September 9, 2017 was a significant day in the borough of music as the late, great Donald Byrd (DP ’58, Trumpet; BM ’62, Trumpet; MM ’63, Music Education) was honored with a street named after him in the Bronx.
Donald Byrd, the legendary jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, and NEA Jazz Master, moved from Detroit to the Bronx in the mid-1950s to pursue a Master of Music Education degree at Manhattan School of Music. He passed away on February 4, 2013 in Dover, Delaware, at age 80.
During the early years of his career, Byrd taught in the Bronx public school system. One of his students was Willie Colon, a young trombonist and soon-to-be salsa star. While teaching public school, Byrd grew into a legendary figure in the New York City jazz scene.
Later, Byrd mentored and helped establish TheBlackbyrds, a rhythm and blues and jazz-funk fusion group. The Blackbyrds would go on to create influential crossover recordings that continue to be sampled by DJs all over the world.
To date, Donald Byrd is the fourth Bronx jazz legend to be honored with a street naming. Previous honorees include vocalist Maxine Sullivan, pianist Elmo Hope, and trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen. Additional anticipated namings will bring much-deserved recognition to the Bronx’s rich jazz history.
This summer, numerous recent graduates and current students of Manhattan School of Music’s voice program appeared in high-level operatic performances at the Aspen Music Festival.
A summer of study at the Aspen Opera Center offers young singers a variety of performance opportunities, including two fully-staged operas, opera scenes, master classes, and chamber recitals.
Aspen Opera Center’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata featured several current MSM students and recent alumni in prominent roles. Anna Dugan (MM ’16) made her role debut as Violetta, and both SeokJong Baek (MM ’18) and Sol Jin (MM ’15) appeared as Germont. Sol Jin will return to Houston Grand Opera Studio as a young artist this fall.
La Clemenza di Tito, conducted by Jane Glover (a recent guest conductor at MSM), gave two singers from Manhattan School of Music the opportunity to revisit familiar roles. Abigail Shapiro (MM ’17, PS ’18) sang the role of Vitellia, and Hayan Kim (MM ’17) appeared as Servilia.
Both singers had previously appeared in same roles in MSM’s Fall 2016 production of the opera, and the two even wore the same costumes designed by Tracy Dorman. Brian Michael Moore (MM ’17) covered the title role. Following the Aspen Music Festival, Moore will return Los Angeles for his second season in LA Opera’s Young Artist Program.
Several MSM singers appeared in Aspen Opera Center’s scenes program. Most notably, SeokJong Baek gave an astounding performance of “Nedda! Silvio!” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Tenor Yang Chen (MM ’17) and soprano Caroline Dunigan (BM ’14) appeared in scenes programs, concerts, and in the opera chorus.
Pianist Jonathan Gmeinder (MM ’16) returned to the Aspen Opera Center this summer as a Fellowship Pianist. This fall, he will join the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio as a young artist focusing on vocal accompaniment and coaching.
Many Manhattan School of Music students spend all or part of their summers at festivals, learning from new teachers and performing with new colleagues. Others choose to travel, visit family, or work.
We hope that everyone had a productive summer, and we look forward to greeting all Manhattan School of Music students next week!
Top photo: from MSM’s 2016 production of La Clemenza di Tito
On a snowy day in March 2017, more than 30 music students and recent graduates — including 21 from MSM – set up their instruments in the sprawling wood-paneled Studio A at Avatar Studios, one of New York City’s most famous recording studios.
This is the room where Bruce Springsteen recorded “Born in the USA,” Madonna “Like a Virgin,” David Bowie “Scary Monsters,” and where dozens of Broadway casts have recorded their albums.
It took trumpeter and MSM Jazz Arts Master’s Degree student (now graduate) Jonathan Dely months of outreach to find the right place for his recording of a full orchestra version of the 1937 jazz standard, “My Funny Valentine.”
Stefon Harris, One of the Most Important Artists in Jazz today, will Join Manhattan School of Music in July 2017
November 14, 2016 (NEW YORK, NY) – Manhattan School of Music President James Gandre announced today that four-time Grammy Award nominee and eight-time Jazz Journalist award-winner Stefon Harris – himself a distinguished alumnus of the School – will join MSM in July 2017 as Associate Dean and Director of the Jazz Arts program.
“We are thrilled to announce that Stefon Harris, who earned both a Bachelor of Music in 1995 and a Master of Music in 1997, will formally return to MSM next year to lead our renowned Jazz Arts program,” says President Gandre. “As the music world already knows, Stefon is an endlessly talented musician and composer, but he is also an extremely accomplished educator with an impressive track record in and passion for jazz education. We know that he will bring that depth of experience to bear on his work leading MSM’s Jazz Arts program, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome him home.”