Friday, April 4, 2014

A Decade at New Philharmonic

They tell me that when we perform Beethoven’s Fifth and Beethoven’s Seventh at the MAC next week, I will have been conducting there for exactly ten years. Hard to believe! As with all artists who are studying a role, choreography, a piano sonata or an orchestral score, normal time becomes quite distorted and certainly compacted. I can study a score for four hours and it seems like ten minutes. I can study a concert for a month and it seems like two days.

One of the goals that I set for myself ten years ago was that the orchestra should be able to compete with any of the orchestras in this city and for our patrons to be "wowed" when they attended our concerts. This meant not only the quality of the playing, but the presentation, the human feeling that each person felt when joining us for a concert, the “it" factor. That "it" factor means for me that when a person walks in to the MAC he or she is in one state of heart and mind, and when they leave they should practically float out.  After each concert, I hope for the following comment from at least one patron: "That was even better than last time. How are you going to top that?" My response is invariably something like: "Oh tonight was nothin'! Just wait for the next concert! It will make this one look like New York pizza." To some extent I am kidding, but on another level, I am truly expecting that of New Philharmonic.

I have lots and lots of dreams for our orchestra. When I first came here, I dreamt of having a New Year's concert at the MAC. The administration supported me in this goal and our annual New Year’s concert has flourished. I knew in my gut when I first met the MAC audience that this would be a concert that would excite them.  Next season, because people love the concert so much, we are planning to offer three performances in one day!

In addition, next year, I will be able to add a children's competition to our outreach into the community, which will allow us the chance to showcase a child’s musical talent at each and every one of our concerts. They will play solo for just a few minutes on the main stage at intermission. I do this with the orchestra that I conduct in Indiana, and it is often my favorite part of the concert. For me, including a young person from the community at our concerts has tremendous value and gives us all the chance to change the life of a young person forever. Another goal that I set for myself when beginning a decade ago was to ensure that the opera flourished at the MAC. I am committed to ensuring that this fantastic and arresting art form not only survives, but that it flourishes. In pursuit of this goal, we are planning to do a concert version of an opera next season. I will have more information on our plans for next season at a later time.

As I sign off this blog, I want to say that this orchestra has a special feeling to it, and that this feeling does not come from me. It comes from Harold Bauer, the conductor who founded the orchestra; it comes from our musicians to an overwhelming degree; it comes from the feeling in the MAC - the intimacy and closeness with the patrons there.

I hope that you will join us on Saturday April 12th and Sunday April 13th for the two "Ultimate Rebel"
Beethoven concerts. I do not view myself as a rebel. I want only to be a musician creating what is needed and desired in 2014, 2015, 2020, 2025 and beyond. We, as musicians, are living in a whirling, fast-evolving world, and we should be keenly attuned to our environment, the needs of our business, and the passions of our audience. That has been and will continue to be my charge going forward.

I thank you for having me for the past decade. I thank you  for the opportunity to create,  study,  learn,  give back,  and hopefully, at times, change the feeling in your hearts.

- kirk

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Q&A with Orbert Davis of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

On March 22, Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Ensemble celebrate the rich musical culture of New Orleans in an evening of ragtime melodies, brass band marches, funeral processions, and more at the MAC. The concert includes the premiere of Survival of the Saints, a new work by Orbert Davis honoring the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Featured guest artists include Reginald Robinson, recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” grant for his innovative ragtime compositions, and Grammy Award winning musician Howard Levy. To help build excitement for this new piece and the concert at the MAC, we asked Artistic Director Orbert Davis a few questions:

Why are you excited for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s debut performance at the MAC, which has a strong history of great jazz programming?
The MAC is indeed a terrific venue for presenting jazz. I have performed there with my smaller groups (quartet and quintet), in addition to being a guest artist with the COD Jazz Ensemble. So performing there with the Chamber Ensemble feels like a continuation and extension of a great relationship. The College of DuPage has been so supportive of jazz in the Chicago area. The College’s jazz station 90.9 WDCB is the home of my Friday night radio broadcast, the Real Deal!

Can you tell me about the inspiration for your new work “Survival of the Saints?
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and of course I know a lot of musicians from there.  So I had a very strong personal reaction as Hurricane Katrina hit and I witnessed the storm and its aftermath.  Katrina affected everyone in the city. It’s a universal experience that everyone shared. And perhaps because of that, there is a spirit of community and a will to survive among the residents that has astonished me. Everyone says, “We will get through this”, not “I will get through this”.  You can hear that tenacity and strength even in the music of the street artists, reflecting what they’ve gone through and how they’ve survived.

Will MAC audiences notice a festive quality to this piece that will be performed just weeks after the ultimate Mardi Gras celebration in the Big Easy this March?
We’re calling this “Carnival” for a reason! The music is going to move you from the beginning to the end. We’ll be celebrating with music of legendary artists like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Doctor John, and so many more. There will be ragtime melodies, brass band marches, Indian Mardi Gras music … If someone doesn’t feel anything, we will have to check their pulse!
Will audiences hear your signature trumpet solos in the upcoming concert at the MAC?
Oh yes, there will be trumpet solos in my new piece and throughout the concert.

