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Soundings Festival Takes Music to New Heights

Anoushka Shankar, Gabriela Montero, Sharon Isbin and Arturo Sandoval among guest artists

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Sitar player Anoushka Shankar, pianist Gabriela Montero, guitarist Sharon Isbin, legendary trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and other virtuosos from around the globe will make guest appearances during Northwestern University’s 2012 spring festival, “Soundings: Celebrating Singular Voices in Music.”

Presented by the University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the festival begins Wednesday, March 28 and runs through Saturday, April 7, on the Evanston campus.

The festival will feature music ranging from classical piano works and a merging of Indian and flamenco as well as zydeco and jazz. Some musicians will play ethnic instruments that may be new to many audience members. 

All events are open to the public. “Soundings” festival concerts will take place in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive and master classes will be held in Regenstein Recital Hall, 60 Arts Circle Drive, as noted. 

Ticket prices are indicated in two ranges: the first for the general public and the second for full-time students with IDs. Northwestern faculty and staff with a valid WildCARD ID receive a 15 percent discount off the general public ticket price. 

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit To order tickets, call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000 or visit


Sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar, will open the “Soundings” festival at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, with her latest project, “Traveler.” The two-time Grammy nominee breaks new ground by melding the rhythmically intense music of Spain with ancient forms of traditional music from India. Flamenco and fandango guitarist Melon Jimenez, vocalist Sandra Carrasco and Spanish percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger will perform side-by-side with Indian artists Sanjeev Shankar and Pirashanna Thevarajah. Schimpelsberger will play a cajon, an Afro-Peruvian box-shaped percussion instrument. Sanjeev Shankar will play a wind instrument called a shehnai and Thevarajah will play an mridangam and ghatam, both percussion instruments. Anoushka Shankar, who has collaborated with Sting, Herbie Hancock, Thievery Corporation and Karsh Kale, was the youngest and first female recipient of a House of Commons Shield from the British House of Parliament. Tickets are $26 for the general public and $10 for students. 

Grammy-nominated pianist Gabriela Montero’s 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29 performance will feature classical works by Romantic-era composers as well as her own improvisations. Montero has earned worldwide accolades, including five star reviews from BBC Music Magazine and Classic FM. Born in Venezuela, she has performed as a soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic and other groups around the world. Montero will perform Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47 and Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, S. 178 during first half of the program. For the second half, Montero will ask the audience for melodies with which she can improvise. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $10 for students. 

• The “Clarinetissimo!” concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 30, will feature virtuosic clarinetists performing music ranging from classical to klezmer. Bienen School clarinet faculty members J. Lawrie Bloom, Steven Cohen and Leslie Grimm will lead a line-up of student and alumni performers in a program that includes Astor Piazzolla’s “Histoire du Tango,” Scott McAllister’s “Devil Sticks,” Michael Kibbe’s “Shtetl Dances” and Michael Smetanin’s “Ladder of Escape” for nine bass clarinets. Works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Ponchielli and arrangements for a full orchestra of clarinets are also on the program. Tickets are $14 for the general public and $10 for students. 

Sharon Isbin will present a master class at 4 p.m. Friday, March 30 in Regenstein Recital Hall, featuring Bienen School guitar students. Admission is free. 

• Two-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin and world-renowned Brazilian percussionist Thiago de Mello will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31. One of the world’s premier guitarists, Isbin is known for her fusion of classical guitar with jazz, folk and world music. She has appeared with more than 160 renowned orchestras. In this concert, Isbin and de Mello will perform works from her album “Journey to the Amazon,” which was inspired by her collaborations with Brazilian composers and explorations of the connection between the rain forest and the people of Brazil through music. The program will also include works by Granados, Albeniz, Lauro, Barrios, de Mello and Andrew York. Tickets are $26 for the general public and $10 for students. 

• Violinist Jennifer Koh is known as a risk-taker and a “high-octane player.” Koh’s “Bach and Beyond, Part I” program at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5 will guide audiences through a historical journey of solo violin masterpieces inspired by J.S. Bach’s Partitas Nos. 2 and 3, which bookend the concert. Featured works will include music by Eugene Ysaye, Elliott Carter’s Fantasy  (“Remember Roger”) and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “lachen verlernt.” A video filmed specifically for Koh’s performance by award-winning filmmaker Tal Rosner will accompany the Salonen piece. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $10 for students. 

Koh will present a Violin Master Class at 10 a.m. Friday, April 6, in Regenstein Recital Hall, featuring Bienen School string students. Admission is free. 

• Julien Labro, Alexander Sevastian, Jimmy Keane and Dwayne “Dopsie” Rubin will present an Accordion Demonstration and Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 6, in Regenstein Recital Hall. Admission is free. 

• A celebration of the accordion, “The Big Squeeze” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 6, will bring together accordion and bandoneon virtuosos from around the world for a concert of classical, Celtic, jazz, tango, South American and zydeco music. Featured artists include France’s Julien Labro, who will perform jazz and tango on a button accordion, bandoneon (a type of concertina popular in Argentina and Uruguay) and accordina (a French wind and free reed instrument that combines the sound of a chromatic harmonica with the keyboard of a button accordion); Belarusian Alexander Sevastian, who will play classical works of Tchaikovsky and others on the bayan (a button accordion developed in Russia in the early 20th century); Chicagoan Jimmy Keane, who will perform traditional Celtic music on a piano accordion; and button accordionist Dwayne “Dopsie” Rubin and the Zydeco Hellraisers, from New Orleans. Additional performers include the Spektral Quartet, a string ensemble comprised of Northwestern alumni; New York-based alto-saxophonist Jon Irabagon; and guitarist Dennis Cahill. Tickets are $16 for the general public and $10 for students. 

Arturo Sandoval and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra (CJO) conclude the festival at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, with big-band jazz standards. The renowned Cuban trumpeter and composer is the winner of an Emmy, four Grammy and six Billboard awards. Sandoval has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, the Mambo Kings and the Boston Pops. Jeff Lindberg will direct the CJO, Chicago’s oldest professional jazz orchestra. The media sponsor for this concert is 90.9 F.M. WDCB Public Radio, Chicago’s jazz station. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $10 for students.