Colorado Symphony will present "Star Wars: A New Hope"

Brett Mitchell will lead two performances of John Williams's iconic score for Star Wars: A New Hope with the Colorado Symphony in March 2018.

Brett Mitchell will lead two performances of John Williams's iconic score for Star Wars: A New Hope with the Colorado Symphony in March 2018.

Westword (Denver) has published a preview of two newly announced performances Brett Mitchell will lead during his inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

The Colorado Symphony, led by ambitious new music director Brett Mitchell, will be performing the score of Star Wars: A New Hope, alongside two fortieth anniversary screenings of the film, in March 2018.

Back in 1977, this first Star Wars movie introduced such characters as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader to the Hollywood pantheon. The score won composer John Williams an Academy Award; it has been designated the greatest American film score of all time by the American Film Institute.

The concert will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at Broomfield's 1STBANK Center.

From a preview by The Denver Post:

Whether you love or loathe “Star Wars,” it’s difficult to deny that its score is a masterpiece. As soon as the horns in the intro of “Main Theme” strike up, Earth becomes a distant memory, replaced by space ship battles, brother-sister bonding experiences and the beautiful sensibility of a universe where a greedy bounty hunter alien is named “Greedo.”

If you can’t hear the strings yet, you will soon. Led by Music Director Brett Mitchell, the Colorado Symphony announced it will bring John Williams’ massive score from “Star Wars: A New Hope” to Broomfield’s FirstBank Center in 2018 for what it claims is the first time in Colorado history.

Finally, 303 Magazine also has a preview:

We are mere weeks away from the opening of the latest movie to join the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But it’s not the only Star Wars event on the horizon worth looking forward to — descending upon the 1stBank Center for two days only, on March 22 and 24, 2018, The Colorado Symphony will present Star Wars: A New Hope. The event will feature live performances of the musical scores alongside screenings of the complete movie as conducted by Colorado Symphony Music Director, Brett Mitchell. John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score to A New Hope will surely provide an unforgettable symphonic experience for the many generations of Star Wars fans in Colorado.

Review: "Romanticism, grandeur mark symphony concert"

Brett Mitchell was the guest conductor for the San Antonio Symphony classical concert Friday night at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Jeff Nelson)

Brett Mitchell was the guest conductor for the San Antonio Symphony classical concert Friday night at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Jeff Nelson)

The San Antonio Express-News has published a review of Brett Mitchell's debut with the San Antonio Symphony:

Elegant 19th-century European Romanticism was answered by 20th-century American heroics during the San Antonio Symphony’s classical series concert Friday night.

Two talented guest artists, a pianist and a conductor, made sure the program of Franz Liszt and Aaron Copland was both varied and compatible....

[Pianist Scott] Cuellar and guest conductor Brett Mitchell, of the Colorado Symphony, collaborated for a luxuriant exploration of the concerto rather than a flashy, flamboyant one....

The concert concluded with Copland’s Symphony No. 3, known for its use of the composer’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Most of the work was characterized by pastoral scenery punctuated by surges of orchestral power.

Mitchell conjured a sense of spaciousness, especially in the third movement. The fanfare, introduced by flutes in the fourth movement, unfolded with spine-tingling grandeur. It seemingly spoke of a nation poised for an unbridled future of progress and prosperity, which the United States was when the piece premiered in 1946.

The concert opened with Liszt’s “Les Préludes,” one of music history’s original symphonic poems. Mitchell added drama with slower tempos than is usually heard. The relaxed pace was especially effective for the love theme in the middle before the work’s initial soaring theme returned with brassy glory at the end.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Feature: "One Orchestra, Three Weeks, Four Living Composers"

Brett Mitchell with the Colorado Symphony during his inaugural concert as Music Director on September 9, 2017. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell with the Colorado Symphony during his inaugural concert as Music Director on September 9, 2017. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell's focus on contemporary American music during his inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony is the focus of a new article by Teddy Niedermaier.

In September 2017, the Colorado Symphony opened its season by featuring four living composers in a span of three consecutive weeks. This was a bold and auspicious move for Brett Mitchell, the orchestra's new Music Director. It's also welcome news for composers and musicians alike who would like to see more contemporary offerings on symphony programs. Here's what they played:

  • Sept. 9 (concert featuring Renée Fleming): Peter Boyer, New Beginnings (2000)
  • Sept. 15-17 (official opening weekend): Kevin Puts, Millennium Canons (2001) & Mason Bates, The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra (2009) (The composer participated in these performances)
  • Sept. 22-24: Missy Mazzoli, These Worlds in Us (2006)

Such programming flies in the face of recent statistics showing that major American orchestras devote relatively little time to newer compositions. A survey of 22 large American orchestras in 2014-2015 showed that only 11.4% of programmed pieces were by living composers that season, and in 2015-2016 that number remained essentially constant at 12%...

