The most exciting highlight for me this month is adjusting to our new home in NYC! For the first time in my life, I have my own dedicated studio space to work in, and beginning to set it up has been the biggest joy. Carefully choosing items for the decor (Bird-Lady Minimalist is how I'm referring to my style :) feels momentous in its small way, because, who knows -- that lamp or this desk might have a huge effect on the success of my practice sessions or creative output! Maybe that is slightly overdramatic, but I'm possibly oversensitive to the vibe of any creative space. This is a big moment, and I'm excited for the projects and creative energy that might be brought to life in this room!
It's been a wonderfully full and productive summer with my beloved Knights friends and colleagues, and this month I had the opportunity to perform with Knights co-Artistic Director and violinist Colin Jacobsen for students at USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts on Long Island. The short program included an original work of Colin's called La Puerta, and we were joined in this piece by the incredible dancer Maile Okamura. It's been a while since I've been able to perform for and interact with young students, I've really missed it very much. It was a fun rush to feel the energy of kids who love making art and spending a lot of time out in nature, two of my very favorite things as well :)
In other Knightsian news, I was recently elected to be the musician representative for our Board, and I'm excited to begin that two-year term imminently!
And finally, it was an unexpected delight to be able to join the New York Philharmonic in their appearance for Central Park's We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert Produced by NYC, Clive Davis, and Live Nation. Even though a storm eventually stopped the event, we were able to complete our set, and the fired-up audience was able to hear Jennifer Hudson hit the high ones in Nessun Dorma -- incredible!
The door is slowly closing on summer 2021, but I feel ready for a new puerta to open..
Not only did The Knights return to Tanglewood to perform in 2021, but we opened for the festival in mid-July at The Shed, their largest and most social-distant-friendly venue. Although we've performed many times in their gorgeous Ozawa Hall over the years, it felt special to be on the big stage this year, presenting a program that felt fresh musically and collaboratively with our guest artists. From pianist Aaron Diehl and his jazz trio, to composer Vijay Iyer, and a composer's work new to me, Mary Lou Williams, with also music of Gershwin and Ravel, it was a truly exciting and vibrant evening.
It's hard to believe that this wasn't the only memorable performance for us Knights this month, as we also played at Bryant Park in NYC and the Caramoor Center for Music. My cello has definitely been tested in the covered-yet-outdoor conditions these last couple of months, but it's been worth every second, every note!
After a long silence from this little blog, it feels fitting to highlight one of my first public performances in over a year taking place in a cemetery, for a concert series called Death of Classical. A somewhat jarring title for a concert series, yet a perfect and apt metaphor for much of my emotional landscape this past year. (I wish I could write that this performance took place 'post-pandemic', but it feels so difficult to predict how the future months will unfold, given the unpredictable trauma we've all collectively experienced for so long). I've already had some deeply emotional and meaningful experiences making live music again with my friends and colleagues since March -- tears ran underneath my mask the first time I was in a room with other musicians -- but I had been the most excited about giving this performance at the famous Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Being with some of my beloved Knights Orchestra friends and the ever-brilliant violinist Gil Shaham, this performance felt like a surreal meeting of life and death, a celebration of being alive while sharing space with resting souls, and somehow a reminder to live fully -- red-blooded and in the heat of live performance -- yet still aware of an end point, a musical "double-bar", whenever that might be.
There was a lot going through my mind while we played our "pocket-sized" version of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. And, it still feels raw and unfamiliar to play in front of live audiences again. Most of all I feel grateful for that special experience at Green-Wood.. but for me, the biggest question still remains: after this recent death of classical, what will the after-life look like?
I had the pleasure of co-leading some fun Decoda-style workshops at the Eastman School of Music with my amazing colleagues, Catherine Gregory and Claire Bryant. We worked with students of the Institute of Music Leadership, and met some very bright students and wonderful staff during our stay. I also finally had a chance to see the new East wing, a whole new section added to the school years after I graduated many years ago. Visiting Eastman always brings back the most warm-hearted memories of a place that I truly loved during some very formative years!
Visiting cat cafés has become one of my favorite things to do while on tour if I have a little time to kill between rehearsals and concerts. I grew up always having several cats in the house at any one time, and my affection for their quirks and mysteriousness has only grown deeper, even if I don't currently have one myself (at least my parents have two beautiful Abyssinians in Brooklyn -- close enough!). So it was a great pleasure to find Café Chat L'Heureux in Montréal, as I was preparing to perform a really unique 'Hommage to Bach' program with The Knights as part of the annual Montréal Bach Festival. A little coffee and a lot of purring was the perfect afternoon, I can't recommend it enough :)
A flurry of activity this month, coming from all directions.. The ensembles I play with most often hit the ground running this 2019-2020 season, so I enjoyed performing with my colleagues in the Knights, Decoda, as well as the NY Philharmonic in a tetris-like, octupus-armed October schedule. However, there was one project that was very special to me, as it was an opportunity to perform beautiful cello-piano chamber music that I had never heard before, and to work with the team from Dance Heginbotham again! This short run of Herz Schmerz at the Baryshnikov Arts Center -- with music by Hans Huber and literary inspiration by Robert Walser -- was another whimsical and touching collaboration between John Heginbotham and Maira Kalman. It was a joy to take part!
