BEHIND THE SCENES

Unscripted is a series of short casual video conversations with interesting figures in the performing arts industry. We get into everything from their guilty pleasures to important advice. Scroll down to see the rest of our terrific interviews.

JoAnn Falletta
Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Unscripted enjoys tall tales of rises and falls, but we were surprised by JoAnn Falletta's literal descent into the depths (along with the violins, cellos, and basses) during her debut with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Glad we were that the name of the opera she was conducting at that moment, La Forza del Destino—The Power of Destiny—was a harbinger of her subsequent stellar career.
Elsewhere, we were keenly interested to discover how dinner conversations and terrifying thrills are intertwined for this Grammy-winning conductor.

Jim Ginsburg
Founder and President, Cedille Records
Jim Ginsburg's primary life lessons are derived from two sources: his grandmother and Prague beer halls.
In speaking of current times, his grandmother's "this too shall pass" does indeed serve well (though she didn't specify how long it might take ...). When queried on favorite travel destinations, Ginsburg told Unscripted of the Czech National Symphony and Prague, but disclosed that city as where he finally learned what good beer tastes like. Business-related travel aside, Unscripted feels we should accompany Ginsburg on his next trip to the Czech capital to verify his findings.

Sharon Isbin
Classical Guitarist
In all candor, Unscripted will admit to preconceived notions about classical guitarists; we expected to hear of a staid lifestyle from Musical America Instrumentalist of the Year Sharon Isbin. The virtuosa regaled us, however, with stories of music floating in low-earth orbit, Parisian bedbugs, desired collaborations with Pink, and flying fingernails that can bring an orchestra to a standstill. This multiple GRAMMY Award winner's repertoire is clearly more varied than we thought.

Titus Underwood
Oboist
Unscripted thinks it has a good handle on Titus Underwood's perfect day: first, a jam session with hip hop group The Roots laying down an oboe/hip hop mashup, followed by a quick London trip (complete with a handheld subtitle generator for understanding English English), a fast flight around the galaxy in Kal-El's borrowed tights and cape, and finally a few hours immersed as Ryu throwing dragon punches in the video game Street Fighter II. Oh, and somewhere in the midst of it all he would be heard applying his subtle and lyrical touch as principal oboist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

Brenda Rae
Soprano
We are relieved soprano and confessed nerd Brenda Rae transforms into a druid when escaping into the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons. Unscripted much prefers transmogrifying into a warlock while playing D&D, which means we’ll be alongside her soon, wielding our magic as she controls the powers of nature.
But we learned more about the current star of I Puritani at Oper Frankfurt than just her penchant for make-believe. "I can do freakish things with my voice," she told Unscripted. Upon expressing our dubiousness, Rae provided a demonstration and we heard nothing but crickets. Literally.

Davóne Tines
Bass-baritone
Unscripted is lobbying to spend more time with Davóne Tines, if only to see a favorite vacation spot through his eyes ("... suspended in an afternoon sunset ...") or experience a favorite meal ("... beef stew in the mountains that tastes like electric warmth and comfort ..."). Yum.
Our admiration, however, extends beyond idllyic settings and rustic gastronomic delights. The sought-after bass-baritone, a former Musical America new artist of the month, unabashedly described a moment of sticky connection on stage with MA's 2019 Vocalist of the Year, Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Rachel Barton Pine
Violinist
Beneath Rachel Barton Pine's talent and deft hands lies a professed "Scottish fiddler" with a penchant for equating her violin with with a full-bodied red wine, a love for Sherlock Holmes, and the unspoken (until now) desire to be the fearless Alanna of the Tamora Pierce YA book series.
A world-traveler by any measure, at home among breathtaking New Zealand landscapes or chasing Mozart's spirit through Salzburg streets, her roots (and, we suspect, her power) remain with Carl Sandburg's stormy, husky, brawling City of the Big Shoulders.

Christian Reif
Conductor
There was no hesitation to acclaimed conductor Christian Reif's reply concerning his fantasy dinner companion (now living): Barack Obama. Narrowing the deceased possibilities was more of a chore, however, except one: "Mozart would be a hoot ..."
While we wholeheartedly embrace joining one's identity to a favorite drink (hint: being a good Bavarian involves beer), we were, nonetheless, interested to hear of his onstage faux pas mispronouncing Miami Beach and how the moment lingers after all this time.

