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Yo Yo Ma and Discourse: A Smashing Success

October 3, 2011

As the Discourse events unfolded, I tried to sneak in a few random notes for this blog. Here they are:

Thursday, 29 September

10AM  Yo-Yo (YYM hereafter in this blog) is not on stage yet. Civic orchestra of Chicago begins rehearsal—a great sound. YYM walks in unannounced, stands in the doorway and begins playing—orchestra immediately responds and changes volume and color to match. Amazing how musicians converse without speaking. They reach the final cadence. Yo-Yo stands and approaches concert master. Concertmaster offers his hand. Yo-Yo opens his arms—the musicians embrace.  The musicians clearly love him and the feeling is reciprocated. We are in for a night of great music tomorrow!

12:30 During lunch, YYM decides to add a bass to the Mendelssohn rehearsal (even though there is no bass part written). Octet becomes Nonet. Yo-Yo is so inclusive. Everyone immediately feels as if they are old friends. I see this every time he meets someone new.

2:30 PM Judson Green and his band are on sound check. What a great group! Everyone of them a stellar player. Love the tune they are playing but do not recognize it. Later find out it’s Judson’s. Every tune they play (except Giant Steps) all written by Judson. How many Fortune CEO’s are composers? And great jazz pianists?

3PM Civic Musicians in discussion with school of music students about life after college. What a great opportunity for our students to chat with musicians just a few years older and discover the next steps in the career of a professional musician.

7:30 Emily Barnash brings down the house with her performance at dinner. People comment on her stage presence and voice. John Clodfelter plays beautifully.

8PM YYM takes the stage and wows us all with his thoughts on a wide range of topics. A perfect presentation for a world-class university with world-class school of music. The excitement is palpable. Everyone loves Yo-Yo Ma.

10PM Private jam session with YYM, the Civic and DePauw. Typical Yo-Yo: he sits in the back. He interacts with the students. The Brandenburg FLIES. The audience applauds. Yo-Yo stands. “Now faster!” Off they go!  The audience cheers. Drum circles and pizza yet to come.

Friday 30 September

9AM Heart of a Soldier has a profound effect on the audience. James B. Stewart (author) and Chris Theofanidis (composer) lead a brilliant and moving discussion. A scene from the San Francisco Opera Production is shown. Great music and a powerful story. Then SoM students Case Nafziger and Sara Horton blow us all away with their incredible performance of the love duet. Wow!

10:30 A profound roundtable on Arts empowering youth at the same time as the YYM masterclass. Typical DePauw– too many excellent things to choose from! Who would believe that a freshman cellist from Italy would win the audition to play for YYM in a master class. Not sure I would have had the courage to play for YYM as a freshman. Federico Papi does us proud. Jennifer Peacock, accompanist, seems like an old pro. The two of them do a great job and then Lizzie Wen, Amelia Lant and Karl Wert get their chance with the Beethoven Piano Trio in C Minor. Young talent gets the opportunity to work with great talent. Yo-Yo adds so much to their performance.

12:10 Our surprise performance with YYM in the Hub is no surprise. We arrive and several hundred students, faculty and staff are already there. No place for orchestra to sit! I jump on a chair and tell them “I guess our secret is out (thank you facebook)”. They play. Yo-Yo loves it. The students love it. What’s not to love?

Upstairs in the ballroom for the Discourse lunch, the waiters are actually choir members in disguise. Unannounced, they burst into song. I get there as the entire choir fills the room with “Make Our Garden Grow”. People are weeping at the power of this art. I am choked up. I see President Casey is too.

All around town and campus at 12:10 music erupts. City Hall, the courthouse, restaurants, academic buildings. no place is safe. Musicians appear– random acts of beauty. Some play for one or two, some for dozens, some for hundreds. It doesn’t matter. Music happens.

12:30 YYM is to make a surprise visit to a Senior home in town. He gets there first. Uh-Oh. Will he leave? Not Yo-Yo. He walks in unannounced and begins to chat with the residents. So personable. Still no musicians? No sweat. He gets out his cello and starts to play unaccompanied Bach Suites. Civic and DePauw musicians arrive.  “Go ahead and get your instruments,” he says, “I am vamping.” There is no one in the world like Yo-Yo Ma.

1:30 Judson and his band play for his presentation on Creativity and Jazz. This is brilliant. It needs to be a book. A bestseller. What great musicians! Love the solos! The band plays an encore. Not enough time for enough music. We must have them back.

3:00 Hi-energy roundtable with President Casey and Arts leaders in Indy. Dr. Casey (being himself) always stirring the pot. The participants respond. The audience responds. This is what discourse is all about.

4:30 Reception. The jazz combo sounds great. I meet noted composer Nancy Ford Charles. Are all famous people DePauw alums?

6PM Concert. Wow! Too many thoughts for words. I’ll just say this: If all concerts were played with this commitment and joy, THERE WOULD BE NO EMPTY SEATS IN CONCERT HOUSES.

Saturday, 1 October

String quartet plays beautifully for WC DePauw Society/Discourse breakfast. Claire Jagla gives the most impressive speech by an undergraduate I have ever heard. Dr. Casey shares his vision for the way forward. Great things in store.

While that was the official end of Discourse events, we still had two gigs to go! Loved the Jazz and Band concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Some very fine solos in both! Great concerts.

What a weekend. If I was any prouder I would have to be two people. Bravo SoM. Bravo Discourse. Bravo Steve Setchell and Marcia Latta and Bravo Brian Casey. One last time: wow.

Thank You Judson and Joyce Green. You are still making magic. Even after Disney.

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