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2019 Laurette Goldberg Award

Early Music America is pleased to announce Nina Stern and S’Cool Sounds as recipients of the 2019 Laurette Goldberg Award for lifetime achievement in early music outreach and/or educational projects for children or adults by ensembles and individual artists. The Laurette Goldberg Award is named for Laurette Goldberg, the extraordinary teacher, performer, author, and founder of musical enterprises in the San Francisco Bay area.

S’Cool Sounds was founded early in 2002 out of a desire to share the joy of music-making with NYC children. Since graduating music conservatory, I had always enjoyed opportunities to teach aspiring young professionals as well as communicate with and connect to audiences. The richness of my own experiences, however, magnified a painful awareness that many children in my community faced barriers to accessing their own musical voices. The process of learning to play an instrument far transcends the music it generates, with gains in self-expression, connectivity, and creativity that literally impact a lifetime. I founded S’Cool Sounds so that I could share this transformative experience with the children of my community.

Nina Stern has carved a unique and astonishingly diverse career for herself as a world-class recorder player and classical clarinetist. A native New Yorker, Ms. Stern studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where she received a Soloist’s Degree. From Basel, she moved to Milan, Italy where she was offered a teaching position at the Civica Scuola di Musica. Ms. Stern performs widely on recorders, chalumeaux, and historical clarinets. She has appeared as a soloist or principal player with orchestras such as The New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, American Classical Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, Clarion Orchestra, I Solisti Veneti, Hesperion XX, Apollo’s Fire, and Tafelmusik. Her numerous festival and concert series appearances have included performances under leading conductors such as Loren Maazel, Kurt Masur, Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, Claudio Scimone, Kent Tritle, Jane Glover, Bruno Weil, Ton Koopman, Andrew Parrot and Jordi Savall. She has recorded for Erato, Harmonia Mundi, Sony Classics, Newport Classics, Wildboar, Telarc, MSR, and Smithsonian labels.

Nina Stern’s recent projects include performances and recordings of traditional music of Eastern Europe, Armenia, and the Middle East, as a soloist and with the ensembles Rose of the Compass and East of the River. In recent years, Rose of the Compass has collaborated annually with the conductor Kent Tritle and the Choir of St. John the Divine in creating programs for the “Great Music in a Great Space” concert series at the Cathedral. Nina Stern’s most recent album, The Crane, was released in January on the Good Child Music label.

Ms. Stern was appointed to the faculty of Juilliard’s Historical Performance program in 2012 and has served on the faculties of the Mannes College of Music – where she directed the Historical Performance Program from 1989 to 1996 – the Civica Scuola di Musica (Milan, Italy), Oberlin Conservatory, and the Five Colleges in Massachusetts.

Nina Stern is also hailed as an innovator in teaching school-age children to be fine young musicians. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of “S’Cool Sounds” a successful hands-on music education project. The Washington Post applauded this program as a model in its “innovation in the classroom” series (11/9/03). For this important work Ms. Stern was awarded an Endicott Fellowship in 2003 and was honored in 2005 with the “Early Music Brings History Alive” Award, bestowed by Early Music America. Nina Stern served as Director of Education for the New York Collegium from 2002-2007. She has consulted for Midori & Friends and for Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute, helping them to develop and expand their recorder curriculum. She is the author of “Recorders Without Borders” – two books for beginning recorder players and percussion. Ms. Stern has shared her teaching methods with students and teachers throughout the U.S. the Netherlands, and Belgium and has worked to establish recorder programs in several schools in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, in Burundi and at schools for Syrian refugee children in Azraq, Jordan.

Now in its seventeenth year, S’Cool Sounds was first established as a pilot program at The Ella Baker School, a public school in New York City. By 2003, the program was already featured by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post in an article highlighting philosophies and techniques of innovative teachers. One of my favorite quotes from that article was from then nine-year-old Nyja Poe who said, “This music helps me express my feelings. I thought I couldn’t play the recorder – now I know I can, and if I can play the recorder, I can play almost any instrument. And I can learn other new things, too.” Since then, S’Cool Sounds has reached thousands of local students and currently provides hands-on weekly musical instruction to hundreds of children throughout New York City.

