CD interview 2: Alexandra Gardner and Ariel Marx

This post is the second in the series of mini interviews I will be doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂

Last week I introduced two composers who wrote two unaccompanied trumpet pieces that will featured on my CD. Today I am very excited to introduce Alex Gardner and Ariel Marx, both who wrote pieces for this CD featuring electronics.

How did you first get into music and composition?

Alex:I grew up playing piano and singing in my school chorus, so I’ve always been into music, and I love all kinds of music. But I didn’t start composing until college—I signed up for an electronic music course my freshman year, and became completely obsessed with making my own sounds. I was hooked from day one!

Ariel: Born to musical parents, I fell in love with music at a very young age listening my mother and father sing and play guitar and piano. There’s video evidence of me “composing” at a very young age, constantly singing about everything that came to my mind. Another way I feel in love with music was how it helped tell stories in film. One thing led to another, and I pursued my masters in composition at NYU with a concentration in Scoring for Film and Multimedia.
 

What was your inspiration for this piece?

Alex: Ituri was inspired by the following quote, from an unknown author, which I found (completely by accident) on a scrap of paper lying in the street in Baltimore, Maryland:

When bad times befell the inhabitants of the Ituri forest in Central Africa, they assumed that their misfortune was due to the fact that the benevolent forest, which usually provided for all their needs, had accidentally fallen asleep. At that point, the leaders of the group would dig up the sacred horns buried underground, and blow on them for days and nights on end, in an attempt to wake up the forest, thus restoring the good times.

Ariel: This past year a dear friend introduced me to audio NASA released called “Celestial Music” — a recording of sound waves emitted from several stars and planets. This inspired me to create a piece using this audio, as well as trumpet and electric guitar.

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Alex: I am currently writing a new piece for saxophone quartet with electronics, and I look forward to a composer residency with the Seattle Symphony in 2018. I will be composing a new work for the orchestra, as well as leading their Young Composer Workshop, and doing some community-based music-making with LGBTQ youth.

Ariel: I’m currently working on several short films, and have just started a feature film. 

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Alex: I have several, but one of the most important ones is my composition teacher from college, Annea Lockwood. She has led an adventurous and uncompromising life, and is one of the best people I know in the world. Another hero is Pauline Oliveros (speaking of adventurous lives!). I love the way she was always able to shed light on all of life’s creative possibilities.

Ariel: Kaija Saariaho for her sonic exploration and imagination, Mary Oliver for her words of wisdom and inspiration, Amelia Earhart for fearlessness determination. 
 
What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers?
 
Alex: HUGE question! I think we as artists must do everything possible to “be seen and heard” in the musical world, by serving as good musical citizens and positive role models for all other artists.  I think our musical culture is hampered by a general scarcity mindset, and I’d love for it to be more focused on creativity than upon competition. Visible role models as well as a shift in cultural attitude might help attract more young women to the field.
 

Ariel: Keep active in discovering new musicians and composers, create a team of collaborators that represent all minorities, create, find, and share work (such as creating this album) for and with all of our sisters. 

 

CD interview 1 – Kate w/ Jessica Rudman and Nicole Piunno

This post is the first in the series of mini interviews I will be doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here: http://bit.ly/2negR1Z

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen 🙂

I am so excited to introduce the first two fabulous composers who are featured on my upcoming CD: Jessica Rudman and Nicole Piunno.

Jessica Rudman: Elegy
Nicole Piunno: Monterey Letters

Both of these composers were the first ones who I reached out to in regards to this project and I recorded their pieces last week at the first recording session for their CD. They were also both gracious enough to link to other interviews that they had done in the past so check those out as well.

 

How did you get into music and composition?

Jessica: Meg Wilhoite included a profile of me in her New Music Blog, which goes into details about this:  https://megsnewmusicblog.wordpress.com.

Nicole: I usually say that composition found me instead of saying I chose composition.  I say this because I had strong aspirations of being an orchestral trumpet player until 2007 when I suffered a severe lip injury that ended my career.  Looking back now I can see signs of becoming a composer all the way back to childhood.  It has always interested me and I did take composition lessons during my undergraduate years even while pursuing my performance goals.  

 

What was your inspiration for the piece?

Jessica: I did some of my graduate studies at Hartt, and there were four other MM student composers who started at the same time as me. We did a couple group pieces where each composer would write a movement that was 2 minutes or less for a given instrument and they would be performed as a suite on one of the student composer concerts. “Elegy” was originally written for one of these projects, a suite intended for euphonium. I later adapted the piece for trumpet, and that version has been performed more frequently. 

