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The Spring Finale: Carolina Performing Arts releases semester’s final events

clara yang.jpeg

UNC Associate Professor of Music and Head of Keyboard Studies Clara Yang performs on the piano. Yang will perform virtually alongside jazz pianist Aaron Diehl on June 4. Photo courtesy of Carolina Performing Arts.

Carolina Performing Arts recently released its spring season finale rundown, including a variety of events from an interview series to dance performances. 

With dates scattered from April through June,  the virtual spring season finale events will feature artists with fruitful performance histories with CPA, some of whom are UNC graduates. 

Christina Rodriguez, CPA’s associate director of marketing and communications, said there is a wide variety of artists and performance types in store, all of which strongly reflect the nature of CPA’s events throughout the semester.

“Each segment of events has become a sort of microcosm of what a typical season at CPA might look like,” Rodriguez said. “And by that, I mean there's a diversity of disciplines and artists. There is work that I would say is grounded in the roots of Carolina Performing Arts and what it has presented over time.” 

In the event lineup, Tift Merritt, a musician and graduate of the University, will be hosting a live streamed interview series called “The Spark with Tift Merritt.” CPA launched a revival of this preexisting series this past September and is continuing the project for the spring finale.

“Tift has interviewed artists from all walks of life and from all different disciplines,” Rodriguez said. “In April, she will be interviewing dancer Michelle Dorrance, who is also a local. I think that the conversation is going to be really rich, exciting and warm. Tift is a wonderful interviewer, and she really brings those things out in the people that she interviews.” 

Chris Pendergrass, the artistic planning manager at CPA, is excited for CPA’s final events of the semester to bring artistic performances back to the community in a digital environment. He said every featured artist has their own unique experiences and challenges with performing virtually. 

Clara Yang, a professional classical pianist and associate professor of music at the University, is scheduled to perform alongside jazz pianist Aaron Diehl on June 4.

Yang and CPA have done a few major projects together in the past. Most notably in 2016, CPA commissioned a piano concerto written by world-renowned Chinese composer Chen Yi for Yang to perform with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing — the number one orchestra in China. 

Even with all her musical accomplishments, Yang's upcoming collaboration with Diehl is her first ever virtual performance with CPA. She said it will be a challenging process to collaborate remotely compared to in-person, but that she looks forward to it. 

“Because of the pandemic, I think music and the arts are so helpful in everyone's lives,” Yang said. “Even though this is the first time we ever did virtual, I've done quite a few remote projects with different artists since last March. I’ve found them to be really meaningful and difficult to do, but very satisfying too. If I can just help someone to feel a little better, or make their day a little better, I feel very happy.”

Yang said she and Diehl met at a CPA performance in the past. In the June event, they will each play solo music as well as a collaborative piece: George Gershwin’s "Cuban Overture," transcribed by Gregory Stone for two pianos. 

“Aaron Diehl is a really incredible jazz pianist,” Yang said. “Our upcoming collaboration is sort of a crossed genre collaboration because I’m not a jazz pianist. The Gershwin piece we’re playing is not really jazz, but it has many jazz elements in there. And Aaron himself also had classical training when he was young, so there’s a lot that we can learn from each other.”

Despite the all virtual spring finale, the team at CPA is excited to be able to connect the Chapel Hill community with a wide range of performances and shows. 

“2021 has without a doubt been an extraordinarily challenging year for our community and for artists across the board,” Pendergrass said. “The season finale is significant for us in that it gives us a way to reconnect around arts experiences and artists that have had a significant local impact in Chapel Hill in a time when that has been, in many ways, not possible.”

The first event of the finale, “The Spark with Tift Merritt: Michelle Dorrance,” will be on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. 

All spring events are free, but a donation of $15 per household is recommended. Each event has 72 hours of streaming access starting at the event time. Anyone interested can sign up at


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