Tom Huizenga

Tom Huizenga is a music producer, reporter and blogger for NPR Music. He hosts NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence.

A regular contributor of stories about classical music on NPR's news programs, Huizenga regularly introduces intriguing new classical CDs to listeners on the weekend version of All Things Considered. He contributes to NPR Music's "Song of the Day."

During his time at NPR, Huizenga spent seven years as a producer, writer and editor for NPR's Peabody Award-winning daily classical music magazine Performance Today, and for the programs SymphonyCast and World of Opera. He produced the live broadcast of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess from Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, concerts from NPR's Studio 4A and performances on the road at Summerfest La Jolla, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and New York's Le Poisson Rouge.

Huizenga's radio career began at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1986. During his four year tenure, he regularly hosted several radio programs (opera, jazz, free-form, experimental radio) at Ann Arbor's WCBN. As a student in the Enthnomusicology department, Huizenga studied and performed traditional court music from Indonesia. He also studied English Literature and voice, while writing for the university's newspaper.

After college Huizenga took his love of music and broadcasting to New Mexico, where he served as music director for NPR member station KRWG, in Las Cruces, and taught radio production at New Mexico State University.

Huizenga lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife Valeska Hilbig, a public affairs director at the Smithsonian. In his spare time he writes about music for the Washington Post, overloads on concerts and movies and swings a tennis racket wildly on many local courts.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:03 am
Mon July 14, 2014

'La Marseillaise' Unmasked: A Bastille Day Puzzler

Citizens of Paris, headed by the National Guards, storm the Bastille prison in an event which has come to be seen as the start of the French Revolution, 14th July 1789.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 8:52 am

"The Star Spangled Banner" turns 200 this year, and the attention it's been getting is again a reminder of how difficult it is for many Americans to sing our national anthem.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:03 am
Fri July 11, 2014

A Voice Of Velvet And Bronze: Carlo Bergonzi At 90

Tenor Carlo Bergonzi as Radames in Verdi's Aida in 1956, the year of his Metropolitan Opera debut.
Metropolitan Opera Archives

Carlo Bergonzi endures. Not only is the Italian tenor approaching his 90th birthday (on July 13) but for decades he sang with tireless warmth and precision, representing a certain old school approach to carefully cultivating one's vocal resources.

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All Songs Considered
9:01 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Best Songs Of The Year (So Far) Puzzler

"Vengo" by Ana Tijoux is one of NPR Music's favorite songs of the year (so far).
Courtesy of the artist

The year is half over and that means NPR Music and our public radio partners have been obsessing over our favorite songs of the year so far. The full list of 50 songs makes a potent stew ranging from power pop and brash hip-hop to electro-fueled dance music and intimate portraits from jazz vocalists, classical guitarists and folk troubadours.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
10:29 am
Sat June 28, 2014

Tracy Silverman: Tiny Desk Concert

Olivia Merrion NPR

Tracy Silverman has been called the greatest living exponent of the electric violin. But we're not talking just any electric violin.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:05 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Sounds Of A Summer Night Puzzler

At the Moab Music Festival in Utah, summer night performances take place in picturesque settings.
Richard Bowditch Moab Music Festival

Summer has officially breezed in with not only longer days but also sultry nights. There's something about summer nights that inspires composers — perhaps a certain stillness in the air or the allure of a new romance. To mark the changing of the season, test your ears in this nocturnal puzzler dedicated to musical snapshots of warm summer evenings. Score high and turn the air conditioner up a notch. Score low and sweat it out till morning.

Deceptive Cadence
2:45 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

The 2014 World Cup Anthems Quiz

German soccer players sing their national anthem Monday before their 2014 World Cup match against Portugal in Salvador, Brazil.
Stu Forster Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 1:24 pm

In case you've been hiding under a rock (or a patch of AstroTurf), there's a little sporting event underway that has much of the world glued to the television. As the 2014 World Cup blasts into its second week, 32 teams (in groups of four, lettered A-H) continue to battle it out in Brazil.

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Deceptive Cadence
11:29 am
Thu June 12, 2014

The Concerto: A 400-Year-Old Recipe That Still Cooks

American composer John Adams has written a new concerto for saxophone.
Nonesuch

The concerto. It's a musical recipe more than 400 years old but composers still cook with it. And why shouldn't they? We still seem to crave the sound of a virtuosic soloist playing with (and often against) an orchestra. As in centuries past, virtuosos still inspire, and in many cases commission, composers to write some of their best music, which can push an instrument to its creative limit.

