Close up of sheet music on top of piano keys.

Visiting Vocal Faculty Performing “Dueling Divas” Program

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Soprano Roza Tulyaganova and mezzo-soprano Jeanette Fontaine will perform a donor-supported concert with pianist Christy Lee at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University on Thursday from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Auditorium as part of the museum’s weekly series, “A Little Lunch Music. The trio will present “Dueling Divas,” a program of duos by composers including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Giacomo Puccini, Georges Bizet, and Irving Berlin. All three performers are on faculty at Mississippi State Univeristy. An anonymous gift has helped to make this performance possible.The café menu is available online.

Soprano Roza Tulyaganova

Tulyagonova is a native of Uzbekistan. She has performed to acclaim such opera roles as Fiordiligi in “Cosí fan tutte” at Hubbard Hall Opera, Countess in Capital Opera’s “Marriage of Figaro,” and Lauretta in “Gianni Schicchi” with the Mississippi Opera. She completed graduate degrees at the Manhattan School of Music and Stony Brook University.

mezzo-soprano Jeanette Fontaine

Fontaine studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Alabama. Her students have placed in both the National Association of Teachers of Singing and Mississippi Music Teachers Association competitions. She is the musical director and conductor for the Mississippi State University Opera and currently teaches Song Literature and Diction in English, German, Italian, and French. Dr. Fontaine is studying the Russian language and is an avid performer of Russian repertoire.

Pianist Christy Lee

Lee has worked as pianist, coach, and assistant conductor at Opera Memphis, Chattanooga Opera, Pensacola Opera, Cleveland Opera, Knoxville Opera, Crested Butte Music Festival, Lake Placid International Voice Seminar, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Lyric Opera Cleveland, and Dorian Opera Theatre. For six years Lee was on the faculty of the College of The Bahamas where she was a founding member of C Force, the school’s premiere chamber group. She holds degrees from Florida State University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Alabama.

Close up of sheet music on top of piano keys.

Atlanta-Based Group Performing Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ Trio

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The KKR Trio will perform a donor-supported concert at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Grand Gallery as part of the museum’s weekly series, “A Little Lunch Music.” The group features violinist Helen Kim, cellist Charae Krueger, and pianist William Ransom performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Trio, op. 97,” famously known as the “Archduke Trio.”

A gift from Janne Debes and Ken Autrey and gifts from Friends of the Series have helped to make this performance possible.

 The café menu is available online.

Helen Kim poses with her violin.

With two degrees from The Juilliard School, Kim is the recipient of more than one hundred national and international awards. She served as assistant and associate concertmaster for the Atlanta Symphony and is currently the assistant concertmaster of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra. She is Professor of Violin at Kennesaw State University and performs with new-music ensembles Bent Frequency, Sonic Generator, Thamyris, and recently joined the Atlanta Chamber Players.

Charae Krueger poses with her cello.

Krueger is principal cellist for both the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and Cello Artist-in-Residence at Kennesaw State University. She has been featured on NPR’s Performance Today, WABE Radio Atlanta, and WGBH Radio Boston. She has recorded on albums of Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, and Natalie Cole. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from New England Conservatory and holds an Artist Diploma from the Longy School of Music.

William Ransom poses by the piano.

One of Musical America Worldwide’s “30 Musical Innovators,” Ransom collaborates with musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Stoltzman, and William Preucil, among others. A graduate of The Juilliard School, he is now Director of Piano Studies and the Mary Emerson Professor of Piano at Emory University. He is Artistic Director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta, the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, and the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival.

Members of the 2018 Auburn Indian Music Ensemble pose as a group.

Indian Music Returns to A Little Lunch Music

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Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art presents A Little Lunch Music with The Auburn Indian Music Ensemble on Thursday, Oct. 18 at from Noon to 1 p.m. in the Grand Gallery. The program will feature Indian classical, semi-classical, and folk music using traditional and modern instruments. The free concert is supported in party by a gift by friends of the series. The café menu is available online.

The AUBURN INDIAN MUSIC ENSEMBLE led by Chaitra Gururaja comprises Auburn University students, faculty, and community members in a semester-long class where they learn fundamentals of Indian classical and semi-classical music. The students in the group come from varied musical, educational and cultural backgrounds, bringing a rich diversity of experiences with them.