Nicole: My inspiration for Monterey Letters is a bit different from the majority of my other work.  The piece was born in Monterey California when I took a trip to work with the Principal Brass Quintet of the NY Phil for a couple weeks in the summer.  The first movement portrays the energy I felt exploring a new place, mixed with peaceful moments of gratitude for being there.  The second movement was inspired by a work I encountered at a museum in Monterey by Salvador Dali.  The third movement received it’s title from my favorite street and intersection.  I am a fitness enthusiast and I searched for the street with the largest hill I could find to run up on my first morning in Monterey.  I later rented a bike and visited this same street to challenge my climbing abilities on the bike.  Without fail, every time I felt the urge to quit while climbing up the hill on Prescott Avenue I would look to my left and see Grace St. The name of that street inspired me to keep going and finish my climb. 

 

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Jessica: I am about to start writing a chamber opera about Marie Curie.  The libretto is by musicologist and poet Kendra Leonard, and uses dialogue between Marie and her daughter as well as Marie’s recollections to paint an intimate portrait of the scientist.  It delves into the struggles she faced as a woman working in a male-dominated field as well as a Polish immigrant living in France.  So even though this year is the 150th anniversary of Marie Curie’s birth, her story remains very relevant today.  

Nicole: I am currently finishing another set of unaccompanied trumpet pieces (I have fallen in love with writing unaccompanied works!) as well as a Euphonium solo.  Then I need to put all my focus on writing a high school marching band show.

 

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Jessica: Musically, I look up to composers like Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, and my teachers Tania Leon and Gilda Lyons.  They all create wonderful music and have built great careers.  Their artistry, professionalism, and dedication to their craft has been very inspiring to me.  I also have looked up to other women who have been pioneers in their fields.  Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was an early hero of mine.  I remember as a child we had to dress up as a famous person for school, and I chose to go as her.  

Nicole: I would have to say Elisabeth Elliot.  She was a strong woman of character. The way she spoke was very direct and to the point. I love and admire that. She seemed very certain of her calling in life and devoted herself to wholly that.  She lived with a deep sense purpose and also served others graciously.   

 

What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers? 

Jessica: Despite the progress that has been made so far, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in that area, and there is no simple solution.  Rather, there are many different steps that need to be taken by different groups of people.  For one thing, people who are curating concerts, recordings, textbooks, anthologies, etc. need to make the choice to seek out and include women and people of color.  Opportunities that highlight such groups should be viewed as necessary and celebratory.  There’s a misconception that those types of activities – where people are included based on gender, race, etc. – are ghettoizing and support music that is not of the same quality as that found in activities open to anyone.  Having been involved in programming the Women Composers Festival of Hartford (www.womencomposersfestivalhartford.com) for over 10 years, I can say there is an abundance of fantastic music by these underrepresented groups.  It just takes more effort to find it, and performers, educators, and audiences need to make a commitment to doing so.  
 
There are also a lot of subtle, systemic obstacles to overcome.  Many women composers are only exposed to – or at the very least have most of their interactions with – male composers and colleagues.  For that reason, people don’t necessarily realize something is wrong when a concert or entire season includes only music by white men.  We need to call attention to the lack of women and people of color, and we need to keep doing so until people notice it on their own.  
 
We also need to build supportive communities of women composers so that students can see that women do compose and are able to have viable careers.  Personally, I also think it is important as a woman composer to make myself as visible in my community as possible – participating in outreach events, being available to talk to students about being a composer (in general and being a woman composer), and being active as an event organizer.  We need to look at how we are promoting our field and opportunities within it.  I teach programs for pre-college composers at the Hartt School Community Division in CT, and every time we make publicity materials, I have to work to find pictures that include girls and students who are not white.  I think small things like that are important though, because they can give students the subconscious message that people like them do (or do not) do a certain activity.  
 
I’m sure there are lots of other steps we can take, both small and large and both individually and together.  At the very least, continuing to talk about the issue is a vital piece of the solution.
 

Nicole: For women composers the answer is simply to write good music. Keep going and keep communication open with conductors and performers as much as it is in your power to do so.For performers and conductors, I would say to be mindful of your programs.  Are you ever including less prominent composers on a program?   If you find the answer is no, then I would encourage you to seek out a work by someone less known. 

There seem to be few prominent female conductors. I think I’d like to see that changed before anything else.  

