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Guitarist and composer DJ Sparr joins us to chat about the central role that the relationships built in school play in securing future work. He shares about his experience performing Kenneth Fuch’s Electric Guitar Concerto with JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra and the difference between performing his vs. others’ works. We also talk about the typical day-to-day schedule of a performer-composer, and working this into family life. Electric guitarist and composer D. J. Sparr, who Gramophone recently hailed as “exemplary,” is one of America’s preeminent composer-performers. He has caught the attention of critics with his eclectic style, described as “pop-Romantic…iridescent and wondrous” (The Mercury News) and “suits the boundary erasing spirit of today’s new-music world” (The New York Times). The Los Angeles Times praises him as “an excellent soloist,” and the Santa Cruz Sentinel says that he “wowed an enthusiastic audience…Sparr’s guitar sang in a near-human voice.” He was the electric guitar concerto soloist on the 2018 GRAMMY-Award winning, all-Kenneth Fuchs recording with JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, Sparr was named one of NPR listener’s favorite 100 composers under the age 40. He has composed for and performed with renowned ensembles such as the Houston Grand Opera, Cabrillo Festival, New World Symphony, Washington National Opera, and Eighth Blackbird. His music has received awards from BMI, New Music USA, and the League of Composers/ISCM. Sparr is a faculty member at the famed Walden School’s Creative Musicians Retreat in Dublin, New Hampshire. His works and guitar performances appear on Naxos, Innova Recordings, & Centaur Records. D. J. lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife Kimberly, son Harris, Nannette the hound dog, and Bundini the boxer. D. J. Sparr’s music is published by Bill Holab Music. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about DJ Sparr, please visit his website.
Jacquelyn Lankford and Stephanie Ycaza of Calypsus Brass join us to chat about the significance of being an all-female-identifying group in the world of brass ensembles. They speak with us about the workshops, which range from discussions on military and orchestral work to musician wellness. We talk about their involvement with Rising Tide Music Press and how they tackle the challenges associated with funding the commissioning and recording of new works. Founded in 2021, Calypsus Brass is a professional chamber ensemble performing new works recitals, creating high-level professional recordings for composers, and working with chamber musicians at all levels. The five founding members are avid performers and educators touring around the world, giving masterclasses and recitals. Calypsus Brass is a groundbreaking musical group founded by five women who earned a doctoral degree in music, the first of its kind. Between them, members hold 5 doctorates, a total of 14 degrees, 3 minors, and 4 advanced certificates in cognates such as pedagogy and jazz improvisation. Calypsus Brass serves as a recording ensemble for composers whose works have never been recorded. Founded in 2021, Calypsus members perform at the highest level of excellence in musical performance and education. Calypsus Brass is committed to prioritizing recording and performing works of historically marginalized composers to uplift the highest quality of music. To further this mission, Calypsus Brass is proud to be the Ensemble in Residence for Rising Tide Music Press, an organization that publishes and promotes BBIA (Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian) musicians in their 10 years of professional-level work as composers and arrangers. Because professional recordings can be cost-prohibitive for composers and many composition competitions and calls for scores require recording with real instruments for consideration, Calypsus Brass is committed to recording works by emerging artists. We encourage all musicians to program music by a diverse array of composers so that the music we perform is inclusive of the community we serve as artists. Calypsus is proud to lead by example in this mission with recording and commissioning projects. When premiering and recording works, Calypsus Brass creates a relationship with composers, helping to build their portfolios with recordings that the composers are proud to showcase while providing expert advice and coaching regarding idiomatic writing for brass instruments. As devoted educators, Calypsus members bring a robust pedagogical background to each masterclass and outreach event. Combining 80 years of educational experience, Calypsus Brass presents specialized masterclasses and clinics on topics including: chamber music, classical, orchestra, and jazz performance, wellness, audition preparation, military and orchestral careers, performance anxiety and psychology, music career development, marketing and branding, arts administration and nonprofit management, commissioning, audio engineering, and intersectionality in the music community. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Calypsus Brass, please visit their website.
