Manhattan School of Music and Detroit Symphony Orchestra Launch Inaugural Conductors’ Project

Mike Lawson • News • October 26, 2016

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This month Manhattan School of Music (MSM) and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) launch their inaugural Conductors’ Project, a “podium partnership” that will see two recent MSM conducting graduates chosen as conducting fellows to work with DSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin, the MSM Symphony Orchestra, and the DSO in a two-week, home-and-home educational exchange.

The first week of this ambitious project takes place at MSM from October 24 to 28; the concluding week moves to Detroit and the DSO from January 10 to 15, 2017. 

This comprehensive conducting initiative – effectively an extended, two-city master class in conducting – is the brainchild of Mr. Slatkin, whose artistic leadership will be central to the effort.  In fact, concurrent to the launch of the MSM/DSO Conductors’ Project, MSM President James Gandre is announcing the appointment of Maestro Slatkin as Distinguished Visiting Artist in Conducting and Orchestral Studies, a new and ongoing post at the school.

Mr. Slatkin, who has served on MSM’s Board of Trustees since 2009, will work with MSM Director of Orchestral Activities George Manahan and colleagues in the DSO to provide the project’s two “conducting fellows” and the student musicians in the MSM Symphony Orchestra with a wide-ranging learning experience.  

The two inaugural conducting fellows are Toronto Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Earl Lee and conductor and Hudson Valley Philharmonic principal percussionist Kyle Ritenauer. Lee graduated from MSM in 2013 with his master of music in conducting; Ritenauer earned two degrees from MSM, graduating with a bachelor of music in percussion in 2011 and a master of music in contemporary conducting in 2015.

“The project’s first week at MSM will consist of five days of intensive open rehearsals culminating in a final concert with the MSM Symphony, featuring works by Brahms, Copland, and Shostakovich,” says Mr. Slatkin. “The student musicians in the MSM Symphony Orchestra will benefit greatly from this one-week intensive, and, of course, Earl and Kyle will both be hands-on with a substantial turn on the podium for the final performance.”

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students and recent graduates,” says MSM President Gandre. “George Manahan and his colleagues on the MSM faculty continue to foster a rich learning environment for our students in all facets of orchestral training, and this unique, immersive program will only deepen that experience.”

President Gandre is quick to point out that the school’s relationship with Leonard Slatkin runs deep, going beyond this new initiative, his new appointment, and his membership on the School’s Board of Trustees. “This partnership is particularly gratifying for us because Leonard holds a special place in this institution’s history,” he says. “The maestro conducted our symphony orchestra at MSM’s Carnegie Hall debut in spring 2014, and his indelible contribution to that memorable evening is still fresh in our minds. We are thrilled that he is returning to the School on a continuing basis.  MSM has a powerful reputation for working with the world’s great musical artists for the benefit of our students; this new partnership strikes me as a high point in that tradition.”

The MSM/DSO Conductors’ Project will kick off at MSM with the first open rehearsal on Monday, October 24, 9:30AM, and will culminate in the final concert on Friday, October 28, 7:30 PM. The concert program will include: Brahms’ Tragic Overture, Op. 81; Copland’s Suite from Appalachian Spring; and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103 (“The Year 1905”). All dates and times are listed below.

In January, phase two of the MSM/DSO Conductors’ Project will get underway as conducting fellows Earl Lee and Kyle Ritenauer join Leonard Slatkin in Detroit, working with the maestro and the DSO for a second full week, spending time deeply engaged in all aspects of orchestra life as a conductor. “During the time the conductors spend in Detroit, not only will they lead the DSO, but they will also be immersed in the activities of the orchestra’s management, staff, and board,” Slatkin affirms. “Kyle and Earl will spend time with the leadership from each department to get a true sense for how an orchestral institution operates on all levels.” Full details of the partnership’s Detroit chapter (January 10 to 15) will be announced in December.

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