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America: The Dream of an Artist's Life featuring Emil Holzhauer

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NFSO 31st Season Special Event - "Cirque de la Symphonie"

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NWFSC Fine and Performing Arts Division Recital

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Mandolin Musician Guest Artist Nov. 16 w/NFSO

Mattie Kelly Arts Center


10/29/2013 - Mandolin Musician Performs Nov. 16 With Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra In Niceville & at Preview Event in Crestview Nov. 15

A renowned mandolinist and fiddler, who has recorded albums as a member of top bluegrass groups such as the Lonesome River Band and New Grass Revue, Jeff Midkiff of Virginia, will perform the regional premiere of his acclaimed “Concerto for Mandolin- From the Blue Ridge” Saturday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. for the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra’s “American Impressions” concert.

The folk-inspired mandolin concerto is billed as a fascinating reflection of bluegrass-based themes that combine with sophisticated orchestral sounds, a touch of swing and jazz and some foot-stomping, toe-tapping rhythms that are just great fun to hear. The concert is part of the professional orchestra’s regular season at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville. Tickets are $22.50 each for adults and $16 each for active duty military and youth age 18 and younger and are available by phone or online from the Box Office at (850) 729-6000 or

Midkiff will also appear at a preview event on Friday, November 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Crestview at UpBeat Music, located at 316 W. James Lee Blvd (US Highway 90). UpBeat Music is underwriting Midkiff’s appearance in the region and will host Midkiff at their music store to perform a selection of music and meet the public. The preview event is free of charge but has limited seating. It is recommended that those wishing to attend pick up a seating reservation at the store during regular business hours prior to the event. Contact the store at 398-4009 or for information.

Another delight at the November 16 “American Impressions” concert will be the NFSO performing Charles Ives’ “Central Park in the Dark”, a kaleidoscope of sounds heard while on an evening stroll in 1906 New York City, and Antonín Dvo?ák’s famous “New World Symphony” - Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95.

The mainstage theater at the magnificent Mattie Kelly Arts Center boasts a custom orchestra shell that ensures the finest in acoustics for music patrons. The center is located at 100 College Blvd. East, Niceville, Florida. Box Office phone and in-person hours are Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. the night of the concert for any available at-the-door seating. See the NFSO website at for additional information.

Raised on bluegrass and also a professional clarinetist, Midkiff is a versatile musician who is at home in more than one setting. He has appeared several times with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on mandolin, and likewise in the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra's clarinet section since 1980. His “Concerto for Mandolin and Orchestra- From the Blue Ridge," was composed in 2011 in a commission from the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed the work to much acclaim with the Rochester Philharmonic, Williamsburg Symphonia (VA), Shreveport Symphony, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival with future performances scheduled with the Boulder Philharmonic and other venues.

A former member of the folk and bluegrass groups the New Grass Revue, the McPeak Brothers, and the popular Lonesome River Band, Midkiff holds degrees from Virginia Tech in music education and performance and a master’s degree in clarinet from Northern Illinois University. His two albums with the Lonesome River Band included its self-titled Rebel Records debut in 1987. Among other musical ventures, he is currently an orchestra director in the Roanoke City Schools.

Concerto for Mandolin "From The Blue Ridge" (2011) notes, by Jeff Midkiff

My love for playing the mandolin, and a lifetime of doing so, began to take on new meaning and motivation just a few years ago. After decades of performing as a professional clarinetist in numerous orchestral concerts, I felt a deep-seated desire to bring my favorite instrument in line with those experiences. I truly enjoy the amazing color, language and structure of the symphony, and my years as a clarinetist made me familiar with it from the inside of the orchestra.

I have worked to develop a highly improvisational approach to the mandolin, and I knew in my heart that I could say something with it on a symphonic scale. My excitement and motivation for this piece started with the idea that I could bring my most natural companion to the symphonic stage -- two seemingly different worlds together. I hope you enjoy the fusion of these complementary musical worlds.

With Roanoke Symphony Orchestra Music Director & Conductor David Stewart Wiley, I found an invaluable resource and ear for the process, for he is himself an accomplished composer and arranger. From our first conversations about how such a new mandolin concerto could communicate, I received immediate understanding and grasp of my mission, for it fit well into his program ideas for this season. His enthusiasm about the piece, from the beginning, remained a vital part of the collaborative process. David's musical genius was more than handy in combing through the complexities of composing -- what could work well and what probably couldn't. To my knowledge there is not another mandolin concerto in three movements for mandolin solo and full symphony -- this piece is a first, and we hope you enjoy it!

The commission for the piece came in November of 2010, and it was then that the falling leaves, blowing in the wind, drew the opening musical scene. The first of three movements (Allegro) begins with the mandolin on swirling sixteenth notes, setting the stage for excitement and anticipation, as does the entire movement. Indeed, our Blue Ridge's beauty and importance to me would form the piece. The middle of the first movement moves from D-Minor to the relative key of B-Flat Major with woodwinds in a waltz-like dance, before we return to the first (fast) theme. Although the movement ends quickly, there is a final unexpected fade with a long held single note in the clarinets -- an echo of the diminuendo ending of the great Dvorak symphony also heard at the Nov. 16 concert.

The lyrical and slow second movement draws on more typical and familiar bluegrass melodies. Having grown up in Roanoke, moved away, and returned, I wanted the concerto to echo the emotions associated with home, and with coming home to Roanoke. To get there, I looked no further than the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Roanoke Valley. "Wildwood Flower" by the Carter Family, and Bill Monroe's "Roanoke" are my thematic inspirations. A haunting fiddle tune from the mandolin (accompanied by the oboe) paints a picture of longing before the journey is complete. The end of the movement is "resolved" with major thirds returning from the "Roanoke" theme, and an improvisational-sounding piccolo solo, flowing without significant break to the final movement, after a brief mandolin utterance over a halo of strings.

The third movement, "The Crooked Road," is an upbeat, improvisational and dynamic affair. It draws strongly from jazz and bluegrass themes in a series of ideas in a "controlled jam session" with one idea leading to another. Every section of the orchestra has a virtuosic role to play, with percussion in particular setting up the different rhythmic grooves. A break in the action occurs with an extended cadenza for mandolin and concertmaster before a mixed-meter blues riff for full orchestra. Another somewhat brief cadenza for solo mandolin inserts and asserts itself just before a bright, upbeat and up-tempo conclusion ends the new work with a flourish upward. Thus ends our musical journey.