Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra Busts Open the Great American Songbook with Gorgeous Gershwin


Bright & Boisterous Programme Features Local Luminary Leslie Dala Performing Rhapsody in Blue Piano Concerto  


The Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra  (VAMSO) season closes on an ebullient note with the concert, Gorgeous Gershwin on May 15, 2pm at the Orpheum Theatre. Music Director Leslie Dala takes to the piano to conduct and perform the jazz-tinged classical masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue, while leading VAMSO’s young artists through beloved favourites from the composer’s catalogue, including An American in Paris and Porgy & Bess Suite.


Leslie Dala photo: Karen T
Leslie Dala photo: Karen T


“Since joining us in 2011, Leslie Dala has delighted audiences conducting some of classical music’s greatest masterworks – from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to Mozart’s Requiem. This is a rare, first opportunity to see the Music Director shine alongside our orchestra as an instrumentalist,” says Joseph Elworthy, Executive Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music. “We look forward to introducing another spectacular side of Leslie’s artistry as he masters Gershwin’s roaring, lyrical evocation of 1920’s New York streetscapes.”

As a highly sought after conductor, Leslie Dala is also Music Director for the Vancouver Bach Choir, and Chorus Director for Vancouver Opera. Leslie’s early professional career, however, began as a pianist and répétiteur, performing recitals on CBC radio, and concertos with such prestigious groups as the Prince George Symphony, and Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. On May 15, Leslie will channel the late Leonard Bernstein, whose legendary renditions of Rhapsody in Blue as conductor and pianist remain etched in music history.

The first ‘serious’ composition by the prolific George Gershwin (1898-1937), Rhapsody in Blue embodies the bustling, audacious spirit of the Jazz Age, as it interweaves brash, charging orchestral passages with melodic explorations by solo piano. Infamous for its hasty creation, the work premiered in New York’s Aeolian Hall in 1924, where it was billed as an “Experiment in Modern Music”, later becoming one of the most quintessential pieces of American repertoire.

George Gershwin’s compositional career spanned both classical and popular genres, and gave the world such instantly recognizable tunes as Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, and the widely covered jazz standard, Summertime. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he was hired at a young age as a songwriter in “Tin Pan Alley”, the Manhattan hub for music publishers of the late 19th century, and birthplace of the U.S. music industry.

The composer had his first song published at 17 years old, and his first national hit, Swanee, at age 20. Gershwin later went on to create music for stage, including the opera Porgy & Bess and musicals Show Girl and Girl Crazy, film scores such as the Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers classic Shall We Dance, and orchestral compositions that regularly debuted in Carnegie Hall. Gershwin’s legacy is all the more impressive given the short window in which it was established: the composer died from a brain tumor at just 38 years of age.

In this concert celebrating Gershwin’s enduring mark on music and modern culture, VAMSO will explore a diverse array of the visionary composer’s marvelous body of work.

About Vancouver Academy of Music (

Founded in 1969, the Vancouver Academy of Music (VAM) is a non-profit institution that has been spreading a love of learning and musical excellence for generations of aspiring musicians. Located minutes away from downtown, VAM’s spacious facility features teaching studios, expansive classrooms, a library, and two recital halls – all set against the scenic backdrop of Vanier Park.

VAM’s fundamental purpose is to explore the transformative power of music through fostering an inclusive learning environment led by a team of devoted faculty with strong professional backgrounds. From Early Childhood Education to adult learning, VAM delivers world-class music education to students of all ages and abilities.


In addition to private lessons and class instruction, VAM students engage with world-renowned visiting artists in master classes, cooperate with other national and international music education organizations, and participate in numerous performances and competitions. VAM’s Orchestral Training Program is home to four levels of orchestra, which culminates in the Orpheum Series – four concerts that spotlight the VAM Symphony Orchestra in one of Vancouver’s most iconic cultural venues, the Orpheum Theatre.



VAMSO presents Gorgeous Gershwin



Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 2pm


Ticket prices:

$10 Adults, $5 Students & Seniors



The Orpheum

601 Smithe St., Vancouver, BC


Box Office:

At the door or online at:



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