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July 2014
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Summer Migration, Payoff for Chicago

Harris Hall, c. Timothy Hursley

Harris Hall, c. Timothy Hursley

Sunday, July 27 at 6:00 pm

If you’ve ever seen a nature documentary about the Serengeti, you might have some sense of the migratory patterns of classical musicians. There are music centers, like watering holes, to which players journey in order to refresh, commune with others, and nurture the young. The Aspen Music Festival is one of those places.


Joan and Irving Harris at Aspen in 1992. Harris Hall opened in 1993.

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Harris Hall, interior

One only has to read the biographies of Chicago’s top musicians to find artists who have been students, teachers – or both – at Aspen. For generations, the summertime festival has drawn Chicago Symphony concertmasters, including Robert Chen, Sidney Harth, Samuel Magad, and Rubén González (who served as concertmaster of the Aspen Festival Orchestra). CSO principal percussion Cynthia Yeh is there this summer, as is an accompanist from Lyric Opera, and faculty from some of the city’s top music schools.

In short, Aspen is a rich ecosystem for musicians. They work with promising young artists, they play with and hang out with other top musicians, and get to work closely with major composers. At summer’s end, the artists make their return journeys, bringing their gifts and inspiration to others around the world. For Chicago, where residents spend many months indoors, having a vibrant community of musicians helps make winters more bearable.

Soprano Laura Wilde, member of Lyric Opera’s apprentice program, the Ryan Opera Center, gets some pointers from Sasha Cooke. c. Alex Irvin


Bass-baritone Eric Owens works with student Isaac Kim in Harris Hall. c. Alex Irvin

Composers at Aspen, summer 2014: Steven Stucky, Lowell Liebermann, Robert Sierra, Christopher Theofanidis, Augusta Read Thomas (of the University of Chicago), and George Tsontakis

On Sunday, July 27 at 6:00 pm, WFMT presents a broadcast special about the festival that enriches so many musicians. Looking at the first 20 years of the Harris Concert Hall in Aspen, the broadcast features works by John Corigliano, Philip Glass, and Joan Tower, as well as commentary by one Chicago woman who has made it her mission to better the world through support of the arts, the recent National Medal of the Arts Honoree Joan Harris. more


Composer Joan Tower

During the show, composer Joan Tower speaks about the piece she wrote for the opening of Harris Hall at Aspen, the fifth in a series she calls Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman. Her fanfares put a spin on Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Tower describes them as tributes to “women who take risks and who are adventurous.” She dedicates the piece to Joan Harris.

Joan Tower recalls having some trepidation about this last part: “…the first four fanfares that I wrote, they were written for specific women that I had known for a long time, that I admired; they were uncommon women. This was being written for a woman I had never met…and then I met her, and she turned out to be, indeed, this very uncommon woman.”

Listen to Joan Tower discuss the piece:

  • Mike Haberman

    Wonderful, soulful music magnificently played! We so enjoyed listening. Thank you for sharing.