Music Worcester Newsletter

Musical Notes

Music Worcester’s Online Newsletter

To our readers,

Thank you for staying in touch with the goings on of Music Worcester through our digital newsletter. While the concert season ahead will surely be the most unusual in our history, Music Worcester has a lot to be optimistic about with the schedule for the 2020-2021 concert season and beyond.

Please consider supporting Mannes School of Music graduate, composer, performer, and painter Milad Yousufi through the purchase of one of his brilliant original paintings, exclusively through Music Worcester’s online auction platform. Milad was scheduled to present an exhibition of his paintings at the Worcester JCC and work with Burncoat Music Magnet School’s Orchestra on a new original piece for a week in March, but both had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

If you’re a fan of The Worcester Chorus and/or a fan of history’s great choral pieces, you’ll love our new series from Worcester Chorus Director Chris Shepard: Conductor In Sweatpants is a podcast-style show with weekly episodes published to our Vimeo page.

Adrien C. Finlay
Music Worcester Executive Director
endowed by the McDonough Charitable Foundation

Original Artwork by Milad Yousufi

The 2019-2020 Concert Season In Review

While our season was cut short, the beginning of 2020 was filled with joy and lots of entertainment. Looking back, we miss the days of greeting patrons in the foyers, carousing over a glass of wine and hearing you fill the halls with applause.

January 12, 2020: We started the new year strong with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Mechanics Hall morphed into a cabaret and the house sold out. This was Marsalis & Company’s second sold-out visit to Worcester and one people are still talking about it!

January 26, 2020: From a hot jazz club to Appalachia, Cleveland’s baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire returned to Worcester with American Folk. Last time the group visited us in 2018, we enjoyed the best of Bach and his contemporaries. This time, Tuckerman Hall transported us to the Great Smoky Mountains, complete with singing, dancing, and even a little bit of comedy. During their time in Worcester, two of the company’s vocalists taught masterclasses to choral students at South High School.

Amanda Powell, Apollo’s Fire soloist,
coaching South High School choral students

February 14, 2020: We did not know at the time that the National Symphony of Ukraine would be our last orchestra for the season. Conducted by Volodymyr Sirenko, the concert celebrated Eastern European composers, including Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 and Tchaikovsky’s 1889 “Variations on a Rococo Theme.” Cellist Natalia Khoma drew attention from audience and critics alike.

February 28, 2020: San Francisco-based a capella group Chanticleer filled Mechanics Hall with their “Trade Winds” program, featuring music heard from many world cultures. Earlier that day, the entire group visited South High School’s chorus to offer coaching and feedback on current classroom choral works.

Chanticleer performing for a packed house
at Mechanics Hall (February 28, 2020)

March 11, 2020: Music Worcester’s unexpected final concert was pianist Inna Faliks in recital at Curtis Hall, Assumption College. Faliks performed an auto-biographical piano recital, meaning she played famous classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, among others), while intermittently telling her own life story.

From the Board

Music Worcester and its Board of Directors would like to thank Dr. Virginia Vaughan for her term as President of the Board from 2018 until August of 2020. She will be succeeded by the Vice President of her term, Bob Sorrenti, who will take on the role of President at the start of the 2020-2021 Concert Season.

Vaughan’s time as President was one of the most exciting periods of growth in Music Worcester’s history. These two seasons saw Music Worcester present some of its highest-attended performances of all time, including Yo-Yo Ma in our Commemorative Gala for the 160th Anniversary Concert Season, Broadway superstar Audra McDonald to open the 161st Concert Season, jazz legends and brothers Wynton Marsalis (with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) and Branford Marsalis (Branford Marsalis Quartet), and history-making performances by The Worcester Chorus with repertoire including Verdi’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah.

Virginia Vaughan
Music Worcester Board President

Our Concert Sponsors

[Unibank profile]

UniBank is proud to be a
Music Worcester concert sponsor.

Performance: Joshua Bell
October 16, 2020

The COVID-19 Repercussions
By Adrien C. Finlay, Executive Director

Music Worcester has certainly witnessed firsthand the destructive nature of COVID-19. In March and early April my days were filled with cancelled concert communications, heart-wrenching discussions with agents over cancelled tours, and conversations with the artists themselves. These gifted musicians, many of whom Music Worcester has grown to cherish, had months of work suddenly disappear. At the same time, we continue to hope for a return to the concert hall in early 2021, and I do believe that the industry is now feeling a growing sense of optimism.


In April, Music Worcester cancelled Chineke! Orchestra’s concert but intends to reschedule once the group rebooks its tour.

