40th Birthday Concert & Gala – 11/7/2017

American Composers Orchestra’s 40th Birthday Concert & Gala
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:30pm
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall | Broadway at 60th St., NYC

Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate American Composers Orchestra’s 40th Birthday and important contributors to American music:
Ellen and James S. Marcus

Francis Thorne
Paul Lustig Dunkel
Jamie, Nina & Alexander Bernstein
Paola Prestini


Learn more about the honorees below

George Manahan, music director & conductor
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Derek Bermel, clarinet
Mikaela Bennett, soprano
Jakub Józef Orliński, countertenor

ELIZABETH OGONEK: Sleep and Unremembrance (2015) (U.S. Premiere)
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Clarinet Sonata (1941-42, orchestrated by Sid Ramin 1994)
PAOLA PRESTINI: Prelude and Aria from Gilgamesh (2016) (NY Premiere)
DUKE ELLINGTON: Black, Brown & Beige (1943)
FRANCIS THORNE: Fanfare, Fugue and Funk (1972)
Selections from the American Songbook for voice and orchestra including
George GERSHWIN:  Fascinatin Rhythm
Jerome KERN:  All The Things You Are
Harold ARLEN:  Over the Rainbow

Our Honorees:

Mr. and Mrs. Marcus

Ellen and James S. Marcus are dedicated and passionate supporters of classical music. ACO has been fortunate to be among the beneficiaries of their commitment and generosity. Our 40th Birthday Concert & Gala are made possible through their generous sponsorship.

When Mr. Marcus passed away in July 2015, thoughtful tributes were made by The New York Times and WQXR among many others. Their impact and influence on American music is nothing short of incredible, and their legacy is one that continues to enable many artistic visions to thrive today.

Ellen Marcus was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. After attending the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1959, took courses at the New York Institute of Finance and was registered to sell securities. During this time, she worked on Wall Street for a number of prominent firms. Afterward, Ellen sold residential real estate for Stribling from 1995 until 2012. Ellen met James S. Marcus in 1970 and they married in 1974. A devoted opera-lover, Jim introduced Ellen to the art form and through him she became involved in the life of the Met. Jim served as Met chairman from 1986 to 1993 and as honorary director of the Met until his death in 2015. In 2010, the Marcuses donated $10 million to the Juilliard School to create the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts. Ellen has served on the auxiliary board of Lenox Hill Hospital since 1975 and currently sits on the boards of Young Concert Artists, MasterVoices and the Juilliard School. She is chairman of the patron program at WNET and a member of the Cosmopolitan Club’s board of governors. In addition to Ellen’s interest in opera, she is a lover of Broadway and cabaret music and is an aficionado of the American Songbook.

Francis Thorne

Francis Thorne‘s music has always had a healthy respect for the vernacular, both popular song and jazz. Born in Bay Shore, New York in 1922 into a musical family (his grandfather was Gustave Kobbé who is best known for Kobbé’s Opera Book), he started picking out tunes when he was five years old. By the age of nine he was entertaining his parents’ dinner guests.

His first formal training took place under Paul Hindemith at Yale University. After college came three-and-a-half years in the Navy during World War II, followed by nine years on Wall Street. All this time he kept up his jazz piano which brought him in contact with Duke Ellington whose personal recommendation led to a two-year stint as jazz pianist at Manhattan’s Hickory House – his first professional job as a musician. His return to the world of music reactivated his desire to compose, which brought him to David Diamond and two years of private study with him in Florence, Italy. Shortly thereafter his Elegy for Orchestra was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Ormandy conducting three subscription concerts in November, 1964.

