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Alain Barker
IU Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
IU Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Leonard Slatkin conducts IU Philharmonic and renowned composer and pianist Michel Camilo

March 4, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Marking a historic evening at the IU Auditorium on March 23, world-renowned composer and pianist Michel Camilo will play his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, originally commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra with Indiana University faculty member Leonard Slatkin as music director, for the first time in Bloomington.

Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin

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The Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra will accompany Camilo with Slatkin conducting. The free concert also will feature celebrated works by Alberto Ginastera, Ottorino Respighi and IU faculty member and distinguished composer P. Q. Phan.

Camilo is known for his distinctive blend of classical, jazz and Caribbean influences. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he came from a family of musicians and created his first composition at age 5. By the time he was 16, he was a member of the Dominican Republic's National Symphony Orchestra. He has since made the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York his home base, traveled throughout the world as a performer, recorded a jazz album that topped the charts for 10 weeks straight, won a Grammy for a live recording at the Blue Note, and served as a teacher and musical director in locations ranging from Puerto Rico to Switzerland.

Camilo and Slatkin met in the mid-90s and have worked together since. They co-directed the first Latin-Caribbean Music Festival at the Kennedy Center 10 years ago, where Camilo debuted his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the National Symphony Orchestra. Camilo said that when Slatkin commissioned the piece, "he wanted it to sound like my music: jazz meets symphony orchestra. He wanted all the elements -- jazz, Latin, Caribbean and classical."

The piece was a hit: "it got a standing ovation for at least three or four minutes," Camilo said.

He has since performed the concerto all over the world, but he said that nothing beats having Slatkin conduct it.

"It is always so exciting to perform it with him," he said. "He understands it very well. He has a lot of energy."

Michel Camilo

Photo by: Michael A. Black

Michel Camilo

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In addition to his performance with the IU Philharmonic, Camilo will offer two master classes for IU students.

"One will have a more Latin point of view, and one will have a more jazz point of view," he said. But he also pointed out that the separation between the different styles he performs, particularly classical and jazz, is largely mythical. "You can't separate the classical world from the jazz world. There's always been a love from one to the other. Both serve as inspiration for both sides. You'd be surprised at how much love and communication there is between classical and jazz."

The concert also will include "Malambo" from Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera's Estancia, a ballet inspired by the gauchos -- or cowboys -- of South America. Malambo is a folk dance with African origins that was transmuted onto Latin American soil. Audiences can expect robust, colorful, syncopated music that almost insists on a dance.

Phan, a professor at the IU Jacobs School of Music, wrote When the Worlds Mixed and Times Merged in 1999 to celebrate the turn of the millennium. While he was writing it, however, a tragic shooting that was motivated by racist hatred occurred at IU. And so, the music, which begins with a joyful overture, turns to reflect the darkness and fear experienced at that time. It ends, however, on a hopeful note, with fanfare declaring a brighter future.

Pines of Rome by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi celebrates the beautiful trees of his home using unusual rhythmic patterns with brass and woodwind instruments heavily featured. View some of the pines that inspired the work here:

The performance will take place at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 23. Tickets are free and must be obtained at the IU Auditorium box office. For more information, call 812-855-1103 or visit https://