I do not mean to suggest that the destruction has not been irreparable, as agencies have downsized mightily and abandoned their offices to work from home permanently. National or international touring cannot yet restart. In addition, the abundance of free digital content already available causes great consternation for non-profits like Music Worcester who must monetize virtual events going forward.  That said, the single word I keep returning to in this extended COVID shutdown is flexibility.  I have never seen artists and agents so willing to discuss ideas and specific requests.  I have never before heard agents bring up the topic of fee re-negotiation.  I have never witnessed the extent of scenario planning currently underway, as all sides – artists, agents, presenters, venues – want and need engagements to happen, be they to a limited live audience or virtual.


While Music Worcester has long-standing relationships with Worcester’s amazing historic venues, I would be incredibly remiss if I did not thank their leadership teams around the City.  We are not exactly an easy client these days. Dates change (the latest being Dorrance Dance from November 2020 to May 2021), our technology requests have grown because we need to videotape and/or live stream, and questions surrounding sanitization and safety that we have never had to ask now become all-important.

At present it remains quite difficult to see how a 60+ person orchestra might be able to make their tour stop in Worcester.  Can we space all the players far enough apart?  Can we secure shields around wind and brass instruments to reduce moisture particles that might get airborne?  Even if capacity restrictions loosen for indoor facilities, we have to take into account the number of individuals on stage and working behind the scenes in any total body count.  Specifically, the dates for The Knights orchestra in February and the Prague Symphony Orchestra in March remain on our website, but tickets will not go on sale until we know much more.

The Worcester Chorus was set to have an incredible spring in 2021, with Bach’s B-Minor Mass coming back to Worcester.  Though the Chorus remains active mapping out ideas for small ensembles, distanced rehearsal procedures, and virtual practice sessions, we unfortunately must acknowledge that the full splendor of the Chorus will likely be the last element to return to Music Worcester’s presentations.  What an occasion that will be, whenever it is!


Dorrance Dance Company, originally planned for November 2020, is now May 15, 2021


Music Worcester, like so many of our colleagues, has made particular use of videos these past few months.  I encourage you to visit to listen to Worcester Chorus Artistic Director Chris Shepard’s podcasts, Conductor in Sweatpants, on significant choral repertoire from across the centuries, and my interviews, Music Worcester Conversations, with a range of individuals from across the industry.  We know well that nothing can replace the thrill of a live performance, but we sincerely hope that our interim videos might provide some enjoyment so you can get to know Music Worcester even better.

Good News

Updates from friends of Music Worcester

Music Worcester thanks Midge Hamilton for her 14 years of service! Midge was Music Worcester’s Marketing Director from 2006-2017 and the first Education & Community Liaison until she retired a few months ago.

Click below for the full interview script with Midge and join us in wishing her all the best in her retirement.

Scroll down to check out other bits of Good News from our neighbors on Main Street in downtown Worcester, along with spotlight bits about our wonderful Volunteers and updates on the careers of our Young Artist Competition winners from the last several seasons.

Midge Hamilton
Music Worcester Marketing Director
& Community & Education Liaison


Read our Interview with Midge

How long did you work at Music Worcester? In which roles?
I started working with Music Worcester in the summer of 2006 on a commission basis helping Andrea Ehrenreich ads for the program book.  I was recommended to Stasia by Andrea and by Cynthia Abolin.  I was so excited to be working with Music Worcester in any role!   They knew that my work in marketing with Coldwell Banker was winding down and that I might be interested in a position. We  shared connections through our singing with area choruses.  Andrea was leaving at the end of summer and they offered me her job as marketing director.  For some reason I ended up with the Young Artist Competition in my wheelhouse, which was one of the best accidents ever.  

I started in the full-time position in October. I retired from this position in July of 2017.  Adrien created the part-time position of Education & Community Liaison that summer and I retired from that in June of 2020.


What are some of your favorite concerts?
This question is such a huge topic.  I know that I will be forgetting some for sure.  It often did feel that every concert was my favorite when it was happening.  Some very special memories:
  • 2014, Sergey Antonov and Bernadene Blaha.
  • BACHFEST 2017 celebrating the Salisbury Cultural District – all the concerts but favorite was Sergey Antonov at the Antiquarian Hall.
  • Bernadene Blaha and Trio Latitude 41 in Shapiro Hall in 2017.
  • Simone Dinnerstein, starting in 2014 with the Goldberg Variations.  Future years with her included the free concert with the orchestra from Cuba, then the amazing season 2018-19 – EVERY concert with her and the bonus of Milad Yousufi and all the school and other events.  
  • St. Lawrence String Quartet at Holy Cross in 2016.
  • Boston Brass, first Artists in Residence for a week in 2018  Love them.
  • Apollo’s Fire baroque performance and the pre-concert talk at the Worcester Art Museum with Antonella Doucette in 2018.
  • Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 2017
  • 2016, Joshua Bell
  • 2017, Gil Shaham
  • 2019, Yo-Yo Ma

