The Vail Series

Upcoming Events

Here are just a few notable speakers from past years:
  • Itzhak Perlman
  • Yo-Yo Ma
  • Renée Fleming
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Jessye Norman
  • Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer
About the Series

We simply can’t wait to welcome you back to the Vail Series in 2021/2022! Over the course of the past four decades, it has been our privilege to bring world-class artists and ensembles to our community. We have enjoyed artists who are “household names,” and equally as exciting, Vail Series patrons have discovered rising stars – many of whom have gone on to exceptional careers. Along the way we have explored a variety of musical genres from all corners of the globe. With a variety of well-known and emerging artists and a mix of musical styles and origins the Vail Series is refreshing and enduring and personal.

Our 2020/2021 series went virtual and had its impact in that format, but there is nothing like having a live, in person, common shared experience with other members of the Denison community. Artists we met virtually last year will hopefully be on campus this fall, ready to visit classes, provide master classes, offer their perspective on the creative process, and in general share their artistry with us. Yes, it was wonderful having Aoife O’Donovan record a concert – just her and her guitar in her backyard - specifically for Denison. But having her in Swasey Chapel will be amazing.

And the Vail Series really is much more than a series of concerts by world-class artists. It’s seeing Béla Fleck or Yo-Yo Ma or Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the Czech National Symphony Orchestra featuring Isabel Leonard of the New York Metropolitan Opera. You’ll see them on a small stage, six feet away from your front-row seat, knowing they’ll be spending enough time here to interact with students personally and answer a question if you have one. The Vail Series joins in bringing the contemporary classical quartet ETHEL, who have been awarded honorary degrees for their impact at Denison, and Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion to campus, each for two full weeks a year as Denison’s ensembles-in-residence. They take the arts from the performance stage to classrooms. They play in a variety of surprising locations across campus, and often just grab lunch and chat with students in the student union. In other words, it’s personal. Even the Vail Series’ primary venue — Swasey Chapel — is known for its intimacy. There’s no need to hang around stage doors to meet performers when they come to Denison; they’re right there, up close and totally accessible.

And the arts are such an essential element of a liberal arts education at Denison that Vail Series tickets are free for students, faculty and staff.

The Vail Series was endowed by a generous gift from the late Mary and Foster McGaw in honor of Jeanne Vail, class of 1946. Just as it was intended to do, the Series enriches the artistic experience of the entire Denison community. Programmed creatively with the mindful pursuit of learning across traditional academic boundaries, the Vail Series was directed by Lorraine Wales from its inception in 1979 through her retirement in June of 2013. Michael Morris is currently the Director of the Vail Series.

Since 1979, more than 100 individual Vail Series artists have found their way to Denison’s classrooms and stages, but that doesn’t include the dozens of ensembles or full symphony orchestras that have played here over the years. And some stay for a while. Last time he was here, Bobby McFerrin presented two concerts, performing with ten student groups over the two-night engagement. Many artists arrive on campus days ahead of their concert to visit classes and student groups.

Like we said earlier…it’s personal.

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Series Archives

2011 - 2012

Dada Masilo
You must not miss this brash and breathtaking young artist in her premiere American performance. South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo is still in her 20s but has already established herself as one of the world's most stunningly innovative, exquisitely unconventional thinkers and interpreters of dance. Known for her "astonishingly quick and often jarring fusion of African dance and classical ballet" (CNN World), Masilo opens our eyes to the places where western and African traditions meet, collide, and create beauty.
Munich Symphony Orchestra & Gloriae Dei Cantores
The acclaimed Munich Symphony Orchestra and world-class concert choir Gloriae Dei Cantores will fill Swasey chapel with Schoenberg's beautiful "Verklarte Nacht" and Mozart's exquisite "Requiem" in late October. Join us, and Denison's own Chamber Singers, for this evening of voice and instrument under the baton of conductor Philippe Entremont.
Yuja Wang
Our 2011 Vail season opens with the incomparable pianist Yuja Wang, who must be heard live to be believed. Don't miss a rare opportunity to see this renowned performer, who the New York Times says "seems to have everything: speed, flexibility, pianistic thunder and interpretive nuance." Her program will include works by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, AlbA©niz and Scriabin. We know you'll agree with the Detroit News, who calls Yuja Wang "simply the most important new pianist to appear in recent years, period."

