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CSYO Alumni


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We are taking advantage of some of our amazing alums. We have been interviewing and want to share.  

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As the Alumni Spotlight continues to roam it has once again landed in a warmer climate. CSYO Alumni are all over the world! This month we are delighted to speak with Adrian Griffin, trumpet ('89-'93).

CSYO: Hello Adrian! We wish we could with you in person! We are sure you remember January in Cincinnati... Thanks for talking with us today. As usual, we would like to begin by hearing a favorite memory you have from your days in the CSYO.

AG: Good question! That's a hard one to answer. I was a member of the CSYO from 1989-1993, so there are many to choose from. However, if I must pick just one, I would say working and learning with Maestro Keith Lockhart. As a young musician then and now as a tenured professional, his genius was, and still is, awe inspiring and difficult to comprehend. I remember sitting in rehearsal for Symphony No. 9 of Dvorak, and him reminding us, "trumpets fourth page, bottom line, trumpet in E-flat." "What...wait a minute, how is this even possible," I remember asking myself; how is he conducting this symphony from memory and much less, know what page and line the transposition shifts from trumpet in E to E-flat? To this day, I don't know how he knew that!

CSYO: Wow! That certainly would have created an unforgettable moment in rehearsal! You say you are a tenured professional. What are you doing now?

AG: Currently, I am the principal trumpet of the Monterrey Symphony Orchestra as well as our Metropolitan Monterrey Opera and Ballet orchestras. In addition, I am an active performing Artist and Clinician for Yamaha trumpets, a division of the Yamaha Music Corporation. I was fortunate enough to be appointed fourth/utility trumpet (2003-2008) with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra out of college before beginning my career here in Mexico as principal trumpet.

CSYO: Can you share some highlights of your life and career?

AG: Personally, my marriage to me wife Michelle and the birth of my son Asher rank among my most cherished personal moments.

My music and trumpet have allowed me some fantastic experiences in life. I have played for the Queen of England, Presidents and have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with some of this and past generation's most talented musicians. Honestly, too many to name. However, if I must pick one, it would be my relationship of learning from one of my heroes, Wynton Marsalis. I have performed domestically and traveled internationally, but one thing remains a constant,the beautiful and loving language of music that links us all.

CSYO: That was beautifully said! So, did the CSYO have an impact on your career choice?

AG: My time with the CSYO gave me the opportunity to know personally the trumpet section of the CSO and in particular my former teachers and mentors Steven Pride (current second trumpet) and Marie Speziale (retired associate principal trumpet 1964-1996). These two individuals inspired me to reach for what I though was not attainable, a full-time job as an orchestra musician. They taught me, as well as, pushed me passed my limits, and showed me it was possible to reach for my dreams on a daily basis. Weekly in my private classes with them, they inspired me with their gorgeous playing and interpretations of the orchestra’s most brilliant literature. Without my association and membership with the CSYO, I may have never come into contact with Steve and Marie and my future could have looked very different. Thank you CSYO and Steve and Marie.
**As a side note, I was in the CSYO trumpet section with Chris Kiradjieff in my first year in 1989. Chris is now a member of the CSO trumpet section. Chris was my first friend to show me that with enough hard work and determination dreams could come true. In many ways, Chris was a huge inspiration as well. Hugs to you Chris!

CSYO: I hope Chris is reading this today - that must have been quite a trumpet section that season. We have just a couple more questions. Can you tell us how music fuels your creativity?

AG: Music for me is my voice for creativity. Each week in the orchestra I am hoping to deliver our audiences new and creative feelings ranging from: despair, hope, sadness, joy, playfulness, anger, enlightenment…etc. Without music I truly feel my inner voice would have been stifled. Music has given me the power to express externally what my spoken or written words simply cannot.

CSYO: So true - music can express what words cannot. Thanks for speaking with us today. We would like to wrap up with one final question. Is there a single piece of music that you can call a favorite?

AG: Mahler Symphony No. 5, Fourth Movement!

Our November Alumni Spotlight is shining on... (drum roll please - or perhaps a string tremolo would be more appropriate!) Sarah Anne Slaby (CSYO 2006-07).

CSYO: Welcome to the Spotlight! We are having a great time reconnecting with our wonderful alums. Thank you for answering a few questions for us. We always like to know if you have a favorite memory from your time in the CSYO. Is there one you would like to share?

SAS: When I was in CSYO, Lauren Roberson was in charge of the Youth Orchestra at that time and when I was hired at the CSO in 2013, it was like hopping back in time when I saw her here at the CSO as the right hand woman to our president! It’s been a joy to work so closely with her over the years, both in CSYO and at CSO.

CSYO: It must be very exciting to see both sides of an organization! What are some of the highlights from your life and career so far?

SAS: Since my time in the CSYO, I completed my undergraduate studies at CCM in Music History and Music Theory. Directly after college I started graduate school in Arts Administration at CCM with a dual track degree to get my MBA at the College of Business. After an internship with the Kentucky Symphony and Constella Festival, I graduated grad school and was hired as the Annual Fund Manager at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. A little over a year later I was promoted to the Corporate Relations Manager position where I interfaced with corporations to raise over $1 million annually for the Orchestra and helped with all four years of LUMENOCITY. As I am planning to get married in 2017, I have taken a position as the Director of Corporate Relations at the Cincinnati Museum Center to allow me to have more time on the nights and weekends with my family. Additionally, to be able to come to all my favorite CSO and Pops concerts without having to worry about a radio ear piece in my ear and if sponsors need to go backstage. I look forward to being in the audience again and watching my former teacher, Marna Street in the viola section.

CSYO: SO far you have had an amazing journey. Did the CSYO have an impact on your career choice?

SAS: My career in arts administration was impacted by the CSYO and my love of music.

CSYO: For many people it can be difficult to pinpoint an absolute favorite piece of music. Is there a piece that is significant and special for you?

SAS: Gosh this is always a hard question, one of my favorite chamber pieces that I heard our CCM Fellows perform at our Opening Night Gala is Por una Cabeza, that I performed in my high school quintet. Within an orchestra setting, I would have to say the best viola parts are Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

CSYO: We read a lot of research about the importance of arts in education. How does/did music fuel your creativity and learning?

SAS: Music fuels my creativity and learning in many ways. Even in my daily work, listening to music can help me be more creative in my writing for proposals to our corporate supporters. I have also noticed my learning is impacted by music; I often need multi-sensory experiences to get the most out of learning something new. It is more effective for me to take notes while you are talking in order for me to retain information, rather than having you just talk to me. Much like hearing the music as you play it, but reading it on the page.

CSYO: Thank you so much for sharing with us Sarah Anne. We know you are about to start a new chapter in your life and will have many more highlights to share in the future. Congratulations and good luck!

Our October Alumni Spotlight has just fallen on....Fred Thiergartner (percussion '79-'80)

CSYO: Fred, it is a thrill to talk to you after having your wife be in our spotlight in September. We are curious about your favorite memory during your time with the CSYO.

FT: Performing Pines of Rome with the CSO. It was an awesome experience playing with world class musicians.

CSYO: What a great piece! We know that the annual Side-by-Side concert is an amazing experience. Like your wife, you balance professional playing with another career. What are you doing now?

FT: I hold a full-time sales job in IT and office solutions for corporate and federal government clients. I also regularly perform as an extra percussionist with the CSO, Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera. I am Principal Timpanist with the Springfield Symphony, Timpanist/Percussionist with the Blue Ash/Montgomery Symphony, Percussionist and assistant timpanist of the Middletown Symphony and Principal Timpanist of the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony.

CSYO: With everything that you do you must have some great highlights from your life and career. What stands out so far?

FT: I have performed for a wide variety of shows. I toured with Perry Como as percussionist/timpanist for several years. I have gone on tour with the CSO many times including several trips to Carnegie Hall and the 2004 European tour. I have recorded numerous CDs with the CSO and Cincinnati Pops orchestras. One of the coolest moments was performing Mahler 5 in Vienna, Austria. In 2001 I performed the Battle Symphony at Carnegie Hall shortly after 9/11. It was a stirring performance.

CSYO: What, if any, impact did the CSYO have on your career choice?

FT: The CSYO was an experience that brought orchestral music to the forefront for me. I realized that this was the type of playing I wanted to do. I pursued my studies of orchestral percussion with greater passion once exposed to this group. The experience gained from this group I consider priceless. I can still tell you the first piece I performed with the CSYO - Overture to Candide. I still love it!

CSYO: We asked your wife if she could only listen to one piece of music for the rest of her life what would it be. We are curious to know what your choice would be. Is there just one piece you could name?

FT: Beethoven 9!

Genie Richardson Thiergartner (CSYO 1980-1983)

CSYO: We love to hear everyone's favorite memory of their time in the orchestra. Do you have a favorite?

GT: The trip we took to Indianapolis to play with the Indianapolis youth symphony in early 1982. Even though we had a foot of snow that caused the concert to be cancelled I got to know other members of the orchestra since our departure was delayed a day.

