Double (Viola) Trouble, Part II

MUSICIAN SPOTLIGHT: Megan Kehren, KSYO conductor and KSO Violist

Many music teachers tell their students, “I was once where you are.” In Megan Kehren’s case, she was EXACTLY where her students are – taking her seat as a violist in the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra (KSYO), and now as an adult, she leads a youth training orchestra for the KSYO.

A member of the viola section since 2011, Megan also teaches privately as a Suzuki teacher in Knoxville, as adjunct instructor of violin and viola at Maryville College, and teaching with the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra as the Junior Orchestra conductor.

“A life with music has taught me patience.  Music is something that we all connect with easily yet learning how to communicate it takes much time and discipline.  It’s often an emotional process with many highs and lows.”

Megan is passionate about using music as a tool to build self-esteem in her students and doing her part to help cultivate kind human beings. She began teaching viola lessons at age 18 years old, and believes that one of the most important things we learn in the process of teaching/learning is to have a long term vision and commitment and build the skill of perseverance when things are less than rosy.

“I want my students to know: Music always gives back what you’ve put into it. It is the ultimate connector of all cultures and hearts and we really aren’t as different as we seem.”

While it’s common for siblings to be musical and play instruments together, it’s less common for twin sisters to play the same instrument.

Megan and Erin enjoy playing together in their trio, Encore Strings, and regularly book weddings and special events. Erin also plays the  violin, and the sisters had fun trading instruments back and forth and learning each other’s pieces of music in addition to their own. They worked together instead of competing against one another. Their brother, Wes, plays acoustic and electric guitar.

In her spare time Megan loves exploring the world with her husband, Frank and hiking places she never could have dreamed of as well as hanging out with their cat, Charlie.

When asked what led her to choose a career in music, Megan says she is one of those people that just knew. “The viola chose me back in my fifth grade strings class and I never doubted that gut instinct. It will always challenge me and I honestly can’t imagine spending my life differently.”  


Double (Viola) Trouble, Part I

Musician Spotlight: Erin Archer, KSYO conductor

Erin Archer has been involved with the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra (KSYO) since her family moved to Knoxville in the early 90’s. As a college student at the University of Tennessee, she became a KSYO rehearsal assistant. She also plays with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as a substitute viola player.

In regards to teaching music, Erin is passionate about creating well-rounded musicians. She not only helps them play to the best of their ability, but also teaches them how the discipline of music can help them in all areas of life:  patience, encouragement, learning the process of failure and success, confidence and growing with a noble heart.

“The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is a huge part of my life. I’ve been conducting the Preludium ensemble in the KSYO since 2005. I love encouraging young musicians and being part of their musical growth as a conductor.  I love the excitement of the kids and watching their eyes light up when all the sections come together and their parts merge into beautiful layers. I enjoy watching these young musicians grow before my eyes as they graduate into the different levels we offer as an organization.”

 The benefit of playing an instrument undoubtedly overlaps into other areas of the lives of the KSYO students.  Many have become successful doctors, scientists, and musicians. Erin says the KSYO was a big part in molding her into the person she is today which is what drives her passion in encouraging all musicians to participate in the organization. “We truly have something special in our community!”



In addition to teaching private and group lessons at Tate’s School, Erin is a trained Suzuki violin, viola and early childhood education instructor.  She believes that ability can be developed at any age and one does not have to be born with talent to succeed in music.  With a nurturing environment, support of parents and community, and lots of repetition everyone can learn to play music.

Because Erin is a mother to 6-year old triplets, life is never dull. She tries to wake up early to get in some exercise and a few sips of coffee in “before the circus show begins.” Her day then consists of school drop off, music lesson plans, and sometimes the past time of gardening. She is piloting a new Suzuki Early Childhood Education program here in Knoxville geared for newborn through 4 years of age.

Erin and her twin sister Megan both play violin and viola, both conduct an ensemble in the KSYO. Megan has played viola in the KSO since 2011 and Erin has played as a substitute violist in the past. “My sister and I both took to our instrument like a moth to a flame.  We still play together. We are a great team and best friends.”