The cross-cultural focus of S’Cool Sounds found a natural expansion in 2010, when I was invited by a local humanitarian organization to introduce the SCS music program to children living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. Here I again witnessed the transformative power of music – this time watching it lift spirits and change lives in the largest urban slum in Africa. Today, S’Cool Sounds programs have been implemented in five schools in Kibera, including one that has sent a performing group to the Kenyan National Music Competition coming home with first prize in 2016, 2017, and again in 2018. Those kids are so proud! In recent years we’ve also developed partnerships with a health organization in Burundi and an organization serving Syrian Refugees in Jordan, the latter of which has already spread to four schools. Connections abroad uniquely complement SCS activities back at home creating a meaningful exchange between our communities – here in NYC our students have made recorder cases for refugee children in Jordan and learned traditional Kenyan beats from our community in Kibera. Fourth-grade Jamzeed Jossain got to the heart of what we’re doing when he said of our transnational friends, “We play the same song.”

In 2016 S’Cool Sounds became an independent non-profit organization reaffirming our dedication to expressive communication, mutual respect, and global awareness through musical training for children and adults who lack access to arts education. What began as a vision is now a community that believes in social connectedness, in stimulating creativity and imagination, and in giving the gift of music. By making music together we tell our stories and listen closely to the stories of people around us and far away – communicating and connecting in a way that is more important than ever.


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EMA Announces 2019 Annual Award Recipients

Left to right: Eric Rice, Lyle Nordstrom, and Nina Stern

Early Music America is pleased to announce the following recipients of the 2019 Annual Awards in the field of early music. You can read more about each of this year’s recipients by clicking on the names linked below. 

  • Thomas Binkley Award for outstanding achievement in performance and scholarship by the director of a university or college early music ensemble.
  • Howard Mayer Brown Award for lifetime achievement in the field of early music.
  • Laurette Goldberg Award for lifetime achievement in early music outreach and/or educational projects for children or adults by ensembles and individual artists.

Nominations for EMA’s Annual Awards come from the early music community at large. More information about the nomination process and previous recipients can be found on the Annual Awards page.

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Chinese Baroque

Loum Kiqua, left; Teodorico Pedrini, right

An Early Music Month Post by Derek Tam

As the boundaries of historically-informed performance continue to broaden and evolve, I’ve been excited to witness such efforts and to participate in some of them!

Over the past couple of years, my dear friend and colleague Addi Liu and I have been delving into the music of the “Chinese Baroque”. Specifically, we’ve been exploring Western-style music written or performed in China in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as Chinese music that found its way, in one form or another, to Europe.

This project has provided an opportunity for us to return to our roots via our shared passion for early music: Addi immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong as a child, and my father was born and raised in Hong Kong. In addition, researching and performing this music has reminded me of both the challenges and pleasures of having one foot in two cultures.

Reading the reactions that Chinese and Europeans had to each other’s music reminded me of the cultural misunderstandings in my own life. What is normal in one culture is very strange to another, such as whether or not to take off one’s shoes when entering a house. When the missionary Jean-Joseph Marie Amiot (1718-1793) presented Rameau’s “Les Sauvages” to the Chinese court, he was greeted with a “cold and distracted expression that indicated to [him] that [he] had far from moved them…and that [European] songs were not made for their ears, nor their ears for [European] songs.”¹

Similarly, when a Chinese merchant named “Loum Kiqua” (林奇官) visited London in 1756, an anonymous listener transcribed a song that Loum Kiqua played. Despite the transcriber’s assurance that the piece was taken down “exactly as he played it, without the slightest alteration,” the result contains no obvious Chinese musical characteristics.²

But not all cross-cultural efforts were fruitless. One thinks of Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746), who spent almost half of his life in China. In addition to teaching music to three sons of the Kangxi Emperor, Pedrini helped to complete the first treatise on Western music theory published in Chinese. Even more remarkably, the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was said to have adapted his Chinese poetry to contemporary Chinese tunes, although the exact melodies are lost.

As we celebrate Early Music Month, I encourage you to think about how your definition of early music has evolved since your first exposure to historically informed performance. I can certainly say that researching the music of the Chinese Baroque has certainly changed mine!

¹Jean-Joeph Marie Amiot, Memoire sur la musique des Chinois (1779), 2-3
²David Clarke, “An encounter with Chinese music in mid-18th century London,” Early Music, Vol. 38, No. 4, p. 543-557, (2010)

Derek Tam

In demand as a conductor and historical keyboardist, Derek Tam performs regularly in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere.

Praised for his “deft” conducting (San Francisco Chronicle​), Tam appears frequently with choral and orchestral ensembles. He has appeared recently with Ars Minerva, Bay Pointe Ballet, the First Church Festival Orchestra, Oakland Ballet, and the Oshman Family JCC.

A specialist on historical keyboards, Tam has been called “a master of [the harpsichord]” (San Francisco Classical Voice) and “the fortepianist of the beguiling fingers” (Bloomington Herald-Times). Recent concerto appearances include performances with Elevate Ensemble, Modesto Symphony, and Chamber Music Silicon Valley.

