Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


A whole lot of leadership changes; James McVinnie to play Northrop’s big organ

ALSO: Taste of Iceland; Jennifer Koh Plays Bernstein’s Serenade; TU Dance 15th Anniversary Season Spring Performance; and more.

Red Eye Theater's seven new artistic directors
Red Eye Theater's seven new artistic directors, from left: Hayley Finn, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Valerie Oliveiro, Theo Langason, Emily Gastineau, Andrew Lee Dolan, and Jeffrey Wells.
Photo by Valerie Oliveiro

Is there a collective noun for leadership changes? Storm? Sweep? Stampede? Because April saw an unusually high number. For now, we’ll go with “whole lot.”

JC Sanford
JC Sanford
Doug Snapp has stepped down as director of the JazzMN Orchestra, formerly the JazzMN Big Band, the organization he founded 20 years ago. Announced April 8 at JazzMN’s 20th anniversary concert, JC Sanford will be the new artistic director. Sanford is a trombonist, composer and conductor who studied with Bob Brookmeyer, conducts the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, led his own jazz orchestra in New York, and now co-leads the 17-piece ensemble Inatnas Orchestra with his wife, composer Asuka Kakatani. Sanford assumed his new role yesterday (Wednesday, May 1).

Sarah Millfelt, executive director of Northern Clay Center for seven years, has announced her resignation. “I have devoted the past 20 years of my life to advancing the ceramic arts and have been privileged to do so on behalf of Northern Clay Center,” Millfelt wrote in a release. Under her watch, NCC’s outreach programs grew, diversity increased, building renovations were made and new equipment acquired. The center rebranded, its website was redesigned and the organization maintained financial stability – no small feat in this economy. The board has begun a national search.

MCAD has named Sanjit Sethi its next president. An artist and academic, Sethi most recently directed the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. Before then, he served in a variety of leadership positions at the Memphis College of Art, California College of the Arts and Santa Fe Art Institute. Sethi joins MCAD at a time of stability and record enrollment. One of his central goals is to continue to work to create a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive community. He succeeds Jay Coogan, who served as MCAD’s president for nine years until September 2018, and Karen Wirth, who stepped in as interim president. Sethi’s first day is July 15.

Article continues after advertisement

Six weeks before Northern Spark 2019, which will take place June 14 and 15, Northern founder Steve Dietz has announced that over the next year, he’ll step away from the everyday administration of the organization, a role he has shared with Sarah Peters for the past year. Peters and the board will develop a succession plan that includes another co-director. Dietz wrote in a statement, “I founded Northern with the simple goal of it being a flexible, resilient platform dedicated to supporting the work of artists. More than ten years later there is much that we have accomplished, from boosting the careers of more than 50 ‘artists on the verge’ to bringing the joy of a city transformed by artists to tens of thousands of people annually to artist takeovers of locks and rivers and train stations and skyscrapers and streets and plazas and other cities. It has been an absolute blast.” For us, too. Those are big shoes to fill.

A month before launching its New Works 4 Weeks Festival 2019, Red Eye Theater announced not one, not two, but seven new artistic directors: Andrew Lee Dolan, Hayley Finn, Emily Gastineau, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Theo Langason, Valerie Oliveiro and Jeffrey Wells. It’s a diverse and experienced dream team. Read about them here so we don’t have to add another thousand words to this column. Co-founders Steve Busa and Miriam Must, who stepped down at the end of 2018, said in a statement, “We are proud and excited to pass the torch to the seven new artistic directors … We look forward to seeing how their vision manifests, as well as the dynamic work that will undoubtedly be coming out of the Red Eye in the years to come.” One of the septet’s tasks will be to establish a new performance space. Last fall, Red Eye lost its longtime space in the Loring Park neighborhood to the wrecking ball.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, May 2) through Sunday: Taste of Iceland. Eat, drink, listen, watch, and learn about Iceland at a series of events supported by Iceland Naturally, a cooperative marketing organization that wants to tempt you to visit the country. As if we need tempting. Iceland has an actual law that makes it illegal to pay women less than men. A few highlights of Taste: Dinner nightly at the Red Stag with a guest Icelandic chef. Tonight’s free Icelandic cocktails class on the rooftop at the Hewing Hotel. Friday’s free concert at the Fine Line featuring artists from Iceland. Saturday’s short-film festival at the Trylon. And two appearances by Icelandic writer (speculative fiction, poetry, plays, etc.) Andri Snær Magnason: at the Water Bar & Public Studio on Friday and Open Book on Sunday. FMI and Facebook RSVP links. Most events are first-come, first-served.

