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Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
KUTZTOWN, PA (10/04/2019)— Kutztown University Chamber Players and performing faculty have returned to campus from a successful Carnegie Hall performance Monday, Sept. 30, with heralding reviews, a newfound buzz concerning KU’s Department of Music and strengthened pride and confidence.
The KU Chamber Players, conducted by Dr. Peter Isaacson, performed three compositions with two faculty soloists, Dr. Maria Asteriadou and professor Kurt Nikkanen, as well as a piece with Louisiana State University student Johanna Cox Pennington on English horn. With the performance taking place Sept. 30, the Chamber Players and faculty had only five weeks to prepare and learn the pieces, speaking to the dedication of everyone involved.
Freshman Chamber Player Rashawn Pressley said, “I had to balance school life and the concert, so I had to get things done and keep focused. But now, we can officially say that we have played at Carnegie Hall and no one can take that away from us.”
Asteriadou and composer Dino Constantinides are both originally from Greece and have a passion for sharing contemporary Greek music by 21st-century composers. Their long-standing relationship inspired Constantinides to reach out to Asteriadou to perform as his soloist for his 12th invitation to perform his compositions for the Distinguished Concerts International New York. When Constantinides discussed hiring an orchestra for the event, Asteriadou seized the opportunity to champion her students as worthy performers.
“As faculty members, we feel we have the freedom to try something different and think outside the box, creating new and exciting opportunities for the students such as performing at Carnegie Hall,” Asteriadou said. “In the past, we would never have dreamed that there would be a Chamber Players or a group of students that would receive an invitation to perform alongside faculty on that great stage. Here at KU, we have an openness and mutual trust with the students, which creates a learning environment equipped with the necessary tools to let them take on challenging tasks and rise to the occasion.”
The concert opened with Piano Concerto No. 2 (Grecian Variations) for Piano and Chamber Orchestra performed by soloist Asteriadou on piano and the KU Chamber Players. The second piece carried on unique energy performing with Johanna Cox Pennington, whom the KU Chamber Players had only one opportunity to rehearse with playing Threnos of Creon for English Horn and String Orchestra. Nikkanen and the KU Chamber Players closed their portion of the concert with Concertino – Mountains of Epirus for Violin and String Orchestra.
“Musically, I was impressed by the result,” Chamber player Nicolás Gómez Amín said. “There are always things that happen in performances that you cannot control, but then there the things that you can control – everything went well. That reflects on the work we did. The process was well done; it wasn’t just luck.”
In the audience, Isaacson’s critical ear was appeased quickly from the focus and joy he could see and hear from his students. Afterward, Isaacson said there were immediate attention and interest brought to Kutztown University. The parent of one of Constantinides’ students approached to inquire on KU’s music department and programs.
“Being involved in a performance at Weill Hall was a wonderful opportunity for our students and has already increased awareness about the music program at KU,” Isaacson said. “More importantly, being able to capitalize on such an amazing opportunity is truly a barometer for how the program is transforming – not every school gets to share the stage with professional musicians the way we did.”
Already attracting national and international students, Pressley hails from Maryland and Amín all the way from Chile, South America, to attend Kutztown’s music programs. Both attribute their enrollment in the program to Asteriadou, while much of the outreach stems from programs coordinated by Isaacson in local high schools as well as prestigious performances like this to draw prospective students.
“It goes beyond the stage,” Amín said. “It’s a learning process that has tremendous value. Not just preparing the pieces, but performing them. I feel that this opportunity will bring us other opportunities. I think we can do many good things for the university.”
Pressley spoke about the unique experience of seeing his professors in a professional setting, “watching Dr. Asteriadou, one thing I learned was to just have fun with it and don’t let anything else worry you.”
There is another opportunity to hear the music of Constantinides featured in Carnegie Hall. The Chamber Players, along with the full KU Chamber Orchestra and student soloists, will perform again at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Shaeffer Auditorium. It is the first on-campus performance of the semester. The Carnegie-value event is free and open to the public, with a special invitation to KU students outside of the music department.
“I encourage everyone on campus to come to check out what we have here,” Isaacson said. “We have so many different kinds of concerts to suit every taste. We have full orchestra concerts, jazz, and rock, wind ensembles, choral events – all kinds of events. And most of it is free. Come support what your fellow students are doing. I think you’ll be surprised at what’s onstage.”