UNCG Campus Weekly

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Kevin Geraldi talks Cubs baseball, Italian cooking and special classical/jazz ‘Nutcracker’ collaboration

When Steve Haines, head of the Miles Davis Program in Jazz Studies, approached Dr. Kevin Geraldi two years ago about sharing the stage for a concert, they didn’t know when the timing would be right for a collaboration.

It’ll be December 3, 2011.

Most everyone knows Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker,” and the suite of dances has become an orchestral holiday classic. It was redone in a very jazzy way by Duke Ellington in the 1960’s. Geraldi and Haines decided to take those very different approaches, and help the students and audience explore the differences and the beauty of each.

With the holidays approaching, the University Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble will share a program, with “The Nutcracker” as a highlight. “We’re thinking this could only be done in December.”

How will it work? “The Orchestra will play the overture, for example. Then the Jazz Ensemble will do Ellington’s take on the piece.” They’ll be trading off, perhaps three minutes for one, then three for the other.

Geraldi wanted to do a program in which the jazz sounds like it belongs, he explains. The rest of the program features works by Leonard Bernstein, John Williams and George Gershwin. “It all fits together,” he says.

“It’s light and enjoyable. It’s fun to listen to.”

Geraldi directs the overall orchestral program; conducts the UNCG Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Casella Sinfonietta; and is associate conductor of the UNCG Wind Ensemble. He teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting.

He has been at UNCG seven years.

The associate professor of conducting reflects on seeing the advertised position available in UNCG’s prestigious Music School – and envisioning the students he’d teach, the work he’d be involved in. “That’d be perfect for me” was his thought. “I knew it’d be the right fit.”

So what music does he listen to in his downtime? Contemporary and standard classical music, with John Adams and Jennifer Higdon as two favorite living composers.

“I’m interested in the current state of the art form – and bringing it to our students” – in addition to the “cornerstone” composers such as Bach.

“I enjoy chamber pieces too,” he adds.

A Chicago native, he received his bachelor’s from Illinois Wesleyan and his graduate degrees from the University of Michigan.

Which means in the fall, he pulls for Michigan football. And during the warm weather months, his allegiance is at Wrigley Field. “I am cursed to be a Chicago Cubs fan.”

What else does he enjoy in his downtime? “I love to cook. My heritage is Italian, so I especially enjoy making pasta dishes and other family recipes.”

Speaking of food, he says, bring canned goods when you come to the Dec. 3 concert. All will be donated to the Greensboro Urban Ministry.

By Mike Harris