Bringing New Orleans jazz to your Fox Cities P.A.C. on September 23, it’s The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. The Music Director of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Kevin Sütterlin and Rodney Marsalis, the founder/CEO of Marsalis Mansion Artists and The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass share their excitement about the upcoming collaborative performance and talk about the power of music to unite people.
Purchase your tickets to The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra 7:30 p.m. performance on September 23 here.
The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra has been since the beginning, a Resident Partner to the Fox Cities P.A.C., co-presenting with the Center on numerous public performances featuring world-class talent over the years. Kevin’s first concert with the orchestra was on May 11, 2019, coming on board as the music director that summer.
Many of us have an idea in our heads when someone mentions the word “orchestra.” Kevin and the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra are looking to expand and surpass expectations, offering something new and unexpected each performance. “That’s what concerts and live performances are all about,” Kevin remarked. “For us, it feels different every single time it is played, even after a week’s worth of rehearsal. Music is alive and should be experienced in the moment.”
Kevin commented on the September 23 performance, saying, “As with most of our collaborations, it started with a mutual connection! Our principal tuba, Marty Erickson, works with Rodney and tours with his group.” He added, “Marty, who was a soloist last season, told me about the performances and how much fun the music was for these concerts, and I couldn’t wait to add it to our season.” This collaboration with the big brass band is introducing audiences to new kind of musical experience, uniting lovers of classical music and jazz. “We love taking the orchestra in new directions, and this gives us a chance to perform music we otherwise would never get to play,” Kevin remarked. “We also love to surprise our audience with something new! Our musicians love exploring new music and performing with new guest artists, and every time, everyone on stage learns something new and comes away with new understandings.”
Audiences are sure to enjoy a concert experience filled with high energy. “When you think of New Orleans jazz, you may think of a small ensemble performing, but imagine that same energy shared with a full orchestra,” Kevin elaborated. “I can’t wait to hear this sound in Thrivent Hall. We will play a few classical pieces on our own, and then many with Rodney’s group when we get together. We’re hoping the audience loves the mix we have in store for them.”
A mix it’ll be, as Kevin also mentioned that there is a special new piece that he commissioned for the orchestra from composer Christopher Ducasse. Frequent Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra patrons may know the name Christopher Ducasse as the orchestra has played the music before. “I won’t know what my favorite piece is until I hear us play together for the first time,” Kevin said. “There is something magical about that interaction and you never know what new places the music and the musicians will take us. Our two groups together will make this a memorable and exciting night of music.”
The other side of making September 23 an incredible night of music is The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass, led by the founder and CEO of the ensemble and Marsalis Mansion Artists LLC, Rodney Marsalis. The group was formed more than 35 years ago playing on the streets of New Orleans in the French Quarters. As the big brass group travels internationally, Rodney is responsible for helping to guide the musical direction and to build connections for the other artists on the roster. The musicians in the ensemble are just as equally proficient in classical as they are in jazz styles. As Rodney explained, classical musicians were expected to have excellent improvisational skills. Even for musicians today, music should always be performed differently each time, so it’s never the same way twice. “You are spontaneously creating music, and that is what makes a connection with any audience, no matter what genre you are performing.”
“I love seeing new connections being made between people,” Rodney shared when talking about his favorite part of being in an ensemble. “We put people from all walks of life onstage and perform for people all around the world. Music is music. If it is inspiring and has soulfulness any genre, classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, etc., can reach any audience and move them to tears or inspire them to dance.”
Using the power of music, Rodney and his big brass group actively work to reach the youth by providing mentorship and opportunities to work with young musicians, showing that they are so much more than a musical ensemble. Rodney commented, “During our residencies and performances, we dedicate time to engage with students and offer valuable guidance and inspiration. By sharing our own journeys and experiences, we hope to ignite a spark within the next generation, encouraging them to pursue their dreams fearlessly.” They also connect with students from around the world by using technology and social media platforms to offer live streams, interactive workshops and engaging content. To Rodney, it’s important that The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass’ music is accessible to aspiring musicians globally. “We want to show them that with dedication, passion and a relentless pursuit of excellence, they can reach their goals,” he added.
For aspiring musicians, Rodney offered some words of encouragement: “First and foremost, believe in yourself and your capabilities. The journey of a musician is not always easy, but with resilience, determination, and a lifelong commitment to learning, you can overcome any obstacle. Never stop honing your craft.” He added that there needs to be a commitment to dedicating countless hours to practice, continual experimentation with diverse musical styles and genres, as well as an active pursuit of opportunities for growth and development. “Foster strong connections with fellow musicians and industry professionals; collaboration and networking can open doors to new opportunities.”
Speaking specifically to the September 23 performance alongside the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, Rodney expressed how excited the ensemble is for the collaboration. “We are thrilled about this upcoming partnership,” Rodney said, adding, “One of our Associate Artists, Marty Erickson, has a long-time affiliation with Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. We will feature him at the concert, and we will play many other pieces from different genres with the orchestra, adding a special New Orleans treat at the end. Oh, I think I have said too much! People will have to come to the show to see it!”
Rodney expressed that it is the group’s primary goal to leave a lasting impression on the audience, one that transcends the boundaries of time and place. “We hope that our performance ignites a spark of inspiration within each listener, uplift their spirits, and invigorate their love for music,” Rodney further commented. “Thank you to Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra for hosting us, and we look forward to working with them and meeting their audience!”
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center