Hermitage Launches Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Initiative

The new Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage launches with the premiere event, “Soulful Strings: An Evening of Harp Music,” on Tuesday, June 7 at 8pm at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, featuring acclaimed harpist and returning Hermitage Fellow Ashley JacksonThe outdoor event is free and open to the public with a $5/person registration fee. 

The Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage offers the opportunity for a distinguished Hermitage alumni composer or musician to return for additional residency time and a special community concert. This initiative is made possible by a generous multi-year gift from the Ruby E. and Carole Crosby Family Foundation. Hermitage Trustee Carole Crosby initiated this gift as a special tribute to her mother Ruby, who helped to inspire her deep love of music. Ashley Jackson is a particularly fitting Hermitage alumna to launch this new initiative, as Carole Crosby is a harpist herself, having graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music and played in both the Atlanta Symphony and Detroit Symphony.

“I am continually inspired by the Hermitage’s commitment to artists and the impact these magnificent talents are having in our community,” said Hermitage Trustee Carole Crosby. “Music was always incredibly important to me and to my mother, so it is an honor to celebrate her memory with this new initiative spotlighting and supporting some truly extraordinary composers and musicians.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Carole Crosby for this generous gift and her continued belief in the work we are doing,” added Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “As we look to reengage with and provide new opportunities for returning Hermitage alumni, this generous gift from Carole in honor of her mother allows us to celebrate some of the brilliant musical talents who have come to know Sarasota through their time at the Hermitage and to share their latest work with the members of our community.”

Praised for her “soulful” and “eloquent” playing (Musical America), Hermitage alumna and celebrated harpist Ashley Jackson enjoys a multifaceted career as a highly sought-after musician and collaborator in New York and beyond. As a soloist, she has performed at Lincoln Center, Celebrate Brooklyn!, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Qatar Philharmonic, and is a regular member of the Harlem Chamber Players. Jackson is currently working on her debut solo album Ennanga, an exploration of African-American spirituals and their influence on other forms of American musical expression. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Music Department at Hunter College. Jackson holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Juilliard School, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. AshleyJacksonHarp.com

Ashley Jackson’s concert and Hermitage residency are made possible through the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Series at the Hermitage. 

Composer Angélica Negrón Celebrated at 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner

The fourteenth annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) Dinner on April 10 celebrated composer, multi-instrumentalist, and 2022 HGP winner Angélica Negrón, featuring inspiring performances by Tony Award winner and Hermitage Fellow Gavin Creel, and Grammy Award-winning cellist Nick Photinos. The annual gala raised more than $200,000 in support of the Hermitage’s mission in addition to the Greenfield Foundation’s ongoing annual gift of $150,000. The festive “Celebration of Music” at Michael’s On East was chaired by Sondra Biller and Carole Crosby. Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg served as master of ceremonies and announced that EnsembleNewSRQ will be collaborating with the Hermitage as the presenting partner for Negrón’s commission in Sarasota in 2024, a composition that will be inspired and timed with the setting sun.

The evening opened with a video celebration of Puerto Rico’s musical legacy featuring a number of celebrated Puerto Rican musical artists, including Negrón, followed by a special video documenting fourteen years of Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients, jurors, and presenting partners. Negrón, who was unable to attend in person because she had two commissioned works opening with the Seattle Symphony during the same weekend, delivered heartfelt and inspiring video messages to the audience. Broadway star Gavin Creel delighted the crowd with an original song from a show he’s been developing at the Hermitage called Walk on Through, a project commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that straddles the worlds of theater, music, and visual art – much like the Hermitage Greenfield Prize. He also performed songs by the late, great Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman, celebrating the impact of the arts in our lives. The warm sounds of Nick Photinos’ cello rendition of Negron’s work “Panorama” filled the room as images of the setting sun and rolling waves from the Hermitage Beach on Manasota Key played in the background. The evening also featured remarks from 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Aleshea Harris and this year’s HGP jury chair and WQXR radio host Terrance McKnight.