"A lot of great art...in 21st-century America"

In the Colorado Symphony's 2017-2018 season brochure, Brett Mitchell writes, "The opening weekend of our Classics series pairs Beethoven's immortal Fifth Symphony with two contemporary American works I think you'll really love." In this pairing, Mitchell's inclusion of new music goes far beyond tokenism--or the idea that orchestras play new music here and there merely out of "obligation" or to maintain the appearance of being modern and relevant. For Mitchell, the Puts-Bates-Beethoven lineup bore specific, meaningful connections: the driving rhythms in Bates's B-Sides evoked the opening of Beethoven's Fifth, whereas the fanfares in Puts's Millennium Canons echoed its triumphant finale.

Bates's B-sides, a five-movement, 23-minute commission from the San Francisco Symphony, is a major work modeled after Schoenberg's iconic Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16. This inclusion too bucks a trend which states that new compositions must be relegated to "overture" status--ancillary, peripheral exercises to be wrapped up before the main "meat" of an orchestral program. In interviews played during the live Colorado Public Radio broadcast of the Sept. 15 opener, Mitchell again emphasized the interconnectedness of the Puts, Bates, and Beethoven works, placing the composers on equal footing as if they were musical colleagues having a conversation. These connections resonated with Jeffrey Nytch in his review titled "A New Beginning at the Colorado Symphony":

This program, pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with a first half of works by Kevin Puts and Mason Bates, presents a coherent package. Puts and Bates complemented the Beethoven – just as Beethoven retroactively complemented Puts and Bates. This wasn’t cynical programming; this was thoughtful programming that gave every piece on the docket an equal role in service to the whole.

The vision behind this was that of the Colorado Symphony’s new Music Director, Brett Mitchell, and it’s a vision that plays out over the course of the entire season. In concert after concert we see not just a mix of canonical standards with lesser-known classics (or a refreshing number of new works), but a pairing of old and new that illuminates both. Such is certainly the case in this opening concert, where the vibrance of Kevin Puts’ Millennium Canons foreshadows the brass fanfares of the Beethoven finale, and where the pulsing rhythms of Mason Bates’ The B-Sides set us up for the insistent drive of that famous 4-note motive that not only opens the Fifth but spins its way through the entire symphony like a 19th-century version of a techno beat.

The following week in Denver brought Missy Mazzoli's These Worlds in Us, winner of the 2007 ASCAP Young Composer Award, paired with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Tchaikovsky's epic Fifth Symphony. While this program more neatly fits the typical overture-concerto-symphony format, Mitchell addressed the audience from the podium to reinforce his belief in the importance of new music. "There's a lot of great art being created in 21st-century America, and we hope to share some of that with you," he said, adding that he hoped to "pique your interest" and "pique your curiosity" throughout the season. And here too there were thoughtful musical connections, as the haunting lyricism and E tonality of the Mazzoli foreshadowed the dark E minor opening of the Tchaikovsky.

A Broad Landscape

The programming of new music by American orchestras should reflect the broad, diverse musical landscape of contemporary composition in the United States. And by playing the four composers listed above, the Colorado Symphony has begun to paint a vivid picture of that diversity. Composer Peter Boyer, whose New Beginnings was commissioned by the Kalamazoo Symphony, has achieved considerable success in the arenas of concert music and film music. Kevin Puts, a St. Louis native, is now the Director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer's Institute, a crucial training ground for emerging orchestral composers. Missy Mazzoli has already forged her reputation as an important voice in American opera with the successful premiere of Breaking the Waves in Philadelphia last year. And Mason Bates, former composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony, is a DJ who has incorporated electronica into many of his large orchestral works; he too has broken into opera this year with The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs for the Santa Fe Opera.

In these four composers alone we glimpse an exciting cross-section of sounds, styles, and genres. While it's not a complete picture, we can take the Colorado Symphony's recent programming as a healthy sign that 21st-century orchestral music is vibrant, diverse, relevant, and deserving of a prominent place in American concert halls.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Feature: "Know Your Art: Symphony Conductor Brett Mitchell"

Brett Mitchell at home in Denver in September 2017. (Photo by Jeff Nelson)

Brett Mitchell at home in Denver in September 2017. (Photo by Jeff Nelson)

Denver Life Magazine has published a feature about Brett Mitchell, coinciding with his first season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

If he hadn’t found his calling in music, Brett Mitchell—the 38-year-old Seattle native who assumes command of the Colorado Symphony this fall as the organization’s fourth music director—might have made a decent cult leader in another life. He’s self-assured, charming and prone to expounding on the virtues of classical music with such single-minded fervor that, listening to him, one feels the urge to run out, buy a bassoon or cello and start logging practice hours. He also has a knack for leading large groups of passionate people—a talent that has made him one of the most successful and sought-after young conductors in the country. In his short career, he has served as associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony and assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France, as well as a handful of other equally impressive titles. Now he’s bringing his considerable ability to Denver, kicking off his four-year tenure with a season featuring a diverse array of performances—from Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” to the score of “Jurassic Park.” We sat down with Mitchell to ask about life on the conductor’s podium.

