Music School Launches Busiest Concert Season

Music, Stetson University

While James Brown earned the title “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” Stetson University may earn a similar title: the Hardest Working School of Music.

The School of Music (SOM) will present 15 concerts from Aug. 26 through September, plus an additional 35 performances through Dec. 4.

“It is absolutely the largest, busiest concert season we’ve ever programed,” said Thomas Masse, dean of the School of Music. “It’s pretty ambitious but we’re really excited about it — the faculty, the students, our guest artists.

“We’re really proud of what we bring to Central Florida in terms of artistic presentation and the quality of our performances. There aren’t that many cities in Florida, let alone small towns like DeLand, that offer a season like this — where on almost any given night you’re able to hear something spectacular. And for the most part, the concerts are free.”

One of those notable concerts will be the opening one: the Friends of Music Celebration on Friday, Aug. 26 in Lee Chapel at Elizabeth Hall.

“This is one of our most popular and most fun concerts of the year,” Masse said. “It’s designed to give our friends, patrons and members of the community a taste of the season coming up.”

Faculty on the program at the Friends of Music Celebration include cellist David Bjella and pianist Michael Rickman performing a movement from Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in G minor; Rickman performing one of Liszt’s “Transcendental Etudes;” and violinist Routa Kroumovitch-Gomez performing Frolov’s “Concert Fantasy on Themes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.”

The free concert also will feature two new faculty members: soprano Karen Coker Merritt and saxophonist Dan Ferri. Merritt will perform an aria from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” and the aria “Ain’t It a Pretty Night” from the opera “Susannah” by the American composer Carlisle Floyd.

“It’s remarkable the impact a school of music can make on its community,” said Masse, a clarinetist who was unable to work in a performance this season by himself. “It makes me so happy to see a community really respond. People move here and retire to DeLand because of the rich cultural life.”

Here is the School of Music’s concert schedule through September. Concerts will be in Lee Chapel at Elizabeth Hall, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. Admission is free except where noted. For more information, call the School of Music at 386-822-8950 or go online at

  • Friends of Music Celebration, 2016-17 season premiere concert featuring performances by School of Music faculty, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 26.
  • Faculty recital by trumpeter Tom Macklin and pianist Joni Hanse-Bjella, 3 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 28. The program will feature classical and jazz pieces including works by Erik Morales, Joseph Turrin, Eric Ewazen and others.
  • Music, Stetson University
    (Left) David Bjella, cello, professor of music, has a multifaceted career as a teacher, chamber musician, orchestral player and soloist; Michael Rickman, D.M., piano and professor of music, has been critically acclaimed on three continents.

    Faculty recital by cellist David Bjella and pianist Michael Rickman, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 30. Professors Bjella and Rickman will perform their favorite cello and piano works, including Cello Suite No. 1 in G major by Bach (composed circa 1720) and “Tres Lent” by contemporary American composer Joan Tower (a piece she composed in 1994 as an homage to French composer Olivier Messiaen, and particularly his work “Quartet for the End of Time”). The concert will conclude with a Romantic favorite — Cello Sonata in G minor by Rachmaninoff.

  • Faculty recital by tenor Jamison Walker and pianist Kristie Born, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 2. The program will feature the music of Mahler, Korngold, Strauss and selections from popular musicals.
  • Faculty recital by French horn player Kathy Thomas and pianist Kristie Born, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 7. The concert will feature the music of German composer and horn player Franz Strauss (father of the composer Richard Strauss).
  • Stetson Chamber Orchestra with conductor Anthony Hose, viola player Jesus Alfonzo and tenor Jamison Walker, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 9. Admission is $10 adults, $8 senior citizens, $5 area students, free with Stetson ID. The program will feature Four Hymns for tenor voice, viola and orchestra, composed in 1914 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Texts used by Vaughan Williams include “Lord, Come Away!” by Jeremy Taylor (published in 1655), “Who Is This Fair One?” by Isaac Watts (1707), “Come Love, Come Lord” by Richard Crashaw (mid-17th century) and “Evening Hymn,” translated from Greek by Robert Bridges.
  • Great Pianists at Stetson featuring Richard Cionco, professor of Piano at California State University, Sacramento, 3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 11. Titled “The Romantic Spirit,” the concert will feature works from the 19th century, including “Kreisleriana” by German composer Robert Schumann, who wrote the piece in 1838 and revised it in 1850.
  • Faculty Recital by percussionist Marja Kerney, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 14. Kerney will perform solo and duo works including “Rhythm Gradation” by Toshi Ichiyanagi (timpani solo), “OPEN/shut” by Thad Anderson (marimba/vibraphone solo), “To the Earth” by Frederic Rzewski (solo for clay pots and narration), “See Ya Thursday” by Steven Mackey (marimba solo) and “Drawings: Set No. 3” by Sydney Hodkinson (a duet with clarinetist Jessica Hall Speak).
  • Inaugural concert of the Great Guitarists at Stetson series featuring Stephen Robinson, director of Stetson’s Guitar Program, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16. The program will include works by Alexander Tansman, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Carlo Domeniconi. Also, Robinson will collaborate with violinist Routa Kroumovitch-Gomez on Manuel deFalla’s “Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas” and with flutist Tammara Phillips on Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Fantasia para un Gentilhombre.”
  • Faculty recital by clarinetist Jessica Speak and pianist Tammy Miller, 3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18.
  • Faculty recital by pianists Kristie Born and Rose Grace, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 23. The program will feature the works of 20th-century French and American composers including Ravel’s “La Valse,” Gershwin’s Variations on “I Got Rhythm” and John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction.”
  • Faculty recital by violinist Routa Kroumovitch-Gomez and pianist Michael Rickman, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24. The program will feature Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, and Brahms’ Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor with viola player Alvaro Gomez and cellist David Bjella.
  • Faculty recital by viola player Jesus Alfonzo and pianist Michael Rickman, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27. The program includes Brahms’ Sonata para Viola and Piano, Rebecca Clarke’s Passacaglia for Viola and Piano,” Bohuslav Martinu’s Sonata for Viola and Piano No. 1, and Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Viola and Piano.
  • Great Organists at Stetson series featuring Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and organist at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and organist with the New York Philharmonic, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29. Tritle will perform Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, Ned Rorem’s “Views from the Oldest House,” and Cesar Franck’s “Grand Pièce Symphonique, Op. 17.”
  • Faculty recital by flutist Tammara Phillips and pianist Kristie Born, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30. The program will feature flute music composed by flute players, including Philippe Gaubert’s “Romance,” Jennifer Higdon’s “Flute Poetic” and Ian Clarke’s “Deep Blue.”

– By Rick de Yampert