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GEMS Virtuoso Early Music Artist-Educators in NYC Public Schools

After a successful 2022 pilot project at New York City’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, GEMS is eager to embark on year two of NeverTooEarly, a project connecting New York City public school music students with virtuoso early music artist-educators for a unique series of half day classroom sessions of transformative musical learning and growth.

Never Too Early seeks to provide a rare opportunity for students from across the New York City school system to engage with GEMS partner ensembles in an approachable, inclusive classroom setting. Students play on period instruments, learn the cultural context from which the music — some familiar but much discovered through research by the artists themselves — was composed, and gain an understanding of how the use of informed Baroque and early Classical period style and technique makes the music come alive.

As this whole new world of music takes shape in the classroom, students discover that the pursuit of mastering early music is not solely defined by understanding its time in history, typically described as from the Baroque to early Classical eras (1600–1750), but also by an eye-opening approach, by necessity a series of discoveries leading to informed personal interpretation, tantalizing for those who engage in its practice in charting their own artistic destinies. And students see that making a living as an artist has possibilities they had previously not imagined.

Watch this space for updates!

2021–22 Guest Lecture Series

Lecture series collage 600x420Monday evenings at 7:00 PM EST on Zoom

December 13, 2021
Dashon Burton: A Conversation on Life and Artistry

January 17, 2022
Nicholas McGegan: Baroque Opera Set Design

February 21, 2022
Elizabeth Weinfield: Music, Business, and Belonging in the Salon of Leonora Duarte

March 21, 2022
Michael Marissen: The Significance of Religion in the Life and Works of J.S. Bach

Single lecture ~ $10 ($4 students)
Series of 4 lectures ~ $30 ($10 students)

Each lecture will be followed by a Q&A; total time will be about one hour.

Each lecture will be available to subscribers for one week following the presentation

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Michael Marissen

Michael Marissen
The Significance of Religion in the Life and Works of J.S. Bach

Monday, March 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM EST on Zoom

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The presentation will focus on an evidence-based understanding of the person and music of J.S. Bach. Leading writers have tended to present Bach as a quasi-Freudian genius, a quasi-scientific scholar, a quasi-pantheistic aesthete, or as a great artist seeking special creative stimuli to compose individual works. With better knowledge of historical materials and of the Bach repertory, however, these views come to look like impositions of a modern mindset onto a devoted premodern Lutheran composer of Lutheran music.

Michael Marissen, a freelance lecturer and writer based in New York City, is Daniel Underhill Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College. His publications include The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (Princeton), Lutheranism, anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion (Oxford), Tainted Glory in Handel’s Messiah (Yale), Bach & God (Oxford), and essays in Harvard Theological Review, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

Dason Burton credit Tatiana Daubek webDashon Burton: A Conversation on Life and Artistry

Monday, December 13, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST on Zoom


Dashon Burton, in conversation with GEMS’ John Thiessen, will discuss his life and successful career as a world-renowned bass/baritone singing a vast repertoire of early, Classical, Romantic and new music. Dashon will talk about his formative years, vocal training at Oberlin College and Yale University, and his approach to maintaining what is truly a remarkable voice while constantly learning new repertoire. GEMS patrons may wish to know what it’s like for Dashon to perform Salomé at the Salzburg Festival while thinking ahead to performances of Bach cantatas and passions elsewhere. Our online audience will have the opportunity to ask Dashon these and other questions live.

Dashon Burton has established a vibrant career as a bass-baritone, appearing regularly throughout the United States and Europe in key elements of his repertoire – Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions and the Mass in B Minor, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Brahms Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem. Dashon won his second Grammy in March 2021, a Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, for Dame Ethyl Smyth’s The Prison with the Experiential Orchestra (Chandos). An original member of the groundbreaking vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, he won his first Grammy for their recording of Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer-Prizewinning Partita for 8 Voices.

Nic McGegan credit Laura Barisonzi 600x420Nicholas McGegan: Baroque Opera Set Design

Monday, January 17, 2022 at 7:00 PM EST on Zoom


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Nicholas McGegan will present a fascinating lecture on set design for Baroque Opera, the quintessential art form of the period. Going to the opera in the 17th and 18th centuries was the most popular type of entertainment for the upper classes throughout Europe. Nic’s presentation, using a wide range of images, gives an impression of what an audience two hundred years ago would have seen and heard. Many productions were very spectacular indeed, with the most elaborate sets and costumes, as well as stage machinery to imitate flying gods, monsters, thunder and lightning.

Maestro Nicholas McGegan has thrilled audiences and colleagues alike with his inspired music-making – combining scholarship, a keen understanding of rhetoric, and ever-present wit. Music Director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra from 1986–2020 (now Music Director Laureate), Nic continues to guest conduct with the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, among others. He was Artistic Director and conductor for Germany’s Göttingen Handel Festival from 1991–2001, and has directed period operas in Drottningholm as well as many staged productions of Purcell, Handel and Mozart with the Mark Morris Dance Company.

Elizabeth Weinfield
Business, Music, and Belonging in the Salon of Leonora Duarte

Elizabeth WeinfieldMonday, February 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM EST on Zoom

In the seventeenth century, Antwerp’s merchant class was primarily comprised of Jewish immigrants from Portugal and Spain; they were business savvy, exploiting family connections and the familiarity of shared culture and language to facilitate deal-making as a means of survival – sometimes at the expense of remaining within the fairly compact network of the Judeo-Portuguese community. Elizabeth Weinfield will focus on the composer Leonora Duarte (1610–1678) and the intersections among women, Jewish identity, and music in the domestic space.

Elizabeth Weinfield is a professor of music history at The Juilliard School in New York whose research explores the relationships among gender, performance, and race in the early modern period. Her interests include music by women in the crypto-Jewish communities of Antwerp, music in the 17th-century Constantinople harem, performance practice, and historiography. She holds a PhD in Historical Musicology from the Graduate Center (CUNY), an MSt in Music from Oxford, and a BA in Art History from Rutgers. Director of the ensemble Sonnambula, her recording of the complete works of Duarte (Centaur Records, 2019), won the 2019 Jewish Studies Award at the American Musicological Society.

GEMS is a non-profit corporation that supports and promotes the artists and organizations in New York devoted to early music — playing repertoire from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods.