Summer 2018 Live Music Program Updates


While the Tango Mercurio Community Orchestra (TMCO) was on break during the summer, members of the orchestra used this opportunity to further their study of tango music. This year saw a record attendance of six TMCO musicians to summer tango institutes.

These institutes are intensive week-long workshops that bring together students and renowned Argentinian musicians for an immersive educational experience.

Brett Lemley, the orchestra’s director, has been attending these workshops for several years.  “These summer institutes are always a great way to recharge my batteries,” he explains. “I love having the chance to make music with inspiring people for an entire week. Every year I come away with new ideas and enthusiasm for the orchestra’s upcoming season.” 

Valerie Higgs (piano) discovered that understanding the lyrics of tango songs really changed her interpretation of a piece. While working on a solo piece, her coach walked her line by line and explained the meaning of the song in English. “I finally understood what the song was saying,” she explained. “I now have a completely different understanding of what tango is and how it should be expressed.”

Flora Le’s (violin) highlight of the Reed workshop was the tango music history class taught by ethnomusicologist Morgan Luker. Tango music, she learned, has a complex history and a variety of sometimes contradictory influences. “I was riveted for the entire hour and asked a ton of questions,” she recalls. “I can hardly believe that I have been involved with tango for so long without understanding its history,” she adds.

This year, members of the orchestra had the opportunity to learn from Argentinian masters such as Julian Peralta (pianist, composer, and author of “La Orquesta Tipica”), Paulina Fain (flautist, composer, and director of Tango Sin Fin), Exequiel Mantega (pianist, composer), Ramiro Gallo (violinist, composer, and author of “The Violin in Tango”), Ignacio Varchausky (bassist, and artistic director of La Orquesta Escuela de Tango Emilio Balcarce), Adrián Enríquez (pianist, arranger) and Pablo Jaurena (bandoneonist, composer), as well as accomplished american tango musicians such as Cuarteto Tanguero.

Flora Le (violinist) attended the Tango for Musicians workshop at Reed College (Portland, OR). Valerie Higgs (pianist) and Ed Fizdale (cellist) attended the Tanguero Workshop at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN). Brett Lemley (musical director, bandoneonist) and Kristin Dion (flautist) attended both workshops. Last but not least, the orchestra’s cellist, Maxfield Wollam-Fisher, is the program director and a faculty member of the Tanguero Workshop. He is closely involved with the design and delivery of the Saint Mary’s College program.


To ensure that members of the orchestra have an opportunity to attend these unique workshops, Tango Mercurio awards each year one scholarship to defray the cost of attendance. This year’s beneficiary was Flora Le, and the institute at Reed was her first opportunity to both learn from Argentinian masters, and play with musicians from around the world.