Violist Annalisa Boerner of Music Haven and the Haven String Quartet joins us to discuss the organization's mission to enhance access to chamber music education for the students of New Haven, Connecticut. We chat about how the organization works to connect the work their students are doing in the studio with the world beyond their practice, and how they work to counter the violence and hostility of society through community-building. We speak about the ways in which the organization is currently striving to improve inclusivity in employment and programming, and how they manage to provide learning opportunities 100% tuition-free to students in need. Featured in the New York Times and on NPR, and sought after for both their command on the concert stage and their mastery as teachers, Haven String Quartet has been described as “exquisite” by the NH Register. Its four members represent the world’s top conservatories and bring outstanding chamber music performances to New Haven neighborhoods and throughout the region with a full season of concerts, recitals, educational workshops, and performances for diverse audiences in public spaces. The Quartet serves as the permanent quartet-in-residence and teaching faculty for Music Haven, and  spearheads the organization’s tuition-free strings program for youth, which has been recognized as a top 50 after-school arts program in the country by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities for six years. Each member of HSQ teaches a full studio of 15-20 Music Haven students in private lessons, group classes, studio classes, chamber groups, and an advanced chamber orchestra. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Music Haven, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Our new producer, Evan Henry, joins us to discuss his life as a student and composer and how he found his way into audio engineering as a segment of his professional career. Evan Henry is a composer and music copyist (and now, podcast producer, it seems!) currently living in Eugene, Oregon. His formal musical study began at the Eastman School of Music in 2008 as a jazz trumpet major. After switching focus to composition and piano, he graduated with a BM in composition in 2013, and briefly continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. In 2017, he began exploring Balinese gamelan music extensively, performing, teaching, and composing for Eastman's two ensembles, Gamelan Sanjiwani and Gamelan Lila Muni. In 2021, he won the Random Opera New Works Competition, and his opera The Heavenly Ledger will be premiered online in September 2022. His musical influences draw from his eclectic background and include everything from Stravinsky to Eric Dolphy to David Wise to Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon.
Irine Røsnes, Trevor Bartlett, and Jonny Best of FRAME Ensemble joins us to discuss their work improvising for silent films, from how they got started working within this genre to their process preparing for each film. They share about their approach to the traditions for performance with silent films and how they approach the various challenges associated with a genre so uniquely situated in a specific moment in time. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Nina Shekhar, please visit her website and Facebook.
Composer Nina Shekhar joins us to chat about her work exploring identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter in her work and her process for exploring such complex aspects of humanity in seemingly mundane experiences, such as the car horns on the streets of India. We talk about how she approaches the business side of a professional career in composition, and how her work as a flutist, saxophonist, and pianist has informed her comfort with a wide array of compositional styles. And we speak about how we can all be more mindful to empower and promote the agency of composers and performers from marginalized communities and avoid the risks of exploiting any individual's otherness. Nina Shekhar is a composer who explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works. Described as “tart and compelling” (New York Times), “vivid” (Washington Post), and “surprises and delights aplenty” (LA Times), her music has been commissioned and performed by leading artists including LA Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, New York Youth Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, The Crossing, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, ETHEL, violinist Jennifer Koh, saxophonist Timothy McAllister, Ensemble Échappé, Music from Copland House, soprano Tony Arnold, Third Angle New Music, The New York Virtuoso Singers, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Lyris Quartet, Ray-Kallay Duo, New Music Detroit, and Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra. Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight), Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, National Flute Association, North American Saxophone Alliance, I Care If You Listen, WNYC/New Sounds (New York), WFMT (Chicago), and KUSC and KPFK (Los Angeles) radio, ScoreFollower, and New Music Detroit’s Strange Beautiful Music. Upcoming events include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic (joined by soloists Nathalie Joachim and Pamela Z), Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and her Hollywood Bowl debut with the LA Philharmonic. Current projects include commissions for the Grand Rapids Symphony, 45th Parallel Universe Chamber Orchestra (sponsored by GLFCAM), and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) (sponsored by LA Phil and New Music USA). Nina is the recipient of the 2021 Rudolf Nissim Prize, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards (2015 and 2019), and the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award, funded by the Bernstein family. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Nina Shekhar, please visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Owain Park of Gesualdo Six joins us to discuss the origins of the ensemble. We chat about the many traditions for a vocal consort, from the sacred elements associated with a cappella music to the members' conventional training as pianists and organists and backgrounds working at cathedrals. We talk about their recent pandemic-inspired projects recording Héloïse Werner's Coronasolfège and their new(ish) podcast, G6. We speak a bit about their composition competition, and the typical challenges associated with composing for an a cappella ensemble. The Gesualdo Six is an award-winning British vocal ensemble comprising some of the UK’s finest consort singers, directed by Owain Park. Praised for their imaginative programming and impeccable blend, the ensemble formed in 2014 for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories in Cambridge and has gone on to perform at numerous major festivals across the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. Notable highlights include a concert as part of the distinguished Deutschlandradio Debut Series, debut at Wigmore Hall in 2021, and collaborations with the Brodsky Quartet, London Mozart Players, Luxmuralis, William Barton and Matilda Lloyd. The ensemble integrates educational work into its activities, regularly holding workshops for young musicians and composers. The Gesualdo Six has curated two Composition Competitions, with the 2019 edition attracting entries from over three hundred composers around the world. The group have recently commissioned new works from Joanna Ward, Kerensa Briggs, Deborah Pritchard, Joanna Marsh, and Richard Barnard alongside coronasolfège for 6 by Héloïse Werner. Videos of the ensemble performing a diverse selection of works filmed in Ely Cathedral have been watched by millions online. The group released their debut recording English Motets on Hyperion Records in early 2018 to critical acclaim, followed by a festive album of seasonal favourites in late 2019, Christmas, and an album of compline-themed music titled Fading which was awarded Vocal & Choral Recording of the Year 2020 by Limelight. A programme celebrating the 500th anniversary of Josquin des Prez titled Josquin’s Legacy followed in late 2021, and Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday was released in Lent 2022. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Gesualdo Six, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
Domenic Salerni of the Attacca Quartet joins us to chat about what it means to "live in the present…without rejecting the virtues of the past" and how the ensemble approaches breathes new life into traditional projects. We discuss the ins and outs of artist management, and how the ensemble approaches commissions. And, Domenic shares how the quartet searches for a recording label and how up-and-coming artists can develop the skills needed for the recording process. Grammy award-winning Attacca Quartet, as described by The Nation, “lives in the present aesthetically, without rejecting the virtues of the musical past”, and it is this dexterity to glide between the music of the 18th through to 21st century living composer’s repertoire that has placed them as one of the most versatile and outstanding ensembles of the moment – a quartet for modern times. Touring extensively in the United States, recent and upcoming highlights include Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concerts, New York Philharmonic’s Nightcap series, Lincoln Center White Lights Festival and Miller Theatre, both with Caroline Shaw, Phillips Collection, Wolf Trap, Carolina Performing Arts, Chamber Music Detroit, Red Bank Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Austin and a residency at the National Sawdust, Brooklyn. They recently performed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, where they will return in 2020 and have performed a series of Beethoven String Quartet cycles both at the historic University at Buffalo’s Slee Beethoven Quartet Cycle series and at the New York and Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan, where they have a longstanding partnership. The upcoming season will see them debuting at the Trinity Church at Wall Street as part as their 12 Night Festival where they will perform the complete cycle of the Beethoven String Quartets. Attacca Quartet has also served as Juilliard’s Graduate Resident String Quartet, the Quartet in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Ensemble-in-Residence at the School of Music at Texas State University. