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Schimmel Center Blog Schimmel Center seeks to enrich and engage our audiences by bringing world-class talent to Lower Manhattan. Our programming features internationally-acclaimed talent in the areas of music, dance, cabaret, comedy and family programming

27 April 2018 ~ 0 Comments

9 Questions with Gary Fagin, Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra

Tackling the impact of gun violence in the United States, The Struggle To Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America is a new musical dramatic work that hauntingly gives voice to the victims of gun violence. We sat down with Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra Founder, Music Director, and Composer Gary Fagin to discuss this new piece and his work in Downtown Manhattan.


1) What inspired “The Struggle to Forgive?”

There wasn’t one particular gun-related tragedy that inspired me to begin work on “Struggle To Forgive;” it was more an accumulation of gun-elated events, always in the back of my mind, that finally reached a point where it was an issue that I felt I had to address artistically.


2) What is so special about this work compared to others you have performed in the past?

This is personal, for me and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra; in 2014 the KCO, and the entire New York musical community, lost a beloved violinist to senseless gun violence. On the May 4 program, we will also perform a work in her memory, “Prayer for Mary.”


3) Do you find that music is a powerful way to get messages across to the public?

It’s not that music is necessarily a more powerful way to get messages to the public; but I believe messages conveyed via music go to a different place in our brains, into our subconscious, where we are affected more profoundly, in a deeply meaningful way.


4) Gun violence is clearly a very prevalent, yet sensitive, topic in our society today. What were the challenges in creating this piece?

The main challenge was the point of view. I didn’t want the piece to be political; my personal feelings are clear throughout the work, but the piece’s main focus is to give voice to those affected by gun violence.


5) You are a composer, conductor, AND arranger. Which is your favorite and why?

Composition gives me the greatest pleasure; it’s the most creative, and the most satisfying, i.e., creating something entirely new and personal.


6) What is the best part about teaching music at so many institutions across the country?


My main teaching is in my studio here in New York, where I am privileged to work with wonderful professionals and students in both the classical music and music theater arenas.


7) Could you speak briefly on the KCO’s Youth Outreach program and why it’s so important?


The KCO’s Youth Outreach program is a key part of the KCO’s mission. When I was growing up, classical music was considered “high art,” compared to other types of music. Nowadays, classical music is perceived to be on the same plane as other types of music, which is a good thing, but which means that we classical musicians must be more active in promoting our music in this crowded musical landscape, especially to young people, who are less exposed to the beauty and magnificence of classical music.


8) To this day, what would you say has been your most memorable performance and why?


This is a hard question to answer; the KCO has had many memorable performances in our 10 years, including many world premieres, but I would say the most musically satisfying performance came early on, at The Schimmel Center, a truly exquisite performance by clarinetist Jose Franch Ballester of Mozart’s other-worldly Clarinet Concerto.


9) If you could give one piece of advice to hopeful composers/conductors, what would it be?


Don’t wait for the phone to ring; if you feel compelled to create or perform, gather around you the best musicians you can find, the musicians you most want to work with. You’ll need money, so you can’t be afraid to ask for support; believe in yourself and the worth of your ideas and your work, and others will believe in you as well. Begin by keeping your goals modest, so you can realize your dreams, one by one. And, above all, keep the level of craft and artistry as high as possible; compromise as little as possible artistically.


We’re pleased to present the world premiere of Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra’s “The Struggle to Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America” on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, visit schimmelcenter.org.

11 December 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Q&A: Rob Mathes discusses family, music, and his holiday concert!


The holidays have found a new rocking tradition! Emmy winner and Grammy-and-Tony- nominated Rob Mathes returns to the Schimmel stage with his band of all-star musicians including instrumentalists from Saturday Night Live and the Late Show with David Letterman. Come for an afternoon of funk- and R&B-laden original tunes, holiday classics, and audience favorites to put you in the spirit of the season.

We sat down with Rob to discuss his band, music, and favorite holiday traditions. Here’s what he had to share:


SC: What inspired you to create an annual holiday concert?


