Production photo of 'Something Rotten!' by Joan Marcus. Provided by Gabriel Firestone.

Making A Scene: Q&A with Alumnus Gabriel Firestone, Scenic Designer

Cincinnati audiences may remember Gabriel Firestone (BFA Stage Design, 2014) for his scenic designs in CCM Opera’s Mainstage production of Owen Wingrave in 2013. After graduating from CCM’s acclaimed Theatre Design and Technology program, Firestone went on to design scenery for Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional and international theatre productions. Working alongside award-winning scenic designer Scott Pask, Firestone most recently served as the associate scenic designer for the first National Tour of Tony-nominated musical Something Rotten!.

Gabriel Firestone. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Gabriel Firestone. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser.

Firestone isn’t the only CCM alumnus involved in the national tour. Something Rotten! is produced by Kevin McCollum (BFA Musical Theatre, 1984), and onstage performers include alumni Joel Newsome (BFA Musical Theatre, 1989) and Pierce Cassedy (BFA Musical Theatre, 2012). A fun fact from Firestone’s time at CCM: the house he lived in on Wheeler Street in Clifton was actually passed down to him from Cassedy, along with his sofa set. “CCM really is an extended family,” Firestone says.

We caught up with Firestone to talk about his experience working on Something Rotten! and what life has been like for him since he graduated from CCM.

What is it like working in scenic design for the first National Tour of Something Rotten? What does a typical day look like for you at work?
As Associate Scenic Designer for the Something Rotten! first National Tour, my job was to work along-side Scott Pask, who designed the highly successful Broadway production, and effectively translate the original design of the scenery and props into one that could be taken out on tour. There are many different physical and logistical constraints when a production is playing a wide variety of venues, and making sure the set will look just as good on the road as it did on the stage at the St. James Theatre in New York was critical.

I don’t believe there is such thing as a “typical day at work” — my responsibilities with the tour changed as the design progressed. The beginning stages involved lots of modeling and sketching. Later, I was drafting and documenting how all of the scenic pieces moved onstage. I spent a few weeks running back and forth between the scenic shops who built and painted the scenery and drops, giving notes and making sure everything was looking and functioning as it should. Finally, I spent a month out on the road with the show, overseeing as the various elements finally came together in the theater, and reacting to any last-minute changes. Each day was a different and exciting challenge.

What has been your most challenging scenic design project and why?
While every design presents its own set of challenges, one of the more interesting ones I’ve encountered involved transferring a design I did for Red Light Winter in New York City to the National Theatre in Warsaw, Poland. The set in New York was a small, drab room with three crumbling plaster walls and the suggestion of a ceiling — all grounded in realism. Due to limitations for the re-mounted production, we couldn’t use our scenery overseas. Although it might not seem like a huge challenge, the creative team had to reconcile the telling of this story, where the constricted environment itself becomes a major player, with the comparatively spacious bounds we were given in which to work. We reconfigured the staging and design in a pretty remarkable way that didn’t detract from the story, but rather added to the audience’s understanding of what happens to the characters in the brief moments after they leave the room we no longer represented so literally. The sometimes one-dimensional characters suddenly became multi-faceted, and what was lost in the way of aesthetic realism was replaced by much more emotionally driven performances. It was a fascinating production to have been a part of.

Do you have a specific CCM memory or experience that you would like to share?
A favorite memory of mine was going through the design process for CCM Opera’s Owen Wingrave as part of the year-long centenary celebration of Benjamin Britten’s career. Due to a directorial change, all the work had to be scrapped and we started over from the beginning. It was exciting to re-envision the piece under the lens of a different director, and to figure out what changed and evolved from the previous iteration. Although we as a creative team were working within a truncated amount of time, I think the design ended up being every bit as bold and grand as we had imagined. The first time you see the scenery, which takes months to realize, assembled on-stage is always a magical experience; it never grows old.

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Do you have any advice for current or soon-to-be graduating CCM students?
My advice to somebody who’s soon-to-be graduating is to be patient and not to believe he or she is above getting people coffee for a while, so-to-speak. As a young theatre arts professional, there are an endless number of opportunities to get one’s foot in the door, but the people who get those jobs, keep those jobs and grow in those jobs are the ones who have a great attitude every day, show up with a smile and don’t mind supporting the team in ways sometimes deemed menial. In an industry where we spend so much time working in large groups, you can quickly earn a lasting reputation as somebody who is passionate and dependable, and when it comes time to take on more advanced work, your name will be the first one considered. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to make the right connections.

And also, try to find some balance in life between success in a career and a personal life. Both are more fun and fulfilling when there is a sense of balance between them.