I'm so thrilled that my brilliant husband, composer Nicholas Britell, was recognized by the Television Academy this month by winning the Emmy for Original Main Title Theme Music for Succession. His music is a crucial element to the show, and many fans are quick to point out how the music draws them into the drama right from the very start. What an amazing night -- and an important opportunity to recognize the many people who make great television come to life. I love you Nick, congratulations!!
One of the happiest and most fortunate patterns in my career is that every summer, I find myself performing with The Knights at either the beautiful Tanglewood or Ravinia music festivals -- and sometimes both of them. This was one of those years -- both festivals in one month! Not only was it a joy to work with Gil Shaham again (Beethoven and Brahms concertos!), but I had the opportunity to perform all of Bernstein's Candide -- with a cast including two dancers from Dance Heginbotham! It was great to see Courtney and John a couple years after our Principals of Uncertainy performances, and even better to perform with them in this amazing production.
This was the second summer that I joined the New York Philharmonic at the BravoVail! festival in Vail, CO for their annual residency. I took this picture after finishing a hike on one of the days off (deceptively called "Berry Picker" - definitely not an easy stroll!) with a personal best time of an hour and a half. In the last year and a half, I've been doing more weight lifting, training, running, and tennis playing than I've ever done before, and I've come to the proud conclusion that yes, I am an athlete! I love the feeling of being physically strong, and striving to get ever stronger, with every advancing year. I've experienced the highs of surpassing goals, the lows of slipping into past habits, and the excitement of digging my way back to even better health. It's not unlike my lifelong journey playing the cello, and seeing myself through the hills and valleys of my personal progress. I just hope that in my athletic life, as with my cello life, I can keep making the peaks ever higher, and the valleys higher than the last.
I was thrilled to substitute with the New York Philharmonic throughout this month -- including performances at Geffen Hall, their annual Parks concerts throughout the city, as well as a tour to China! We performed in Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous to send my cello off without me in the instrument trunks....traveling by plane with my cello beside me is a complete pain, but a very familiar one, so I definitely had separation anxiety. Happily, there was no problem at all -- the tour was successful, and, of course, tasty! I won't soon forget those soup dumplings..
This project was a long time in the making, but all the effort and coordinating was well worth it -- a quartet of Decoda members led a 4-day residency in Buffalo, NY, at the invitation of two new partner organizations: Buffalo String Works and Buffalo State University. It's amazing to have the opportunity to work with old college friends who have now become my colleagues, and in this case, the co-director of Buffalo String Works is my dear friend Yuki Numata Resnick, a fierce violinist and arts advocate! It was a total pleasure working with her students at this amazing community music school for immigrants and refugees. We also gave interactive performances in several Buffalo Public Schools, gave a masterclass and chamber music performance at Buffalo State, as well as performed a family concert for the community on our last day. It was a whirlwind of activity during a rather snowy week, but it's projects like these that make me feel like I'm making the most impact as a musician and human. Cheers to Decoda, and all our friends in Buffalo!
The best part of beginning this new year was receiving my first commission for my solo cello recording project! I'm beyond thrilled to be playing this gorgeous little piece by the incomparable Gabriel Kahane, and I can't wait to record it later in March!
I was thrilled to participate in a Decoda project led by the amazing horn player and Decoda member, Laura Weiner, that brought members of the NYPD together with teenagers in a songwriting workshop at the Police Athletic League! Laura envisioned these officers and teens working together in groups to write lyrics and melodies that were made into full-fledged song arrangements by members of Decoda. The culminating performance of these songs were performed at the Resnick Education Wing at Carnegie Hall, and a piece about the project was featured on CBS News! I came in towards the end of the songwriting process, so it was fun to see the amazing work my Decoda colleagues had done with their groups, and it was a joy to see such an enthusiasm in creating music from all participants. Watching the officers and teens creating these friendships and bonds through music made me hopeful and optimistic going into 2018. Happy New Year!
The Knights joined forces with Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh in a US tour, with cities including Ithica, NY, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ann Arbor, Goshen and Bloomington, IN. It was incredible to hear both of these artists, and how they connected deeply with audiences around the country with their playing and story-telling. Kinan even sent me music for a clarinet and cello duo he composed for himself and Yo-Yo Ma, which I'm looking forward to performing with my friend Carol McGonnell in February!
