As section leader of the Symphonic Choir's bass section,
Chip Ritter shares his talents with the community.
Choir member Chip Ritter has settled into Bozeman, living here for the past seven years. However, his connection and fondness for our town go back to his childhood. Chip's father grew up in Bozeman along with four siblings and because he chose to serve in the Army, Chip didn’t grow up here. Regardless, some of Chip's first memories are of visiting his grandparents at their house on South 5th Ave.
Chip’s wife Nicole was born and raised in Great Falls and like many with roots in Montana, the couple looked for ways to come home after school, starting careers and, in their case, living abroad. When they moved back to the U.S., Chip and Nicole had family and a support system ready here in Montana. And, they’ve been here ever since! Chip says they couldn’t be happier with their choice, and neither could the Bozeman Symphony!
With two kids in the Bozeman Public Schools, Chip volunteers as much as he is able in their classrooms and for the activities they’re involved with. Whether it’s teaching coding sessions to his daughter’s class or working on Emily Dickinson’s new playground, he feels it is satisfying to be part of the “public” in public schools.
With a son in High School (a freshman at BHS) parental involvement has taken on a whole new meaning. He’s involved in cross country, marching band, and speech and debate, so opportunities to support him and those activities abound.
The couple auditioned for the Symphonic Choir the first fall they were in Bozeman. It wasn’t even a question Chip says. “We met singing, and music had been a part of our lives since we were kids. We hadn’t had the opportunity to sing with a group like this for quite a long time and needed, quite literally needed, to have music and singing part of our lives again. We’ve been singing with the Symphonic Choir ever since.”
Like many children, Chip started playing instruments in elementary school. Beginning with the trumpet in 4th grade, in middle school moving to the baritone, and in high school playing the tuba. Band was his thing. During sophomore year of high school, he saw some friends in a school musical and said to himself, “I need to do that!” and joined choir the next semester.
With past participation as part of small groups that were featured during the last two collage concerts, Chip will be a featured soloist this time around. For the upcoming performances on March 3rd and 4th, he will sing a piece entitled Fussreise from Hugo Wolf’s (1860-1903) Mörike-leider (1888), settings of poems by Eduard Mörike (1804-1875).
Fussreise relays the storyteller’s experience of how walking through the woods makes him feel closer to his Creator, like Adam must have felt in the first days of Eden, and his hopes to remain present in that moment. Chip says: “I think it’s particularly relatable for Bozeman.” Fellow Symphonic Choir member and piano teacher, Karen Abelin (soprano) will join Chip as his accompanist.
We asked Chip what makes collage concerts so exciting to which he says: “collage concerts are exciting because they give us musicians a chance let loose a little. We get to sing and play pieces we wouldn’t normally get to perform for you—pieces audience members might not have a chance to experience here in Bozeman. Collage concerts are as much fun for us as we hope they are for the audience.”
In Chip’s words, if you haven’t seen a collage performance before, “they are incredibly fun! You just don’t know what’s going to come at you next. It could be an opera chorus, a percussion piece, solo violin, full orchestra, uplifting, dramatic, humorous, silly…it’s a unique musical experience!”
For Nancy, sharing music with the Bozeman community is a real joy.
Settling into Bozeman in 2002, Nancy Ojala has been an active music educator in the community. After retiring from Bozeman High School, she still participates as a substitute teacher for the music department and as an accompanist for some of the middle school programs. Outside of the Bozeman Symphonic Choir, Nancy can be found singing in her church’s gospel choir, as a KGLT DJ on the first and fifth Sunday of each month for the Sunday Classical Show, and as a Stephen’s Minister at Bozeman's United Methodist Church. Aside from these fantastic community commitments, the most important thing she gets to do, Nancy says, is to babysit her three-year-old granddaughter. Nancy is also a big supporter of the Symphony, generously donating her time to serve on the Board of Directors and on the planning committee for the Symphony's 50th Anniversary Birthday Bash held this past January.
Upon moving to Bozeman, Nancy started singing with the Symphonic choir and her contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed assisting with sectionals as the choir learns new music for concerts. Of her accomplishments Nancy shares: “my high school choir sang with the Symphonic choir and Symphony orchestra on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Last December I was privileged to conduct a small ensemble as part of the collage concert.”
Nancy began singing as a small child. She sang in school and church choirs all the way through high school. Her high school choral director was very influential in her decision to major in music education in college. Additionally, she took piano lessons from 4th grade through college and dabbled in the violin from 4th through 9th grade. About her involvement with the Bozeman Symphony, Nancy says: “being able to share inspiring music with the Bozeman community has been a real joy for me personally. Music is such a great and expressive way to communicate with all age levels of people.”
