If you’ve been following along with CMA’s 97th season so far, then you’ll know it’s been a fun and exciting time between our various events. From performances by rising stars of chamber music Mixed Media, to the legendary vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, there has been no shortage of talent. As part of our mission to “enrich and educate the Central Iowa community,” all visiting artists have also collaborated with CMA Studio to bring music into local schools.
September 2022: Mixed Media
In September, Fischoff Wind Division Gold Medalists, Mixed Media took on a flurry of educational events. Over their two days in Des Moines, the group visited three different middle schools plus Drake University for performances, clinics and masterclasses. The quartet was received with enthusiasm and excitement from students at Merrill, Harding and Brody Middle Schools. Mixed Media’s unique and captivating take on chamber music was quick to draw in the attention of their young audience members.
On the day of the concert, the ensemble also had the opportunity to coach two saxophone quartets at Drake. As recent college graduates, the group members were able to provide musical insight, while also keeping it fun and relaxed. The collegiate saxophonists were quick to impress their coaches, as they played their pieces with dexterity and passion after having their music for only three weeks. Mixed Media also had a chance to play for this group and followed it up with a talkback discussion on the selected pieces. As winners of various chamber ensemble competitions, they were able to provide good advice for the newly formed quartets who may compete in the future.
October 2022: The Manhattan Transfer and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra
In October, we held our largest concert of the year, The Manhattan Transfer featuring the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Both groups had an opportunity to engage with the Des Moines community during their brief 24-hour stay.
TMT members Janis Siegel and Trist Curless worked with three jazz choirs from the Southwestern Community College in Creston, IA. The students had nothing but positive reviews of their experiences working with the vocal superstars. They even received the special offer to watch the group perform later that night at Hoyt Sherman, making for an unforgettable, inspiring day.
Co-Director of The School for Music Vocations at SCC, Dr. Jeremy Fox expressed immense gratitude for the experience.
“A number of our students are aspiring jazz vocalists, and are extremely aware of the rich history of which TMT has been a part,” he said. “The Manhattan Transfer has paved the road that many of our music majors hope to travel, and our students came away from the clinic (and the concert that evening with TMT and DIVA!) buzzing with excitement and inspiration.”
Meanwhile, leader of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Sherrie Maricle, was joined by Liesl Whitaker at Roosevelt High School. There, the duo coached students in Roosevelt’s jazz program. Similar to TMT clinic, students were excited for the opportunity to work alongside such immense talent while demonstrating their own skills.
November 2022: Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn
In November, Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn visited Hoover High School in Des Moines. During their visit, they introduced students to various elements of music, including opera, dance and the way folk songs work to tie together human emotion, even when spanning continents and cultures. Hundreds of students attended the event, and questions ranged from “How long have you been playing your instrument?” (Fei began her musical journey at the age of 2!) to “How can I make money in the music industry?”
Learning about American and Chinese musical traditions and just how beautifully they can be weaved together was a magical, ethereal experience.
December 2022: Cantus
In December, the world-renowned low-voice ensemble Cantus worked with a low-voice honor choir. Students spent two hours preparing works to perform on stage during Cantus’ evening performance. The choir consisted of about 20 local high schoolers, with two representatives sent from each school. It was a memorable experience for all those involved, as it gave a bright outlook towards the future of music.
“The young singers in our program look forward to real world experiences and learning from members of ensembles like Cantus, who not only develop skill and inspire a passion for music, but who care about mentoring and inspiring future musicians. Being able to perform in settings outside of the school fosters community and broadens perspectives for our learners. We are excited to be a part of such an amazing program.”
– Heather Nail, local choir director
February 2023: Garrick Ohlsson
In February, we presented the second annual performance in the Lauridsen Great Pianist Series with world-renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson. During his time in Des Moines, Mr. Ohlsson provided a masterclass to three lucky students. This included one high school senior, and two Drake University underclassmen music majors. Each participant was given 45 minutes to both perform and workshop their prepared piece.
In just a short amount of time, Mr. Ohlsson helped the aspiring pianists hone their skills and elevate their respective pieces An engaging and knowledgable teacher, he captivated both the students and community members in attendance.
March 2023: Aizuri Quartet and Kinan Azmeh
In March, the Aizuri Quartet featuring Kinan Azmeh performed their “Music and Migration” concert. As part of the program, the group also spoke on a panel of the same name at Plymouth Church. The panel featured local representatives from the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, Lutheran Services in Iowa, and the International Rescue Committee. Moderated by immigration lawyer Lori Chesser of Dentons Davis Brown, the 90-minute discussion delved into topics of the meaning of home, and working to better understand the migrant experience.
The conversation featured candid stories from the performers who had personal experience with migration during their life or through family ancestry. Not only this, but the refugee service professionals provided enlightening statistics and insight into how we can best aid those coming to Iowa for refuge. The discussion concluded with a live performance of “Lullaby for the Transient,” which was commissioned by the group for their Metropolitan Museum of Art residency in 2018.
April 2023: Benny Benack III Quartet
Concluding CMA’s 97th season was the Benny Benack III Quartet. Trumpeter and vocalist Mr. Benack provided a number of masterclasses to a wide array of students ranging from high schoolers to collegiate jazz musicians. His lively personality and passion for his craft created an engaging atmosphere among all present. Mr. Benack even performed alongside the Des Moines Symphony Academy’s jazz group.
Now that the season has concluded, we wish to thank all artists who helped make CMA Studio so successful.
Be sure to check out our gallery of pictures from this season’s events!