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Keith Gates: News

A Retrospective Tribute: The Operas of Keith Gates - February 10, 2011

“A Retrospective Tribute: The Operas of Keith Gates” will be presented on stage at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-19, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 20, in the new Shearman Fine Arts Theatre at McNeese State University.
Keith Gates loved opera. In a dramatic space he would have loved, the McNeese Department of Performing Arts will present a performance of selected scenes from operatic works composed while Gates was a professor at McNeese.
These include “Tom Sawyer” (1983) and “Evangeline” (1995) with clever and engaging librettos by Jon Robertson, “The Hollow” (1988), a haunting and spiritual tale produced in collaboration with librettist, Susan Kelso, and his final work, which is a loving statement of his unwavering faith, “The Christmas Coin” (1999) on his own libretto.
It was natural that as a composer Gates was attracted to dramatic music genre, according to Michele Martin, head of the performing arts department and director of this production.  “At the heart of his success as an operatic composer was his inexhaustible ability to create astoundingly beautiful and emotional melodies that intensified the dramatic moment, enhanced the nature and soul of each character and were a joy to sing and hear.”
Members of Dance Theatre Southwest will also participate in two solo dance scenes, “The Clog” and “The Waltz,” from Gates’ "Evangeline."  These dances, as well as the "Wedding Dance" in Act II, have been re-created by the Dance Theatre Southwest's Artistic Director, Sarah Quinn Jones.  Jones was the original choreographer for the production of "Evangeline."
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for McNeese faculty/staff, senior citizens and youth (K-12), and free for McNeese students with a current ID. For tickets call (337) 475-5043.
Persons requesting accommodations in accordance with the ADA should contact the Office of the ADA Coordinator at least 72 hours before the event. Additional information is available from: the Office of the ADA Coordinator, Smith Hall, Room 127; Voice: (337) 475-5428; Fax: (337) 475-5960; TDD/TTY, Hearing Impaired: (337) 562-4227;

Gates in Rochester - July 21, 2009

Julie Miller will present a lecture-recital on the music of Keith Gates at the New York State Music Teachers Association meeting Oct. 16-18 at the Eastman School of Music.

Gates in the Big Apple - July 21, 2009

Yvonne Hansbrough will be at the National Flute Association 2009 Convention in New York City, "Bright Flutes, Big City" Aug. 13-16. She will perform Sonatina by Keith Gates on the American Composers Program at the NYC Marriott Marquis Hotel, O"Neil Room, August 13 at 9:00 a.m.

2001 San Francisco Chronicle - Gates/Carnegie Hall - October 7, 2008

Contra Costa music man conducts a following
One of his bands plays at Carnegie
Abby Cohn, Special to The Chronicle

Friday, August 17, 2001


Maestro Harvey Benstein likes to hit the high notes. Lately, the Lafayette-based conductor has been reaching them regularly as director of a half-dozen high school and community-based ensembles.

In the spring, for instance, he led his 72-member Campolindo High School symphonic band in a performance at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall.

And musicians with his Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and Walnut Creek Concert Band say Benstein is lifting their amateur groups to new heights with his rigorous standards, musical skill and penchant for attracting guest artists and premiering new works.

In the process, the 51-year-old Benstein is acquiring a reputation of his own. He's becoming known as the music man of Contra Costa County.

"I think my plate's fairly full," admits the mustachioed conductor, who recently returned from a trip to Indiana, where he conducted at a music camp for junior high school students.

As musical director of Campolindo's four performing groups and conductor of an adult orchestra and band, Benstein figures that his baton leads up to 40 concerts a year.

"I always have to make sure I leave the house with the right score," said Benstein, who has a nagging fear that one day he won't.

Benstein, a Michigan native, is a relative newcomer to the Bay Area. A band conductor and music educator for more than two decades at universities and high schools in the Midwest and South, he was between jobs in 1995. That's when he accepted an invitation to move closer to his now 85-year-old father, Ed, who lives in Pittsburg.

The younger Benstein has been making noise in local music programs ever since.