Did you grow up with classical music? Actually, no. I come from a family of a lot of wonderful people, none of whom are musicians. When I was growing up, we didn’t really have classical music in the house. The only thing we had was an LP of (Vladimir) Horowitz and a cassette with “The Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky on one side, and “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev on the other. That was it.

So you discovered classical music on your own? Exactly. I was in high school when I started composing and conducting. During my sophomore year, the high school band took a trip to Disneyland, where we saw a nighttime show called “Fantasmic!” At the time, the sheet music for that show hadn’t been released, but my band director, whom I’m still very close with, said she wanted to play some of those songs. She knew I had a good ear, so as we were going through the show, she had me write down the music that I was hearing on a paper towel. Then I bought the CD, and over that summer, between my sophomore and junior years, I transcribed the music and arranged it for my high school band. It was at that point that the band director said, “Why don’t you just conduct it yourself?” I was 16. It was the first performance I ever conducted, October of 1995. I still remember standing backstage, shaking like a leaf.

Then you studied music in college? Correct. I got my composition degree at Western Washington University because I thought I wanted to score films. About halfway through college, I decided I wanted to conduct instead of compose. When you’re a composer, most of what you do is alone. Being a conductor, you get to work with your colleagues in the orchestra, the chorus, and then you get to play for thousands of people. It’s much more social. That’s why I made the switch. The solitary part of being a composer just didn’t do it for me.

What abilities does a conductor need? Communication skills, definitely. Group psychology is an enormous part of it. Leadership, of course. If you looked at my bookshelf at home, most of what you would find would be music books and books on leadership.

What about the people who say, “Classical music is boring—it’s not for me”? Part of the issue is that when people think of classical music, they think of music by—and I mean this with love in my heart—Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann. And that music actually takes a little bit more effort to get inside of, because it gets played on classical radio like background music. Now take Mahler, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky—those boys weren’t writing background music. Their music is intended to grab you by the throat. So when people say, “Oh, classical music is boring,” it may just be that their entrée into classical music was not the best. Frankly, Bach and Haydn and Mozart wrote a lot of music that was designed to be background music; it was music for rich people to eat dinner by. But that’s not the kind of thing I’m interested in programming and conducting.

How do you hope to make the Colorado Symphony’s 2017-18 season unique? It’s really important in life—whether you’re on a date or conducting an orchestra—that people be themselves. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be somebody you’re not. So long as I remain genuine and authentic in who I am, I think I’ll bring something new to the table.

What drives you, artistically and professionally? When I was a little boy, during the days I had a caretaker named Janet who looked after me. One morning, my mom was getting ready to take me to Janet’s house, and we were listening to the radio. A song came on that I’d never heard, and it hit me really hard. “Do we have a record of this?” I asked her. This was around 1982. She told me we did, so I said, “I want to play this song for Janet. It’s so pretty.” Rather than argue with a 3-year-old, which is never a winning strategy, my mom drove us to Janet’s house and we sat together, the three of us, grouped around the record player, and listened to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” I was as happy as could be. I tell this story a lot because I feel it illustrates exactly what I do today. I find music that I love, and I share it with people. Whether that’s two people in a living room in Seattle in 1982, or 10,000 people at Red Rocks in 2018, it doesn’t matter to me. I do what I do because I feel impelled to share the music I love.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in May 2018, leading multiple subscription weekends in Auckland Town Hall (pictured above) and the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in May 2018, leading multiple subscription weekends in Auckland Town Hall (pictured above) and the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, leading two weekends of subscription programs in Auckland and Wellington in May 2018, the organization has announced.

On May 11 (Wellington) and May 18 (Auckland), Mr. Mitchell and the orchestra will present Bernstein at 100, a program celebrating the centennial of American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein:

• BERNSTEIN - Three Dance Episodes and selections from On the Town
• BERNSTEIN - "Dream with Me" from Peter Pan
• BERNSTEIN - Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront
• BERNSTEIN - Overture and selections from Candide
• BERNSTEIN - Symphonic Dances and selections from West Side Story

American singer, songwriter, and actress Morgan James will join Mr. Mitchell and the orchestra for vocal selections throughout the program.

The Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.

The Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.


On May 12 (Wellington) and May 19 (Auckland), Mr. Mitchell and the orchestra will present a program of Italian symphonic favorites:

• VIVALDI - The Four Seasons
• BERLIOZ - Roman Carnival
• RESPIGHI - Pines of Rome

Angelo Xiang Yu, winner of the 2010 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, will be the soloist for the Vivaldi.

Preview: "NZSO's Dynamic 2018 season"

Radio New Zealand has published a preview of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's 2018 season, which will feature Brett Mitchell's debut as he leads four concerts in Auckland and Wellington in May 2018.

Music Director of Colorado Symphony Brett Mitchell will conduct two projects, including Vivaldi's Four Seasons with violinist Angelo Xiang Yu.

Mitchell will also be conducting Bernstein at 100, marking the birthday of Leonard Bernstein. Broadway performer and Postmodern Jukebox vocalist Morgan James will lend her voice to the iconic pieces of music.