Jennifer Koh
Violinist
Renowned violinist and Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year Jennifer Koh confessed to us a key component of her preparation, especially prior to a difficult program: "I stress-bake." Unscripted genuinely understands: we've long known the soothing tranquility of a good cookie.
Also, since some of the best advice she says she's received involves a post-performance dinner (to console or celebrate), we know we want to spend more time with her both before and after her performances.

Tod Machover
Composer
In talking with Tod Machover, we realized he found his beauty across the universe at the intersection of his classical musician mother, computer scientist father, and The Beatles.
The energetic Machover, Musical America's 2016 Composer of the Year, also shared his guilty pleasure—one Unscripted feels Greta Garbo would understand. Finally (and given his penchant for expanded thought), we weren't terribly surprised his work with Penn & Teller on a magical opera directly let to his collaboration on musical furniture with Prince.

Gemma New
Conductor
Gemma New studied violin at age 5 and piano at age 8, conducted the Christchurch Youth Orchestra as a teenager (she's from New Zealand), and read physics, mathematics and music at the University of Canterbury. She was named music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra at age 29 and, not long after, was appointed principal guest conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (among other accomplishments).
First we caught our breath and then we sat with Gemma. We covered quite a bit of ground, as you'd imagine, but the one thing that stuck with us is how Gemma's flying baton brought her a step closer to Leonard Bernstein. Oh, and we'll forever admire someone who admires Arya Stark.

Anthony Roth Costanzo
Countertenor
Awards and accolades certainly don't elude Anthony Roth Costanzo. A small partial list of his achievements includes Musical America's 2019 Vocalist of the Year, a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, first place at Operalia, appearances with just about every major opera company and orchestra in the world—and graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University.
Though dazzled by his accomplishments, however, we found ourselves most interested in Costanzo's affinity for the Wicked Witch of the West (... the striped socks ...), eating his own gold leaf baking for 24 hours straight, and (most worrying) his insistence on an empty email inbox before bed.

Jessie Montgomery
Composer, violinist, educator
Jessie Montgomery's compositions are "turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life," according to The Washington Post. Provocative as her music is, she privately told Unscripted of her guilty craving: a profoundly frothy cappuccino.
As usual, we covered quite a bit of ground as Ms. Montgomery shared thoughts about Leonard Bernstein, Fela Kuti, and her personal identification with Winnie the Pooh.

Giancarlo Guerrero
Music Director, Nashville Symphony
The expressive and articulate music director of the Nashville Symphony lately has been spending his days battling video-game zombies and binge-watching shows about a rumpled, raincoat-clad 1970's detective.
Guerrero is also music director of the Wrocław Philharmonic in Poland and principal guest conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal. Beyond all that, he has important advice for music directors: make sure your ideas are original and honest or your musicians will "smell blood in the water and eat you alive." Oh, also, be sure to try a diet Cubra Libre.

Sarah Shafer
Soprano
Yes, Sarah Shafer has plied her craft on the world's renowned stages and has a "crystalline sound, perfectly true intonation, glowing warmth, and total presence," according to Opera News.
More importantly, Ms. Shafer disclosed to Unscripted how she connects loose wigs and tall tenors; Bach and Jimmy Fallon; comedians on YouTube; and why, if she doesn't understand the words, we believe she'll never again sing in Italian without Google Translate close by.

Bill Charlap
Pianist
Winter is Bill Charlap's favorite season. The Grammy-nominated jazz pianist confided this to Unscripted when we chatted with him recently at Steinway Hall in New York City (what better place?), so we threw down a challenge: play us a little winter.
Not pausing a beat, the virtuoso turned to the keyboard and in moments we were surrounded by swirling snow flurries and the scent of roasting chestnuts. Join us as he also shares his desire for a sit-down with George Gershwin and the inspiration he gets from his wife, Canadian jazz pianist Renee Rosnes.

Louis Langrée
Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra &
Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival
Exhilarated to distraction after his first Rolling Stones concert, Louis Langrée wound up breaking two batons and had to finish conducting Don Giovanni with nothing but his bare hands and his talent.
Beethoven and Leonard Bernstein top Mr. Langrée's list of figures he'd most like to talk with, though the versatile and multi-lingual conductor felt he would be too tongue-tied to speak. He was clear, though, he would ask Mozart to correct Langrée's completion of the master's Great Mass in C minor.