After a two-year teaching stint in Pittsburg, Benstein joined the faculty at Moraga's Campolindo High in 1997. Taking over from a part-time music teacher who also taught math, Benstein added an orchestra to the existing concert and jazz bands.

Its beginnings weren't terribly auspicious. Only four students signed up. "We did the Pachelbel Canon," Benstein recalls of his attempts to find pieces that called for the fewest number of instruments.

"When it came to performing, we brought in some ringers to make it happen," he said. By the end of that first year, the orchestra's ranks had swollen to seven.

"Now we're up to 30 strings," he said of the group that performed in the spring on a cruise to Ensenada, Mexico.

Benstein also introduced a music theory class to the school curriculum.

In April, Campolindo's music program reached a crescendo. The symphonic band was one of 14 high school bands selected out of 23 entries nationwide to perform in Carnegie Hall for a National Invitational Band Festival, said Steve Keim, Carnegie Hall coordinator. The Campolindo band was the only California school to perform.

"It was one of those experiences of a lifetime that the students will keep with them," Benstein said. "What's every musicians' dream, but to perform in Carnegie Hall?"

The musicians shook off any jitters and "did an outstanding job," Benstein said. "It was a real tribute to students who had helped build the program."

In their 35-minute performance, the students played a Sousa march, a suite in E flat by British composer Gustav Holst and a piece by modern composer Keith Gates.

"It was unreal," said 17-year-old trombonist Kevin Carey of playing in the legendary venue. "The weird thing was it wasn't so unreal. He prepared us to let go instead of worrying."

Carey, who is president of the band council, said Benstein "is not OK with us just being a high school band. He's constantly striving for the next level."

Benstein inspired students to "go into this big hall and own it," Carey said. "It was awesome."

Recent graduate Geoffrey Countryman, an 18-year-old saxophonist, called Benstein "a great music teacher.

"He loves music and he's so adamant about getting people to love music with him," said Countryman, an accomplished performer who plans to study music in the fall at New York University. "The entire music program has grown and so have I."

Moraga parent Carol Theisen, whose daughter and son both played in the band,

said, "The turnabout has been amazing. He gives them chances, he encourages them to stretch and they do it."

Her 16-year-old son, Michael, always loved jazz but "he's now into classical music" too after taking Benstein's music theory class.

Benstein has brought in guest conductors, such as Gates, to the school and frequently describes composers' visions of their pieces, his students say.

"My students say that I'm intense," Benstein said. "I have high expectations for them. I try to give them the tools to reach those expectations."

But Benstein doesn't necessarily measure success by the number of musicians he produces.

"I feel as a music educator, my job is not necessarily to create professional musicians but to make it possible for kids to enjoy music and make music for the rest of their lives," he said.

"I'm really proud of the level of music-making that our groups demonstrate."

Adult performers say they, too, have blossomed under Benstein's tutelage.

"I really think he's breathed new life into the group," said Nina Pereira, a cellist with the all-volunteer Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra directed by Benstein. "Harvey makes me want to be a better cellist."

The conductor, who is starting his third season with the 50-piece orchestra,

expects his musicians to master the technical elements of their pieces at home so that rehearsals can focus on fine-tuning the overall composition, she said.

"Players are more committed and practice more," said Pereira, a sales and training consultant from Lafayette.

She credits Benstein with showcasing new music and bringing in well-known guest conductors and performers. On Oct. 14, the symphony's opening concert features a performance of Spanish music by guitar virtuoso David Tanenbaum.

Noting that the orchestra is an amateur group, Len Sperry, a lawyer-turned- timpanist who lives in Tiburon, said Benstein "does amazingly well with what he's got to work with."

He credits Benstein with seeking out lesser-known pieces, such as the recently performed "Songs of the Auvergne," a collection of old French folk music.

"The programming is exciting," Sperry said. "Some of it is very different, stuff I don't get a chance to be exposed to very often."

It's a similar theme for members of the 65-piece Walnut Creek-sponsored band. On Aug. 1, Benstein turned over his baton to guest conductor Keith Brion for a special performance by the noted John Philip Sousa scholar.

"You can't recycle the same thing over and over," Benstein explains. "You want to constantly challenge them."

