Arts

Arts and culture

Two of the country's oldest and most venerated music institutions, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, are beginning their seasons with a change in artistic leadership. Both organizations are grappling with 21st century issues of bringing new audiences in and convincing them that centuries-old music forms are central to their lives today.

Despite being one of the first and oldest forms of popular music, opera sometimes struggles to connect with 21st century audiences. However, Anthony Roth Costanzo is breaking down the genre's stodgy stereotype and making opera more accessible — taking his distinctive sound to the masses, from a sixth-grade classroom in the Bronx to NPR's own Tiny Desk.

The New York Philharmonic announced Sunday that it has taken action against two prominent musicians over unspecified "misconduct": the orchestra's principal oboist, Liang Wang, and its associate principal trumpeter, Matthew Muckey.

The orchestra said the decision came after a five-month internal investigation, led by a former federal judge. Both musicians dispute the Philharmonic's findings, and while the musicians' union reviews the orchestra's decision, the two have been placed on unpaid leave.

Fall 2018 Listener Book Swap

Sep 14, 2018

September is National Literacy Month and we’re celebrating with a listener book swap September 17-28. Our doors will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30.

The idea is simple. Stop by our DeKalb studios with a book – or several - for the “swap table" and peruse favorite books from staff and fellow listeners while you're here. You’re free to go home with some fresh reads, or leave the treasures behind for stocking the WNIJ/WNIU Little Free Library.

Sessions from Studio A - Dina Bach

Sep 13, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Dina Bach performs "You and Me" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Dina Bach performs "Slow Dance" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Dina Bach at dinabachmusic.com.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Museum curators usually build an art exhibition around a particular artist's work or on a theme. But the Rockford Art Museum's Midwestern Biennial has an outside judge, lots of different artists and no theme. So how do you curate that? 

As Museum Curator Carrie Johnson explains, the Midwestern Biennial poses particular challenges. Normally, she spends up to two years vetting artists, assembling works, and picking a theme.

Sessions from Studio A - sewingneedle

Sep 6, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

sewingneedle performs "Puppies" live in WNIJ's Studio A.

sewingneedle performs "Feel Good Music" live in WNIJ's Studio A.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Sarah Jesmer

A critically-acclaimed film created in Rockford shows skateboarding is more than a hobby for some.

Audience members walking through the doors of Rockford's Nordlof Center received pamphlets on reducing trauma. That's because the film, called Minding the Gap, highlights hard truths about trauma and abuse as seen through the lens of local skateboarders.

Filmmaker Bing Liu grew up in Rockford. He says there's a deep misconception about what happens at a skate park.

When George Li, the 23-year-old American pianist, revealed his Tiny Desk setlist, one thought came to mind: How will these powerhouse showstoppers sound on an upright piano? The music he intended to play, by Franz Liszt and Vladimir Horowitz, was designed for a real, 7-foot concert grand piano – the kind they used to call "a symphony orchestra in a box."

Sessions from Studio A - Matthew Caleb Flamm

Aug 30, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Matthew Caleb Flamm performs "Enemies" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Matthew Caleb Flamm performs "Crooked Mind" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Renée Fleming is becoming America's go-to singer. The celebrated soprano, who has performed at a broad range of high-profile events off the opera stage, is scheduled to sing at Senator John McCain's memorial service this Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral.

Fleming is slated to sing the Irish standard "Danny Boy" — at McCain's request — alongside tributes to the late Senator by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a homily by Bay Area Catholic leader Father Edward A. Reese.

A few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, composer Gabriel Kahane decided he needed to take a journey. On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the votes were counted, Kahane boarded an Amtrak train in Penn Station in New York City. He left his smartphone behind. He unplugged from the Internet. And he spent the next two weeks riding across the country, talking to people.

Jamie Bernstein can't call her childhood a typical one. On any given weekend, she might find Lauren Bacall, Isaac Stern, Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman or Sidney Lumet hanging out at her house. Jamie's father was Leonard Bernstein.

There has never been an American dynamo remotely like Leonard Bernstein. The composer, conductor, pianist, creator of musicals, educator, political maven and raconteur seemed to spin on his axis faster than any normal human being.

Sessions from Studio A - Renee Dion

Aug 23, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Renee Dion performs "99" at the House Cafe in DeKalb, August 16, 2018.

Renee Dion performs "Monday" at the House Cafe in DeKalb, August 16, 2018.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

WNIJ is re-visting the "Read With Me" library for some summer reading. One novel about a coach for the Chicago Cubs, The Clubhouse Thief, seems ripe for a second look with the Cubs leading the National League Central Division. Here's an encore presentation of our interview with author James Janko.

Yo-Yo Ma opened his recent Tiny Desk concert with the gently rolling "Prelude" from J. S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1. It's music Ma has lived with nearly all of his life.

"Believe it or not, this was the very first piece of music I started on the cello when I was four years old," he told the crowd, tightly squeezed between the office furniture on NPR's fourth floor.

Sessions from Studio A - Zack Baumgartner

Aug 16, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Zack Baumgartner performs "Goodbye" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Zack Baumgartner performs "Blame It All On Me".

Find the music of Zack Baumgartner at ReverbNation.

The Minnesota Orchestra will play one of its most important gigs of the year this month — at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, South Africa. In doing so, it will become the first major U.S. orchestra to visit that city. The performance is part of a year of celebrations recognizing the centennial of Nelson Mandela's birth. It makes sense for the orchestra to play in the community central to the freedom struggle which brought down apartheid.

Faith Centers Embrace Yoga

Aug 14, 2018
Sarah Jesmer

As you walk into the lobby of DeKalb's First Congregational Church, the first thing you'll hear is faint music from the door leading into the chapel. You open the door gently and enter a blue carpeted room. A handful of women sit in a half-circle with their legs crossed and eyes closed on colorful yoga mats. In the middle is an older, bearded man wearing a blue shirt. He's sitting in front of a lit candle positioned on top of an overturned offering plate.

Sessions from Studio A - Cousin Dud

Aug 9, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Cousin Dud performs "Better Beaches" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Cousin Dud performs "Spent" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Slideshow: STEM Divas Camp Empowers Young Female Minds

Aug 6, 2018
Victoria Lunacek

Northern Illinois University held a series STEM Divas workshops this summer to empower young women through science, crafts and robotics. Participants had to program their robot to do a certain set of steps: Move backward, turn in a full circle, and change four colors. It's part of a series of Day Camps hosted by NIU.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, considered one of the world's top orchestras, has fired its conductor, Daniele Gatti, after two women publicly accused him of sexual misconduct. A statement published Thursday on the orchestra's website notes that it has "terminated the cooperation with chief conductor Daniele Gatti with immediate effect."

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