The principal founder of American Composers Orchestra, of which he was both President and CEO, he has helped to commission and perform works by numerous other composers. He was also President/Treasurer of the Thorne Music Fund as well as Executive Director of Music Theatre Group, the Naumburg Foundation, and American Composers Alliance. He served on the Boards of Composers Recordings, Inc., American Music Center, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony, among several others. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters, for which he has been Treasurer and has sat on the Music Committee, Thorne’s own music is published by Merion Music, Inc. (BMI) and distributed by Theodore Presser Company–Rosalie Calabrese

Paul Lustig Dunkel

Paul Lustig Dunkel, one of America’s most versatile conductors, has been hailed for his command of the classical repertoire and applauded as a pre-eminent exponent of the music of our time. He served as Music Director and Conductor of the Westchester Philharmonic (WP) from its founding in 1983 to 2008, and has taken his place in the history of American contemporary music as a founder of the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) in 1978 with Dennis Russell Davies, Francis Thorne and Nicholas Roussakis. Until he stepped down in 2000, Mr. Dunkel was instrumental in elevating the ensemble to its position as a leader in American music. He also enjoys an active career as a flutist, noted for his brilliance as a performer and his desire to expand the flute repertory through premieres and commissions.  Melinda Wagner’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion was commissioned for him by the Westchester Philharmonic in recognition of his fifteenth year with that orchestra. Premiered and recorded for Bridge Records by the Westchester Philharmonic, the work was performed with Mr. Dunkel as soloist with ACO in Carnegie Hall and awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. His recordings for Bridge, Summit, CRI and New World Records have received wide critical acclaim, and his recording of The Early Music of Elliott Carter conducting the ACO was selected as one of the Top 10 recordings of the year by Time and Newsweek.

Since the inception of his career, Mr. Dunkel has been active in all aspects of classical music, and the depth and range of his talents and experience have taken him around the world. He has been Music Director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Vermont Mozart Festival, and has appeared as guest conductor with orchestras throughout the United States at the Kremlin and in Taiwan. He conducted the Washington Opera premiere of The Postman Always Rings Twice by Stephen Paulus and, at the invitation of Virgil Thomson, a New York City revival of his Four Saints in Three Acts. He has been involved extensively in the dance world, appearing with many companies here and abroad. He also served as Co-Director with pianist Michael Boriskin of Music from Copland House, a chamber music ensemble dedicated to the advocacy of American music based at the long-time home of Aaron Copland.

Maestro Dunkel played a crucial role in the extraordinary success of what Symphony magazine called “the suburban miracle” at the Westchester Philharmonic, where he was largely responsible for performances at the highest level and for its ever-growing audience and subscriber base and public profile until his retirement. He and the orchestra were the recipients of the 2000 Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the American Symphony Orchestra League for excellence and innovation in music education.  “Exploring New Worlds:  Music of the Americas” and its ground-breaking program of student commissioning of a new work by a young composer was featured on “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS  and recognized by the Westchester Arts Council with a 2001 Award.

Active in all aspects of classical music as conductor, flutist, composer/arranger and educator, Mr. Dunkel, an original member of Speculum Musicae, was principal flute of the American Symphony Orchestra under Stokowski, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and many others. He has participated in the Spoleto, Casals, Aspen,  Stratford  Marlboro and Estival  Festivals and toured with Music from Marlboro.

He has received the American Symphony Orchestra’s Leopold Stokowski Conducting Award, a Grammy nomination, awards from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, Harriet Ditson Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Silver Jubilee Award for outstanding alumni from Queens College, and many regional and
local awards for his work in the community.

His has just completed his memoir, Dancing on My Head, exploring his musical education in New York City with witty and penetrating commentary on music, musicians and cultural institutions.

Jamie, Nina & Alexander Bernstein

Jamie, Alexander and Nina
photo by Steve Sherman

Jamie Bernstein is a writer, narrator, broadcaster and film maker who has transformed a lifetime of loving music into a career of sharing her knowledge and excitement with others.

Inspired by her father Leonard Bernstein’s lifelong impulse to share and teach, Jamie has devised multiple ways of communicating her own excitement about orchestral music. Beginning 15 years ago with “The Bernstein Beat,” a family concert about her father’s music modeled after his own groundbreaking Young People’s Concerts, Jamie has gone on to design, write and narrate concerts for worldwide audiences of all ages about the music of Mozart, Copland, Stravinsky and many others. Jamie creates and narrates two educational concerts a year with the New World Symphony in Miami; these engaging, informal “Discovery Concerts” are specially designed to attract audiences of all ages who are less familiar with concertgoing.