RM: I have always adored the traditions of the holiday, Dickens, and the best of the carols, such as “In The Bleak Midwinter” and “In Dulci Jubilo.” As a kid, my folks made Christmas a festival of joy, love, and hope and to me, I can’t be filled with these unless music surrounds me, be it Bach, Radiohead, or Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. I had to put something together to celebrate the transformative nature of music. My renowned studio musicians, who have become family, and I would spend the year tending other people’s musical gardens; this has become a chance for us to have our own celebration around the holidays.


SC: Can you share a little background info on members of your band?


RM: They are all superstars. Will Lee is one of the greatest and most lauded bass players in the history of the New York scene. He has played on thousands of great records with everyone from Clapton to Streisand to you name it. Will was the longtime bass player on Late Night with David Letterman, and by connection, plays the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame every year with Paul Shaffer.


Billy Masters is one of the most exceptional slide and Americana guitar players out there. He’s spent much of his life playing for singer-songwriters like Dar Williams, Suzanne Vega, and Cry, Cry, Cry and he’s fantastic.

Vaneese Thomas at The Rob Mathes Holiday Concert in December 2016 at Schimmel Center.

Both Vaneese Thomas and James D-Train Williams, our vocalists, put out their own records and D-Train had a bunch of hits in the 80’s. They are treasures of the NY scene. Both of

them have sung with Michael Jackson, Sting, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder and a million others. Giants.

Joe Bonadio, one of our drummers, plays with Marc Cohn and Sting. Shawn Pelton, our other drummer, is the longtime drummer on SNL and has made records with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, and many others.

The horn section is full of the best of the best in Manhattan. Andy Snitzer, our tenor sax genius, regularly plays in Paul Simon’s band. Mike Davis on trombone has spent much of the last 20 years on the road with The Rolling Stones. It is just a band of musical superstars, men and women who have given their lives to music and give this one weekend to me, which is humbling.

SC: You’ve worked with a long list of brilliant artists including Sting, Beyonce, Elton John, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, and more. Any artists out there who you

haven’t worked with who are on your bucket list?


RM: I always wanted to work with Bruce Springsteen and have gotten to over the past few years, which has been fantastic. I had dreamed of working with Bowie, but he’s gone now. I would like to work with some more instrumentalists, doing larger orchestrations and arrangements for the likes of Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny, or Bill Charlap. I adore the record Cityscape that composer Claus Ogerman wrote for Michael Brecker and obviously the Gil Evans-Miles Davis records. I arranged some albums for the incredible Brazilian jazz pianist Eliane Elias and the last one we did, Made In Brazil, won a Grammy.

Rob Mathes with Vanessa Williams at The Rob Mathes Holiday Concert in 2015 at Purchase College. Williams will make another special guest appearance this year at Schimmel Center on December 17.

SC: What is your favorite genre of music?


RM: Impossible question. Life wouldn’t be worth living without: Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas, Radiohead’s In Rainbows, John Coltrane’s Live at the Village Vanguard, The White Album, modern projects like Beyonce’s Lemonade and Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Miles Davis’s Porgy and Bess, Peter Gabriel’s Us, Sting’s Nothing Like The Sun, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, the John Rutter Christmas Carol records with The Cambridge Singers, Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Symphony No. 5, and Laura Marling’s Once I Was An Eagle.


Much of our best music is made by people that do one thing beautifully and speak their own language. For me? My dad loved Dylan. My uncle played in big bands. My aunt played bassoon with the New York City Opera. My mother taught Beethoven and Bach in the front room of our house from 2 pm to 7 pm every weekday for my entire childhood. It is what I know. It is a life in music.


SC: How do you spend your free time?


RM: Listening to and studying music and writing it or spending time with my wife Tammy and three girls Emma, Sarah and Lily.  I also love attending plays and visiting museums with them.


SC: Any holiday traditions at home for the Mathes family?


RM: The tree, Alastair Sim’s version of Scrooge, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the holiday concerts.


SC: Favorite artist?


RM: Impossible, as evidenced above. Top five? Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Stravinsky, Mahler, and maybe The Beatles.


SC: Favorite Holiday song?


