Cristi Catt teaches in the Contemporary Improvisation department here at NEC Prep. Wait, what? Yup, that’s right. We have Contemporary Improvisation at NEC Prep! And as of this year, we’re thrilled to welcome Cristi Catt as one of its newest faculty members.
About Cristi Catt: Cristi grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. After living in Salzburg and New York, she has made her home in Cambridge, MA for many years. Cristi is married to an actor and they have two kids – a piano playing, tap dancing basketball player and a writer/performer who is part of the Chicago comedy scene. Cristi bikes to NEC when weather allows and loves riding along the Charles to get to work.
Fun fact: Cristi loves to go birding with her son Peter at Plum Island.
Cristi Catt serves on the Contemporary Improvisation and Voice Departments for NEC Prep, teaching private lessons and leading A cappella ensembles. She is also a faculty member for the College and Continuing Education Program at NEC in the Contemporary Improvisation Department.
Q&A with Cristi Catt
What is your earliest musical memory?
One of my earliest memories is being 9 years old, getting ready to walk on stage to audition for a part in Aaron Copland’s The Tenderland at the University of Kansas. I had walked down to the college campus after school at the suggestion of my music teacher. When I arrived, others kids were there with their mothers who were giving them all sorts of advice. I tried to pick up what I could and then decided that I would sing the loudest. So, I went with that. It worked and I got the part. It was a life changing experience for me as I got to be part of a fully staged production with orchestra and such wonderful musicians. Copland came to some of the rehearsals. Since I was the “cute kid” in the cast, I ended up sitting on his lap. It hit me that through music this one man, had created a huge, wonderful world that we were working in. I knew then that music was for me.
What made you decide to sing/choose the instrument that you play?
Oops, I think I just answered that. I got the bug to sing in 3rd grade. I tried other things — flute and piano but for me singing is the best way to express what I want to express. I do wish I had practiced my piano more!! I became a singer because being able to express a text or tell a story through music is what really excites me.
Are there any musicians in your family?
Yes, my grandfather Harp was known in Winfield, KS as being a fine tenor who sang in his local church. His daughters, my grandmother and aunt Mackie, were both musicians. My grandmother played organ and piano. My aunt had a beautiful singing voice. They both planned to go to music school and even had scholarships but because of the depression, it wasn’t possible for them. My grandmother kept playing. She accompanied silent movies and played organ for her church. My grandmother and aunt Mackie performed regularly for a local radio show. I think it was called “Ake and Drake in the Morning.”
If you could be anything other than a musician, what would you be?
If I wasn’t a musician, I think I would work in the field of health and wellness. I am very interested in nutrition, yoga and wellness. Or, perhaps I would be a linguist as I am fascinated by the way languages adapt over time with pronunciations changing and languages splitting off into different languages and dialects.
What do you like doing outside of music?
I enjoy riding my bike, reading, birding, and hiking. I think I am happiest when I am swimming whether it’s at Walden Pond or at the beach. I love the water!
Most inspiring composer or piece of music?
That’s hard. Steve Reich’s Tehillim is an important piece to me. My ensemble, Tapestry, made our debut with that work for vocal quartet and chamber orchestra at Jordan Hall many years ago. It’s such an exhilarating piece to sing. There are 6 percussionists clapping and playing tambourines, maracas, and marimba. The melodies are wonderful and the piece just flies along in a mix of meters. At some points the singers are in canon, off an eighth note from one another. It’s very challenging but so rewarding. Later Tapestry performed the piece for Steve Reich’s 70th birthday with Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Symphony. At the post reception we sang Happy Birthday to Reich as a canon, each coming in an eight note apart. That was a kick! I am inspired by Couperin’s Lecons des Tenebres and Piazolla’s Oblivion, the opening of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Bernstein’s West Side Story, songs of Faure and Barber, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Appalachian folk songs, medieval cantigas and folk songs of Portugal.
What are the last 3 pieces/songs you listened to?
I have been listening to Elisabetta Scano singing on a recording of the complete works for voice and piano by Respighi. These are gorgeous songs and beautifully sung by Scano. In the last few weeks, my listening has focused on getting ready to teach this year. Just a few minutes ago, I listened to what might be the only song written in the Locrian mode, Dust to Dust by folk singer, accordionist and songwriter John Kirkpatrick. This was to prepare for a Medieval/Folk Roots class I am teaching. I have also been listening to pop music that my students want to explore in A Capella ensembles, most recently “Royals.” One great thing about teaching is that you are always learning new things. My every day listening is quite varied. When I want to let loose, I put on the Horse Flies. They are hard to describe but I encourage everyone I know to listen to them. They mix traditional, ethnic and indie rock styles and have an amazing sense of groove. Lately I have been listening to composer David Lang. It’s a real mix.
