Symphony of Diversity is the nationally-noted orchestral initiative intended to combat racism and discrimination, diversifying the people and the music on the symphonic stage to create “a living and breathing model of what diversity and respect can accomplish.” The first iteration took place in Charlotte, NC in April 2017, with the fifth and most recent concert presented in March 2020 in Ames, IA. Over the years the concerts have generated unprecedented media interest and publicity for the activities of a university orchestra, for both the artistic and social merits of the concerts.
Below is a media gallery of different articles and videos on Symphony of Diversity, providing some idea of the tremendous scope – and success – of these performances.
Symphony of Diversity 2017
A concert built to be a mirror
BY HELEN SCHWAB
APRIL 24, 2017
The musicians and director Jonathan Govias talked about what they were hearing — natural for musicians.
But this was about words they were hearing, says Govias: hatred and division that worried them, in the fall national elections and since, talk about “visible and invisible minorities across the state,” as he puts it.
But what could the UNC Charlotte Orchestras do? “Orchestras play, that’s what we do, but orchestras usually play at people, not with them.”
What they came up with: Bring together a group aimed at reflecting the state’s diversity, inviting musicians from Pride Bands and high schools, pros and students (including a Persian Santour player who’s an Iranian doctoral student in mechanical engineering), plus a four-student contingent from Israel, in reciprocity for a student delegation Govias took there in February. About 60 people will perform, including the school’s Chamber Orchestra, with representation that Govias thinks is close to proportional across ethnic and religious backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender identities.
But what to play? Something more than the white/male/European expected work, so, to a Verdi opening, they’ll add part of African-American Patrice Rushen’s “Sinfonia”; a work from Jewish composer Marc Lavry; an Americas-premiere of a piece by female Syrian/Palestinian/Bosnian composer Suad Bushnaq from Raleigh; and a finale by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. (The expanded lineup will do the first and last, and the two-dozen-member Chamber Orchestra will handle the middle three.)
“We’re not going to politic or harangue our audience,” writes Govias. “Just create a living breathing model of what diversity and respect can accomplish.”
“Symphony of Diversity” will be April 27 at Belk Theater in Robinson HallBack to top
Symphony of Diversity Fall 2018
How to honor the civilians killed in World Wars? Perhaps with this ‘Prayer for Peace’
BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN ARTS CORRESPONDENT
OCTOBER 30, 2018 11:33 AM , UPDATED NOVEMBER 02, 2018 12:43 PM
World War I killed about 20 million people, half of them civilians. World War II killed three to four times that many, two-thirds of them civilians. So why, amid Armistice Day/Veterans Day celebrations that pay homage to soldiers, do so few programs salute people who suffered not in combat but because they couldn’t get out of its way?
Jonathan Govias will redress the imbalance slightly Nov. 8 with an extraordinary free event at Booth Playhouse. The conductor, his UNC Charlotte Orchestra and nationally known cellist Cicely Parnas will tackle half a dozen nationally unknown pieces – all apparently local premieres – in a concert titled “Prayer for Peace.” (If Parnas’ name seems familiar, perhaps you saw her play Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 two years ago with the Charlotte Symphony.)
Yet for Govias, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I is just one of two important commemorations this year: Kristallnacht took place 80 years ago this November. On this “Night of Broken Glass,” Nazis torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed nearly 100 Jews. Shortly afterward, the German government sent 30,000 Jewish men to Nazi concentration camps.
“A large part of UNCC’s orchestral programming focuses on social impact and outreach, so this kind of performance in the community makes sense,” Govias explains. “I wanted to look at conflict from a different perspective: It’s proper to honor veterans, but other people made sacrifices, too.”
So Govias, director of orchestras for UNCC, has balanced his event between two wars.
English composers Ernest Farrar and George Butterworth, both killed in action during World War I, are represented by “Heroic Elegy” and “The Banks of Green Willow.” French composer Lili Boulanger died outside Paris as the Germans attacked her home town in 1918; her “D’un soir triste”/“Of a sad evening” will be played. (“I don’t know that I’ve heard a darker piece of music,” says Govias.)