I had the honor and pleasure of subbing with the New York Philharmonic this month - which is exciting enough for me - but adding to the joy of playing with this ensemble was my childhood joy of experiencing the film music of John Williams. Playing two of the Star Wars films with live score was thrilling, exhausting (the music is nearly constant for two hours!), and also rewarding to watch fans going absolutely wild with glee - from the very first chord, to the final one. My sister recalls that I told her I wanted to become a professional cellist after listening obsessively to the Jurassic Park soundtrack at age 13...I don't remember saying these exact words, but I certainly remember how I felt while listening to that music. And the feeling hasn't faded! The force is strong :)
I'm excited to announce that my solo cello recording project (including a couple of guests) has commenced, and I couldn't be more thrilled, terrified, ecstatic and overwhelmed to be working on something in which I'm putting my heart and soul. The composers of the pieces I'm recording are some of the most inspiring musicians writing music today, and most of them are based in NYC. This project won't be complete in the very near future, but I'm beyond proud to be in the midst of this creative process, and am looking forward to the day that I can share this music with the world!
Even though I haven't been able to fully see the show from my vantage point on stage, I'm certain of the amazing genius behind Maira Kalman and John Heginbotham's The Principles of Uncertainty! The fabulous collaboration between the artist/writer and dancer/choreographer has led to a charming and moving work that I'm lucky enough to take part in. The multi performances have taken place this month at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (what a beautiful and special place!), and will continue next month at the Guggenheim and BAM Fisher. The musical component of this piece has been curated and lead by the wonderful Colin Jacobsen, and includes other Knights members -- myself, Alex Sopp, and guest Nathan Koci. I'm always especially excited when brilliant artists come together to collaborate; in John's words, he knew years ago that he wanted to work with Maira, he just didn't know yet in what way. We should all feel so lucky that great artists follow their uncertain hunches to create such great work! (Certainly!)
This month, I had the pleasure of performing and teaching at the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival in Little Rock at the University of Arkansas. It was so wonderful to work with these kind and dedicated young students, and to connect with the amazing other faculty members -- not to mention chat with delightful local supporters of the festival! It truly was a wonderful time, a summer highlight!
I clearly remember singing Lisa Loeb's Stay with my friends in high school, having a good time trying to remember all the words and laughing when they came out in all the wrong order. So it was fun to meet Lisa in person this month, and to perform a family concert with her in Prospect Park for the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival! She wrote just as many words in these adorable children's songs, and the kids were having a great time dancing to the music. Her last song, Monster Stomp, was a big hit! It was a great time playing the awesome string arrangements of these songs by my fellow Knights colleagues.
It was an honor to play a month of concerts with the New York Philharmonic, and join in celebrating Alan Gilbert's tenure as Music Director. I was lucky to play a number of programs that were a farewell to Gilbert's time at the Philharmonic, and a showcase of his programming and vision for the ensemble for the last eight years. I still can't believe I had the opportunity to perform Wagner's Das Rheingold with this stellar orchestra and guest singers! An epic challenge of concentration and stamina, and now, a fantastic memory..
I've recently joined a new contemporary music ensemble in New York, Ensemble Ipse! I performed my first concert with them at a cool little Brooklyn venue called Shapeshifter Lab, and I couldn't be happier to work some old friends from various music circles, as well as to meet and collaborate with new musician friends! Although our schedule will remain conservative for now, I look forward to our future concerts performing fresh new works..
On the heels of our new album release, the Knights went on an epic tour to France and Germany, which included incredible venues, programs, and collaborators, making this a special couple of weeks. We began with a week in Provence as the resident ensemble for the Festival de Pâques, with an incredible reception from the audiences and festival organizers alike, and ended at the famed new hall in Hamburg, the Elbphilharmonie! From rosé to wurst, Bach to Gabe Kahane, it was a delicious tasting and eclectic sounding two weeks in Europe! Somehow, it even included a 30 minute ride in a real zeppelin over southern Germany..
This was an exciting month of domestic travel adventures, ranging from a chamber music concert at the Blue Hill Concert Association in Blue Hill, Maine (including a wild snow storm that thankfully didn't reach full force until the following day!), my return to Memphis to play with IRIS Orchestra for the first time this season (a fabulous cello section, pictured above), and a surreal trip to Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards with my husband - a nominee for his Moonlight film score! I don't know how to appropriately summarize this incredibly dream-like month...!
The cellists of Decoda have once again come together to play cello quartets! We performed and led workshops in Chattanooga, TN and Camden, SC -- in museums, schools, university auditoriums, fine arts centers, a retirement community and a maximum security prison. We even had a nice television spotlight on local South Carolina news. In typical Decoda style, we tried to share music with as many people as we could, regardless of circumstance. It was a busy but deeply satisfying trip down south, and we even made it to the Women's March in Chattanooga. A beautiful day, with a beautiful, simple message.
Happy to finish 2016 on a high note -- playing as a substitute in the cello section of the New York Philharmonic on New Year's Eve, televised live from Lincoln Center with the wonderful Joyce DiDonato. It was earlier in the fall that I worked with Joyce as a member of the Knights, performing at Sing Sing -- the Today Show aired a piece about this experience, and it still remains one of many wonderful highlights from this year. And now, I'm looking forward to making new memories in 2017 -- one of my first will be attending the Golden Globe awards with my husband Nick, a nominee for best film score (Moonlight)!
I had the pleasure of going to Las Vegas, NV for a week with Decoda as a part of the Music Juice Box Series, to give interactive performances at nine different schools throughout the area. We were hosted by Notes With a Purpose, a fabulous organization run by fellow Ensemble Connect alumna, Alexandria Le. It was my first time to Vegas, and of course, it didn't disappoint, other than my slight loss at a nearby slot machine. It was a pleasure to meet so many bright and interested 4th and 5th grade students and their wonderful teachers and administrators, and to make music and share some great memories with my Decoda colleagues!
This was an active month including travel and performance in diverse venues...I had the opportunity to perform at the exquisite sounding Milton Court Theater in London, a venue at the Barbican, in a wonderful and eclectic chamber music program with Decoda. Later in the month I was back in Brooklyn (BRIC) with the Knights, performing De Falla's El Retablo de Maese Pedro with the incredible visual artist, Kevork Mourad, creating live drawings to accompany the story. Most notably (and unfortunately impossible to get a photo of) was an opportunity to perform for the first time at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Members of the Knights performed around half a dozen songs written by inmates participating in a Carnegie Hall-lead music program, with the wonderful Joyce DiDonato joining us to sing. It was a memorable occasion, with the energy from the auditorium (an audience of other Sing Sing inmates) being raw, enthusiastic, and incredibly welcoming. What a lucky month filled with amazing and meaningful music-making..
A new addition to my little instrument family has arrived.... I finally bought a new bow, and it's quite a beauty! A gorgeous W. E. Hill & Sons bow from 1925, it was once owned by renowned cellist Joseph Schuster. It's a humbling lesson to hear the difference bows can make in one's sound, and I can't stop smiling every time I pick it up and start playing..now it's a relief to have settled down after a year and a half of cello and bow searching!
I'm excited to announce the launch of a new online platform for the arts, created by my husband Nick Britell and Benjamin Millepied!
Artform, now available as an app on iTunes, is the first platform created for artists (visual, performance, and beyond) to showcase their art in HD, customize a free website connected to the app, connect and collaborate with other artists, share a portfolio, find their audience with other artists and art lovers, and be part of a global arts community!
For now, Artform is by invitation only - all artists should click here to apply for an invitation to join!
This month marked my second time performing with The Knights at the Tanglewood Music Festival, and it was just as memorable as my first time last year, but for a very different reason. An hour before our performance, we learned of the terror attack in Nice, France that killed scores of innocent people that were celebrating Bastille Day, fireworks, life. How does one process such horror while preparing to perform? While our hearts were bleeding for this horrendous loss of life, a plan went forth for a single violinist member to begin the concert by performing La Marseillaise. Feeling the audience take in this impromptu offering -- at first not understanding, and by the end, not only understanding, but standing and singing in complete love and solidarity -- was a moving moment. Others felt the same way.
This is the second time that I've written, in this humble little blog, about using the uplifting power of music to respond to the tragedy of a vile terror attack. I deeply wish there weren't a constant need for this appeal to our humanity, but for now, we play on..
This month I decided that I want to make a solo cello album -- my first solo record! I've already recorded with many ensembles (and increasingly for film as well), but we all know that life is short, and I think it's time for me to think about what personal message I'd like to carve into our enormous musical tree, so to speak... Ideas have been brewing already, and I'm looking forward to practicing and getting to work. I'm expecting it to be a long process from conception to final product, but I'm looking forward..
It was an amazing honor to perform Mahler Symphony no. 9 with legendary maestro Bernard Haitink and the NY Philharmonic, in four performances at David Geffen Hall! The ovation he received - even before lifting the baton - was heart warming and inspiring....quite an unforgettable experience.
This was one of those typical months where I performed with a circus in Brooklyn. Also, I played a pairing of Beethoven and Daft Punk – back to back – up in Boston. Really typical stuff (!) It was, in fact, a great month for thinking outside the box, and having some tongue-in-cheek fun with audiences!