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Deceptive Cadence
10:55 am
Wed June 11, 2014

The Composer As Sphinx: A Richard Strauss Puzzler

Composer Richard Strauss in London in 1914.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 11:12 am

Music by Richard Strauss is heard in symphony halls and opera houses across the world. He needs little help to boost his considerable fame. Yet 150 years after his birth, the German composer remains an enigma to some classical music fans and a polarizing figure for others. A perfect candidate, in other words, for a musical puzzler.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Tue June 10, 2014

I Hear Bells: The NPR Music Wedding Puzzler

If it's June, let the wedding bells, and the music, ring out.
iStockphoto.com

Can you hear the wedding bells? June has arrived. Theories vary on why this is the month for marriage. Old traditions like the timing of the harvest season (and pregnancies) might have had something to do with it, or more modern practicalities such as nicer weather and abundant fresh flowers. And then there's the name of the month itself, thought to be inspired by Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:32 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Simone Dinnerstein: Tiny Desk Concert

Simone Dinnerstein performs a Tiny Desk Concert in April 2014.
Jim Tuttle NPR

Almost any pianist, from a budding beginner to a pro like Simone Dinnerstein, will tell you that one of the basic techniques of keyboard playing is also the toughest to master: making your hands to do separate things simultaneously.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:31 am
Mon June 2, 2014

The Silence And Awe Of Arvo Pärt

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, creator of contemplative music, photographed in 1990 by influential patron Betty Freeman.
Betty Freeman ECM Records

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 12:54 pm

Arvo Pärt is one of the few living composers to find popularity beyond the borders of classical music. R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Bjork are big fans.

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Deceptive Cadence
5:27 am
Sat May 24, 2014

Asleep In Dress Blues: Music For Memorial Day

A lone bugler plays "Taps" during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 8:52 am

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat May 17, 2014

Iestyn Davies: Tiny Desk Concert

Iestyn Davies performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
NPR

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 11:05 am

The Bee Gees did it. So do Smokey Robinson, Prince and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. They all sing in the high register usually associated with female singers.

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Deceptive Cadence
11:00 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Anonymous 4: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (But They're Doing It)

The vocal ensemble Anonymous 4 will disband after the 2015-16 concert season.
Dario Acosta

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 12:01 pm

In 1986, four women gathered in a casual setting to sing through a bit of medieval chant. Little did they know they were launching Anonymous 4, an a cappella ensemble that has spanned nearly 30 years, 20 albums, countless concerts and more than a millenium of music.

Today the group announced that the 2015-16 season will be its last together. But this isn't the first time Anonymous 4 has thought about calling it quits. The group bid a similar farewell in 2004.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:25 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Mothers Of Intervention: The Operatic Moms Puzzler

Madama Butterfly is one of many unhappy moms in opera.
Patrick Riviere Getty Images

It's not easy being a mom, but it's even tougher for mothers in opera. So often they're completely absent while fathers have leading roles in shows like Rigoletto, La traviata, The Flying Dutchman. When depicted at all, operatic moms are usually under supreme stress. They can be murderous, manipulative or simply mad. Only rarely are they the loving moms who brought us into the world. Here your job is to identify the operas and their mothers. Score high and brag to your own sweet (or stressed) mom. Score low and go to your room without supper.

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Deceptive Cadence
2:43 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

10 Can't-Miss Classical Music Festivals

Some performances during the Bard Music Festival in the Hudson Valley take place at the Fisher Center, designed by Frank Gehry.
Peter Aaron/Esto

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 9:32 am

  • Stravinsky: Firebird - 'Infernal Dance' (from the 2013 Aspen Music Festival)

In much of the country it still feels like summer is a long way off, but it's not too early to plan on hitting the road and hearing great music. From bucolic college campuses in New England to musical rafting trips down the Colorado, these are 10 of the most intriguing classical festivals. And below them is a listing, by region, of many of the best fests. Been to one we missed? Pass along your own advice in the comments section or via Facebook or Twitter.

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Deceptive Cadence
9:14 am
Fri April 25, 2014

A Trove Of Celluloid, Primed For The Public

Maria Callas at home in her Milan Apartment, in 1958. One of 85,000 archive films British Pathé has uploaded to YouTube.
British Pathé

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 9:42 am

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Deceptive Cadence
9:47 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Angst And Excellence In Forgotten Soviet Symphonies

Vadim Salmanov's four symphonies are reissued in live performances conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky.
Melodiya

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 2:14 pm

Soviet composer Vadim Salmanov is little more than a footnote outside Russia, but his four energetic, skillfully orchestrated symphonies are making a small comeback. Russia's venerable Melodiya label has reissued them in a handsomely packaged double-disc set of live recordings made between 1957 and 1977.

Conducted with burning intensity by Yevgeny Mravinsky, Salmanov's rarely heard music soars off these albums with a sound that is thoroughly Russian yet charged with a certain Soviet-era anxiety.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:17 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Pet Sounds: The NPR Music Critter Quiz

Animals are fun to pet. They also make great guest appearances in music.
Roberto A. Sanchez iStock.com

From as far back as we can tell, music makers have been inspired by the flora and especially the fauna around us. From tooting tunes on actual animal horns and bones, to musical portraits of creatures large and small, performers and composers of all stripes have included critters in their creations. In this puzzler, you must identify the creature depicted in the music.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:03 am
Thu April 17, 2014

A Visitor's Guide To Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion'

Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion was first heard on Good Friday, 1727 in Leipzig, Germany.
Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 10:07 am

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his St. Matthew Passion for a single purpose — to present the Passion story in music at Good Friday vesper services.