Canada gets a nod via Ernest MacMillan’s “Notre Seigneur en Pauvre” (“Our Lord in Beggar’s Guise”); MacMillan was attending operas in Bayreuth as World War I erupted, got classified an enemy alien and went to a German internment camp for four years. He deserves his place here – he’s the only Canadian composer knighted by the queen – but he’s also a shrewd addition: The Canadian consul-general in Atlanta put up 20 percent of cost of the gig. (“I wrote to all the consulates with composers represented,” Govias reports. “They were the ones who said yes. And Blumenthal Performing Arts is charging us only for the ushers, which makes it possible for us to play there.”)
German-born Lukas Foss, whose family fled to Paris in 1933, then came to the United States, wrote “Elegy for Anne Frank” to honor the Dutch teenager whose diary recorded her own family’s unsuccessful attempt to escape the Nazis. (Dawn Carpenter will play the piano solos.) And Israeli composer Sharon Farber’s “Bestemming” (“Destination”) honors Dutch war hero Curt Lowens; soloist Parnas will provide Lowens’ “voice” with her cello, and Jay Morong will read his words.
“He has an amazing story,” says Govias. “He could have fled to Britain but didn’t. Instead, he stayed to help 150 children escape the gas chambers. He ended up in Hollywood, playing Nazi villains in movies and TV shows, and finally died last year.” (You’d most likely have seen him in “Angels & Demons.”)
“The piece has four movements: ‘Shattered, Escape, Resistance, Triumph.’ So you get this journey from despair to optimism by the end, and the concert finishes with a feeling of hope. There’s a community of Holocaust survivors in Charlotte, and I’d especially like to invite them to come: If they call my office (704-687-0922), I’ll be sure they have tickets.”
Govias would not have assembled so ambitious a program when he came to the college five years ago, but the 43-piece orchestra has improved so much that “I can tell people auditioning, ‘I am sorry, but you didn’t make the cut.’ We don’t kick them to the curb: We have a secondary orchestra where they can develop and try again for the first one. Bur I don’t want to make the first one larger. The smaller the orchestra, the better everyone has to play.” (A delegation of top musicians went to Israel two years ago to perform in a festival of Jewish music.) “I’m more interested in putting together thoughtful programs than doing popular works. I also need to find pieces that stretch the musicians but are things they can still play well. ‘Prayer for Peace’ will do that.”
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.
‘PRAYER FOR PEACE’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8.
WHERE: Booth Playhouse, 130 N. Tryon St.
Symphony of Diversity 2020
Guest Artists Adrian Anantawan, Sarain Fox speak with Charity Nebbe on Iowa Public Radio about Symphony of Diversity 2020
Iowa State Daily Video
Symphony concert to celebrate diversity
By Morrgan Zmolek, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mar 3, 2020
The Iowa State Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with the Lectures Program, is presenting the Symphony of Diversity event with guest violinist Adrian Anantawan.
This event will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Stephens Auditorium. It is free and open for the entire community.
In the first orchestral-only concert in 20 years to be hosted at Stephens Auditorium, the Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, assistant professor and Director of Orchestral Activities Jonathan Govias, aim to encapsulate the diversity of people.
“The orchestra is celebrating, through music, a world that is a symphony of diversity,” Govias said. “The orchestra is a great analogy for diversity, too. What gives it the richness and the color and the depth is the fact that you have all these different families, all these different voices, all these different timbres and colors that come out of it. This concert is about celebrating human beings, all of them, not just the ones we’d usually find in the concert hall.”
This concert will include five pieces from five different cultural groups, according to the lecture series website: American, Sweden, African American, Canadian and Mexican. Several of these pieces were also written by female composers.
Performing alongside the orchestra is Anantawan, a guest violinist originally from Canada. According to his website, Anantawan received his education from Curtis Institute of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the United States, Yale University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“I always thought he had a really remarkable story of just human perseverance and determination,” Govias said. “People who are born missing a limb are usually told to not even bother, and he bothered against all the advice. He’s not invited here because he’s missing a hand; he’s invited here because he’s a fabulous violinist who just so happens to be missing a hand. He’s part of a physical minority, but stop right there and listen to him play, and he is an artist of absolute merit.”
There are 17 academic units and administrative divisions from the university who are helping sponsor this event, Govias said.
“There’s a lot of support from across the campus for the event,” Govias said. “It’s very clearly near and dear to the values of a lot of the leadership here.”