RM: In “The Bleak Midwinter,” the Gustav Holst setting, and the brilliant and moving “In Terra Pax,” which is a short cantata for baritone soloist, choir, and orchestra and was written by the great English composer Gerald Finzi – just so beautiful. It’s based on a poem by Robert Bridges. Here are the first few lines:

A frosty Christmas Eve

   when the stars were shining

Fared I forth alone

   where westward falls the hill,

And from many a village

   in the water’d valley

Distant music reach’d me

   peals of bells aringing:

The constellated sounds

   ran sprinkling on earth’s floor

As the dark vault above

   with stars was spangled o’er.


Don’t forget we groove some serious Hanukkah mojo also. I do a version with horns of the Dreidel Song dedicated to Duke Ellington’s great partner Billy Strayhorn and based on his inimitable musical language! Love to all!

Celebrate the holidays with Schimmel Center at The Rob Mathes Holiday Concert.

For tickets and more information, visit schimmelcenter.org.


07 December 2017 ~ 0 Comments

QUIZ: Which “Nutcracker” Character are You?

Are you a Nutcracker Prince or a Sugar Plum Fairy? Take our quiz to find out!

See “The Nutcracker: A Ballet in Two Acts” at Schimmel Center on Friday, December 15 at 7:30 PM.

For tickets and more information, visit our website.

25 April 2017 ~ 0 Comments

On Stage: Interview with Amanda Treiber of New York Theatre Ballet

This Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, our audiences are in for a treat. The New York Theatre ballet is back for an all new program of Uptown/Downtown Dance celebrating the best repertoire from the past alongside new pieces by leading contemporary choreographers. The evenings will include world premieres by Martin Lawrence and Zhong-Jing Fang alongside a re-staging of former NYTB resident choreographer Edward Henkel’s Re-Vision which originally debuted in 1986. Audiences will also be treated to three pieces by choreographer Pam Tanowitz. Below, we talk with Amanda Treiber, one of the dancers who bring the works to life.

Amanda Treiber Courtesy of New York Theatre Ballet

Amanda Treiber
Courtesy of New York Theatre Ballet

SC: How long have you been with New York Theatre Ballet? What distinguishes the company from other ballet companies?


AT: I have been a dancer with New York Theatre Ballet for nine years. Since it is a small chamber company, each dancer gets to bring a unique quality to the work, and the audience gets to see this individuality because we are all soloists. But what I find the most interesting is the programming. NYTB specializes in bringing revivals of rarely seen ballets as well as doing new works by many up and coming choreographers. Diana Byer, the founder and artistic director, has a good eye for interesting and diverse pieces. Our programs are so varied, I’m sure everyone in the audience will find at least one piece they love!


SC: What can audiences look forward to in Uptown/Downtown Dance?


AT: NYTB is known for having live music. In this program not only are all the pieces played live by pianist and music director Michael Scales, he will also be joined by a violinist, Chloé Kiffer, and a cellist, Amy Kang.


SC: Do you have a favorite piece from the production? Why does that piece resonate with you?


AT: It’s hard to pick just one favorite from this upcoming performance…. they are all so different. I enjoy the movement of “Re-Vision.” The way the movement sits on the music is very satisfying I think for both the performer and the audience. But I would say I’m most looking forward to performing Pam Tanowitz’s “Double Andante.” It is an abstract piece first made for NYTB 2 years ago but has not been performed much in the past year. Coming back to it this year we have had to replace some of the original dancers and in doing so I have become more aware of my relationship to the others on stage including the musician, who Pam cleverly integrates into the piece.


SC: Do you have an all-time favorite piece that you have performed with NYTB? Why is that one your favorite?


AT: I would say currently my favorite piece to perform is Richard Alston’s “Such Longing.” The cast of four (4) move in and out of solos, duets and group pieces set to Choppin. We have been fortunate to perform this piece many times over the past (3) years. Sometimes in excerpts, sometimes in large spaces and sometimes in tiny spaces. But every time we come back to it I learn something new of myself. I trust myself and partners more. I find I can let myself go deeper into the music. On the best of nights I feel that I can fly.


