Classical Movements at 24: Changing the World Through Music

Back in the U.S.S.R.: "Slava" conducts the National Symphony and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Back in the U.S.S.R.: "Slava" conducts the National Symphony and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

RUSSIA, 1993—Mstislav Rostropovich is invited back to his native Russia, having defected in 1974. In those two decades, both the cellist, and his homeland, had drastically changed. What a homecoming it was, then, when now-Maestro "Slava" and the National Symphony Orchestra returned with a chorus nearly 200-strong. With just two months’ notice, Blue Heart Travel (what would become Classical Movements) arranged a landmark tour for the Choral Arts Society of Washington, culminating in the first-ever concert broadcast from Moscow's Red Square.

Not pictured: President Zemin conducting that night's encore, a Sousa march.

Not pictured: President Zemin conducting that night's encore, a Sousa march.

CHINA, 1999—After playing Bernstein, Gershwin and Copland for Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the Clinton White House, at President Zemin's request, Classical Movements is honored to arrange for the Leonard Slatkin-led National Symphony to perform Dvorak, Schumann and Mussorgsky at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. It's one of many stops on the NSO's 18-day tour of China and Japan.

The late NYPO music director, Kurt Masur.

The late NYPO music director, Kurt Masur.

TUESDSAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 - Classical Movements has the entire New York Philharmonic on tour in Europe. Company president Neeta Helms recalls, “By the time they took off from Hanover and landed in Frankfurt, the travel world, as we knew it, had changed forever." For four long days, all flights in and out of the U.S. were grounded. By Saturday, September 15, every last member of the New York Phil was on the first flight home.

Maestro Leonard Slatkin pauses for a picture with both NSO and INSO musicians.

Maestro Leonard Slatkin pauses for a picture with both NSO and INSO musicians.

IRAQ, 2003—The U.S. State Department and the Kennedy Center invite the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra to perform in Washington, alongside the National Symphony. With anti-aircraft missiles still lighting up the sky above Baghdad, flying the INSO out of Iraq proved difficult for Classical Movements. Moreover, many of the Iraqi musicians did not have basic travel documents; visas had to be issued in a country with no government. Military aircraft flew the orchestra to Jordan, and they landed in D.C. during a major blizzard.

The "Dude" leads Dr. José Antonio Abreu'sband.

The "Dude" leads Dr. José Antonio Abreu'sband.

VENEZUELA, 2007—Askonas Holt invites Classical Movements to organize the first U.S. tour for the 265-plus members of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, conducted by a then-27-year-old Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel. Venues include Carnegie Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco and an eventual home for that charismatic leader: the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California. "Dudamel is absolutely revelatory," writes the L.A. Times.

"Broadcast yourself," indeed, with Classical Movements.

"Broadcast yourself," indeed, with Classical Movements.

CYBERSPACE, 2009—Google, still Classical Movements' only for-profit client, contracts out all travel and logistics for the debut of its YouTube Symphony Orchestra, where musicians (and all of their instruments) from across the globe finally meet up at Carnegie Hall. It's such a successful venture for all parties, there's a reprise, two years later, at Australia's Sydney Opera House.

Combined Ihlombe! Choral Festival participants at the foot of Signal Hill in Cape Town. 

Combined Ihlombe! Choral Festival participants at the foot of Signal Hill in Cape Town. 

SOUTH AFRICA, 2009—By 1994, with the election of Nelson Mandela and the full abolition of apartheid, Blue Heart Travel was officially touring to South Africa. To celebrate 15 years there, and especially since Classical Movements' Rhapsody! and Melodia! Choral Festivals had become such hits in Europe and South America, respectively, Ihlombe! (pronounced "Ish-LOM-bay") is launched. The Zulu word for "applause," Ihlombe! quickly becomes the largest international choral gathering in the country.

Tony Ross, Minnesota's principal cello, shares some techniques with a Cuban student.

Tony Ross, Minnesota's principal cello, shares some techniques with a Cuban student.

CUBA, 2015—Likewise, Blue Heart had been taking sanctioned tours to otherwise forbidden countries like Cuba, Vietnam and Syria since President Clinton's first term. “We knew Cuba held such a singular place in American’s minds and hearts," remembers Ms. Helms. With little more than 100 days’ notice, the Minnesota Orchestra tells Classical Movements they want to go, too. Leveraging its well-established ties to bypass decades of diplomatic stalemate, the tour is a triumph, including two performances at the Teatro Nacional, as well as outreach workshops with Cuban music students. The concerts are broadcast live, around the world, a substantial achievement, itself.