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Jingqi Zhu, conductor

Arbor Crest Cliff House Estate and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue share a monumental birthday – both turn 100! Celebrate like it’s 1924 with an ensemble of Spokane Symphony musicians joined by pianist Priscila Navarro. Spokane’s jazz vocalist Heather Villa brings 20’s music to life with her sultry voice. Come early to enjoy food and beverages from Arbor Crest’s food truck, grill and bars.

Single Table Seat: $59 | Lawn Seat: $29

DOORS 5PM | SHOW 7:30PM | 20-minute intermission

Jingqi Zhu is a DMA conducting candidate at the University of Minnesota, where she conducts and assists nearly every orchestral, choral ensemble, and opera. In the community, she guest-conducts the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony Orchestra and assists the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota’s most highly regarded civic orchestra. She received the Music Director Fellowship with Spokane Symphony and was invited to masterclasses taught by Marin Alsop, Johannes Schlaefli, Carl St. Clair, James Ross, and James Lowe. As a pianist, Jingqi performed with Indiana University Chamber Orchestra under Carl St. Clair as the winner of the concerto competition. She holds a double degree in Master of Music at Indiana University Jacobs School of music in choral conducting and piano performance.

Peruvian pianist Priscila Navarro performs solo recitals, chamber works, and a large selection of concerti with orchestras throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America. Her talent has been widely recognized and she has been awarded the first prize at several international competitions, including the Liszt-Garritson International Competition in Baltimore, Maryland, Beethoven Sonata Competition in Tennessee, Chopin International Competition of Texas, Artist Series of Sarasota, Imola City Awards, Italy, and the Heida Hermanns International Music Competition.

Priscila made her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut in 2013 and will return there twice in 2022. She received a Special Bach prize at the International City of Vigo Competition in Spain, where she was one of five finalists from over 400 participating pianists, with a jury presided by Martha Argerich. As a chamber musician, Priscila regularly performs with a wide variety of musicians. She performed in several cities in Peru with violist Jodi Levitz, viola professor at the University of Miami. Priscila forms a piano duet with Dr. Michael Baron. Their first album is set to release in December with the MSR Classics label, with a Carnegie Hall premiere concert in March 2022.

Priscila holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance and pedagogy from the Frost School of Music, where she also completed Masters and Artist Diploma degrees as a student of Santiago Rodriguez and Kevin Kenner. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida Gulf Coast University where she studied with Dr. Michael Baron. She began her music studies at the age of 9, in the National Conservatory of Peru with Professor Lydia Hung.

Besides her busy performance career, Priscila is a passionate pedagogue and has been on the jury at several international competitions, including the Chopin International Competition for Latin American pianists, and the Heida Hermanns International Competition. Priscila is the current artistic director for the Parnassus Music Society. Last year, they hosted the first International Piano Competition Parnassus Music, an event born of her initiative to showcase and promote talented Latin American pianists. Priscila joined the faculty at Whitworth University as the new Director of Keyboard Studies. As a winner of the 2023 auditions, Priscila joined the roster of Astral Artists.

Heather Villa has been an award winning professional Jazz Singer in the Spokane area since 1999, and still actively performs with her bands Villa Blues n’ Jazz and The Ukuladies of Spokane With a Theatre and Arts Administration BA from Whitworth, she has a strong passion for the arts. Her children, husband and community inspired her to redirect most of her focus to early childhood and music education, and rebuilding the village mentality within her community. Heather started Spokane’s Songbird Consulting Music Together program in 2015, which continues to be her passion and joy, bringing more teachers and families together in music and the arts!

Brent Edstrom is a pianist, composer, author, and music technologist. He enjoys composing and orchestrating music for a variety of ensembles including jazz ensemble, symphony orchestra, and chamber configurations. Highlights of music compositions include Prairie Songs: Remembering Ántonia, a song set that premiered in France and the US, two concertos for Jazz Piano and Orchestra, and The Song of the Lark, a jazz song cycle recorded with Tierney Sutton, Jeff Hamilton, and Jon Hamar.

