WDAV-FM aired its first broadcast on December 1, 1978. From its humble beginnings as a low-power station run by Davidson College students, WDAV has grown to become one of nation’s top classical radio stations. Approximately 110,000 regional listeners tune in each week and 37,000 listen through the station’s streaming service.
Raised in Newton, N.C., composer William Brittelle has built a career on breaking and merging musical boundaries. Described by the New Yorker as “a mercurial artist whose oeuvre embraces post-punk flamboyance, chamber music elegance, and much more,” Brittelle’s compositions combine elements of classical, pop, and other genres, and emphasize the beauty of collaboration between diverse artists. These collaborators have included the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, Son Lux, Bryce Dessner, and recently, the North Carolina Symphony. In 2018, the Symphony premiered the commissioned piece “Si Otsedoha (We’re Still Here)” alongside the Cherokee Chamber Singers. While Brittelle composed the music, the lyrics and spoken word passages were written entirely by middle and high school students of Cherokee heritage.
At the same time, Brittelle was working on Spiritual America, a project featuring Durham-based indie rock duo Wye Oak. The album was released this past summer, and described by Brian Howe of INDY Week as, “One of the most astonishing releases of 2019.” Brittelle describes Spiritual America as an attempt to bridge the divide between his Christian, rural upbringing in North Carolina and his current identity as an “agnostic Buddhist” living in New York City.
“I think the divides that classical music often makes between composed music and different kinds of music, they’re really artificial,” says Brittelle. “What matters to me is what resonates emotionally.”
Did you know: North Carolina-born composer, conductor, and flutist Lamar Stringfield won a Pulitzer Prize for composition in 1928 for his orchestral suite "From the Southern Mountains." He went on to found the North Carolina Symphony and was known thereafter as an authority on southern ballads and folklore.
Founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club, Opera Carolina is the largest Opera company in the Carolinas.
Opera Carolina annually serves more than 70,000 people in North Carolina and South Carolina (excluding broadcasts) reaching an average of 17 counties in both Carolinas through its education programs. The main stage productions are in Charlotte at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, reaching both residents and visitors.
Learn more at https://operacarolina.org/
Winston-Salem native Margaret Vardell Sandresky, now 97, continues to play and compose music, following in the footsteps of her grandmother Linda Rumple Vardell, who founded the Conservatory of Music at Flora MacDonald College in Robeson County.
Nina Simone’s first musical love was Johann Sebastian Bach.
In her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You she noted that Bach “is technically perfect… Each note you play is connected to the next note, and every note has to be executed perfectly or the whole effect is lost. Once I understood Bach’s music I never wanted to be anything other than a concert pianist. Bach made me dedicate my life to music.”
In a 1984 interview with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, Simone recalled her early ambitions to be the first Black classical pianist to perform at Carnegie Hall. In the summer of 1950, when she was 17, her hometown of Tryon, N.C. raised money to help her attend a summer session at the Juilliard School before auditioning for the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia. The trip probably felt like a step towards her dream, but despite what she recalled as a well-received audition, her acceptance was not granted, which Simone credited to the color of her skin. This event not only pushed her to the world of jazz, but also to her work as a major player in the Civil Rights movement.
Simone ultimately did make it to Carnegie, after gaining fame with her version of Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” though she remarked in a letter to her parents, “I’m finally in Carnegie Hall, but I’m not playing Bach.” Today she is remembered primarily for her impact on jazz and blues music, but she never did hide her classical training. Her piano prowess stood tall alongside her powerful contralto and political messaging, and her love for Bach is no more evident than in a 1987 performance of “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” in Montreux, Switzerland. She abandoned her full band and played an elaborate fugal accompaniment on piano, perfectly blending her lifelong training with her inimitable jazz vocals. Her genius and propensity to push boundaries – musical and cultural – is on full display and encapsulates how intensely she changed the sound of American music forever.
Caroline Shaw masterfully stitches together sound, ideas, and genres.
Born and raised in Greenville, N.C., Shaw is a composer, violinist and vocalist. In 2013, she became the youngest recipient ever of the Pulitzer Prize in Music. Everything from synth-pop to square-dancing has contributed to her distinct style which has captured the attention and hearts of the classical music world and beyond. Since receiving the Pulitzer, she has since been commissioned by orchestras across the globe, scored films, and teamed up with the likes of Kanye West, the National, and tUnE-yArDs, lending her unique blend to the contemporary music world. Meet Caroline Shaw.
Caroline Shaw recieved the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita for 8 Voices a composition she wrote and performed with the group Roomful of Teeth. Several moments in the composition reflect Shaw's ties to North Carolina - one slower, contemplative moment she wrote with the Albermarle Sound in mind, and another cacophounus moment that catapults into a shared chord of harmony that her family says sounds like their house at Thanksgiving.
