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Chicago Sinfonietta's Hear Me Roar features Jennifer Higdon among women composers
2018-02-24

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In conjunction with its Project W initiative, which makes bold steps for gender equity in classical music, Chicago Sinfonietta announces performances of Hear Me Roar at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL ( March 11, 2018, 3pm ) and at Symphony Center, Chicago ( March 12, 2018, 7:30pm ).

This performance is the fourth of five Main Stage programs throughout the Sinfonietta's 30th Anniversary Season. Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, who is Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta, will conduct. Chicago Sinfonietta is Chicago's professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion, and both racial and cultural equity in the arts.

This timely and topical program includes new works Dance Card by recent Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon as well as #MeToo by Reena Esmail, both commissioned as part of Sinfonietta's Project W initiative. Featured instrumentalists include Carol Dylan, violin; Karen Nelson, violin; Marlea Simpson, viola; and Ann Griffin, cello. Hear Me Roar falls right after International Women's Day ( March 8 ) and within Women's History Month ( March ).

The Program includes:

Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence B. Price

Dance Card by Jennifer Higdon ( Chicago Premiere )

#MeToo by Reena Esmail ( World Premiere )

Symphony in F sharp minor, Op. 41 by Dora Dora Pejacevic ( Chicago Premiere )

The concert will be performed at Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave, Naperville, IL on Sunday, March 11 at 3pm; and at Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL on Monday, March 12 at 7:30pm.

Tickets range from $20-$99 for concerts at Symphony Center and $49-$62 for concerts at North Central College with special $10 pricing available for students at both concerts. Tickets can be purchased by calling Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-284-1554 or online at chicagosinfonietta.org . Hear Me Roar is sponsored in part by Skadden, ITW, and Fifth Third Bank, in partnership with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Chicago Sinfonietta Season Sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aon, and Southwest Airlines.

Ticket holders are invited pre-show and during intermission to experience activities with Girls Rock! Chicago and YWCA. These activities are presented as part of BRIDGE — Chicago Sinfonietta's audience engagement thematic concert programming established to break social, racial, and economic barriers within the symphonic experience.

"Hear Me Roar" takes Chicago Sinfonietta into uncharted repertoire with two major new commissions among three Chicago Premieres" says Music Director Chen. She continues: "the entire program is comprised of incredible works created by women composers - both past and present. While Jennifer Higdon and Reena Esmail represent the new generation of composers who are making symphonic history with every piece they compose, Florence Price and Dora Pejacevic wrote music that has literally become the hidden gem of the orchestral repertoire as very few music lovers know their music well. With less than 2% of the symphonic repertoire annually performed by American professional orchestras being works written by women, the Chicago Sinfonietta has hit the national radar championing for one of the most underrepresented minorities in the classical music world - the women who expressed their life experiences through the musical voices of symphony orchestras."

About Chicago Sinfonietta ( www.chicagosinfonietta.org )

Since 1987, Chicago Sinfonietta has been a defiantly different kind of orchestra. The orchestra was founded by Maestro Paul Freeman to address the disconnect between the utter lack of diversity in orchestras and the vibrant, nuanced, communities for which they play. For nearly 30 years, we have made it our mission to represent the city of Chicago, reflecting that vibrancy on stage and in our programming, making classical music accessible for anyone.

Chicago Sinfonietta is grateful to its season sponsors including Aon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Southwest Airlines, Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Indigo and NBC5. Chicago Sinfonietta also thanks its BRIDGE Audience Engagement sponsor Macy's, as well as its season media sponsors including Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, Naperville magazine, and WBEZ.

About Project W: Chicago Sinfonietta's 30th anniversary season is making a statement: Women Rule. With 43% of the season's works composed by women and a seventh year on the podium for Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, the Sinfonietta is making a play for gender equity in classical music. When Chicago Sinfonietta took the stage to kick off its 30th anniversary season, the first notes played by the orchestra weren't Mozart or Beethoven; they were written by Jesse Montgomery. One of four works by women composers commissioned by the orchestra for the 2017/2018 as part of Project W, it was a fitting beginning for a season that, in total, is made up of 43% of works composed by women. Clarice Assad, Jennifer Higdon, and Reena Esmail will also premiere works as part of the organization's season-long project. The works will also be recorded and released as the orchestra's 16th album in 2019. NOTE: A standalone press release will be available for Project W.