What do you love most about NEC Prep?
I love the people here. This is my first year and everyone has been so kind and welcoming. I am impressed by the dedication of the faculty and staff. I know how over scheduled everyone is these days and it is so wonderful to see parents and students value music and make a commitment to serious study. I know these students are tomorrow’s leaders and it is wonderful to be a part of this.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?
One of my earliest teachers simply told me to follow my heart and make my own path. I try to stick by that and pass this along to my students.
Any advice for young musicians in general?
I would advise young musicians to take criticism with a grain of salt. I encounter so many adult students who have confidence issues and blocks because of something a teacher said to them. Usually, once we get to work, it turns out they have been holding onto something that wasn’t even true. A teacher or someone leading a master class pointed out some issue. To the teacher, it was likely a passing comment but to the student it can sometimes be debilitating. So, remember that teachers are trying to help you get better and take comments in stride. Let them inspire you to reach higher but don’t worry about criticism too much. Music is supposed to be uplifting so don’t let it get you down.
To learn more about Contemporary Improvisation at NEC Prep, click here, or reach out to us at email@example.com or (617) 585-1160.
- Sondra Radvanovsky: an immensely effective singing actress! (operaorganic.wordpress.com)
Here’s a post from one of our great student workers, Eric Stilwell, after attending the song-writing workshop at NEC during Elvis Costello’s visit to NEC!
“As a performer and composer for almost 40 years, it’s hard to believe there are awards and titles that Elvis Costello has not yet earned. This past friday, The english singer-songwriter was awarded a Doctorate of Music from the New England Conservatory‘s Contemporary improvisation department. Dr. Costello’s visit started with a workshop with students, and ended with a live interview in Jordan Hall. Wether working with The Attractions, The Roots, Paul McCartney, or college students, his love for music and creativity is clear.
In the work shop, Elvis sat in front the bands, next to CI department chair Hankus Netsky and CI ( and SCE) Faculty Eden MacAdam-Somer. The three gave advice to the performers on how to make their songs better. Having not been trained classically or formally, Dr. Costello’s advice was often in a much different style than a conservatory professor would give. While there was a clear respect for the way music is studied here at NEC, he did not stray from his own beliefs. He spoke about how textures in music can change the intensity, or paint a different picture. At one point he observed the difference between a group of people each playing their instruments, and a group of people performing together to create an image through sound.
Dr. Costello held a genuine interest in each performance, and made sure that he had an understanding of what message the performers and writers were trying to convey. His first album is titled My Aim is True, and after 40 years, the title still holds its meaning. Listening to him speak to each group, I could tell how invested he was with each one, and how invested he is in music in general. It’s amazing that after all these years he is still so passionate about creating and revolutionizing music.”
NEC School of Continuing Education Work-Study Student
B.M. Jazz Studies ’16
- Elvis Costello at N.E. Conservatory class (boston.com)
- Elvis Costello Named Honorary Doctor of Music (rollingstone.com)
- Elvis Costello Picks Up Honorary Doctorate (contactmusic.com)
- Elvis Costello and the Roots: Wise Up Ghost (Review) (popmatters.com)
Rick McLaughlin, bassist and Assistant Chair of the NEC Prep Jazz Department, is awesome. Explanation isn’t even necessary. When you meet him, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
About Rick McLaughlin: Rick grew up in the Midwest, but just recently passed the “halfway” mark, meaning he’s spent just a little bit more than half of his life in greater Boston. He moved here in 1992 to attend the Berklee College of Music, but ended up getting both his BM and MM from NEC. He feels blessed to be the father of two young kids and lives in one of the ‘burbs (one of the more urban ones!). He bikes into Boston 3-4 days each week and coaches youth soccer. He currently has no pets, but feels lucky to have had a dog named Walter for Walter’s entire life.
Fun fact: Walter (Rick’s dog) was named for Walter Page, the influential jazz double bassist known for a style of playing called walking, which Rick and Walter did quite a bit.
