The Block
Sylvia Norris, french, harp, violin, flutist

Sylvia Norris & Friends: The French Connection, classical chamber

Saturday, February 27th, 7:30 pm

West Michigan Symphony Principal Harp Sylvia Norris brings a colorful and delightful program of French chamber music by Ravel and others. Joining her will be an ensemble of outstanding artists, including flutist Nancy Stagnitta, violinist Steven Leonard, violist Renee Skerik, cellist Crispin Campbell, and soprano Laura Osgood Brown.

Harpist Sylvia Norris is well known to Michigan audiences as both a recitalist and orchestral musician. A Michigan native, for over twenty five years she has played principle harp with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra. She is also currently principal harpist of the West Michigan Symphony Orchestra under the musical direction of Scott Speck, and the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra, Anne Harrigan, music director. She held the position of second harpist with the Grand Rapids Symphony for 17 years and has appeared with the Detroit Symphony as well as every other Michigan orchestra of note, and recently appeared as guest harpist with the Billings, Montana Symphony. In addition to her orchestra duties, Sylvia teaches promising harp students at the Interlochen Arts Camp. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Eileen Malone. Other teachers include Lauralee Campbell, of Michigan State University, Nancy Allen at the Aspen Music Festival and Suzanne Balderston at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, where she was the recipient of the Outstanding Harpist Award. She loves to play chamber music and plays in many chamber settings including the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck, and the Interlochen Arts Camp, where she holds the position of a summer instructor of harp. Sylvia has worked as an artist mentor in Bogota, Columbia for the Filharmonica Joven de Columbia under the artistic direction of the late Matthew Hazelwood. Mrs. Norris has been a featured recitalist at the American Harp Society National conventions. She has been a concerto soloist with several Michigan Orchestras and was the featured soloist opening the 2009-2010 West Michigan Symphony Orchestra season. In recent years, she has been a featured performer on the Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line, performing as a solo harpist and as a headliner with her husband, baritone, Jeffery Norris and her daughters, Hayley (BFA recipient in Musical Theater from Shenandoah Conservatory in 2011) and Emma, (budding pop music recording artist). In 2005, she was chosen to tour with Josh Groban to Bermuda where she was privileged to also appear in recital with legendary flutist, Sir James Galway. Sylvia and Jeff reside in Traverse City where she continues to teach privately and is active in her church and community.

Praised for her "brilliance and beauty of tone" by the Baltimore Sun, Powell Artist Nancy Stagnitta is a leading crossover artist as both classical flutist and jazz artist. Her passion, versatility, and elegant artistry have led to concert engagements in Africa, Europe, Asia, and across the U.S. In 2018, she gave the Asian premier of David Amram's "Giants of the Night" Flute Concerto with the China National Symphony in Beijing. Upcoming performances include an encore performance of the Amram Concerto with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, masterclass appearances at the Mannes School of Music and New England Conservatory, and a featured guest artist appearance with jazz violinst Regina Carter in Detroit.

Her recent album with Grammy Award winner Bob James, "In the Chapel in the Moonlight," has garnered acclaim across musical genres, and was described in JAZZIZ magazine as " … captivating … brilliant … striking … Stagnitta effortlessly picks up on [James'] attitude, sounding not unlike Hubert Laws." "Nancy Stagnitta is among a very few flutists on the planet who can truly play both classical and jazz flute," says legendary flutist Jim Walker. "The recent recording with Bob James speaks volumes to her fluency and talent in great flute playing." It was declared "an album to be treasured" by renowned flutist Paula Robison. Stagnitta has also recorded contemporary American classical repertoire for Capstone Records, and was recently featured on American Public Media's Performance Today.

Appointed as U.S.I.A. Artistic Ambassador to southern Africa, she presented concerts and master classes in Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Namibia. She has also performed at the Shanghai Conservatory, the Biblioteca Universitaria di Napoli, Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and on the Voice of America Broadcast Network and National Public Radio. A two-time recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Solo Artist Award, she was named a semi-finalist in the National Flute Association Young Artist Competition.

Former piccoloist with the Baltimore and Sarasota Opera Orchestras, she has appeared as concerto soloist with the National Gallery Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and served as artist/faculty at the Amalfi Coast International Music Festival in Italy, the Da Capo Festival in Utah, the Panoramic Flutist in Colorado, the Hot Springs Festival in Arkansas, and the Montecito Festival in California. She was the featured jazz soloist at the National Flute Association Convention in Chicago.