Erin hopes more music students can understand the concept of hard work. “I encourage my students go to concerts, research violinists and composers and listen, listen, listen.  We can learn a lot just from going to the source, which is becoming a little lost.”

On balancing it all, she says, “Life is busy and filled with music!”

Women Who Rock

Aretha. Carole. Tina. Janis. Whitney.

I can’t imagine having written enough great songs and had an interesting enough life to create a musical about myself, but Carole King has. If you had a chance to see “Beautiful” when it was in Knoxville last spring, you know the amazing talent of Carole King and the difficult life that she lived in the 50’s and 60’s.  Four of her songs are featured in the symphony’s upcoming “Women Rock” concert, including “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” King wrote and recorded the song, but most people know it from Aretha Franklin’s version. If you haven’t seen Aretha perform it at the Kennedy Center Honors for Carole King, here’s a link. Tina Turner gets three of her songs performed, including “Proud Mary.” If you haven’t heard Leonard Nimoy’s interpretation of “Proud Mary”, it’s worth a listen.

The name Minnie Riperton may not be familiar to you, but you may know her song, “Lovin’ You”, which features super-high notes known as whistle tones. If you don’t know Ms. Riperton, you may be familiar with her daughter, Maya Rudolph from movies and “Saturday Night Live.” She was recently profiled in the New York Times.

Heart, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, Martha Reeves, and Irene Cara complete the program in the tribute to women in rock and roll. Hope you enjoy it! Friday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. Tickets here.

Orchestra Member “Stretches” into New Territory

 KSO Flutist also acts as mom, teacher, yogini

Jill Bartine is regularly recognized in the Knoxville community, whether it’s from playing the flute on stage with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra or teaching yoga at a local studio. A wife and mother of twins juggling multiple jobs, Jill is constantly trying to find “balance” – both literally and figuratively. She also teaches flute lessons.

Originally from Houma, Louisiana, (about an hour southwest of New Orleans), Jill has been playing flute for more than 30 years–since 5th-grade band class, to be exact.  Her Master’s degree in Music brought her to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she joined the KSO soon after in a contracted per-service position.

Jill says both practicing and teaching yoga has made her a better flutist and a better flute teacher. Being aware of one’s breathing and posture on a regular basis also contributes to a more peaceful state of mind while performing. The stretches alleviate aches and pains that come from sitting in rehearsal holding up an instrument.


“Yoga was the first form of physical activity that I tried as an adult that I really fell in love with and that didn’t feel like exercise,” said Jill. “After several years of practice, when I decided I needed to supplement my income, it seemed like a natural extension from having taught flute lessons to start teaching yoga. The practice to me is a never-ending exploration of the workings of the body and the breath, and in turn how you can use those to impact how you think and how you feel. It’s pretty incredible, and I never tire of it.”

On the flip side, her background as an orchestral musician has helped her as a yoga teacher to be aware of each little detail that goes into each pose throughout a practice as well as to have a good sense of timing for how to pace a class. Both disciplines require multi-tasking.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s new series, “KSO UnStaged,” is treading new ground for exciting events that will attract new audiences and create new ways to experience music. One such event, KSO UnStaged: Flow, will pair a live yoga class with a live classical music performance. Jill was a natural fit to help bridge these two worlds. A good yoga practice has an ebb and flow, highs and lows, just like a piece of music. This upcoming event combines movement within the “audience” and the performers on stage.

About creating the event, Maestro Aram Demirjian said, “Both yoga and classical music have been demonstrated to be good for one’s stress level, blood flow, and overall health, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Flow is the most interactive UnStaged event yet because it invites our attendees to engage in the practice of yoga as the music is playing.”

KSO UnStaged: Flow

Thursday, Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at The Mill & Mine

$30/advance | $35/at the door

Instructor-led yoga class to the sounds of the Knoxville Symphony performing live

Tastings from Kava Koncoctions,  Food/Beverage available from Tako Taco

Attendees should bring their own yoga mats. All levels welcome.

Tickets and information here.

