TCS Visits Rikers

This is taken from a Blog post written by my friend and musical colleague, Richard Beales. He said it far better than I ever could. I will write more about this incredible, life-changing experience in a future post. Stay tuned. 

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April 2nd, Richard Beales

Words can't describe how powerful it was.

"Three-quarters of the roughly 9,400 people held in New York City’s jails have not been convicted of anything. Most are housed on Rikers. The place has become a warehouse for people too poor to post bail or suffering from addiction or mental-health problems," The Economist says. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to close Rikers Island in a decade, if possible. Meanwhile, the island's ten facilities are aging, and incidents of violence and mistreatment of inmates, some stuck waiting months to go to court, make for troubling reading.

That was the backdrop for a day last summer when members of our orchestra, among the extras for Amazon's "Mozart in the Jungle" TV series, participated in filming episode seven, "Not Yet Titled," of the third season at Rikers, with inmates in attendance. The musicians didn't know at the time, but the show's producers interviewed audience members afterwards who were visibly affected by the experience.

Several of our members wanted to go back and play music more directly for the Rikers inmates. One was clarinetist Angela Shankar, who features in the TV episode. It was an endeavor seven months in the making with a great deal of effort in coordination between the Department of Corrections and TCS (especially by Angela, Emily Wong and E.J. Lee), but it is finally happening. The Chelsea Symphony is taking a full orchestra to Rikers Island on May 7, 2017.

A smaller group of volunteers paved the way on April 2, playing for two audiences, one of women and one of men. Angela, E.J., Juliana Pereira, Michael Vannoni and I performed clarinet quintets and string quartets, with valuable on-site support from Mark Seto. That was rewarding in itself, but speaking with the inmates – ranging from incarcerated women who, like Angela, are expecting babies to wistful one-time musicians and a deep-voiced gentleman who mischievously introduced himself as James Earl Jones – was doubly so. Some of our listeners were brought to tears; we were moved by the experience too.

E.J. said it this way: "They were thanking us for the music but I feel the need to thank them back. I have never felt so enriched after a performance... Being in one room, all of us enjoying music together, laughing, conversing was a beautiful form of art in itself." Angela added that "words can't quite describe how powerful it was." That seems about right, and those of us going back in a few weeks can't wait (sadly I'm not among them this time).

A final note: The facilities we visited and the interactions we saw between officers and inmates didn't reflect the frequently terrifying media coverage. The people we met were trying to get by, though of course they didn't want to be there. We hope The Chelsea Symphony can make a difference for them, if only for an hour or two.

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That's a Wrap!

After years(!) of preparation and several days in Adam's cozy studio, we have officially wrapped our Decruck recording! We'll make final decisions on edits this summer and will release the CD this coming fall. We can't WAIT! If you'd like to pre-order, please be sure to visit the contact page!

Reeds Amis with Matthew Aubin and the greatest producer and engineer out there, Adam Abeshouse

Reeds Amis with Matthew Aubin and the greatest producer and engineer out there, Adam Abeshouse

Special guests Anna Urrey, flute; Matthew Aubin, horn;  and Whitney Gardner, piano; joined us for one of Decruck's larger works for chamber ensemble, Chant Lyrique

Special guests Anna Urrey, flute; Matthew Aubin, horn;  and Whitney Gardner, piano; joined us for one of Decruck's larger works for chamber ensemble, Chant Lyrique

Action! On the set of "Mozart in the Jungle"

It was such a pleasure to "play" clarinet in the orchestra for the Amazon series, "Mozart in the Jungle" Season Two this past fall. If you look carefully, you can spot me in the first few and the last few episodes. The work and time that goes into filming one short episode is mind-boggling. I have a much deeper respect for those that work (tirelessly!) in this industry, both on screen and off. Season 3 will begin filming this summer and I hope to be involved again!

Reeds Amis off to Tokyo August 9th!

WE DID IT!! After surpassing our fundraising goal on Indiegogo, Reeds Amis will head to Tokyo in mid-August to perform and present the unpublished works of French composer, Fernande Decruck at the International Double Reed Society Convention! Thanks to our many supporters, we will also professionally record Decruck's reed trios and piano sextet this Fall. Read more about the Fernande Decruck Project in my April blog post below. 

In addition to our performance at the IDRS Conference, we'll be giving a recital at the Ishimori Wind Co. in Tokyo as well. We can't wait! 

Be sure to follow our tour on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Quartet Kalos Reunited in August

Photo by Adam Detour

Photo by Adam Detour

The women of Quartet Kalos (Sanna Andersson, cello; Anna Larson, voice; Maria Finkelmeier, percussion) will be reunited this summer in New York City and in Boston! 

Our Swedish-American ensemble presents Kalos Inscriptions; a retelling of traditional folk songs through new arrangements and unique instrumentation. In addition to our original take on folk tunes, we have written music highlighting the versatility and musicality of our group.

Using the poetry of Kathleen Kraft, we will keep you dreaming while tapping your toes!

Performance schedule can be found here!

Reeds Amis invited to Tokyo!