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Something Rotten! photo by Joan Marcus; provided by Gabriel Firestone.

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CCM's famed Faculty Jazztet.

CCM Faculty Jazztet Concert features Ariel Quartet, World Premiere of new work from Grammy Award-winning Alumnus

For the first time, acclaimed artists in CCM’s Faculty Jazztet will collaborate with the college’s renowned String Quartet-in-Residence, the Ariel Quartet, in a free concert presented at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in Patricia Corbett Theater. The concert features new compositions by the jazz faculty and the world premiere of Catching Light, by Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Patterson (BM Composition, 1978).

From left to right: Alexandra Kazovsky, Jan Grüning, Amit Even-Tov and Gershon Gerchikov are the Ariel Quartet.

From left to right: Alexandra Kazovsky, Jan Grüning, Amit Even-Tov and Gershon Gerchikov are the Ariel Quartet.

New works by faculty members Steve Allee, Craig Bailey and Kim Pensyl will feature the Ariel Quartet’s virtuoso string sounds and exciting improvisations. Performers will include Allee, piano; Bailey, saxophone and flute; Pensyl, flugelhorn; James Bunte, saxophone and flute; Rick VanMatre, saxophone and clarinet; Rusty Burge, marimba and vibraphone; Aaron Jacobs, bass and Art Gore, drums.

Grammy Award-winning New York composer and CCM alumnus Michael Patterson will also debut his new work, Catching Light, during the program. Featured on stage will be paintings by internationally recognized visual artist Anna Socha VanMatre. Inspired by Michael Patterson’s composition, she has created a large eight-paneled work, also titled Catching Light, which contrasts texture and color to capture the effect of varying sunlight and moonlight.

The concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theater. Admission is free and reservations are not required. Before the concert Patterson will present a lecture on classical composition, jazz composition and film scoring from 4:30-6 p.m. in Room 2150 of CCM’s Mary Emery Hall.

About Michael Patterson
michael_patterson_1-1An alumnus of CCM’s composition department, Patterson is a Grammy and Emmy Award winner who has written concert works for the London Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester, Utah, and New Mexico orchestras, the Debussy Trio, Judy Kang, Novus, Eddie Daniels and Rick VanMatre. He has composed, arranged and produced records for jazz artists like Marc Copland, Gene Bertoncini, Hank Jones, James Moody, Calabria Foti and Bob McChesney. Patterson’s film work includes episodes of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, over 50 episodes of JAG (CBS-TV), Tiny Toon Adventures with Steven Spielberg, and feature film work on Lucasfilms’ Radioland Murders. He currently teaches composition and film scoring at NYU.
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Event Information

8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15
CCM FACULTY JAZZTET
Featuring CCM String Quartet-in-Residence, The Ariel Quartet

CCM’s acclaimed jazz faculty artists collaborate with CCM’s renowned String Quartet-in-Residence, the Ariel Quartet. World premieres by faculty members Steve Allee, Craig Bailey and Kim Pensyl will feature virtuoso string sounds combined with exciting improvisations. Grammy Award-winning New York composer and CCM alumnus Michael Patterson will also debut a new work. Featured on stage will be paintings by internationally recognized visual artist Anna Socha VanMatre.
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
Admission: FREE

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.

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Xinghai Concert Hall. Photo by 慕尼黑啤酒.

Musical Theatre Students Travel to China for Valentine’s Day Performance

CCM Director of Orchestra Studies Mark Gibson and four musical theatre students are taking a whirlwind trip to China to perform with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra at the Xinghai Concert Hall on Valentine’s Day.

Students Michelle Coben, David Paul Schwensen, Emily Morris and Zach Erhardt will head to China with Gibson on Friday, Feb. 10. They will rehearse over the weekend and present the program, “A Valentine to New York,” on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

michellecoben

Michelle Coben.

david-paul-schwensen

David Paul Schwensen.

emilymorris

Emily Morris.

zach-erhardt

Zach Erhardt.

 

 

 

 

The program includes excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls and How to Success In Business Without Really Trying and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. The concert will also feature George Gershwin’s Overture to Girl Crazy and Jule Styne’s Overture to Gypsy. 

“This will be a first for the GSO, a first for CCM as a school, a first for each of the gifted students involved and, frankly, a first for me — my very first all-Broadway concert,” Gibson says.

The trip began with an invitation from CCM alumna Huan Jing (MM Orchestral Conducting, 2010), who studied under Gibson and was also a visiting faculty member at CCM. Jing is the resident conductor of the prestigious Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, the only Chinese orchestra to tour and perform on five continents.