Return to Rachmaninoff

If you’ve been keeping up with the symphony, you know that some of the members have been busy with Candide at the Clarence Brown Theatre. It’s been fantastic to be playing Bernstein’s music and to have the privilege of watching the amazing actors around us for eight shows a week. How do they memorize all of that music? And move around? The cast even includes the symphony’s own Director of Education and Community Partnerships, Jennifer Barnett Harrell.

It’s been a great way to come back to work after a summer break.

The season for the entire orchestra kicks off in a couple of weeks as we begin rehearsing for the first Masterworks concert.  It’s always exciting to start the season because there is the realization that some players have moved on, new players have joined the orchestra, and others have expanded their families. It’s always nice to be back in the Tennessee Theatre, especially for those of us who were around before the big renovation of 2003-2005. In addition to the changes that you are aware of, the players are so grateful to have more than one bathroom (intermissions were challenging), a loading dock with an elevator, and a stage that we comfortably fit on.

We are so lucky to be able to perform in the Tennesse Theatre, and it’s always exciting to see the lights around the stage change to purple as the concert begins.

After that, it’s on to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring guest artist Joyce Yang. If you’ve been part of the classical music scene in Knoxville, you probably know that Rachmaninoff was a world-renowned composer/pianist who gave his last performance here in Knoxville back in 1943. There’s even a statue commemorating the concert in Worlds Fair Park.

Not all performers are talented as composers. Many critics dislike Franz Liszt’s compositions although they give him credit for being an amazing pianist.  Rachmaninoff’s works, especially his piano compositions, seem to fare better, and they are certainly a workout for the performer.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 is a large work that many regards as a continuation of what Beethoven would have done if he’d lived longer.  Brahms is a master of adding in underlying rhythms beneath melodies. They are complicated and give a listener the impression that there is a lot going on.  Rather than listen to me explain this with words, check out this Piano Puzzler from NPR’s Performance Today from August 29, 2018 to hear an example of how Brahms might write an accompaniment to a well-known tune.

Enjoy our first Masterworks concert!

Information and tickets to the Sept. 20-21 Masterworks performances of Brahms & Rachmaninoff can be found here.

West Side Story, Candide, and the Bernstein Experience

By Bob Adamcik, KSO percussionist

A classical musician who was known around the world and recognized in popular culture? The 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein gives us a chance to look at his life and career as an unprecedented force in music and society as a performer, conductor, and teacher. He was also a civil rights activist who was an antiwar protester.    

I grew up watching him conduct the New York Philharmonic in Saturday afternoon Young People’s Concerts. This was in the days before cable and hundreds of channels, so I’m sure he reached a bunch of other kids as well. Bernstein was energetic and smart and found ways to talk to kids on their level.  He even managed to play songs by The Beatles.  The shows are worth watching and are easily available on YouTube. If you get a chance, you should check out his lectures at Harvard about music. They are designed for both musicians and non-musicians, but Bernstein manages to explain some pretty heavy concepts in music.

In addition to the TV shows that I saw, the movie version of “West Side Story” won the Oscar for Best Picture so that many people were aware of Bernstein’s music. It was a musical where people hate, fight and get stabbed on stage and it was exciting. I grew up listening to the soundtrack as a kid, and can still perform “The Jet Song” scene verbatim. It was the first time most people had heard Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, although he is now known as the greatest Broadway composer/lyricist of our time. Much of my musical vocabulary has been shaped (for better or worse) by Bernstein’s use of the musical interval of a tritone. It’s the first two notes of the Jets’ whistle and the first two notes of the song, “Cool.” How was I supposed to get that out of my head and avoid it in college when I was trying to pass classical theory? I always thought the interval sounded, well,… cool.


