The following article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of HOP Live, the Hopkins Center Membership Newsletter.
On April 19, when famed jazz composer/bandleader Maria Schneider takes the Spaulding Auditorium stage with her big band, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, fans will hear a singularly soaring take on jazz. Her music hailed by critics as “evocative, majestic, magical, heartstoppingly gorgeous and beyond categorization,” Maria Schneider has developed a personal way of writing for her 17-member orchestra since 1994. The group tours worldwide, and has received nine Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards (in both jazz and classical). Schneider herself has received numerous commissions and guest conducting invitations, working with over 85 groups from 30 countries spanning Europe, South America, Asia and North America.
In fact, the Hop’s engagement deepens a fruitful commissioning/presentation relationship with Schneider, an extraordinary self-made artist. We first presented the Maria Schneider Orchestra in 2007, when we helped commission The Pretty Road, a work that was later included in Schneider’s Grammy-winning album Sky Blue. Schneider also came to the Hop for a residency and performance with the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble, and, in a wonderful surprise, came back in 2012 to attend our presentation of the Australian Chamber Orchestra of her (again, Grammy-winning!) work for soprano Dawn Upshaw, Winter Morning Walks, set to poems by Ted Kooser.
This April, amidst a residency that includes a School Matinee Series educational performance for Upper Valley students grades 5-12, a jazz clinic, a public performance and a panel discussion, she’ll reveal a newly commissioned work to us.
But, for the Hop, presenting Schneider doesn’t only deliver a new jazz piece, it represents a chance to enlarge and make visible an important and wonderful canon of works by a female jazz composer, introducing audiences to an artist who took control of her own career by dumping traditional record labels and signing with ArtistShare, a New York-based digital-record label that distributes its music only on the Internet. Recall that in the early 2000s, a large, forceful record label industry still controlled almost all musical production and distribution; Schneider’s move presaged the maker-motivated systems more prevalent today. Record labels usually footed the bill for a recording’s cost and took the lion’s share of its profits.
Instead, Schneider raised the money from fans in exchange for giving them a behind-the-scenes view of the recording process or a credit as a producer—and she still does. She made history when a 2004 recording, Concert in the Garden, became the first digital download-only CD to win a Grammy award. Schneider continues to lead the way for artists’ control over their own work, and recently testified before the Congressional Committee on Intellectual Property, recommending changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Whether in Congress, in the studio, or—as we’re excited to see her once again—on our stage, Schneider continues to thrill, and to inspire audiences, students and women.
The Maria Schneider Orchestra performs on Tuesday, April 19, at 7 pm in Spaulding Auditorium; in addition, Schneider takes part in a free panel discussion entitled “Digital Rights and the Artist,” on Monday, April 18, 4:30 pm, at DEN, 4 Currier Place, Hanover.
Director of Programming
The Hop’s director of programming, Margaret has curated the Hopkins Center’s Visiting Performing Artists Series since 1995. She has served on panels for the CT, MA, OR and VT Arts Commissions; Japan Foundation, Creative Capital; and on boards of the New England Foundation for the Artist National Dance Program and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP). Under her artistic leadership the Hop was awarded the first Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Creative Campus Innovations Grant. She has represented New England and led professional workshops internationally; in 2015 she was awarded the APAP William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence.