UMS residency features Yo-Yo Ma, international artists, students


Have you ever heard of an orchestra composed of musicians from all over the world?

The University Musical Society hosted a special large-scale collaborative project this month that brought together musicians of differing levels and backgrounds for a weeklong residency at the University of Michigan.

The project focused around workshopping a new concerto that Persian composer and kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor composed specifically for cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Kalhor and Ma joined Grammy-winning conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto and The Orchestra of the Americas to work through the final phases of the concerto’s development.

The Orchestra of the Americas is a Latin Grammy Award-winning symphony orchestra of university-level musicians representing more than 25 Western Hemisphere countries. It was supplemented by School of Music, Theatre & Dance students, who took part in residency week sectional activities June 3-11, and performed in a sold-out preview performance with Kalhor and Ma on June 11.

Photo of woodwinds players rehearsing and a conductor conducting.
SMTD students and Orchestra of the Americas Fellows rehearse in woodwind sectionals on North Campus, under the instruction of Assistant Conductor Eduardo de la Vega. (Photo by Mariangela Quiroga)

The concerto’s world premiere will take place at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany in 2025.

The multi-faceted project was born out of a long-standing relationship between UMS and Ma.

“This was a great opportunity for UMS to work differently with a group of extraordinary artists, a group of young talented people from far and wide, and to be able to host them here in Ann Arbor on the University of Michigan campus for a very special and life-affirming experience,” said UMS President Matthew VanBesien.

The Orchestra of the Americas musicians stayed in U-M residence halls, underwent sectionals with U-M faculty to refine the work in smaller groups of like instruments and parts, rehearsed at Hill Auditorium, and were afforded additional opportunities on the U-M campus and in southeast Michigan.

The project also served as a platform for student involvement and learning as 20 SMTD student musicians worked beside the orchestra members to workshop the new double concerto, “Venus in the Mirror,” and performed beside them on the Hill stage in front of a full house.

“This residency is unique because we collaborated with musicians from outside the U.S., which provides us with new cultural perspectives on the repertoire being performed,” said Spencer Perilloux, one of the student musicians. “This diversity is valuable because it challenges my musical intuitions and makes me view it in different ways.”

The project is supported by many residency sponsors including the U-M Arts Initiative, which is working to expand access to the arts on campus and beyond.

“Whenever you put together two or three institutions that may have very different or very specific cultures, they always grow exponentially,” Prieto said. “I imagine that this residency in Ann Arbor will result in a very high level of music-making first, a very committed level of music-making second, a very joyous level of music-making third, and probably most important, also a possibly life-changing experience for many on stage and hopefully off stage, too.”


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