Classical composers are not well known by the general public anymore. Bernstein and Aaron Copland were probably the last two who were widely known. But in the 70’s, ABC’s late night talk show (“The Dick Cavett Show”) used the main theme from “Candide” as its own theme. People eagerly anticipated the two composer’s next pieces and discussed them. When Bernstein’s, “Mass” premiered in 1971 at the opening of the Kennedy Center, it was talked about on national TV. Some people were shocked, some people loved it, but the public knew about it. And in it, Bernstein had addressed faith, serious doubt, and included elements of rock and roll. By this time, he had spoken out about civil rights, the war in Vietnam, and the crisis in religious faith. He was relevant, even though he was composing music for orchestras, and his relevancy continues now. I can’t think of another composer who shows up in two comedy routines almost 60 years apart (Stan Freberg’s “United States of America” and John Mulaney’s new Netflix comedy special, “Kid Gorgeous.” )

Part of Bernstein’s mission was to integrate different types of music and life to describe the 20th century. His music dealt with integrating different cultures, doubts about the existence of God, whether there was a need for the war in Vietnam, and the anxiety that many people felt in their everyday lives. This meant that even though some people had a hard time with Bernstein’s music, he managed to stay in the limelight. He was a teacher, conductor, composer, and even an activist. There’s a great article in The Guardian about all of his different roles.

He provided inspiration to many composers and performers. If you’re a fan of “Hamilton”, as I am, then you realize that there are a lot of similarities between Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernstein. In “Hamilton”, Miranda calls Alexander, “a polymath”, someone who is good at a lot of things, and the description fits Bernstein himself.

Toward the end of his life, Bernstein was renowned for his conducting, especially his recordings of Mahler’s symphonies. I’d always hoped to be able to perform with Bernstein, and I had friends who were able to play in festivals with him. I wasn’t far enough along in my career to have that opportunity when he died in 1990. Getting to play “West Side Story” twice here in Knoxville is a highlight of my career, although it’s a work out for every musician, singer, and dancer. I had the pleasure of watching my daughter dance to part of his musical “On The Town” in New York City last summer, and it’s an amazing memory I will keep with me. I always treasure the chance to play his music because I feel that it reaches something special in all of us. It touches the hopes, fears and loves that we all deal with.  It’s a pleasure to be part of a staged production of Bernstein’s “Candide” and especially, getting to work with the Clarence Brown artists.  It’s on a different stage, in a different setup, and we’ll get to create a completely unique world for this show. Come join us for some great music, in a new and exciting staging.


About Bob:

Bob Adamcik currently plays timpani on the Knoxville Symphony’s Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series and is the Principal Percussionist for all other services. He has been a featured soloist with the symphony on marimba and xylophone, played with the Dallas and Ft. Worth symphonies. He has recorded with the Dallas Wind Symphony. After growing up in San Antonio, Bob graduated from the University of North Texas, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance. He has taught at the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State and has presented master classes at UT, Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee State and North Carolina School for the Arts. He has also performed in music festivals from Montana to Maine.

Drumroll, please…

KSO percussionist Bob Adamcik shows us just one way he cares for his instruments. Watch it here.

“When I love listening to a piece of music, I sometimes have to remind myself that a person has taken what is basically a machine and created something beautiful with it. As you watch and listen to the Knoxville Symphony, you’re hearing the sound of wood and metal machines with levers, pedals, keys, and pegs that create sounds that reach the audience. That’s part of the magic of music, taking an object that can’t produce something on its own, and giving it life.

Because the percussion instruments are fun to watch during a performance, I’ve recorded a time-lapse movie of me changing the head on one of our timpani. The heads are made of mylar, and they cost about $100 per drum. It took me about 40 minutes to remove the old head, replace the lubricant between the drum and the head and put the new head on.”

About Bob

Bob Adamcik currently plays timpani on the Knoxville Symphony’s Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series and is the Principal Percussionist for all other services. He has been a featured soloist with the symphony on marimba and xylophone, played with the Dallas and Ft. Worth symphonies. He has recorded with the Dallas Wind Symphony. After growing up in San Antonio, Bob graduated from the University of North Texas, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance. He has taught at the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State, and has presented master classes at UT, Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee State and North Carolina School for the Arts. He has also performed in music festivals from Montana to Maine.

Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ coming this fall

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Clarence Brown Theatre celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a production of his Broadway smash Candide.

Aug. 31 – Sept. 16, 2018
Clarence Brown Theatre Mainstage
at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Featuring hit songs “Glitter and Be Gay” and “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide is a modern theatrical setting of Voltaire’s timeless satire.

Tickets are available now EXCLUSIVELY to KSO and CBT subscribers at a special discounted rate. Call the KSO box office at 865-291-3310 for more information.

