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by Daniel Hautzinger

CYO--060114-Rob-MullerGenuine beaming smiles are a rare sight among high school students, those supremely self-conscious paragons of effortful cool. But on June 2, dozens of delighted adolescent grins shone forth from the stage of Severance Hall, an occurrence even more remarkable for taking place in the decidedly unhip venue of a classical music concert hall. Sharing the stage with such an exciting performer as pianist, singer, and songwriter Ben Folds elicited not only unembarrassed smiles, but also head banging and exuberant playing from the young musicians of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO), directed by Liza Grossman.

The orchestra, especially the brass and percussion, were uninhibited in dynamic arrangements of Folds’s songs by Iain Grandage, Michael Pigneguy, Paul Buckmaster, Graeme Lyall, Jim Gray, and James Ledger. That freedom from restraint is often absent when young musicians perform canonical music, so hearing CYO unabashedly enjoy their parts was a joy. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

NASA-LogoFor thousands of years humans believed the earth was flat and if you traveled too far you would eventually fall off the edge. It was the third century Greek scholar Eratosthenes who first began to calculate the circumference of the Earth. In the twentieth century, Ohio and specifically Cleveland, has played an important role in furthering space research. Founded in 1941as the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center actually predates NASA by 17 years and is named in honor of former senator John H. Glenn, an Ohioan who was the first American to orbit Earth.

On Friday, April 25 beginning at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Carl Topilow will lead the Cleveland POPS Orchestra and Chorus in a Salute to NASA. “We’re very excited about this concert. It’s literally a cast of stars,” Carl Topilow told us during a recent telephone conversation. “This is the first time we have done a salute to NASA, but they are right here in Cleveland.”

The concert honors the men and women of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration for their indomitable spirit of exploration and discovery and includes a special salute to the 25 Astronauts who come from Ohio. Special guests include NASA Glenn Director James M. Free and astronauts David Thomas and Michael Foreman. “We have astronauts, the director of the center, vocalists Lindsey Mitchell and Connor O’Brien, the chorus, members of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra and footage from space shuttle missions and exhibits in the lobby, so there is a lot happening.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

BambiThose of us (of a certain age) who grew up watching the animated films (call them cartoons if you must) of the mid-twentieth century received a subliminal dose of well-crafted music that would hold up well in the concert hall — and probably turned us in a good musical direction as a result.

Now the film music of Disney, Pixar and Marvel has moved from celluloid into symphonic circles, as The Cleveland Orchestra has recently been proving in performances at Blossom. On Saturday, March 15 at 7 pm in Waetjen Auditorium at CSU, the next generation of orchestral musicians will tackle that repertory as Liza Grossman leads the Contemporary Youth Orchestra in its annual Music and Its Industry concert, “The Sound of Imagination: Music of Pixar, Disney and Marvel.”

The performance will mark the seventh time that Grossman has collaborated with Case Western Reserve University musicologist Daniel Goldmark in designing and providing narrative context for its midwinter concert. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

GROSSMAN-LizaLiza Grossman and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra always pack their concerts full of content, and the opening concert of the ensemble’s nineteenth season on December 7 in Waetjen Auditorium at Cleveland State University continued in that tradition. In addition to two solo orchestra works and a concerto, CYO invited Isabel Trautwein and the young string players of El Sistema @ University Circle for a side-by-side, and welcomed The Oblivion Project for half a dozen nuevo tango pieces by Astor Piazzolla.

CYO and its dynamic conductor raised the curtain with John Adams’s high-energy overture, Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Driven by the pervasive rhythm of a wood block and propelled by an excellent brass section, the piece raced along like the top-performance sports car it invokes and safely arrived at its destination (and with no white knuckles on the curves!) Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

GROSSMAN-LizaYes, it’s hard to believe, but this is our nineteenth season and it’s the first year that CYO is older then its members,” says Contemporary Youth Orchestra founder and music director Liza Grossman. On Saturday, December 7 beginning at 7:00 pm in Waetjen Auditorium, Cleveland State University, CYO under the direction of Liza Grossman will present a concert featuring the music of John Adams, Frank Martin, Igor Stravinsky and Astor Piazzolla featuring musical guests The Oblivion Project.

The concert also includes a special performance by twenty-six young musicians of the El Sistema University Circle program in a side-by-side performance of Brian Balmage’s Burst. Grossman says that collaborating with El Sistema began actually began a couple of years ago when the program’s founder and Cleveland Orchestra violinist Isabel Trautwein began attending CYO concerts. “I am fascinated by and in awe of her commitment to bringing this kind of education to Cleveland. She even brings her kids to CYO rehearsals in hope of inspiring them,” Grossman said. “What a wonderful opportunity for us to share and inspire the El Sistema kids and the CYO members.”