Can you tell us more about any special guest performers who will be joining you on stage at the MAC?
Howard Levy and Reginald Robinson are not only masters of virtuosity; they are emblematic expressions of wide-ranging musical and cultural traditions. Reginald of course is a recognized innovator of ragtime music, bringing a contemporary energy to this early jazz style. Howard, although he is not from New Orleans, truly reflects the multi-cultural and multi-national traditions, the different forms and styles of music, that mingled in New Orleans and gave birth to the music we now call jazz.  I have known both these artists for a while and am so excited to have them join us at the MAC.
Reginald was a guest artist with the CJP in 2012, when we performed one of his original compositions.
Howard was a guest on my radio show the Real Deal in November and talked about his musical influences and current projects.

Tickets for Chicago Jazz Philharmonic at the MAC March 22 at 8 p.m. are available by calling the MAC Box Office at (630) 942-4000 or

JOIN US for a Pre-Performance Taste of Mardi Gras!
MAC Belushi Performance Hall Lobby; 6:30 p.m.

Includes Andouille Sausage and Smoked Chicken Gumbo, Vegetable Jambalya, Classic Mini Muffaletta, Mini Mardi Gras Cupcakes

$12 Tickets must be purchased by Wednesday, March 19. Limited availability. Tickets: (630) 942-4000 or

Howard Levy - See full bio at www.levyland.comReginald Robinson - See full bio at

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Q&A with Barbara Wiesen, Director of the Cleve Carney Art Gallery

Barbara Wiesen, Director of the Cleve Carney Art Gallery
With the opening of the McAninch Arts Center also comes the new Cleve Carney Art Gallery. It’s a brand new building thanks to one of Glen Ellyn’s most revered philanthropists, the late Cleve Carney, a contemporary art collector and supporter of the arts. As gallery director at the McAninch Arts Center since 2000, Barbara Wiesen is looking forward to the Gallery’s next chapter.

Before coming to College of DuPage, Barbara Wiesen was an Assistant Professor of Studio Art and Director/Curator of the Reicher Gallery at Barat College from 1996-2000. She received an M.F.A. in studio arts from the University of Illinois, Chicago and was a practicing artist for many years before devoting her time to running a gallery. With the gallery opening just around the corner,  Barbara took some time to answer some questions about herself, the Gallery, and the upcoming show:

Why an art gallery on a college campus?
To my knowledge there was an art gallery on this campus back in the 70’s in one of the original west campus buildings. In 1986, when the McAninch Arts Center was built, plans for a professional gallery were created. The original space was called the Art Center Gallery until William E. Gahlberg’s name was assigned to the space in honor of his fundraising efforts for the College. COD has been a visionary and progressive institution, supportive of the arts, and a leader in the growth of community colleges. What better way to expose and educate the community to the advancement of the visual arts then having a professional art gallery on a Community College campus.

What goes into planning for a season of exhibitions?
Research in addition to gallery, museum, and artist’s studio visits are all part of what is needed to create a season of exhibitions. My goal is to bring in a variety of exhibits that this community would not otherwise be exposed to.

Many people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes with each and every exhibit. Planning begins a good year or so in advance with back and forth correspondence with artists, collectors, galleries, museums, writers, and press, - producing publications, the loaning and shipping of artworks, the installation and so on.

What upgrades to the Gallery (with the MAC renovation) are you excited about in particular?
Although the square footage is somewhat similar, the space feels more spacious due to the high ceiling which I love. It’s also a luxury having a bamboo floor rather than tile, and the outdoor courtyard is a beautiful addition ready to be explored.

What is the permanent art collection, and how do its goals complement the Cleve Carney Art Gallery?
The College’s permanent art collection is mostly made up of artworks created in the past fifty years. Highlights include recent art acquisitions by internationally known artists: Peter Doig, John Baldessari, Richard Serra, many Warhol’s and many works by artists that have exhibited in the College’s gallery.

The goal of the College of DuPage is to become a leading cultural environment that houses a significant contemporary art collection that is challenging and thought provoking to its viewers and complimentary to its educational programs. And to be a public art museum that weaves its way through every building on campus, creating a more beautiful and interesting environment for learning.

The Cleve Carney Art Gallery will offer year-round visual art exhibitions showcasing a variety of innovative art by regional, national and international artists. Our goal is to encourage the growth and understanding of contemporary art through exhibitions and educational programming that cultivate a variety of perspectives. Our vision is to be one of the best centers for contemporary art in the Chicago area. This is exactly what Cleve Carney envisioned with his generous donation.

Tell us more about the exhibit opening on Feb. 6

Selections from Cleve Carney’s Art Collection
February 6 to March 29, 2014

Cleve Carney was passionate about the arts and an avid supporter and collector of contemporary work by local, as well as national and international artists. He had an appetite and inquisitiveness for new art that continued to broaden the scope of his collection up until the end of his life. 

His collection ranges from work by Chicago Imagists, abstract painting and sculpture, representational, post-minimalist, and conceptual artworks. The upcoming inaugural exhibition Selections from Cleve Carney’s Art Collection will include paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photography, and digital media by Mel Bochner, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Julia Fish, John Fraser, Pia Fries, Leon Golub, Arturo Hererra, Jenny Holzer, Markus Linnenbrink, Judy Ledgerwood, Robert Motherwell, Jim Nutt, Catherine Opie, Roxy Paine, David Shrigley, Ann Wilson, Zhou Brothers and many many more.