Having been involved with 2 other collage concerts, Nancy shares that “these concerts are simply a magical way to weave together many different styles of musical selections into one beautiful experience with light and sound. All ages of people can enjoy the fast-paced movement of this concert and be surprised and inspired by the various small ensembles and large group selections which fit together so perfectly." Her participation in upcoming performances of 50th Anniversary Collage on March 3rd and 4th, 2018 will include conducting a small acapella vocal ensemble. The ensemble will sing a Czech folk song about springtime.
In Nancy’s words about the performance: "the pacing of each song and the melting together of one piece with another is truly unique in the collage concerts. You will be “blown away” by the exciting light and sound show the collage concert offers. It showcases so many wonderful small ensembles and the whole Symphony and Symphonic choir. The variety of musical styles and tempos of the pieces is really captivating for all ages of people. The addition of the amazing light show in combination with the extraordinary music really makes the concert an experience you don’t want to miss.”
Principal timpanist Jeff Vick and why the percussion section has become the "stars of the show" over the years.
Principal timpanist Jeff Vick moved to Bozeman in August 1989 from Tucson, AZ and joined the Bozeman Symphony shortly after. Jeff brings a vast amount of orchestral playing experience to the organization which has included performing with the Tucson Symphony, Denver Municipal Band, numerous community orchestras, in addition to performing in church settings.
As an educator in the public schools, Jeff currently teaches at Anderson School celebrating his 25th year, at Montana State University and LaMotte School (celebrating his 7th year) as well as teaching a private percussion studio.
Starting with piano lessons in Kindergarten, Jeff continued his musical interests by joining band in the fourth grade. It was with this ensemble he had some great experiences playing in select city wide honor groups and was led by a very inspirational band director in Junior High School. By seventh grade, Jeff had decided that being a band director and player was “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” He then started sitting in on big band gigs with his private teacher in Junior High, working up to paying gigs (combos, community theater shows) in high school.
The Bozeman Symphony was the first musical group Jeff became part of after moving to Bozeman. Jeff shares: “[the Symphony] helped lead to working with other organizations in the community (opera later that first year, Montana Ballet when they used primarily BSO members for the first Nutcracker with live music instead of a recording in 1993, Montana TheatreWorks for their first several shows starting in 1995 (the first couple Matthew was conducting), before taking a break & returning a few years ago to their summer productions. Some of my closest friendships have been made through connections either playing or socially through the symphony.”
If you’ve attended collage performances (or really any performance) with the Bozeman Symphony you know that the percussion section can easily become the stars of the show. The percussion section has had a piece or two featured on every collage concert since the first one in 1998, as well as having the opportunity to be a part of other mixed ensemble works featured as part of the collage concerts.
For upcoming performances on March 3rd and 4th, three different pieces and group combinations will feature the percussion section. These include “Dream Catcher” for marimba, vibraphone and other percussion featuring players Stephen Versaevel, Kris Olsen, Mark Brown and Micah Jastram. PercOrchestra (the Far Afield ensemble) has been doing this one for a few years.
“Number 2” is for Steel Drums (the hammered oil drum barrel instruments from Trinidad strongly associated with Caribbean music) again including the members of the percussion section: Stephen Versaevel, Kris Olsen, Mark Brown and Micah Jastram, along with Cortney Bury on Bass.
Additionally, Jeff will be playing one movement of Astor Piazzolla’s “Histoire du Tango” on marimba with Sue Makeever on flute. Jeff has played this piece for smaller audiences in the past and is very much looking forward to having the opportunity for a wider audience to hear this work and the combination of flute and marimba.
In Jeff’s words: “The variety of pieces and fast pacing – large and small groups, many “musical snapshots” that represent both the large ensemble experience (orchestra and choir) as well as showcasing smaller chamber music groups and the individual musicians who make up the BSO and Symphonic Choir make collage performances exciting."
Sue Makeever shares why collage is a unique experience.
Jerry and Sue Makeever have both dedicated many, many years, to the Bozeman Symphony with Jerry currently celebrating 43 seasons and Sue, celebrating 29 seasons with the orchestra! Jerry and Sue settled into Bozeman in 1987 after spending a year living apart. Sue had been teaching at the University of North Texas while Jerry was teaching here at MSU. The couple decided Bozeman was a better place to live and raise a family which includes their two children Megan and Matt. Their family has contributed greatly to the Symphony with each of them participating over the years with Matt on trumpet, and Megan on flute and piccolo.