This production will be directed by Calvin MacLean, Producing Artistic Director of the Clarence Brown Theatre and conducted by Aram Demirjian, Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

About Candide

In Bernstein’s musical derived from Voltaire, a young man wanders “the best of all possible worlds” only to find war, destruction and loss.  Separated from his beloved, Candide’s hard-won survival ends in a joyous reconciliation.

While a number of derivative works came from Voltaire’s satirical novella released in France in 1759, Leonard Bernstein revamped the musical Candide several times after its London premiere in 1956.  When Bernstein’s “final approved” version of this comedic, poignant story reappeared on Broadway in 1989 with a full score, a revival was born. This version continues to be revived and performed in opera and professional theaters and is the score and libretto the KSO/CBT will perform in 2018, known as “the Scottish Opera version.”

“Leonard Bernstein at 100” Centennial Year Celebration

2018 is the Centennial year for Leonard Bernstein, who was born in 1918, honoring his 100th birthday with more than 1,000 events taking place on six continents.  Orchestras, museums, ballets, and arts organizations around the world are celebrating and performing his works during the calendar year in celebration of his contribution as a composer, conductor, educator, activist, cultural ambassador, and humanitarian. Bernstein’s mark on the world of the arts in the past century will last for generations to come.

The mission of The Roy Cockrum Foundation is to award grants to support world-class performing arts projects in not-for-profit professional theaters throughout the United States. The foundation’s intent is to support the vision of particular artists and to expand the capacity of theaters to realize the scope of that vision.

Other grant recipients of The Roy Cockrum Foundation include such prestigious theaters as Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Washington DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and The Acting Company of New York.

KSO Pops 2018-19 Season will ‘Fly you to the Moon!’

Just Announced…The Knoxville Symphony Orchestras’ News Sentinel Pops Series lineup for 2018-2019.

The KSO 2018-19 Pops Season includes Music of Frank Sinatra, Music of Pink Floyd, Disney’s Mary Poppins, and Leslie Odom, Jr. from Broadway’s Hamilton, a role for which he won the Tony Award for Best Male Actor.

You have the chance to see Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom, Jr. perform in concert with the KSO…do not throw away your shot!
All concerts take place at 8:00 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium unless otherwise noted. View the KSO 2018-19 Concert Calendar here.

Gershwin, Price, Copland- This concert takes the cake

This week’s Masterworks performances are sure to take the cake. The KSO 2017-18 season comes to a close this Thursday and Friday with “Rhapsody in Blue.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre with a pre-concert chat at 6:30. Tickets here.

Pianist Michelle Cann joins the Orchestra for not one but two piano concerti – both Gershwin’s infamous “Rhapsody in Blue,”  and ‘Piano Concerto in One Movement’ by Florence Price, a lesser known composer whose work is beginning to make a come back.

The program opens with an upbeat treat, which will also serve as a teaser for the full production later this year. Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide is a 5-minute concert opener that featuring melodies from the work, has enjoyed an independent life as one of the most popular concert pieces of the second half of the 20th century. 
Since the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin became recognized not only as an important composer of Broadway and popular melodies but a force to be reckoned with in classical music.  Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blueremains one of the most beloved and performed concert works by an American composer.

Our guest artist this week, Michelle Cann, holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and an Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she later joined the staff as a Collaborative Staff Pianist. 

Florence Price was the first African American woman to have her music played by a major American orchestra when the Chicago Symphony performed her Symphony in E minor in 1933. She lived from 1887-1953 and wrote symphonies, arrangements of spirituals and folk songs. More of her music, including violin and piano concertos, was not discovered until after her death.

You don’t want to miss the second half of this program, Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, which includes Fanfare for the Common Man in the fourth movement, which many will recognize. This was the first symphony Copland composed, written just after World War II and is referred to as the “Great American Symphony.”

Copland describes the first movement as “broad and expansive in character”.  The second movement serves the function of the Symphony’s lively scherzo.  Copland describes the slow-tempo third movement as “the freest of all in formal structure. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man serves as the introduction to the main portion of the Symphony’s finale, which journeys to a majestic close.