School of Music presents wide-ranging guest-artist series with in-person and livestreamed performances this fall

The School of Music presents a guest-artist series for fall 2021 that offers an array of prestigious ensembles and acclaimed soloists whose work ranges from time-honored classics to underrepresented artists throughout history to today’s cutting-edge composers and performers. Guest-artists include Louise Toppin, Sphinx Virtuosi, Verona Quartet and more.

Performances will be held both in person at state-of-the-art Watson Hall and livestreamed for free as part of the new “Live from Watson Hall” series. The guest-artist series complements the previously announced performances by UNCSA student and faculty ensembles.


More information, including tickets and free livestream registration, is available online or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945. Tickets to in-person events are $18 regular and $15 students with valid ID. UNCSA students receive one complimentary ticket; faculty and staff receive two. Watson Hall will be open at full capacity, and audience members and performers (as practicable) are required to wear masks.

“Our guest-artist series truly offers something for every music lover,” said Saxton Rose, who was named dean of the School of Music in June after a year as interim dean. “It includes a coloratura soprano performing spirituals of the African Diaspora; an award-winning string quartet; and a dynamic professional chamber orchestra composed of some of the nation’s top Black and Latinx classical soloists. “Our new ‘Live from Watson Hall’ series will bring their amazing work to audiences near and far who cannot be with us in person.”

Many of the guest artists will offer master classes or workshops to students during their visits, enhancing the conservatory training by world-class faculty artists in the School of Music. Some groups will also record the works of composition students in the state-of-the-art recording studio in the newly renovated Semans Arts and Administration Building on campus. “We are excited to expose our students to musicians of this caliber who represent the entire mosaic of the music ecosystem,” Rose said. “We continue our long-standing commitment to learn and perform music by artists whose voices have not been heard, and those we’ve heard all our lives. That is the hallmark of a 21st-century music conservatory.”

Coloratura soprano Louise Toppin kicks off the guest-artist season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, with a recital of art songs and spirituals of the African Diaspora featuring works by women composers such as Margaret Bonds, Harriette Davison and Rosephanye Powell; and a world premiere song cycle, "For Terry" by Maria Corley. Also included in the program are compositions by the celebrated composer Adolphus Hailstork.

Louise Toppin will perform in Watson Hall on Sept. 23

Coloratura soprano Louise Toppin will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23.

A noted performer, scholar and professor who specializes in the concert repertoire of African American composers, Toppin in 2019 launched the African Diaspora Music Project (ADMP), a database that now contains 4,000 songs by composers of African descent. For more than 25 years she has been director of Videmus, a nonprofit organization funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, North Carolina Arts Council, the Copland Foundation, Polaroid, and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation to promote the concert repertoire of African American and women composers. She is also the administrator of the George Shirley African American Art Song and Opera Competition for high school students in Detroit.

Toppin has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral and oratorio performances in the United States, Europe, Czech Republic, Sweden, Uruguay, Scotland, China, England, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Bermuda, Japan and Spain. A few of her many opera roles include the title role in the world premiere of “Luyala” by William Banfield; the title role in Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha”; Mary in William Grant Still’s “Highway One”; Maria in the world premiere of Joel Feigin’s opera “Twelfth Night”; the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “Magic Flute”; Donna Anna in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”; and Clara in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” for Piedmont Opera, Opera Carolina and Baltimore Opera.

In the span of her career, more than 30 songs and two operas have been written expressly for her voice. In addition, she has sung the world premiere of 30 more songs and arias of contemporary composers. She has recorded 17 compact discs of American music.

As a scholar, Toppin has lectured on the music of African American composers and has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and at many national conventions including the Society for American Music, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the American Cultural Association, the National Association of Negro Musicians; the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music; and on many college campuses including Harvard, Tufts and Duke.

Since 2017, Toppin has taught at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Previously, she was the Kappa Kappa Gamma Distinguished University Professor of Music and chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she received the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, the state’s highest award for faculty teaching.

Toppin studied with George Shirley, Phyllis Bryn Julson and Reri Grist, and was a fellow at the Britten Aldeburgh Festival studying with Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge and Elly Ameling.

The guest-artist series for fall 2021 also includes:

Pavel Nersessian; Music of the Exiles – From Chopin to Stravinsky
Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

Pavel Nersessian will perform in Watson Hall on Oct. 2

Classical pianist Pavel Nersessian will perform in Watson Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Russian classical pianist and honored artist of the Russian Federation Pavel Nersessian performs the work of composers who were born in the Russian Empire but spent much of their creative life abroad. The program includes Glinka’s Nocturne "Separation" and "Souvenir d'une Mazurka"; Chopin’s Four Mazurkas, Op. 67; Oginski’s Polonaise "Farewell to the Homeland”; Griboedov’s Two Waltzes; Chopin’s Three Waltzes, Op. 64, and Waltz, Op. 34, No. 2; Rachmaninov’s Waltz, Op. 10 and Corelli Variations; Medtner’s Four Fairy Tales, Op. 34; and Stravinsky’s Tango.