Sue has been immersed in Bozeman’s musical community teaching flute, coaching a flute choir, playing in the woodwind quintet at MSU, a private studio, and playing in the Bozeman Symphony, Intermountain Opera, and Montana Ballet. She recently retired from the Billings Symphony after 22 years!
Sue's musical interests were sparked early on. At the age of five, her grandmother took her to the Philadelphia Orchestra where she heard flutist William Kincaid, and at that moment, knew she wanted to play. This experience inspired her passion for playing music and later as a music educator in her professional career. Her involvement with the Bozeman Symphony first began by subbing in the symphony when she first came to Bozeman, then moving into the piccolo spot and now as the current principal flute. Players in the Symphony, along with Sue, know that the concert season keeps them very busy from September to April. Sue shares: “I love orchestral music, and even though my earnings from the symphony don't financially support me, I am lucky to be doing what I love. I still enjoy the process and challenge.”
Carrie Krause on Great Repertoire & the Collage Experience
As part of the the Holiday Collage concert in December 2016, Carrie performed a moving tribute to the late Leonard Cohen in an arrangement of “Hallelujah” alongside violinist Pico Alt and cellist Chandra Lind. About the performance she shares “last Christmas’ collage was a brilliant way to program what can sometimes feel a bit over-familiar repertoire. Instead, we presented works that represented African, Klezmer, folk, and everything in between for a fast-paced and exciting holiday celebration.”
As part of this year’s collage performance, Carrie will be playing the Shostakovich Polka from his set of 5 pieces for two violins and piano which she describes as tuneful, virtuosic, and bouncy, with a nice mix of humor and irony. In addition, she’ll be playing part of the last movement from Bartok’s Contrasts, for violin, clarinet, and piano. This piece is fiendishly difficult, and starts with a macabre bashing of open strings, using a second fiddle tuned in tri-tones.
The Shostakovich trio will be played with Pico Alt, a violinist who also attended Juilliard, and with whom Carrie collaborates a great deal in teaching private and chamber students. Clarinetist Greg Young joins for the Bartok and pianist Laurel Yost is especially brilliant with ‘new’ music, and brings a great ear to this repertoire.
If you haven’t been to a collage performance before, or perhaps you’ll remember the exuberance you’ve felt after attending in the past, in Carrie’s words: “It’s tremendously exciting to see my amazing colleagues on stage have a chance to shine. In the orchestra we operate as a team, but collage highlights individual player’s hidden talents and intriguing personalities. I love the variety of repertoire and getting to hear many pieces I’ve never experienced. Overlapping the last note of one piece with the first of another highlights the captivating elements of these different styles.
It’s a tremendous showcase for our talented community. It’s also a great introduction to the orchestra for anyone who isn’t familiar with the symphonic scene, with shorter works and a myriad of grooves and moods. There’s truly something for everyone.”
Clarinetist Greg Young shares his excitement for upcoming performances of Collage!
Celebrating 21 seasons with the Bozeman Symphony, clarinetist Gregory Young has been immersed in the Bozeman community since 1988. As a professor at the MSU School of Music, you can find Greg performing regularly as part of the University’s artistic and musical programs, with the Bozeman Symphony, in addition to Intermountain Opera and Montana Ballet.
Greg’s involvement with the Symphony began when he moved to Bozeman in 1988 as a principal player in the orchestra. His passion for music began early on, at the age of five. Greg shares: “I started piano at age 5, clarinet at 14, and upon entering college I knew that if I had a regular career I would be wanting to play music ‘after work.’ Now, of course, I play music before, during and after. I love the holistic nature of playing music – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.”
When asked about the Symphony having an impact on his life, Greg feels that the Bozeman Symphony is an important artistic pillar in the community and is happy to be part of it.
About the upcoming collage experience on March 3rd and 4th at Willson Auditorium, Greg will be performing The Bartok Contrasts, with Carrie Krause, violin and Laurel Yost, piano. The music can be described as a “Fast Dance that starts with a violin tuned down and has a primitive feel.”
We have no doubt that you’ll find the upcoming concert experience unique and exciting. The orchestra and choir musicians feel that way too. Greg describes the concert experience as “there is no time to get bored, and the variety and contrasts are compelling. There is nothing quite like it. Sort of like a musical Pecha Kucha! When it comes to programming, Matthew is a master, and this is one key ingredient!”