In March 2019, he will become the executive director of the San Francisco Early Music Society, a major advocate for early music in the United States and the presenter of the biennial Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. He is on the board of Early Music America, a national organization dedicated to strengthening historical performance.

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2018 Engagement Award Reflection: Forgotten Clefs

Early Music America offers awards annually to support projects for children or adults by ensembles and individual artists. The awards are intended to promote awareness and appreciation of early music and historical performance. EMA’s goal is to draw new audiences and participants to early music.

The deadline to apply for a 2019 Engagement Award is Monday, April 8, 2019.

Learn more and apply now.

Engagement Award Project: Shawms and Stories 

Shawms and Stories brings a 30-minute musical storytelling program for 5th-6th grade children and their families to libraries, museums, and community centers in South-Central Indiana. This season, we journeyed to the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance to tell the story of the Life of a Knight through his oath to serve, unrequited love, battle, and death. The story was modified for younger audiences where appropriate.

Early Music is central to this project. We perform on copies of Renaissance instruments including shawms, dulcians, recorders, harp, drum, and sackbut in this program. The project begins as we introduce the “strange flutes and toots you see before you.” After the performance, we welcome questions. We found that about half of the questions were about history and dress and the other half were almost exclusively about our instruments. Of particular interest to our young audiences were: gut strings on the harp, calf-skinned drum, and, of course, the name of the sackbut. We made sure to discuss our personal journeys to these instruments through our modern band training, recorder classes in elementary school, and more. Several students wanted to know what we started on—in this way, we were able to explain the clarinet as a path to the dulcian or the modern saxophone as a way to later study Renaissance recorder

Kids at all locations had substantial questions and comments about our instruments and attire. Our favorite discussion was around the harp. When we explained that the harp strings are made from sheep intestines, the kids many questions about how animals relate to music. One fifth-grader claimed that there are 100 types of sheep–he wanted to know which types were used for the strings.

There were also several questions about our attire: why did a girl play the knight? Why did the Medieval princess cover her hair? This allowed us to address questions of history and culture in our program that had music as its central focus. All of our community partners (Brown County Public Library, Monroe County Public Library, Ellettsville Boys & Girls Club, Brown County Head Start, and Spencer Elementary) strongly indicated they would like the project back. Additionally, most of our community partners indicated they could only implement the project if it was fully funded outside their organizations since they serve persons below the poverty line.

Learn more about Forgotten Clefs.

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Young Performers Festival 2019: USC Collegium Workshop

Members of the USC Collegium Workshop perform at the 2018 Young Performers Festival in Bloomington, Indiana. Photo credit: Alain Barker

The University of Southern California Collegium Workshop will perform at 4:30pm EDT on Thursday, May 23, 2019 as part of Early Music America’s Young Performers Festival, during the Bloomington Early Music Festival.

USC has two official early music ensembles. The Thornton Baroque Sinfonia is an ensemble of period instruments and voices specializing in music from the late 16th through the mid-18th centuries. Classified as one of the official “large ensembles” of the Thornton Music School, the Baroque Sinfonia consists of approximately ten graduate students majoring in early music, at least as many graduate students of modern instruments and voice minoring in early music, and a small but growing number of undergraduate students, all performing four different programs each year.

Members also perform in the USC Collegium Workshop in two annual concerts devoted to medieval and Renaissance music. Both ensembles have performed in festivals in California, and in the Berkeley and Boston Early Music Festivals as winners of Early Music America’s College-Level Ensemble Development Grant and participants in past Young Performers Festivals. Their performances have been heard over public radio, and their members, past and present, perform, research, and teach around the world. Their recording of British broadside ballads “D’ye Hear the News,” commissioned by the Yale University Press, can be heard online at iTunes U. The ensemble was founded in 1986 by James Tyler and is currently led by early music program director Adam Knight Gilbert.

2019 Festival Program

Mi verry joy: Music from the Shores of England and France

The interwoven histories of England and France in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries profoundly affected their poetry and music. This concert will feature music from the Ritson, Fayrfax and Henry VIII manuscripts in England, and from the Loire Valley chansonniers in France, featuring anonymous unica from the recently discovered Leuven Chansonnier. The repertory will span music from The Hundred Years’ War to shortly after the Wars of the Roses. Settings of poems by King Henry VIII and by Duke Charles d’Orléans, who was a prisoner in England for 25 years and wrote verse in French and English, will play a special part in our concert.

Watch USC Collegium’s 2018 YPF performance: O virgo splendens: Devotional Music of Iberia

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