Audience engagement is a topic that's been preoccupying (puzzling?) classical musicians for years. Performing “Mix Tape” with A Far Cry and Stravinsky’s Petroushka with The Muse circus this month were great examples of how to engage audiences while staying true to a strong artistic vision.
A Far Cry's “Mix Tape” program played well to their home crowd audience, with lots of cool short works, arrangements and commissions, and pieces that were just plain fun to rock out to in Jordan Hall. I loved sensing the audience taking this journey – with their energy getting hot, then cooling down, then heating up again.. it felt personal - similar to listening to a mix tape from a crush back in day!
In Brooklyn, it was pretty amazing to bring an orchestra and circus members together in an enormous warehouse to re-tell the story of Petroushka. For me, the best part was the eclectic Brooklyn audience all cheering on the amazing music of Stravinsky, and a young boy glowing at the look and sound of all the instruments. Maybe we weren't elephants (thank goodness), but we were a part of the wonder and magic all the same..
One of the longer tours I've been on, it was a great time with my fellow Knights and the formidable Gil Shaham, traveling in all directions of the USA (eh, and Toronto)!
I had an amazing time leading a project that took the Decoda Cello Quartet on a mini-tour to Maine! It was a blast programming fun and interesting contemporary pieces written for cello quartet, and our audiences really seemed to appreciate hearing such great and accessible music. It's difficult to describe just how kind and lovely the people are up there...it truly changes your approach to performing when you feel that kind of positive energy coming from an audience! And they were moved too -- one local painter was inspired by a piece we played of Jane Antonia Cornish, and created art based on our performance. I've attached one of those paintings, which she emailed pictures of, above. To much more cello quartet playing in the future!
This month was an exciting way to end 2015, with an opportunity to record my husband's music for a film directed by Gary Ross. Nick is a uniquely talented musician, composer, and overall human being, and I feel lucky to be his "studio cellist," as we like to joke :) Also exciting -- recording a special track with the great American folk-rock singer Lucinda Williams, to be featured in the film as well. We had unknown expectations for how this particular song would take shape, but we all ended up feeling emotionally raw after playing Nick's arrangement of this powerful song by Lucinda. We were ecstatic with the result, as can be seen on our faces pictured above. Major kudos to Nick on an excellent job!!
This was a memorable week of music making, both with my Decoda colleagues and fellow faculty members, as well as with the participants in our Professional Training Workshop that took place in Merida, Mexico. There was a generosity of spirit from all of the young musicians we worked with -- their openness and commitment to working hard in their chamber music groups was hugely inspiring, and their performances at the end of the week were stunningly brilliant. It was one of those weeks where I felt like I was learning much more than I was teaching, and it was an honor.
The Paris terror attacks occurred the night before the participants' final performance. This famous quote of Leonard Bernstein felt more profound than ever: This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.
Thanks to a fantastic exhibit at the MET Museum of portraits by John Singer Sargent, I was able to curate my second program for Decoda, inspired by the idea of "Musical Portraits". We performed numerous short pieces that were as varied and interesting as the people that inspired those compositions.
It was a wonderful evening, in the the beautifully intimate Velez Blanco Patio, along with curated images from the exhibit project through video art on the wall. We even got a little mention in the New York Times!
This month was a whirlwind of activity -- beginning with a wedding by the Ardiatic Sea (picture above :)), and ending with making a recording with the one and only Yo-Yo Ma (with lots of other things in between)! Other notable activities included kicking off Decoda's new season with our first ever Retreat, and commencing my role as the newly elected Community Leader for the group. It's been a flurry of phone calls, emails, meetings, rehearsals and concerts (and did I mention a recording with Yo-Yo?!), so the 15-16 season is off to a busy start..
It was amazing to perform with The Knights at Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. It's a magical hall (which admittedly looks like a hilarious face in the picture above) in one of the most beautiful campuses to host summer music in the whole country. Lots of great memories from my student days, at BUTI as well as the Tanglewood Music Center. This opportunity to perform felt like an extraordinary homecoming concert, complete with beautiful singers, an inspiring visual artist, my friends, and of course, great music.
European Tour! The Knights performed in Darmstadt, Baden-Baden, Salzburg, and the magnificent Musikverein in Vienna. This special hall was the perfect combination of visual beauty and acoustic glory, and it was an unforgettable experience to play there. Vienna itself also stole my heart, as I stayed a few extra days on my own just to explore the city and take it all in. Highlights included beautiful architecture, churches, castles, gardens, Mozart's house, musical history, a Japanese cat cafe, a high school of classical horsemanship, the best schnitzel in the world, and of course, a Sacher torte. All around one of the best explorations of a foreign place I've ever experienced!
