Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

John Lacko/Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

It may seem like a conductor's job is to spend all their time rehearsing musicians and conducting concerts, but according to Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Daniel Brier, that's only 10% of the work. The other 90% is studying and interpreting the scores. So when the COVID-19 crisis prevented Brier from conducting, he found new ways to be productive.


Ad Astra Music Festival

Austin McWilliams had recently earned his master's degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University and was working for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra when COVID-19 abruptly ended all musical activity within a few days. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, McWilliams remembers getting the news that other schools were shutting rehearsals down, and after one final choral rehearsal, so were his. It was quite a blow. The much-anticipated performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion was going to bring together hundreds professional and student performers just before Easter for a work which hadn't been presented in decades. 


Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

In Beethoven's ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Prometheus transforms "not-quite-living" people into fully alive humans with the gifts of art, science, and music. After the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the symphony's season, that story gave Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra music director Julian Kuerti the inspiration to direct and edit a short film of the Kalamazoo Symphony musicians playing their parts from their homes. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, Kuerti "pulls back the curtain" on how he took on the challenge of editing individual sound and video files into a cohesive film, which would pay tribute to Beethoven's message and the musicians of his orchestra.  


Elizabeth Start's many plans collapsed in March with the COVID-19 shutdown. An active soloist, chamber music player, symphony player and composer, she also lost opportunities to have her own music performed locally and beyond.

But when the reality of the situtation sank in, Start didn't sink: she swam in new directions. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, she talks about how long-delayed projects, big and small, got the attention they deserved when all the immediate deadlines went away.

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune

When COVID-19 shut down schools in March, the program educators of  Kalamazoo Kids In Tune and Orchestra Rouh knew they'd have to find a way to continue to teach and support young people, and not just with music training. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, KKIT educators Ben Gudbrandson and Donielle Hetrick, and Orchestra Rouh founder Ahmed Tofiq, discussed the various ways they set out to accomplish that.

The second summer session, which begins July 20, is open to all Kalamazoo Public School students. Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is also on Facebook, where they post regular updates and hopeful messages for kids and their families. The program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and recently received a two-year renewal with the Carnegie Hall PlayUSA program.

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