Tom Huizenga

Tom Huizenga is a music producer, reporter and blogger for NPR Music.

He is a regular contributor of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and co-hosts NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence.

Joining NPR in 1999, Huizenga spent seven years as a producer, writer and editor for NPR's Peabody Award-winning daily classical music show Performance Today and for programs SymphonyCast and World of Opera.

He's produced live concerts, including a radio broadcast of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess from Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center and NPR's first classical music webcast from the Manhattan club (Le) Poisson Rouge, featuring the acclaimed Emerson String Quartet. He's also asked musicians to play in unlikely venues, such as cellist Alisa Weilerstein playing Bach at the Baltimore Aquarium. He's written and produced radio specials, like A Choral Christmas With Stile Antico, broadcast on stations around the country.

Huizenga's radio career began at the University of Michigan, where he hosted opera, jazz, free-form, and experimental radio programs at Ann Arbor's WCBN. As a student in the Ethnomusicology department, Huizenga studied and performed traditional court music from Indonesia. He also studied English Literature and voice, while writing for the university's newspaper.

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. and in his spare time writes about music for the Washington Post and overloads on concerts and movies.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"New classical music is well and alive," Brad Wells, director of the vocal collective Roomful of Teeth, said yesterday as he accepted his Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

Odd musical mergers in the Grammy Awards telecast are nothing new — remember Paul McCartney, Linkin Park and Jay-Z singing "Yesterday?" Still, when thrash metal band Metallica and classical pianist Lang Lang take the stage together Sunday night, it may seem more like a head-scratcher than a clever match.

Or will it?

Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, who at age 20 swept all five top prizes at the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, can now add another prestigious award to his collection. Early Wednesday, Blechacz was named the 2014 Gilmore Artist.

The Gilmore may not have quite the name recognition as the Chopin Competition, but it has a distinguished cachet of its own, plus a generous $300,000 cash award.

Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a veteran when it comes to taking risks, and it pays off in her compelling music. As a young girl in Vietnam, she knew she wanted to be a traditional musician, even though it was a world dominated by men. It was risky, then, when she pestered a master teacher for three years to give her lessons. He finally gave in, taking her on as an apprentice.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That could be the annual mantra for the classical music world. It has been predicted to crumble for decades, just as optimists continue to point to positive trends. This year is no different. Despite two ugly black eyes — the death of the New York City Opera and the continuing, bitter stalemate between the Minnesota Orchestra's (locked out) musicians and management — terrific music is being made by marvelous artists. Here we offer a short list of the best and worst of 2013.

Sunny Yang joined Kronos Quartet in June 2013. Now, just five months later, the cellist she says she's learned quite a few new works — not just a handful, but about 70 pieces.

There's a beguiling photo of Krzysztof Penderecki, who turns 80 today, inside the brochure of this week's Warsaw music festival that bears his name. It shows the lauded Polish composer standing in his immense garden, surrounded by a labyrinth of trees and shrubbery trimmed to symmetrical perfection.

Last March, when the San Francisco Symphony was slated for an East Coast tour, including a stop at Carnegie Hall, the musicians went on strike. Fortunately, the labor dispute was settled in 18 days — a blink of an eye compared to the recent drawn-out disruptions in Minnesota and Detroit. Still, it left New Yorkers hungry for the San Francisco Symphony's brand of tonal luminescence and programming bravado, nurtured by forward-thinking conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

Johann Sebastian Bach has been a central figure in the life of British conductor John Eliot Gardiner since he was a youngster. On his way to bed, he couldn't help glancing up at the famous 18th-century portrait of Bach that hung in the first floor landing of the old mill house in Dorset, England where Gardiner was born.

Two hundred years ago today, in a small northern Italian village, a couple named Verdi — tavern owners by trade — welcomed the birth of a baby boy who would later change the face of opera forever. And, whether we recognize it or not, on the bicentennial of his birth, Giuseppe Verdi is still vital.

It's that time of year again when freshly steamed curtains are rising on opera stages across the country, introducing another new season of performances. And this time, one composer will be popping up more than usual — Giuseppe Verdi.

Most opera singers work their way to the big league by singing bit parts in regional opera houses. Not soprano Angela Meade. She landed on top instantly with her professional debut in the lead soprano role of Giuseppe Verdi's Ernani at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2008.

It was a dream come true. The star soprano took ill and the understudy, Meade, was suddenly shoved into the spotlight. The press said she sang "like an old pro from start to finish."

How do you make a piano sing? Italian-born pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi tackles the question on his new album, The Rascal and the Sparrow, a tribute to Francis Poulenc and Edith Piaf, two titans of French song who each died 50 years ago. Pompa-Baldi shared his thoughts on the project in this email chat with NPR Music's Tom Huizenga.

People ask why I thrive on classical music, and I tell them it's all about discovery. The possibilities for finding incredible music, both old and new, are endless as the oceans.

When Daniel Hope was a boy, the only thing he loved as much as his violin was his telescope. Gazing into the night sky, he pondered the vastness of space. Now a grown man, Hope still has a penchant for wonder and discovery — especially when it comes to music.

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