I spent several days spread out over the month of March rehearsing and performing five shows with Bjork in New York! They were in three fabulous and very different venues: Carnegie Hall, King's Theater in Brooklyn, and City Center. Fifteen string players dressed in white created a semi-circle around the pop star, playing some luscious lines and relentless rhythms. My favorite part was just observing and taking in her energy, whether in rehearsal or performance. Bjork is truly an original. Everything from the way she speaks to way she dances, it seems to come from a place of deep creativity and unique imagination. It was inspiring to see someone as fearless as she, always striving to serve her highest artistic visions.
People muse that being a musician must be very rewarding -- unlike having a "real job" (supposedly stable, monotonous, a touch boring?), you are "doing what you love" and feeding your soul with creative energy and beautiful music. This can be very true, and although there are deep challenges associated with being a musician - both internal and external - there is always that ultimate feeling of reward at the end of the rainbow. Still, every once in a while you are involved in a musical project where 'rewarding' doesn't begin to describe the sensation. That kind of project occurred for me this month in Camden, SC, and I'd say the feeling was more like the most humble I've felt in a very long time.
Decoda went to South Carolina, home of project leader and cellist Claire Bryant, to conduct a songwriting workshop at the Lee Correctional Institute. My seasoned colleagues had all been to a prison setting before to do this type of work, but this was my first time. I'll never forget the layers of security, doors, gates, hallways and checkpoints just to get to the location of our workshop. It felt like an eternity. What awaited was a group of thirty men, some of the kindest, most positive, eager to learn, respectful, open-minded and generous people I've ever met. What happened during this week-long residency was magical, an outpouring of love, and one of the deepest connections I've ever experienced among human beings. We had the theme of "Transformation" to center and focus our songwriting. The men interpreted this theme and came up with the most beautiful lyrics, melodies, and ideas to inspire the songs. Decoda helped them put it together. One inmate nicknamed GT gave each of us a leather bracelet he handmade as a gift (pictured above).
At the end of the week we performed 18 songs for a roomful of other inmates and invited visitors. The last song contained this chorus:
Look At Me Now
I'm Not Who I Once Was
The Trials In My Life Have Come to Make Me Strong
So Look At Me Now
There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Transformation.
The cellists of Decoda rang in 2015 on a high note: a collaboration with cellists from Ensemble ACJW at Rockwood in NYC! From Bach to rock, our program had a little something for everyone. It's kind of hard not to please a room of people with the powerful vibes of a cello septet, and we had a great time laying it down AC/DC/JW style!
I'm already doing my fair share of traveling this season, but this was one of the most memorable trips yet: a tour with the great Bela Fleck and The Knights. We covered a lot of territory in the US (I finally got to see Mississippi and Alabama! Holy grits!), spent epic hours on buses and planes, but the energy of our concerts and collaboration with Bela was truly one of a kind. The punchline to a joke Eric told on stage every night to every audience sums it up: "Nobody plays the banjo like Bela Fleck."
This was a memorable month for music making, beginning with a week playing an all-Dvorak program with the NY Philharmonic, and ending with two beautiful performances of the Messiah with the Knights in Athens, GA. Dvorak ranks as one of my very favorite composers, so playing the Symphony no. 7 and accompanying Alisa Weilerstein on the Cello Concerto was simply divine. And speaking of the divine, I was thrilled to play the Messiah with such an incredible group of musicians, singers, soloists and conductor at the University of Georgia in Athens. In addition to a spell binding performance of Corelli's Christmas Concerto (I was fortunate to be one of the soloists along with Colin Jacobsen and Guillaume Pirard), playing such a wonderful Messiah was a gratifying way to close out an exciting and crazy year. Cheers to one and all -- and on to 2015!
If I had been told at the beginning of this year that I would make not one - but TWO - trips to Australia in 2014, I wouldn't have believed it. Now, as the year is almost over and I've acquired Silver status with Qantas Airlines, I think I still can't believe it. But it's happened, and I'm in love -- with this beautiful and friendly country, and also with the work that brings me to some of the most unexpected and magical places. Last month I had quite the experience playing in an iconic venue -- Radio City Music Hall -- but I'm not sure if that can compare with the iconic Sydney Opera House. Not only is the building a spectacular sight from basically any and every angle, but the view from the stage makes you feel like you're drifting in some kind of coral reef paradise. I traveled with Wordless Music Orchestra to perform music of Max Richter, to an excited and welcoming audience. It's journeys like this one that remind me to feel fortunate and proud of my work, and at the same time humbled to be a guest in someone's House.