“This was truly a night to remember,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “It was an honor to celebrate Angélica Negrón and her extraordinary talent, and we can’t wait to introduce her new composition to our Gulf Coast community. It was thrilling to hear live performances from Tony Award Winner Gavin Creel and Grammy Award Winner Nick Photinos at Michael’s On East, along with inspiring remarks from the brilliant Aleshea Harris and Terrance McKnight. We are so grateful to the Greenfield Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and all of our sponsors and donors for their generous support of our mission and the support of new work.”

 

“Music Around the World” with Award-Winning Musician Kavita Shah

Award-winning vocalist, composer, and educator Kavita Shah will present a free Hermitage community program, “Music Around the World,” at The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art on Thursday, April 21 at 6pm. Shah will share stripped-down selections from her beautiful and transporting works set against the beautiful banyan trees on The Ringling’s magnificent grounds. A lifelong New Yorker of Indian origin hailed for possessing an “amazing dexterity for musical languages” (NPR), Shah incorporates her ethnographic research on Brazilian, West African, and Indian traditions into her original music. Notable projects include “Visions” (2014, co-produced by Lionel Loueke), “Folk Songs of Naboréa” (2017, premiered at the Park Avenue Armory), and “Interplay” (2018, in duo with François Moutin), which was nominated for France’s Victoires de la Musique for “Jazz Album of the Year.” 

Shah’s music “reflects the insatiably curious mind of an ethnographer, the soul of a poet, and the eye of a painter” (Owen McNally, NPR). Having traveled the world and performed throughout six continents, Shah’s music reflects each journey as it continuously explores new possibilities in music and sound.

This event is presented in partnership with The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Registration is required ($5/person registration fee). The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243.

2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Weekend – April 8-10 – Features Full Line-Up of Events

Events celebrating music and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize – April 8-10 – include a live conversation with acclaimed playwright and 2021 winner Aleshea Harris, a virtual talk with celebrated composer and 2022 recipient Angélica Negrón, and a live panel discussion with Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight (WXQR Radio) and Gary Padmore (New York Philharmonic), with Nate Jacobs (Founding Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe)

The 14th annual Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration Weekend culminates in the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner: “A Celebration of Music,” featuring a live performance of the work of 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize-Winning composer Angélica Negrón by Grammy Award-Winning cellist Nick Photinos, plus a special guest performance by Tony Award-Winning Hermitage Fellow Gavin Creel.

These events and the annual gala dinner are presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Limited seats are available for this nearly sold-out gala dinner. Click here for tables and sponsorships or contact Development Director Amy Wallace at or Development@HermitageArtistRetreat.org or (941) 475-2098, Ext. 2 

This year’s weekend of events begins on Friday, April 8 with “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” (6pm at New College of Florida) with 2021 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Aleshea Harris. Then, on Saturday, April 9, the Hermitage presents two events, one virtual and one live: Angélica Negrón: The Journey, The Work, The Inspiration” (3pm, virtual event) features the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, whose innovative music compositions have been described as “playful and inventive” by The New York Times. That evening, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Jurors Terrance McKnight, host of WQXR New York Public Radio, and Gary Padmore, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the New York Philharmonic, are joined by Sarasota’s own Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, for a panel discussion entitled “Artistic License: Whose Story Is It?” (6pm on the Hermitage Beach). Click here to register.

National Water Dance with Sarasota Contemporary Dance on the Hermitage Beach

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) are partnering for the biennial National Water Dance (NWD) event, with new work inspired by gratitude for water and the urgent need to preserve local water resources as part of this year’s NWD theme, “Dancing Out of Time,” on Saturday, April 23 at 3:30pm. Click here to register.

This performance by the SCD company of professional dancers on the Hermitage Beach (Manasota Key) will be broadcast simultaneously with performance groups from across the country and all around the world, with an introduction by Dr. Emily Heffernan, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at New College of Florida.