A passionate educator, Stagnitta currently serves as Instructor of Flute at Interlochen Arts Academy, a world leader in arts education. Her students have consistently attended top conservatory programs, won major awards and competitions, and can be heard in orchestras and ensembles around the world. Eight of her students have won the prestigious $10,000 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, and subsequently appeared on NPR's "From the Top," since 2009. She has offered masterclasses in Germany, France, Italy, China, and at American universities in Austin, Boulder, and Phoenix, among many others. As a result of her holistic approach to teaching, and to an ongoing collaboration with the dance and physics departments at Interlochen, she was invited to present a lecture on the relationship between body alignment, resonance, and injury prevention at the 2011 Performing Artist and Athlete Science Symposium. She earned her degrees from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, where she received the Ashworth Prize. Her teachers include Robert Willoughby, Tim Day, and Mark Sparks.

Steven K. Leonard, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, is the Associate Concertmaster of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra and is the Director of the TSO Civic Chamber Music Program. He also often performs as guest Assistant Concertmaster and Associate/Assistant Principal of the violin sections in the West Michigan Symphony. He has been on the Violin Faculty of the Interlochen Center for the Arts for many summers and has been a guest artist at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. He maintains a busy private teaching studio in both Traverse City and Atlanta. Mr. Leonard is frequently a visiting artist at violin masterclasses and workshops throughout the country. He enjoys performing in solo and chamber music recitals and orchestral performances regularly at various venues around Northwestern Michigan.

Renee Skerik is Instructor of Viola and Chamber Music at Interlochen Arts Academy. Renee is violist with the Interlochen String Trio and performs regularly with its members Ara Sarkissian and Patrick Owen. Formerly Professor of Viola at Texas Tech University School of Music and violist of the Botticelli String Quartet, she toured throughout the United States, Europe, Brazil, including performances at the 33rd International Viola Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She has given numerous presentations and performances at the Texas Music Educators Convention, ASTA National Conferences and American Viola Society Conventions. Prior to her positions in Texas and Interlochen Renee served as violist with the Artaria String Quartet, a Minnesota-based prizewinning quartet of the 2004 prestigious McKnight competition and recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Melliniel grant for performing artists. With this group she toured throughout the United States presenting concerts and masterclasses, and appeared on public radio and television. Renee has worked with young violists in master class settings throughout the United States and South America. Her most recent include master classes at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music. During the summers she serves on the faculties of the Interlochen Viola Institute, The Saint Paul Chamber Music Institute, and the Montecito International Music Festival. Previous festivals include: the Green Mountain Music Festival, The Quartet Program, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Bravo! Summer Chamber Music Institute, Stringwood and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Past chamber music collaborations include performances with Cho-Liang Lin, Margaret Batjer, Molly Gebrian, Yizhak Schotten, Thomas Landeschoot, Janos Starker, Raphael Hillyer, Arnold Steinhardt, Charles Castleman, Thomas Rosenberg and Karen Kim. Her principal teachers were Heidi Castleman, Yizhak Schotten and David Holland.

Crispin Campbell's musical style reflects his individuality. In a typical performance he makes seamless transitions from Bach to Zappa to Django, earning him the label: "A musician who defies categories."

A native Californian, Campbell started playing cello at age nine, surviving disappointment that it wasn't a trombone. (He later found out about an arrangement between the music teacher and his mother.) He formed his first "group" at age 12, playing bass parts on cello with a Dixieland combo because they had both the music and the trumpet player.

Adolescence brought a guitar into his life, and soon a garage band. The world of Rock and Roll opened up the pop music of the early 60s, then the Beatles, Grateful Dead, Doors, Butterfield Blues Band and more came as well as the folk music of the 60s--Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, and the jazz of Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Tom Jobim and John Coltrane.

It was the Bartok 4th String Quartet that drew him into the string quartet  world as a college student. The  music of Ravel and Debussy, as well as the classics of Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart parted the waters for him. He joined an avant-garde string quartet in San Jose playing George Crumb's "Black Angels" and a wide array of works by West Coast composers. Hooked on chamber music he got serious about getting better. He credits his teacher in Berkeley, Margaret Rowell, for fine tuning his cello technique.

He left California to pursue more training with George Sopkin of the Fine Arts Quartet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  More chamber music followed, as well as orchestra playing with the Milwaukee Symphony and Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra.  On his way to New York, he took a job teaching at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and playing chamber music with the Interlochen String Quartet.

Friends got him playing with a Celtic music band- back to his roots of improvisation.  What followed has been a progression to old-time music, Delta blues, tango, choro and jazz. His voice on the cello lives somewhere between the classical art song and Stephane Grapelli, with a dash of Frank Zappa.  A lyrical, burnished sound and deep expression are what defines Cris’ cello playing.