I'm thrilled to announce that my trio, Reeds Amis, was selected to perform and present the unpublished works of Fernande Decruck at the International Double Society Convention in Tokyo this summer! It's a huge honor for us and we can't wait to share her music and her story with the world! (Or at the very least, lots of double reed players!) Visit our Indiegogo Campaign Page

The Decruck Project started two years ago when a colleague of ours, Matthew Aubin approached us. (We are all members of The Chelsea Symphony and Matt is one of our fearless conductors.) He had just heard a live performance of a saxophone work by Decruck and was very taken by her music. While she is well known for her saxophone repertoire, after doing a little digging in the library, he found she had also been commissioned to write chamber music for the most famous musicians in France in the 1930s and 40s. 

He then wondered, "Why can't I find any of her music?" 

To learn more, he traveled to France to meet her family and soon discovered that the majority of her music was unpublished in manuscript form. He brought the music back to New York and called on our trio to bring the notes on the page to life. 

After we first played her reed trios, we were astonished by their beauty.  It was hard to understand why they had never been published. It turns out that Fernande’s husband, who ironically was a music publisher, had left her and their children. It was hard enough for a woman to get anything published back then, but once she was in the bad graces of a prominent publisher, it was all but impossible. 

Now that we know her reed trios inside and out, we are ready to present her music to the world through performing, publishing and recording these masterpieces. Traveling to Tokyo this summer will be the first step on that journey but we need your help to get there! Please visit our Indiegogo Campaign Page to learn more. Your support-- be it sharing our campaign on Facebook and Twitter, telling your music-loving friends and family about our cause, or making a monetary donation-- helps us to share Fernande's music and story with the world and will establish her rightful place in history! 

Stepping (WAY!) Out of the Box

Every so often, a musical opportunity presents itself that is all at once exciting and a little bit scary. The word "improvise" falls into the scary category for most classically trained Western musicians. 

I was given the opportunity to collaborate with Geeta Shankar (Vocal), Souryadeep Bhattacharyya (Sarod), and Aditya Srivatsan (Tabla), through a groundbreaking organization called IndianRaga. Geeta, Souryadeep and Aditya were part of a small group of musicians selected from all over the world to meet in New York for a week-long Fellowship. One component of IndianRaga's mission is to create accessible music rooted in Indian classical and folk traditions, and I was asked to collaborate to provide a more contemporary twist. Though we're all "classically trained", our individual areas of expertise couldn't be more different. 

The final result after only two hours of improvising together is the video posted above. It is a structured Manodharmam (Improvization) in Raga Behag, bringing together Carnatic, Hindustani and Western styles. As you can see, I was five months pregnant when this video was made and the baby *loved* the music! He was dancing the entire time. :)

I hope this wasn't a "once in a lifetime" opportunity because I would absolutely love the chance to work with Geeta, Souryadeep, Aditya and IndianRaga again!

Farewell, Paris; Hello, New York!

After spending the past six months in Paris, I couldn't be happier to return to New York. Don't get me wrong-- Paris is incredible-- but I sure did miss this city! 

Since returning, I've hit the ground running. On the music education side, I'm thrilled to announce that I've joined the music theory faculty of the Preparatory Division at Mannes College, part of The New School of New York. I've also joined the faculty of the Harmony Program and will be working with clarinet students in Harlem at PS 129 this upcoming school year. These are both great organizations and I'm so excited to be working with these wonderful students. 

On the performance side, I look forward to reuniting with Ensemble Evolution for a residency in Boston and a performance at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis this November! It's an honor to work with these talented musicians and I couldn't be more thrilled to collaborate with them again.

Additionally, I'm excited to share that my trio, Reeds Amis, will be diving into the obscure repertoire of French female composer, Fernande Decruck and recording some of her chamber music for woodwinds. More info to come, so stay tuned!

And last but not least, on the Zumba front, I'll be teaching 2 new classes starting the week of 8/25/13 and will be teaching open classes to the public periodically during the fall months. I frequently update my website with class info so be sure to check back! Click here to see my current schedule

Album Release!

I'm thrilled to announce the release of Ensemble Evolution's “Sounds from the Treetops” in partnership with the famed Treehotel, located in a stunning forest in northern Sweden. Collaborating with Ensemble Evolution and the Treehotel was an incredible experience.

As one of world's most iconic boutique hotels, the Treehotel consists of six architecturally adventurous and artistically awe-inspiring tree houses. Each of the six tracks on the album is inspired by one of the houses. The works recall all aspects of northern life, from the icy metallic ring of a still day in deep winter to the otherworldly loneliness of a late night walk under the midnight sun. I was honored to join Ensemble Evolution on their Nattmusik tour in May, 2012, and to perform with them on tracks 3-6. We performed each composition next to, underneath, or inside each of the structures on June 9, 2012.

The Treehotel, along with various community organizations, commissioned the works and sponsored the premiere series of performances. 

Be sure to check out the video below, shot by August Sandström, that perfectly captures our tour under the midnight sun.  

Nattmusik Tour with Ensemble Evolution, video by August Sandström