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Performance Schedule:

August 10, 2017:
Snake River Music Festival in Keystone, CO
Mandolin Quintet with Carpe Diem String Quartet

December 3, 2017:
Cal Poly Symphony in San Luis Obispo, CA
David Arrivée, Music Director and Conductor



Previous Performances:

May 13, 2017:
South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Kermit Poling, Music Director and Conductor

May 21, 2017:
Virginia's Blue Ridge Music Festival 
David Stewart Wiley, Music Director and Conductor

March 25 & 28, 2017:
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, Music Director and Conductor
at 2017 SHIFT Festival at Kennedy Center

February 25 & 26, 2017:
world premier of "Mandolin Quintet" by Carpe Diem String Quartet


October 15, 2016:
Ohio Northern Symphony
Travis Jürgens, Music Director and Conductor

November 17 & 18, 2016:
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Aram Demirjian, Music Director and Conductor


April 18 & 19, 2016:
Williamsburg Symphonia
Janna Hymes, Music Director and Conductor
Williamsburg, Virginia​

March 3, 4 & 5, 2016:
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
Michael Butterman, Conductor

May 22 & 24, 2015:
with Carpe Diem String Quartet
Worthington, Ohio

May 31, 2015:
Virginia's Blue Ridge Music Festival
David Stewart Wiley, Music Director and Conductor

March 6, 2015:
Champaign-Urbana Symphony
Stephen Alltop, Music Director and Conductor

September 20, 2014:
Symphony of Southeast Texas, Beaumont
Chelsea Tipton II, Music Director and Conductor

April, 26, 2014:
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Butterman, Music Director and Conductor

November 2013:
Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra
Jeffrey Rink, Music Director
and Conductor

January 2013:
Williamsburg Symphonia,
Janna Hymes, Music Director
and Conductor
Williamsburg, Virginia

November 2012:
Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Michael Butterman, Music Director and Conductor

June 2012:
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, Conductor

October 2011: World Premier Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, David Stewart Wiley, Music Director and Conductor

 

Listen to a radio interview

Kermit Poling of Red River Radio talks with mandolinist Jeff Midkiff who was the guest soloist for the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra Concert November 17 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

 

Additional Reviews

“Orchestras are looking for new music that expands the classical repertoire, and a new and wonderful mandolin concerto by Jeff Midkiff fits this need perfectly. It fuses naturally the bluegrass and classical orchestra styles, allows for the soloist to communicate both profound lyricism and technical virtuosity, and is both fun and challenging for the orchestra to play…the audience immediately responded with a sustained standing ovation, and I immediately programmed it for my summer music festival this year.

This work represents, to me, a perfect example of what great new music can be: rooted in tradition while crossing musical genres, contemporary and appealing, fun to play and conduct, and a way of building and sustaining audiences now and into the future. It is no accident that other conductors and orchestras are programming it – it is a winner.”

David Stewart Wiley,
Music Director and Conductor, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Virginia and Long Island Philharmonic, New York

 

 

 

I was proud to be a part of the triumph of the concert last night. What you did keeps the art of the orchestra alive and a vital force in the cultural life of the community. The combination of your mandolin
virtuosity and your flair for the craft of creative composition should take you far. Your marriage of contemporary folk elements with the rich tradition of the western European orchestra is masterful and original. You've invented something new, and done it very well.

Here's hoping that this is only the first installment of a new direction of classical music. Just think of the long and distinguished list of great composers who elevated folk elements into great art!

Wallace Easter
Associate Professor
Department of Music
Virginia Tech

 

 

Midkiff's "From the Blue Ridge" is a highly original and thoroughly welcome addition to the catalog great American works for orchestra. I have rarely encountered a new work that inspired such rapturous praise from musicians and audiences from a single hearing. By turns toe-tapping, wistful, spiritual and downright fun, the concerto is colorfully scored and features the virtuosic talents of the composer as soloist. I look forward to introducing the work to audiences around the country.Michael Butterman
Rochester Philharmonic
Orchestra conductor

 

 

 

 

 

Get a recording from Amazon.com

Download the One-Sheet Mandolin Concerto “From The Blue Ridge”

Composed in 2011 in a commission from Music Director David Stewart Wiley and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the first performance was opening night of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra's Fall 2011 season. The Concerto has subsequently been performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Shreveport Symphony, and the Williamsburg Symphonia and the Northwest Florida Symphony. Performances are scheduled with the Boulder Philharmonic and the Symphony of Southeast Texas, Beaumont.

Download the Review Virginia Gazette review of the Concerto
with the Williamsburg Symphonia

The evening's featured soloist, Jeff Midkiff, was also the composer of the featured piece, “From the Blue Ridge,” a concerto for mandolin. The title of the work quickly dispelled any thoughts of hearing the mandolin in music reflective of its 18th century Italian roots. Quite the opposite.

The piece directly reflects Midkiff’s roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains and his fondness for the bluegrass music tradition, with a touch of swing and jazz in the mix. Although he’s a trained clarinetist with a degree in music education and performance and is the orchestra director for the Roanoke City Schools, Midkiff’s involvement in bluegrass music is evident in the work’s overall structure.

“It was a special evening centering around Jeff Midkiff's mandolin concerto.  This original piece combines classical elements with hints of bluegrass and American folk nuance.  It is incredibly well crafted with special attention to instrumentation and color.  Jeff is a whiz at the mandolin and the audience went crazy.”