This music is based on the system of ragas (melodies) and talas (rhythms). Indian music is both elaborate and expressive with emphasis on improvisation. The vocal performances of the group feature a variety of traditional instruments such as harmonium (organ), tabla (drums) and tanpura (drone). Bansuri (bamboo flute), sitar (six-stringed lute) and veena (South Indian lute) are instruments that are sometimes featured in the group’s compositions.

Members of the fall 2018 class are Miles Horne on Sitar; Samuel Price and Ameya Kolarkar on percussion; Chelsea Cowan and Lakshmi Krishnaprasad on flute; Rasika Ramesh on Veena; Gauri Desai performing Kathak dance; and Edward Denton, William Skinner, Natalie Wire, Pavani Ankireddy, Savannah Blow, and Elizabeth Pittman on vocals.

Members of the 2018 Auburn Indian Music Ensemble pose as a group.

Sitting Left to Right: Ameya kolarkar, Sam Price, iishir Kolarkar, Rasika Ramesh, Miles Horne, Pavani Ankireddy Standing left to Right: Lakshmi Krishnaprasad, Savannah Blow, Natalie Wire, Chaitra Gururaja, Edward Denton, William Skinner, Gauri Desai, Chelsea Cowan.

Chaitra Gururaja is the instructor and leader of the Auburn Indian Music Ensemble.

Trained in classical and semi-classical traditions of South India, CHAITRA GURURAJA has been the director of the Auburn Indian Music Ensemble since fall 2018. She has been an empaneled artist for South Indian music on All India Radio in Bengaluru and an artist affiliate and director of the South Indian Music Ensemble at Emory University in Atlanta.

Through her cultural entrepreneurial initiative, Sunada Acadamy of Music and Yoga, she is striving to bring the music of the East to the West to further cross-cultural understanding. Since 2008, she has been training students in America in South Indian classical music, or Carnatic music, since 2008, and has students learning online from different parts of the country.

Soprano Jacquie Cruz

Inspirational singer performs classical, Broadway, and patriotic Music

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On Thursday, September 6, from noon to 1:00 p.m., JCSM presents soprano Jacquie Cruz with pianist Gary Klarenbeek for A Little Lunch Music. An inspirational singer and formally trained soprano, Ms. Cruz will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as well as a collection of well-known Broadway tunes, hymns, and patriotic songs. A gift from Friends of the Series has helped to make this performance possible. The café menu is available online.

Headshot of Jacquie Cruz, soprano

There has never been a time when music wasn’t part of the life of soprano Jacquie Cruz. Born into a musical family in which her dad is a music minister, singing was as natural as breathing. As a child, she discovered her passion for vocal music following her family’s move to Auburn, Alabama in 2001. She has performed with her father in churches throughout Alabama, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas.

Noted composer and arranger, Mary McDonald shares, “Jacquie Cruz has the voice of an angel! Music stemming from the depths of her soul journeys from heart to heaven as she gives flight to every note she sings. She loves sharing her faith through her music and will captivate her audience with inner and outward beauty that lights up a room.”

Derric Johnson, award-wining composer, arranger, writer, educator and minister of music, discovered Jacquie’s vocal abilities during a trip to Auburn in 2017. Jacquie sung for him and his wife Debbie Johnson, who has sung for four United States presidents and in over thirty-five thousand performances with the Voices of Liberty at Epcot Center. This meeting led to a collaboration which resulted in the production of Jacquie’s first professional album.

Derric shared, “To hear Jacquie Cruz is to remember her forever. Her stage presence is charming, her delivery is sparkling and her inspiration is enduring.”

Jacquie feels equally at home delivering a Gospel standard or offering a power ballad. She hopes to convey a message that is transparent and at the same time powerfully poignant, presenting faith and courage to all who hear. These ideals led to the title of “HopeFull” for her first professional recording project.

Jacquie is a perennial favorite in the Auburn-Opelika area, whether performing the “National Anthem” for thousands of fans at Auburn University sporting events or in concerts throughout the southeast. A graduate of Auburn High School, she went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance and Communications from Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music in Columbus, Georgia.

Jacquie states, “Whether I sing a simple hymn, sacred classics, a Broadway show tune, or a dramatic sacred ballad, my goal is to dedicate all I sing to Him, my Creator who gave me this gift. To Him be the glory. My greatest passion is to use the gift He’s given me to bring a message of strength and hope to the listener.”

Jacquie and her husband, Melvin, (Wally) were married in 2008 and have a two young sons, Wally J and Jackson, and a daughter, Lacey Jane, who is one year old.

