Classical 91.5

Arts Features

Every day there are exciting things going on in Rochester's cultural arts community.  Classical 91.5 hosts collaborate with and create highlights of various arts organizations, musicians and artists in and around our community. 

One year ago, the giant fantasy undersea visions of Plasticiens Volants’ French inflatables bobbed and weaved in the crisp fall air over the heads of thousands of people on Rochester’s Parcel 5. London’s Massaoke karaoke singalong of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” echoed off the sides of downtown buildings. 

The world has reached the point where, after a tough day at work, you can’t pull up a barstool and unwind with an expertly made Negroni cocktail without feeling like it’s an act that puts your friends and family in danger.

Not since the coronavirus pandemic, “when the world changed,” Chuck Cerankosky says.

“But we’re all still here. The bars are still here, we’re struggling to survive. We’re trying to navigate through this forest of precautions and guidelines and morality.”

Avenue Blackbox Theatre receives Alicia Keys' piano for its music program

Sep 3, 2020

A piano previously owned, played, and signed by Grammy-winning musician Alicia Keys is making its way to its new home at The Avenue Blackbox Theatre on Joseph Avenue.

Fellow musician and Rochester native Andy Nahas successfully bid on the cerulean blue Boston 126E upright piano, designed by Steinway & Sons, at an auction to benefit the charity MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, which received $35,000 in the sale, to go toward lessening the pandemic’s financial toll on individuals in the music industry.

Four songs and two arias, all by Mozart. That was all that Eastman School of Music graduate and current Finger Lakes Opera Young Artist Robin Steitz found herself singing during the first two months of the pandemic.

"It was kind of cool," she says. "For the first time since I started singing, I wasn't being compelled by some pressing performance coming up. There was nothing outside of myself telling me what I needed to focus on, so I would just obsess over one Mozart song for a week."

Fellow FLO Young Artist Jongwon Choi nearly stopped singing altogether when everything shut down. His opera auditions in Germany were canceled, and opportunity seemed scarce outside of his regular church job. His wedding in Korea was also postponed. "I was very depressed during this virus time," he admits.

Steitz is an itinerant opera singer who recently found refuge in the Berkshires; Choi has been studying at The Mannes School of Music in New York.

For their current venture, though, it doesn't matter where they are physically. Through the summer, they have both been working remotely as two of the 11 participants in Finger Lakes Opera's Tomita Young Artists Program. For both of these young singers, FLO has challenged them musically and inspired them to learn new skills, in order to adapt to the new, technologically mediated opera performances such as those in the "Summer Scenes" virtual concert.


The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra confirmed Tuesday that it is postponing or canceling all of its September, October and November traditional programming. In place of the performances: Five livestreamed concerts, without an audience, from Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

The affected shows include all philharmonic, Pops, Sunday Matinee and orKIDStra Series performances, as well as a series of specials that are being rescheduled for next summer. Events scheduled for December and beyond remain in place while the RPO awaits further word from the state.

Sheridan Paige Photography

Violinist Epongue Ekille from Rochester is one of the people calling for a greater recognition of Black musicians’ contributions to classical music. She shares her experiences and some listening recommendations.

Rochester Fringe reiterated its call for entries Tuesday with a specific emphasis on submissions by artists of color.

The festival opened its submission process in June, and regularly repeats its calls for entries. But the latest invitation was notable for its appeal for artists of color.

Earlier this month, people around the world sat down to watch "Hamilton" -- the Broadway musical phenomenon written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the titular founding father.

And they did so from their own homes, giving everyone with a Disney+ subscription access to a show they might not have seen otherwise.

Imagine if art was this accessible all the time.

“It’s not hard to do,” says Gregg Beratan, director of development for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester. “We have decades of research of making venues more accessible.”

It’s been 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, mandating public spaces be accessible to all. But it’s still an ongoing battle.

Alexander Lloyd Blake

American conductor Alexander Lloyd Blake has launched an effort to encourage musicians to sign a pledge of anti-racisim in choral practice.

Blake is the Founding Artistic Director of Tonality, Director of Classical Choirs at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and Principal Associate Conductor at the National Children's Chorus.  He also offers consulting work for organizations wanting to increase equity and diversity in the arts.

(Photo Bettina Stoss)

Gregory Kunde is supposed to be singing in Europe.  

The internationally-acclaimed tenor had just finished a run as Jean de Leyde in Giacomo Meyerbeer's grand opera Le Prophète at the Deutsche Oper Berlin when the pandemic hit.

Now he finds himself at home in Rochester with time to clean the garage and croon his favorite Frank Sinatra standards.

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