To read and listen to the complete preview, please click here. (Mr. Mitchell's programs are discussed from 11:30 to 17:00.)

For more information on Mr. Mitchell's programs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, please click here.

Preview: "Five Classical Music Events To Hit This Week"

Brett Mitchell (pictured here in performance with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra's first Severance Hall performance of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, October 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here in performance with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra's first Severance Hall performance of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, October 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland Scene has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's concert this week with the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra:

Brett Mitchell recently left his post as associate conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra to take the reins of the Colorado Symphony — but he’s back to lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra in the first of its performances this season at Severance Hall. On Wednesday, October 4 at 8:00 pm, the evening will begin with Arnold Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, and feature Mason Bates’ The B-Sides for Orchestra and Electronica (2009) before concluding with Beethoven’s ever-popular Fifth Symphony. The concert is free, but you’ll need a ticket from the Severance Hall Box Office.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Live Broadcast Alert: Brett Mitchell Conducts the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra (Wed, Oct 4)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here in performance with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra's first Severance Hall performance of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, October 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here in performance with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra's first Severance Hall performance of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, October 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra in their first Severance Hall performance of the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, October 4. This performance will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. Eastern on WCLV Classical 104.9 in Cleveland and online at WCLV.org.

The program features three revolutionary works composed in the first decade of the 19th, 20th, and 21st-centuries:

  • SCHOENBERG - Five Pieces for Orchestra
  • BATES - The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra and Electronica
  • BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 5


Learn more and purchase tickets at the concert listing on CIM's website.

Audio: "A Maestro’s Secret for a High-Performing Team"

Brett Mitchell is the featured guest on the current episode of The Leadership Podcast, a weekly program featuring in-depth interviews with leaders from around the world. Listen here:

More from the podcast's official website:

Brett Mitchell is the Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. He discusses leadership and teamwork, and how the best orchestras don’t just play with each other… they play for each other. He considers trust to be the first step to leadership and shares his philosophy and methods. He talks about the discipline of music, and how music theory can inform innovation, leadership and teamwork.

Key Takeaways

[2:51] As a young music director, Brett works consciously at leadership.  

[4:29] Brett’s last position was with the Cleveland Orchestra, one of America’s Big Five orchestras. He started there in awe of the training and skill of the elite musicians. Brett learned that the better the orchestra, the more they want to be led. The musicians make music with each other and the conductor helps guide them, but does not dictate to them. The conductor is the arbiter of taste.

[10:06] Leonard Bernstein did a video with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting them with his facial expressions alone in supreme trust and joy. Brett attributes his own career to the path Leonard Bernstein blazed for American orchestral conductors.

[16:20] A Conductor leads an orchestra; the Music Director is responsible for the artistic side; the Executive Director is responsible for the business side; the Maestro is a teacher. Brett studies the score, learns everybody’s part, listens to the orchestra, teaches the orchestra what the composer is saying through the score, and guides them through the execution of the score.

[26:38] John Williams’ film scores gave Brett the inspiration to study composition. Brett discusses how he and the staff at Public Radio Station WCLV happened to create the award-winning documentary on John Williams’ Star Wars movie scores, The Score Awakens.  

[34:33] Brett is also an active guest conductor. Trust comes from being reliable, getting right to work, showing you are prepared, and being authentic. The goal is not a flawless performance, but a performance as close as humanly possible to being flawless with passion. Beethoven said a wrong note is nothing, but to play without passion is inexcusable.

[43:00] Brett talks about dealing with mistakes during a performance. The conductor needs to find the mistakes that will not fix themselves, and correct and direct for them.

Review: "A New Beginning at the Colorado Symphony"

Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony featured music by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, and Beethoven. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony featured music by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, and Beethoven. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Jeffrey Nytch has published a review of Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

If you glanced at the opening program of the Colorado Symphony’s 2017-18 season, playing this weekend in Denver, you might be tempted to make the assumption that the orchestra was replicating that all-too-familiar pattern of feeling it needed to balance a first half of all-contemporary repertoire with a trusty war-horse – in this case, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Given the frequency with which such programming is done you might be forgiven for your assumption, but in this case you’d be incorrect.

This program, pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with a first half of works by Kevin Puts and Mason Bates, presents a coherent package. Puts and Bates complemented the Beethoven – just as Beethoven retroactively complemented Puts and Bates. This wasn’t cynical programming; this was thoughtful programming that gave every piece on the docket an equal role in service to the whole.

The vision behind this was that of the Colorado Symphony’s new Music Director, Brett Mitchell, and it’s a vision that plays out over the course of the entire season. In concert after concert we see not just a mix of canonical standards with lesser-known classics (or a refreshing number of new works), but a pairing of old and new that illuminates both. Such is certainly the case in this opening concert, where the vibrance of Kevin Puts’ Millennium Canons foreshadows the brass fanfares of the Beethoven finale, and where the pulsing rhythms of Mason Bates’ The B-Sides set us up for the insistent drive of that famous 4-note motive that not only opens the Fifth but spins its way through the entire symphony like a 19th-century version of a techno beat.

