Clef Notes

Bring your love of classical music into your inbox with Clef Notes. Join us each month as we check in with local music makers, share information about upcoming concerts, and expand our musical horizons together.

PC: David Bickley

A Conversation with Author Brendan Slocumb

We had the privilege of meeting with Brendan Slocumb, author of the best-selling novels The Violin Conspiracy and Symphony of Secrets, in advance of his talks at the Champaign Public Library on October 12. Hailed by the New York Times as “A maestro of musical mystery,” Slocumb, a violinist and music educator as well as novelist, has brought classical music to the masses through his thrilling novels centering on diverse voices.

Soprano Elena Negruta Wins American Prize

We met up with soprano Elena Negruţă to discuss her recent success as the winner of the American Prize in Vocal Performance for Women in Opera. Originally from Moldova and having trained as a folk singer, Negruţă first came to study opera at the University of Illinois School of Music in 2012. Since then, she has built a steady performance schedule across central Illinois and beyond, covering a broad range of repertoire and styles. Read on to learn more about this dynamic artist and to hear select recordings.

Review: Quynh Nguyen plays the piano works of Germaine Tailleferre

Please welcome to the Clef Notes Blog Vincent Trauth, host of The Evening Concert. Read on for a review of The Flower of France, a brand-new album from pianist Quynh Nguyen. The record features the piano music of French composer Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983), the only female member of the group of compsers known as "Les Six." The Flower of France presents works originally for solo piano, as well as transcriptions and excerpts from ballets and film scores, many of which are rarely performed or recorded.

Lift Every Voice Symposium

This fall, the University of Illinois School of Music and the Illinois chapter of the American Choral Directors Association are sponsoring an exciting mentorship program. Now in its second year, the Lift Every Voice Symposium aims to support young choral conductors from underrepresented groups. Last year, the program focused on female-identifying conductors. This year, Lift Every Voice will serve conductors of color. Six students nearing the end of their undergraduate education have been selected to come to the U of I campus to work with world-renowned conductor–teachers at no cost to them. Read on to learn more about this important initiative from Dr. Andrea Solya, Interim Director of Choral Activities at the University of Illinois.

Great Performances: Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony

Out this month on PBS Great Performances is Leonard Bernstein's "Kaddish" Symphony performed at the 2022 Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, United Voices Chicago (formerly Chicago Children's Choir), narrator Jaye Ladymore, and soprano Janai Brugger. Clef Notes Editor Katie Buzard happened to be among the chorus that night and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what went into preparing and performing Bernstein's haunting work.

Preview of CUTC’s The Music Man with Music Director Dave Ivy

We sat down with Dave Ivy, music director for the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company’s upcoming production of The Music Man. Meredith Willson’s six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy has been entertaining audiences since 1957 and is a family-friendly story that all generations can enjoy. Read on to learn more about Dave Ivy and what it’s been like preparing the show.

Guest Blog: Julia Escobar’s Italian Adventures

John Frayne Classical Music Graduate Student Work Experience Fellow, Julia Escobar, writes to us about her adventures in sunny Italy, where she recently spent over a month playing flute and piccolo at two summer music programs. Read on to hear more about Julia's experience, see some pictures, and listen to her perform an arrangement of Lili Boulanger's "Soir sur la plaine" with her festival colleagues.

Edmond Dédé: An American in Paris

In honor of Independence Day, we’d like to introduce you to an American composer you probably haven’t heard of before. Edmond Dédé (1827–1901) was a violinist, composer, and conductor. Born in New Orleans, Dédé eventually saved enough money working in a cigar factory to book passage to France, where he studied with professors at the Paris Conservatoire. For various reasons, Dédé’s biography has been clouded by misinformation and half-truths. Fortunately, historian Sally McKee cleared up some of the biographical inaccuracies in her 2017 book The Exile’s Song, giving us better insight into Dédé’s life and achievements. Read on to learn more about the fascinating story behind this little-known composer whose works are just now being rediscovered.

Artist Spotlight: Trumpeter James Vaughen

We sat down with James Vaughen, a Champaign-Urbana local taking the trumpet world by storm. A recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia,he is making his debut as assistant principal trumpet with the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago this summer before heading off to a one-year principal trumpet position with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the fall. Read on to learn more about James and his career path so far.

Disability Pride Flag, created by Ann Magill in 2019

Disability Pride Month: Spotlight on Musicians with Disabilities

Celebrated in July, Disability Pride Month commemorates the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990. The landmark legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life to ensure equal access to employment, education, transportation, telecommunications, public accommodations, and government services. The ADA was passed in an effort to break down barriers that prevent those with disabilities, who comprise the largest minority group in the United States, from participating fully in public life. In honor of Disability Pride Month, we’re highlighting five inspiring musicians, past and present, with disabilities who we think you should know.

Illinois Public Media Clef Notes

Clef Notes

Illinois Arts Council Agency

These programs are partially sponsored by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.