The band's next performance will be on Labor Day at Walnut Creek's Civic Park. In April 2000, Benstein stepped into the park's gazebo for a far different purpose. He and band flutist Elicia Newkirk were married in a ceremony officiated by former mayor Gwen Regalia and attended by many of his musicians.

"It took me about six months to work up the guts to ask her out," he confesses.

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This article appeared on page CC - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Keith Gates Baseball - August 1, 2008

The Millers are pleased to announce that the baseball team "" earned 2nd place in the Potsdam, NY Youth Baseball and Softball Association's 2008 season. The boys like their jerseys and continue to wear them, providing free advertising for us. A local choral director inquired about the site after seeing the shirts, and the Miller children were happy to sport the logo all over NYC, spreading Keith's name wherever possible.

Flute Sonatina on NYSSMA list - August 1, 2008

Jill Rubio of the Crane School of Music and AAK Middle School has announced that Keith Gates' Sonatina for Flute and Piano will appear in the new edition of the NYSSMA Manual. We are happy that this gorgeous piece will now be available to advanced flute students throughout New York.

Suite for Three Harps - August 1, 2008

Keith Gates' Suite for Three Harps, his penultimate completed work, has been attracting attention this year. Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis of the Crane School of Music has been responsible for 3 performances and lots of PR. Her students in the Crane Harp Ensemble performed it in Potsdam and Syracuse in the spring semester of 2008. Her younger students at this summer's Crane Youth Music performed one movement in July. Suchy-Pilalis discussed the suite at a national harp event in Chicago, eliciting orders for the work. We look forward to making it available when we have updated our edition based on suggestions from Suchy-Pilalis as well as Barbara Belew of McNeese State University. Although Gates was suffering from illness and treatment while composing this piece based on the four seasons of the year (his manuscript was quite shaky at this time), his compositional gifts remained as abundant as always.

Elizabeth Gates Choreographs her Father's Music - May 17, 2008

Lake Charles Civic Ballet Honors the LIfe of Keith Gates
Written by Press Release
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
The Lake Charles Civic Ballet will present their 2007-2008 season finale, Sunday May 18 at 3:00 PM, in the Lake Charles Civic Center's Rosa Hart Theatre. The performance is a tribute to composer Keith Gates and admission is FREE. Featured performances include a new work entitled "Nocturne," and popular favorite "Louisiana Saturday Night."

The long standing relationship with Keith Gates and Lake Charles Civic Ballet produced many wonderful performances for Southwest Louisiana. Mr. Gates composed the music for the LCCB production entitled "The Fable." Lady Holly Hathaway, artistic director of LCCB, worked with him on "A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine."

The work of Keith Gates is alive today as envisioned by his daughter, Elizabeth Gates, a former LCCB company member and current LCCB instructor. Ms. Gates will present a new work entitled "Nocturne," and choreographed to music written by her father. Concertino for Flute and Wind Ensemble was composed by Keith Gates in 1996, and has been performed by the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band.

The exciting tribute will also feature Chris Miller & Bayou Roots on stage live for the production of the LCCB classic, "Louisiana Saturday Night." Originally choreographed by artistic director Lady Leah Lafargue Hathway, the current production is directed by Lady Holly Hathaway Kaough, associate director of LCCB. The band will open with 'Jambalaya,' setting the tone for the ballet. The entire cast will join in the fun with exciting, high energy music and fiddle playing action. 'Jolie Blonde', 'Diggy, Diggy, Lo', 'Don't mess with my Tutu', 'Louisiana Saturday Night', and many more traditional Cajun songs merge with the world of classical ballet to wrap up the evening. Classical ballet does not always have to look 'classical', but can be fun, wild and molded to blend with our Southwest Louisiana culture.

In addition to the company season finale, the tribute, and special guests, Lake Charles Civic Ballet will present the students of Lady Leah LaFargue School of the Dance in Recital. The Lake Charles Civic Ballet tribute to the life and work of Keith Gates is a show that you won't want to miss! LCCB is supported by grants from the Louisiana State Arts Council through the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts as administered by the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana.

