Published on February 20th, 2021 | by TLV News


Music Department Partners with Orchestra for Remote Recording

North Mississippi Symphony, UM music faculty and students combine efforts to produce concert series

Among the many benefits of being a music student at the University of Mississippi is a chance to learn from guest artists and performers. This semester, a collaboration between the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Department of Music is yielding master classes and exclusive access to recording sessions with the professional orchestra.

NMSO conductor Steven Byess, who has extensive experience with symphony orchestras and performing organizations around the country and abroad, is a staunch believer in the impact of music education. He has worked with PBS to write and produce programming using music to teach math to for grades K–3 and as a conductor of the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute’s Link Up orchestral education concerts.

It was no surprise, then, that Byess was eager to speak with Ole Miss music students in a Zoom lecture and Q&A while the orchestra was in residence at the university in January. He encouraged students to remain open to new experiences.

Steven Byess conducts the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra during a performance for streaming and television audiences at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Advice from a Maestro

“You may feel the need to specialize, but variety is one of the key elements that will bring you success,” he said. “We’re often encouraged to focus, but my success has come from diversification.”

Byess explained that he meant diversification in terms of the type of repertoire a musician performs—his refusal to conduct solely orchestra or ballet or opera means that he’s developed skill in conducting all three forms, for example—but also in the relationships and partnerships an artist seeks.

By connecting with a variety of partners, a musician or organization can broaden its audience and learn unexpected lessons, Byess said.

Students were also very interested to hear Byess describe the audition processes that different professional arts organizations use, and the skills he looks for in young artists: preparation, flexibility, and attention to detail.

“Even globally, classical music is a very small world,” he told the students. “You’ve heard of the idea that there are seven degrees of separation connecting all people? In classical music, it’s more like one, so be respectful, be mindful of your reputation and relationships.”

Byess invited students to observe NMSO’s rehearsal and recording process, and to learn from what they saw.

Austin Smith, UM instructor of oboe, plays with the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra during the recorded performance at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Virtual Concert Series to Air on TV and Online

The NMSO will air four concerts in its virtual 2021 series both on WTVA-9 and on The first and second performances were recorded at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on January 29 and 30 before a closed audience from the music department.

The recording session for the first concert included a new work by young composer Jessie Montgomery and Beethoven’s enduring Symphony No. 7. The recording for the second performance included Ralph Vaughan Williams‘s “Lark Ascending” and Aaron Copland‘s iconic “Appalachian Spring.”

In March, NMSO will return to engage with music students and record its final two virtual concerts of the season, also in the Ford Center.

Because of COVID-19, the orchestra had to perform with stringent safety protocols, but was able to open their performances to a small audience from the Department of Music. These lucky Ole Miss students and faculty were treated to some beautiful music, and both audience members and performers alike felt rejuvenated to experience live music again.

“It was so nice to play again,” said Christine Kralik, UM music instructor and principal cellist for NMSO. Her comment echoed the feelings of many other performers who relished the sensation of playing live—even while distanced and masked.

Ford Center director Julia Aubrey appreciated the opportunity to offer student musicians the experience of watching professional musicians rehearse and record.

“With the stellar acoustics in the Main Hall and the opportunity to observe an accomplished conductor, they had a quality experience that inspired their future music-making,” she said. “And, as several of the UM faculty are members of NMSO, they got to see their teachers ‘practice what they preach.'”

Graduate student Jiwon Lee, of Oxford, was thrilled to hear live music from a professional orchestra.

 “I have been wanting to hear Beethoven’s Seventh performed live since I was in sixth grade,” Lee said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity. Hopefully, I’ll be able to join them someday!”

By Lynn Adams Wilkins

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About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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