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about eighth blackbird, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Lydia Becker, former intern with Pegasus Early Music, joins us to discuss the experience of interning for a major arts organization, from the ins-and-outs of everyday business to the more memorable moments that led her toward the work she is doing today. Lydia shares some advice for students looking to intern with major ensembles, and talks about her experience moving from intern to employee for the same institution. Lydia Becker is an innovative violinist who is passionate about building a vibrant audience relationship through historical performance practices, artistic diversity, and effective arts administration. Her quest for authenticity in all areas of life has forged her eclectic career path. Lydia always loved Baroque music, but got swept into the exciting world of historical performance when she first met Christel Thielmann and Paul O’Dette at the Eastman School of Music as an undergraduate violinist. The freedom and creativity allowed in these older performance practices immediately sparked Lydia’s passion for exploring new music from the past. Having earned three degrees in Violin Performance and Early Music with high distinction from the Eastman School of Music, Lydia is continuing her graduate studies in Historical Performance at the Juilliard School. Curiosity fuels Lydia’s music-making; consequently, she strives for musical excellence in all musical styles and genres. Lydia has performed internationally in numerous festivals and concerts, sharing the stage with renowned artists, including Paul O’Dette, Monica Huggett, and Maxim Vengerov. She is a founding member of the Berwick Fiddle Consort, a historically-informed folk band; Luminaria, a multi-sensory watercolor-harp-violin duet; and the Kenaniah Project, an eclectic jazz-classical-folk chamber ensemble that presents sacred Christian music from a fresh perspective. Lydia is equally skilled as an arts administrator, and recently was the administrative manager for Pegasus Early Music and NYS Baroque for three years. Since 2017, Lydia has served as assistant to the orchestra director at the Boston Early Music Festival summer season, helping to coordinate the orchestra’s logistics at one of the largest early music festivals in the world. Lydia is a Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program fellow and earned a Certificate in Arts Leadership at the Eastman School of Music. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Lydia, please visit her website.
Pianist Lisa Kaplan of eighth blackbird joins us to chat about the many evolutions of their organization, from the original ensemble to their many teaching endeavors. We chat about the Chicago Artists Workshop and Blackbird Creative Lab, two of the ways in which they continue to “move music forward” beyond their primarily performance-based projects. Kaplan shares about how the ensemble conceptualizes and puts projects—such as This is my Home—into action. We speak about how the organization integrates interns into their administrative process. And, we ask, "why 'eighth blackbird'?" Born in Motown, Lisa Kaplan is a pianist specializing in the performance of new work by living composers. Kaplan is the founding pianist and Executive Director of the four-time Grammy Award-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird. Kaplan has won numerous awards, performed all over the country and has premiered new pieces by hundreds of composers, including Andy Akiho, Jennifer Higdon, Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, George Perle, and Pamela Z. She has had the great pleasure to collaborate and make music with an eclectic array of incredibly talented people - Laurie Anderson, Jeremy Denk, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Bon Iver, J. Ivy, Glenn Kotche, Shara Nova, Will Oldham, Natalie Portman, Gustavo Santaolalla, Robert Spano, Tarrey Torae, Dawn Upshaw and Michael Ward-Bergeman to name a few. As a proud, single-mama-by-choice, Kaplan has been having an incredible time raising and learning from her happy-go-lucky 4 year old, Frida. Musically as of late, she has also greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to do both composing and arranging for Eighth Blackbird as well as some producing. In 2019, Kaplan co-produced her first record, When We Are Inhuman with Bryce Dessner.  Kaplan is a true foodie, gourmet cook, avid reader, crossword and Scrabble addict, enjoys baking ridiculously complicated pastry and loves outdoor adventures. She has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, braved the Australian outback, stared an enormous elephant in the face in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and survived close encounters with grizzly bears in the Brooks Range of Alaska. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about eighth blackbird, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify.