Over the years, he has had the opportunity to work as a session keyboardist, composer, and orchestrator for many commercial music projects including work as an orchestrator and keyboardist for Carolina Preserves, an hour-long TV movie for NCTV, composition and recording for Dance Detroit, and a variety of projects for Hal Leonard Corporation, Oxford University Press, ArtistPro/Mix, and Thomson/Cengage.

Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin

            George Gershwin was arguably the most successful and talented of America’s composers of popular music.  His songs constitute the core of the “American Songbook,” whether composed as part of his immensely successful Broadway shows, or as stand alone popular tunes.  Born of Russian Jewish immigrants, he didn’t evince his formidable musical talents until about the age of ten, when a piano was purchased for his older brother and later collaborator, Ira.   Much to the latter’s relief, George soon commandeered the piano, and the rest is, as they say, history.   His audiences rewarded him substantially—he is estimated to have become the wealthiest composer in modern times.   He earned over a quarter of a million dollars for Rhapsody in Blue during the first decade of its life, and it still is bringing in the bucks, as witnessed by the commercials for United Airlines.

Rhapsody in Blue was written in great haste for a 1924 concert in New York’s Aeolian Hall given by Paul Whiteman–billed as “An Experiment in Modern Music.”  Notwithstanding the description, you wouldn’t have heard Stravinsky or Schoenberg that night, rather Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, and others of that ilk.   However, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninov, and other luminaries of music were in the audience. The poster read that Whiteman would be “assisted by Zez Confrey and George Gershwin”—notice that the composer of “Kitten on the Keys” and “Dizzy Fingers” received top billing to the young Gershwin.  Gershwin had been asked late in 1923 to write a piece for the Whiteman orchestra, but he had turned his attention to more pressing matters, and was horrified to read in the New York Tribune on the 4th of January, 1924 that he was to première a “jazz concerto” on February 12.  Gershwin plunged in and presented his brilliant succession of “American” themes to Ferde Grofé, Whiteman’s orchestrator, to arrange for large jazz band and piano  (the symphonic version came later)—Gershwin didn’t have the skill to do this at this point in his career.

The composition opened the second half of the concert, with Gershwin as soloist—using no music, and probably considerably “enhancing” the solo part.   The opening clarinet glissando evocative of traditional Jewish Klezmer music kicked it off, and the now-familiar tunes came rushing by.  While Rhapsody in Blue really is not “jazz,” and certainly not a concerto in the traditional sense, Gershwin turned out a masterpiece that is a model of what came to be called “symphonic jazz.”

What is specifically germane to appreciating this composition is the importance of so-called “serious” or “classical” musical interests and training in Gershwin’s life that is quite unprecedented for someone who enjoyed his kind of success.  He certainly was not some sort of untutored musical genius who later sought “legitimacy” after having proven himself in the popular world.   Rather, early on, as a young boy he studied and performed under traditional piano teachers the music of composers such as Chopin, Liszt, and Debussy.  Later, he journeyed to Paris to study under the famed teacher of composition, Nadia Boulanger, as well as Maurice Ravel. However, both rejected him, more or less afraid to compromise the genius evident in his burgeoning success.  While in Paris he met and admired the music of eminent composers such as Prokofiev, Poulenc, and Milhaud. Gershwin’s ambitions were such, that long after he had achieved the kind of success that any popular composer would have envied, he assiduously studied formal composition with established teachers.   And he was successful.   His Rhapsody in Blue, the Concerto in F, An American in Paris, and Porgy and Bess are masterpieces of his unique bridging of the so-called gap between popular art and “high” art.

–Wm. E. Runyan

© 2015 William E. Runyan >>>

Ticket Information:

Table seats available for purchase on April 16th • Lawn seats available for purchase now
Ticket Prices:
Single Table Ticket: $59 | Lawn Seat: $29
Phone: 509-624-1200
Box Office: Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, 1001 West Sprague Avenue

Bag Policy

All bags (with the exception of clutches 6 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches) are subject to visual inspection by venue security.
Large bags are not allowed in The Fox, and must be checked in our Coat Check (located in the North Gallery) for the duration of the event.

Programs are subject to change

Cancellation Policy

All sales are final and nonrefundable.

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