Campbell's latest efforts involve the Triton Project, an outgrowth of the regionally successful Neptune Quartet ( featuring Nancy Stagnitta, flute, Angelo Meli, guitar and Glenn Wolff, bass) and a duo with young pianist Jimmy Olson.  Cris also performs with jazz guitarist Ron Getz and bassist Jack Dryden.

His years teaching at Interlochen Arts Academy have made him a mentor to many young musicians- cellists primarily, but other string players and pianists in love with chamber music, as well as singer/songwriters.  His work with the Colombian national youth orchestra, FilarmÓnica Joven de Colombia as well as similar projects in Costa Rica and Bolivia have taken him to Latin America numerous times.

Campbell's nature is one of generous engagement: he loves sharing what he knows and feels about music. As his former teacher Margaret Rowell, in Berkeley, California said about her own work:  “I don’t teach the cello, I teach the person.”  This is central to Cris’ teaching philosophy.

Campbell, a 30 year faculty member at Interlochen Arts Academy, considered one of the leading arts schools in the United States, is well known as a performer throughout North and South America.  He has taught at the NHSMI summer program at  Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois, and is a frequent guest artist for the Fundacion Batuta, a national music program based in Bogota, Colombia.  He was the founder and Artistic Director of the Manitou Music Festival in Michigan, a chamber music and jazz festival.  His recordings with the Neptune Quartet and Christian Matjias have been featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”.

Laura Osgood Brown is a rising performer and educator with a passion for opera, art song, oratorio, and pedagogy.  In recent seasons she was the soprano soloist in Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, Mozart’s Requiem with the Mel Larimer Concert Series, Mendelssohn's Elijah under the baton of Joseph Flummerfelt at the Interlochen Arts Festival, Newfoundland’s Opera on the Avalon as Mimì (cover) in La bohème, Finger Lakes Opera as Micaëla (cover) in Carmen, and the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra as Tatiana in the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin.  She has also been the soprano soloist in Handel's Messiah for performances in Traverse City, Petoskey, and Bay Harbor, MI.  Other recent performance credits at Interlochen include Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children (excerpts), Chausson's Chanson d'amour, and Britten's A Birthday Hansel.  Dr. Osgood Brown has also given solo recitals as part of the Artists from Interlochen at Kirkbride Hall Recital Series, University of New Mexico Faculty/Guest Artist Recital Series, Interlochen Faculty Recital Series, the Wild Rose Recital Series in northern Michigan, and the St. Michael’s Concert Series in Rochester, NY.  Previous recital projects include “A Birthday Hansel for Benjamin Britten,” a multimedia recital of the composer's works in collaboration with harpist Kate Sloat in the Capital District of New York, as well as a lecture-recital exploring the song settings of the great Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova.  In her native Rochester, she has sung the roles of the soprano soloist in Britten’s War Requiem and the Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, among others.

As a doctoral student at Eastman, she won the Concerto Competition, culminating in an orchestral performance of Britten’s Les Illuminations under the direction of Neil Varon, was awarded second place in the Jesse Kneisel Lieder Competition, judged by Dawn Upshaw, singing works by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, and Wolf, and was also a finalist in the Friends of Eastman Opera Competition.  Additionally, she premiered the role of Nora in Paul Siskind's The Sailor-Boy and the Falcon with Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.

In fall 2016 Laura taught masterclasses at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as part of an exchange program with Interlochen.  She has also appeared as a judge and masterclass clinician at the national Classical Singer Convention from 2016-2018.  She holds a DMA in voice performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Carol Webber.  She received her MM in voice performance from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Dr. Barbara Clark Paver, and received a BM in music education and performance with a dual focus in both voice and harp from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, where her teachers were Dr. Jill Pearon and Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis.  She has previously taught on the faculty at Crane, Ithaca College, and the University of Rochester.  She is currently based in northern Michigan with her husband, baritone Keith Brown, and her son Finley, where she serves as Director of Opera Workshop and Instructor of Voice at the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Interlochen Arts Camp.

Sylvia Norris, french, harp, violin, flutist

Sylvia Norris & Friends: The French Connection, classical chamber

Saturday, February 27th, 7:30 pm


West Michigan Symphony Principal Harp Sylvia Norris brings a colorful and delightful program of French chamber music by Ravel and others. Joining her will be an ensemble of outstanding artists, including flutist Nancy Stagnitta, violinist Steven Leonard, violist Renee Skerik, cellist Crispin Campbell, and soprano Laura Osgood Brown.

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