Composer Rob Kapilow stages five programs this winter

Composer Rob Kapilow (submitted photo)

In a world where music can sometimes rush past us like a race car, composer Rob Kapilow’s mission is to slow down the music for us to savor and understand its message or meaning.

Mr. Kapilow’s What Makes It Great? programs offer commentary on famous musical works designed to illuminate why a composer or a particular piece is great, and how that greatness is achieved.

Mr. Kapilow will present five What Makes It Great? programs in the Valley during January, February and March. Two will be at the Musical Instrument Museum, as part of the new Scottsdale Arts Presents, which showcases artists and programs at venues beyond the downtown Scottsdale campus.

The venue for the other three What Makes It Great? programs will be the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Regarding his series, Mr. Kapilow has written that it’s about “noticing all the fantastic things that otherwise go by. When you begin to hear the things that make a piece great, it can spring to life as if you have never heard it before,” according to a press release.

He explains how it works:

“During each What Makes It Great? program we take a piece of great music, tear it apart and put it back together again. We rewrite it, sing it, tap it, clap it: in short, we do everything in our power to get inside to see what makes it tick and what makes it great,” Mr. Kapilow explained in a prepared statement.

“Then on the second half of the program we hear the piece performed in its entirety — hopefully with a new pair of ears … What Makes It Great? is about the difference between hearing and listening.”

Mr. Kapilow’s January programs are Jan. 16 at the MIM and Jan. 18 at the Virginia G. Piper Theater in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The subject of his Jan. 16 appearance at the MIM will be Antonin Dvořák’s “American” String Quartet, one of several works composed by the 19th-century Czech master while he was living in the United States.

For the Jan. 18 event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Mr. Kapilow will present “You’re the Top,” a celebration of the songs of Cole Porter, who helped define pop standards of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s.

Mr. Kapilow will return to the MIM on Feb. 20 to explore Beethoven’s masterful “Waldstein” piano sonata, one of the most “heroic” of Beethoven’s middle-period works.

He then will take the stage at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 22 and March 15. On the February date at the performing arts center, Mr. Kapilow will present “From On the Town to West Side Story: The Theater Music of Leonard Bernstein.”

The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bernstein, who augmented his stellar conducting career composing music of all sorts, including several hit Broadway shows.

Mr. Kapilow concludes his season with “Finishing the Hat: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim,” March 15 at the Center. Mr. Sondheim, composer of Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and other musicals, is regarded as one of the best living songwriters in the country, the press release stated.

The title of Mr. Kapilow’s program comes from a Sondheim song in Sunday in the Park with George, and concerns an artist’s commitment to craftsmanship.


  • For the MIM: $53.50 / $48.50 / $38.50
  • For Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts: $49 (M $41) / $39 / $29

Free for eligible veterans, students and teachers. Patrons 29 and under, 50 percent off.

Visit or call 480-499-8587 for more information.

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