2010 - 2011

Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain
Vail's transcendent season-ender will stretch your assumptions about the banjo, drum, and bass to the breaking point. BA©la Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer are masterful musicians who synthesize elements of Indian classical, Americana and baroque, creating a powerful expression of beauty--and a Swasey Chapel performance for the ages.
New Century Chamber Orchestra
Join us for this magnificent event as one of the world's preeminent violinists performs with her own audacious chamber orchestra. Heralded as "unexcelled in the concert hall today," Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra bring irresistible, "undeniable virtuosity" (Chicago Sun-Times) as they storm the Swasey stage with classical music in a fresh, fearless style.
Pacifica Quartet with Menahem Pressler
Get ready for edge-of-your-seat chamber music. The Sunday Times (London) called the Pacifica Quartet "stupendous, breathtaking virtuosity...intellectual fire." And joining Pacifica for this Vail Series performance is Menahem Pressler, offering a rare opportunity to hear "a living legend" (Boston Globe). This will be an unforgettable evening of chamber music crafted in a fresh, bold style, with both "vigor, and delicacy" (The New York Times).
Mark O'Connor & Dailey & Vincent
Vail™s 31st season kicks off with a virtuoso jam. The New York Times called Mark O™Connor the only musician today who can reach so deeply first into the refined, then the vernacular, giving his listeners complex, sophisticated¦ classical music¦ and the brown-dirt whine of a Texas Fiddle. Together with the superlative and authentic Dailey and Vincent bluegrass band, this is American music at its finest, with strings, harmonies, and the flat-out joy of making music.

2009 - 2010

Yuja Wang with Russian National Orchestra
In demand throughout the music world ever since its 1990 premiere, the RNO, conducted by Patrick Summers, shares the stage with the marvelously gifted Yuja Wang, known for her blazing technique and rare instinct for poetry. This performance marks Yuja™s fifth appearance at Denison University since 2004.
Imani Winds with Stefon Harris
Best described as a dazzling display of sounds and tones not typical to the classical music lover™s ear,the innovative woodwind quintet successfully marries classical with jazz and world influences. On this occasion, the astonishing young vibraphonist - composer Stefon Harris joins the quintet in performing his new work created especially for the Imani Winds.
"From The Top"
Hosted by the acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley, the wildly popular NPR program will celebrate its 10th birthday with a special concert at Denison featuring some of the show's favorite young alumni from past seasons.
Chanticleer
This Grammy award-winning ensemble will perform more than 100 concerts in 2009-10, with programs ranging from Renaissance to jazz and from gospel to venturesome new music. Chanticleer is known around the world as an orchestra of voices.

2008 - 2009

Renee Fleming
One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renee Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. Known as the people's diva, she continues to grace the world's greatest opera stages and concert halls.
Brooklyn Rider
The adventurous, genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider is comprised of Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; and Eric Jacobsen, cello. They combine an eclectic repertoire with a gripping style that is drawing critical acclaim from classical, world, and rock critics.
Sphinx Chamber Orchestra
This unique group envisions a world in which classical music reflects cultural diversity and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth. It earned rave reviews from The New York Times, which said it produced a more beautiful, precise, and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras.
Capoeira Angola
Capoeira Angola, the traditional style of the Brazilian form of dance, is often characterized by playful, ritualized games. The combination of dancing, combat, and music, while stressing interaction between the two players and the musicians and observers is electrifying to audiences.

2007 - 2008

Yuja Wang & Friends
Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. In her fourth performance at Denison, the charismatic performer is joined by the Denison University student orchestra. This is Wang™s second appearance at Denison.
Yo-Yo Ma & Friends
One of the world's foremost cellists, Yo-Yo Ma has produced a phenomenal body of work, of his 75 albums, 15 have won Grammy awards. His multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. This is his fifth appearance at Denison.
Chicago Children'S Choir
The multiracial, multicultural Chicago Children™s Choir was in 1956 during the Civil Rights Movement, at Hyde Park™s First Unitarian Church. Today™s critically acclaimed Choir is fully independent and serves all of Chicago”a choir combining high artistic standards with a social purpose.
Natalie Macmaster
Natalie MacMaster is an electrifying performer whose passionate proficiency on the beloved four-string fiddle amplifies the traditional East Coast sound for contemporary times. MacMaster says, Music has given me another layer and dimension of feeling because it really broadens the soul and really broadens the heart.