Gary Klarenbeek was born and raised in the small farming community of Rock Rapids, Iowa. He discovered his musical passions at an early age when he began studying piano at age four. From piano he continued on to study organ, voice, and trumpet. In addition, he had a great passion for musical theatre and played lead roles in numerous musicals including “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Music Man,” “Oliver,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Gary graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a triple major in Church Music and Organ and Voice performance from Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa. Following college, Gary and his bride, Julie, his childhood sweetheart, moved to St. Louis for his first church appointment. Gary has since served churches in Houston, Texas; Naples, Florida and currently serves as Director of Music Ministries at Auburn United Methodist Church in Auburn, Alabama.

Besides his musical passions, Gary enjoys travel, spending time at the beach, reading, shopping (especially for ties and antiques), cooking for family and entertaining guests, and gardening. Most of all, he cherishes quality family time at home.

The Klarenbeeks are parents to Jacquie Cruz. They have a second daughter, Ashlee. She is a graduate of Auburn University and now works and resides in Athens, Georgia with her husband Terrell and son Cooper.

Pianist plays songs from the 1970s

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On Thursday, August 30, from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Grand Gallery, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art presents a free concert by pianist Mary Slaton. Though specializing in over six decades of popular music, for this concert Ms. Slaton will spotlight the 1970s. Her program, “It’s All Coming Back to Me,” will feature music made famous by artists such as Neil Diamond, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Billy Joel, Chicago, The Beatles, Jimmy Buffett, and more. The performance is made possible in part by a gift from Stanley Sistrunk and a gift from Friends of the Series.” The café menu is available online.

Over the years, MARY SLATON has entertained thousands with her distinctive piano arrangements, and is known throughout the southeast as one of the region’s premier soloists. She knows popular music from the 1930s to present day, and specializes in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s including songs from classic movies, radio, and the canon of great American standards. While earning her Master’s degree at Memphis State University, Mary was a regular soloist at the Hilton and the Hyatt Regency. After Memphis, she lived in the Atlanta area where she played the Omni Hotel, the Hilton, the Atlanta Country Club, the Marietta Country Club, the Atlanta Athletic Club, and the 1848 Restaurant. Through her solo piano career, she boasts to have met many famous and colorful characters.

Mary grew up with her six brothers and one sister in Lee County, Alabama, in the Beauregard community on the Lazenby family farm. Her brother remembered her playing by ear at six years old. After earning her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Montevallo, Mary taught choir and piano at Beauregard School, and started bands at Beauregard and at Macon Academy in Tuskegee.

Having returned to Lee County, now in the Auburn-Opelika area, she has been featured at venues such as the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, the Terra Cotta, the Saugahatchee Country Club, and the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. She enjoys entering her private students in district and state competitions, and has taught at Southern Union Community College. She leads the Mary Slaton Trio, and founded the East Alabama Community Band in which she serves as coordinator and French horn player.

Mary has one son, an architect in Birmingham. She loves spending time with her two grandchildren and growing flowers in her yard whenever possible.

guiest performer Dr. David Banks

A Little Lunch Music, 5/10/2018: David Banks Returning with Gospel-Jazz Group

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On Thursday, May 10, from noon to 1:00 p.m., the series will present a free concert by the David Banks Gospel Jazz Experience. The group performs Banks’ arrangements of traditional Gospel songs as well as contemporary Gospel-jazz compositions. A gift from Friends of the Series has helped to make this performance possible.

Click here for more about the performers and a full schedule for spring 2018.

Banks is a classically trained musician with over 45 years of experience in musical styles including jazz, Gospel, R&B, country, and top-40. Inspired by a lifetime of faith and the expressive freedom of jazz, he now brings musicians together for his Gospel jazz projects.

The group performs arrangements, mostly by Banks, of traditional hymns and spirituals. A performer, composer, and promoter, he considers music to be one of the most important things in his life. But he says recent hip problems prevented him from being able to sit at the piano long enough to play even one song. Now, after successful hip surgery, he’s chosen music to fit a theme of “Walk with Me.”

Thursday’s program will include songs such as the traditional “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and C. Austin Miles’ 1912 hymn “In the Garden” whose lyrics include the line, “And He walks with me / And he talks with me.” Along with a theme, he usually has a musical focus as well. “I’m going to concentrate on vocal improv this time.”

Vocalist Florence Miller will perform Thursday. Banks says at a young age, Miller moved from Tuskegee to New York with her family. She eventually became a professional musician, singing R&B, jazz, top-40, and dance music in New York. “She knows how to communicate with an audience,” Banks said.