“Sarasota Contemporary Dance is thrilled to partner with the Hermitage Artist Retreat on lands originally occupied by the Calusa people to perform in the National Water Dance awareness campaign,” said SCD Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños. “Partnering with National Water Dance and founder Dale Andree since the start of National Water Dance more than ten years ago, SCD is honored to continue this long-standing partnership to bring awareness to the socio-environmental issues concerning climate change and the sanctity of our waters.” 

“In addition to being a leading arts incubator for bold and original new works, the Hermitage is deeply committed to ecological preservation and restoration,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “To that end, we are honored that this new creative work from Sarasota Contemporary Dance has been inspired by our historic, beachfront campus on Manasota Key as we partner to raise awareness for National Water Dance. We look forward to sharing this performance with the local community and participating in National Water Dance to highlight the importance of preserving our ecological resources.” 

“Musical Storytelling” with Tony Award Winner Jeanine Tesori

Tony Award-winning stage and film composer Jeanine Tesori will present a free Hermitage community program, “Musical Storytelling: A Conversation with Jeanine Tesori,” at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Friday, March 25 at 6pm. 

Click here to register for upcoming Hermitage programs.

Tesori has written four Tony Award-nominated scores for Broadway, including Twelfth Night (Lincoln Center); Thoroughly Modern Millie; Caroline, or Change; and Shrek the Musical. She won a Tony Award for Fun Home and recently served as supervising vocal producer on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of West Side Story

Her newest musical, Kimberly Akimbo, opened to critical acclaim Off-Broadway earlier this season and has just announced that it will be transferring to Broadway this fall. She has also twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, for her musicals Fun Home (written with Lisa Kron) and Soft Power (written with David Henry Hwang).

“We are honored to welcome Jeanine Tesori to host this special program for our Gulf Coast community,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, who will be moderating the conversation. “I had a ‘very Tesori weekend’ when I last returned to New York, seeing a matinee of her beautiful musical Kimberly Akimbo, followed by an evening screening of West Side Story. Jeanine is one of the most influential theater artists of our time. She is a brilliant composer, passionate theater-maker, and inspiring educator with a list of impressive accolades throughout her career. This promises to be an exciting conversation on the Hermitage Beach and an exciting opportunity for the members of our community to meet one of the true musical theater greats.”

Winner of the Tony, Drama Desk, and Obie Awards, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Tesori has also composed the music for The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of Brecht’s Mother Courage, starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, as well as the film adaptation of Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Her opera commissions include Met/LCT Opera/Theater and Glimmerglass Opera. She is on the council of the Dramatists Guild and teaches musical theater composition at Yale University. She has collaborated with numerous previous Hermitage Fellows throughout her distinguished career.

Jeanine Tesori’s Hermitage Residency is generously sponsored by Carole Crosby & Larry Wickless.

2022 Kleban Prize Winner César Alvarez to Present “Reimagining the Musical”

A 2022 Hermitage Fellow and the most recent recipient of the prestigious Kleban Prize for “Most Promising Musical Theater Lyricist,” songwriter and theater-maker César Alvarez will present a free community program — “Reimagining the Musical: Past, Present, & Futurity” — on Wednesday, March 23 at 6pm at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Downtown Sarasota Campus). Alvarez will share an informal hour of songs and stories about magic, domesticity, ghosts, and the way the universe works.

Events in this series frequently reach capacity quickly, so early reservations are strongly encouraged. Click here to register.

Alvarez (they/them/theirs) is a composer, lyricist, playwright, and performance maker whose genre-bending work engages the contemporary moment through worlds, ranging from a young girl who encounters a cosmic variety hour at the edge of life in The Elementary SpaceTime Show to a Civil War-era machine that creates peace in Futurity (Soho Rep / Ars Nova). Futurity was the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding New Musical. With a background as a jazz saxophonist, band leader, and sound artist, Alvarez’s work draws upon theater, music, performance art, and social practice. A 2018–2020 Princeton Arts Fellow and recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award, Alvarez is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College with a B.Mus. from Oberlin Conservatory and an MFA from Bard College.

