State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

On Center: Imani Winds and Catalyst Quartet will play commissioned music at Schwab in September

by on May 31, 2019 1:06 PM

The winds – and strings – of change are coming to Schwab Auditorium.

Imani Winds and Catalyst Quartet will join talents for (im)migration: music of change, a September 18 concert featuring a new work by Catalyst violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery.

The composition is inspired by the Great Migration of African Americans, during the early to middle 20th century, from the perspective of Montgomery’s great-grandfather William McCauley. The nonet will bring together spirituals and work songs that reflect her ancestor’s route from Mississippi through the West, north to the Dakotas, and eventually south to Georgia.

Through the special timbral effects of this mix of winds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn) and strings (two violins, viola, and cello), the Montgomery composition will transform the ancestral stories, and reflections upon them, into music. The work, yet to be titled, continues the storytelling tradition passed through the composer’s mother – playwright, actor, and teacher Robbie McCauley.

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State co-commissioned Montgomery’s composition through its membership in the national consortium Music Accord, which commissioned the work in conjunction with the Sphinx Organization.

The program is also scheduled to include Imani Winds performing Afro Blue (a jazz standard) by Mongo Santamaria and Cane by Jason Moran (inspired by the composer’s Louisiana bayou ancestry); Catalyst Quartet playing Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (a mixture of Western classical and Andean folk elements) by Gabriela Frank; and both ensembles performing Concierto de Camara by Puerto Rico native Roberto Sierra. 

Imani, which performed previously at Schwab in 2009, has created a distinct presence in the classical music world through dynamic playing, culturally diverse programming, virtuosic collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. The quintet includes flutist Brandon Patrick George, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, clarinetist Mark Dover, French hornist Jeff Scott, and bassoonist Monica Ellis.

Catalyst features leading laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition, which provides educational and performance opportunities to black and Latino musicians. In addition to Montgomery, the quartet, which previously played at Penn State in 2015 and 2016, includes violinist Karla Donehew-Perez, violist Paul Laraia, and cellist Karlos Rodriguez.

Imani and Catalyst musicians will also perform a mini concert September 17 at Classical Coffeehouse, a joint presentation of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Penn State Alumni Association in partnership with the Blue & White Society, the PSU Music Service Club, and the Penn State Coffee Club. The casual-atmosphere coffeehouse, at Hintz Family Alumni Center’s Robb Hall, is free for University Park students. A $10 donation is suggested for each person who isn’t a Penn State student. Complimentary snacks and beverages will be provided.


Tickets for the September 18 concert and other 2019-20 presentations go on sale July 11 to Center for the Performing Arts members, July 12 to Choice buyers (four or more eligible events purchased in one transaction at a 10-percent discount), and July 18 to everyone. Learn about all of the events, beginning July 8, at

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts.




John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.