So often orchestral programming is done in a paint-by-numbers fashion: overture, concerto, intermission, canonical symphony or tone poem. The corollary to this is that the more adventuresome the first half, the less adventuresome the second half must be. (It goes without saying that in this tired – and tiresome – way of programming the adventuresome piece cannot go after the intermission, at the risk that the audience will leave after they’ve had their fill of ear candy on the first half.) And while I have no doubt that there is a certain segment of the audience that has come to expect this pattern for their concerts, and will rail against anything that confounds it, it’s absolute death to attracting anybody new to the symphony experience, and here’s why:

Anything that is done by rote cannot help but come off as such. And who wants to spend a precious evening out, pay $75 for a ticket, get a sitter, drive into town, pay for parking and all the rest, just to experience rote??

Brett Mitchell with composer Mason Bates after performing The B-Sides with the Colorado Symphony.

Brett Mitchell with composer Mason Bates after performing The B-Sides with the Colorado Symphony.

And though Boettcher Concert Hall was, as it usually is, only partly full Friday night, to blame the less-than-stunning attendance on the unorthodox programming would be another misplaced assumption. For the most adventuresome of the pieces – the Bates – received a standing ovation. A senior citizen to my right beamed, grabbed my husband by the arm and exclaimed, “Well now that was something different, wasn’t it?” The senior to my left was one of the first to leap to her feet, clapping enthusiastically and saying to her companion, “I thought that was fun, didn’t you?” And at intermission I took careful note of the audience, especially the older more “traditional”-looking patrons: everyone was buzzing about the first half. The fact that someone was willing to open their tenure with an entire half of new American music had gotten everyone’s attention – and the response was favorable.

It was one more bit of proof that it really is time we retire that tired chestnut about senior citizens not accepting anything but the most standard of standard repertoire. It really is time we start respecting our audience more than that. The fresh, the new, the inventive: these are the qualities most folks are seeking from their live music experiences. Why do so many orchestras still insist on depriving audiences of them?

Of course, it’s too early to tell whether or not Maestro Mitchell’s diverse programming will start filling more seats. The more I study the complex dynamics of audiences and why they make the choices they do, the more mysterious it seems. And as I’ve been saying in this forum and others for more than a decade, there are many more factors in determining consumption of classical music than just the repertoire (in fact, in some respects it’s among the least important of factors). But this is the right approach: thoughtful programming that is designed to make connections, to help us see old repertoire in a new light, and new repertoire in the context of what has come before. It’s artistic leadership that inspires risk-taking and adventure – something that the young audiences that orchestras crave regularly seek in practically all their endeavors.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Audio: Brett Mitchell talks Beethoven (and Nirvana)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell speaks with CPR Classical's David Rutherford at the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Rachel Trignano)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell speaks with CPR Classical's David Rutherford at the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Rachel Trignano)

During the intermission of the live broadcast of his inaugural subscription concert as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony, Brett Mitchell spoke with CPR Classical's David Rutherford about the power of Beethoven's music, a favorite moment in the Fifth Symphony, and what Beethoven has in common with Nirvana. Listen here:

Live Broadcast On Friday: Colorado Symphony Welcomes Its New Music Director

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

From Colorado Public Radio:

The Colorado Symphony marks the beginning of a new era on Friday, as conductor Brett Mitchell officially begins his tenure as music director.

Listen at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a live broadcast on CPR Classical from Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. Hear it at 88.1 FM in Denver, 99.9 FM in Boulder or online at CPRClassical.org.

The program features two 21st-century pieces as well as one of the most beloved symphonies of all time: 

Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Peter Lockley)

  • Kevin Puts: "Millennium Canons"
  • Mason Bates: "The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra"
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor

Mitchell, a 38-year-old conductor whose previous post was with the Cleveland Orchestra, begins a four-year term with the symphony on Friday.

Check out this Facebook Live conversation between Mitchell and CPR Classical's David Rutherford for a preview of the live broadcast:

The Colorado Symphony's Friday program will be repeated on Saturday and Sunday at Boettcher Concert Hall. 

Audio: "Conductor Brett Mitchell Gets Set To Lead The Colorado Symphony"

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell appeared on this morning's episode of Colorado Matters, Colorado Public Radio's daily interview show, to discuss his new position as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony.

Fans of the Colorado Symphony officially welcome a new music director this weekend when conductor Brett Mitchell leads his first official performances. The program includes Ludwig van Beethoven's beloved Symphony No. 5. 

Mitchell comes to Colorado from a previous post with the Cleveland Orchestra. He spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about his vision for the orchestra as he starts his four-year tenure, and some of his favorite music.

Hear this coming Friday night's concert from Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver in a live broadcast on CPR Classical beginning at 7:30 p.m. The program includes music by Beethoven, Mason Bates and Kevin Puts.