Returning with the band to the series will be singers Louville Holstick and David Banks’ wife Barbara Banks along with Sam Williams on saxophone and flute. Columbus guitarist Elwood Madeo will join the band along with violinist Dan campbell and trombonist Martin Sager.

David Banks says singers from different regions have styles that distinguish them from each other. He says when she was growing up in Florida, Barbara Banks used to have a singing group with her sisters. “Her voice has a certain unique character to it,” David Banks said.

“Gospel music is a folk music,” he said. “Each area has its own flavor to it.” He says the music’s provincial nature comes from the way each region’s slaves used spirituals in 18th- and 19th-century America. During those times, not only styles were different, but also lyrics and music used to give specific instructions to escapees.

A Little Lunch Music, 5/3/2018: R2Duo Returning with Music for Flute and Guitar

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On Thursday, May 3, from noon to 1:00 p.m., the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by R2Duo featuring flutist Rachel Nozny and guitarist Robert Gibson. The program will feature music by composers including Manuel de Falla, Mathias Duplessy, Robert Beaser, and Astor Piazzola. Gifts from Larry & Marnie Leonard and from Friends of the Series have helped to make this performance possible.

Click here to read more about the performers and to see the full schedule for spring 2018.

Nozny and Gibson formed R2Duo in the spring of 2014. Both performers are faculty members in the John M. Long School of Music at Troy University.

Much of Thursday’s program is music based on folk songs from Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and the U.S. Though not singing words, Nozny says she finds it helpful to know the lyrics if what she’s playing is based on a song.

“I do research to find the meaning behind the text,” Nozny said. For instance, “Nana” from de Falla’s “Suite Popular Espaῆola” is a lullaby. But studying the text, Nozny learned that it is sung to a child by a dying grandmother who knows she will not see the child grow up.

Another traditional folk song the duo will perform is “Barbara Allen,” included in Beaser’s work, “Mountain Songs.” In it, the words describe unrequited love, but the death of one of its characters makes the song much sadder.

Nozny says the tunes are easy enough to play sweetly, but knowing the lyrics changes her approach as she tries to express the feelings in the stories.

For his piece “Appalaches,” Duplessy used inspiration other than folk songs. Born in 1972, he is a French composer whose pieces are inspired by music from around the world. The title is a French word for the Appalachian mountain range. It uses some of the flute and guitar’s extended techniques, or unusual ways to make sounds. But Nozny says it is very tonal and has been recorded quite a bit. “It’s fun to play together because both parts are fast and high energy and virtuosic,” she said.

Nozny performs with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra and others. She teaches Aural Skills at Troy University and flute at the Montgomery School of Music. She holds degrees from Mercer University and the University of Kentucky.

Gibson teaches guitar at Troy. He has been featured with the San Antonio Symphony, and has toured as performer in the United States, Mexico and Italy. He studied at the University of Texas at San Antonio, at the University of Texas at Austin, and for four years with guitarist and teacher Oscar Ghiglia at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy.

guest performer Jennifer Pifer

A Little Lunch Music, 4/26/2018: Oboe-Piano Duo Returning to Series

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On Thursday, April 19, from noon to 1:00 p.m., the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by Duo Echo featuring oboist Jennifer Pifer and pianist Joshua Pifer. The program will feature music by Emile Paladihle, Francis Poulenc, William Grant Still, Otto Mortensen, and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. A gift from Patricia Giordano and a gift from Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton have helped to make this performance possible.

Click here for more about the performers and a full schedule for spring 2018.

After the couple’s first recital together about twenty years ago, they continued with Duo Echo by seeking out performance venues in rural areas. “We brought our music to communities that did not typically have access to live classical performance,” said Jennifer Pifer.

Not only did the strategy pay off for their audiences, Jennifer Pifer says it gave the Pifers the opportunity to hone their craft. Through the many performances they did, often with Joshua Pifer playing old, upright pianos in churches and community centers in very rural areas, they learned to interact with each other and their audiences in meaningful ways.

After years of family and employer priorities having taken precedence over Duo Echo, they are performing together again. “It has been a great joy to us in the past couple years to return to our group’s roots and to perform once again in intimate community settings such as the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art,” said Jennifer Pifer.

One of the pieces they have played and loved since the beginning of Duo Echo is Poulenc’s “Sonata for oboe and piano.” “The Poulenc sonata is one of the absolute saddest pieces in oboe repertoire,” Jennifer PIfer said. “It’s just heartrendingly sad.” She says people seem to love it because it draws forth such strong emotion.

