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The Crane School of Music Hosts Unique Residency: “Untold Legacies of Black Composers”

03.30.17
Burt Mason & Kelly Hall-Tompkins
Alumnus Burt Mason ’97 (left) returns to campus with Kelly Hall-Tompkins (right) to work with students from April 4-11.

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music is proud to present “Untold Legacies of Black Composers,” a campus-wide event being held from April 4-11 that will help to raise awareness of black musicians in classical music. Crane School of Music alumnus Burt Mason ’97 will be joined by Kelly Hall-Tompkins to educate and perform with students during their residency in Potsdam. The event aims to cultivate an appreciation for diversity in classical music.

An opening reception will be held at the Performing Arts Center lobby on Tuesday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. followed by a film viewing of “Le Mozart Noir.” The film tells the story of Chevalier de Saint Georges, a man who dealt with the adversities of class, race and society to become a well-respected musician in 18th century France and the first black man to lead France’s most important orchestras. A panel discussion will follow.

Mason and Hall-Tompkins will lead masterclasses on Wednesday April 5 at 10:30 a.m. for high school students and non-music majors, a trombone masterclass at 3 p.m. and a string masterclass at 6 p.m. There will be a chamber music concert on Thursday, April 6 in the Proscenium Theater at 7:30 p.m. “Untold Legacies of Black Composers” will conclude as Mason and Hall-Tompkins perform with the Crane Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helen M. Hosmer Hall. For the full schedule of events please visit: http://www.potsdam.edu/academics/Crane/untoldlegaciesresidency/schedule

“The Crane School of Music is very proud of its outstanding alumnus Burt Mason for his wide-ranging accomplishments as a musician and for his vision in creating “Untold Legacies” residencies, which we count it a great privilege to host here at Crane in early April, bringing Burt and his fellow artist, celebrated violinist Kelly Hall Tompkins, to Potsdam,” said Dr. Michael Sitton, the dean of SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music.  

“Through these residencies, Burt not only sheds light on the neglected heritage of contributions to Western classical music by black musicians, but brings affirmation and encouragement to a new musical generation, contributing to and helping to foster the widening diversity in our field.  While there is much still to be done, we are gratified that Burt, one of Crane’s own, is leading the way by bringing his strongly compelling message to young musicians everywhere,” Sitton said.

About the Artists:

Burt Mason ’97 is an active classical musician performing with several orchestras and world class ensembles and is the founder of Ovation Concerts (http://www.ovationconcerts.org/). He has recognized the glaring disparity and under representation of minorities through his extensive performing experience both within the United States and abroad. Through Ovations Concerts, Mason aims at making an immediate and lasting impact on the demographics within classical music and more specifically the ethnic landscape of the symphony orchestra.

As an advocate for diversity in the arts, Mason was invited to appear as a guest on WQXR’s Conducting Business with Naomi Lewin to discuss the history and future of classical music and American orchestras. In addition, he performs regularly with organizations and events that promote artistic diversity in classical music, including the Sphinx Competition and Symphony, Gateways Music Festival and the Colour of Music Festival.

Mason currently serves as Principal Trombone of the Chamber Orchestra of New York. He was formerly solo trombone for the Miami Music Project as well as Principal Trombone and soloist of the New York Staff Band of The Salvation Army. He has performed as guest artist with the New York Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic Brass and the Metropolitan Opera Brass. He has also appeared as soloist with numerous ensembles, performing throughout North America, The United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.

Mason has performed under the baton of such notable conductors as Mstislav Rostropovich, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Skitch Henderson, Alan Gilbert and Sidney Harth among others. For his full bio please visit: http://burtmason.com/wp/bio/

Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins is forging a dynamic career as a soloist and chamber musician. She has been acclaimed by the New York Times as “the versatile violinist who makes the music come alive” and for her “tonal mastery” (BBC Music Magazine) and “searing intensity” (American Record Guide). Winner of a Naumburg International Violin Competition Honorarium Prize as well as a Concert Artists Guild Career Grant, Hall-Tompkins has appeared as soloist with orchestras including the Dallas Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Tulsa Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra of New York and a Brevard Festival Orchestra under the baton of Keith Lockhart.

For thirteen months on Broadway, Hall-Tompkins was the “Fiddler,” violin soloist, for the Bartlett Sher production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” with numerous solos written especially for her. The New York Times hailed her in a feature article as holding the title role, together with dancer Jesse Kovarsky. Featured as soloist in almost 500 Broadway performances, plus a Grammy-nominated cast album alongside a bonus track by Itzhak Perlman. Hall Tompkins received an Honorary Doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music, her alma mater, in 2016, also delivering the Commencement address. She is also one of three 2017 recipients of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, which will be presented at the US Supreme Court by Justice Sotomayor. She earned a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School under the mentorship of Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. While there, she was concertmaster of both of the school’s orchestras. Prior to that, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree with honors in violin performance with a minor in French from the Eastman School of Music studying with Charles Castleman. While at Eastman she won the school’s prestigious Performer’s Certificate Competition, several scholarship awards from the New York Philharmonic, and was invited to perform chamber music on the school’s Kilbourn Concert Series with members of the faculty. For her full bio please visit: http://www.kellyhall-tompkins.com/bio.html

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution.

Media contact:

Jason Hunter, Office of College Communications
(315) 267-2648