Conductor Scott Parkman Offers His Expertise on the Music of Saint-Gaudens' New England


American Composers in the time of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) 
Guest blog post by Conductor Scott Parkman

During the 19th century, while artists like Saint-Gaudens, Samuel Morse, James Cooper, Samuel Chase and many others were seeking inspiration, education, and adventure in Paris, American composers, too, were seeking these types of connections to music’s European mecca: Germany, particularly Leipzig and Berlin.

One of the mid-19th century American composers most drawn to Germany was John Knowles Paine. As a composer Paine does not appear on this program, but he had incredible influence over the direction that 19th century American music would take. Born in Portland, Maine, early on Paine went to Berlin to study composition and organ. After touring Germany as an organist, he returned to Boston, where, after some effort, he convinced Harvard University to begin the country’s first Department of Music, which it established in 1862.  Establishing a Department of Music at Harvard was no easy task as music was thought to be a non-academic topic. Paine was constantly under attack from the other faculty, most famously by the celebrated historian Francis Parkman, who, for years when Harvard was in a budget pinch was always ready with a motion to abolish the music department and appropriate its funding. Parkman is said to have ended every meeting over this topic with the words “musica delenda est” [music destroyed].

By establishing a music department at Harvard it was possible to train students in the foundations of European musical counterpoint, orchestration, repertoire, and composition. Through his efforts there, Paine helped establish a “Boston School” of composers that were amongst the nations first cohesive, recognized, and most importantly, performed.

Among these was Arthur Foote (1853-1937), whose Fugue from his Suite for Strings in E Minor will conclude the program. Foote was a respected and admired musical figure in the City of Boston. He had several orchestral works performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and regularly appeared in recitals as a pianist – solo and chamber music – in places such as Isabella Stewart Gardner’s grand Venetian palazzo in Boston’s Fenway Park area. Foote has the distinction of earning the United States’ first Master of Arts in Music degree, granted by Harvard University in 1874.

Another composer on our program who comes from this Boston School is Amy Beach (1867-1944). Her story is truly unique. She was not in the Paine-Harvard class, for Harvard’s women’s “annex” didn’t open until 1879, with the official Commonwealth charter for Radcliffe College coming in 1894. Thus, as a composer, she was largely self-taught. However, from all accounts, Beach (née Cheney) was a musical prodigy, displaying gifts of memory, perfect-pitch, and precocious piano technique very early on. Her debut performance came with the Boston Symphony when she was 20 years old, playing Chopin’s Concerto in F Minor.

In 1885, she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, 10 years her senior and would go on to sign her scores, Mrs. H.H.A Beach. Dr. Beach requested that Amy curtail her performing career to remain home and focus her attention on composition. Beach’s national reputation eventually grew as she wrote a Mass in Eb, a large-scale symphony (“Gaelic”, which Symphony New Hampshire performed last fall), and a piano concerto.

When her husband died in 1910, Beach returned to her international performing career. She triumphed with her Symphony and Piano Concerto in the hallowed halls of Leipzig and Berlin. With the outbreak of WWI she had to return home to Boston, and continued to compose and concertize. The work on our program, Amy Beach’s Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 150, is a late work, combining her virtuosic piano technique, melodic lines drawn from her earlier art songs, and earlier settings of native Inuit songs.

Arthur Foote and Amy Beach were in a group of composers that included Paine, Edward MacDowell (New Hampshire’s MacDowell Colony founder), George Chadwick (long time director of the New England Conservatory) and several others, all more or less making their contributions from a shared home base of Boston.

Cut from a very different cloth to the Boston Group was Charles Griffes (1884-1920). His Poem for Flute and Piano will begin our program.

Griffes was born in Elmira, NY and the lure to Berlin also had him doing his formal studies there at the Stern Conservatory. After conservatory, however, Griffes charted a singular path. He took a position as director of music at the Hackley School for Boys in Tarrytown, NY, composing in his (limited) spare time. Griffes quickly drifted away from German romanticism toward the Impressionistic influences of Debussy, and then on even further into the world of the Orient with a work like The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla-Khan(1915).

In 1919, at the age of 35, Griffes had achieved the beginning of artistic success: a concert dedicated to his music by the Modern Music Society, the premiere of his Poem with the eminent Flutist Georges Barrère and the New York Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Monteux conducted the orchestral premiere of The Pleasure-Dome with the Boston Symphony, repeated it in Carnegie Hall, and in late December, Stokowski and Philadelphia Orchestra premiered Nocturne for OrchestraThe White PeacockClouds, and Bacchanale.