Rick McLaughlin teaches private jazz bass lessons and various Jazz classes (History of Jazz, Jazz Theory II, and Jazz Theory III) at NEC Prep and is also a faculty member at NEC School of Continuing Education. Also, as Assistant Chair, he takes care of various administrative duties, alongside Department Chair of Jazz, David Zoffer.
Q&A with Rick McLaughlin
What is your earliest musical memory?
My father is a musician, a jazz drummer, and taught music in the public schools. Several memories blend together: him practicing drums and vibraphone in our basement; a concert band performance he gave as a member of the percussion section, and a drum solo from that same concert; the sound of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road coming from Dad’s reel to reel player and Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits on Capital Records coming from the turntable (not at the same time, although that would be very interesting). I have no idea which was first!
What made you choose bass?
My father helped. At that time, he was teaching junior high band, and had an electric bass at school. I was playing alto saxophone, and was dabbling with playing bass lines baritone saxophone. I asked Dad to bring home an electric guitar so I could start working on some rock music, but he brought home an electric bass instead. After playing one note, I was hooked. Double bass came along a few years later, when I was working as a teenager in a local music store. The luthier had a double bass in a bunch of pieces, and agreed to put it together for me. I had gigs lined up on double bass before he finished the work!
Are there any musicians in your family?
In addition to my father, his father played cello and alto saxophone, and my mother’s mother was a church organist at a Lutheran Church – my great-grandfather was the minister.
If you could be anything other than a musician, what would you be?
I love all the arts, so probably a photographer or author, or arts administrator… or a professional cyclist… or a chef.
What do you like doing outside of music?
I love being a dad more than anything else. That means cooking, coaching soccer, doing elementary school homework, reading Harry Potter out loud, and a million other fun things.
Most inspiring composer or piece of music?
Too many to mention! I love Wayne Shorter’s current band, and have been honored to know, study with, and play with musicians like Bob Moses, George Russell, and Steve Lacy. Mahmoud Ahmed, the phenomenal Ethiopian singer, is a constant source of inspiration, whether I’m playing with him or not.
What are the last 3 pieces/songs you listened to?
“Blues in Orbit” by George Russell, but from the Gil Evans record Svengali; “The Earth Died Screaming” by Tom Waits from his record Bone Machine; “Serrado” from Djavan’s album Alumbremento.
What do you love most about NEC Prep?
The positive, high-energy curiosity that enthusiastic kids and their parents bring to the school.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?
Steve Lacy told me that the best way to compose is to write down your idea, then fold it up and put it in your pocket. Then, go grocery shopping, or do some other relatively mundane activity. Every now and then, stop moving, take out the paper, look at your idea, and mull it over. The act of mulling it over is an essential part of the process.
Any advice for young musicians in general?
Do not be limited by genre. And, once you have played a great deal of repertoire, deeply understand the music from both historical and theoretical points of view, and have accomplished a relatively high level of technical facility, begin to make musical decisions for yourself. The greatest artists of the past century have transcended genre, and have had a DIY approach to their playing and their career. Speaking of career, it is your responsibility to make a career for yourself; no one will make it for you, but if you work hard, treat people with respect, and approach the world around you with humility, many people will help you.
See, I told you he’s awesome.
Chamber Music Chair
I have lived long enough to have many stories of how I have dealt with stage fright. One friend asked if I had ever considered bungee-jumping. ‘Why would I want to do that?” I countered, “I already know the feeling of jumping off a cliff.” Here is one story from my past that you may find helpful.
Sometime during my college years, I read about the Malaysian Senoi, best known for their work with dreams. They teach their children such ideas as “Never run away from danger in a dream. If you see a monster, either overcome it or make friends with it.” I know my monster, I thought: stage fright. Can I overcome it? Can I make friends with it?
I went back to my little bedroom in the rustic cabin I shared with other young musicians, and curled up in a fetal position underneath the covers, pillow over my head. “All right, Mr. Dragon of My Fears, I challenge you! I will fight with you, and not run away!” My mental challenge struck me as childish, but I stuck with it, imagining the absolute worst thing that could happen. The fear began to grow, and I still kept it as an image right between my eyebrows. After a few minutes I was shivering under the blankets. What if I totally blew it? What if I played out of tune? What if I messed up? What if my peers thought less of me? What if my teachers were disappointed? What if I embarrassed myself? Maybe I would get out there and not be able to do it at all. Suddenly instead of fear I began to feel anger. “Stop it!” I screamed inside myself. “SO WHAT? My mother just died a year ago – that matters. Is all this important? I’ve worked, haven’t I? Fierce Dragon Fear, I defy you!! Do your worst!” On and on I ranted, trembling. Then, just as I began to tire of the anger, I began to feel strength surge through me. “OK, Mr. Dragon, I am strong enough to overcome you. I don’t have to worry about you any more.” Then it all fell apart and I cried. I can’t be perfect, I thought. And a voice came to me, “No, you can’t be perfect. You don’t need to be. Life isn’t perfect. It is beautiful, but it isn’t perfect. Just sing of your sorrow, sing of your grief, sing of your loneliness, and you will reach people.”