Janna Hymes, Music Director
and Conductor, Williamsburg Symphonia

Not that this suggests “Blue Ridge” is all fast mandolin pickin’ because it isn’t. In fact, it’s a work that cleverly blends a sophisticated orchestral foundation with mandolin playing suitable for classically-oriented lines as well as those more down-home.

It opens with swirling sounds from the orchestra and mandolin that appropriately does suggest the beauty of the Blue Ridge area and its peaceful life. It’s a fascinating combination of bluegrass inspired emotions with those of a somewhat big city orchestral sound that works well on many levels.

The second movement is thoughtful and reflective and brought to mind the emotions so superbly expressed by Copland and his Americana music. According to program notes, Midkiff’s stimulus for this movement came from “Wildwood Flower” and the Carter Family and Bill Monroe's “Roanoke.”

Your piece added such wonderful levity to our program and was enjoyed immensely by all.  You masterfully wove the melodies of each instrument into a joyous tapestry and the audience was mesmerized.

Carolyn Keurajian, Executive Director, Williamsburg
Symphonia

The finale, “Crooked Road” refers to the extensive trail of bluegrass and country music that winds through Appalachia and southwestern Virginia and embraces such luminaries as Ernie Ford, the Stoneman Family, and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, the latter which were featured in the Virginia Arts Festival back in 2007. The movement is full of foot-stomping, toe-tapping rhythms and was just great fun to hear.

As for Midkiff, his virtuoso fast-paced mandolin playing was impressive, as was his ability to weave the most delicate of lines, all of which added to the delightful diversity of the Symphonia’s fare in this Masterworks Concert.

—John Shulson, Virginia Gazette, January 19, 2013

Program notes for the concert from its debut:

Roanoke’s own composer and virtuoso Jeff Midkiff
features traditional mountain music and a new concerto
for mandolin and orchestra

Having grown up in Roanoke, moved away, and returned to Roanoke, I wanted the concerto to echo the emotions associated with home, and with going home.“My love for playing the mandolin, and a lifetime doing so, began to take on new meaning and motivation just a few years ago. After decades of also performing as a clarinetist, and countless orchestral concert situations, I felt a deep-seated desire to bring my favorite instrument in line with that experience. I truly enjoy the color, language and structure of the symphony orchestra, and my many years as a clarinetist made me very familiar with it. At the same time, I enjoyed a highly improvisational approach to the mandolin that was uniquely my own. I had struggled to keep the two — orchestra and mandolin — a ‘safe’ distance apart. But I knew I could say something with the mandolin on a symphonic scale. Deep down, I wanted to bring my most natural companion to the orchestra — two seemingly different worlds, together.

AUDIO CLIP: Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge,” first movement sample

“The first movement, begins with the mandolin on swirling sixteenth notes, setting the stage with excitement and anticipation, as does the entire movement. The commission for the piece came to me in November when the falling leaves drew this opening scene. Indeed, the Blue Ridge’s beauty and importance to me would form the piece. The middle of the first movement moves to major tonality with woodwinds in a waltz-like dance before a return to the opening theme.

AUDIO CLIP: Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge,” second movement sample

“The lyrical second movement, draws on more typical and familiar bluegrass melodies. Having grown up in Roanoke, moved away, and returned to Roanoke, I wanted the concerto to echo the emotions associated with home, and with going home.  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 the thematic inspiration.

AUDIO CLIP: Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge,” third movement sample

“The third movement is an upbeat, exciting, spontaneous and dynamic affair. It draws strongly upon jazz and bluegrass themes in a series of ideas in a sort of ‘controlled jam session’ — one idea smoothly leading to another. Every section of the orchestra has a role to play with particularly expanded use of percussion setting up the different groves.

Also on the program:

AUDIO CLIP: A Visit From The Muse, sample

A Visit From The Muse is an arrangement of my original composition for mandolin and string orchestra.

AUDIO CLIP: Monroe’s Hornpipe, sample

Bill Monroe’s Monroe’s Hornpipe is my arrangement for mandolin and string orchestra.

 

 

Rhapsody

Composed in 2007 in a commission from Concordia Univeristy Chicago Wind Symphony

Review of Rhapsody, Jeff's composition for mandolin and wind symphony

The silvery top range of the mandolin [is balanced] against the deep muted roar of the low brass.A striking new work, “Rhapsody,” by Jeff Midkiff, is scored for the unlikely — probably unique — combination of solo mandolin and symphonic wind ensemble. The melodic ideas are fresh and fluent. The harmonies are apt, varied and expressive. And the tonal colors of the 60-piece ensemble were exploited in a wide range of dynamics and voicings.

Crucial to any solo piece with large ensemble is balance. For an instrument as light in tone as the mandolin, balancing a full wind band is not easy. Midkiff’s piece accomplished the task with taste and flair, using the silvery top range of the mandolin against the deep muted roar of the low brass, as well as more percussive figurations against the mid-range and upper voices of the band. At no point was the solo instrument over-balanced except--obviously intentionally — when it was suddenly over-called by the full ensemble.

The ensemble playing, by the Concordia University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, was excellent throughout, showing conviction and skill, ably led by conductor Richard Fischer.

—Dr. John M. Ware is an organist, choir director and composer, and is a former music faculty member of Virginia Union University.