GEORGE MATHEW, Conductor
Singaporean-born Indian conductor, George Mathew, founder and Artistic Director of MUSIC FOR LIFE INTERNATIONAL and UBUNTU-SHRUTI Orchestra, has emerged as one of the leading forces in the classical music world bringing symphonic music to focus on global humanitarian issues and crises at the beginning of the 21st Century. In recent seasons, he has made appearances in the US, India, Panama, Morocco, and South Africa as conductor and ambassador for transformative action through music.
The SCHEHERAZADE INITIATIVE is Mr. Mathew’s sixth global humanitarian concert at Carnegie Hall since 2006, when he made his Carnegie Hall debut as Artistic Director and Conductor of BEETHOVEN’S NINTH FOR SOUTH ASIA. He also appeared at Carnegie, leading the REQUIEM FOR DARFUR in 2007 and MAHLER FOR THE CHILDREN OF AIDS in 2009. Mr. Mathew returned to Carnegie Hall in January 2011, as Artistic Director and Conductor of BEETHOVEN FOR THE INDUS VALLEY, and in January 2013 for SHOSTAKOVICH FOR THE CHILDREN OF SYRIA.
The concerts brought together global leaders from the musical, philanthropic, business, academic, governmental and diplomatic communities and distinguished musicians from major international orchestras and other ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and other orchestras as well as artists from the Emerson, Mendelssohn, American, Guarneri String Quartets, the Metropolitan Opera and many others.
George Mathew and these humanitarian concerts have been profiled by the global media, including BBC WORLD TV and Radio, CNN International, ZEE TV, Public Radio International, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, New York magazine, the US State Department, Radio France, Voice of America, NY1 television, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Morning Edition, the Indian Express, The Hindu, the Pakistan Daily Times, DNA India, Musical America and Symphony magazine.
Mr. Mathew is a thought leader and has spoken on music and social impact around the world at such venues as the TEDx and INK conferences, UNDP, UN Women India, UNICEF Panama, and has given the S.T. Lee Distinguished Lecture on Social Justice and Public Policy at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg. From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Mathew served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the historic New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He appears as narrator and commentator in “Following The Ninth” an exciting new documentary film on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Mr. Mathew is a graduate of Amherst College, the University of Minnesota and the Manhattan School of Music.
He made his Central American debut in June 2010 at the Music Festival of Panama in Panama City and was re-engaged for the 2013 Festival. In May 2011, he made his African debut with the Johannesburg Philharmonic. Mr. Mathew made his conducting debut at the United Nations in October 2007. He made his Brooklyn Philharmonic conducting debut in June 2007 at the South Street Seaport, New York and served as assistant conductor with the Brooklyn Philharmonic for two seasons.
From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Mathew served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. This historic concert, held annually in the largest Cathedral in North America, was founded in 1985 by Leonard Bernstein. His first Concert for Peace there, held on December 31, 2010, was titled “MASS IN TIME OF A DRONE WAR” and featured Josef Haydn’s Mass in Time of War as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim music. These concerts marked the first public appearances of the new orchestra UBUNTU-SHRUTI. Their second New Year’s Eve Concert on December 31, 2011 featured Michael Tippett’s “A CHILD OF OUR TIME” with the Dessoff Choirs and UBUNTU-SHRUTI.
ELMIRA DARVAROVA, Concertmaster
Elmira Darvarova, former Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (and the first woman-concertmaster in the MET’s history), started playing the violin at the age of three, gave her first recital at four, and made her debut as a soloist with an orchestra when she was eight years old. A prizewinner of several international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, she studied with Yfrah Neaman, Henryk Szeryng and Josef Gingold.
Performing with legendary cellist Janos Starker was a pivotal moment in her career, as Starker propelled and facilitated her escape from her then communist country, as well as her relocation to the United States where she has resided since 1986. She caused a sensation, becoming the first ever woman-concertmaster in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, toured Europe, Japan and the United States with the MET Orchestra, and was heard on the MET’s live weekly international radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, CDs and laser discs on the Sony, Deutsche Grammophon and EMI labels. As concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, she has performed with many of the most prominent conductors of all time, including the legendary Carlos Kleiber.
