Tinkering with the Classics: New Prize Supports Music and Entrepreneurship

Allie Jessing (stage name Allie Mazon) slowly removed one long red glove from her hand. After a pause, she flashed a smile and took off the other. That she did so before an audience of distinguished music professionals while singing “Les chemins de l’amour” by French composer Francis Poulenc was unexpected—and captivating.

Mannes School of Music MFA student Allie Jessing performs “Les chemins de l’amour” during a workshop and master class for winners of the new Alsop Entrepreneurship Awards, an annual prize given to students at Mannes for innovative projects in music entrepreneurship. Photo by Kasia Broussalian/The New School.

Mannes School of Music MFA student Allie Jessing performs “Les chemins de l’amour” during a workshop and master class for winners of the new Alsop Entrepreneurship Awards. Photo by Kasia Broussalian/The New School.

Which was precisely the point of her performance in Operesque, a new project that combines opera and burlesque, for which she received one of the inaugural Alsop Entrepreneurship Awards. This annual prize is given to students at Mannes School of Music for innovative projects in music entrepreneurship. Funded by a generous gift from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop, the award supports the creation and implementation of interdisciplinary projects to promote 21st-century classical music to broader audiences.

Jessing’s performance was part of a special master class and workshop involving this year’s winners and Alsop as well as the rest of the award selection committee, which included Richard Kessler, executive dean of the School of Performing Arts; Margaret Lioi, CEO of Chamber Music America; and Leslie Stifelman, Peabody Award–winning conductor, pianist, producer, and consultant.

This year, four students and groups were selected as winners, with projects ranging from an interactive gallery exhibition to a community residency and a primary school course. Winners will go on to develop mentorship relationships with members of the selection committee as they complete and implement their projects over the course of the year.

To view a video of the performances and master class and hear Alsop speak about the awards and her vision for the future classical musician, click on the player above.

Read descriptions of this year’s winning projects below:

Allie Jessing
Operesque, a performance project combining opera and burlesque, performed at Drom NYC on May 17 at 7:15 p.m.

Operesque is designed to foster a love for high art and culture in a new generation, reinforce the relevance and sex appeal of classical music, and provide a new platform for education about safer sex practices, self-love, and mutual respect in the digital age and beyond. The first stage is a free series of sophisticated, sensual performances by Allie Mazon, a master’s candidate in voice at Mannes, incorporating burlesque striptease. Operesque will premiere in Manhattan at Drom NYC on May 27 at 7:15 pm.

In the second phase, Allie will collaborate with multidisciplinary artists to create innovative multimedia operatic burlesque experiences—performances incorporating videos, photos, and social media—that will titillate, enrich, and inform. The project will create opportunities for collaboration between artists, technologists, and health workers to spread information about sexual health using social media and the power of the arts.

Caitlin Mead
An interactive performance and gallery exhibition revolving around Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs, held April 17-19 at The New School’s University Center

Caitlin Mead, a first-year master’s student, received an Alsop Entrepreneurship Award to produce a combination recital and gallery show revolving around Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs (1964). The event will be produced April 17-19 in room UL102 at The New School’s University Center at 63 Fifth Avenue. The gallery will be open 6:00-9:00 p.m. on Friday April 17, with a 7:00 p.m. performance, 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, with a 7:00 p.m. performance, and 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. Gallery admission is free; performance admission is $10 or $5 with a student ID.

Berio’s Folk Songs is a collection of 11 pieces written for soprano and septet based on folk music from eight cultures around the world, including Appalachia, Auvergne (France), Sicily (Italy), Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The piece was written after World War II as a means of promoting unity between peoples to repair the wounds of war.

Together with New School art history student Lydia Terillo, Mead is planning a gallery exhibition to accompany the recital. The exhibition will highlight the unique cultural traditions and history of each country while reflecting the unifying values present in the songs (community, nature, love, etc.).

Jeanne Dorche
A community residency in Huntsville, Alabama, by This Close, an ensemble of voice, cello, oboe, and piano

This Close is a groundbreaking ensemble consisting of voice (Alexandra Fees), oboe (Phillip Rashkin), cello (Jeanne Dorche), and piano (Vladimir Rumyantsev). This Close breaks with traditional performance protocols to create new relationships using all forms of live music, allowing for a tangible and intimate experience of the art form.

This Close’s pilot program will take place in Huntsville April 19–27, 2015, and will include several performances each day in public places and in schools, businesses, and churches. This Close will use its unique programs to engage the audience, challenging the traditional roles of performer and listener. The repertoire will include classical and contemporary music, as well as cabaret and folk songs.

Sebastian Lambertz
Little Ant Got Hurt, a piece that brings music directly to children

In the tradition of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Gregory Mertl’s piece Little Ant Got Hurt brings a story to life through music, with the narrator as a guide. It serves to introduce children to classical music or to deepen their relationship with it. Like Peter and the Wolf, Little Ant Got Hurt is music of its time. Composed in 2008, the piece allows students to experience music without preconceived ideas. There are several versions of this piece, including a clarinet solo and a trio for clarinet, bassoon or cello, and double bass. (The text, collected and transcribed by Josef Kožíšek [1861–1933], is in the public domain.) Working with the composer as narrator, Lambertz has created an interactive musical experience for elementary school children. The Alsop Award will fund promotional materials to allow Lambertz to expand performance opportunities for this project.