Marcus Roberts plays “Rhapsody in Blue” for Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2016 “Symphony with Soul"
February 17, 2016
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 139
GRAND RAPIDS, MI., February 17, 2016 –
Pianist Marcus Roberts at age 5 lost
his sight, a victim of cataracts and glaucoma. But he attended Florida School
for the Deaf and Blind, a school that also helped launch the legendary Ray
Charles. Much like with Charles, Roberts’ ears would help make up the
The jazz pianist who rose to
prominence, first with Wynton Marsalis
and Jazz at Lincoln Center, later as a solo artist, comes to town for the
Grand Rapids Symphony’s 15th annual “Symphony with Soul” concert at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27.
George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is wildly popular all by itself. But Roberts’
original interpretation – the most raucous, most bluesy, most improvisational
“Rhapsody in Blue” of all – will be a highlight of “Symphony with Soul.”
The evening of jazz and blues, gospel
and spirituals, features your Grand Rapids Symphony and the Grand Rapids Symphony Community Chorus,
directed by Duane Shields Davis. The program opens with the rousing “Lift Ev’ry
Voice and Sing” and concludes with Davis’ original work, “The Call,” for chorus
and orchestra, joined by Roberts as piano soloist.
Director Laureate David Lockington, who pioneered “Symphony with Soul”
in 2001, returns to the Grand Rapids Symphony podium for the first time since
he stepped down as music director in May 2015.
Roberts and his trio, with Rodney
Jordan on double bass and Marsalis’ younger brother, Jason Marsalis, on drums, will
be part of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual, community-wide concert, preceded
by “Celebration of Soul,” a gala
dinner celebrating diversity and inclusion initiatives in West Michigan.
“Symphony with Soul” include young musicians from Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts & Technology, from the Grand Rapids String Academy directed by
Dylana Jenson, and from the Mosaic Scholarship Program. Made possible through a
gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Mosaic Scholarship Program
provides talented African-American and Latino students with musical
instrument rental, private, one-on-one
lessons with a professional musician from the Grand Rapids
Symphony, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony concerts. At “Symphony with
Soul” these young instrumentalists will perform on stage as part of the Creative Connections program started by Jill
Marcus Roberts, who has been profiled on “60 Minutes,” who served as
artist-in-residence for the 2002 Winter
Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and who appeared on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in 1987, is known
for developing an entirely new approach to jazz trio performance, and his notable
version of “Rhapsody in Blue” features lengthy trio and improvisatory sections.
Roberts, age 52, grew up in
Jacksonville, Florida, where his mother’s love of singing and the music of the
local church left a lasting impact on him. After losing his sight at age 5, he
began teaching himself to play piano and had his first formal lesson at age 12.
Roberts later went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with
Leonidas Lipovetsky. Today, he mentors young musicians as an assistant professor
of jazz at his alma mater.
In 1987, Roberts became the first
winner of the inaugural Thelonious Monk
International Jazz Competition, an annual competition that focuses on a
different instrument every year. But among the competitions he’s won and awards
he’s received, the one that’s most meaningful for Roberts personally is the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement.
The pre-concert “Celebration of Soul”
gala and 2016 MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy
Awards presentation will honor BL2END, Stephen & Clarice Drew
and Huntington Bank for their commitment to the arts, inclusion, education, and
bridging cultural differences. Proceeds benefit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s
extensive education programs, including the Mosaic Scholarship Program. Tickets
to the “Celebration of Soul” are $150, which includes dinner and concert. For
more information, visit GRSymphony.org/Events.
The “Symphony with Soul” concert is
sponsored by Steelcase Inc. Guest artist support for Marcus
Roberts’ appearance is sponsored by a partnership of Ferris State University and Kendall
College of Art and Design of Ferris State University.
Tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder
Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per
ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available by phone in the
evening and on Saturday by calling 616.885.1241. Tickets are available at the
DeVos Place Box Office, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the
concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be
purchased through Ticketmaster, 800.982.2787, online at GRSymphony.org or in
person at Ticketmaster outlets:
select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and
Walmart. Tickets purchased at these
locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. Full-time
students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of
the concert by enrolling in the Symphony’s Student Passport program. This is a
MySymphony360 eligible concert.
About the Grand Rapids Symphony
The Grand Rapids Symphony, now in its
86th season, is nationally recognized for the quality of its
concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff,
Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine
concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of musical styles. More
than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 200,000,
nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities,
all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Its
affiliate organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids
Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth
Choruses. The orchestra sponsors the Grand Rapids Bach Festival and collaborates
in live performances with Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet. To
learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please visit GRSymphony.org.
This activity is
supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural
Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.