Festival Miami celebrates cultural diversity in music

Virtuosos, pianists, conductors, oh my! The 19th gala season of Festival Miami is off and running and music lovers far and wide are flocking to the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall to witness the beauty and variety of this annual musical series.

“This 2002 season’s 27 concerts continue the tradition of presenting outstanding artists and a remarkable variety of programming covering a wide musical spectrum that reinforces Festival Miami’s international character,” said William Hipp, dean of the School of Music, in a letter published in the Festival Miami program.

“No other school of music in American higher education presents a festival of this scope,” Hipp wrote.

Festival Miami 2002 began Saturday, Sept. 21 with the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Sleeper.

The gala opening included the world premiere of an original composition by John Van der Slice entitled “Specters.”

Italian piano virtuoso Pietro de Maria gave a performance of Saint-Saens Piano Concerto in G minor.

From Cuban to Irish, from country to classical, from jazz to orchestra to ballet and choir – Festival Miami is a six-week musical celebration, featuring symphonic performances, world premieres, jazz ensembles and guests of both local and international acclaim.

“Festival Miami is an absolutely wonderful resource in our community. It keeps getting better and better and when you think it can’t get better, it does,” said Thor W. Bruce, president of Friends of the University of Miami School of Music, Inc.

“It fills a very important need in our community, and when they pack up and leave, it leaves a void,” Bruce said.

Students and performers agree.

“I think it’s really great for us to have the opportunity to host such musical talent right here on campus,” senior Derek Daly said. “It’s so accessible that anyone can go and the tickets are really reasonable so even if you’re not into classical music, it doesn’t hurt to check it out.”

“Festival Miami is a terrific opportunity for the community and college students to broaden their musical horizons,” said Chip Cothran, Art Blakey Ensemble, Jazz Vocal II.

“Musicians from around the world come and perform here for Festival Miami, as well as students, and there’s a really wide variety to the kind of music that is played,” said Belinda Ho, a member of the UM Symphony. “It’s really a learning experience for students here.”

According to Ho, Will Lee, the bassist from Late Night with David Letterman, will be making an appearance next week.

Many feel that Festival Miami will help in expanding the knowledge and span of various musical genres.

“I’d never been to a jazz concert before in my entire life until the UM concert jazz band played with Jon Faddis,” said Sam Bergstrom, who worked during Festival Miami 2000. “Because of that concert, I started listening to jazz and now I listen to it all the time – it changed what I listen to to this day, and I still have a recording of that concert.”

“I think [Festival Miami] is a good thing because it can expose students to music and art forms that they wouldn’t normally hear or see,” Bergstrom said.

Ginga Asakura, an elementary school teacher who attended the opening night of the UM symphony orchestra, agrees.

“It’s a family event that includes a lot of culturally diverse performances and events that illuminate people – Miami is such a melting pot and everything here is so diverse that you get to learn about a lot of things,” she said. “It’s an educational series of events for everyone and a good opportunity to expand your knowledge of music.”

“It’s very important for people to know what’s outside their little bubble. It’s very important to try to get people in the community involved,” Asakura said.

Students who are interested in learning more about scheduled events and ticket information can log on to www.music.miami.edu/festivalmiami2002 or stop by Gusman Concert Hall to pick up a full schedule and description of all Festival Miami 2002 events.