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Transitions on the CMA Board

Completing terms on CMA’s board as of June 30 are president Andrew Appel and directors Norman Fischer, Laura Hartmann, Vijay Iyer, Randall Kline, Arnie Malina, James E. Rocco, and Jacob Yarrow. CMA is deeply grateful for their dedicated service.

As of July 1, the newly elected members of the board are Aloysia Friedmann, violinist/violist and artistic director of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival; violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery; pianist and composer Michele Rosewoman; Kathie Lynne Stewart, principal flutist of Apollo’s Fire; Ruth Waalkes, executive director of Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center; and John Zion, managing director of Melvin Kaplan, Inc.

CMA welcomes the new directors, whose profiles follow. Read an interview with incoming CMA board president Billy Childs here.

Aloysia Friedmann

Aloysia Friedmann

Aloysia Friedmann is founder and artistic director of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, an annual series set on the largest of the San Juan Islands, just off the Northwestern corner of Washington State. Friedmann, herself an accomplished violinist and violist, had long dreamed of starting a festival, and Orcas—a favorite locale since childhood—seemed to her the ideal setting. “I kept thinking that if I didn’t do something there, somebody else would,” she says. “Finally that realization—and panic—made me jump in and take action.” Friedmann launched the festival in 1998 with an initial offering of two concerts; high demand that first year led her to add a third. Now in its 19th season, the festival hosts eighteen concerts spread across multiple venues.

Orcas Island is a long way from where Friedmann first made a name for herself as a musician. After completing her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Juilliard, she launched into a busy freelance career in New York, anchored by regular performances with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and on Broadway—including a stint onstage in a production of Merchant of Venice, starring Dustin Hoffman. Over the years, she turned down full-time orchestra engagements in favor of smaller commitments, allowing for more frequent small-ensemble playing.

But Friedmann’s interest in chamber music in fact began much earlier. Her parents, the violinist and violist Martin Friedmann and the oboist Laila Storch, were active chamber musicians, and Friedmann fondly recalls “falling asleep to chamber music being played, under the harpsichord my father built.” They also ran their own small presenting series near the family’s home in rural Pennsylvania, which Friedmann believes foreshadowed her own turn to presenting later in life.

Today, Friedmann splits her time between the work of running a festival and her still-frequent performance engagements. Artistic direction remains a welcome challenge. “I sometimes have artistic-director block,” she says. “But somehow, when the balance of artists and repertoire is absolutely right, I feel it. And when that day comes, it’s a great day.”

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery

After stints with three top-tier string quartets, violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery decided she was ready for a change. “I was struggling with this constant question of: should I practice now or should I write?” she says. “When you’re playing in a quartet at a high level, you can’t really say, “I think I won’t practice tonight.”

Montgomery left the Catalyst Quartet in May of 2015; she’s now focusing on composing full time. Still, the violin—and the experience of performing in a chamber ensemble—remain integral to her identity as an artist. “When I think about writing, I think about the sonority of the instruments a lot. There’s nothing like that feeling in a string quartet when all the instruments are really vibrating. It’s that base that I’m still most connected to.”

Montgomery was born and raised New York City, the daughter of Robbie McCauley, an actor and playwright, and Ed Montgomery, a jazz musician. She began her study of chamber music at a young age, at Manhattan’s Third Street Music School Settlement. There, she also received early exposure to improvisational techniques, which she credits with laying the foundation for her enduring interest in composition.

After graduating from Juilliard, Montgomery went on to join the Providence String Quartet, then already well-established both in its performance career and also as a force in civic engagement. Next came the PUBLIQuartet, which Montgomery co-founded alongside three other composer-musicians with vested interests in improvisation. “We were experimenting with all kinds of improvisation techniques, and making an effort to engage with the new music community in a significant way. It was very electric, and really charged up my own composing practice.”

But after a few years playing predominantly new music, Montgomery found herself once again seeking change. “I have a real love for the traditional string quartet repertoire, for the pedagogy of the string quartet. I wanted to really get into the fundamentals of the quartet sound.” It didn’t hurt that her new collaborators in the Catalyst Quartet were also colleagues in the Sphinx Organization, a not-for-profit dedicated to promoting diversity in the classical music field.

Montgomery, who competed in Sphinx’s competitions in her youth, began receiving commissions from the organization in 2012, which helped her to launch her full-fledged composing career. She now serves the organization in a number of ways. “I became the composer in residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi. Last year, I served on their jury—which was really coming full-circle.”

Michele Rosewoman was born and raised in Oakland, CA in a household alive with art, music, and politics. Her parents, both artists, ran a small record shop; her older brother played in bands throughout her youth. From a young age, she was immersed in classic jazz recordings, as well as, in her words, “the whole spectrum of spiritually-based musics from around the world.” By the time a piano appeared in the home, she was transfixed. “I remember peeking out of my bedroom door each day when I got up and looking at it,” she says. “It felt so exciting and attractive. It was love at first sight.”

Michele Rosewoman

Michele Rosewoman

Rosewoman’s schooling in music was informal but rigorous. She attended UC Berkeley briefly—its music program was then exclusively classical in focus—but left after she was offered the piano chair in a local big band. She credits the pianist and organist Ed Kelley, a longtime fixture of the Bay Area jazz scene, with providing her with an enduring foundation in traditional jazz technique. Equally influential was a workshop with the percussionist Marcus Gordon, which began her lifelong fascination with—and deep study of—the folkloric traditions of Cuba and Nigeria.

