Alumna Jessica McJunkins is guest soloist in free, livestreamed concert conducted by Karen Ní Bhroin on Nov. 17

Alumna Jessica McJunkins, who performs in New York and Los Angeles with collaborators including Beyoncé, The Roots, Jay Z and more, highlights November’s free, livestreamed concerts by the School of Music at UNCSA. Other events include a concert by award-winning faculty-artist Robert Young, saxophone, and Polina Khatsko, piano; opera scenes performed by Fellows of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute; and three additional concerts by student ensembles.

Free tickets to access the livestreams are available online or by contacting the Box Office at 336-721-1945. Performances will be available on demand after the streams on the School of Music Facebook page and at

McJunkins, who received a Bachelor of Music in 2009 and works as an advocate for cultural equity and intentional hiring in the classical music industry, is featured soloist with the Brandenburg Ensemble of UNCSA student-artists performing the “Chevalier de Saint-Georges Violin Concerto” by Joseph Bologne, a French classical composer and champion fencer of African descent. Associate Conductor Karen Ní Bhroin conducts the concert, which also includes performances by the Bartók Ensemble and Amadeus Players, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, from the Stevens Center.

Karen Ní Bhroin

Karen Ní Bhroin conducts the livestreamed concert on November 17.

“The Chevalier de Saint-Georges concerto is colorful, repetitive, dramatic  ̶  all the things that made the composer significant to the culture beyond his extensive body of work,” said McJunkins.

“It is a concerto in the classical style that is marked by virtuosic passages requiring the bow to move at the speed of the Chevalier’s infamous sword; a middle movement that's super operatic and leaves room for an extensive cadenza; and a rondo that behaves like an extended coda to Movement II,” she added.

Bologne’s music is as technically challenging, if not more so, than standard Mozart or Beethoven pieces for violin. Equally as important is the canonizing of his story and body of work into the standard repertoire. Requiring students to ingest his repertoire along with what has traditionally been considered standard is a huge leap forward for cultural equity.

Jessica McJunkins

“Bologne’s music is as technically challenging, if not more so, than standard Mozart or Beethoven pieces for violin,” McJunkins said. “Equally as important is the canonizing of his story and body of work into the standard repertoire. Requiring students to ingest his repertoire along with what has traditionally been considered standard is a huge leap forward for cultural equity.”

McJunkins received the 2020 Alumni Artpreneur Award for her work to change the standard of hiring and the demographic of freelance music performers in America by placing artists of color on stage with incredible performers like Solange, Questlove and Lauryn Hill. Following the concert, Chancellor Brian Cole will present the award to her on stage at the Stevens Center.

“Thanks to the grant, I was able to get equipment I've needed for years, software that helps me to organize and center my practice, as well as programs that help me widen my fan base and ensure heightened levels of accessibility,” McJunkins said. “It was a huge milestone for my personal practice, and for the freelancing world that is so greatly impacted by COVID.”

Jessica McJunkins

Alumni guest artist Jessica McJunkins will perform with the Brandenburg Ensemble at UNCSA on November 17.

McJunkins recently sourced a large orchestra of diverse musicians to record the film score for an upcoming historical drama based on the story of a major figure in the Black Panther Party, set for release in 2021. “The diversity of the orchestra was timely and meaningful to the subject matter of the film,” McJunkins said. “Without the help of the grant, I wouldn't have been able to navigate the COVID-19 regulations while leading the orchestra and contracting.”

McJunkins said she and Bologne “share the journey of never quite belonging to the status quo, despite possessing all the skills and qualities that would make one excel in the space. As an interracial Black woman, this particular nuance of life experience helps me understand the irony of excelling in a space that was built in order to ensure the opposite.”

The Brandenburg Ensemble also will perform “Strum” by Jessie Montgomerie, composer-in-residence for Sphinx Virtuosi, the acclaimed touring ensemble of Black and Latinx string players.