Composer Kincaid Rabb joins us to discuss the consortium model for commissioning new works, how their composition approach does and doesn’t change when composing for a consortium, and the basics on how to put consortia together. They chat with us about their research into the music of theme parks, and how they’ve integrated this research into their composition. We talk about how one approaches the challenges of balancing one’s privileges with one’s identity, and how this manifests in the small ensemble industry. We speak about their new ensemble, Basket of Owls, and finish the conversation by exploring what magic actually is. Kincaid Rabb (b. 1993, they/them pronouns) is an award-winning composer, working at the intersection of storytelling and new music. Kincaid is an artist-scholar whose research includes musical narratology, emotional catharsis, and the phenomenon of the theme park as inspiration.  Using narration, worldbuilding, and a strong sense of fun and play, Kincaid creates musical experiences that immerse audiences into intimate spaces and that reward waders, swimmers, and divers alike. Kincaid produces works that trapeze artistic disciplines, curating performances that seamlessly integrate different sensory experiences and create lasting memories through music. Kincaid’s collaborations have included Paradise Winds, The _____ Experiment, the Driftwood Quintet, Kontra Duo, Keyed Kontraptions, Duo R2, the Brelby Theatre Company, and the faculty and students at the University of Arizona and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Kincaid is a founding member of Basket of Owls, an ensemble of musician-narrators dedicated to curating spaces for unheard stories. Their principal teachers have included Douglas Harbin, Daniel Asia, Pamela Decker, Diego Vega, and Jennifer Bellor. Currently residing in San Diego, California, Kincaid graduated with a Master of Music in Composition in 2021 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where they held a graduate assistantships in theory, composition, and musicology. They graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Music in Composition in 2017. Kincaid is affiliated with ASCAP and is a NextGen Member of the Themed Entertainment Association. When not working on making more music about dinosaurs, superheroes, or wizards, Kincaid can be found riding roller coasters at local Southern California theme parks. Resources Pine & Gilmore, Welcome to the Experience Economy The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Kincaid Rabb, please visit their website, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, SoundCloud, and Spotify.
Steve Pycroft of Riot Jazz joins us to discuss how their ensemble approaches collaborations, from expanding their core ensemble to working with MC Chunky. He chats about how Riot Jazz navigates the process of procuring the rights to perform, record, and arrange pop tunes. He also shares their approach to making music videos to promote their work, and speaks more broadly about the skills most important for success in a career like his. The 9-strong genre-defining band that hails from the grimy protoplasm of Manchester's creative scene, spreading unconditional love and irresistible energy. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Riot Jazz, please visit their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, and BandCamp.
Laura Lentz, Marc Webster, and Eric Polenik of fivebyfive join us to chat about how they tailor their work to screen-centric audiences, and how their video projects have led to particularly interesting collaborations throughout their existence. They share about their approaches to successful grant writing, and how they've found themselves working not just as grant recipients, but also as grant-writing mentors. We also speak about the role that community plays in their work, and how they continue to search for new ways to deepen their ties to their community at every level. fivebyfive (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, bass and piano) performs music of today’s leading and emerging composers from around the world, advocates for creators who are underrepresented in the field, and collaborates with artists across the disciplines. Through its workshops and educational concerts, fivebyfive aims to spark young people’s unlimited creative potential and inspire a deeper understanding of today’s chamber music. With a commitment to accessibility, fivebyfive performs in a variety of settings, offering affordable or free programming and sensory-friendly events. fivebyfive’s events often involve community-building experiences in real-time during performances. Examples of these programs include: “Music/Glass” at the 2019 Rochester Fringe Festival, where audiences were free to move throughout the space during the performance and participate in creating a fused glass art work while hearing the music performed live, Meet the Composer events where audiences were a part of the conversations bringing new works to life and its educational programs in the schools working with young people to spark their unlimited creative potential and inspire a deeper understanding of today’s chamber music. These have included collaborations with students of the RocMusic Collaborative, Strings for Success, 12 Corners Middle School, among others. The winner of the 2018 Eastman/ArtistShare New Artist Program and a New Music USA grant recipient for its commissioning project for new works inspired by the stained-glass artist Judith Schaechter, fivebyfive