CSYO: We know that music still plays an important part in your life but what else are you doing now?

GT: I am a supervisor of International Trade Compliance at Standard Textile in Reading, OH. I also am a Licensed Customs Broker. I am the principal harpist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (Ohio) and I freelance and teach in the Greater Cincinnati area.

CSYO: Looking back at this point in your career and life what are some highlights you can share?

GT: I received by BM from DePauw University and my MM from CCM. They were both in harp performance. I married my best friend, Fred Thiergartner (Percussion/timpani) in 1993. Our son, Freddy, was born in 1998. One highlight of my career is that I performed the Handel Harp Concerto with the Springfield Symphony in 2014.

CSYO: What, if any, impact did the CSYO have on your career?

GT: Although I was a pianist in the CSYO I was able to play harp for one of the concerts my sophomore year. The CSYO helped me realize how much I love playing in an orchestra, especially on the harp.

CSYO: Thank you for being in our spotlight this month. We would like to ask one more question to conclude our time today. If you had only one piece of music to listen to for the rest of your life what would it be?

GT: Stravinsky's Firebird!

Be sure to catch our next Alumni Spotlight when we speak to Genie's husband Fred!

Brian Buerkle

CSYO: Can you pinpoint your favorite memory?

BB: As I'm sure it was for many of us at the time, my absolute favorite memory of playing with the CSYO was the opportunity to perform at Music Hall with the members of the Cincinnati Symphony in the annual joint concert. It was such an amazing moment to suddenly be sitting on stage in Music Hall with my teachers and my idols. The sound that the CSO brass produced was something I'd never before heard so up close and personal, and it literally gave me chills. While sitting on that stage, I knew my place would be in the concert hall from that point forward!

CSYO: What impact did the CSYO have on your career choice (if any)?

BB: Being a member of the CSYO was instrumental to my choosing music as a career. I joined the group as principal trumpet during my senior year of HS, the 1991/1992 season. This was also the first year for conductor, Keith Lockhart. He was an incredible influence on me as a young musician. I can remember during my audition I was playing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. I had already played the first movement, and Keith asked me to play the second, more lyrical movement. I played through the end of the first section and thought he would ask me to stop, but there was nothing...so, I went on. The second half of the movement is very much the same as the first and I thought, "why would he want me to continue with the exact same music?" At the time, I was very familiar with a recording of the piece by famous trumpeter turned conductor, Gerard Schwarz. In the second movement, Mr. Schwarz ornamented the recap of the theme, and I thought it was fantastic. So, in a split second, I made the decision to emulate those ornaments in my audition. It went well, and when I finished, Keith immediately said he was hoping I would do something special with the music, and was glad I did. I felt connected to him as a musician and conductor. Playing for him each week was truly inspiring. His energy and enthusiasm for the music rubbed off on me, and is something I still think of today. Every time I step on stage, either as a musician or as a conductor, my goal is to inspire and connect with those around me. I can only hope that I've affected people's lives in the same way that my mentors have done for me, and that above all else, with every note that I play and every phrase that I create, the most important thing is to honor the music and each of those brilliant composers to the very best of my abilities. Music deserves no less.

CSYO: You are a full time professional freelance musician. Can you briefly describe some of your career highlights?

BB: Some of the highlights of my career have been traveling the world on 5 tours with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, and Detroit Symphony. On one of those trips to Rome, Italy with the Pittsburgh Symphony, I got to perform Mahler's 2nd Symphony 'Resurrection' for Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. It was called the Papal Concert of Reconciliation, and was later made into a DVD. I've also been very fortunate to record a number of CDs with many different orchestras. Each and every week I get to perform masterpieces of the orchestral repertoire with amazing musicians all over the country.

CSYO: Your passion for music is clearly obvious. Can you tell us more specifically what you are doing now as a full time professional freelance musician? What may lie ahead for you?

BB: I regularly play with orchestras like the Cincinnati Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony. I am principal trumpet of the Sinfonia Gulf Coast (Destin, FL) and the Kentucky Symphony, and have several active chamber groups like the Spectrum Brass, Pittsburgh Brass, Sinfonia Chamber Brass, and the Canterbury Brass. During the summers, I teach at the Bay View Music Festival in northern Michigan, and was previously on the faculty of BUTI (Boston University Tanglewood Institute). I've also had the opportunity to serve as a conductor on numerous occasions, most notably have been yearly appearances with the Colorado Symphony over the last 5 years. This is an area of my musical career that I look forward to exploring more and more in the years to come.

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