“As we continue our ongoing partnership with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, we are excited to introduce Sarasota audiences to Hermitage Fellow, musical artist, and theater-maker César Alvarez,” said Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “I had the pleasure of seeing César’s musical Futurity in its acclaimed Off-Broadway run, and look forward to hearing more from this leading voice in the worlds of musical theater and performance art. They bring a truly unique approach to storytelling, and Selby Gardens provides a unique backdrop for experiencing bold and innovative new work.”

 

“Ocean Body” Commission by Helga Davis Premieres in March, Plus Martyna Majok and Aleshea Harris Return to Sarasota

Three recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize (HGP) winners – Martyna Majok (2018), Helga Davis (2019), and Aleshea Harris (2021) return to Sarasota this spring to present their work and speak about their creative process.

First, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and 2018 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner Martyna Majok presents “Building a Play: Exploring the Playwright-Director Collaboration.” This will be a conversation on the Hermitage Beach, moderated by Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok and her collaborator on the HGP commission, director Caitlin Sullivan – Friday, March 4th at 5:30pm. Last year, Majok offered Hermitage audiences an early virtual preview of her commission, featuring Tony nominee Marin Ireland. Here, Majok shares the continuation of the play’s journey.

Next up, the Hermitage, in collaboration with EnsembleNewSRQ and New College of Florida, presents the live Sarasota premiere of “Ocean Body,” the commissioned work from 2019 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner and composer, vocalist, and performance artist Helga Davis, along with her collaborators Shara Nova and Mark DeChiazza on Saturday, March 19th at 6pm. Davis and her creative colleagues shared a virtual sneak peek of her work last year; this is the further culmination of their work, presented live at the Hermitage. This will also be available virtually to allow greater accessibility to a wider audience.

Then in April, to kick off a weekend of events celebrating the Hermitage Greenfield Prize, award-winning playwright, author of What to Send Up When It Goes Down, and 2021 HGP recipient Aleshea Harris presents “A Theater Maker’s Year: What ‘Went Down’” on Friday, April 8th at 6pm. Harris’ commission is expected in 2023. Meanwhile, she has had an extraordinary season of plays premiering in New York, London, and more.

“We are thrilled to welcome back these three distinguished artists and recent Hermitage Greenfield Prize recipients,” said Andy Sandberg, Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO. “Martyna, Helga, and Aleshea are passionate and visionary creators who give us hope for the future, and their innovative works exemplify the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society.”

These community events in March and April lead us into this year’s Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration, culminating with the annual HGP Dinner on April 10th, recognizing 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize Winner, composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica NegrónThe Hermitage Greenfield Prize Celebration is presented in partnership with the Greenfield Foundation, with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serving as Lead Community Sponsor. Co-Chairs for this event will be Carole Crosby and Sondra Biller. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. Click here for more information on available tables and sponsorships.

Hermitage and Van Wezel Foundation Announce “UNSCRIPTED 2.0”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Van Wezel Foundation present the first program in the “UNSCRIPTED 2.0” series with poet, storyteller, and master teaching artist Hannah Hasan on Wednesday, February 16th at 5:30pm, outdoors and socially distanced on the lawn of the Van Wezel Hall. 

UNSCRIPTED is a unique collaboration between the Van Wezel Foundation and the Hermitage Artist Retreat in which audiences share an interactive encounter with an award-winning Hermitage artist, inviting audiences to be an active part of the experience by responding to a prompt as part of the programTo register for UNSCRIPTED, visit artsUNSCRIPTED.org.

“We are looking forward to re-launching the UNSCRIPTED series in partnership with the Van Wezel Foundation, building on last year’s virtual experiences and expanding our continued collaborations and community programming throughout the region,” notes Andy Sandberg, Artistic Director and CEO of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. “We are excited to revive this interactive series with 2022 Hermitage Fellow, storyteller, and master teaching artist Hannah Hasan, who will share her talents as an arts educator and invite audiences to actively take part in creating a story.”

