Festival Miami tunes up for another season

Festival Miami, the month-long concert series sponsored by the Frost School of Music, kicked off its 23rd Gala Season on Sept. 30 with performances by the Frost Symphony Orchestra and the Marcus Roberts Jazz Trio.

The Festival runs until Nov. 4 and will feature 27 different performances by students, faculty and prominent guest artists ranging from renowned pianist Bruce Hornsby to Grammy-winning Cuban singer Albita.

Festival Miami began in 1983 as the brainchild of William Hipp, dean of the School of Music and known by many as “Mr. Festival Miami.”

“Before I came to UM there was a festival of Latin music,” Hipp said. “I met with the faculty to see how it could be expanded and eventually my thinking evolved into wanting something with more variety.”

Over the years Festival Miami has grown to include a wide array of music including classical, orchestral, chamber, Latin and jazz, as well as the premieres of over 100 pieces.

“We’ve always avoided being a thematic festival,” Hipp said. “Instead, we adopted an eclectic mindset to keep things exciting year after year.”

One of Hipp’s main objectives in starting Festival Miami was to give students and faculty a chance to perform with and learn from the guest artists. In addition to the actual festival, almost all of the visiting artists offer master classes.

“The experience it affords the students and the exposure it gives the faculty is one of the most important aspects of Festival Miami,” Hipp said.

Opening night began with the students of the music school, conducted by Thomas Sleeper, performing the Florida premieres of Roberto Sierra’s Symphonies No. 1 and 3.

“The students’ performance was just spectacular,” said alumna Sheila Schabrow, class of ’61.

The second half of the concert featured the Marcus Roberts Jazz Trio joined by the Frost Symphony Orchestra performing an interpretation of George Gershwin’s Concerto in F, arranged by Marcus Roberts.

“Perfoming with Marcus Roberts was amazing,” said Mghnon Martin, sophomore violin major. “We had to practice for 15 hours beforehand, but it really paid off.”

The performances in this year’s Festival Miami stay true to Hipp’s eclectic vision. “Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers,” featuring the Florida premiere of The Holocaust Cantata: Songs from the Camps, will be preformed on Oct. 15.

“A Night on the Town with Bruce Hornsby” on Oct. 28 will celebrate the three-time Grammy award winner and UM alum’s return to his alma mater.

“I’m really looking forward to all the classical music performances and the Bruce Hornsby concert,” Martin said.

This year will be Hipp’s last as dean of the music school, but he hopes the festival will continue to be an important part of the UM tradition for years to come.

“What has happened over time is that Festival Miami has become a part of the cultural fabric of South Florida,” Hipp said. “It’s done so many good things for the school and it will continue to be just as strong in the future as it is today.”

A schedule of all the performances and ticket prices for Festival Miami is available at the Frost School of Music website, www.music.miami.edu

Veronica Sepe may be contacted at v.sepe@umiami.edu.