• Press Release

VSO New Music Director Presents Award Winning Soloist



Words and Images Courtesy of Virginia Symphony Orchestra


HAMPTON ROADS, VA [November 8, 2021] – In a monster musical weekend featuring everything from a romantic-era favorite to the first U.S. performances of music from British composer Sally Beamish, conductor Eric Jacobsen makes his Virginia Symphony Orchestra debut as its 12th Music Director with Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis as soloist in three concerts across Hampton Roads -- December 2, 3 and 5.

Eric Jacobsen

Jacobsen, known for challenging audiences with an exciting mix of music, having fun, and a flair for surprises, will open each concert with Mozart’s overture to The Marriage of Figaro. In addition to the Beamish pieces, the performances will also include two Mahler songs, Urlicht and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, before concluding the evening with Brahms’ magnificent Symphony No. 2. At the core of the program are the two pieces written for saxophone and orchestra featuring Branford Marsalis called “The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone” and “Under the Wing of the Rock” by composer Sally Beamish, whose works for orchestra and opera have riveted the attention of the media and audiences worldwide. Based in London, the composer, who has previously collaborated with Marsalis, will be in the audience for the performances as well as recording sessions earlier in the week for a CD to be released worldwide in 2022. The weekend’s performances will also be recorded and available to stream through Dreamstage on December 10th at 7:30pm.

Branford Marsalis

New Orleans-born Branford Marsalis is an award-winning saxophonist, band leader, featured classical soloist,

and a film and Broadway composer. He has received three Grammy Awards and a citation by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Jazz Master.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet, formed in 1986, remains his primary means of expression. In its virtually uninterrupted three-plus decades of existence, the quartet has established a rare breadth of stylistic range as demonstrated on the band’s latest release, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. However, Mr. Marsalis has not confined his music to the jazz quartet context. A frequent soloist with classical ensembles, he has become increasingly sought after as a soloist with acclaimed orchestras around the world, performing works by composers such as Copland, Debussy, Glazunov, Ibert, Mahler, Milhaud, Rorem, Vaughan Williams, and Villa-Lobos. His legendary guest performances with the Grateful Dead and collaborations with Sting have made him a fan favorite in the pop arena as well.

Mr. Marsalis’s work on Broadway has garnered a Drama Desk Award and Tony nominations for the acclaimed revivals of Children of a Lesser God, Fences, and A Raisin in the Sun. His screen credits include original music composed for: Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks starring Oprah Winfrey, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, the Netflix film adaptation of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, produced by Denzel Washington and released in December 2020.

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America,” Eric Jacobsen, 39, has already carved out a reputation as one of the classical music’s most exciting and innovative young conductors. He combines the best of the core classical canon with cutting-edge collaborations and projects that cut across musical boundaries, captivating both traditional as well as younger and more diverse new audiences.

The Thursday, December 2nd performance will be held at 7:30pm at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News. Friday, December 3rd will be held at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall at 7:30pm, and the weekend will conclude with a 7:30pm performance at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach on Sunday, December 5th. Masks are required at all performances. Tickets start at just $25 and can be purchased by visiting virginiasymphony.org or by calling 757.892.6366.

The Virginia Symphony is pleased to have Sentara as this year’s Regional Presenting Sponsor.

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As the region’s most celebrated musical, educational and entrepreneurial arts organization, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra continues to challenge expectations and push the boundaries of what an American orchestra can be. Innovation and excellence are at the heart of the VSO’s narrative.

The VSO has received national attention for its unique mission serving a home area of 1.7 million across the diverse communities of southeastern Virginia. Through appearances at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and commitment to adventurous programming, the VSO and its musicians have been highlighted in the media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio and BBC Worldwide News.

As the largest performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia, the VSO and VSO Chorus present more than 150 concerts and events annually for more than 100,000 residents and visitors. Recent innovations include health and wellness programs, including interactive therapeutic experiences for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and adopting welcoming concert environments for those who are neurodiverse. Since 2019, the VSO has been recognized nationally for striving to reflect the region’s ethnic and racial diversity in its members, its programming, and its leadership.

The selection of the young and dynamic conductor Eric Jacobsen as music director earlier this year was another bold step forward for the VSO, further expanding its vision to attract wider and larger audiences with engaging concert experiences and creative and relevant programming. Rounding out the artistic leadership team is Norfolk native Thomas Wilkins in the role of Principal Guest Conductor, reflecting the VSO’s commitment to tell its community’s stories and advance the important conversations that will promote understanding and belonging among all residents.

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