To listen to this interview, please click here.

Feature: "Colorado Symphony's new music director is ready to rock"

Seattle-born Brett Mitchell, the new 38-year-old music director for the Colorado Symphony, was raised on grunge before discovering his love for all things symphonic—and we do mean all things. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Seattle-born Brett Mitchell, the new 38-year-old music director for the Colorado Symphony, was raised on grunge before discovering his love for all things symphonic—and we do mean all things. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Denver Metro Media has published a feature about Brett Mitchell on the eve of his first performances as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell remembers the day he discovered the genius of Ludwig van Beethoven.

It was 1994 while watching the biopic Immortal Beloved with his mother. As actor Gary Oldman pantomimed one of the great piano sonatas, 15-year-old Mitchell grew puzzled, then aghast.

“Mom, they stole this melody from Billy Joel. How are they getting away with this?” the high school freshman whispered in quiet desperation.

Within a few hours, the truth had sunk in.

It was Joel who had nicked the tune from Beethoven, not the other way around. The 20th-century piano man had some years earlier transformed the German composer’s exquisite “Sonata Pathétique” into a lamenting tribute to 1950s doo-wop in a 1983 hit song called “This Night.”

Like countless devotees before him, the newly enlightened Mitchell would soon scour the life work of Beethoven, whose tortured life, he discovered, was in frequent contrast to the sheer beauty of the composer’s wide-ranging work.

“Beethoven kind of stands for this great moral searching,” Mitchell explained. “Now, he’s a huge part of my life, every bit as much as Kurt Cobain was 25 years ago.”

Today, the 38-year-old Seattle-born musical director for the Colorado Symphony still stands at the intersection of classical and pop, as well as its varied crossroads at video games, movies, rock and roll, and who knows what else....

Like his recent CSO predecessors, the new Generation-X conductor is determined to bring “longhair” music to everyone—yes, including those with hipster beards. The millennial ticket-buying generation will soon constitute half the nation’s workforce and half of its expendable income.

“Millennials tend to not be so insistent about putting things into boxes,” Mitchell said, noting the symphony’s ongoing genre surfing. “Classical music doesn’t actually mean anything. That’s kind of a nonsense term we use to cover a lot of stuff. The opposite of classical, whatever the hell that means, is pops, whatever the hell that means.”

This year, it means not only upcoming homages to Beethoven and George Gershwin and collaborations with classical vocalist Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, but also tributes to Ella Fitzgerald and Prince, a concert with eclectic banjoist Bela Fleck, live accompaniment to a screening of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a special performance dedicated to the music of video games.

Tell Tchaikovsky the news, but break it to him gently.

Born in Seattle in 1979, Mitchell came of age when new wave was already old and his city of birth was delivering a newer child called grunge. [Remember the dollar bill dangling in front of the swimming infant on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind?]

“I heard a very tortured soul who was trying to work through things in a very public way,” Mitchell said of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. “When I started listening to Beethoven, honestly, I heard the exact same thing.”

Although rooted in the Baby-Boom rock of his parents and the 90s rock that permeated his hometown, Mitchell somehow found his calling in symphonic music, first in the movie soundtracks of John Williams, which would act as his bridge from pop to classical and set him off on his quest.

Before landing in the Mile High City, Mitchell held conducting positions with symphonies in Saginaw, Michigan, Cleveland and Houston, having studied conducting at the University of Texas in Austin. He held an assistant-conductor post with the Orchestre National de France and had a litany of guest shots across the United States and Europe prior to settling down in Denver this year.

Although Mitchell has yet to hit 40, that is not so unusual for a conductor, he says. Keep in mind, when the legendary Leonard Bernstein took the reins at the New York Philharmonic in 1958, he was only a couple years older than Mitchell is now. Even so, Mitchell sees his relative youth as a benefit.

“I’m sure that doesn’t hurt in terms of reaching out to younger audience members,” he said. “But what really helps is the fact that I’ve been evangelizing for classical music in a way that I hope makes it relatable to anybody and everybody.”

Mitchell points out that even someone as revered as Bernstein was no stick in the mud when it came to music. The conductor-composer was a sort of ambassador between classical and other genres and in 1967 hosted CBS’s Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, in which Bernstein introduced the “establishment” to the likes of Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn and Janis Ian.

“[Bernstein] would listen to The Beatles’ Revolver with his kids. The only discrimination was the quality of music they would listen to,” Mitchell said. “We approach it very much the same way in our house and I think Lenny was really a light that led the way for a lot of the rest of us.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: "Relive 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' with the Cleveland Orchestra"

Cleveland Magazine has published a brief preview of Brett Mitchell's his upcoming performances with The Cleveland Orchestra:

The mysterious world of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial takes over the forest-surrounded Blossom Music Center Sept. 1-3. As a nod to our favorite alien encounter, the Cleveland Orchestra performs John Williams’ spectacular sounds, which were so moving that it compelled Spielberg to re-edit the last 15 minutes of his film. “In the last 15 minutes, you go from fast-action music to this lyrical, tender music and then a celebratory, majestic fanfare to cap off the movie,” says conductor Brett Mitchell. “He captures the emotion of every single scene.” When the movie and music end, live fireworks fill the sky to top off the immersive showing of this 35-year-old, bike-flying, moonlit masterpiece.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Audio: "Movie Night at Blossom with The Cleveland Orchestra"

Brett Mitchell joined Bill O'Connell on WCLV Classical 104.9 to discuss The Cleveland Orchestra's upcoming performances of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. These three performances over Labor Day Weekend mark both the close of the 2017 Blossom Music Festival and Mr. Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra. To listen to this interview, please click here.

