TAFTO 2008 – Contributor Biographies

Learn all about the contributors who make Take a Friend To Orchestra everything it is. Each one provides their time in the spirit of making classical music and live concert events everything they can be. Click a name to read a contributor’s bio:

Jeremy Denk | Charles T. Downey | Chris Foley | Matt Heller | Carlos Kalmar | Laurie Niles | Ben Smith | Ron Spigelman | Gary Ginstling


Carlos Kalmar
Carlos Kalmar

Carlos Kalmar was appointed Music Director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in 2003, and is also Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. Until recently he was also Music Director of Vienna’s Tonkunstlerorchester. During his career, he has been Music Director of the Hamburg Symphony, Stuttgart Philharmonic and the Anhaltisches Theater in Dessau, Germany.

Carlos Kalmar’s most recent recordings include the 2006 release of the Szymanowski, Martinu and Bartok Violin Concertos with the Grant Park Orchestra and Jennifer Koh, and the 2003 release of the Joachim and Brahms Violin Concertos featuring Rachel Barton and the Chicago Symphony, and American Works for Organ and Orchestra featuring David Schrader and the Grant Park Orchestra (2002), both on the Cedille Records label.

Carlos Kalmar was born in Uruguay to Austrian parents. He showed an interest in music at an early age and began studying violin at age six. By age 15 his musical development led him to the Vienna Academy of Music where he studied conducting with Karl Osterreicher. He resides in Portland, Oregon and Vienna.

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Matt Heller
Matt Heller

Double Bassist Matthew Heller joined the Calgary Philharmonic in fall 2007. A native of Tacoma, Washington, Mr. Heller has performed as a member of the New World Symphony (Miami, Florida), Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has been an orchestral fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Verbier Festival, and performed chamber music with the St. Lawrence String Quartet at the Spoleto Festival USA in 2005 and 2006. Matthew completed studies at the New England Conservatory, with Donald Palma of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; and at Northwestern University with Chicago Symphony bassist Michael Hovnanian. He was a prizewinner at the International Society of Bassists’ orchestral competition in 2007.

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Laurie Niles
Laurie Niles

Cellist Pablo Casals once said, “Maybe it is music that will save the world,” and
Laurie Niles believes, “Maybe it is the Internet that will save classical music.”

Thus the birth of Violinist.com, which Laurie founded with her husband, Robert, in 1996. The website offered Laurie the perfect opportunity to blend her skills as a formally trained professional violinist and a former daily newspaper reporter.

Over the past decade, Violinist.com has proven that the Internet can draw together people from all over the world who love classical music, and that it can inflame their passion for it. The site attracts more than 100,000 absolute unique visitors each month, from teens in Kansas blogging about a Suzuki festival to professionals in the Far East sharing practice tips.

Laurie lives in Pasadena, Calif., where she maintains a private studio of students, as well as teaches 50 first-graders in the Pasadena public schools, under a city-funded grant. She has played for the Pasadena, New West, Omaha (Neb.) and the Colorado Springs Symphonies and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University. Laurie earned her Master of Arts degree in Journalism from Indiana University, where she also studied violin.

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Charles T. Downey
Charles T. Downey

Dr. Charles T. Downey is a musicologist, teacher of music and art history, pianist, organist, and choral singer. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano from Michigan State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in musicology from Catholic University, with research specializations in medieval music and French Baroque ballet and opera. He sings professionally with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. While he writes prolifically on many subjects, his specialties are French culture, opera, and early and modern music.

Since June 2003, Downey has been moderating Ionarts, an online journal for classical music and the fine arts in Washington, D.C. He was profiled by Marc Fisher of the Washington Post as Blogger of the Month last December. In March, his first newspaper review was published in the Washington Post.

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Chris Foley
Chris Foley

Christopher Foley is a pianist dedicated to the fields of teaching, chamber music, art song, opera, and contemporary music. At the Eastman School of Music, he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1994, majoring in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music as a student of Jean Barr and David Burge. Other notable studies include Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival, and Holland Music Sessions. He is a former teacher at the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Academy of Music.