Oh. Sing of my sorrow? My grief? My loneliness? I can do that. I can share that with the listeners.
Then a calmness came to me, and I rested. I remembered the love of my mother, the caring person I missed so much. I can sing of my love for her, I thought. I can sing of the joy I shared with her, and when the music calls for it, I can sing of the difficulties we had. As I sing of my love for her I will sing of Love. As I sing of my loneliness and grief, I will be singing of Loneliness and Grief. The personal will be transmuted into the universal.
I will sing through my violin, and I will not be perfect. I will be human, and some listeners will hear human sorrow and joy, loneliness and love. That is enough.
First-Year MM Trombone
As a precocious child during the mid-90s in Australia, I despised Halloween, but I wasn’t scared of it. There were other more important reasons for my animosity. Now, as what some may consider an adult but in actuality more like an overgrown version of the kid from Problem Child, I have learned to appreciate the numerous gifts that “All Hallow’s Eve” has to offer. The gift of drinking, mostly. But also the gift of friendship, the ushering in of the beautiful season of Fall, and also the drinking. One thing still bothers me about the holiday of Jack ‘o Lanterns and cinnamon, though – call it a fear, even. There is nothing that scares me more about Halloween than the titular parties themselves.
Getting actually scared at Halloween seems to be a rarity. The costumes are usually too fake to be legitimately scary or too humorous to be taken seriously. But the fear of social judgement? That is a real fear. Specifically, the act of choosing a costume terrifies me. This terror, I believe, took root in my childhood.
My birthday falls on October 28th (and yes, I did just subtly invite you all to wish me a happy birthday on that day. I’ll be twenty-six this year and the gift I want more than anything is a Bandai Tamashii Nations Super Robot Chogokin Megazord). The year I turned seven, my birthday happened to fall on a Friday so my loving parents organized a birthday party on their next free day of the weekend – Sunday the 30th. Naturally I attempted to invite every person I knew to this party, which was surprisingly easy for a seven-year-old whose social circle was confined to school and places his parents dragged him along to. I knew it would be a party of epic proportions and, most importantly, people would bring me gifts!
At the time I remained unaware of the predominately North American tradition of trick-or-treating, but as I was extremely sympathetic to the idea of dressing up like someone else, my guests were instructed to come in their best “fancy dress.” I dressed as a clown, a costume I found hilarious (unlike every other observer).
As the party rolled along, I remember inviting all the guests in through our large front door. As the doorbell rang once more to signify what I assumed were more party guests bearing presents for yours truly, I galloped down the hallway and tore open the door. Imagine my shock when I was greeted by a flock of kids older than me, bigger than me, and wearing skeleton costumes! On top of that, did I hear them asking me for candy? Or had I fainted and started hallucinating? No. They WERE asking for candy, and my parents gave some to them!
Of course, this is a perfectly reasonable action to any adult. But explaining to a seven-year-old why some older kids were getting MY candy on MY birthday was never going to be easy. To make matters worse, one of the uglier of the bunch sneered, “Clowns aren’t even scary!” through his bloody skeleton mask at me. “Clowns aren’t supposed to be scary,” I thought to myself. Surely, this was before I’d seen Tim Curry as Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT.
Remember when I told you my party was on the 30th? It wasn’t even technically All Hallow’s Eve until the next day, yet the holiday had been indelibly tainted for me from then on. It came to signify a time when everyone was supposed to be paying attention to me and my birthday, but instead had other things on their mind. Well, until I grew up and learned the wonders of giving (and drinking). But growing up is never particularly amusing, is it?
As for me, I’ll conquer my fear of choosing a costume. It’s a constant struggle, but I think I found the answer this year: the Sexy Bacon Costume from yandy.com. If I go on an all-carb diet, I may be able to squeeze into it by the 31st!