I grew up about an hour and a half from New York City, so my parents brought me in pretty regularly to experience the culture. Museums, concerts, restaurants.. I'll never forget our go-to brunch place, the Bendix diner in Chelsea (a place that served American and Thai food of all combos) and had a blinking neon sign in the window that read GET FAT. It was about as colorful as the personalities inside the place! One of those memorable trips as a young tot was going to Radio City Music Hall to see Starlight Express. It was mesmerizing and entertaining, with all of the flashing lights and people whizing around on roller skates...so much fun! Fast forward maybe 25 years or so, and I found myself back at Radio City this month -- this time navigating the labyrinth of the backstage hallways and stairwells. I was there to play with an orchestra and tape a television special that will air during the holidays. I've experienced the strange childhood-to-adult deja vu many times before in this city, but it was certainly special to play in such an iconic venue after experiencing it last as a child!
When Maya Angelou passed away earlier this year, collections of her famous quotes started popping up everywhere, including Facebook. For several days I read terrific and inspiring tidbits of Maya's wisdom posted by friends, and there was one in particular that struck me: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how they made you feel." I think this is amazingly true, and speaks to the beautiful, positive, intangible qualities people possess that can be a great gift to others. I've posted a picture of myself with Gil Shaham, so it's pretty clear who has inspired my recollection of this quote! I recently had the honor of accompanying Gil in the Prokofiev 2nd violin concerto, both in concert as well as a recording project with The Knights. I think Gil is generally known throughout the classical music world to be one of the nicest guys around, and I'm happy to confirm this truth! More than being kind, he's one of the most humble, energetic, thoughtful, patient, and imaginative artists out there. After the project was complete, I was left with a smile, and happily contemplating these wonderful qualities.
Yo-Yo and the Knights!!
I'm very fortunate to have taken my first trip to Australia this month with a team from Creative Leaps, a subdivision of the company Associated Solo Artists. It's always a delight to perform and work in schools (which we did a little of while on this trip), but it was my first venture into working with adult professionals and business leaders who are looking to the arts as a source of inspiration and insight for expanding leadership skills in their fields. It was joyful and fascinating to work with my experienced colleagues, and a valuable opportunity for me to speak to and perform for such a distinguished audience. The photo above is from our day off in Longreach, relaxing by a billabong!
June of course marks the middle of the year: the end of spring, the beginning of summer, and planning for the 2014-15 season. It's always good to take stock of the YTD, to reflect on the past year of music-making, to drink in those heart-full-of-pride moments, as well as the I-hope-that-never-happens-again-like-that moments. All of these thoughts count when trying to figure out what the future year might look like. I just wanted to post a picture from Grand Central Station (where I passed through several times this month) as a reminder of that central place - the transitional hub we enter to figure out where we need to go, the next steps of our journey.
It's not always easy to predict how connections from your past will connect you to events in your future. For my friend Sharon Roffman, founder of the educational program ClassNotes, reconnecting with a high school friend can result in bringing a string trio down to Tallahassee, FL. to connect music to events of the Holocaust.
Sharon, Max Mandel and I went back to high school - Leon High, where Sharon's friend teaches, to be exact - to do a series of interactive presentations that connected the role of music in events leading up to, and during, the Holocaust, and therefore connecting to these students' world history curriculum. It was a fascinating week, where we were able to reach hundreds of students in small class settings and teach history through the eyes and ears of musicians. For me, the week was a reminder that history - and empathy - can come alive when we experience it through an unusual or unexpected perspective. In one particular exercise, students wrote a journal entry for their first day at Terezin, a camp where many musicians were sent during the Holocaust, while we played a deeply emotional piece that had been written at that very camp by Gideon Klein. The students' responses to the music and the raw emotions put into their writing was a lesson in how music connects us to our own humanity.
It was all about story telling for two very different and exciting shows I played at Carnegie this month: the first was with sizzling Ensemble Signal playing Julia Wolfe's Cruel Sister, and the second with the fabulous singer Natalie Merchant teaming up with Decoda to perform folk tales, poems and lullabies from around the world. An all around pleasure to play with these fiercely talented and fun musicians!
For the last seven years, I've flown down to Memphis, TN to play with IRIS Orchestra, one of my all time favorite ensembles. There really is nothing like the warmth and camaraderie of the musicians, staff, and audience alike. So, it was a great thrill and honor to learn last summer that I would be a soloist along with three other IRIS members in the amazing Sinfonia Concertante by Haydn. Working with Miho, Adrian, and Reid was one of the most amazing highlights of my career to date, and to play with my supportive friends and colleagues in the orchestra was a complete joy!
My husband and I went to Israel at the end of December to visit friends and be inspired by this exotic and historic land. I feel very fortunate for the experience, and for the perfect atmosphere to reflect and move on to 2014. L'chaim, and Happy New Year!