In 1989 at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition for the Performance of Contemporary Music, he won first prize for the performance of the commissioned work (Walter Buczinski’s Mosaics) and third prize overall. In 1991, he won first prize in piano at the Kneisel Competition for the Performance of German Lieder in Rochester, New York.

Chris Foley was the Vice President of the Ontario Chapter of NATS from 2003 to 2006, and is a member of Toronto Musicians’ Association. As a member of the studio company at Tapestry New Opera Works, he is a dedicated participant in the new opera creation process.   He also spent fourteen
summers as resident pianist for the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, and has appeared with Continuum Contemporary Music, the Vancouver New Music Ensemble, Eastman Musica Nova, and Eastman Intermusica. Since 2003, he has served on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he teaches piano, collaborative piano, vocal coaching, vocal literature, and is currently the head of the voice department at the RCM Community School.

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Jeremy Denk
Jeremy Denk

In 1998 Jeremy Denk won both the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and received a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. Over the past decade the pianist’s career has flourished. The New York Times described his playing as “bracing, effortlessly virtuosic and utterly joyous,” and he has garnered comparable critical acclaim for his engagements with leading orchestras and presenters nationwide. He has appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and many others.

The versatile American pianist’s repertoire ranges from the standard works of the 18th and 19th centuries to twentieth-century masters such as Ives, Ligeti, Lutoslawski and Messiaen, and further to new works by leading composers of today. Mr. Denk has participated in many world premieres, including Leon Kirchner’s Duo No. 2 (with violinist Ida Levin) at the Marlboro Music School and Festival in the summer of 2002; Ned Rorem’s The Unquestioned Answer in the summer of 2003; Jake Heggie’s Cut Time in 2001 with the Eos Orchestra; Alternating Current, a work written for him by Kevin Puts, on a Kennedy Center recital program; Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Sonata (with the composer on fiddle) at the Library of Congress; and also Edgar Meyer’s Sonata for Violin and Piano with Joshua Bell.

Mr. Denk made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in April 1997 as the winner of the Juilliard Piano Debut Award. Writing of the performance, The New York Times described him as “a pianist with a searching mind.” Recent solo appearances include all-Beethoven and all-Bach recitals in Philadelphia, two programs at the Mostly Mozart Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as recitals in Boston and Washington DC.

An avid chamber musician, Jeremy Denk has collaborated with the Borromeo, Brentano, Mirò, St. Lawrence, Shanghai and Vermeer string quartets. Mr. Denk first performed with violinist Joshua Bell at the 2004 Spoleto Festival. Since then, they have toured throughout the United States in and Europe with almost eighty performances to date. The Philadelphia reviewer noted their “equal partnership, with no upstaging.” He has appeared with the Detroit Chamber Music Society, at the Seattle and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals and the Spoleto Festivals in Italy and Charleston. The pianist spent several summers at Marlboro in Vermont and has been part of “Musicians from Marlboro” national tours. He also attended the Ravinia Festival’s prestigious Steans Institute.

Jeremy Denk has an extensive discography which includes the Tobias Picker Second Piano Concerto with the Moscow Philarmonic; works of Schubert, Bartok, and Strauss with violinist Soovin Kim; the Kirchner Duo with violinist Ida Levin (commemorating Marlboro’s 50th anniversary); and many others. He looks forward to the release of his first solo disc featuring Bach Partitas. Additionally, Joshua Bell and he will record the Corigliano Violin Sonata in June 2007.

Jeremy Denk keeps a weblog, Think Denk. It is a mixture of musical and extramusical observations, often pertaining to nothing in particular. Alex Ross, the music critic of the New Yorker, wrote of it: “Besides being a brilliant musician, Denk is simply one of the most interesting writers I know.”

Mr. Denk is a member of the faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. He received a double degree in Chemistry and Piano Performance from the Oberlin College and Conservatory, often infuriating his teacher Joseph Schwartz. He earned a master’s degree in music from Indiana University as a pupil of György Sebök, and a doctorate in piano performance from the Juilliard School, where he worked with Herbert Stessin. He makes his home in New York City.