Also on the concert, the Bartók Ensemble will perform Paul Hindemith’s “Five Pieces for String Orchestra” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The Amadeus Players will perform Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 7 and the Saint-Georges Symphonie Concertante No. 2, Op. 13.

Faculty artists Ida Bieler and Brooks Whitehouse provide additional direction for the student ensembles.

Additional concerts in November – all to be livestreamed beginning at 7:30 p.m.:

Faculty-artist Robert Young in recital  ̶  Saturday, Nov. 7
Faculty-artist Robert Young, saxophone, and Polina Khatsko, piano, perform an eclectic program of 21st-century compositions that celebrate the saxophone, livestreamed from Watson Hall.

The recital will open with "Picnic on the Marne," a seven-movement work of colorful waltzes by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ned Rorem. Also on the program are “Mother and Child” from Suite for Violin and Piano by iconic African American composer William Grant Still; “The Solitude of Stars” by award-winning lyrical storytelling composer Stacy Garrop; Tableau No. IX by UNCSA alumnus Tyson Davis (High School '19), apprentice composer for the National Youth Orchestra in 2019; and British saxophonist and composer Andy Scott’s “Paquito,” an exuberant work that pays homage to Paquito D’Rivera, the award-winning Cuban jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and composer.

Fletcher Opera Scenes: An Evening at the Opera  ̶  Monday, Nov. 9
Fellows of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute perform scenes from operas “chosen to enhance vocal and dramatic growth, while still being able to socially distance,” said Steven LaCosse, artistic director of Fletcher Opera, who directs the production as a collaboration with the School of Design & Production. The concert will be livestreamed from the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem.

“We are exploring a new way of presenting opera scenes for the public in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic,” LaCosse said, explaining: “The singers will never be closer than 12 feet when they are singing or six feet when they are not singing. Repertoire was limited to two or three characters and scenes are shorter to make everyone feel safe. The singers will wear masks during all staging rehearsals and will remove them only when we get to the theater.”

With musical direction by James Allbritten, principal coaching by Angela Vanstory Ward and piano accompaniment by Ward and Fletcher Fellow Caroline Barclift Hayes, the performance will include:

Act I, Scene 1 from “Faust,” sung in French, after the poem by Goethe; Act III, Scene 1 from “Le nozze di Figaro,” KV 492, sung in Italian, based on “Le marriage de Figaro” by Beaumarchais; Act II, Scene 2 of “Otello” (1816), sung in Italian, based on the French adaptation of the story “Otello, ou le More de Venise” by Jean-François Ducis; Act III Finale Scene from “Arabella” Op. 79, sung in German; Act I, Scene 1 from “Don Pasquale” (1843), sung in Italian, based on a libretto by Angelo Anelli for the opera “Ser Marcantonio”; Act 1, Scene 3 from “Manon” (1884), sung in French, based on the novel by Abbé Prévost; Act II, Scene 1 from “Falstaff” (1893), sung in Italian, based on Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Henry IV, parts 1 & 2”; and Act III, Finale from “Ernani” (1844), sung in Italian.

There will be one intermission in the program.

Fletcher Fellows

Fletcher Fellows Logan Webber and Mary Ann Zentner, shown in "La Clemenza di Tito" in February 2020, will perform during "An Evening at the Opera" on Nov. 9. / Photo: Peter Mueller

Fletcher Fellows who will perform include baritones Scott Lee and Lawrence Hall; bass-baritone André Peele; sopranos Mary Ann Zentner and Virginia Sheffield; and tenors Logan Webber and Kameron Alston.

From Design & Production, Wheeler Moon and John Schirillo are lighting designers, Erin Justice is costume designer and Cartwright Ayers is production stage manager.