Violinist Jennifer Koh
Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra
Violinist Jennifer Koh plays Bernstein’s Serenade this weekend with the Minnesota Orchestra
Friday and Saturday at Orchestra Hall: Jennifer Koh Plays Bernstein’s Serenade. Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster Erin Keefe was originally scheduled to perform as the soloist in this weekend’s concert but withdrew in April due to injury. While she will be greatly missed, the orchestra found a splendid replacement. Violinist Jennifer Koh played with the orchestra in 2009, and earlier this year with Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey for Liquid Music. For that performance, she wore a dress made of mirrors and sent light dancing around the Amsterdam. But we digress. Hearing her play was a thrill. Spanish maestro Juanjo Mena will conduct. If you go, keep this question in the back of your mind: Could he be the next Osmo Vänskä? 8 p.m. both nights. FMI and tickets ($30-97).

Friday through Sunday at the O’Shaughnessy: TU Dance 15th Anniversary Season Spring Performance. The dance company formed by former Alvin Ailey dancers Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands has gained national prominence with performances of “Come Through” with Justin Vernon and Bon Iver. At the O’Shaughnessy, they’ll honor four choreographers who helped shape their vision of what dance is and can be. The program will include Ailey’s “Night Creature” (with music by Duke Ellington) and “Witness” (a solo performance by a female dancer), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “Walking with Pearl … Africa Diaries,” narrated live by Zollar; and Ronald K. Brown’s “Where the Light Shines Through,” commissioned for TU in 2017. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($34).

James McVinnie
Photo by Magnús Andersen
Kate Nordstrum has paired organist James McVinnie, above, and electronics duo Darkstar, all based in London, for a full evening of new music commissioned by the SPCO’s Liquid Music.
Saturday at Northrop: James McVinnie and Darkstar. We’re kind of beside ourselves with excitement about this. Kate Nordstrum has paired organist James McVinnie and electronics duo Darkstar, all based in London, for a full evening of new music commissioned by the SPCO’s Liquid Music. McVinnie is a classically trained organist (from 2008-2011, he was assistant organist at Westminster Abbey) who’s committed to making the mighty old instrument eternally new. He’s part of Iceland’s Bedroom Community record label community with Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nico Muhly, Nadia Sirota, and Ben Frost, who have all been part of Liquid Music (or its earlier incarnation at the Southern Theater), which will give you some sense of his aesthetic. The new work is called “Collapse,” and this will be its world premiere. McVinnie will play Northrop’s refurbished Aeolian-Skinner organ. Here are McVinnie’s program notes, and an interview with Darkstar’s James Young. Sweep? 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/$25/free for students and children).

Sunday: In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s MayDay 2019. This will be MayDay in more ways than one. A cherished south Minneapolis tradition for 45 years, the parade of puppets and people will take place as it always has, winding through community streets to the ceremony and festival at Powderhorn Park. This year’s theme: “Beloved Community,” after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some 60,000 people are expected to attend. Maybe more, because (sound the alarm!) unless funding can be found, this might be the last MayDay. It costs HOBT about $200,000 to hold its big annual party, a lot of money for any small arts organization, especially in a time when funders are cutting back or shifting their priorities. This will also be the final May Day parade led by HOBT founder and artistic director Sandy Spieler. So it will be historic either way: as a last hurrah or a turning point toward survival. The parade begins at noon. Here’s the route. Here’s information about the Tree of Life Ceremony. Here’s the festival schedule and map. Here’s a free MetroTransit pass. Want to donate?