Leonard Slatkin to conduct Washington University’s “Piano Extravaganza” Oct. 28

Concert marks formal opening of newly renovated 560 Music Center in Delmar Loop

Acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin — music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and conductor laureate of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra — will return to St. Louis as guest conductor for Washington University’s “Piano Extravaganza” Oct. 28.

Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin will return to St. Louis Oct. 28 as guest conductor for “Piano Extravaganza.” The concert will mark the formal opening of Washington University’s newly renovated 560 Music Center.

Presented by the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, “Piano Extravaganza” will mark the formal opening of the university’s newly renovated 560 Music Center, located at 560 Trinity Ave. in University City. The concert will feature performances by more than a dozen student, faculty and alumni pianists, including Seth Carlin, professor of music, and Hugh Macdonald, Ph.D., the Avis H. Blewett Professor of Music. Proceeds will be used to purchase new pianos for the music center’s teaching, performance and rehearsal spaces.

“Leonard Slatkin is a wonderful conductor and one of the preeminent figures in American music,” says Dolores Pesce, Ph.D., professor and chair of Music. “We are extremely pleased to welcome him back to St. Louis for this special concert, which will feature 10 pianos onstage in the Music Center’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall. It is sure to be an enjoyable evening.”

The program will open with Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Four Keyboards and All Hands on Dec, an original composition by Martin Kennedy, assistant professor of music, which was commissioned for the concert.

All Hands on Dec presented me with a wonderful opportunity to compose for 10 pianists, 20 hands, 100 fingers, 880 keys, and 2280 strings in all,” Kennedy explains. “The sonic possibilities available with such an ensemble include antiphonal sonorities, sympathetic vibrations and virtuosic passages that would be impossible for a single pianist to perform. As a pianist myself, I found it exhilarating to work on a piece where I could exploit writ large the many qualities of my instrument.”

Seth Carlin
Seth Carlin rehearses in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall.

The program continues with Franz von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture; Movements I and IV from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Valse and Romance by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and L’embarquement pour Cythère by Francis Poulenc. Concluding the concert will be Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa.

“Piano Extravaganza” begins at 7 p.m. The E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall is located on the north side of the 560 Music Center, at the intersection of Trinity and Delmar. General admission tickets are $25, or $10 for Washington University students. Reserved tickets — which include admission to a post-concert reception for Slatkin — are $100.

For more information or to order tickets, call the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543.


Situated at the western end of the Delmar Loop, less than a mile from the university’s Danforth Campus, the 560 Music Center provides Washington University’s performing arts groups with additional — and much needed — performance, rehearsal and teaching facilities.

North facade, 560 Music Center.
North facade, 560 Music Center.

“Washington University has a phenomenal student body with an extraordinary amount of talent and energy,” notes Charlie Robin, executive director of Edison Theatre, who also handles booking for the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall. “The problem has always been managing that creativity and excitement in the venues that we’ve had available.

“The 560 Music Center alleviates such strains while also giving the university a major presence in the heart of University City’s vibrant cultural district,” Robin adds. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, both for campus groups and as a way for us to reach out and work with the larger community.”

The two-story, 45,000-square-foot structure was built as a synagogue in 1929 and served as home to the Community Music School beginning in 1974. In 2001 the school joined with Webster University and in 2006 moved into new facilities on the Webster campus. Washington University acquired the property from Webster in 2005. Renovations, which began last spring, include creation of four ensemble rehearsal rooms as well as seven individual practice modules and 25 teaching studios, the latter of which are designed to accommodate the nearly five hundred students currently taking applied musical instruction. (Academic classes in composition, musicology, music theory and other subjects remain on the Danforth Campus.)

John Stewart (seated) and Alan Naylor
John Stewart, director of vocal activities (seated), works with graduate student Alan Naylor.

Work also included refurbishments to the Music Center’s small recital hall and 1,115-seat E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall (now the university’s largest performance venue). The center also includes a 200-seat theatre. Other updates include the creation of administrative offices; new student and faculty/staff lounges; a conference/reading room; and a satellite Edison Theatre box office.

“The rehearsal spaces are state-of-the-art and there are more of them, which dramatically improves our scheduling and flexibility,” notes Pesce. “Though the Department of Music is the primary occupant, the music center is available to student groups and other departments for events and concerts. Outside organizations may also rent our performance spaces.

“The 560 Music Center should significantly enhance the university’s cultural life while bringing us even closer to our neighbors in the Delmar Loop.”


E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall
E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall

Slatkin led the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1996, during which time he emerged as one the world’s most acclaimed conductors. In addition to directing the National Symphony Orchestra, he currently serves as music advisor to the Nashville Symphony and as principal guest conductor for both the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is the founder and director of the National Conducting Institute, an advanced career development program for rising conductors, and previously founded the Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. In fall 2008 he will begin his tenure as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Slatkin has appeared with virtually every major international orchestra and made more than 100 recordings, garnering five Grammy Awards and more than 50 Grammy nominations. Other honors include the 2003 National Medal of Arts (the highest award given to artists by the United States Government), Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (the premier order of France), and several awards from the American Symphony Orchestra League, including the Gold Baton for service to American music.

Slatkin was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1990. His star is located at 6318 Delmar, just a few blocks east of the 560 Music Center.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Washington University Department of Music; Leonard Slatkin, conductor

WHAT: “Piano Extravaganza”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28

WHERE: 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Ave., near the intersection of Trinity and Delmar Boulevard

COST: General seating is $25, or $10 for Washington University students. Reserved seating, which includes a post-concert reception for Slatkin, is $100.

INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543