Mark Volpe
President & CEO, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Mark Volpe could have been a contender, even if in his own mind—centerfielder for the Red Sox ("... at 62, a little farfetched ...") or a professional clarinetist ("... if there's a piece shorter than three minutes, I'm your man ..."). Still, he seems to have found his calling, having led the Boston Symphony Orchestra to resounding financial and artistic success for 22 years.
Mr. Volpe announced he plans to step down in early 2021. But before he moves on from such distinguished tenure, he sat with Unscripted and let us know the best advice he ever received, straight from the legendary Isaac Stern.

Tania León
Composer & Conductor
Tania León has a wonderfully diverse background—Cuban-born with French, Spanish, Chinese, African, and Cuban heritage. León settled in New York and was a founding member and the first musical director of Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theater of Harlem, establishing its music department, music school, and orchestra.
León took a moment with Unscripted to described the actual "magic" of her childhood, her dream of global travel, and the hard choice she has among Häagen-Dazs, Groom gelato, and Indian malai ice cream.

Christopher Tin
Composer
A Mozambique peace treaty signing, an X-Men movie, Carnegie Hall, the United Nations ... Christopher Tin's music has played a role in quite a variety of events. Christopher described how he found himself creating music for video games, films, and classical audiences—and how his enthusiasm during a conducting debut turned his baton into a flying projectile.
After hastily donning proper protective gear, Unscripted sat with the renowned composer to find out about his process, his perceptions, and why he hopes singer/songwriter Florence Welch sees this interview.

Kim Notelmy
President, Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Unscripted caught up for four revealing minutes with Kim Notelmy, head of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and former COO of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
A few highlights: her addictions (chocolate), a guilty pleasure (fabulous wine ["I wish it was non-alcoholic so I could have more ...]), an embarrassing moment (a wardrobe malfunction brought to a swift end thanks to her squad), and why the country is better off that she didn't pursue her youthful dream job.

Stewart Copeland
Drummer & Composer
Calling Stewart Copeland versatile is a real understatement. He is a founding member and drummer of The Police, inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and composer for orchestra, opera, film soundtracks and video games. Just to round things out, Copeland spends his leisure time rollerskating and playing polo.
Copeland invited Unscripted into his home studio to discuss his time-travel fantasy, turning disaster into a bonding experience, and sharing get-rich schemes and conspiracy theories with his "chuckle buddies."

Monica Ellis
Bassoonist
Monica Ellis is a busy bassoonist—a renowned musician, a founding member of Imani Winds and the group's administrative director and tour manager. She's also been a visiting professor or on faculty at The University of Chicago, The Hartt School, Purchase and Brooklyn College Conservatories of Music, Mannes School of Music and The Juilliard School's Music Advancement Program.
Ellis took a break to talk with Unscripted about the right way to hold a bassoon (...not from the top...), her dreams of dinner with the Purple One and her special spreadsheet powers.

Francisco J. Núñez
Conductor, Composer, Founder of Young People's Chorus NYC,
Musical America Educator of the Year
Famed conductor, composer and educator Francisco J. Núñez sat with Unscripted to tell us about children fainting onstage, his journey toward being a dog lover, and his secret and guilty pleasure (hint: he keeps it in his pocket).

Cori Ellison
Dramaturg, Santa Fe Opera
Unscripted sat with Santa Fe Opera's dramaturg, Cori Ellison, who told us what happens when characters die in the wrong spot, explained to us her "everything" beacon and let us know why dinner with Mozart would be a "blast."

Aaron Diehl
Composer, Pianist
In this third installment of our behind-the-curtain interviews, Aaron Diehl, world-famous composer and pianist, tells us why James Bond is important to him and what it's like to watch sports with his Olympian mom.

Tanya Bannister
President, Concert Artists Guild
In this second instalment, Tanya Bannister, head of Concert Artists Guild, divulges her most embarrassing career moment as well as her what she might be doing if she weren't in the performing arts.

Mason Bates
Composer, Curator, DJ
Musical America Composer of the Year 2018
During the first installment of Unscripted with world-renowned composer Mason Bates, Mason let us know his guilty pleasure and what words of sage advice he would have for his younger self.
 

NETWORK

ADVERTISEMENT

»

Updates to artist manager rosters

»

RENT A PHOTO

Search Musical America's archive of photos from 1900-1992.

 

»BROWSE & SEARCH ARCHIVE