How did you see Music Worcester change over the years?
As the economy stumbled in 2008, I believe that the organization started to look at how the world outside of the nonprofit arts communities had radically changed. No longer could Executive Directors make a phone call to a local bank for sponsorship, for instance.  It became increasingly difficult for any organization that was not watching technology very carefully to survive.  The 2006 season was the first that Music Worcester used online ticket sales.  There was an enormous learning curve for office staff.  Within several years, Music Worcester started using very basic email marketing and social media.  Most arts organizations – and even city hall – did not allow use of Facebook at work. 
Around the time of the 150th anniversary season, Stasia Hovenesian, Executive Director of the organization for 40 years, retired.  Adrien Finlay’s first season as Executive Director was 2012-2013 and Music Worcester was a new and exciting place to work.  Adrien has been the driving force for positive change and success.  The Worcester Chorus, under the direction of Chris Shepard, has grown artistically and in so many other ways.   The family of competitions for young musicians has grown and prospered with Adrien’s support and involvement too.

You have quite a musical background! From playing the violin, to singing in choirs over the years. What are some favorite pieces you’ve performed?
Ha ha.  I would not count my skills on the violin as anything other than truly rudimentary, but a favorite (I could never play them) would be Beethoven Romances for Violin. Choral works that have been memorable include contemporary pieces such as Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man; Richard Einhorn’s oratorio Voices of Light, singing with a screened projection of La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (a 1928 silent French historical film based on the actual record of the trial of Joan of Arc).  Both of these concerts with my chorus included powerful collaborations with young vocalists, school orchestras, etc.  I love collaborations.  
What do you like most about MW’s educational programs?
I cannot choose one particular thing, but do you suppose many of our supporters realize how much that is accomplished by the small staff, interns, and volunteers (our volunteers are AMAZING!) who all help with the competitions, in-school events, after-concert events, and more!?  I like that Music Worcester (Adrien and the Board) are open to thinking outside the box. We have organized coaching classes in schools, in the halls – anywhere that works. Masterclasses have happened through creative collaborations with Worcester colleges and area high schools, adult education programs, cultural organizations and other arts organizations and local artists, as well as the Worcester school system. 
Anything else you’d like to tell our patrons?
We will (well, not me) be back.  The future depends upon live music. 

The Community Steps Up 
The Worcester Chorus Online Auction

Following the COVID-19 state guidelines, six Music Worcester concerts were cancelled, including two Worcester Chorus concerts. While the Brahms Requiem will be rescheduled, The Chorus knew it could not simply cancel or postpone its May 8 auction and concert. Therefore, in a heroic act to keep the music going long after COVID-19 subsides, a dedicated Chorus committee came together and pulled off a weeklong online auction. Items included weekend getaways, house parties, artwork, passes to local cultural institutions, and restaurant gift cards. The auction also featured opening and closing virtual events complete with comedic videos and singing. The Worcester Chorus Online Auction raised over $56,000, which goes to operating support and securing The Sebastians, a baroque orchestra for next season’s B-Minor Mass.

The Worcester Chorus
with The Sebastians
Coming Soon to the 2020-2021 Concert Season

Young Artists Competition Winners
Where are they now?

Music Worcester’s Young Artists Competition celebrates young musicians. With three divisions–junior and senior instrumental and vocal–students compete to win cash prizes. We caught up with past winners of the YAC competition. Here is what they are up to now.

Ashley Kim
Music Worcester Young Artist Competition Winner

Read our Interview with YAC Winner Ashley Kim
How long have you been playing?

I’m a rising junior in high school. I’ve been playing violin for nearly 12 years!

Why did you choose the piece of music you played – what makes this a favorite, musically interesting, challenging, etc?

First of all, I would like to thank my brother, Andrew (cello), and my mom, Ms. Lim (piano), for making the Music Worcester video with me! I’m so lucky to be surrounded by music and passionate musicians every day.

Together, we decided to play Shostakovitch’s Prelude for Violin, Cello, and Piano. Intertwined with the piece’s simple melody are worlds of meaning and feeling. It speaks of melancholy and tragedy, loneliness and nostalgia… We thought it was a very moving piece. The melody has a way of tugging at your heartstrings and sneaking into your feelings. It presents a series of technical challenges as well. Because of how the parts of the violin and cello are nearly identical, we had to make our instruments sound like one voice. To do this, we had to vibrato at the same rate, harmonize perfectly, and change bows at the exact same time. We also had to make sure that we understood the music the same way by discussing each note: How should each note swell by itself, how should it fit in with the rest of the phrase, and what does it contribute to the overall message of the piece?

