Winter 2017

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Symphony Orchestra Goes Global

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Student musicians will spend spring break 2018 representing Northwestern with concerts in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra
The Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra is headed overseas in March 2018 to perform in three major Asian cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Members of the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra will travel halfway around the globe next year for what will be the ensemble’s first international tour. Ninety students will participate in Northwestern University Symphony on Tour: Asia 2018, with concerts in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The tour will be co-hosted by the Bienen School of Music, Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies and Northwestern Alumni Association. 

This series of performances — which will take place March 25, 28 and 31 — will give the student musicians a unique opportunity to showcase their talents. The tour also will put Northwestern on the world stage, supporting the Bienen School’s goal of recruiting promising young musicians from around the globe. 

The concert repertoire consists of Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler and Symphonic Dances by Leonard Bernstein ’57 H, from West Side Story. The tour coincides with the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth, giving Northwestern an ideal chance to share his quintessentially American music with a global audience. 

The program will be conducted by Maestro Victor Yampolsky, the Carol F. and Arthur L. Rice Jr. University Professor in Music Performance and director of orchestras, who has led NUSO since 1984. Under his baton, NUSO has evolved into one of the nation’s most prestigious collegiate orchestras, featuring top student musicians from the Bienen School. The Bienen School offers a unique combination of conservatory-level musical training and the academic rigor of a top-tier research institution, and boasts accomplished faculty and students who regularly garner major awards and honors. Many Bienen alumni are members of professional orchestras and opera companies all over the country and around the world. 

“This tour is the next milestone in a number of current success stories for the Bienen School of Music,” Yampolsky says. “It will create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students to take their mastery and enthusiasm for playing not only outside Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, but outside America.” 

Asia is an appropriate destination for NUSO’s international tour, given that tens of millions of young people in the region study classical music. Bienen School faculty members have recently traveled to the region to perform and teach master classes as part of the school’s Asia Piano Initiative. The NUSO tour will reach even more people throughout the continent, allowing student performers to not only engage audiences but also strengthen the connection between Northwestern and Asian music communities. 

“The upcoming concerts in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong will demonstrate the strength of the Bienen School’s performance programs,” says Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the school. “Additionally, the tour will aid in the school’s ongoing efforts to recruit talented student musicians from Asia.” 

The tour also will build on Northwestern’s extensive ties to Asia through its students, faculty and alumni network. For the past several years, Northwestern leaders have visited the continent annually to cultivate relationships with academic, cultural and business communities, as well as alumni clubs.

“Northwestern is well regarded in Hong Kong as an academically rigorous university,” says Clifford Chow ’06, president of the NU Club of Hong Kong. “A visit from the symphony orchestra will bring more awareness to the Bienen School of Music’s superlative reputation as a destination for study.” 

NUSO’s upcoming tour of Asia illustrates Northwestern’s commitment to making an impact not just on the campus community but on the world. 

The Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies, one of the tour’s hosts, is dedicated to addressing critical global issues through collaborative research, public dialogue and engaged scholarship. A portion of a transformative gift from Roberta Buffett Elliott ’54 is being used for a matching challenge to inspire benefactors to endow scholarships for international undergraduates. These scholarships will help broaden the global representation of talented students at Northwestern and allow them to attend the University regardless of their financial circumstances. The Buffett Institute also provides formative global experiences for students through international research projects, study abroad and internships.