UNSCRIPTED 2.0 attendees will be invited to interact with Hasan and learn more about her unique approach to creating narrative that centers ‘home’ and belonging in community. Drawing from her own experiences as a demonstration, Hasan will also lead participants through the process of unearthing and sharing their own stories, beginning with a prompt that all audience members will be asked to prepare prior to the event. 

“What is special about this series with the Hermitage is that the audience will come along for the journey and play an active role in the process,” said Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation. “As we build the vision for a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, our goal is to establish even more cultural partnerships that provide these interactive experiences with the arts.”

Hermitage Fellow Hannah Hasan is an award-winning spoken word poet, speaker, and storyteller who believes that our stories can set us free. With themes that center home, social justice, racial justice, women’s rights, and more, Hasan is often commissioned to write and perform, present keynote addresses, and facilitate workshops for events, conferences, and meetings. She has been engaged to write, perform, speak, and facilitate by numerous government agencies, non-profit organizations and charities, colleges and universities, start-ups, small businesses, and large corporations such as The Arts for Biden National Campaign, The Office of Community Services, Coffee Cup People, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, Verizon, Levine Museum of the New South, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Promise Neighborhoods of Lehigh Valley, Brown University, Davidson College, the City University of New York Journalism School, and many others. Hasan has a specialized talent for creating safe and brave spaces for audiences. She has been awarded grants, fellowships, awards, and accolades for her work from organizations like The Arts and Science Council, Mobilize.Org, The Knight Foundation, Citizen’s University, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and more. She also serves on multiple community advisory boards for organizations such as The Charlotte Symphony, Levine Museum of The New South, and The Charlotte Observer. For a complete bio, visit HannahHasan.com 

 

 

Composer Angélica Negrón Wins 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, in collaboration with the Greenfield Foundation, has selected innovative composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón as the winner of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, given this year in the artistic discipline of music. Negrón will receive a six-week residency at the Hermitage and a $30,000 commission for a new work, which will have its first public presentation in Sarasota in 2024.

On Monday, January 10th, Angélica Negrón received the news of her recognition via Zoom. 

Jury Chair Terrance McKnight stated, “Angélica Negrón’s music places value in the softest, most vulnerable, and most frequently overlooked instruments in the room. In her scores, even the robots find a pulse. Her compositional insight is the heartbeat of true democracy, and I am thrilled to introduce her to the Hermitage community.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Negrón writes original music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics, as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. She is a founding member of the tropical electronic band Balún, and her music has been performed at the Kennedy Center and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial. Negrón has composed scores for the New York Botanical Gardens (Chorus of the Forest, 2019) and for Opera Philadelphia (The Island We Made, 2020), as well as the documentary films Landfall (2020) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016). Additional commissions and premieres of her compositions include works for the LA Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic Project 19 initiative.

“Amidst an extraordinary selection of finalists, Angélica Negrón stood out as an innovative and forward-thinking composer who impressed this year’s jury with her inventive and inspired approach to musical composition,” said Hermitage Artistic Director Andy Sandberg. “Her dedication to her craft embodies the mission of the Hermitage Greenfield Prize — to bring into the world works of art that have a significant impact on the broad as well as the artistic culture of our society. We thank our distinguished jurors for their passion and dedication, and we congratulate all of our brilliant finalists, whom we look forward to welcoming at the Hermitage. We look forward to recognizing Angélica’s work in Sarasota at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner in April, and subsequently hosting her as a Hermitage Fellow and sharing the first public presentation of her composition in Sarasota in 2024.”

Negrón will be celebrated at the Hermitage Greenfield Prize Dinner on Sunday, April 10th, at 6pm at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Capacity will be limited to accommodate safe social-distancing practices, and additional health and safety measures are anticipated for this event. For more information about this event, click here.

Read more about the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize here.