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Published: Thursday, 6/30/2011

Toledo symphony officials report artistic, financial progress

BLADE STAFF
Kathy Carroll, Toledo Symphony president and CEO. Kathy Carroll, Toledo Symphony president and CEO.
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Living in abundance -- that '90s spiritual mantra -- seems to have worked extremely well for the Toledo Symphony Orchestra Association, both financially and artistically, during its last season, according to reports at its quarterly board of trustees meeting June 22 in the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

Signs of abundance mentioned include rave reviews in major publications for the Toledo Symphony's Carnegie Hall debut on May 7 and praise for impressive community cooperation and over-the-top turnout by fans in New York for Spring for Music, the innovative presenters who invited the symphony to perform. Plus, there was a sweet little check for $50,000 for its Big Apple concert proceeds.

Those were among bragging points -- made modestly, to be sure -- for symphony board chairman Dick Anderson, president/CEO Kathy Carroll, vice president for finance Randi Dier, marketing director Ashley Mirakian, and others heard by some 30 board members, staff, musicians, press, and invited guests.

Principal conductor Stefan Sanderling, who had chosen the Carnegie program (it included the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6) wrote in a letter read by Carroll: "Our concert has made me the proudest music director on the planet. I am convinced that on that night in May, we started a new chapter in the story of the Toledo Symphony."

Longtime first violinist and assistant orchestra manager Pat Budner told the group, "This concert experience surpassed everything I was hoping for and dreaming about. It was a career highlight."

Other good news included the addition of another large ensemble to the complex that is now Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, a significant rise in enrollment at the symphony's music school, and the awarding by the Toledo Symphony League of $12,000 in scholarships.

Winners of 2011 scholarships for the Toledo Junior Youth Orchestra announced recently by the league are: Starr Jiang, cello; Malik Khalfani, violin; Esther Kim, violin; Tierney McClure, flute; Hanna Modene, flute; Janice Park, violin, and Henry Yang, violin.

Longtime board treasurer Bill Buckley called the orchestra's financial situation heading into the 2011-2012 season "generally good."

By tapping the symphony endowment beyond the normal 5 percent, a deficit nearing $450,000 was reduced dramatically, Buckley said, adding that the goal is to reduce the draw-down and build the endowment. Anderson noted that the endowment, once about $20 million, which dropped by 20 percent during the financial meltdown and subsequent recession, has begun to grow again.

The Toledo Ballet School will present a weeklong musical theater intensive July 11 to 15 at its Westfield Franklin Park Mall studios. Lisa Mayer, director of the school, and Michael Lang, choreographer, and other staff, have devised a series of sessions in ballet, jazz, musical theater, audition techniques, voice, scenes, and choreography for those who enroll. This class, open to performers age 10 and older with either dance or voice training, is part of a large array of summertime offerings at the Toledo Ballet.

For more information and to register, call 419-471-0049 or go to www.toledoballet.net.

When is one short, simple, minor-key melody sufficient to fascinate a crowd for nearly 90 minutes?

When the performer is Kayhan Kalhor, the internationally renowned Persian musician, who made his Toledo debut on Friday in Doermann Theatre at the University of Toledo to a large and enthusiastic audience.

Performing on the traditional bowed, four-stringed instrument (kamancheh), the slight, intense musician was joined on a rug-draped platform by talented percussionist Behruz Jamali, whose deft and intuitive finger work on the goblet drum (tombak) heightened the impact of Kalhor's intricate runs.

An introduction or title would have enhanced understanding of the emotion underlying the work, perhaps given a clue to its source. However, the performers let their fingers do the talking instead.

What was clear was how much like traditional Indian ragas played are the Persian "gushehs" -- the unchanging root from which artists like Kalhor or great sitarist Ravi Shankar -- spin improvisatory explorations that reach like magic, musical vines into our hearts and souls.

From his rustic instrument -- basically unchanged over millennia --Kalhor produced sounds ranging from guttural drones to sparkling virtuosic riffs of amazing speed and complexity. In what became a discernible pattern, he would return periodically to the basic modal theme before launching yet another aural adventure. At times, he heightened the drama of a particular section by chanting in a soft yet resonant voice.

As UT board member Amjad Hussein noted in his introduction, the ancient performance style originated in the steppes of Central Asia and has since spread throughout the Middle East.

And thanks to the Persian Student Association and the University of Michigan's Iranian Graduate Student Association, Toledoans were given a tantalizing taste of something truly exotic.

The home base of Opera Carolina, the organization headed by James Meena, is Charlotte, N.C., not Raleigh, as reported in a story on the Toledo Opera June 19.

Items for News of Music should be sent to svallongo@theblade.com at least two weeks ahead of the event date.



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