For this issue of e-notes, we caught up with
Michael Butterman, RPO Conductor for
Education and Outreach (The Louise and Henry Epstein
Family Chair), to find out more about the upcoming season
of family concerts.
Next year’s orKIDStra Family Series continues
the theme of music that has a story. Please tell us more about
We open with Green Eggs and
Ham—the great story in which a child teaches an
adult about prejudice—in a wonderful musical setting for
soprano and child actor by Robert Kapilow, the composer who
wrote the Polar Express setting that we performed at
Christmas a few seasons ago.
Family for Baby Grand is a terrific story that
introduces the instruments of the orchestra to young children.
The composer, Brad Ross, is the brother of our principal
timpanist, Chip Ross.
For our Fairy Tales concert, we'll hear
some of the great music for concert, opera, and ballet that
has been inspired by classic fairy tales and learn how
composers can tell stories or paint pictures with the music
Peter vs. The Wolf, which closes
our season, is a wonderful dramatic twist on Prokofiev's
well-loved children's classic. In this version, we hear the
story unfold in retrospect through a courtroom drama in which
the wolf attempts to prove his innocence to the jury. It's the
same great music as always, but with some added humor that
will delight both children and their parents.
What will you be doing for the Around the Town
concerts next season?
In the fall, we'll be featuring the winner of the Rochester
Philharmonic League's Young Artist Competition for 2010. The
young flutist will be joining us to play one of the staples of
the flute repertoire: a work by Griffes entitled
Poem. We'll partner that with another work by the
same composer (who grew up in Elmira, NY) called The White
Peacock and fill out the program with famous works about
other exotic people, places, and things.
This year you’re conducting one of the Symphony
101 concerts – what do you have planned?
This season, the Symphony 101 series is exploring "Musical
Milestones"—pieces that changed the course of music history or
represented important achievements by significant composers.
My concert focuses on the 19th Century and the Romantic Era.
We'll begin with Beethoven, who was a pivotal force in the
transition from the Classical period to early Romanticism.
From there, we'll look at program music—music that tells a
story—from Berlioz and Liszt. We'll talk about Wagner's unique
aesthetic approach and then end with Debussy and the
beginnings of impressionism, as well as the transition to the
eclecticism of the 20th century that he helped usher
(Click here for more information on the Symphony
What is one of your funniest or oddest RPO concert
(or rehearsal) memories ...
It's a moment that was funny mostly because of how much
funnier it could potentially have been. The celeste plays an
important role in Tchaikovsky's orchestration of The
Nutcracker, especially during the famous "Dance of the
Sugar Plum Fairy." Because of space limitations in the pit, we
typically use a synthesizer instead of an actual celeste. The
type that we used a few years ago had one of those wheels that
could be rotated to scroll through the various sounds from
which to choose. Well, during the intermission, someone must
have bumped up against it, because when it came time for the
Sugar Plum Fairy to dance to the little tinkling-bell sound of
the celeste, we heard instead the twangy sound of a
harpsichord. Everybody in the pit immediately glanced over at
Joe (keyboard player Joe Werner), who seemed as surprised as
anyone at the sounds that were emanating from his keyboard.
The incident became much funnier in retrospect as we imagined
how much worse it could have been. Instead of a harpsichord
sound, the wheel could have landed on something like dogs
barking, chickens clucking, or cannon shots. I think any of
those would have brought the show to a halt!
What is your favorite restaurant in
There are so many good ones from which to choose. It really
depends on the sort of mood I'm in. I love 2 Vine, but also
Dinosaur BBQ. Of course, there's always Golden Port, which is
right across from the RPO offices. The owner, Wayne, is always
friendly, welcoming, and supportive of the orchestra. I've
known him since before the restaurant moved from its former
location on Clinton Avenue. I enjoy going to the Highland Park
Diner with Christopher, which must certainly be his favorite
spot. But, truth be told, I'm always plenty happy to just go
to the Pittsford Wegmans and graze!
Where are your travels taking you during the
I've had a couple of concerts out in Colorado, which is
beautiful this time of year. We also got to NYC for several
days to take in some ballets. This was a treat for our
daughter, who at six is a budding ballerina. Her biggest
thrill was getting a backstage tour of the Met given by Sarah
Lane, one of American Ballet Theatre's principal dancers, whom
we know from her many appearances as the Sugar Plum Fairy in
the RPO's Nutcracker over the years. Also got up to
Canada for a few days to visit some relatives and right now,
as I write this, we're headed to the beach for a little
end-of-summer R & R.