Author Archives: Stuart Ronkainen

Castle of Our Skins

From MSO Board Member Kris Kautzman:
A couple years ago I had the honor to connect with of Castle of Our Skins, a Boston-based concert and educational organization dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music. From classrooms to concert halls, COOS invites cultural curiosity and exploration into ​Black heritage and culture, spotlighting both unsung and celebrated ​figures of past and present. Their website is a treasure trove of stories, interviews, and performances. Like their Facebook page to get regular updates, and check out the winning videos from their recent  Black Composer Miniature Challenge: 30 second pieces for solo piano, solo viola, or viola-piano duo.

Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

From Racial Equity Committee Co-Chair Christine Melchert:
This week we take an in-depth look at Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, founded ten years ago and directed by Jeri Lynn Johnson in Philadelphia. Ms. Johnson has embedded diversity, equity, inclusion, and excellence into her orchestra from the start. Black Pearl’s mission is “to take the audience beyond spectatorship to participation in the musical experience by combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and innovative community engagement.” The orchestra is comprised of the some of the finest African American, Asian American, Latin American, and European American musicians. As a result, their audience more closely reflects the makeup of the orchestra (56% African American and 34% white).   
Watch this short interview of Jeri Lynn Johnson to learn more about this group.
Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra recently performed in “See Me: A Global Concert” for the Davos Agenda and World Economic Forum. This international collaboration features Yo-Yo Ma and musicians from around the world who created this stunning musical production during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing the interconnectedness and resilience of humanity through the power of music.It’s worth the 23 minutes needed to watch!  See Me: A Global Concert

MSO Statement on the Chauvin verdict

MSO’s mission is to perform outstanding symphony concerts for diverse audiences throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and the diverse relationships we’ve developed across the community are an important part of our work as an ensemble. Almost a year ago, after the killing of George Floyd, we began the process of educating ourselves about systemic racism and implicit bias, so that we might be better equipped to address and act upon issues of racism in classical music and in our community. 
This week we witnessed the three guilty verdicts in the trial of Derek Chauvin. While we are glad for the verdicts, we must ask ourselves, in what moral universe do we even need this trial to confirm what we all saw? Why did it have to take an almost 10-minute excruciating video and an entire team of expert attorneys, experts and re-traumatizing testimony from eye-witnesses to get the first appropriate verdict of a white police officer’s murder of an unarmed Black fellow community member? In the same week, we also grieve the death of Daunte Wright in an encounter with Brooklyn Center police. We know that the Chauvin verdict is a step in the right direction, and we have many steps to yet take to achieve racial equity. 
We want to add our voices to those calling for change. We believe that Black Lives Matter: that Black people should have the same rights as all people, that Black bodies deserve to be treated with dignity, and that Black voices need to be heard and amplified. We commit to continue our own learning and work in the right direction.

Composer feature – Reinaldo Moya

One of my favorite local composers is Reinaldo Moya, and this week I’d like to share some of his music for orchestra and strings. Click here to explore several recordings of his work. Reinaldo is originally from Venezuela, and now teaches composition at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. In 2016, his Passacaglia for Orchestra was chosen as the winner of the Earshot Composers Competition sponsored by the American Composers Orchestra. He also recently served as Composer-in-Residence for the Schubert Club and has written several operas that have been performed in New York and Minnesota. When I listen to recordings of his ensemble pieces I hear a fascinating intricacy and interplay between the instruments, and a wonderful variety of textures and overlapping melodies!

Want to go deeper? Click here to learn about Moya’s 2019 opera, commissioned by the Schubert Club. Tienda tells the story of Luis Garzón, a Mexican musician who immigrated to Minneapolis in 1886 and opened a small Mexican grocery store, or tienda de abarotes, in St. Paul in the 1920s. Although Luis was fully integrated into Minneapolitan society, his store served as a community hub for the newest arrivals from Mexico, many of whom had fled the Mexican Revolution to work on the sugar beet farms of rural Minnesota. The opera explores the immigrant experience and reveals a chapter in the history of St. Paul that is unfamiliar to many community members.