Michael Repper and the New York Youth Symphony — Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman (Avie)
“Maybe it's because I come from the Marin Alsop school of conducting and how I was taught, but we want to build community,” conductor Michael Repper said. “We want to make the world a better place, and we want to be connecting people.”
In 2017, it was Repper’s mentor, Alsop, who recommended that he be the next conductor of the New York Youth Symphony.
“The age range of the orchestra is between 12 to 22,” he said. “That means each year we have many members of the orchestra who are students at the local conservatories and colleges, including the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. That also means they may not be from New York; they come from all over the world.”
Why did you decide to feature works by three Black women composers?
“We were scheduled to play the Florence Price Piano Concerto on our concert at Carnegie Hall. It was actually going to be the Carnegie Hall premiere of that work. I still don't think it's been played there. In May 2020, we called [pianist] Michelle Cann, and I said, ‘Hey, would you like to do this?’ That was the first thing that went on the album.
“Also, we didn't rehearse with her. We were so concerned that if we scheduled a rehearsal in the week before the recording, somebody would get sick. Not only did we not want somebody to get sick, but we didn't want to jeopardize the project. We rehearsed with Cann for only an hour or so before we hit record.”
Can you talk about the principal oboist featured in the Piano Concerto?
“Her name is Kara Poling. She is one to watch. The middle section is a lyrical duo, and it gives me chills every time. She plays it so well.
“In 2020, particularly with the tragic murder of George Floyd, it was a moment to highlight music that dealt with inequities and oppression. I had always loved Price's Ethiopia’s Shadow in America. I was amazed that there hadn't been a recording of an American orchestra performing the work. I said that it has to be on the album for sure.
“This was the first time I conducted all four of these pieces, and I will continue to program them. I fell in love with the music the same way that everybody else did.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Michael Repper and the New York Youth Symphony — Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman (New York Youth Symphony direct)
Michael Repper and the New York Youth Symphony — Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman (Avie store)
Michael Repper and the New York Youth Symphony — Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman (Amazon)
New York Youth Symphony (official site)
Michael Repper (official site)
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