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IU Jacobs School of Music

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Last modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Leonard Slatkin will debut when he directs the IU Philharmonic on Sept. 23

The concert will feature Grammy-Award winning soprano, Sylvia McNair


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In an auspicious moment in the life of the Jacobs School of Music, internationally renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin will begin his tenure as faculty member by conducting the IU Philharmonic on Sept. 23.

The maestro will lead the orchestra in Barber's Symphony No.1 in One Movement, Op. 9, and Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36. Elevating the occasion further, fellow Jacobs faculty member Sylvia McNair, Grammy-Award winning soprano, will join Slatkin and the orchestra for selections from Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne. The concert, at 8:00 p.m. in the Musical Arts Center, is free and open to the public.

Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin conducts his first concert as Jacobs School faculty member on Sept. 23 with soloist Sylvia McNair.

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Slatkin is the latest addition to a long line of musical superstars who, in the last three years, have chosen to base their teaching careers in Bloomington. The list includes such luminaries as pianists André Watts and Arnaldo Cohen, violinists Joshua Bell, Mark Kaplan, Alexander Kerr and Jaime Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson, singers Carol Vaness, Sylvia McNair and Marietta Simpson, ballet master Michael Vernon, early music specialist Michael McCraw, bassoonist William Ludwig and hornist Jeff Nelsen.

Slatkin joined IU because he wanted to continue to work with the team of faculty and staff he met while collaborating with the Festival Orchestra during the 2005 and 2006 IU Summer Music Festivals.

"I was really taken and impressed with the level of commitment given to the music itself and the devotion of the faculty to work with the students in the summer as well as the winter," Slatkin said. "At this stage in my life, I was looking for something that was a slightly different challenge, and I was looking to develop a mini curriculum. It began to appeal to me that I might be able to accomplish some of the teaching goals I'd never been able to do before, especially with young conductors understanding their predecessors."

Much of the work Slatkin does with young conductors focuses on maestros of the past and what made them great so students can apply what their predecessors did to their work today. Unlike musicians who can practice their instruments at home, Slatkin says students learning to conduct cannot go home and practice with an orchestra. Instead, what they sometimes do is study videos of conductors and learn the impact each one had, thereby discovering qualities that may be lacking in conductors today.

"A good conductor will leave a mark," Slatkin said.

Slatkin will make his own mark on the Philharmonic and the audience during the Sept. 23 concert. The program includes works that Slatkin says the student performers will encounter regularly as professional musicians.

"It's only the second time the orchestra gets together this fall for a concert, so you wanted a program that was challenging, but you want to give them the feeling they could come together as a symphony orchestra quickly," Slatkin said. "The pieces don't contain the technical hurdles that some of the others works do, and since the Elgar and Barber works are standard romantic works for an orchestra, it gives them a sense of organic flow and how to react to one another as players."

The concert also gives Slatkin and the musicians a chance to work with McNair who has worked regularly in the past with Slatkin.

"I felt it would be really nice to work with members of the faculty, especially those I've known throughout my career," Slatkin said. "Sylvia and I go back a long, long time. She chose to perform the Canteloube work, and these delightful folk songs give the orchestra the opportunity to work with a very distinguished colleague and mentor."

About Leonard Slatkin

Internationally recognized American conductor Leonard Slatkin is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and Music Advisor to the Nashville Symphony. His performances throughout North America, Europe and the Far East have been distinguished by imaginative programming and highly praised interpretations of both the standard and contemporary symphonic repertoire. Additionally, he is well-known for his arts advocacy work on behalf of music education.

Following a successful tenure as music director of the Saint Louis Symphony from 1979 until 1996, Slatkin was named conductor laureate. He has served as festival director of the Cleveland Orchestra's Blossom Festival (1990-99), principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra (1997-2000), chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (2000-2004), and in September 2008, Slatkin will begin his appointment as principal guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In addition to his conducting appearances, Slatkin is a frequent host of musical broadcasts, which include the BBC, lending his broad knowledge and expertise.

Slatkin has made regular appearances with virtually every major international orchestra, including the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Boston Symphony Orchestra and many others. His performances of opera have taken him to leading opera companies in the United States and around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera and Vienna State Opera. A recent highlight is a European tour with the Pittsburgh Symphony, stepping in at the last minute to replace Sir Andrew Davis.

Slatkin's more than 100 recordings have been recognized with five Grammy awards and more than 50 other Grammy nominations. He has recorded with the National Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony and Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra.

Throughout his career, Slatkin has demonstrated a continuing commitment to arts education and to reaching diverse audiences. He is the founder and director of the National Conducting Institute, an advanced career development program for rising conductors. Additionally, Slatkin founded the Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and has also worked with student orchestras across the United States, including those at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, The Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music.

He works frequently with youth orchestras across America and abroad, including the D.C. Youth Orchestra, Midwest Youth Symphony Orchestra, American-Soviet Youth Orchestra, European Community Youth Orchestra and American Youth Philharmonic. He also reaches out to younger musicians and music teachers through the NSO American Residencies program. During the past years, he has spent time talking about and performing music in twelve states as part of these residencies.

Slatkin has received many honors and awards, including the 2003 National Medal of Arts (the highest award given to artists by the United States Government), the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the American Symphony Orchestra League's Gold Baton for service to American music, ASCAP awards with both the National and Saint Louis Symphonies, an honorary doctorate from his alma mater The Juilliard School, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the D.C. Mayor's Arts Awards and the prestigious Declaration of Honor in Silver from the Austrian ambassador to the United States for outstanding contributions to cultural relations. Slatkin is the Arthur R. Metz Foundation Conductor at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, and beginning with the 2007-2008 season, the Distinguished Artist in Residence at the American University.

Born in Los Angeles to a distinguished musical family, his parents were the conductor-violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller, founding members of the famed Hollywood String Quartet. Slatkin began his musical studies on the violin and studied conducting with his father, followed by Walter Susskind at Aspen and Jean Morel at The Juilliard School. He is married to soprano Linda Hohenfeld, and they have one son, Daniel.

About Sylvia McNair

Two-time Grammy Award-winner Sylvia McNair is equally at home on the stages of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and in the intimate environs of the Rainbow Room and the Algonquin's legendary Oak Room, performing both classical and cabaret, opera and Broadway musicals. Her more than 70 recordings range from Mozart arias with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields to CDs with Andre Previn of music by Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen.

McNair was awarded a 1993 Grammy for a recording of Handel's Semele and a 1996 Grammy for "The Echoing Air: The Music of Henry Purcell." Her career highlights include performances for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican and for Hillary Clinton, as well as a recital at the U.S. Supreme Court by special invitation from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

McNair has been a regular guest soloist with the major American and European orchestras and opera houses, working with an array of today's most prominent conductors, including Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin and Robert Shaw, the musician she credits with giving her the early and important opportunities that started her career.

A native of Mansfield, Ohio, she has received honorary doctorates from Westminster College (1997) and Indiana University (1998). In 1999, she received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Entertainment from Ohio Governor Bob Taft.

In 2001, she was named the Jacobs School's executive adviser for outreach and since has lent her time and talents to fundraising and attracting outstanding faculty to her alma mater. She joined the voice faculty of the Jacobs School in the fall of 2006.

About the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

At the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, approximately 1,600 students from all 50 states and more than 55 countries benefit from the intensity and focus of a conservatory with 170 full-time faculty members who are among the best performers, researchers and educators in the world, combined with the broad academic offerings of a major university. As one of the world's premier music schools, the Jacobs School maintains a distinguished reputation for the quality of its music program and the professional preparation it affords graduates.