Those two passions—small ensemble jazz and African folkloric music—have grown and intertwined throughout Rosewomans’ career. Over the years, she’s continually revisited and reshaped two ensembles: Quintessence, an evolving quintet that’s served as the primary vehicle for her contemporary jazz compositions; and New Yor-uba, her exploration of the folk music of Nigeria-by-way-of-Cuba, set in a jazz context. Both have received commissioning grants from CMA; New Yor-uba’s debut recording, released in 2013, was voted the #1 Latin Jazz Album of the Year in NPR’s Jazz Critics Poll.

Since 1978, Rosewoman has lived in New York City, where, in addition to performing and recording, she has for many years taught at Manhattan’s New School and at the Montclair, NJ-based JazzHouse Kids, a youth program with a reputation for attracting and nurturing exceptional talent. Of her students there, she couldn’t be more enthusiastic: “The level of commitment, the level of ability, the endless desire for knowledge—it’s really something unique.”

Kathie Lynn Stewart

Kathie Lynne Stewart

Kathie Lynne Stewart was already at work on a doctorate when she discovered the instrument that would come to define her performance career. “Someone let me borrow a baroque flute,” she says. “And I sat in a practice room and tried to figure it out. Suddenly I was playing the music that I liked best on the instrument it was written for.”

Stewart spent her early years immersed in the study of modern flute. She went on to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees at Western Virginia University and the Manhattan School of Music, respectively, and then to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for doctoral coursework. It was there, in Ohio, that things really began to fall into place.

“I was playing everything—orchestral music, modern repertoire, old repertoire. But the music that I kept going back to, that I loved more than any other, was Baroque.” She moved to Oberlin, to study at the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin Conservatory, and there joined Apollo’s Fire, the now well-known, Cleveland-based Baroque ensemble. In her words, she “never looked back.”

For 17 years, Stewart herself taught Baroque flute at Oberlin, where she still holds a post as curator of the college’s harpsichord collection. She now teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve, and maintains a busy performance schedule, both with Apollo’s Fire and as a featured soloist elsewhere.

She remains a passionate advocate for the baroque flute, and for early music in general. “A lot of the people I teach are studying modern flute just like I was, and they’re trying to use their modern chops to get around the Baroque flute, just like I was. I love being there for that.”

Ruth Waalkes

Ruth Waalkes

Ruth Waalkes currently serves as associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech’s innovative and technologically ambitious performing arts complex. In addition to offering experimental spaces for the University’s design-focused programs, the Moss Center presents a wide variety of music—including classical chamber music and jazz—as well as theater and dance in its new 1200-seat hall. Waalkes joined VTech in 2006, four years before the facility opened to the public, and is quick to note the advantages of getting in on the ground floor of a presenting operation: “I had time to build partnerships and relationships, both on campus and in the community, and to really refine the programming ideas and expectations around the program.”

Community development and the performing arts are the two dominant threads in Waalke’s career, which began in small, locally-focused organizations and gradually moved into university-based presenting. After completing her undergraduate degree in theater at the University of Michigan, Waalkes took a job with the Arts Council of Fairfax, Virginia, where she received the kind of broad work experience that small organizations so often necessitate. “I had my first bonafide experiences in presenting, as well as focused work in development, marketing, and community-based work.” She went on to lead Volunteer Fairfax, again handling a diverse array of responsibilities, including that organization’s budgeting and staffing needs.

Her first university position, at the University of Maryland, was in alumni programs. But, as luck would have it, UM was then in the process of launching its own presenter, the Clarice Smith Center for the Arts. Waalkes was appointed director of artistic initiatives for the Center, a position that included responsibility for all artistic programming, including residencies and commissioning.

Waalkes brought those skills, along with her firm foundation in community work, to the Moss Arts Center, where serving local audiences and advancing the University’s integration of art and technology are dual priorities. “It’s a lot of people-time,” she says, running through the array of meetings that make up most of her days. “Carving out the quiet can be a challenge—but that’s the job.”

John Zion

John Zion

In the summer of 2007, not long out of graduate school, John Zion visited the St. Lawrence Quartet Seminar at Stanford University. It was a turning point in his career, but not in the manner you might expect for an aspiring violinist. “Chris Costanza [cellist of the SLSQ] mentioned something about his manager,” Zion says. “And a lightbulb went off.”

Not long after, Zion had landed an internship with Melvin Kaplan, Inc, in Burlington, VT. In his second week at the office, Kaplan asked him to stay on as a booking agent. That early vote of confidence bore out; less than a decade later, Zion took ownership of the firm, along with the post of managing director.

Good timing may have played in Zion’s fast rise, but his roots in music are deep. “I grew up with classical music being my pop culture—it was the only music I listened to.” Zion began violin at age 6; studies in violin performance from Lawrence University and the Hartt School followed. He still performs—both in the Vermont Symphony and in occasional gigs around the country–but considers himself uniquely suited to the art of artist management.

“I always liked to talk strategy and be involved behind the scenes.” Asked to describe the skills that make for a strong artist manager, Zion cites an affinity for “multitasking and juggling, and an ability to respond quickly and assertively to ideas and problems.”

In his years at MKI, Zion has worked closely with many big names—including a few he’s been watching perform since childhood—and played a key role in the rise of a number of young ensembles. This includes the Dover Quartet, winner of CMA’s 2016/17 Cleveland Quartet Award, whom Zion helped to rename and guide toward its current, globetrotting career path.

On the state of classical music today, he’s particularly optimistic about chamber music. “It’s a really exciting time. Young people are trying out lots of new presenting models, and presenters are doing interesting things with small groups. From my perspective, it’s only getting stronger.”

© 2016 Chamber Music Magazine