UNCSA Chamber Winds in Concert  ̶  Tuesday, Nov. 10
Ní Bhroin conducts Igor Stravinsky’s “Octet for Winds,” the opening work of his neoclassical period. Faculty-artist Mark Norman conducts Henri Tomasi’s energetic wind quintet, “Printemps,” which adds alto saxophone and exploits the diverse sounds, articulations and range of the ensemble to provide the imagery of birds in springtime who awaken and move into a frenzied dance. Also on the program are Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Leslie Bassett’s “Wind Music” and a work for saxophone quartet by alumnus Julien Marcellin-Little (High School ’20). The concert will be livestreamed from Watson Hall.  

Friday Night Brass! – Friday, Nov. 13
Norman conducts the UNCSA Brass Choir and Double Brass Quintets through a sonically powerful program that includes works by Gabrieli, Bach, Sampson and undergraduate student composer Drew Banzhoff. Faculty-artist David Dash, trumpet, coaches the student ensembles. The concert will be livestreamed from Crawford Hall.

UNCSA Wind Ensembles – Saturday, Nov. 14
Woodwind chamber ensembles perform Afro-Cuban Concerto by Valerie Coleman, named the 2020 Classical Woman of the Year by “Performance Today,” America’s most popular classical radio program, and one of the top female composers in classical music. Also on the program are Schubert’s “Little Symphony for Winds,” Hindemith’s “Kleine Kammermusick,” Guy Woolfenden’s “Suite Francaise” and Ton Der Doest’s “Circusmuziek.” Norman conducts, with ensemble coaching by faculty artists Jaren Atherholt, oboe, and Robert Young, saxophone. The concert will be livestreamed from Crawford Hall.

More about Jessica McJunkins

Jessica McJunkins, née Lady Jess, leads strings under the baton of Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony in Baltimore and is artistic director of the Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra (UPCO) in New York City; a regular Los Angeles session musician; and a soloing member of Beyoncé K Carter’s band. Artist credits include collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Lopez, Max Richter, Alicia Keys, Hans Zimmer, Diana Ross, Spike Lee, One Direction, Terence Blanchard, Jon Batiste, Will Downing, Jay Z, Solange and more. TV credits include “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” with The Roots, “Saturday Night Live,” NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts,” and more.

Recent projects include the Emmy-nominated documentary “Homecoming” with accompanying live album; the On The Run II Tour with Beyoncé and Jay-Z; recording and arranging strings while on tour with the Carters for the Grammy-nominated joint album “Everything is Love”; and the recently released soundtrack to Disney’s “The Lion King” with Hans Zimmer. As a session musician in Los Angeles, she can also be heard on the soundtrack of “Charlie’s Angels,” “It II” and more. McJunkins also performs with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, most recently for performances of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and Disney Pixar’s “Coco” live. In September, she contracted and led the orchestra for the upcoming feature film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” She is a frequent soloist at “The Moth” for NPR.

As a contractor, McJunkins is passionate about the immediate and continual diversification of the stage and studio. She has hired string ensembles for performances with Solange at Radio City Music Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, The Greek in Berkeley, the Kennedy Center, and the grand opening of The Shed in New York, coordinated by Quincy Jones. Her players have been onstage at “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Late Show with James Corden.”

As an educator, she was head teacher and 2016 Teacher of the Year with the Harmony Program, New York. She coordinated sites in Chinatown and midtown Manhattan, and currently sits on the program’s junior board. From 2011-17, she apprenticed with Roberta Guaspari and maintained her own studio at the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, serving sites in central and east Harlem. She is currently a teaching artist with the Harlem Chamber Players, and maintains a small private studio from her home in Brooklyn.

McJunkins made her solo debut at Disney Hall in Los Angeles in collaboration with Nicole Miller, for and by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as part of a festival curated by Esa-Pekka Salonen. She is a guest panelist and speaker at the League of American Orchestras and the Sphinx Organization, and was chosen to open the WOW Women of the World Festival at the Apollo Theatre in March 2020. Upcoming engagements include solo appearances with the Harlem Chamber Players in 2021, panel discussions with the Gateways Music Festival, and the upcoming release of her EP.

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October 27, 2020