Preview: "Cleveland Orchestra's 'E.T.' concerts at Blossom near and dear to outgoing conductor Brett Mitchell"

The Cleveland Orchestra and outgoing associate conductor Brett Mitchell will close the 2017 summer season this weekend at Blossom Music Center with three performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," live with the film. 

The Cleveland Orchestra and outgoing associate conductor Brett Mitchell will close the 2017 summer season this weekend at Blossom Music Center with three performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," live with the film. 

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:

One of his favorite movies. His favorite film composer. Some of the first orchestral music he ever heard. His last appearance in Cleveland as associate conductor.

For all these reasons and more, the Cleveland Orchestra's performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" live with the film this weekend at Blossom Music Center are meaningful to Brett Mitchell.

"There are so many reasons why this is absolutely perfect," said Mitchell by phone from Denver, where he already has begun work as the next music director of the Colorado Symphony. "I'm going to do my best not to become a complete, blubbering mess."

Start with the personal element.

Like many of his generation, Mitchell treasures "E.T." He said it's the first film he saw in the theater with his grandparents, at the tender age of 3.

Beyond that, it's dear to him as an iconic creation of John Williams, a composer the adult Mitchell has long championed, here and elsewhere.

"It almost feels like cheating because I know this movie so well," Mitchell said. "Most of the impactful films of my childhood were films by John Williams."

And those are just Mitchell's associations. Truth is, even if another conductor were on the docket, "E.T." would still be an inspired musical choice for Labor Day weekend.

First off, ye classical purists: "E.T." is fully worthy of the Cleveland Orchestra. Ask any musician and she'll tell you: film scores, especially those by John Williams, can be seriously challenging, every bit as demanding of talent and attention as traditional concert works.

Consider this example of the composer's genius in "E.T." That famous soaring theme, the accompaniment to the airborne bike ride? Part of the reason it's so stirring is that by the time it arrives, we've been waiting for it. We've heard bits of it, and there, for the first time, we encounter it in full.

"He doesn't just come right out and play the themes," Mitchell said. "That's what makes that payoff so extraordinary. It's just fantastic music. I don't think anybody can doubt its integrity."

Then there's the whole matter of audience outreach. As anyone who's attended an earlier film concert at Blossom or an event in the orchestra's "At the Movies" series, there's nothing more effective than film music for attracting new or infrequent listeners.

Imagine, then, the potential impact of "E.T." Between the film itself, one of the most widely beloved cinematic works of all time, and the conductor's abundant, obvious affection for it, a whole lot of people are in for a really big treat.

"It is not a mistake we're doing this," Mitchell said. "When you can get someone on the podium who loves this movie as much as I do, it's kind of a no-brainer."

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Feature: "Colorado Symphony’s new music director leads bold drive to grow audience"

The Denver Business Journal has published a feature on Brett Mitchell as he prepares to begin his first season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell is the new music director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell is the new music director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Denver’s new Colorado Symphony music director wants you to know he’s a regular guy.

Brett Mitchell, 38, is a sports fan. The Seattle native is eager to root for the Broncos (“unless they’re playing the Seahawks,” he whispers). He and his wife are foodies and hikers. He was excited about Jay-Z’s latest release. He programs concerts with a ear for what his nonmusical family members would like.

The maestro (“I’m just Brett”) is gregarious and optimistic, ready to do whatever needs doing to boost the symphony’s profile and cash flow. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Just a regular guy with a baton.

He served four seasons as associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, a title held by only four previous conductors in the Orchestra’s 100-year history. Here Mitchell succeeds Andrew Litton, who will continue to serve as Colorado Symphony’s principal guest conductor through this season.

The two-decades-younger Mitchell said some of the differences between the two won’t be immediately discernible, but, “I’m my own kind of leader.”

Beneath the regular-guy exterior is a fast-rising young star whose rapid ascent at the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra was followed by a whirlwind tryout and leap to Denver. Mitchell is also a sometime composer (with a degree in composing from Western Washington University). His wife, Angela Mitchell, is a public radio host/interviewer as well as a classically trained soprano.

Mitchell’s praise for the “fabulous” Colorado orchestra is abundant. He now faces the impossible job description: As music director, he must have artistic excellence combined with marketing and fundraising skills, a reverence for the classics as well as new, experimental works, and a knack forpleasing traditionalists as well as for drawing in younger, more diverse audiences....

