25 Tastemakers & Trendsetters

02.06.12
Marin Alsop, Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider
Strings Magazine

People who are shaping the future of string playing

Twenty-five years ago, no one knew that chamber music would experience a veritable explosion of interest. Or that bluegrass fiddling would be taught at the conservatory level. Or that violin makers from around the globe would gather in Ohio’s sticky summer heat to share trade secrets. Or that you could turn on the car radio and listen to a highly gifted teen from the other side of the country playing a Beethoven Cello Sonata on a Saturday afternoon for an NPR audience of hundreds of thousands. Or that the domestic market would be flooded with affordable, high-quality stringed instruments that are putting string music at the fingertips of just about anyone with a few hundred dollars and a passion for bowed string music.

And no one knows exactly what the string world will look like 25 years from now, in 2037. But here are 25 trendsetters and tastemakers who are helping to shape that future.

Read the full article here.

Marin Alsop

Conductor & festival director

Orchestra builder embraces adult enthusiasts and kids

Those with worries about the future of classical music have only to look to Marin Alsop for a source of optimism. Her innovative programs (and programming), focus on outreach, and her vibrant enthusiasm bring the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra squarely into the 21st century. Under Alsop’s leadership, the BSO reaches out to younger audiences with OrchKids, an El Sistema–modeled program for underprivileged kids; BSO on the Go, which brings musicians to classrooms; Side by Side concerts that see students rehearsing and performing with BSO musicians; and other educational concerts and open rehearsals. But Alsop goes a step further by bringing adults back to the music as well. The innovative “Rusty Musicians” program encourages members of the community to “dust off” their instruments and take to the stage with the BSO. Expanding on that idea, the BSO Academy accepts a number of amateur adult musicians to spend an intensive week with the BSO and Alsop, honing their skills with orchestra rehearsals, master classes, lessons, chamber music, and lectures. And while she’s strengthening the role of the BSO in the greater Baltimore community, Alsop continues her work with the Cabrillo Festival, a Central California event that supports contemporary composers and the growth of orchestral repertoire. The modern orchestra seems safe in this maestra’s hands. —Megan Westberg

Daniel Hope

Violinist & musical activist

Globe-trotting virtuoso seeks the roots of the violin

British concert violinist Daniel Hope started his career with an interesting connection to the legendary violinist and educator Yehudi Menuhin—Hope’s mother was an anti-apartheid activist who fled South Africa and worked as Menuhin’s secretary. Though Hope didn’t take formal training from her boss, he did witness first-hand Menuhin’s fascination with world music. These days, Hope is walking in Menuhin’s footsteps in an unexpected way—he’s tracing the historical origins and evolution of stringed instruments and string music in an ongoing project that harks back to the research that led to Menuhin’s epic 1996 book The Violin: An Illustrated History. “I love the fact that nobody knows who invented the violin,” Hope told Strings when discussing his Bow Project research. “I love that it came from somewhere and nowhere. Does it really come from 16th-century Europe or does it go back further? I have the feeling that it’s really an ancient thing that goes back a long way.” He’s also adopted Menuhin’s commitment to social activism, programming a series of concerts that honor the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Learn more at thebowproject.com.
—G.C.

The Jacobsen Brothers

Chamber musicians, plus

A new breed of chamber musician that knows no bounds

The Jacobsen brothers are two in number: Colin is a violinist, composer, and arranger; and Eric is a cellist, conductor, and organizer. Together, these talented siblings—steeped in classical tradition, but devoted to contemporary music—are one half of the eclectic string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the driving force behind the Knights, a New York chamber orchestra that has collaborated with vocalist Dawn Upshaw to string players Jan Vogler, Mark O’Connor, and Gil Shaham. These are passionate chamber players intent on advancing the repertoire into the 21st century. The Jacobsen brothers and their musical collective are part of a lineage of groundbreaking chamber musicians that extends from the work of the Kronos Quartet through Turtle Island and, most recently, to Quatuor Ebène and Ethel. “If we are to talk about the future of classical music in America, sooner or later, the Knights will come up. . . .” the L.A. Times observed. “Musicians with a modern sensibility, a wide repertory of works new and old, along with a crusading musical mission.”

Learn more at brooklynrider.com.
—G.C.

Yo-Yo Ma

Cellist

Mentor extraordinaire crafts all-encompassing world view

“As cultures blend, as art forms meld with one another and with science and other disciplines,” the New York Times opined, “all is convergence, and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma is somehow at the center.” He’s arguably the world’s best-known classical musician, a 15-time Grammy winner, a recipient of a recent Kennedy Center Honor, and a trailblazer in the crossover movement, from the Silk Road Project to the recent CD The Goat Rodeo Sessions. But, behind the scenes, he’s also an unselfish mentor, a role model to hundreds of string players who fall within his sphere (on the road, this star cellist has been known to share a beer and a laugh with young section players, with whom he plays when he’s not at center stage). Bottom line: Ma makes you believe in yourself. “You need to be an equal and not think of [Beethoven] as a genius,” the cellist told one student at a 2009 LA master class, as related by the LA Times, “you want to go one-on-one with his imagination.”

Learn more at yo-yoma.com.

—G.C.

Daniel Bernard Roumain

Violinist, educator, composer

Multidisciplinary inspiration as an educator with street cred

Daniel Bernard Roumain is an artist who forges connections with his work: classical, hip-hop, music, dance, photography, poetry—DBR, as he’s known, and his collaborators fuse them all into a kind of living canvas, where all the pieces contribute to a rather dazzling whole. But his ability to connect doesn’t stop there, because he’s using his imagination to inspire a new generation of artists that, like him, want to create using more than one brushstroke. It’s his connection with these young musicians that will take music to the next level and into the next century. DBR, who served as assistant composer-in-residence at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s for three years, offers educational programs that demonstrate the ways in which his inspiration take form and teach students to unleash their own creativity by composing group pieces on the spot, integrating theory and composition lessons. He can connect his residencies to a school’s multicultural programs and teach leadership and entrepreneurship. In a Strings interview, DBR said, “All of [my] experiences have required me to be able to compose music that reflects . . . many varying cultures, styles, and tastes. . . . Interestingly, I find more similarities than differences, and my music hopes to celebrate the bonds that bind them together.” Because of his eclectic outlook, DBR connects with sometimes alienated students who are ready to create music that reflects their world. —M.W.