The Music Academy has initiated a new performance series called Chamber Nights, each concert the flower of what the Music Academy describes as a “new chamber music curriculum pairing fellows with Academy artists for intensive coachings results in five unique evening concerts. Each event stars the fellows in a curated program of full-length masterworks to music of the 21st century.”

That is to say, if I read it right, that the programs are “curated” by the faculty concerned, rather than the performing fellows, as in the beloved Picnic Concerts. “As a part of the experience, guests are invited to enjoy complimentary wine during the performance. (Special thanks to Renegade Wines for generously supplying wine for this performance.)”

The first concert, called Mendelssohn to Marsalis, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, in Lehmann Hall (main building, Miraflores campus). The program consists of three works:

Andrew Norman‘s “Gran Turismo  for Violin Octet (2004)” (played by Daniel Joseph, Kun Yan, Hyeon Grace Hong, Maia Ruiz-Law, Alexandra Gonzales Siu, Haoge Wang, Hanna Zhdan, and Katia Tesarczyk, violins).

Felix Mendelssohn‘s “String Quintet No. 2 in Bb-Major, Opus 87 (1845)” (by Yuna Jo and Rumeng Liao, violins; Nicholas Gallitano and Sophie Choate, violas; and Ha eun Song, cello).

The Suite from Wynton Marsalis‘ “A Fiddler’s Tale (1998)” (Sarah Beth Overcash, violin; Rachel Martin, double bass; Justin Best, clarinet; Xavion Patterson, bassoon; and Austin Jace Cruz, trumpet / Theodore Mark Swanson, trombone).   

American composer Andrew Norman (born 1979) joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2020. His compositions for strings — like “Gran Tourismo” and his trio “The Companion Guide to Rome (2011)” — have attracted a good deal of positive attention.

His music, like all music, is indescribable, except metaphorically. “Gran Tourismo” shimmers and slides, like a fog bank shot with sunlight. Its weirdness is organic rather than arbitrary, and generally attractive.

For most music lovers attending this concert, no matter their dedication to new music, the Mendelssohn “Quintet” is likely to linger in memory as the high point of the evening. Few composers have ever possessed his powers to please in such abundance, and this is, moreover, one of his most powerful and energetic works, more Beethoven than Schubert.

Wynton Marsalis (born 1961), also emphatically American, is a force to be reckoned with in our music, classical and jazz. “A Fiddler’s Tale” responds to Stravinsky‘s “A Soldier’s Tale” in very much the same way that John Lewis‘ gorgeous ballet “Original Sin” responds to Darius Milhaud‘s ballet “La création du monde, Opus 81 (1923).”

Both jazzmen are reclaiming material borrowed from this side of the Atlantic by Europeans, and showing what can be done with it. Marsalis is somewhat controversial in that he works in the sound world of traditional jazz, rather than the outer reaches of the art form, and writes/plays music that is beautiful by familiar, rather than esoteric, standards.

Regular Price tickets are $40, Community Access tickets, as available, are $10; and kids 7-17 are admitted free. Tickets are available from the Summer Festival (Casey) Ticket Office, in person 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, Monday, June 6 through Friday, Aug. 6; by phone at 805-969-8787; or visit

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.