In contrast to Poulenc’s piece, Jennifer Pifer uses words like “charming and delightful,” and “sweet and carefree,” to describe the Mortensen sonata. But playing the music is not a carefree process. She says the piece requires a lot of precision to get the composer’s ideas across to the audience.

Jennifer Pifer says Mortensen wrote using melodies that overlap, sometimes in complex ways. And though the melodies are related, it isn’t often in a way that is easy to hear. “It’s not really contrapuntal, but it works out,” she said, meaning that it doesn’t quite sound like a conventional melody-against-countermelody situation.

Paladilhe wrote “Solo pour Hautbois” as a graduation piece for the Paris Conservatory. If oboe students passed their performance of the piece, they could graduate, no matter how young they were.

“I love this piece because it is very clear that it was written to highlight the technical prowess but also the individuality of the musician,” Jennifer Pifer said. She explains by saying there are parts written to give the oboist a lot of freedom to shape the melody, letting her improvise with changes in tempo and volume to make it her own.

In contrast, she says Still’s piece, “Incantation and Dance,” was written to sound like it is improvised, but in fact has very specific instructions so it will sound exactly as the composer intended.

Jennifer Pifer is a freelance oboist living in Auburn who performs with area chamber and church orchestras. Past guest appearances have included the Oxford Chamber Orchestra, the New Century Players, the Bardsdale Vespers Orchestra, and the Temple City Guest Orchestra. She teaches oboe and reedmaking in her private studio.

A Senior Lecturer at Auburn University, Joshua Pifer teaches Piano Skills, Functional Piano, Music Skills, and Applied Piano. In summer, he teaches at Blue Lake Fine Arts Festival and previously taught at Florida State University and the Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy. His first solo CD, “Alexander Tcherepnin My Favorite Piano Works,” was released in 2015.

Joshua and Jennifer Pifer as Duo Echo
Auburn University Piano Studio, Spring 2018

A Little Lunch Music, 4/19/2018: Auburn Student Pianists Performing Debussy, Brahms, Haydn

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On Thursday, April 19, from noon to 1:00 in the Grand Gallery, the series will present a free concert by members of the Auburn University piano studio led by Dr. Jeremy Samolesky. Jordan Barnett, Jinjin Chen, Yongyu Chen, Emma Beth Fisher, Brittany Lee, Sarah Niedzwiecki, and Caroline Smith will perform music by Joseph Haydn, Claude Debussy, and Johannes Brahms.

Click here for more about the performers and the full schedule for spring 2018.

The performance is supported in part by a gift from Helga Geyling in memory of Tom and Ruth Wright and by an anonymous gift. In 2009, Tom and Ruth Wright donated to the museum the 1972 Steinway piano that is used for many of the series’ concerts.

Earlier this month, Samolesky’s students presented a concert at Goodwin Hall entirely of Debussy’s works from his first book of préludes. Thursday’s concert will include some of these préludes. This year is the 100th since the composer’s death.

Barnett will play the eighth prélude. He says it has a lot of four- and five-note chords which help him with voicing. Voicing means playing the melody lines so that they can be heard above notes and chords that serve other functions.

“I think of it almost like a jazz piece,” Barnett said, adding that jazz often presents its melodies in a similar way. “I’ve been playing mostly jazz and Gospel since I was little.” A freshman, he is also studying mechanical engineering.

Smith will play the first prélude. She says this piece also presents voicing challenges that include parts where the melody is in the middle of the chord, rather than at the top. “I think it’s pretty,” she said, adding that it is slower and has a calming feeling.

Smith, a sophomore, has been playing piano for nine years. She also plays tuba in the Marching Band, having won auditions on tuba for honor bands and All State Bands in high school.

Youngyu Chen will play Debussy’s eleventh prelude. “This prélude is a playful, elfin dance,” said Chen. A freshman from Changsha in the Hunan province of southern China, she considers music to be integral to her life, having played piano since age five.

Sophomore Jinjin Chen from China’s Fujian Province switched her major to music this year, having only been playing piano since she was a teenager. She will play the twelfth prélude. “It’s very cute and interesting and can make other people very happy,” she said.

Fisher will play Debussy’s fourth and fifth préludes. She says number four is challenging, because of the many character changes, and number five is very quick. Throughout middle and high school, Fisher won awards in state competitions. Now a junior at Auburn, she has taken part in a two-week music festival in Vipiteno, Italy, and will perform a full recital Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. at Goodwin Hall.