“The Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra is one of the half-dozen top orchestras in China,” Gibson says.  “Huan Jing is not the only CCM alumna in the orchestra. CCM alumna Nicole Leong is the GSO’s new principal harpist, making this a true family affair!”

CCM Musical Theatre professor Roger Grodsky prepared the students for the concert with assistance from Luke Flood, a master’s of music student in Orchestral Conducting. Gibson and the students will return to Cincinnati on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

“We are going to rock Guangzhou!” Gibson says. “Thanks to Huan Jing, Roger Grodsky, Aubrey Berg, Interim Provost Peter Landgren, Interim Dean bruce mcclung, Patti Hall and many more for making this all possible!

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CCM Alumnus John Holiday Wins 2017 Marian Anderson Vocal Award

johnholidayCCM is proud to report that countertenor John Holiday (MM Voice, 2012) is the winner of this year’s Marian Anderson Vocal Award, which celebrates the excellence and vocal promise of one young American singer. The award, which was first offered in 2002, is presented by the Kennedy Center and Washington National Opera.

Holiday’s prizes include $10,000 cash and the opportunity to perform a recital on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. He will also have an educational residency at Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts that will include master classes and other workshops for vocal music students at the magnet school.

This is far from the first major award that Holiday has won; he recently won first place in the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, he won third prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 2014, and he was a Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions that same year and he was first place winner in his district of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2007. Additionally, he won a 2014 Sara Tucker Grant for young vocal artists and first prize in the Gerda Lissner Foundation’s 2013 International Vocal Competition, among other awards. A career highlight includes an invitation by Pope John Paul II to sing as soloist for High Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in 2002.

Holiday’s recent roles include the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at LA Opera and the title role in Handel’s Giulio Cesare at Wolf Trap Opera. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in a performance of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony, and he recently joined the Metropolitan Opera to cover Nireno in Giulio Cesare.

This season, he will appear with the Nashville Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Boston Baroque, the Glimmerglass Festival and Opera Philadelphia.

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About Marian Anderson

American contralto Marian Anderson was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. She became an important figure in the struggle for African American artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States, when in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for her to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience of millions. She continued to break barriers, becoming the first African American artist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on January 7, 1955. She later worked for several years as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and for the U.S. Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington in 1963. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, a Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

This story has been updated to reflect a correction in John Holiday’s list of major awards.

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CCM’s ‘Moveable Feast’ benefit event returns on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017! Click on the image for more information.

CCM’s Moveable Feast: Plan Your Artistic Menu

Here is your first look at this year’s artistic menu for CCM’s annual Moveable Feast. Create your own schedule of 20-minute samplings of student entertainment, along with Backstage tours and much more before Friday’s event!

This year’s “opening course” offers a preview of songs from Broadway’s Anastasia, composed by CCM graduate Stephen Flaherty (BM Composition, 1982). Cast as Anya in the new musical, alumna Christy Altomare (BFA Musical Theatre, 2008) returns to the Corbett Auditorium stage to sing “Journey to the Past” with the CCM Philharmonia. View the Moveable Feast program online or scroll below for a complete list of performances.

A map of CCM Village is below, including food stations with dinner by-the-bite from Jeff Thomas Catering. Be sure to visit the CCM Box Office during Moveable Feast for special discounts on spring concerts and Mainstage performances.

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Moveable Feast Schedule

Corbett Auditorium
Philharmonia Orchestra featuring Anastasia – 7:30 p.m.
Jazz Orchestra & Musical Theatre Finale – 10 p.m.

Patricia Corbett Theater
Dance
– 8 p.m., 9 p.m.
Opera – 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

Cohen Family Studio Theater
Musical Theatre
– 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

Robert J. Werner Performance Hall
Chamber Choir
– 8 p.m., 9 p.m.
Ariel Quartet – 8:30 p.m.
Piano – 9:30 p.m.

CCM Atrium
Backstage Tours – 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.
Lighting Demonstrations – 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

Room 3650
Preparatory & Community Engagement – 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

Room 3250
Classical Guitar – 8 p.m.
Acting – 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m.
World Music – 9 p.m.

Room 3240
Theatre Design and Production Exhibit – 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

Room 3140c
Electronic Media – 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20. Tickets to this year’s event are moving fast, so don’t delay – get yours before they’re gone and experience an unforgettable evening of artistic and culinary delights! Call CCM at 513-556-2100 to order.

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Eddy Kwon with the MyCincinnati youth orchestra.

Alumnus Receives $50K Fellowship for Work with MYCincinnati Youth

United States Artists, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting artists and innovators, awarded alumnus Eddy Kwon an unrestricted $50,000 Fellowship to encourage his work with young Cincinnati musicians.

Eddy Kwon

Eddy Kwon.