SC: What advice would you give to a young dance student who dreams of being a part of a prestigious dance company one day?


AT: Being a professional dancer is tough. It takes determination, passion and constant training to have a sustained career. It’s important to stay in the moment not just onstage but in the studio too.


Below: enjoy an excerpt of Pam Tanowitz’s “Double Andante.”


New York Theatre Ballet Uptown/ Downtown Dance; Friday, April 28 at 7:30PM and Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 PM ; Price $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-1715; Tickets available at http://schimmelcenter.org/event/uptown-downtown-dance

06 February 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Brevity is the Soul of Wit… An Interview with Reed Martin of the Reduced Shakespeare Society

The Schimmel Center is proud to be presenting the New York debut of the acclaimed Reduced Shakespeare Company’s latest play, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged.) For two performances only, the merry men of beguilement and brevity act out an entirely new narrative that weaves together most of the famous speeches and plot devices of Shakespeare’s thirty-nine plays to create a fast, funny, and fictional fortieth. I had the pleasure of speaking about the piece with Co-creator and performer Reed Martin.

From Left to Right: Austin Tichenor, Teddy Spencer and Reed Martin

From Left to Right: Austin Tichenor, Teddy Spencer and Reed Martin


The Reduced Shakespeare Company started in 1981 as a “pass-the-hat act” in a California Renaissance Faire. When and how did you become involved in the company?

I joined the RSC in 1989, about a year before it became a full-time job. I’d gone to college with one of the founders of the RSC, Jess Winfield so when an opening came up he contacted me to see if I’d be interested in joining the company. Id just finished a two-year stint as a Clown and Assistant Ringmaster with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Previous to joining the circus I’d earned an MFA in Acting from UC San Diego and double-majored as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in Political Science and Dramatic Arts.


You mention previously performing  in the Ringling Brothers circus. What skills were you able to bring from that world into this one?

I learned physical comedy in the circus, as well as the ability to keep a performance fresh during a long running show. The other invaluable skill I developed in the circus was learning how to comfortably deal directly with audience members which is integral to RSC shows. When I was in the circus the clowns spent about 25 minutes per show in the seats actually interacting with patrons and, of course, frightening a few children.


You have co-created nine plays for the Reduced Shakespeare Company including America, Bible, Hollywood, Western Civilization and Christmas (all abridged.) Where did your inspiration for this latest play come from?

 Several years ago we toured the vaults at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC where they told us that the holy grail of Shakespearean scholarship would be to find a play written by Shakespeare in his own hand. We were unable to find anything remotely like that so we decided to write one ourselves. The conceit of the show is that we find (in a parking lot in Leicester, England) the first play that Shakespeare ever wrote. He was seventeen at the time and it contained every character that we now see in his later plays, but they are all woven together into a brand new, 400 year old, storyline. The actual play is over 100 hours long so as a public service we reduce it down to under two hours.


For those who have never seen a production by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, what can they expect with this production? 

The show is a nouveau-vaudevillian roller-coaster ride through the newly discovered first play that Shakespeare ever wrote and is not recommended for people with heart conditions, back problems, inner-ear disorders or English degrees. Audience reaction to the show has been the same the world over. People leave the theater with a feeling of nausea and motion sickness. The RSC cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers.


Does one have to be well versed in Shakespeare’s plays to truly appreciate this show?

Absolutely not. I think between we three performers, we have heard of most of Shakespeares plays. We like to say that if you like Shakespeare, you’ll like the show. But if you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love the show!


This play creates many strange bed fellows between the greatest characters of the Bard’s canon. Without giving away too much, which is your favorite new coupling in the play?

Dromio and Juliet.  But Hamlet meeting up with master motivator Lady Macbeth is a close second.


What advice would you give to a young person starting a career in theatre?

Engineering is a good field.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged); Saturday, February 11 at 7:30PM and Sunday, February 12 at 2 PM ; Price $29 | $39; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-1715; Tickets available at http://schimmelcenter.org/event/the-reduced-shakespeare-company