!

Hope to see you there!
Valerie Dale
Member of the FSO Search Committee
Chair of the FSO Education Committee

9 years ago |
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