Appearing in concert halls and at festivals on four continents, she has been concerto soloist with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, and numerous other orchestras. She has also appeared with the MET Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall under James Levine. She gives master classes worldwide, and has collaborated in chamber music performances and recordings with such eminent musicians as James Levine, Janos Starker, Gary Karr and Pascal Rogé. A documentary film about her life and career was shown on European TV. She has recorded numerous CDs for several labels (Naxos, Melodiya, Azur Classical, Delphinium Records, Urlicht AudioVisual), including the world premiere recording of Vernon Duke’s violin concerto (written for Heifetz 75 years ago) with the Vienna Radio Orchestra, two discs with the great double bassist Gary Karr, an all-Poulenc disc with the distinguished French pianist Pascal Rogé, and a 2013 release of the Brahms Horn Trio with the principal horn of the New York Philharmonic, Philip Myers.
For her Piazzolla recordings with the late tango maestro Octavio Brunetti, she was recently nominated for Latin Grammy. Her most recent disc, “Soul Strings,” is a splendid “East Meets West” collaboration with the superstars of the Sarod – Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan, in compositions by Amjad Ali Khan, based on traditional Indian ragas.
Ms. Darvarova is the founder and leader of the New York Piano Quartet, performs with the Delphinium Trio, the Amram Ensemble, Quinteto del fuego, and in a duo with world-renowned pianist Fernando Otero. She is artistic director of the New York Chamber Music Festival. The STRAD Magazine has praised her “silky-smooth, voluptuous sound” and wrote of her “intoxicating tonal beauty and beguilingly sensuous phrasing,” while Gramophone Magazine hailed her “ultra-impassioned, vividly detailed performances.”
ROBERT LANGEVIN, Flute
With the start of the 2000–01 season, Robert Langevin joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Flute, in The Lila Acheson Wallace Chair. In May 2001, he made his solo debut with the Orchestra in the North American premiere of Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute and Harp with Philharmonic Principal Harp Nancy Allen and Music Director Kurt Masur. His October 2012 solo performance in Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert, was recorded for inclusion in The Nielsen Project, the Orchestra’s multi-season traversal of all of the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, released by Dacapo Records.
Prior to the Philharmonic, Mr. Langevin held the Jackman Pfouts Principal Flute Chair of the Pittsburgh Symphony and was an adjunct professor at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. Mr. Langevin served as associate principal of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for 13 years, playing on more than 30 recordings. As a member of Musica Camerata Montreal and l’Ensemble de la Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, he premiered many works, including the Canadian premiere of Pierre Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maître. In addition, Mr. Langevin has performed as soloist with Quebec’s most distinguished ensembles and has recorded many recitals and chamber music programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also served on the faculty of the University of Montreal for nine years.
Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Robert Langevin began studying flute at age 12 and joined the local orchestra three years later. While studying with Jean-Paul Major at the Montreal Conservatory of Music, he started working in recording studios, where he accompanied a variety of artists of different styles. He graduated in 1976 with two first prizes, one in flute, the other, in chamber music. Not long after, he won the prestigious Prix d’Europe, a national competition open to all instruments with a first prize of a two-year scholarship to study in Europe. This enabled him to work with Aurèle Nicolet at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, where he graduated in 1979. He then went on to study with Maxence Larrieu, in Geneva, winning second prize at the Budapest International Competition in 1980.
Mr. Langevin is a member of the Philharmonic Quintet of New York with which he has performed concerts on many continents. In addition, he has given recitals and master classes throughout the United States and in countries such as Canada, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. He is currently on the faculties of The Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, and the Orford International Summer Festival.
SUSANNE MENTZER, Mezzo-soprano
American mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer has a highly respected operatic, concert, & chamber music of over 30 years. Known for her interpretation of Mozart, Mahler, Strauss and Berlioz, she has appeared on four continents at nearly every great opera house and orchestra, notably as a guest artist at the Metropolitan Opera since 1989 – most recently in Le Nozze di Figaro in the fall of 2014. She returns to the Met in February and March of 2016.