The piece is really a family favorite, and I often find myself humming it during my day.

What are your future plans?

As a teenager still in high school, I don’t have my eyes dead set on a specific career yet, or even a specific major or minor in college. However, I firmly know that I would like to use my strengths in a positive way to truly impact the world and help others.

In high school, I hope to continue exploring my strengths, weaknesses, and my hobbies. Then, in college, I hope to prepare myself to step out into the big world, ready to make a difference in my field.

Currently, my interests lie in music (of course!), engineering, statistics, and community service. I find myself gravitating towards things that challenge me and allow me to channel my creativity.

Ultimately, in the future I hope to continue to think big and pursue my passions.


What is the most interesting/exciting/inspirational thing that has happened as a result of your music? Opportunities to play in new places?

With different groups? Music surely has gifted me the opportunity to meet amazing people, connect with my community, and see some amazing cities and concert halls. I love to perform for seniors in nursing homes and to speak with them afterwards- it’s so moving how much they appreciate music. Last year, I spent six months organizing a charity concert at my school. I recruited nearly 40 volunteers, and we ended up donating all the revenue (several hundreds of dollars) to help the biodiversity and indigenous people suffering from fires in the Amazon Basin. It’s amazing what an impact music can have on the world. As both a soloist and orchestra member, I’ve also had the chance to experience different cultures, explore amazing cities, and play in their concert halls, such as the Konzerthaus in Berlin, Musikverein in Vienna, and Mechanics Hall in Worcester!

Volunteer Spotlight
Zenya Molnar

Each newsletter, Music Worcester will spotlight one of our hardworking, and dedicated volunteers.

In this issue, we touched base with Zenya Molnar, usher and corporator. Read the full interview below:

Zenya Molnar
Music Worcester Usher & Corporator

Read our Interview with Zenya

How long have you been volunteering with Music Worcester and what drew you to us in the first place?

I have been volunteering for three seasons, starting in fall 2017. I was seeking opportunities to be involved with the local arts and music scene, and I wanted to make connections with others who share the same love for classical music. My desire to volunteer was solidified when I coincidentally met Kate Rafey [Development Director at Music Worcester] at an Appalachian Mountain Club event and expressed my interest in ushering with Music Worcester—a sure sign that I had to!

Why is being an usher fulfilling and important to you?

Music keeps the inner spirit alive, and being part of a community that brings music to us in culturally significant and awe-inspiring spaces is really energizing. As an usher, it’s exciting to see the audience fill the hall and then feel the energy during the concert, and I value sharing my time with an organization that is dedicated to bringing high quality and diverse performances to Worcester.

Do you have a favorite MW concert?

A very difficult question! I loved Wynton Marsalis for the energy and the contemporary flair of the jazz, and I also will never forget Yo Yo Ma for his inspiring concert in April 2019. The beauty that resonated from his performance of the Bach cello suites and his poetic words blended into a reminder of how we must turn to music for peace, love, and humanity.

Do you have a fun memory you’d like to share about ushering or helping at a concert?

It’s fun to alert family members or friends of exciting performances that they’d want to attend and seat them at concerts! I also have run into a surprising number of people I know from other areas of my life which makes it feel like a real community.

What are some other fun details about you you’d like to share: work, hobbies, favorite musician, pets?

I love spending time outdoors and am an avid hiker and skier and lead trips for the Appalachian Mountain Club. One of the most memorable concerts I’ve attended was Josh Ritter with an opening performance by Darlingside, an indie/folk band originally from western MA, for the introspective lyrics,  instrument variety, and beautiful harmonies.

What have you been doing to occupy your time during COVID?

I’ve embraced staying local! I’ve been section hiking the Midstate Trail and getting out on other trails that I normally would not explore. I’ve also taken the time to try some new recipes, especially with yeast—I’ve mastered my family’s favorite German coffee cake, Streuselkuchen—and have discovered that I don’t need to buy English muffins again since homemade are easy and delicious. One of the best perks of working remotely is my furry colleague, Beppo, a large orange tabby with a big personality.

Main Street Highlights

Check out what’s happening in downtown Worcester

Despite the restraints of the pandemic, Joe’s Albums (our next door neighbor on Main Street) is open and staying busier than ever!

Due to his large and noteworthy collection of used records, Joe has adapted to the retail barriers caused by the pandemic and become a staple of the national online used records market. Even as the store has reopened for walk-in shopping (mask required), Joe has greatly increased the orders-t0-ship part of his business. Follow Joe’s Albums On Facebook and On Instagram and check out his online inventory of new and used records at the button below. 

Joe’s Albums
317 Main St, Worcester, MA