 

Support

I am a part of this fabulous workshop where we discuss the connections between art, music, and activism and work on our own personal projects in a community of like-minded people. Here is my blog post after one of our recent sessions.

 

12/2/2016 Art and Activism Workshop ::

At our final session for 2016, shortly after the presidential election, we had many things to discuss, especially in terms how to best promote diversity and marginalized groups. Although the theme of our session was women composers and performers, the underlying message was for support and awareness. How can we increase support and diverse representation for young classical musicians of color? How can we encourage more women to pursue collegiate studies in composition when there are less women teaching at universities? We certainly didn’t solve these problems in one meeting, but through our conversations, we opened the door towards greater support, recognition and awareness.

Before our session, we examined the writings of three composers: Amy Beth Kirsten (The Woman Composer is Dead), Alex Temple (I’m a Trans Composer. What the Hell Does That Mean?), and Ashley Fure (Reflections on Risk). Each composer described their own relationship to being a woman composer and considered whether or how this impacts their work. Some composers, like Ashley Fure, embrace the label “woman composer,” yet recognize the difficulties with speaking out about inequalities in the music world. Others, like Amy Beth Kirsten, do not want to be limited by this description or have anything to do with events that focus on gender.

We also discussed an interview with Björk, in which she describes how women artists are expected to only write about relationships and “womanly things.” When women artists write about other subject matter or other personal ideas, we often need to say something five times louder just to be heard and recognized, yet men are still falsely credited for our work. In the same way that we are trying to increase awareness of women in STEM fields, the same work needs to be done for women composers and performance, who often face questions like, “you created the electronics yourself?” and “I thought you were just a singer”.

Much of the conversation was spent evaluating the comments on Amy Beth Kirsten’s article and the realizations that Ashley Fure had in her experience at Darmstadt. Because of the issues with being pigeonholed – as a woman composer, activist composer, or Persian composer – we questioned whether we should make these distinctions, and whether they are more beneficial or hurtful. Despite the various opinions on this, in the articles and in our discussions, nobody disagreed about the lack of gender and racial diversity among composers and performers. The Metropolitan Opera just programmed an opera by woman composer for the first time in over 100 years, and frankly this is so embarrassing! How did we let The Met go that long without recognizing that perhaps there was a lack of representation? Even the recently announced programming for the NY Philharmonic’s next season only includes one piece by a woman and six living composers.

After discussing these issues, we addressed possible solutions and ways of increasing representation. Anonymous score submissions and blind auditions are great, because they allow us to simply focus on finding and promoting excellent music. If we want to better represent women composers and artists of varied genders and racial backgrounds, I don’t believe it’s possible to do so silently, or by hoping that we are seen as composers/performers and not composers/performers who are women for example. It is very easy to not want to be defined by our appearance, gender, or race, yet most of us don’t have that luxury. We should be celebrating our differences and increasing support for these groups, because until there is more equal representation and support for these artists, we haven’t solved the problem. On the other hand, calls for scores and other programs that target certain backgrounds are only helpful if we have people who are applying and meeting the criteria.

In an interview about her new opera at the Met, Kaija Saariaho reflected on how tired she was of being asked questions about gender, and wished “that we could speak about my music and not of me being a woman.” While insightful and understandable, even Saariaho recognized that her statement needed to be revised after realizing that women are still facing the same issues and lack of representation today that she faced many years ago. When speaking about these problems and gender barriers, Saariaho declared, “maybe we, then, should speak about it, even if it seems so unbelievable. You know, half of humanity has something to say, also.”

Interview with Bugles Media

Hi everyone!

I was recently interviewed for the Bugles Media. Check it out here!


http://www.buglesmedia.com/interview-kate-amrine/

Ginny Coleman: In the two years since you graduated from NYU, you’ve worked in a wide variety of roles throughout the music business, from playing to coordinating to teaching. Is there one job you’ve held in particular that you believe helped to jump-start your career?

Kate Amrine: I can think of three transformative experiences that I feel really pushed my career forwards. When I first started school at NYU, I was working for Jeremy Pelt and I quickly became much more organized and inspired. However, it wasn’t until I went to Europe as his Tour Manager that I felt like things were beginning for me. It was a great experience that showed me what can happen when you really work hard, play well, and have your own vision. I felt the same way when I was working for John Rojak because I was at another transitioning time – this time approaching the end of my undergrad. Both experiences were enlightening because they expanded my view of what it really means to be a successful musician and how I want to be. Since I graduated, I have been teaching private lessons to non-music majors at NYU and it has been an incredible experience to work with intelligent students with different backgrounds and career paths. Seeing how I can make music relevant, fun, and transformative for them continues to make me stronger as both an educator and a musician.


