MusicNow Festival Kicks off with Cincinnati Ballet World Premiere

Dancers of Cincinnati Ballet open the Bob Weir Concert with a World Premiere by Company Member James Cunningham

MusicNow, one of the nation’s most acclaimed and eclectic music festivals, will kick off with a world premiere duet, Garcia Counterpoint, choreographed by Cincinnati Ballet Soloist and emerging choreographer, James Cunningham. Garcia Counterpoint will be performed Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 pm, immediately preceding a special concert by Grammy Winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Weir.

Garcia Counterpoint was created by James Cunningham to music of the same name composed by Cincinnati-born composer and festival Artistic Director Bryce Dessner, guitarist for Grammy-nominated indie rock band, The National. Garcia Counterpoint will be danced by Cincinnati Ballet Senior Soloist Siriu Liu and Apprentice Luca De Poli. They will be accompanied live by Dessner.

Weir will perform with his Campfire Band, including musicians from indie rock band The National, Aaron Dessner, Bryan Devendorf and Scott Devendorf—along with Josh Kaufman and Jon Shaw. Weir is best known as guitarist of the Grateful Dead.

On Friday, January 13, MusicNow is also adding a free Memorial Hall Community Concert, featuring MusicNow festival musicians, Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet Second Company artists, and the MyCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble.

Dessner was inspired to write Garcia Counterpoint by the work of late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and contemporary composer Steve Reich. Cunningham’s choreography hints at the subtle intimacies in a relationship; themes of test and trust mix with playful looks and gestures married to Dessner’s score.

“We are so excited to be a part of an innovative movement to introduce new music to our community,” said Victoria Morgan, Artistic Director & CEO. “The philosophies of MusicNow and Cincinnati Ballet blend well in our mutual quest to enliven our art forms and to keep them relevant. There is so much overlap in our shared endeavors to highlight classic rock ‘n roll, as well as classical and contemporary music and movement – what a fantastic opportunity to redefine people’s expectations of both genres.”

“To have a dance choreographed and performed to my music by this remarkable ballet company is truly exciting to me,” said Dessner. “That it will have its premiere at a concert by Jerry’s friend and musical collaborator Bob Weir makes it all the more meaningful.”

This will be the first collaboration between the Cincinnati Ballet and MusicNow. The Festival’s partnership with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was initiated in 2014.

Free Community Concert

On Friday morning, January 13, MusicNow will present a free concert at newly reopened Memorial Hall on Elm Street at Washington Park. In keeping with MusicNow’s eclecticism, the event will include:

  • A reprise of Cunningham’s world premiere Garcia Counterpoint pas de deux
  • Works performed by the septet, MyCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble
  • Performances by MusicNow Festival artists to be announced

The 10:00–11:30 a.m. event became possible when the Festival discovered that Cincinnati Public Schools would be closed that day due to teacher training. Admission to will be on a first come, first-served basis. Memorial Hall seats 550. Preference will be given to young people 18 and under.


MusicNow was launched in 2007 by Artistic Director and Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner, best known as guitarist for internationally known, Grammy-nominated indie rock band, The National. MusicNow has grown to become one of the nation’s most highly-regarded and eclectic music festivals, presenting artists from virtually every music genre.

James Cunningham began choreographing at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, through composition courses and yearly student choreographed showcases. In the Fall of 2016, Cunningham’s work Prohibition Condition premiered as part of Cincinnati Ballet’s Director’s Cut program and he also created new work for the students at CCM, titled La Nymphe Brisée, with an original score by Youngwon French and Bradley Harris. He has been commissioned to create site-specific works for chamber orchestra group Concert:Nova and the Constella Music Festival.

His version of Peter and the Wolf has been presented as part of Cincinnati Ballet’s Ballet Toybox and also through education and outreach performances. This past spring, BalletMet dancers and producers of The Benefit, a charity event for children with hemophilia, invited Cunningham to create Meandering Heartbeat in collaboration with the local rock group The Wind and The Sea and Columbus Symphony musicians. Cunningham is a Soloist with Cincinnati Ballet since joining the company in 2008.

MYCincinnati is a free, daily youth orchestra program for children in Price Hill ages 5-18. Founded on the idea that personal transformation can be achieved by striving toward musical excellence, students have the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument and play together in an ensemble. MYCincinnati is inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s national network of youth orchestras that uses music as a vehicle for youth development and social change. Founded in 2011 with 11 students, MYCincinnati currently engages over 100 young people for 10-15 hours every week.

The MYCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble is a radical string septet of young Price Hill musicians led by MYCincinnati Director Eddy Kwon. Committed to social justice and creative collaboration, the ensemble worked together to compose a performance work that organically combines storytelling, avant chamber music, and social criticism. They have since performed the piece throughout Cincinnati and the Midwest.

Eddy Kwon, MYCincinnati Director, is a composer-performer and graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he was a Cincinnatus Presidential Full Scholar. In 2016, Kwon was named a United States Artists Ford (Foundation) Fellow with an unrestricted award of $50,000.

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