One of the ways in which Chicago Sinfonietta addresses classical music's diversity challenge is with Project Inclusion, a program serving diverse, emerging musicians, conductors and arts administrators celebrates 10 years and continues to lead the field. With the recent appointments of Deanna Tham ( Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra ) and Alejandro Gomez Guillen ( Fort Worth Symphony ), Chicago Sinfonietta's success rate for placing graduates of their Project Inclusion Conducting Freeman Fellowship has risen to almost 90%. In a field where non-white conductors account for just 21% of all appointments in the nation ( and where they are leading orchestras with, on average, less than 5% musicians of color ), this program is leading the field when it comes to addressing classical music's diversity challenge.

About the Conductor and Commissioned Composers

Mei-Ann Chen

Innovation, imagination, passion and dynamism are the hallmarks of conductor Mei-Ann Chen. Music Director of the 2016 MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta, she is acclaimed for infusing the orchestra with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, and galvanizing audiences and communities alike. In December 2015, Musical America, the bible of the performing arts industry, named Mei-Ann Chen one of its 2015 Top 30 Influencers. A sought-after guest conductor, Ms. Chen's reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras both nationally and internationally.

Named Conductor Laureate following a successful six season tenure as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra this past spring, Ms. Chen recently served as Artistic Director and Conductor for the 2016 National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival.

Among her guest engagements in 2016-2017 season are debuts and returns to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw, Sweden's Malmo SymfoniOrkester, Austria's Grosses Orchester Graz, Finland's Tampere Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, as well as both the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan ( Taipei ) and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra ( Taichung ).

Past performance highlights include leading symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Oregon, Seattle, Toronto, Tucson, and Vancouver. Overseas guesting credits include the BBC Scottish Symphony, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Germany's Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra filarmonica Minas Gerais.

Ms. Chen's skills both on and off the podium have been recognized, as someone who has redefined the orchestra experience and as a music educator. Among her honors and awards are the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras and First Prize Winner of the 2005 Malko Competition in Copenhagen, a 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship, and multiple ASCAP awards for innovative programming. Ms. Chen served as Assistant Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, and with the Oregon symphony as well. In 2002, Ms. Chen was unanimously selected as Music Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon.

Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen has lived in the United States since 1989. The first student in New England Conservatory's history to receive master's degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting, Ms. Chen holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of Michigan.

Reena Esmail

Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. In recent seasons, Esmail has worked with the Kronos Quartet, Albany Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Salastina Music Society and American Composers Orchestra. Her work is performed regularly throughout the US and abroad, and has been programmed at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre in London, Schloss Esterhazy in Hungary, and throughout India. Esmail holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music, and was a Fulbright grantee to India. Her primary teachers have included Susan Botti, Aaron Jay Kernis and Christopher Theofanidis. She has won awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Recent commissions include a Clarinet Concerto for Hindustani/Western crossover clarinetist Shankar Tucker and Albany Symphony Orchestra, The Light is the Same for Imani Winds, and a new major sacred work, This Love Between Us for chorus, orchestra, sitar and tabla, written for Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard 415 which toured India in March 2017. This season's highlights include new works for Chicago Sinfonietta and Albany Symphony with Hindustani vocalist Saili Oak. Esmail is the Co-Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music that connects the great musical traditions of India and the West. She is also the Composer-in-Residence with Street Symphony, where she works with communities experiencing homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles.

Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon is one of America's most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. Higdon started late in music, teaching herself to play flute at the age of 15 and beginning formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite this late beginning, she has become a major figure in contemporary Classical music, receiving the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, a 2010 Grammy for her Percussion Concerto and a 2018 Grammy for her Viola Concerto. Higdon enjoys several hundred performances a year of her works, and blue cathedral is one of today's most performed contemporary orchestral works, with more than 500 performances worldwide. Her works have been recorded on more than sixty CDs. Higdon's first opera, Cold Mountain, won the International Opera Award for Best World Premiere and the opera recording was nominated for 2 Grammy awards. Higdon holds a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.M. in Flute Performance from Bowling Green State University, and an Artist Diploma in Music Composition from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She now holds the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press.


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