Music Series celebrates 40th anniversary this season

By: Nick McGill ~Staff Writer~

Music Series
Photo courtesy of | The Blue Wisp Big Band plays at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at Urban Artifact. This 16-piece band has played for 35 years.

Polina Bespalko, director of the Xavier University Music Series, makes a point to organize and putting on several concerts each year.

“(I am) proud to play a central role in the musical life of Cincinnati. Live music performance is a deeply rooted cultural tradition, and the Music Series is strongly committed to help it flourish in our community,” Bespalko said in her welcome letter to patrons. This upcoming season represents the 40th anniversary of the Music Series.

“In a day and age where there are many challenges facing symphonies, music series and live performance in general, it is noteworthy that the Xavier Music Series has been able to thrive for 40 consecutive years,” she said. More and more young people are beginning to attend concerts as selected artists meet the interest of younger generations.

“Much thought was put into the artist selection for this year. It seems appropriate to both begin and end the season with musicians that represent our city, the Blue Wisp Big Band and Grammy nominee Fred Hersch. Both of these names will be familiar to many of you, as both artists have long-running ties to Cincinnati,” Belspalko said.

Dynamic trumpeter and singer Brian Newman will be performing with his quintet in January. Newman is enjoying tremendous success fresh off the sold-out “Cheek to Cheek” tour, where he performed with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

“This will be a melding of new and old as the hottest artists of today perform beloved jazz classics from the past,” Bespalko said. Four-time Grammy award winner Antonio Sanchez will make his debut in March in Cincinnati with his band “Migration.” Sanchez gained widespread recognition through his music in cinema, where he won worldwide critical acclaim for his scoring of the Academy Award-winning movie “Birdman.”

“Another event I am particularly excited about is internationally renowned pianist Momoro Ono. After his solo performance, Momoro will be joined for a duet by his brother and University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono,” Bespalko said.

Many in the Cincinnati area are familiar with Santa Ono as he makes a visit from University of Cincinnati. Coming from a slightly different area of elite performers, piano prodigy Gavin George will be the Music Series’ youngest performer ever when he takes the stage in January.

At 12 years old, his performances of Chopin and Schubert portray “the emotional maturity and beauty of someone decades older,” Bespalko said. Bespalko will close out the series. She will donate her talents to the series in a performance that will surely leave students amazed. This is her third appearance with the music series and first since 2007.

With 16 concerts this academic year the Music Series offers opportunities for Xavier students to hear world-class musicians for only $5. It is rare to see musicians of this level for such a low cost. For more information on season listings and tickets prices, visit