2006 - 2007

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet & Luciana Souza
The members of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet continue to set the standard for expression and virtuosity among guitar ensembles. Luciana Souza™s work transcends traditional boundaries and offers an enlightened approach to classical repertoire and new music.
Yuja Wang
Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. Wang has been praised for her authority over the complex technical demands of her repertoire and her charismatic stage presence.
Bronfman, Shaham & Harrell
Member of the Bronfman/Shaham/Harrell trio are stars in their own right: pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Gil Shaham and cellist Lynn Harrell are international soloists at the top of their game. Their delicate and intricate interplay of sounds give new definition to their performance repertoire.
The Five Browns
The 5 Browns are the first family of five ever accepted simultaneously to the Julliard School of Music. Playing five Steinway pianos, the siblings reveal a deep connection to their material while bringing a fresh energy and dynamic character to the color and tonal spectrum of their sound.

2005 - 2006

"From The Top"
Broadcast on nearly 250 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on radio. Hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley, each broadcast reveals the heart and soul behind extraordinary young musicians. This is From the Top's third appearance at Denison.
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra & Wynton Marsalis
Comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1988. An American jazz and Western classical virtuoso trumpeter and composer, Wynton Marsalis is the only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy Awards in the same year.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra & Sarah Chang
Established in 1898, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra remains among the world™s top orchestras. Violinist Sarah Chang is recognized the world over as one of classical music™s most captivating and gifted performers. The young artist™s musical insight, technical virtuosity, and emotional range continue to astonish.

2004 - 2005

Andre Watts
Virtuoso pianist AndrA© Watts burst upon the music world at the age of 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic. Since then, Watts has played before royalty and heads of government worldwide and remains one of today™s most celebrated and beloved superstars.
Cantus
Founded in 1995, the Cantus ensemble™s performances are met with overwhelming praise for its unique blend of youthful vitality and polished nuance. Their repertoire spans many periods and genres, including Gregorian chant, Renaissance motets, contemporary sacred works, art songs, world music, spirituals, and pop.
Mark O'Connor & The Hot Swing Trio
The Hot Swing Trio, violinist Mark O'Connor, guitarist Frank Vignola, and bassist Jon Burr is a remarkable balance of talents: Vignola and Burr each possess deep jazz credentials, and with O™Connor's background in traditional, folk-oriented music, the trio yields a flavor all its own. This is Mark O™Connor™s second appearance at Denison.
Steinway Dedication
The Vail Series at Denison University celebrated the acquisition of a new Steinway concert grand piano and dedicated it to the memory of James D. Vail III on Saturday, September 18th in Swasey Chapel. The gala concert featured performances by Gary Graffman, Kit Armstrong, Yuja Wang, The Miro Quartet and Andre Michel Schub.

2003 - 2004

Joshua Bell
Since his first recording at age 18, Joshua Bell has enchanted audiences worldwide with his breathtaking virtuosity and tone of rare beauty. His restless curiosity and multifaceted musical interests have taken him in exciting new directions that have earned him the rare title of classical music superstar.
Fifty Fingers Five Browns
The 5 Browns are the first family of five ever accepted simultaneously to the Julliard School of Music. Playing five Steinway pianos, the siblings reveal a deep connection to their material while bringing a fresh energy and dynamic character to the color and tonal spectrum of their sound.
Prague Chamber Music Orchestra with Eroica Trio
For more than half a-century the Prague Chamber Orchestra has made a distinguished mark on both the domestic and international concert scene. The most sought-after trio in the world, the Grammy-nominated Eroica Trio thrills audiences with flawless technical virtuosity, irresistible enthusiasm and sensual elegance.
Edgar Meyer & Bela Fleck
Throughout a lifetime of performing and composing, Edgar Meyer has turned the double bass into a modern virtuoso instrument equally at home in classical music and in the American vernacular. Considered the premier banjo player in the world, BA©la Fleck is has made a name for himself on countless solo and ensemble projects.