was awarded a second New Music USA project grant for a collaboration with the George Eastman Museum, commissioning new works inspired by photographer James Welling’s collection “Choreograph.” In 2020 fivebyfive was selected as one of 16 recipients for a Chamber Music America Commissioning Grant with composer/harpist Amy Nam, and in 2021 the group was chosen as a New Music USA Organizational Development Fund Recipient which recognizes outstanding organizations that work regularly with, & support the development of, music creators & artists, offering a crucial resource in their community. fivebyfive has appeared on WXXI Classical 91.5’s programs Backstage Pass and Live from Hochstein, featured on Performance Rochester and Performance Upstate, and has also appeared nationally on American Public Media’s Performance Today program with host Fred Child. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about fivebyfive, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In this cast chat, the team continues the discussion on approaches to improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in the small ensemble community. We share several strategies for sustaining these conversations within small ensembles and organizations, collecting and analyzing data, and how to integrate this work into conversations with stakeholders. Soundweavers explores the triumphs and tribulations of the chamber music community through conversations with emerging and established performers, composers, and educators. Through dialogue, trialogue—and sometimes even tetralogue—with guest artists and ensembles, we delve into what it means to present contemporary and traditional classical, jazz, and folk music in today’s ever-shifting gig economy. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Soundweavers, please visit them at their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Monica Ellis from Imani Winds joins the Soundweavers team to chat about their ensemble's origin and the gradual development of their mission over their first several years. She shared about Imani's really interesting experience with having "in-house" composers in the ensemble. We chat about the evolution of their recording process and how they have sought out new ensemble members. And, we speak about the ensemble's new gig as faculty members at the Curtis Institute of Music. Celebrating over two decades of music making, the Grammy nominated Imani Winds has led both a revolution and evolution of the wind quintet through their dynamic playing, adventurous programming, imaginative collaborations and outreach endeavors that have inspired audiences of all ages and backgrounds. The ensemble’s playlist embraces traditional chamber music repertoire, and as a 21st century group, Imani Winds is devoutly committed to expanding the wind quintet repertoire by commissioning music from new voices that reflect historical events and the times in which we currently live. Present and future season performances include a Jessie Montgomery composition inspired by her great-grandfather’s migration from the American south to the north, as well as socially conscious music by Andy Akiho, designed to be performed both on the concert stage and in front of immigrant detention centers throughout the country. Imani Winds regularly performs in prominent international concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Hall and the Kimmel Center. Their touring schedule has taken them throughout the Asian continent, Brazil, Australia, England, New Zealand and across Europe. Their national and international presence include performances at chamber music series in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Philadelphia and Houston. Festival performances include Chamber Music Northwest, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Ravinia Festival, Chautauqua, Banff Centre and Angel Fire. Imani Winds’ travels through the jazz world are highlighted by their association with saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, woodwind artist and composer Paquito D’Rivera and pianist and composer Jason Moran. Their ambitious project, "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!" featured chanteuse René Marie in performances that brought the house down in New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles and St. Louis. In 2016, Imani Winds received their greatest accolade in their 20 years of music making: a permanent presence in the classical music section of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Imani Winds, please visit their website, Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Mike Baker and Rory Russell of the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet join the Soundweavers team to discuss their work promoting the guitar quartet through a careful balance of traditional repertoire, arrangements, and commissions. They chat about their relationship with Chandos Records and their recording projects. They speak about their beginnings with Live Music Now and the value that community engagement programs offer both the local audiences and the performers. Recognized as one of the world’s leading guitar quartets, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet is a dynamic and innovative ensemble known for its extraordinary ensemble in performance and expansive repertoire. Formed originally at the Royal Northern College of Music (in 1999), under the guidance of Craig Ogden and Gordon Crosskey, the quartet went on to study with renowned guitarists such