Her discography includes over 25 CDs and DVDs. She “Kickstarted” and produced “Letter to the World” – songs by American opera composer Carlisle Floyd on GPR Records. She is heard on Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Gordon Getty’s Plump Jack, and numerous recordings of operas by Mozart and Rossini and more. Her DVDs include of Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Opéra de Paris), Don Giovanni (La Scala), the Grammy nominated The First Emperor (Metropolitan Opera), and
Ariadne auf Naxos (Metropolitan Opera). Susanne has also appeared on numerous PBS telecasts and in the Met’s HD Cinema broadcasts.
As a writer, she contributes regularly to the Huffington Post. This lead to her receiving the 2013 VERA Award (Voice Education Research Awareness) from The Voice Foundation. In October 2014 she wrote of her own experience with domestic violence, something she had kept hidden for 34 years. She previously appeared with Music for Life International at Carnegie Hall in Mahler’s Third Symphony.
Additionally, Susanne was awarded the Brother Thelen award by the Alexian Brothers for her 11 years of fundraising for Bonaventure House, a residence for homeless people with HIV/AIDS in Chicago.
A mentor to young singers, she serves on the boards of The Sullivan Foundation and The George London Foundation. Susanne resides in California where she teaches privately in the San Francisco area. She previously taught for twelve years in academia at DePaul University and Rice University. Read more about Susanne at susannementzer.com
SARAH KAY, Spoken Word Poet
Sarah Kay is an artist, performer, and educator. Born and raised in New York City, Kay began writing and performing spoken word poetry when she was fourteen years old. Even though she was often the youngest poet by a decade, Kay made herself at home at the Bowery Poetry Club, one of New York’s most famous spoken word venues. Due in part to her education at the United Nations International School in New York City, social issues and global perspectives framed Kay’s trajectory and focus from the start. In 2004, Kay founded Project VOICE to encourage creative self-expression through spoken word poetry. She was invited to perform at the United Nations, where she was the featured poet for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report.
In 2006, Kay joined the Bowery Poetry Club’s poetry slam team, NYC Urbana, and competed in the 2006 National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas. That year, she was the youngest poet competing at the National Competition. Also in 2006, Kay was featured on the television series Russell Simmons presents HBO Def Poetry Jam. Kay graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Culture and Media in 2010, and in 2012 she earned a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from the Brown University Graduate School. Kay is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Grinnell College.
In 2011, Kay was invited to deliver a talk on The Rediscovery of Wonder at the TED Conference in Long Beach, CA, which garnered two standing ovations and has been seen over seven million times online. She also presented at TEDxEast and TEDWomen. Since then, she has been invited to perform and speak in Canada, the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Australia, Nepal, India, Ghana, the British Virgin Islands, and the United Arab Emirates.
Kay is a passionate educator and co-director of Project VOICE, which is dedicated to using spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire students and teachers in schools and communities worldwide. She has been invited to give keynote addresses and teach professional development workshops on the benefits of bringing spoken word poetry into the classroom and the changing landscape of creativity education for organizations like the National Association of Independent Schools in the US, the European Council of International Schools, the Association of International Schools in Africa and the International Baccalaureate Organization, among many others.
Kay is also a published author, whose work can be found in literary publications such as The Huffington Post, The Writer Magazine, Treehouse Magazine, The Bakery Literary Journal, The Legendary, Thrush Poetry Journal, Foundling Review, Damselfly Press, CURA, decomP, The Literary Bohemian, Union Station Magazine, in addition to assorted anthologies and collections. Her first book, “B” was ranked #1 Bestselling Poetry Book on Amazon. Her second book, “No Matter the Wreckage,” published by Write Bloody Publishing in 2014, was a GoodReads finalist for “Best Poetry Book of 2014”.
The piece that Kay will be performing at the Scheherazade Initiative concert is called The Type and it is inspired by a line from poet Richard Siken: “Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.” (From Detail of the Woods.) Kay’s poem is forthcoming as a single-poem volume from Hachette Books in February 2016. For more information on Sarah Kay, see www.kaysarahsera.com