Bach's Passion continues to move audiences nearly three centuries after it was first heard in St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig, Germany. Standing as one of the pillars of Western sacred music, it is at once monumental and intimate, deeply sorrowful and powerful.

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Deceptive Cadence
6:43 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Alaskan Composer Wins Pulitzer For 'Become Ocean'

Alaska-based composer John Luther Adams has won the Pulitzer Prize for music with an homage to the sea called Become Ocean.
Evan Hurd Photography

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 3:55 pm

John Luther Adams, whose music is inspired by — and sometimes performed in — natural landscapes, has won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his symphonic work Become Ocean.

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First Listen
11:04 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

First Listen: Valentina Lisitsa, 'Chasing Pianos'

Valentina Lisitsa's new Chasing Pianos features Michael Nyman's music for the Oscar-winning film The Piano.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:06 am

Music is an aural medium, but the two musicians represented on this album have careers defined, at least in part, by visuals. Valentina Lisitsa, the 44-year-old Ukrainian-born pianist, revived her stalled career by uploading videos of herself playing Chopin to YouTube. After millions clicked, she landed a record deal.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:44 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Joseph Calleja: Tiny Desk Concert

Joseph Calleja performed a Tiny Desk Concert November 26.
Abbey Oldham Abbey Oldham/NPR

Malta, the island nation 50 miles south of Sicily, may be small, but it's home to one of the biggest stars in opera, tenor Joseph Calleja. And like his country's name, which may originate in the Greek word for honey, Calleja's voice is a potent mix of Italianate passion and sweetness. Just listen to how he pulls the volume back to a slender golden ray of tone several times in Tosti's gorgeous "Ideale," and especially the word "disciogliea" in the Puccini aria that closes this performance.

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Deceptive Cadence
11:44 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Wig Out With The Big Bach Puzzler

Match your wits against the granddaddy of composers in this big Bach puzzler.
Wikimedia Commons

Johann Sebastian Bach, with his big white wig, might stand as the "supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music," as musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky says. But the composer, organist, choirmaster and teacher could also be surprisingly witty and irreverent.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:54 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Pitch Perfect: 3 Must-Hear Vocal Albums

A late 15th-century icon of St. Sergius of Radonezh with the Saints of Rostov adorns the cover of a new album of Russian Orthodox Church music by the vocal ensemble Conspirare.
Harmonia Mundi

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 12:47 pm

The human voice, the true original instrument, is still the most expressive and personal of all. It's one reason more than 42.5 million Americans sing in choirs, and why we seem to be hardwired to tell our stories through song. It also probably explains why I'm a vocal music junkie, eagerly pawing over the operas, recitals and choir albums that land on my desk and in my download folder.

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Deceptive Cadence
8:03 am
Fri March 14, 2014

How Irish Are You? A St. Paddy's Day Puzzler

Hoist a pint for this St. Patrick's day. But first take this quiz!
iStock.com

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 1:33 pm

With St. Patrick's Day upon us, it's hard to escape the allure of the Emerald Isle, with its rolling heaths, swirling jigs, frothy beer and curious legends. While we can't afford to fly you to Dublin we can offer this humble St. Paddy's Day puzzler. Score high and be rewarded with the pot 'o gold at the end of the rainbow. Mess up and yours is a sad bowl of soggy Lucky Charms.

Deceptive Cadence
7:53 am
Sat March 8, 2014

A Kid Named Carl Stirs Up The Bach Musical Dynasty

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, captured around 1733, in a portrait by one of his relatives, Gottlieb Friedrich Bach.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Sat March 8, 2014 11:31 am

When it comes to musical dynasties, it's tough to top the Bach family. From town fiddlers to court composers, the Bachs dominated German music for seven generations. Today, Johann Sebastian towers above all his relatives, but there's another important Bach we shouldn't forget — especially today, on the 300th anniversary of his birth.

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Deceptive Cadence
12:58 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Robert Ashley, Opera's Misunderstood Innovator, Dies At 83

Robert Ashley's operas for television redefined the genre.
Joanne Savio Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 7:50 pm

Robert Ashley, a restlessly innovative American composer, died at his home in New York March 3 from complications of cirrhosis of the liver. NPR confirmed the composer's death through his wife and manager Mimi Johnson. Ashley was 83.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

First Listen: Augustin Hadelich, 'Sibelius, Adès: Violin Concertos'

Violinist Augustin Hadelich pairs a classic concerto with a contemporary one on this new album.
Rosalie O'Connor

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:54 am

Looking for a new violinist to fall in love with? Meet Augustin Hadelich, the 29-year-old Italian-born son of German parents. On his new album, to be released March 11, he pairs two searching, seemingly disparate violin concertos — one classic and one contemporary.

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Deceptive Cadence
11:36 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Classical Couples: Sweethearts Sharing The Stage

Soprano Ailyn Perez and tenor Stephen Costello met in music school. Now married, the couple sings together around the world — as in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet at Opera Philadelphia in 2001.
Kelly & Massa Photography Opera Philadelphia

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