as Sérgio Assad, Oscar Ghiglia and Scott Tennant. Their early successes included winning awards from the Musicians Benevolent Fund, Tillett Trust and Tunnell Trust. In 2016, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet was invited to perform at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. The concert, which also featured Maxim Vengerov, Debbie Wiseman, Laura Wright and Wayne Marshall, was recorded for subsequent broadcast. The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet has performed in many other major concert halls in the UK, including Perth Concert Hall, Wigmore Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Bridgewater Hall. Their engagements have taken them throughout Europe, most recently visiting Germany, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Estonia, Poland and Ireland. The ensemble made its debut in Asia in 2014 with a series of concerts in Seoul and they returned to South Korea in 2016, this time to perform at the Daejeon International Guitar Festival. The AGQ is dedicated to presenting music from around the globe, spanning the period from the renaissance right through to the present day. Many established international composers, including Carlos Rafael Rivera (U.S.A), Phillip Houghton (Australia), Stephen Dodgson (U.K) and Nikita Koshkin (Russia) have invited the quartet to perform their compositions, and the group’s commission “Danças Nativas”, by the Brazilian composer Clarice Assad, was nominated for a Latin Grammy® award for best classical composition in 2009. A further source of material for the AGQ’s constantly expanding repertoire is their own arrangements of music from various genres, including works by Gismonti, Mussorgsky, Rossini, and film music composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. In 2009 the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet was signed exclusively to Chandos Records and has since recorded 5 albums; “Spirit of Brazil” (March 2009), “Dances” (June 2010), “Final Cut” (June 2012), “Cuatro” (Nov 2013) and “Aspects” (Nov 2016) all received highly enthusiastic reviews in the press. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, please visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Reena Esmail joins us to chat about integrating her Western and Hindustani roots in her composition and throughout her work as artistic director of Shastra. We chat about how she prepares listeners with less experience for musical experiences that are new to them. She speaks about her work as composer-in-residence of Street Symphony, a non-profit organization bringing music to Los Angeles-based homeless and incarcerated populations on Skid Row and beyond. And, we talk about her methods for introducing Western musicians to primarily aural traditions. Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. Esmail’s work has been commissioned by ensembles including the Los Angeles Master Chorale,  Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Richmond Symphony, Town Music Seattle,  Albany Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta,  River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Girls Chorus, The Elora Festival, Juilliard415, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Upcoming seasons include new work for Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Amherst College Choir and Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica, and Conspirare. Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020-2023 Swan Family Artist in Residence, and Seattle Symphony’s 2020-21 Composer-in-Residence.  Previously, she was named a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Music, and the 2019 Grand Prize Winner of the S & R Foundation’s Washington Award.  Esmail was also a 2017-18 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. She was the 2012 Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (and subsequent publication of a work by C.F. Peters). Esmail holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School (BM’05) and the Yale School of Music (MM’11, MMA’14, DMA’18). Her primary teachers have included Susan Botti, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis and Martin Bresnick, Christopher Rouse and Samuel Adler. She received a Fulbright-Nehru grant to study Hindustani music in India. Her Hindustani music teachers include Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Gaurav Mazundar, and she currently studies and collaborates with Saili Oak. Her doctoral thesis, entitled Finding Common Ground: Uniting Practices in Hindustani and Western Art Musicians explores the methods and challenges of the collaborative process between Hindustani musicians and Western composers. Esmail was Composer-in-Residence for Street Symphony (2016-18) and is currently an Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting music traditions of India and the West. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Reena Esmail, please visit her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward joins us to chat about how she stumbled into improvisation as a harpist and how her early experiences resulted in the genre-weaving collaboration that Pacific Harp Project has become. We talk about her process for funding and then recording her first album, and how her ensemble approaches marketing. And we discuss how much there is to learn about a work by recasting it in new and interesting ways. Praised for their “engaging jazz...with scintillating plays of light and subtle colors” by DownBeat Magazine, Pacific Harp Project’s emergence on the jazz scene has surprised listeners with a unique sonic experience. By incorporating classical harp music into the realms of jazz, pop, and fusion, this groundbreaking group “leads the listener to the conclusion: The harp has been unchained.” (AllAboutJazz.com) Pacific Harp Project launched in 2014 and released their self-titled debut album in December, 2015 with a sold-out concert. The album won the 2016 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Instrumental Album of the Year, and received positive reviews from DownBeat Magazine, Jazz Weekly, CD Hotlist, AllAboutJazz.com, The Aquarian Weekly, TheJazzPage.com, Midwest Record, LA Jazz Scene, Honolulu Star Advertiser, and ASX.com. Pacific Harp Project’s 2017 recording of “Loops” by Noel Okimoto was nominated for a RoundGlass International Music Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Single, and the group’s second album, “Play,” was released in 2019 to critical acclaim. Pacific Harp Project formed when harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward teamed up with illustrious jazz musicians Noel Okimoto (vibraphone), Todd Yukumoto (saxophone), Jon Hawes (bass), and Allan Ward (drums). Bledsoe Ward approaches jazz harp from a new perspective, leaning on her experience in classical performing, composing, and arranging. CD Hotlist notes: “Megan Bledsoe Ward has a solid grasp of the jazz idiom—she’s not a dabbler or dilettante...When she ventures into the very dangerous territory of arranging classical pieces in a jazz style, she comes out the other side not just unscathed but triumphant.” Combined with original compositions by Bledsoe Ward and Noel Okimoto, the result is an innovative collaboration in which the musicians delight in working together and captivating audiences at each performance. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about the Pacific Harp Project, please visit their website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
In this cast chat, the team discusses three essential components for launching a new project, from beginning by articulating a vision and a timeframe to human resources and budget development. Soundweavers explores the triumphs and tribulations of the chamber music community through conversations with emerging and established performers, composers, and educators. Through dialogue, trialogue—and sometimes even tetralogue—with guest artists and ensembles, we delve into what it means to present contemporary and traditional classical, jazz, and folk music in today’s ever-shifting gig economy. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Soundweavers, please visit them at their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Laura Barger from Yarn/Wire joins the Soundweavers team to chat about what it really means to proceed without a plan, auditioning and integrating new members, and the usefulness of the recording process for musicians. We discuss their collaborative project Be Holding with the poet Ross Gay, composer Tyshawn Sorey, and director Brooke O'Harra, and the first- to twelfth-grade students of Girard College. Laura shares about the ensemble's web series Feedback, in which they focus on the process of making new music. And, we speak about the Yarn/Wire International Institute, a tuition-free program serving both performers and composers. Yarn/Wire is a New York-based percussion and piano quartet (Sae Hashimoto and Russell Greenberg, percussion; Laura Barger and Ning Yu, pianos) dedicated to the promotion of creative, experimental new music. Pianist Julia Den Boer will join as guest artist for the 2021-2022 season. Described by The Brooklyn Rail as “fascinating and exciting, with playing that is precise and full of purpose,” the ensemble is admired globally for the energy and precision it brings to performances of today’s most adventurous compositions. Founded in 2005, the ensemble seeks to expand the representation of composers so that it might begin to better reflect our communities and experience new creative potential. Yarn/Wire appears internationally at prominent festivals and venues including the Lincoln Center Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall, Rainy Days Festival (Luxembourg), Ultima Festival (Norway), Transit Festival (Belgium), Dublin SoundLab, Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles), Contempuls Festival (Prague), Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York’s Miller Theatre at Columbia University, River-to-River Festival, La MaMa Theatre, Festival of New American Music, and London’s Barbican Centre. Their numerous commissions include works from composers such as Enno Poppe, Michael Gordon, George Lewis, Ann Cleare, Peter Evans, Alex Mincek, Thomas Meadowcroft, Misato Mochizuki, Sam Pluta, Tyondai Braxton, and Kate Soper. The ensemble enjoys collaborations with genre-bending artists such as Tristan Perich, Ben Vida, Mark Fell, and Sufjan Stevens. Through the Yarn/Wire International Institute and Festival and other educational residencies and outreach programs, Yarn/Wire works to promote not only the present but also the future of new music in the United States. Their ongoing commissioning series, Yarn/Wire/Currents, serves as an incubator for new experimental music. The transcript for this episode can be found here. For more information about Yarn/Wire, please visit their website, Bandcamp, Yarn/Wire Feedback Series, and YouTube (Yarn/Wire International Institute).
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