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Ron Spigelman
Ron Spigelman

Music Director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Missouri Ron Spigelman is an honors graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, London. In 1996, he was awarded an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARAM) for distinguishing himself in his field. Prior to his appointment in Springfield, he was the Associate Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), and the Associate Conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Other titles have included Music Director of the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, Music Director of the San Angelo Symphony, and Music Director of the Texas Chamber Orchestra. Currently, he is also the Music Director of the Metropolitan Classical Ballet in Texas, as well as a teacher of conducting and the Arts Administration Class “The Audience Connection” at Drury University Springfield MO.

Since immigrating to the United States in 1994, Ron has made numerous guest appearances with orchestras across the country, including the Syracuse Symphony, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Dallas Opera Orchestra.

Amongst numerous career highlights, he lists his debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the critically acclaimed performance and world premier of Lowell Lieberman’s Pegasus. As well as his equally acclaimed Carnegie Hall conducting debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic in 2004.

Amongst numerous career highlights, he lists his debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the critically acclaimed performance and world premier of Lowell Lieberman’s Pegasus. As well as his equally acclaimed Carnegie Hall conducting debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic in 2004.

Ron has also served as a faculty member for a Donald Thulean ASOL Conductors Workshop, and was Maestro James Conlon’s assistant conductor for three consecutive Van Cliburn International Piano Competitions, between 1997 and 2005.

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Ben Smith
Ben Smith

Ben Smith is a physics graduate student and the author of the blog Classical Convert. Up until the age of 24 his classical music experiences were limited to films and TV, and a dance he made up to “Flight of The Bumblebee” when he was three years old. He now hopes to help convince other people with a similarly non-classical background to start listening to the genre with the help of his website and blog, and likes to think that his particular classical music background might actually be beneficial toward this goal.

He was born in London, and attended Bristol University in the UK where he received his MSci in Physics. Currently he is working toward his PhD at Cornell University in upstate New York, designing, building and operating machines that gently rip apart individual strands of DNA with lasers. His daily work varies from fabricating parts from aluminum in the machine shop, to spending days at a time simulating the forces that proteins apply to DNA as your cells copy or repair themselves. He likes to listen to Shostakovitch while performing these duties.

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Gary Ginstling
Gary Ginstling

Gary Ginstling was appointed Director of Communications and External Affairs for the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in July 2006. As Director of Communications and External Affairs, Gary Ginstling is a member of the SFS senior management team and assists in the setting of institutional policies, practice, and direction.  His responsibilities at the SFS encompass the oversight and direction of public relations, public affairs, publications, and the organization’s education/youth orchestra and community engagement activities.

Prior to joining the SFS, Mr. Ginstling was Executive Director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, a position he had held since 2003. At the Berkeley Symphony, Mr. Ginstling was responsible for a number of initiatives that helped enhance the orchestra’s reputation for creative programming and innovative projects. During his tenure, the orchestra gave six world premiere performances, received three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, and was a recipient of the inaugural “Bank of America Award for Excellence in Music Education,” a national award presented by the League of American Orchestras. These artistic achievements were accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner, as Mr. Ginstling oversaw three consecutive years of balanced budgets, the elimination of all outstanding debt, and a significant increase in ticket sales.

Prior to joining the Berkeley Symphony, he spent three years as a Marketing Manager for multimedia and emerging markets with Sun Microsystems. Mr. Ginstling has also spent many years as a professional orchestra musician. He is currently in his tenth season as principal clarinetist with the New West Symphony in Ventura County and has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Santa Barbara Symphony and the New World Symphony, among others.

Mr. Ginstling has served local arts organizations in a variety of roles. He is a board member of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) and served as a board member of the San Francisco Opera BRAVO! Club for young professionals. Mr. Ginstling holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and an MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA.

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About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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