After graduating with maximum marks — a rare distinction — from the Moscow Conservatory, Nersessian taught there for more than two decades before joining the faculty of Boston University. Nersessian has won prizes in every competition he has entered, and now serves on the juries of major piano competitions around the world. He has toured since the age of 8 and has performed on five continents. Nersessian has given master classes in the USA, Russia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Korea, Brazil and Japan.

Sphinx Virtuosi: Tracing Visions
Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

Sphinx Virtuosi will perform in Watson Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 5

Sphinx Virtuosi will perform in Watson Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Sphinx Virtuosi return with a program that sets out to challenge and evolve the classical canon by illuminating a new pathway for listening, sharing and expression. In what the ensemble refers to as “a bit of a musical archeology project,” the program offers elements of uncovered literature by Samuel Coleridge Taylor and Florence Price; Ginastera's epic Concerto for Strings; as well as a visit to Cuba for a glimpse into the sounds from afar that have influenced much of what we listen to today. The program seeks to tell a more complete story of America through the voice of Xavier Foley and his vision of the “Black National Anthem.” Jessie Montgomery's “Banner” unleashes the vibrancy of the many voices comprising our country and its very fabric.

Sphinx Virtuosi are one of America’s most dynamic professional chamber orchestras. Composed of some of the nation’s top Black and Latinx classical soloists, these alumni of the renowned Sphinx Competition come together each fall to reach new audiences.

Paul Hanson, Jazz Bassoonist
Solo recital on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall
Concert of standard jazz compositions accompanied by a combo of UNCSA faculty-artists and alumni Friday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

Paul Hanson performs in Watson Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21

Jaxx bassoonist Paul Hansen performs a solo concert, with a jazz combo of faculty-artists and alumni, and with the UNCSA Jazz Ensemble, Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 21-23.

One of the world’s best-known jazz bassoonists, Paul Hanson has managed to create his own path while playing an instrument more often associated with classical music, building a well-rounded musical career as a recording and touring musician. His innovative use of electronics, his looping effects and his rhythmic approach have brought him to a unique place on the world stage. Currently bassoonist with the legendary Billy Cobham and his “Crosswinds” project, Hanson also performs solo shows and with the likes of Bela Fleck and Cirque du Soleil.

As previously announced, Hanson will also perform with the UNCSA Jazz Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, in Agnes de Mille Theatre.

Verona Quartet
Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

The Verona Quartet performs in Watson Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 26

The Verona Quartet performs in Watson Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

The Verona Quartet collaborates with UNCSA clarinet faculty-artist Oskar Espina Ruiz and string students on a program ranging from one of Beethoven’s iconic string quartets to contemporary works. The program includes Alexander Glazunov’s “Reverie Orientale”; Gabriela Lena-Frank’s “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout”; “Strum” by Jessie Montgomery; and Beethoven’s String Quartet No.14, Op. 131.

The Verona Quartet is one of the most sought-after string quartets of its generation, regularly performing at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall and Melbourne Recital Hall. Acclaimed for its bold, interpretive strength and electrifying performances, the quartet is the 2020 recipient of Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award. Musicians include Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro, violins; Abigail Rojansky, viola; and Jonathan Dormand, cello.

Matthew Vaughn, Trombonist
Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

Matthew Vaughn performs in Watson Hall on Tuesay, Nov. 2.

Trombonist Matthew Vaughn performs in Watson Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Matthew Vaughn, co-principal trombonist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, performs Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine, Op. 144; Brahms’ Four Serious Songs and Etude No. 3 from 12 Etudes for Trumpet; Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 1, Op. 64, arr. Vernon, ed. Saras; and Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for 2 cellos (Allegro).

Vaughn is on the faculty of Curtis Institute of Music and Temple University. He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony and National Symphony, and has been featured as a soloist with the Lafayette Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Temple University Band, the United States Air Force Band, the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra and the Richmond (Indiana) Symphony. Vaughn will be accompanied by faculty-artist Allison Gagnon, piano.

Demondrae Thurman, Euphonium Soloist
Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Watson Hall

Demondrae Thurman, considered one of the stars of the formidable generation of brass soloists, performs a combination of new and classic works for euphonium and piano. Thurman has earned a firm international reputation as a euphonium soloist with performances in Europe, Asia and throughout North America. He has performed and taught at many of America’s premiere colleges and universities, and he continues to be in extremely high demand. For 18 years he has been an invited guest artist/clinician at many of the world’s prestigious low brass festivals including the International Tuba/Euphonium Conference, U.S. Army Band Tuba and Euphonium Conference and the Leonard Falcone Competition. The pianist for the concert will be announced at a later date.

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September 09, 2021