It was in the spirit of the intense and aspirational goals of RSMI’s ambitious programs for jazz and classical musicians—as well as the bold musical vision of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ravinia has just gotten underway celebrating with an expansive multiyear tribute—that Bridges, an international jazz and classical fusion composition competition, was born. It offered an imaginative challenge for artists ages 17–30 (the same age range as the 60–70 performers invited to RSMI each year) to compose original works specifically for a string quartet and a jazz trio. “The Bridges competition was conceived to help give young professionals a place on the map—if not the world stage—which is precisely what RSMI has been granting singers and instrumentalists for the past three decades,” Kauffman said. The directors of the RSMI Program for Jazz had long dreamed of such a competition, having written many works combining jazz and classical music and players themselves.
All of us at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute are still in shock about the sudden death of David Baker last Saturday. David had led the RSMI Program for Jazz since its inception in 2000, so naturally he had developed a certain way he expected things to be done. When I became director of RSMI in 2010, I was in a constant whirlwind with all three of the programs, grasping for any bit of knowledge I could try to retain as I learned on the fly, so of course things didn’t run exactly as David was accustomed to, of course I dropped a few balls here and there. So when he showed up in my doorway
Nine months before Obama’s historic announcement last winter, Ravinia had already significantly connected with the government of Cuba. In March 2014 an ensemble of young chamber musicians, alumni of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (the festival’s summer conservatory), performed in Havana’s Festival de Música de Cámara.
“We got very lucky. We met the right people at the right time,” Plonsker elaborates. “I see Ravinia as a leader. We got there on an official basis before any other group, and we are operating at a very high level of cultural exchange.”
And best of all, the series offers music lovers the chance to hear “an impressive lineup, by any standard,” (Chicago Tribune) of world-stage stars at a fraction of the ticket price commanded elsewhere.