In the world of classical music, bricolage is the name of the game.
A French word and academic theory, bricolage refers to the “construction achieved by using whatever comes to hand.” Classical music has existed for hundreds of years and the exchange, blending, and reimagining of ideas is what drives the genre through its many evolutions. Beethoven borrowed from Mozart’s model for sonatas and string quartets, expanding on his stylings to launch the world into the Romantic era. Stravinsky and Copland borrowed from Russian and American folk music respectively, bringing a populist appeal to what was previously the music of the elite. For Greenville, N.C. native Caroline Shaw, everything from synth-pop to square-dancing have contributed to her sound.
“I don’t really call myself a composer,” she told the New York Times after becoming the youngest recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2013. She prefers the title “musician,” which is appropriate given her prowess not only in composition but performing - both as a violinist and a vocalist with her group Roomful of Teeth. The open definition of her craft is what allows her to masterfully combine ideas, sounds and genres, made apparent in her Pulitzer-winning composition Partita for 8 Voices.
Opening the piece with a cacophony of spoken word commands taken straight from a square-dance and finally settling into one triumphant eight-voiced chord, Shaw set out to push the boundaries of what acapella music could be. Inspired equally by Philip Glass, throat singing, and the Baroque works she practiced under North Carolina Award winner Joanne Bath’s Suzuki method classes, Caroline Shaw stitched together a musical quilt that didn’t go unnoticed. She has since been commissioned by orchestras across the globe, scored films, and teamed up with the likes of Kanye West, the National, and tUnE-yArDs, lending her unique blend to the contemporary music world. From Carnegie to Kanye, Caroline Shaw has changed the sound.
Contralto Carol Brice grew up in Sedalia, N.C. & attended Palmer Memorial Institute before building a major music career. Notably, she was one of the 1st African Americans hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company. She also sang at the inauguration of FDR in 1941.
North Carolina’s roots in classical music run so deep that our state passed the Horn Tootin’ Bill in 1943 to ensure that the North Carolina Symphony – founded in 1930 — would tour throughout the state, a practice that continues today in over 90 North Carolina counties.
Symphonies in N.C. offer dazzling musical entertainment in settings that vary from historic buildings to glitzy concert halls. Orchestral performances have been held at breweries and even at a newspaper distribution platform!
Below is a list of stand-out symphonies funded through the North Carolina Arts Council’s State Arts Resources category. These are professional orchestras that offer an array of outside-of-the auditorium experiences for residents and visitors.
Come Hear NC this winter by exploring the sounds of classical music!
PS: If you’re on the road there are several all-classical music public radio stations in North Carolina that you can tune into before or after your symphony experience including 89.9 WDAV in Charlotte, 89.7 WCPE in Raleigh, 88.5 WFDD in Winston-Salem, 88.1 Blue Ridge Public Radio in Asheville and 90.3 Public Radio East in New Bern.
Each year, the North Carolina Symphony’s 300 concerts, education programs, and community engagement events are enjoyed by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties. The Symphony’s full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn, delivering orchestral experiences of the highest quality and collaborating with renowned performers that range from classical artists, to bluegrass musicians, to jazz bands.
NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra in the U.S.—serving nearly 70,000 students across North Carolina each year. This commitment to music education began with the Horn Tootin’ Bill of 1943, which established state fiscal support for the Symphony’s music education program.
The North Carolina Symphony has earned national recognition for its creative programming—including its innovative partnerships and its dedication to giving voice to new art. The Symphony has presented 49 U.S. or world premieres in its history and is an orchestra industry leader in performing work by women composers.
In upcoming months, NCS carries out its mission of artistic excellence, statewide service, and music education with concerts and events in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, Wilmington, and numerous other North Carolina communities—in addition to performances at its Raleigh state headquarters venue, Meymandi Concert Hall, and its Cary summer home venue, Koka Booth Amphitheatre. These concerts feature everything from classical symphonies, to Broadway hits, to the music of pop and rock legends.
Additional spring highlights include collaborations with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Master Chorale, and Paperhand Puppet Intervention; a live recording for an upcoming commercial album release; and the commission of a new work by Pulitzer Prize winning composer and North Carolina native Caroline Shaw.
By the way, the symphony is an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources https://www.ncsymphony.org/
In the nearly 60 years since it was formed, the Asheville Symphony has become a driving force for creativity, artistic expression and collaborative exploration in Western North Carolina. The Asheville Symphony’s recent recording projects include The Asheville Symphony Sessions, which features songs that combine the unique styles of locally based musicians along with the Asheville Symphony, and Mozartistic, which blends the talents of hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, pianist Orion Weiss, DJ Marley Carroll, and the Asheville Symphony.