One of the most memorable concert experiences of my life took place at the MET Museum on November 23rd with my wonderful colleagues of Decoda. I am so proud to have organized this event that brought music and art together in a gorgeous performance space. I can only hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for Decoda to produce innovative and forward-thinking programs at the MET!
I'm getting really excited about an upcoming performance with Decoda at the MET Museum on November 23rd. This is a project that I've been leading and working on for months-- it's amazing how much effort goes into planning a one-hour event! I think this is going to be a very special concert for many reasons: I created a program inspired by an exhibit currently viewing at the MET, the music will be accompanied by specially designed video projections of art work from this exhibit, and we will be performing in the glorious Velez Blanco Patio.
For more information on this performance please visit the museum website here
Members of Decoda were able to visit the exhibit and performance space with me recently-- just amazing!
I began and ended a 3-week period playing a D Major chord. The first chord was played on East 73rd St, in Yves Klein’s Monotone-Silence Symphony: a group of 70 musicians and singers came together to hold various octaves of a D Major triad for a continuous, uninterrupted 20 minutes, abruptly followed by 20 minutes of complete silence— a deafening silence. My last D Major chord was heard on West 65th St., in the glorious and final eruption of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while playing with the NY Phil. A deafening eruption. As a musician, it’s these moments that are everything: the power of a simple chord, delivered in the most evocative ways.
June 17, 2013
So excited to announce I am the newest Teaching Artist to join the faculty of the New York Philharmonic School Partnership Program! It was an inspiring year as an Apprentice to this fabulous program, so I’m thrilled to join such a creative and fun team. Looking forward to starting up my school visits at PS 81 and meeting my little 3rd graders!
It was an honor to travel with some of my Decoda colleagues to Japan’s Suntory Hall to participate in four children’s concerts, performing for over 500 young children and their parents! As the project’s leader, it was my first opportunity to create a theme, program, and script from scratch, and have it all translated into Japanese for these performances. The concerts were a delight, the audiences as well as the Suntory staff were a joy to meet, and best of all, to all of our surprise, the Japanese woman narrating my script as the show’s host also lives in the same building as me in New York! It was amazing to meet violinist and fellow teaching artist Airi Yoshioka, who did a stellar job bringing the script to life! Just one of those small world moments..
July 20, 2013
I feel constantly in awe of the talent and dedication of the musicians I work with and meet from around the world, but sometimes I come across rare people who are just as dedicated to their pursuit of music even if it isn’t their profession. I had the pleasure of working and playing with pianist Dawn Tyrell, a full time worker in the nursing profession who was ‘bitten by the chamber music bug’ almost a decade ago. Already busy enough with work, Dawn regularly participates in chamber music workshops and classes that pair amateur musicians with professional coaches and performers, and she is part of a worldwide network of amateur musicians who travel and meet just to read and play chamber music for fun. Performing with Dawn for her own ‘50th Birthday Recital’ was a joy and such an inspiration to me—we can all learn from people who unabashedly choose to enrich themselves through their passions, and discover what happens when bitten by their favorite bugs..
September 20, 2012
To celebrate Channel Thirteen WNET's 50th birthday, the Knights did pop-up performances all around the city-- double decker bus- style! It was incredible to see so much of the city while trying not to get decapitated by traffic lights and camera equipment! Definitely one of the coolest experiences connecting with impromptu audiences on the street and playing cello standing up.. a memorable day!
Happy Birthday, Channel 13!!
September 12, 2012
I’ve finally done it! Sort of… for some
people, making a website to showcase their work or promote their ideas
and views on various topics is not such an overwhelmingly soul-searching
ordeal. They just do it, and try not to overthink the whole process.
I’ve been overthinking the making of my own website for years now, and
now that I’ve finally done it, I might not be satisfied with it until I
feel like I’ve truly expressed who I feel I am as an artist and what
makes me tick as a person. A lot of paradoxes come to mind: simple but
complicated, subtle but forceful, air-y yet fire-y, confident but
self-conscious, and (my husband might like this one), sensitive but
bossy. I think lots of people in creative fields have contradicting
traits that fuel their uniqueness, but it’s also disheartening to feel
misunderstood, or inadequately express that uniqueness. Hence the long
wait for my internet debut.
Andre Agassi reminded us throughout
the 90s that Image is Everything, so I might as well put an image out
there for all to see. Hopefully all the details will sort themselves out
eventually, including the many sides of my personality…
It’s a start.
June 5, 2012
I was invited to be a panelist at the League of American Orchestra's National Conference in Dallas (June 5-8) to discuss the future of the American Orchestra, in a session called Inventing the Future.