Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

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Modernistfan
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Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:30 am

The 23-year-old African-American conductor Jonathon Hayward has been rapidly building a career in Europe, where he recently won the Grand Prize at the Besançon International Conducting Competition, the youngest conductor to ever win that award, and has been conducting at the Basel Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine, and other European ensembles. He was just named Assistant Conductor at the Hallé Orchestra of Liverpool, a major British orchestra. Yet, he has received no publicity and virtually no engagements in his homeland of the United States.

I am devoted to this art form but am extremely saddened to see the discrimination against such talents persisting if not intensifying. My hometown orchestra of San Diego will have a vacancy soon, and I would love to see him get a shot at it. It won't happen. We do not have enough conducting talent to continue discriminating, not only against female conductors, who still face a glass ceiling, but also against African-American conductors, who generally do not even get a chance, in the United States, to bump up against a glass ceiling and have to go to Europe.

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Re: Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by Lance » Thu Apr 07, 2016 11:01 am

Totally concur. There have been a few black conductors who made some names for themselves:

Dean Dixon
James DePreist
William Grant Still
Henry Lewis
Paul Freeman

All this a very tiny percentage of the entire conductors list for those in that time period. On the other hand, insofar as singers are concerned, there have been substantially more singers, but still a small fragment of a much longer list.
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maestrob
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Re: Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by maestrob » Thu Apr 07, 2016 12:15 pm

In my former life as a vocal competition director, I am happy to say that I have fond memories of many winners who were African-Americans, all women, interestingly. The percentage of black winners was roughly in line with the percentage of the population as a whole.

I think it's interesting to note that I'm not aware of any black pianists (other than Adwagin Pratt) who have been promoted by the industry recently.

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Re: Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by John F » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:52 pm

André Watts is still performing, though he isn't making news as much as he used to. The way is open for soloists of all races with special talent, and American orchestras hire African American players if they can (blind auditions apply here). Conductors, not so much, and the ones I know of - Dean Dixon, Calvin Simmons, James DePreist - have all died without becoming music director of a major American orchestra.
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Modernistfan
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Re: Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:33 pm

Well, Heyward, who is now a Dudamel Conducting Fellow in Los Angeles, will get a shot this weekend when the originally scheduled conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya (this is also a correction, not "Pablo Heras-Casado"), came up ill. The program is no cakewalk--the Glinka "Ruslan and Ludmila" overture, Bernstein's "Serenade" (with Hilary Hahn as soloist), and Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite. That is Friday's program; Saturday's and Sunday's programs add a world premiere--"Ser" by the Cuban-American composer Tania L​éon. (I am very sorry that I had misspelled his name in the original post; it should be "Heyward.") We'll see how this goes and I shall post any notices that I see in the Los Angeles Times. This could be a huge break--maybe as big as the one Leonard Bernstein got with the New York Philharmonic when Bruno Walter came down with the flu.

Modernistfan
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Re: Jonathon Hayward and Continuing Discrimination

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:44 am

Well, Heyward actually got an extraordinarily positive review in the Los Angeles Times, in the Monday edition:
​Will the Los Angeles Philharmonic be Jonathon Heyward's good luck charm?

Heyward, a 25-year-old American who had been part of the L.A. Phil's prestigious Dudamel Fellowship Program for conductors, could follow the likes of Lionel Bringuier and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, who earned major orchestra appointments after stints with the ensemble.

When illness forced Miguel Harth-Bedoya to withdraw this weekend from the L.A. Phil’s "Bernstein 100" anniversary concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Heyward stepped in. This season as part of the Toyota Symphonies for Youth series, he led the orchestra in Glinka's "Ruslan and Ludmila" Overture and Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite, and both of those works substituted for Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3, originally on Harth-Bedoya's program.
​More important, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Heyward conducted the premiere of an L.A. Phil commission, Tania León's intimate "Ser (Being)," as well as Leonard Bernstein's tricky 1954 Serenade, a five-movement violin concerto inspired by Plato's "Symposium," featuring soloist Hilary Hahn.

​With reportedly only two days to prepare for his subscription concert debut weekend, Heyward nevertheless strode to the podium with confidence, launching into Glinka's warhorse with whirlwind vitality and an exuberant boyish charm that was positively Bernsteinian. He then settled down for the Serenade, allowing Hahn, who performed the piece from memory, to conjure some of her warmest, most autumnal and, when appropriate, spikiest playing.


Throughout, Heyward and the L.A. Phil made the most of Bernstein's changing meters and jagged rhythms, capturing the bristling energy of the jazzy finale. The conductor's rhythmic command provided enough contrast to keep Bernstein's intensely lyrical meditation on love from cloying. He knew when to lead and when to follow, effortlessly balancing his roles as a natural showman and sensitive collaborator in service to the music.


Hahn's encore was a delightful account of the gigue from Bach's Partita No. 3.
​After intermission came "Ser." León's finely crafted and bird-sound-haunted piece engaged the coloristic resources of the L.A. Phil to lovely effect. Especially memorable were the chirping clarinet and fluttering flute figures, set off by zesty writing for the brasses. Heyward led the orchestra with delicacy and mature skill, lending León's ethereal 10-minute piece a shapely character.

León, 74, came to New York in 1967 as a pianist from Cuba. She studied with Bernstein at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home, subsequently adding the jobs of composer and conductor to her resume. She became a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and its first music director. Though based in New York, she is no stranger to California: She conducted the premiere of her instrumental ensemble piece "Pa'lante" at the 2016 Ojai Music Festival.
At a charming pre-concert talk, León spoke of music's power to cultivate empathy by creating a direct line to universally shared emotions — another Bernstein connection. "A composer is like a shoemaker," she said, demystifying the aloof artist and suggesting the composer's primary role as a craftsperson who engages others.

​The concert concluded with an electrifying account of "The Firebird," in its 1919 orchestration. Here, Heyward forged a seamless connection among the music, the orchestra and the audience. There were no gimmicks. Heyward used the score, conducting without a baton. Flexible phrasing allowed breathing room for the "Dance of the Firebird" and dreamy Berceuse, and the "Infernal Dance" was suitably primal, sometimes brutal, in its earthiness.


Bernstein was 25 in 1943 when he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, substituting for an ailing Bruno Walter. Although it's too early to tell where Heyward's career might go — he's currently assistant conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England — his L.A. Phil concert augurs great things to come.
For now, he's conducting another performance of "The Firebird," this time set to dance and directed and choreographed by Kitty McNamee, on Dec. 9 at Disney Hall.
We shall see where he goes from here, but this is extremely encouraging.

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