The biennial Asheville Amadeus festival, launched in 2015, is a 10-day event celebrating the things the Asheville Symphony believes Mozart would have loved, including music, dance, beer, food and film. The 2019 festival, which runs March 15-24, features two legendary headliners: rock guitarist Warren Haynes and pianist Garrick Ohlsson.
Each year the organization presents a core schedule of seven Masterworks Series concerts, plus a New Year’s Eve concert, chamber music, piano recitals, music in the schools events, youth orchestra concerts, and more. Darko Butorac, the symphony’s new music director, was selected after a national search generated nearly 400 applications last summer. https://ashevillesymphony.org/
When not leading the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, internationally renowned Music Director Christopher Warren-Green is the Music Director of the London Chamber Orchestra and has conducted music for several high-profile royal weddings, including those of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Prince William and Kate Middleton. Not to mention the 80th birthday celebration of Queen Elizabeth.
Royal engagements aside, Warren-Green inspires the nearly 60 full-time musicians in a dynamic season that runs September through May and includes Classical, Pops, and Family Series, among other special performances with notable soloists, a summer series, films in concert, and an annual favorite, the Magic of Christmas.
The Charlotte Symphony performs everywhere from community parks and schools to breweries and senior care centers. The popular On Tap series at NoDa Brewing Company and the On the Go neighborhood series mark an important expansion of programming in the community – bringing the orchestra experience to wider audiences.
The next generation of musicians and music lovers are nurtured by the CSO with two youth orchestras, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees. Each season, the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras present several concerts, including a side-by-side with the professional orchestra, and perform as prelude acts before Symphony mainstage events.
The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has attracted national attention for innovative programming including the 2017 world premiere of Not So Classical, featuring Hollywood star Ken Jeong, and its newly-founded HOPS Series @ Preyer Brewing in downtown Greensboro, offering regularly sold-out chamber music performances in a pub setting.
For nearly 60 years, the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has provided residents and visitors to the Triad area with quality musical entertainment and educational opportunities.
Some of North Carolina's most talented musicians perform as members of the orchestra as do an array of internationally acclaimed artists. GSO’s mainstage programs include the Masterworks, POPS, Chamber, and Holiday Series, all of which reach over 50,000 Triad residents each year.
The Symphony also offers diverse outreach through its Keep Kids In Tune music education series with targeted programs for preschoolers, elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as adult learners. https://greensborosymphony.org/
It’s unusual to find a full-size professional symphony orchestra based in a town the size of Salisbury, and its more unusual to offer a free outdoor concert at the newspaper distribution platform at the back of the local newspaper building.
But the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony does just that. First hosted in 2005 as part of the Salisbury Post’s centennial celebrations, the “Pops at the Post” concert has turned into a widely anticipated annual event held in early June with more than 3,000 people attending each year. As it turns out, the Salisbury Post’s covered platform not only has a protected area for the musicians and very desirable acoustic properties, but it also conveniently faces a large parking lot which can accommodate tailgating, food vendors and thousands of folding chairs.
The Salisbury Symphony has been a major player in Rowan County’s arts scene for over 50 years, with a professional orchestra ranging from 60 to 90 members led by Dr. David Hagy, who has served as Music Director for over 30 years. The Symphony performs six concerts on the Catawba and Livingstone College campuses each year. https://www.salisburysymphony.org/
The Western Piedmont Symphony (WPS) has provided enriching musical performances to the Hickory area since 1964 and through growth and artistic quality has expanded to serve Western N.C.
The symphony’s fourth conductor John Gordon Ross, who led from 1991 to 2018, worked to balance classical music with modern pieces, and attracted high-profile artists to the area to perform with the symphony, including Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Charlie Daniels and Bela Fleck among others. Also during Ross’ tenure, over 40 original pieces had their world premieres with WPS, and a Quartet-in-Residence was implemented, which expanded the orchestra’s outreach to include performances in schools, nursing homes, libraries and other locations. https://wpsymphony.org/
The Winston-Salem Symphony (WSS) has serenaded the Triad region for 72 years, offering not only the best in classical repertoire but also choral music, opera, ballet, popular music and more, welcoming such distinguished guests as Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, and Chris Botti.
The Winston-Salem Symphony especially celebrates the sounds of North Carolina, collaborating with a diverse array of artists including Mandolin Orange, Rhiannon Giddens, Chris Thile, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Ricky Skaggs.
Established in 1946 originally as a civic orchestra on the campus of Salem College, the Winston-Salem Symphony incorporated in 1952 and hired its first full-time conductor in 1955. Four permanent music directors have led the WSS since its inception. Over the years the WSS has offered a wide range of repertoires including classical orchestral and choral concert music; opera, oratorio, and ballet; and popular music. www.wssymphony.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter: @wssymphony.