We are joined today by Mario Lopez, Executive Director of the Billings Symphony in Montana. Prior to his appointment, he served in Education and Community Engagement roles with both the Knoxville Symphony and the Sarasota Orchestra. Originally a French horn player, he studied at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, then worked in the for-profit corporate world before returning to Classical music on the administrative side.
This episode features Leni Boorstin, who spent over forty years working for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, most recently as Director of Government and Community Affairs. Her tenure included community engagement work surrounding the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the arrival of music director Gustavo Dudamel, as well as developing the expansive Youth Orchestra LA program from the ground up, a program that now serves over 1,000 young musicians each year. She also served as the Human Relations Commissioner for the city of Los Angeles under four different mayors, and founded Arts for LA, a non-profit which advocates for equitable access to the arts across all communities.
We are joined by coloratura soprano Louise Toppin. She has performed all over the world at venues such as Carnegie Hall and with orchestras in such diverse places as Sweden, Uruguay, and Japan. She has conquered some of opera’s most beloved and challenging roles, including the famous Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, while also championing works by minority composers such as Scott Joplin and William Grant Still. Her career has brought her to Northeast Ohio several times, including a 1998 appearance here at the Canton Symphony Orchestra and this past November up the road with her hometown Akron Symphony. In addition to her performing career, Dr. Toppin is a Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan, and previously served as Chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We are joined by Blake-Anthony Johnson, CEO of the Chicago Sinfonietta. He became the first African American to hold such a position with a nationally renowned orchestra when he began his tenure in 2020. He also serves on a number of boards and committees, including the Sir Georg Solti Foundation, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, and the EDI Orchestral Management Committee at the League of American Orchestras. He first became interested in orchestral management while a student at Vanderbilt University, from which he earned a Bachelor of Music in cello performance. He then completed his Masters degree right up the road at Cleveland State University, during which time he performed with the Canton Symphony!
We are thrilled to have the rare opportunity for a fully in-person podcast recording, as we welcome composer Wang Jie to our studio here in Canton! A native of Shanghai, China, she moved to the United States to study at Manhattan School of Music and still resides in New York City to this day. She holds an Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with noted American composer Richard Danielpour. She was in town to hear the Canton Symphony perform her Symphonic Overture “America, the Beautiful”, an absolute “barn-burner” of a piece based on the patriotic hymn featuring a fugue subject inspired by the silhouette of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. Unsurprisingly, when not composing, she is an avid hiker and rock climber.
Today we are honored to welcome world-renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine. A celebrated interpreter of a wide range of standard and contemporary repertoire, she has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony, with which she made her debut when she was only ten years old. She is also a prolific recording artist, whose discography includes the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and all five of Mozart’s Violin Concertos with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Outside of performing, she has published her own editions of numerous violin masterworks. She also works as a philanthropist with her own foundation, which focuses on increasing the awareness and accessibility of music by Black composers.
We are thrilled to be joined today by pianist extraordinaire Michelle Cann! She has performed as a soloist with many of this country’s finest orchestras, including the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, and the Cincinnati, New Jersey, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Detroit Symphonies, among many others. A champion of the composer Florence Price, she gave both the New York and Philadelphia premieres of Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, and also recorded the work in a remarkable COVID-era recording session with the New York Youth Symphony.
To open the season, we are thrilled to be joined by Anwar Nasir, Executive Director of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to his arrival in the Big Easy in the summer of 2021, he served as Chief Revenue and Advancement Officer at the Omaha Symphony, in addition to previous positions with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl, and Atlanta Ballet. He is a Philadelphia native and a graduate of Syracuse University, who had a career as a professional dancer before pursuing arts management.
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Canton Symphony Orchestra