Waybright conducts "The Last Voluntary" - April 20, 2008

When 25-year-old Brian Gindy died of leukemia in 1997, his music
professor, Dr. David Waybright, wanted to honor the young trumpeter with a wind symphony - something that reflected the full and talented life that was lost when Gindy, a member of the Pride of the Sunshine Marching Band at the University of Florida, died.

For the composition of the symphony, Waybright thought of the most spiritual composer he knew: McNeese State University professor Keith Gates, a graduate of the New York Juilliard School and a renowned composer who received commissions and grants to write the operas "Tom Sawyer," "The Hollow" and "Evangeline." Gates responded to Waybright's commission with "The Last Voluntary," a solemn, quiet composition that
features a trumpet call and solo in Gindy's memory.

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, Waybright, director of bands at UF, will have the unique opportunity to conduct the McNeese Wind Symphony in a performance of "The Last Voluntary" during a free performance in McNeese's F.G. Bulber Auditorium. Direction of the piece will be particularly poignant because it will also be performed as a tribute to Gates, who died of pancreatic cancer in May 2007.

The McNeese department of performing arts dedicated its 2007-08 season to Gates, who Waybright describes as a "misplaced romanticist," with a style reminiscent of the 19th century Romantic period of Brahms and Berlioz.

"Keith was extremely passionate and that passion came out in his music," said Waybright, who worked with Gates at McNeese from 1984-87. "He always struck me as a spiritual person who was able to rise above."

Waybright was invited to conduct for McNeese by Dr. Jay Jacobs, a former student of his from UF and the current director of bands for McNeese. Jacobs asked if he could perform one of the Gates pieces as part of the tribute. Waybright immediately knew which piece he wanted to conduct.

"'The Last Voluntary' is a somber piece, so I'm not sure if it's been
played as much as some of his other pieces, but it was certainly the most appropriate thing I could think of to play for the concert. The piece was commissioned for me and now it is not only a tribute to Brian, but it also pays tribute to Keith," Waybright said.

Gates calendar dates - April 16, 2008

Please write us if you have a Gates performance so we can add it to the calendar. Fortunately not all Gates performances are in Lake Charles or Potsdam, and we need to publicize them. We sometimes hear from people in different parts of the country, who would have attended a concert had they known about it.

American Requiem on LPB - April 16, 2008

Louisiana Public Broadcasting will show Keith Gates' Requiem, "AMERICAN REQUIEM: A TRIBUTE TO THE TRAGEDY OF SEPT 11th" (HD). The half-hour program will air on
Sunday, May 25th at 5:30 p.m. and Monday, May 26th at 4:00 p.m.

LPB statewide High Definition channels are WLPB-HD, KLPA-HD, KLPB-HD, KLTL-HD, KLTM-HD, and KLTS-HD.

Repeat of April 8 concert - April 16, 2008

The webcast of the April 8 concert of Gates music is available any time at A number of Crane School of Music faculty and guests performed woodwind, brass, string, vocal and choral music. Included on the program was the premiere of "Pastoral Lament" with words for Keith by John Wood and music by Steven Manley, dedicated to Lane Miller.

Facebook news - March 26, 2008

We are happy to announce that there is a facebook group named "Keith Gates Fan Club". It was founded on March 25, 2008. Facebook users may also want to visit "Music of Keith Gates" for information on Julie Miller's April 8 Gates recital. We will keep you posted on future exciting developments.

Music Scores Available - January 8, 2008

Many of Keith's scores are now available through Carriage House Publications. Now YOU can perform the music of Keith Gates! Please write lanemiller(at) to place an order.

Keith Gates Tribute Concert - February 3, 2007

Alumni from the North Carolina School of the Arts came together to perform a Tribute Concert for Keith Gates on January 7, 2007 in Watson Chamber Music Hall on the North Carolina School of the Arts campus. The program featured works written by and for Gates, who graduated from the NCSA high school program in 1967. Flutist and conductor Ransom Wilson, who graduated from the NCSA School of Music in 1969, recruited NCSA music and drama alumni from across the country to perform on the concert.