Sharing Love and Hope Through Music

The first time I performed in prison we discovered prisoners put great value in sharing their opinions. They knew their thoughts would be shared directly with the composers of the works they heard and that made them feel like their opinions mattered. The second time I performed in prison we gained a deeper appreciation for the power of music, especially contemporary music. Hearing directly from the prisoners how new works evoked emotions and thoughts helped shape the planning for the third prison performance. The theme of the third performance was chosen by … Continue Reading

It’s More Than Wearing Pretty Shoes

“And here I thought all you did was walk out in pretty shoes and tune the orchestra!” That patron’s statement caught me by surprise while I was explaining details of my job as concertmaster. It turns out many people don’t know much about what a concertmaster does! So, I’ve asked a few concertmaster friends from around the country to share some of their thoughts to help illustrate a more dynamic description of the job. After all, while it’s nice people notice the pretty shoes, there is a lot more to the job … Continue Reading

Do you need a prerequisite to enjoy classical music

Do you need a prerequisite to enjoy classical music?

A while back I posted on Facebook that I felt the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto needed a time out. One of the commenters on that post said, “Yes, but it’s such a great first time listener’s work. After they listen to that then they can go on and enjoy other works.” A few others chimed in saying similar things, and the discussion revealed the viewpoint of many veteran classical music listeners. They were actively prejudging how newcomers should start into the art of orchestral music. I completely object to this! Since when do … Continue Reading



Pairing food and drink with music has always been an important and fun metaphor for me. Since the creation of The Higdon cocktail, a drinkable metaphor offering a new way approach Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, many people have been asking: will there be a Stephenson cocktail. The concerto by Jim Stephenson, Tributes, could have a cocktail created for it, but I wanted to go a different route this time around. And this idea came from sitting in a restaurant in Chicago with my collaborative pianist, Tim Hinck, who flew up to perform … Continue Reading

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation Part 2

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation, Part 2

If you were serving a long-term prison sentence right now, what words or images do you think would come to mind? After this most recent performance at Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison, I asked the prisoners to share two words or themes they wanted connected to the music for the next recital program. (I’ll reveal those later!) The words I had chosen for this recent recital were Space and Intent. I picked pieces that exposed elements of space, whether silences or long phrases, and pieces that captured various tones of … Continue Reading

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