“A big leap forward”

[Colorado Symphony CEO and board co-chair Jerry] Kern sees Mitchell’s arrival as “a big leap forward as opposed to inching along and trying to break even.” For the young conductor, “he understands it’s an enormous opportunity to begin to build a major reputation.”

“It takes years to figure out where a new music director is taking an orchestra,” Mitchell said. “The things you will notice right away are the programming... Look at kinds of repertoire I like to program, you’ll see more of that contemporary American voice.”

For his opening weekend, Sept. 15, he has paired Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (“who doesn’t like a Beethoven 5?”) with works by two American composers in their early 40s: Kevin Puts (Millennium Canons) and electronica soloist Mason Bates (The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra).

Mitchell rapturously explains his thinking: the Puts Millennium Canons represents “a triumphant opening to my tenure, and, more important, a perfect analog to the finale of Beethoven 5… it’s all about the rhythmic drive.

“And then, whose music is more about rhythm than anybody? Mason Bates. He lives a double life, composer by day, DJ in San Francisco by night. On The B-Sides, five little pieces for orchestra that incorporate electronica, Mason will do all of that stuff live. Then listen to the rhythmic drive of Beethoven 5 on the second half … what makes Beethoven 5 fly? By the finale, it’s so rhythmically driving, that glorious C major finale is nothing but celebratory. And now you’ve come up with AN EVENING!”

In other words, he said, “My goal is to give the audience reason to come to the concert. Because, I’ve got Spotify like everybody else. I could listen in my living room with my glass of wine, with my wife, and not put pants on…”

It’s all about the experience....

Mitchell finds it remarkable that the Cleveland Orchestra has sustained its status as one of the elite ensembles in world even as the population of Cleveland has declined. “That’s one hell of a testament. In Denver, there is so much growth, as our Realtor keeps telling us— every time I hear that I think we gotta buy a house— but lots of people are coming here. Part of my job is to capitalize on that.”

The couple is living a few steps from the concert hall for now. Mitchell’s four-year contract requires him to live here at least half the year.

While some music directors balk at the idea of chatting up potential sponsors over cocktails, Mitchell is all in.

“As music director,” Mitchell said, “I am the face of the organization and I understand that.” It’s a more immersive role than the European orchestra’s designation of principal conductor. “The whole reason we have to raise money is because of my crazy ideas.”

Just a regular guy with a baton and some crazy ideas.

To read the complete article, please click here (subscription required).

Preview: "Movie and music fun at Blossom with ‘E.T.’ and the Cleveland Orchestra"

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a live performance of the soundtrack while Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial shows on big screens at Blossom Music Center.

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a live performance of the soundtrack while Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial shows on big screens at Blossom Music Center.

The Akron Beacon Journal has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:

When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial beamed across America’s movie screens in 1982, the story of a young boy’s friendship with a squashy little alien was a hit with audiences of all ages, but it especially resonated with children.

Brett Mitchell was one of them.

“The first and only movie I ever saw in a theater with my grandparents was E.T. when I was 3 years old,” Mitchell said. “It’s so moving. It’s still one of my favorite movies of all time.”

Steven Spielberg’s masterful film and John Williams’ searing score are timeless crowd-pleasers. Next weekend, when the Cleveland Orchestra performs live while E.T. is screened during three movie nights at Blossom Music Center, the music will be in reverential hands. Mitchell is conducting.

“This score has been a part of me for 35 years now,” he said. “It is unbelievably perfect in terms of matching the kind of tone Steven was trying to capture with the film.”

Mitchell was speaking on the phone from Denver where he is preparing to take over as music director of the Colorado Symphony. After a four-year stint in Cleveland, the orchestra’s associate conductor will start his new job after the Blossom season wraps up Labor Day weekend. “I’m going to try really hard to keep it together, especially on the last night. You know, E.T. and Elliott say goodbye, and I’m saying goodbye at the end of the film.”

He and the orchestra will rehearse E.T. twice on Thursday at Severance Hall, then head to Blossom Friday afternoon for a dress rehearsal.

“There is an element of danger when you’re doing a movie score live. You only get one shot at getting it right,” said Mitchell. “But every performer I know loves that part of it. That’s the joy of live performance.”

Part of that joy is also channeling Williams. “His score for E.T. came at a kind of prime time of his career,” said Mitchell. “He had Jaws in 1975, Star Wars and Close Encounters in 1977, Superman in ’78, The Empire Strikes Back, which was a fantastic score, in ’80, Raiders of the Lost Ark in ’81, then E.T. He was just churning out brilliant score after brilliant score.”

Mitchell’s movie-accompaniment repertoire with the orchestra also included Psycho, Vertigo, Fantasia, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. He and the orchestra closed out the Blossom season last year with two movie nights for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It proved so popular that the orchestra created three nights for E.T., Friday through Sunday, with each program starting at 8:30 p.m., and the movie followed by fireworks.

To read the complete article, please click here.