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by Carlyn Kessler, Special Contributor

TCO-Mahalls-1On Friday night, May 23, a quartet of Cleveland Orchestra musicians — Isabel Trautwein and Katherine Bormann, violins, Sonja Braaten Molloy, viola, and Tanya Ell, cello — performed at Mahall’s, a combination restaurant, bar, and vintage bowling alley with a friendly, Brooklyn-esque atmosphere.

Seated in the open concert venue, audience members of all ages enjoyed the quartet’s repertoire ranging from Brandenburg concertos to Mozart and even crowd-pleasing Beatles arrangements of Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby. The atmosphere was that of a casual summer concert — the room was filled with chairs, but passersby also enjoyed the music from the outside, leaning over the rails to catch a glimpse of the packed venue.

The four intrumentalists would intersperse their “sets” with comments, focusing on themes such as vibrato or repetition, with “pop quizzes.” (Watch a video clip here.) Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

MLK1In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 20, The Cleveland Orchestra honored Dr. King’s calls for universal brotherhood by hosting its annual Community Open House featuring various Cleveland performing arts groups.

Severance Hall provided warmth throughout the snowy day, with various performances and activities scheduled. The Bogomolny-Kozerefski Grand Foyer was transformed into a dance floor with flashing lights and an emcee for a fun diversion between performances. Downstairs, in the Smith Lobby, guests were invited to view a display about the life of Dr. King.

Performances began at 12:15 with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus. Directed by Lisa Wong, the enthusiastic high school-age singers demonstrated balance and musical maturity well beyond their years. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

ESUC-1The young string players of El Sistema @ Rainey and El Sistema University Circle will be featured during the Martin Luther King Day open house at Severance Hall on Monday, January 20 in a one-hour performance beginning at 3:00 pm.

Two of Cleveland’s El Sistema programs were launched by Cleveland Orchestra violinist Isabel Trautwein, who established her first program at the Rainey Institute in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood three years ago after studying El Sistema principles in Boston and Venezuela during a sabbatical from the orchestra. She established the University Circle program last fall.

Trautwein invited ClevelandClassical to follow El Sistema University Circle. We observed six sessions including rehearsals and private lessons on Friday afternoons between October and mid-November, with a follow-up visit on January 9.

What is this phenomenon called El Sistema? It seems to have taken musical education around the globe by storm and has led to the creation of organizations like The National Alliance of El Sistema-Inspired Programs in the United States— many of which have connections to music schools and symphony orchestras. 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


Cleveland OrchestraTrautweinESR violinist Isabel Trautwein had a vision which took her to Venezuela to study the famous youth orchestra program called El Sistema. The local result is El Sistema @ Rainey, located at the Rainey Institute on E. 55th Street. In its second full year, the after school program now amounts to fifty students meeting five days a week from 4:30 to 6:00 pm under the guidance of five teachers. “The model is for it to become a daily orchestra community,” Trautwein told us in a telephone conversation. “For a lot of kids, this is after school care. We provide snacks and homework time, and the orchestra every day. Eighty percent of the magic of El Sistema is the daily work habits.”


The young musicians of El Sistema @ Rainey will perform during The Cleveland Orchestra’s “Make Music” Week Showcase Concert on Thursday, March 7 at 7:00 pm in Severance Hall. We spoke with Isabel Trautwein about her experiences in creating El Sistema @ Rainey. Read the rest of this entry »

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