Kwon (BM Violin Performance, 2011) co-founded MYCincinnati with cellist Laura Jekel shortly after he graduated from CCM. The youth orchestra program offers free music lessons to children in Price Hill. It is part of Price Hill Will, which strives to revitalize the neighborhood through renovating homes, creating community gardens and other community-building initiatives.

“Price Hill has many wonderful assets, but, in 2011, it was clear that there were not many opportunities for intense, high-quality arts engagement in the neighborhood,” says Kwon. “Since MYCincinnati’s founding, we have always been at enrollment capacity with a long waiting list, which clearly demonstrates the community’s desire for such a program.”

The unrestricted fellowship gives Kwon financial support, which will allow him to “take some risks” in developing future projects as he deepens his investment in MyCincinnati and Price Hill, he says. Kwon is one of 45 innovators to receive the 2016 United States Artists Fellowship. The winners were nominated by peers and field experts for their impacts on their respective fields, including architecture and design, dance, literature, media and music. Each fellow receives $50,000 to help them continue to pursue excellence and innovation in their crafts.

“It’s an honor that I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I quite deserve,” says Kwon. “It’s a reminder that there is so much more we need to do to ensure that all young people — not just those with access to privileged resources — have opportunities to build upon their imaginations and be recognized for their work.”

MYCincinnati is a “musical family,” Kwon says. The program is modeled after El Sistema, a Venezuelan program that engages at-risk children in extensive music classes and rehearsals that culminate in the renowned Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. El Sistema is not a parent organization to MYCincinnati; rather, the latter is part of a loose network of programs inspired by the Venezuelan initiative. All of these groups strive to teach young people more than just music.

“At its core, MyCincinnati is a youth development program that uses music as a vehicle,” says Kwon. “We’ve seen children that, when they are first enrolled, cannot focus for more than a couple minutes at a time. After a year of MYCincinnati, they are able to focus and strive for excellence for a full hour of rehearsal.”

After several years, the children are also teaching and mentoring younger students and interacting with the community as ambassadors for the program. Some are even composing their own music while others conduct and lead orchestra rehearsals on their own. “There are too many amazing individual stories to recount,” Kwon says.

The Ambassador Ensemble.

Eddy Kwon and the Ambassador Ensemble.

Kwon has been the director of MYCincinnati for several years, and he also directs the organization’s Ambassador Ensemble, an avant-garde string sextet that combines social activism with collaboration and performance. When he isn’t working with MYCincinnati, he often composes and performs with The Happy Maladies, a string quartet of which he is a founding member.

Two years ago, Kwon was awarded a $6,000 Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellowship, which he used to compose, perform and film three concerts with the MYCincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Additionally, the program was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Louise Taft Semple Foundation to continue and expand the Ambassador project, which encourages outstanding MYCincinnati students to develop their own creative projects. All of these awards have allowed Kwon and his organization to shape Price Hill youth into artists, community leaders and mentors to their younger peers.

“I have absolutely seen many positive changes in both individual students, our MyCincinnati community and the greater Price Hill community in the short time MYCincinnati has been active,” Kwon says, adding that the program now has more than 100 students. “MyCincinnati is a musical family, and we strive to make every child feel welcomed, expected and supported.”

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Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

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CCM alumnus Nick Lipari during his time as a student at CCM.

CCM E-Media Alumnus Nicholas Lipari Assistant Edits Latest Star Wars Film, ‘Rogue One’

CCM alumnus Nick Lipari.

CCM alumnus Nick Lipari.

The force is strong with CCM alumnus Nicholas Lipari (BFA E-Media, 2012), who served as assistant editor on the latest film in the popular Star Wars saga, Rogue One! The blockbuster film opened on Dec. 15 with the biggest Thursday preview showing box office receipts of 2016, earning $29 million.

Although he may not be a Jedi (yet), Lipari is quickly making a name for himself in the film industry. “Nick is one of the youngest assistant editors in LA working at this level,” says CCM Professor of Electronic Media Kevin Burke. “The Assistant Editor works directly with the editor on the film,” Burke explains. Prior to his work on Rogue One, Nick served as the assistant editor on the recent live action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book.

This success comes as no surprise to Burke, as Lipari took top prizes in several national competitions during his time at CCM. Lipari received a Student Production Award in the category of “PSA/Commercial” at the Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Awards in 2012, which recognized his work as writer, director, editor and visual effects designer for an independent production called SFRI Shoe Commercial. After graduating, he was also recognized by the National Broadcasting Society for his work on the opening sequence of a student-produced film, Last Night in Town.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. Learn more about CCM’s Division of Electronic Media by visiting ccm.uc.edu/emedia.

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