Thursday, November 29, 2007

The VSO asks its Holiday Pops guests five questions

“Suite Dreams” is the title of this year’s holiday program, hosted by VSO chorus member and psychiatrist John Helzer. A tongue-in-cheek look at dreams and music inspired by dreams includes excerpts from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije, the Nutcracker, and more. Katie Jordan, French horn, is the featured youth soloist, and Anthony Princiotti conducts. Here are interviews with John and Katie.

Dr. Helzer is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and is Director of the Health Behavior Research Center. His early career was at Washington University in St. Louis, but he loves the mountains and has a passion for skiing, so the marriage to Missouri didn’t last. His other non-academic interests include food and wine, tennis, and music. He sings with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus and other local choral groups, and is a member of the VSO’s Champlain Valley Board of Trustees. He lives in Charlotte.

VSO: What is something your colleagues don't know about you?
JH: That I own Switzerland.
VSO: Do you have a pre-performance ritual? How do you deal with nerves?
JH: As a singer, my only rituals are to hydrate like crazy (resulting in frequent trips to the men's room) and bring a pocketful of Halls Mentholyptus to the performance. The way I deal with nerves is to perform only in ensembles rather than solo so that nerves aren't a problem. When I played trumpet in school I got terrific performance anxiety before solo recitals resulting in dry mouth making it very hard to play the trumpet! I greatly admire Katie Jordan playing her concerto on stage, but I wouldn't trade places with her for anything! Granted, the VSO Pops will be a solo narration but I'm only reading, and I will have Vermont's best back-up band.
VSO: If you could be Maestro for a day, what would you program?
JH: Dawn Upshaw doing a concert of music by Osvaldo Golilov and staged by Peter Sellars. (One can always afford to THINK big.)
VSO: If you had pursued your love of music as a profession, what do you think you would be doing?
JH: I often have a dream that I get born again but with an adult perspective and a mature love of music. How would I conduct my life? First I'd start violin lessons on a small violin then as my fingers got big enough would start piano lessons. I'd start vocal lessons early and sing in a children's choir. As I got larger, I'd take serious lessons on the cello and continue the piano. If my voice made it through the transition into adulthood, I'd work to become an opera singer. If not, I'd work to become a conductor. If I didn't turn out to be good enough to have an international career, I'd go to medical school. (You said I could have 9 lives, right?)
VSO: What is on your holiday wish list this year?
JH: It's a special gift for my wife, but I can't tell you what it is because she might read this.

Katie Jordan began playing the French horn in 4th grade at Mater Christi School in Burlington, where she studied with Barbara Heath. She has been involved with the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association for seven years, and is currently principal horn in the VYO. Since fall of 1999, she has studied privately horn with Alan Parshley and piano with Paul Orgel.

In September 2007, Katie appeared as a soloist with the Vermont Youth Orchestra, and on NPR’s “From the Top,” which was recorded in Randolph for a December 2007 broadcast. She participated in the 2007 MENC Eastern Division Honors Band in Hartford, Connecticut. She has been the principal horn of the New England Music Festival Orchestra for two years and Vermont All-State Music Festival orchestras for three years. Katie won second place at this year’s Vermont Young Musicians Award Competition in Waitsfield. She also won scholarships at the 2005 and 2006 Vermont All-State Festivals, and won the Northeastern Horn Workshop High School competition in March 2006. For the past two summers, she has been invited to participate in the National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Music Institute at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. During the summer of 2005, she participated in the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar at Boston College.

A high honors student, Katie is a senior at Vergennes Union High School where she participates in concert, marching and jazz bands, under the leadership of Susan O'Daniel, and the chorus and select chorus, under the direction of Karen Jordan. She also accompanies the middle and high school choruses. Katie performed the roles of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance and the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She is the daughter of Alan and Karen Jordan, and lives with them and her brother, Christopher, in Charlotte, VT.

VSO: Have you experienced a funny, memorable, or shocking concert experience? What happened?
KJ: My most memorable concert experience occurred my freshman year of high school. The Vermont Youth Orchestra traveled to New York City and performed in Carnegie Hall. I had the chance to play principal for the concert.
VSO: Do you have a pre-performance ritual? How do you deal with nerves?
KJ: I try to complete breathing exercises before a performance and avoid eating anything. The nerves recede after a while.
VSO: If you could be Maestro for a day, what would you program?
KJ: I'd program a reading session of the Strauss tone poems...of course we'd have to switch out musicians due to the taxing nature of the pieces.
VSO: If you weren't on the road to becoming a professional musician, what do you think you'd be doing?
KJ: I'd probably be reading novels and acting in plays. I love to perform in musicals.
VSO: What is on your holiday wish list?
KJ: I haven't composed my wish list yet, however, I imagine it will include some lovely Hetman lubricants for my instrument.