GC: Here at Bugles Media, we are firm believers that a diverse set of skills is necessary for success in the musical world, and judging by your impressive resume, it’s clear that you think the same way. Was there a point in your career where that realization occurred to you, or were innovation and flexibility always part your plan?

KA: My parents own their own business so I have always grown up knowing that it pays to be diverse and more opportunities are available that way. I played in jazz bands and orchestras growing up and started playing in musicals and a rock band because I heard they needed trumpet and someone recommended me. Since coming to NYC, I have been fortunate to have some very diverse playing experiences. I’ve played with rock bands, salsa bands, hip hop brass bands, a DJ at a rave, wedding bands, cabaret gigs with aerialists, and more – all because I said yes and because I wanted to play. I never wanted to be passed over for something because I couldn’t swing or hang in that style of music. Having a diverse schedule certainly keeps things interesting and I’ve had so much fun. After being in the city and freelancing for a couple years, I still firmly believe that being flexible stylistically and musically is the best way to be working as much as possible.


GC: I see you’ve done a lot of work on the administrative side of music. When did you realize you had strengths in this side of the business?

KA: I actually worked for my parents when I was younger so I knew at an early age that this was also one of my strengths. My brother (who is in business school actually) and I grew up filing and sorting forms as well as reconciling the monthly bank statement – which was always double-checked by the accountant of course! When I came to NYU, I had a series of part time jobs where I became more organized and skilled at managing different people and tasks. It wasn’t until a friend asked me to hire the pit orchestra for a run of West Side Story that I got into contracting and realized I like that side of things as well.


GC: It seems that much of your success ties in to your ability to play in a large variety of settings, from orchestral to chamber to musical theatre. How do you tailor your practice sessions to meet the needs of each gig?

KA: In terms of tailoring my practice session for each gig, I honestly think more about how much time I have than what I have to do for each gig. Sometimes if I only have an hour or two then it is usually more important to work on fundamentals (sound, articulation, style, etc) than to play through the music on the same day before the gig. If I am playing a show or something with a lot of lead playing then I will warm up with those things in mind and play some excerpts in those styles to get my ears and playing in that mindset. I have definitely been in positions where I have to practice orchestral excerpts, something like A Chorus Line, and music for a rock/funk gig. There usually isn’t enough time in the day or enough chops to do all of those things as much and hard as I may need to so I have to be selective. Sometimes I will listen to something on the train or sing my part instead of playing through everything. The other things I try and live by are always keeping things fresh so for example, I try and play my piccolo trumpet frequently, even if I don’t have a gig on it for a while – and the same goes for major pieces that I may encounter every so often. Similarly, once I know I will have to do something next month or whenever, I start preparing as early as I can because I may get busy and run out of time closer to the gig.


GC: You have a good amount of pit experience! Is there anything in particular that drew you to musical theatre, and are there any shows that you hope to have the opportunity to perform?

KA: I love musicals! It is fun to be a part of something so big and Broadway is so classic – everyone can relate to it and share an experience of it. Shows that I would love to perform are: A Chorus Line, Book of Mormon, In the Heights, Legally Blonde, Something Rotten, Gypsy, On the Town, and Ragtime (technically I have already played it but it was a new orchestration). There are also a lot of classics such as 42nd Street and My Fair Lady that I would love to play as well.


GC: A lot of musicians talk about having a moment of “arrival”, where they feel like they’ve made it in the music business. Do you believe in that line of thinking, or have you had any moments like this?

KA: I have had tiny moments like this where I am playing a great gig with great people and I know this is exactly where I want to be – exactly what I want to be doing. In terms of a greater arrival point in the scene, I don’t believe in that line of thinking. I know I am continuing to get better and I am always looking towards the next thing – always reevaluating what I can contribute and what I have to say. I don’t ever want to feel like I have arrived. I always want to continue to create and make an impact.


GC: Do you have any big projects in the works?

KA: I just redid my website (kateamrine.com) and throughout the summer I am planning on adding some new recordings, videos, and pictures. After publishing my brass arrangements, I plan on revising some of my current ones and writing more – hopefully to publish those and a teaching/duet book in the future as well.


GC: On one last fun note, do you have any hobbies or passions outside of your music career?

KA: I actually double majored in trumpet and Psychology so human behavior is always one of my interests, and I like reading books in that area. I also love cooking!

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