2002 - 2003

"From The Top"
Broadcast on nearly 250 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on radio. Hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley, each broadcast reveals the heart and soul behind extraordinary young musicians. This is From the Top's second appearance at Denison.
Bobby McFerrin with Denison Friends
A ten-time Grammy Award winner, Bobby McFerrin is one of the world™s best-known vocal innovators and improvisers and a classical conductor. His recordings have sold over 20 million copies, and his collaborations include those with Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, the Vienna Philharmonic, and Herbie Hancock. This is his third appearance at Denison.
Eroica Trio with Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra
The most sought-after trio in the world, the Grammy-nominated Eroica Trio thrills audiences with flawless technical virtuosity, irresistible enthusiasm and sensual elegance. ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1978, presents the best of traditional chamber orchestra repertoire and promotes a true appreciation of contemporary American music.
Jubilant Sykes Schubert To Showboat
Charismatic baritone Jubilant Sykes brings a new dimension to the career of a classically trained singer by drawing on gospel and jazz influences to deliver performances in differing musical genres. Sykes says My singing is like breathing ” it™s an extension of me. I don™t think of it is extraordinary. It™s my passion. This is Sykes second appearance at Denison.

2001 - 2002

Chucho Valdes
Winner of seven Grammy awards, including three Latin Grammys, Cuban-born Dionisio Jesus Chucho Valdes is a pianist and composer who has been called a faucet, a river and a flood of music. His quartet consists of vocals, bass, drums, percussion and Valdes himself at the piano.
Christopher Parkening & Jubilant Sykes
Christopher Parkening is celebrated as one of the world™s preeminent virtuosos of the classical guitar. Charismatic baritone Jubilant Sykes brings a new dimension to a traditional career of the classically trained singer by drawing on gospel and jazz influences to deliver performances in differing musical genres.
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Originally founded in 1951 by Samuil Samosud as the Moscow Youth Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra was given its current title in 1953. The prize-winning Moscow Philharmonic has performed in more than 4,000 concerts and has made over 100 recordings.
John Bayless
Pianist, composer, and recording artisit John Bayless made his stage debut in 1997 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The New York Times proclaimed that Bayless is an evocative pianist with a lovely piano sound and considerable personal pizzazz. This is his third appearance at Denison.

2000 - 2001

"Habitats"
Denison University Fine Arts faculty and guest artists unite to create an improvisational performance. Habitats is a unique multimedia collaboration of dance, music and visual arts that explores the tactile environment of both the physical world and the metaphysical within.
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Grammy Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is known for its collaborative leadership style, in which the musicians, not a conductor, interpret the score. Recognized internationally as one of the world™s great orchestras, Orpheus has been playing to music lovers on four continents since 1972.
Christopher O'Riley
Artist, pianist and national media personality, Christopher O™Riley has dazzled the world on stage, over airwaves, and with his recordings. With his powerful interpretations of classical and contemporary repertoires, O™Riley has redei¬ned the possibilities of classical music.
Rachel Barton & Mark O' Connor
The Washington Post called award-winning Rachel Barton an exciting, boundary-defying performer. This is Barton™s second appearance at Denison. Mark O™Connor, one of the most talented and imaginative artists in music, is a product of America™s rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music.

1999 - 2000

Bobby Mc Ferrin
A ten-time Grammy Award winner, Bobby McFerrin is one of the world™s best-known vocal innovators and improvisers and a classical conductor. His recordings have sold over 20 million copies, and his collaborations include those with Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, the Vienna Philharmonic, and Herbie Hancock. This is his second appearance at Denison.
Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott
One of the world's foremost cellists, Yo-Yo Ma has produced a phenomenal body of work, of his 75 albums, 15 have won Grammy awards. His multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. This is his fourth appearance at Denison.
Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman has earned the superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician. One of the preeminent violin virtuosos of the 20th century, he has performed for presidents and royalty and was awarded the National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors.

1998 - 1999

Netherlands Symphony Orchestra & Eliane Rodrigues
A leading light on the Dutch musical firmament, the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra guarantees adventurous symphonic programming and a plethora of concertante opera performances. A native of Rio de Janeiro, pianist and composer Eliane Rodrigues™ musical talent has been accorded both acclaim and accolades.