Sadly, Griffes died in April of the next year – a tragic casualty of the 1918-20 Flu Epidemic. With him passes way a possible direction of America’s Art music in the early 20th century.

Certainly, the most iconoclastic composer on our program is Charles Ives (1874-1954). He is also the one with the most obvious artistic connection to Saint-Gaudens; Ives drew inspiration and titled the first movement of his Three Places in New England, “St. Gaudens” in Boston Common (Col. Shaw and his Colored Regiment).

Charles Ives was an American individualist par excellence. Born in Danbury Connecticut, he studied with his father, who was a trained musician and bandmaster during the Civil War. He went to Yale to study with Horatio Parker, who like Paine at Harvard, tried to instill the techniques and foundations of European Art Music. Ives could only take so much of that approach, and quickly veered off into an artistic space truly his own.

Because being a professional composer was not really a financial option for most people in late 19th/early 20th century America, Ives – the pragmatist – moved to New York City and went into the Insurance business. For years he would sell insurance by day, and compose at night. Ives was inspired by the American transcendentalists, and wrote a piano sonata titled Concord Sonata, with the movements titled, “Emerson”, “Hawthorne”, “The Alcotts”, and “Thoreau”.

Our program features the final movement from Ives’ first string quartet, subtitled “From the Salvation Army”. This work was begun while Ives was a student of Parker at Yale, and Ives does manage to follow some of the rules of composition. But strict European counterpoint was not his penchant, and he does introduce polymeter (one group plays in ¾ and another plays in 4/4 simultaneously), which, I’m sure was not met with approval. Further uniquely to Ives, much of the source material for the work comes from American revival and hymn traditions.

As the late 19th century transitioned into the early 20th, America as a nation was just starting to find its global footing. So too was America’s Art Music, as it was trying to come to terms with what an American music might mean and sound like. Certainly, the composers of this time were consciously looking over their shoulders to glean judgment from Europe as to its worth.

Amy Beach and Arthur Foote lived long lives (he to 84, she to 77). They and their cohort were right in the thick of it. Big orchestras were being created, chamber music societies were presenting the latest and greatest works and performers, and operas and songs were appearing on American themes derived from shared American experiences.

On March 4, 1937, for the occasion of Foote’s 84th birthday, Amy Beach sent him a wire:

“You and I have seen many extraordinary changes (I won’t say “developments” a word that fits Wagner, for instance, but hardly Hindemith e.g.) while I remember so well the evening you first played with the orchestra in the old Music Hall. Those were good days indeed — in fact the time from 1880-1900 was a golden time.”

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Meet Symphony NH’s New Violinists Ryo Usami and Janny Joo

Symphony NH is pleased to welcome Ryo Usami and Janny Joo to the orchestra. These exceptional musicians will join the violin section of the orchestra starting in the 2017-18 season.

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Ryo Usami joins Symphony NH as the new Principal Second Violin and is looking forward to working alongside talented musicians to bring his “passion and emotion” (Art and Review Quarterly) to SNH.  

At the age of eight, Mr. Usami began studying violin and has continued throughout his life.  He attended the Peabody Conservatory where he received his Bachelors of Music degree under the instruction of Violaine Melancon, a founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Peabody Trio. Currently, Mr. Usami is pursuing his Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory under the instruction of Ayano Ninomiya, who has won numerous awards such as the Tibor Varga International Competition, Astral Artists Nation Auditions, Young Performers Career Advancement, and the Lili Boulanger awards.

Mr. Usami is a devoted chamber musician, having performed at Weill Recital Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Symphony Space, and Walters Art Museum.  He has performed as concertmaster and leader under the baton of many conductors including Marin Alsop, Leon Fleisher, and Leonard Slatkin. Currently he performs with the Atlantic (MA), Charleston (SC), and Harrisburg (PA) Symphonies and is thrilled to join Symphony NH and work with terrific musicians.


New section violinist Janny Joo is passionate about educating and coaching the next generation of musicians.  She teaches violin and theory classes at Boston University where she is pursuing her Doctorate degree in Violin Performance. Ms. Joo received her Master of Music degree from Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with minors in Math and History.

A multifaceted musician who is equally at home in chamber, orchestra, and solo recital settings, Ms. Joo has studied with members of the Chiara, Muir, and St. Lawrence String Quartet and also performed with artists such as Desmond Hoebig, who held chair as Principal Cellist with the Cleveland, Houston, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras, and Rhonda Rider, whose chamber music and solo recordings have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

In addition to her involvement at Boston University, Ms. Joo serves as a fellow for the Music for Food organization, a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief, because she “[believes] that an artist is also a citizen who has a duty to further social justice.” The organization performs and promotes their mission around the Boston area.  The work she does in the Boston community falls suit to Symphony NH’s mission to inspire and enlighten through exceptional live music.

Serving as the concertmaster of Symphony Nova, Ms. Joo also plays professionally with the Phoenix and Boston Philharmonics and the Boston Ballet. In her free time, she enjoys ballroom dancing, horseback riding, traveling, and photography.

Symphony NH is proud to welcome Mr. Usami and Ms. Joo to our orchestra.  Hear them perform with Symhony NH during the 2017-18 season.  To learn more about upcoming Symphony NH concerts visit, sign up for our email list on the homepage, or call (603) 595-9156.

Teaching Music in the Middle East - Marc Thayer

Performing Baroque in a Church from 1115: Teaching in the Middle East - Marc Thayer

It’s exhausting work and never in ideal circumstances, but the students are the most grateful that I’ve worked with anywhere in the world.  They value the opportunity to make music and find any way they can to learn more about their instruments, perform with other people and have a chance to make their lives richer through these experiences.


Free Concert, Meet the Maestro, and More: Symphony NH's 2016-17 Season Kick-Off Events

For Immediate ReleaseDate: 8/31/2016 Contact: Audrey Alessi (603) 595-9156

Free Concert, Meet the Maestro, and More: Symphony NH’s 2016-17 Season Kick-Off Events

NASHUA, NH – Symphony NH announces its 2016-17 Season Kick-Off Events, including a free concert, opportunities to meet Music Director Jonathan McPhee and new Executive Director Marc Thayer, and an opening night reception with the internationally renowned vocal soloists performing in The Essential RING – Part II.

The Season Kick-Off Events begin on Thursday, September 15th at 6 pm with the Symphony NH Town Hall Meeting, an open discussion of the Symphony NH’s upcoming season and new plans for the future with Music Director Jonathan McPhee and Executive Director Marc Thayer.  The discussion will be followed by a reception and Symphony NH wind quintet concert.  The Symphony NH Town Hall Meeting will take place in Nashua’s historic Hunt Memorial Building thanks to the generous support of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.  Seats are limited, so RSVP is required for this event.  Reserve your seat by calling (603) 595-9156 or by vising

The series continues at the Nashua Public Library on Thursday, September 29th at 5:30 pm with a Library Talk led by Jonathan McPhee and Symphony NH Bassist Robert Hoffman.  Join McPhee and Hoffman for a discussion of McPhee’s The Essential RING – Part II, to be premiered in Nashua on October 2nd.  McPhee says, “We’re kicking off the season with the second part of an exploration of the highlights of Wagner’s amazing masterpiece The Ring Cycle.  Part one in April saw the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve ever seen at a Symphony NH concert, and everyone, including myself, is eagerly awaiting the premiere of part two in October.”

On October 2nd at 3 pm the series concludes with Symphony NH’s opening night at the Keefe Center for the Arts: The Essential RING – Part II.  Performing some of Wagner’s most magnificent music are an array of soloists including soprano Margaret Jane Wray, a frequent at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and bass-baritone Alfred Walker, who performs with the Seattle Opera and Komische Opera Berlin.  Join the soloists after the premiere for the Opening Night Reception at the Hunt Memorial Building; tickets are $25 and available online.

More information and tickets can be found at or by calling (603) 595-9156.

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Symphony NH Hires New Executive Director

For Immediate ReleaseDate: 6/6/2016 Contact: Audrey Alessi (603) 595-9156

Symphony NH Hires New Executive Director

Nashua, NH - The Symphony NH Board of Trustees led by President Dr. Robert Oot is pleased to announce the selection of Marc Thayer as the new Executive Director of Symphony NH.  Mr. Thayer is currently the Deputy Director of the Association of American Voices.  A search committee of individuals from the Symphony NH Board and Orchestra, assisted by Polly Kahn of PK Orchestra Solutions of New York City, conducted an extensive national search of industry professionals.

Board President Dr. Robert Oot gave the following statement upon Thayer accepting the position: “We at Symphony NH are delighted that Marc will be joining our organization.  His vast experience in the music world is an excellent match for Symphony NH, and we are very excited that he will be leading us as we continue to grow and perform across the state of New Hampshire.  I am confident that he will be successful as our Executive Director and am looking forward to his arrival next month.”

Symphony NH, New Hampshire’s leading professional orchestra, is committed to performing high quality classical music across the Granite State and concluded its 2015-16 season with Jonathan McPhee’s adaptation The Essential RING – Part I.  Part II of what The Boston Globe described as “intensely dramatic” and “outstanding Wagner” will be Symphony NH’s 2016-17 opening concert in Nashua on October 2nd.

Upon notification of his selection, Mr. Thayer made the following statement: “I’m excited and honored to join the Symphony NH family with Music Director Jonathan McPhee, whose vision has turned this organization into the premiere professional orchestra in New Hampshire.  The orchestra’s proud past and terrific potential promise a future of exciting growth, meaningful collaborations, and community connections throughout the region.”

Thayer worked with American Voices since 2011, where he managed cultural programs for the US Department of State and coordinated performing arts and education programs in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.  Previously he was Vice President for Education and Community Partnerships with the St. Louis Symphony and the Founder and Manager of Community Engagement for the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida.  Marc has been on faculty at Washington University, St. Louis University, and the Community Music School of Webster University.  Thayer holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Eastman School of Music.  Mr. Thayer will begin his role as Executive Director with Symphony NH on July 1st.

Symphony NH will be holding a public event for members of the community, press, and government wishing to learn more about Mr. Thayer’s goals for the future of Symphony NH and its work in the community.  This event will be scheduled for early fall; for more information call (603) 595-9156 or visit

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Symphony NH Announces 2016-17 Season

For Immediate ReleaseDate: 5/26/2016 Contact: Audrey Alessi (603) 595-9156

Symphony NH Announces 2016-17 Season

NASHUA, NH – Symphony NH announces its 2016-17 season, featuring world-class soloists, two New Hampshire premieres, and additional concerts across the Granite State.  Maestro Jonathan McPhee leads the orchestra into its 94th season with The Essential RING – Part II in Nashua on Sunday October 2nd.   Praised as “outstanding Wagner” by The Boston Globe, this monumental adaptation brings the stellar soloists, the combined forces of Symphony NH and the Lexington Symphony, and the epic story of Wagner’s Ring Cycle to New Hampshire audiences.  McPhee recalls the finale of Symphony NH’s previous season with the Essential RING – Part I: “The singers were amazing, the orchestra was fabulous.  Part I brought the most enthusiastic audience I’ve ever seen to a Symphony NH concert.”

In November Irina Muresanu returns to Symphony NH as violin soloist and conductor, leading and inspiring the orchestra’s string musicians in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and other iconic stringed instrument repertoire.  Audiences across the state can enjoy this concert in Nashua, Concord, and Lebanon.

Now a Nashua tradition, Symphony NH will be performing the beloved Holiday Pops twice with an additional concert in Concord.  McPhee says, “Holiday Pops is always a meaningful time for our community as we celebrate some of the great music of the holiday season.  Now we get to share this time with an even larger community across the state.”

The season continues in January 2017 with the return of pianist Max Levinson performing Beethoven’s transformative Piano Concerto No. 4 on a concert with Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Schoenberg’s darkly romantic Verklärte Nacht.  Another Symphony NH favorite, cellist Sergey Antonov, returns in March to perform Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Variations on a Rococo Theme alongside Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and the New Hampshire Premiere of Theofanidis’ Dreamtime Ancestors.

The 2016-17 season concludes with Symphony NH’s own Cheryl Bishkoff, principal oboe, performing Martinů’s Concerto for Oboe, which McPhee calls, “one of my favorites”, on a program with Smetana’s beloved work The Moldau and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7.  This final concert featuring the works of Czech composers and their musical heritage will be performed in Nashua, Concord, and Lebanon.

Symphony NH continues to expand across the state and bring exceptional music to new audiences.  Tickets and subscriptions go on sale June 1st.  For more information visit or call (603) 595-9156.

Download this release: Symphony NH Announces 2016-17 Season