Niedzwiecki and Ye will also play Debussy préludes. Niedzwiecki is a singer and horn player studying to be a band director. Ye is a composer and an accomplished harpist. Both pianists are sophomores at Auburn.

Bookending the Debussy works will be a sonata by Haydn, played by Lee, and a rhapsody by Brahms, played by Fisher. Lee is a freshman from Anniston. In high school she was named Outstanding Accompanist of Alabama for three years in a row and was awarded the Glenda M. Potts Music Scholarship.

Lee says she likes the Haydn sonata because it’s clean and articulate. “It’s more of a playful sound,” Lee said. It is a one-movement piece composed in the three-section sonata-allegro form commonly used by composers of western music’s Classical Period, when Haydn lived.

Fisher says Brahms, a Romantic composer, used a modified version of sonata-allegro form when he wrote “Rhapsody in G Minor.” She says the first of its three parts is dramatic and passionate. Afterwards is a quiet, intimate chordal section marked “sotto voce.” “It’s almost like an under-your-breath type of sound,” she said. Gradually, it builds to the final section of song-like melody.

Auburn University Piano Studio, Spring 2018

A Little Lunch Music, 4/12/2018: Former New York Met Opera Singer Performing

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On Thursday, April 12, from noon to 1:00, the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by soprano Janet Hopkins with pianist Armen Shaomian. The program will feature composer Olga Harris’s settings of texts by Erich Fried and Shel Silverstein and cabaret songs by William Bolcom and Arnold Weinstein. This program has been made possible in part by a visiting faculty travel grant from the Southeastern Conference and by a gift from Friends of the Series.

Click this link for more about the performers and a full schedule for fall 2018.

At the Met, Hopkins performed in operas such as “Die Walküre,” “Der Rosenkavalier,” and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” and toured Japan three times. Her biography lists appearances at Carnegie Hall and during the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

Shaomian has performed at venues such as the Royal Concert Hall and the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden; the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland; and Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Michigan. He is Assistant Professor in Sport and Entertainment Management at the University of South Carolina, and is the founder and CEO of Armenize, Inc., an arts-consulting agency.

Harris, a Russian-American composer, set Fried’s poems to music in “Hoff Nunc,” which the duo will perform Thursday. “The title means ‘hope,’ but actually the song has a lot of ideas about hopelessness,” Hopkins said. Fried was a Jewish-born Austrian poet who fled to England around the beginning of World War II.

Shaomian says in 2017 Harris heard the duo’s performance of “Hoff Nunc,” and liked it so much she offered to write a piece for them. The result was “Swings,” a song cycle using poems by Silverstein.

Silverstein, author of books such as “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Giving Tree,” is known for writing simple poems, often using complex themes and humor. With song titles like “Hot Dog” and “The Fly is In,” it has a very different character than “Hoff Nunc.” Hopkins says Harris’ Silverstein settings look like they shouldn’t be sung by an opera singer. “I like to be a little bit silly,” she said.

Shaomian says he is not a serious person at all. “It reflects our personalities, both of the vocal and the piano,” Shaomian said of “Swings.” “Janet and I just have a lot of fun together.”

The duo will finish the program with a set of cabaret songs by Bolcom, a Pulitzer Award-winning composer. “While it’s kind of serious music, it’s also not,” Shaomian said. Hopkins says it’s serious in the sense that it takes a certain skill that’s different from what Hopkins sings in opera music.

“Some of these are quite tricky to sing,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins’ recordings include “The Ghosts of Versailles and Elektra” DVDs along with thirteen performances over the Texaco Broadcast “Live from the Met” series. In 2013, she performed the role of Sue in Robert Bradshaw’s recording of his opera “Plastic.” Her solo recordings include “Ulysses Kay: Works for Chamber Orchestra and Soprano,” “When I have Sung my Songs,” and “ARIA.”

Shaomian’s piano recordings of the music of Hugo Alfvén are featured on Vax Records’ “Vaxholm – Ett Dubbelnöje.”

Hopkins’ website is Shaomian’s website is

A Little Lunch Music is coordinated by Patrick McCurry. It is an informal, weekly series that features national and international performers as well as the region’s professionals and students. The schedule can be found on the museum’s calendar at

For more information, contact Scott Bishop, university Liaison and curator of Education, at or 334-844-7014.

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