Anyone who has attended a CYO concert knows that there is always a high level of fun happening on the stage. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

COLLINS-BootsySince 2001, the Contemporary Youth Orchestra under the direction of its always-creative founder and music director Liza Grossman, have presented an end-of-season Rock the Orchestra concert. Past concerts have given CYO members the chance to work with some of the greats from the world of Rock including the likes of Graham Nash, Jon Anderson, Pat Benatar, Donnie Iris and Jefferson Starship. On Friday, May 17 in Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium, legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins joined forces with CYO in an electrifying concert titled Psychotic Bump School.

But this concert amounted to far more than a celebrated artist playing his or her beloved tunes backed up by an orchestra; this performance was all about the collaborative nature of music. Collins, the CYO, the 57-member Campus International School Bootsy Choir under the direction of Janice Fields Pohl, and his own band — Keith Cheatham, guitar, “Monster” Mike Cobb, bass, Ken “BAM” Smith, drums, Zac Adams, Candice Cheatham and Lauren Mallory, vocals — plus some cool dance steps by Patti Collins, all added up to one gigantic music-making and dancing machine. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

COLLINS-BootsyAlthough the word “Funk” may not be used on a daily basis during orchestra rehearsals and concerts, this week is all about “Funk” as the Contemporary Youth Orchestra under the direction of Liza Grossman joins forces with legendary bassist Bootsy Collins.

On Friday, May 17 beginning at 7:30 pm in Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Auditorium, CYO under the direction of Liza Grossman and Bootsy Collins perform 14 songs from his own discography in Psychotic Bump School. The performance is the 2013 edition of CYO’s annual Rock the Orchestra concert.

Beginning tonight (Tuesday, May 14) at 6:00 pm, also in Waetjen Auditorium, CYO in co-operation with the Bootsy Collins Foundation presents WIND ME UP!(an exclusive, behind the scenes view of our collaboration), a benefit for the Bootsy Collins Foundation and Cleveland Metropolitan School District International School. (Check our concert listings for details).

Tonight and Friday’s concert are all about supporting the kids” says Patti Collins, the Foundation’s president who, along with her husband, created the foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

by Timothy Robson

CYO-SS-031613Sometimes good ideas run amok, despite the best of intentions and excellent execution. Such was the case with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra’s “Singer / Songwriters” concert at CSU’s Waetjen Auditorium on March 16. The orchestra’s brilliantly inventive music director Liza Grossman hit on the idea of having singer/songwriters present their songs in full orchestral arrangements commissioned by the orchestra.

The performer/composers participated in a competition to have their songs chosen. There was a wealth of talent from Cleveland, Michigan, New York, Connecticut and California. And there’s the flaw: fourteen performers (some soloists, some groups) were chosen to perform two songs each. Then there was set up time and spoken commentary in between each performer. The concert was more than three hours long, and many in the audience fled long before the end, which was regrettable, because there were fine performances right through to the end of the evening. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CYO-SSThe Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO) under the direction of Liza Grossman, presents My Gift is My Song on Saturday, March 16, beginning at 7:00 pm in Waetjen Auditorium at Cleveland State University. The concert features the winners of CYO’s first-ever singer/songwriter contest and is presented as part of CYO’s annual “Music and its Industry” concert.

The concept for the concert was inspired by the annual CYO Hidden Talent Show Scholarship Award Night, CYO founder and music director Liza Grossman told us by phone. “Two members’ hidden talent was that they were singer/songwriters. I was so moved by the music they had written and the lyrics were so personal and happy. The songs reflected so much about who they were. So everything spawned from that.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

The ContemporaryCYO-SS Youth Orchestra (CYO) under the direction of Liza Grossman, presents My Gift is My Song on Saturday, March 16, beginning at 7:00 pm in Waetjen Auditorium at Cleveland State University. The concert features the winners of CYO’s first-ever singer/songwriter contest and is presented as part of CYO’s annual “Music and its Industry” concert.

The concept for the concert was inspired by the annual CYO Hidden Talent Show Scholarship Award Night, CYO founder and music director Liza Grossman told us by phone. “Two members’ hidden talent was that they were singer/songwriters. I was so moved by the music they had written and the lyrics were so personal and happy. The songs reflected so much about who they were. So everything spawned from that.” Read the rest of this entry »

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Timothy Robson
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas