Taking Time with…Bassist Joseph Conyers

For our final “Taking Time” email showcasing the visiting performers of our 2012 season, we introduce double bass player Joseph Conyers, a passionate and devoted co-founder of the non-profit Project 440, which is designed to encourage, educate, and empower communities through the unifying power of music. Outreach and education are very important to the Festival, and much like our co-Founders, Raphael Bell and Timothy Summers, Joseph Conyers is occupied not only with a busy performance schedule, but also by running an organization that engages the community and strives to keep classical music relevant.

In 2010, Joseph Conyers was featured in a Mutual of Omaha commercial, talking about his “aha moment” that led to the creation of Project 440. Out of 1000 submissions, Conyers and his non-profit made it to the top 10 “aha moments” that would eventually be aired on television. In the commercial, he explains the inspiration behind Project 440, which he received at a very young age while riding in the car with his family:

“…we were driving through a poor section of Georgia. On a porch we saw some kids, and my mom made the comment that, amongst those kids could be a genius: could be an Einstein, could be a Yo-Yo Ma…. So as I grew older, what I wanted to do was use my talents and my opportunities to give back to communities where kids may not have those opportunities so they could also contribute to their community and become better citizens.”

Not only was Mutual of Omaha impressed by Conyers, butEbony magazine also profiled him as one of “30 Leaders 30 and Younger” in 2007. Aside from his non-profit work, Conyers most recently became the assistant principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was previously a member of the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, principal bass of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and a part of the Atlanta Symphony.

Outreach

So many of our visiting musicians are leaders in their musical communities (just to name a few: violist Jennifer Stumm is a member of Project 440, and Ixi Chen foundedconcert:nova, with which Lisa Conway has also been involved). Prior to the closing concert on Sept 23rd, Joseph Conyers and eight other Festival musicians will visit a group of 3rd and 4th graders who are paired up with UVA students as part of the “Arts Buddies” program, which was started by UVA Music faculty member Bonnie Gordon. During the previous school year, “Arts Buddies” participated in seven events, including a rehearsal and interactive discussion with choreographer Bill T. Jones at Culbreth Theater, a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Staunton’s American Shakespeare Center, a hands-on collage activity at the UVa Art Museum, and a Step-Show at the Paramount Theater. This included eighteen children, most of whom live in the Westhaven and Riverside Public Housing communities. Here is a linkto an article by UVA Today featuring this program. The Festival is proud to partner with this group, and graciously thanks the Balogh Family, who has helped support the Festival’s participation in this outreach.

In addition, another group of Festival musicians will be visiting music students at Charlottesville High School, giving them a demo and sneak peek of some of the pieces they will be performing. As always, the Festival is grateful to the Maurice Amado Foundation for underwriting these outreach activities. Festival goers may already know that CHS Orchestra students have been very involved in the Festival for years: in addition to ushering for us, these music students raise funds at our concerts by providing delicious baked goods during intermission. They are currently raising money for a trip to New York City.

Free Concert!

Educating the community and making chamber music accessible are important goals of the Virginia Chamber Music Foundation, which presents the Festival every year. This is one of the reasons we are presenting a FREE, mid-day 1-hour concert at the Paramount Theater on Friday, September 14, at 12:30pm. It will also be a celebration of Charlottesville’s 250th anniversary, in partnership with Celebrate!250. The concert will open with a Mozart Sonata originally dedicated to Queen Charlotte in 1765! The program will feature cellist and co-Director Raphael Bell, pianist Alasdair Beatson, violinist Aki Saulière, and violist David Quiggle, playing pieces by Beethoven, Schumann, and Weber.

Special thanks for support of this concert goes to the Balogh Family, in memory of Sonya Balogh, as well as to the Marco and Luca Dumpling Store, and Atwood Henningsen Kestner Architects, Inc.

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