Carmel resident to perform in IWS tribute to Gershwin

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Kelleen Strutz loves a Gershwin tune.

So, naturally, the Carmel resident is delighted to be the piano soloist for the Indiana Wind Symphony’s tribute to the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The concert is set for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

“I’ve had the honor of performing a variety of classical concerts with the Indiana Wind Symphony at the Palladium over the last 10 years, including the ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” Strutz said. “It’s one of my favorites to perform because it melds together both my classical and jazz backgrounds. And the reason the piece was so significant 100 years ago was because of its ability to take a classical form and interweave jazz elements throughout.

“The fact that it’s still relevant and popular today is a testimony to its versatility and its importance in the history of American music.”

Strutz said she enjoys sharing her love of Gershwin and jazz classics with her 7-year-old son, Ethan.

Strutz is pleased to perform with the IWS in music director and founder Charles Conrad’s final season as music director. The Carmel resident will retire after the 2023-24 season.

“It’s been great fun working with Charlie over the years and he will be greatly missed,” Strutz said. “His vision and dedication for the IWS has created an important musical entity in the Carmel community and his legacy will carry on.”

Conrad said “Rhapsody in Blue” is one of his favorites, too.

“It was originally written as a piano solo with orchestra, but it’s one that transcribes with concert bands almost seamlessly,” Conrad said.

The concert will start with Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band.” Conrad said the second number is a jazzy piece Gershwin wrote in the 1930s called “Walkin’ the Dog,” followed by “Swanee,” also by Gershwin.

Next on the set list is a John Philip Sousa march called “The Black Horse Troop,” which also premiered in 1924. Sousa attended “An Experiment in Modern Music,” which was the premiere of “Rhapsody in Blue,” in February 1924.

The last piece of the first set is Donald Grantham’s “Fantasy Variations of Prelude No. 2,” based on Gershwin’s “Prelude No. 2.” Strutz will perform on that piece.

Selections from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” opera begins the second half of the concert, along with a world premiere performance of a new piece called “The Wave Returns to the Ocean” by composer Charles D. Norris, who lives in North Carolina.

Conrad said Norris will attend the premiere and work with the symphony before the concert.

The concert concludes with “Rhapsody in Blue.”

A guest conductor, Grace Ishikawa, will join IWS on a couple of pieces. Ishikawa is the band director for Chapel Hill 7th/8th Grade Center in Wayne Township in Indianapolis.

For more, visit indianawindsymphony.org.


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