Jamie travels the world as a concert narrator, appearing everywhere from Beijing to London to Vancouver. A frequent speaker on musical topics, Jamie has presented talks around the world, from conferences in Japan to seminars at Harvard University. In Spanish-speaking locations such as Madrid and Caracas, Jamie narrates en español – thanks to her Chilean-born mother, Felicia Montealegre, who raised her children to be bilingual.

In her role as a broadcaster, Jamie has produced and hosted shows for radio stations in the United States and Great Britain. She has presented the New York Philharmonic’s live national radio broadcasts, as well as live broadcasts from Tanglewood.

Jamie is the co-director of a film documentary, Crescendo: the Power of Music — which focuses on children in struggling urban communities who participate in youth orchestra programs for social transformation inspired by Venezuela’s groundbreaking El Sistema movement. The film has won numerous prizes on the festival circuit, and is now viewable on Netflix. More about Crescendo: the Power of Music can be found at http://www.crescendofilmdoc.com

Jamie has also directed her father’s chamber opera, Trouble in Tahiti, in various locations around the country, including the Moab Music Festival and Festival del Sole in Napa, CA.

Jamie is currently at work on a memoir, title to be announced, which will be published by HarperCollins in the spring of 2018, when her father’s centennial celebrations will be well under way around the world. Jamie and her siblings, Alexander and Nina, will be racking up unprecedented mileage points!

Jamie also writes articles and poetry, which have appeared in such publications as Symphony, DoubleTake, Gourmet, Opera News, and Musical America. She also edits “Prelude, Fugue & Riffs,” a newsletter about issues and events pertaining to her father’s legacy.

More about Jamie’s multifaceted life can be found on her website: jamiebernstein.net

Alexander Bernstein is Leonard Bernstein’s second child. He is president of Artful Learning, Inc., and founding chairman of The Leonard Bernstein Center For Learning. Prior to his full-time participation in the center, Bernstein taught for five years at the Packer-Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York, first as a second grade teacher, then as a teacher of drama for the middle school. He has studied acting, performed professionally, and worked as a production associate at the ABC News Documentary Unit. Bernstein holds a Master’s degree in English education from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

Nina Bernstein Simmons is Leonard Bernstein’s youngest daughter. After several years working as an actress, initially at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, she turned her attention to tending her late father’s legacy. In the earliest days of the internet, she worked with the Library of Congress on making the Bernstein Archives digitally available to the public. The fruits of that collaboration can be seen at the Library’s American Memory website. From 2000 until 2005, Nina worked on a film about her sister, Jamie, and her remarkable journeys around the world bringing Bernstein’s music and teaching legacy to new audiences. Leonard Bernstein: A Total Embrace premiered in Germany in December of 2005. Since 2008, Nina has been working as a food educator in underserved communities.

Paola Prestini

Paola Prestini is “the enterprising composer and impresario” (The New York Times) behind the new Brooklyn venue National Sawdust and the “Visionary-In-Chief” (Time Out NY) of the production company VisionIntoArt (VIA), home to VIA Records. Named one of NPR’s “Top 100 Composers in the World under 40,” her compositions are deemed “radiant… amorously evocative” by The New York Times, and “luminously involving” by The LA Times. She has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, and the Kronos Quartet and creates large scale multimedia works including The Hubble Cantata (a Virtual Reality space operatic experience), Aging Magician, and the opera Gilgamesh with Michael Counts, Cerise Jacobs and Beth Morrison Projects. Other recent works include Two Oars with Robert Wilson, The Hotel That Time Forgot for the ACO at Zankel Hall, and The Colorado, an eco-film cantata currently on tour in halls and film festivals.


Photo Gallery

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Photo Credit:  Noah Stern Weber

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