Happy Halloween, everyone!
First-Year GD Clarinet People that might have never touched a piano in their life, they have the option to touch one, play one, see how it sounds and feels… – Shane Simpson
What do a baby, a singer-songwriter, and a classical pianist have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Many of you may have noticed or even played on the painted piano that was installed outside NEC for the first two weeks of October. This piano was just one of 75 pianos installed throughout the city as part of The Street Pianos Boston Festival presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. The installation is an artwork created by British artist Luke Jerram, called “Play Me I’m Yours!” First seen in the United Kingdom in 2008, Jerram’s work has toured internationally, appearing in Paris, London, Barcelona, and other cities worldwide.
Though the installation “tours,” the pianos do not. Each of the 75 pianos seen throughout Boston was transformed by a different local artist. So, what would the world be like if there were a piano on every street corner? As it turns out, the answer is: Really fantastic. The beauty of this festival is that the pianos are free and available for absolutely anyone to use. There were some scheduled professional performances, but most of the time anyone on the street could simply walk up and play. Kids all over the city could be seen plunking out a few notes, discovering the piano for the first time. Amateur pianists had a chance to try their hands at Chopsticks or Für Elise for a captive audience. And often, someone would sit down and stun crowds with their unexpected piano talent.
Jerram’s piece aims to foster collaboration and community. It has done that and so much more. The pianos provided venues for emerging artists to be seen. Singer-songwriter Caitlin Timmins even recorded a live music video of her song, “Stop, Rewind, & Pause” on the piano at City Hall Plaza. Strangers on Newbury Street crowded around for a singalong of “Sweet Caroline.” And during one particularly rainy afternoon, a crowd braved the weather to gather around for an impromptu performance of the Super Mario Theme by EMI Artist Niu Niu, who stopped by before a live taping of “From the Top” with Chrisopher O’Riley.
NEC students Shane Simpson and Linda Numagami performed together on a piano that was installed at the MFA. Since Shane is a jazz major and Linda is a classical major, they performed an arrangement of “It’s Only a Paper Moon” for viola and piano. When asked what it was like to perform on the MFA piano, which was decorated with a larger-than-life painter’s easel, Shane said he found it a bit “bizarre” at first, but thought it was fun to perform for people who might not otherwise get to experience live music. Both agreed that the community aspect of the festival is in large part what makes it so rewarding. By bringing pianos out into the open air, people who might not otherwise have access to live music can witness it up close, and artists have the opportunity to interact with their audience on a more personal level that isn’t necessarily possible in a concert hall.
In an explanation of the installation, Luke Jerram offers the following:The idea for “Play Me, I’m Yours” came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.
Thank you, Celebrity Series, for helping us break the silence and bring our art to the community around us.
Photos provided by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
BM Flute, 2010
The world lost a wonderful musician last week, and for many a great friend. We celebrate the life of Andrew “Drew” Thompson (NEC Class of 2011), contrabassoonist and bassoonist for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He fulfilled every musician’s dream when he landed a job in his hometown. Drew’s Boston family will forever remember his intense loyalty, intellectual curiosity, ready smile, and big shoulders. Members of the NEC community share their remembrances of Drew…
I feel like Drew had the “right” balance: he worked hard but knew have a good time and appreciate the simple and most obvious things. I can’t count how many times we would hang out after a concert, or wait together for our respective lessons at the backstage of the BSO. Drew had the real NEC spirit and I will surely miss him terribly.
– Maya Jacobs (Class of 2011 · MM in Viola Performance)
Drew will always be family to me. During our growth at NEC, we celebrated our accomplishments together and supported each other through tough times. His fearlessness gave us a model of how to perform and live life to its fullest potential. Drew, it has been an honor performing with you – thank you so much for the impact you made in all our lives!
– Randolph Palada (Class of 2012 – MM in Clarinet)
Drew had that perfect combination of being a laser-focused, professional, dedicated musician while investing in his other passions (like swing-dancing & flame-throwing) and being a wonderful, happy person on top, always kind and welcoming whether a new acquaintance or old friend. He truly lived his life to the fullest and the world lost a HUGE talent. Drew, thank you for those years in Chicago and Boston together, whether it was performing beautiful music with you, teaching me how to swing-dance, playing Mario-Kart at your apartment, having Starbucks together, hanging out with our dear friends, trying new things, meeting new people, or just teasing the heck out of me (especially when you called me “Slagathore”). You will always be my favorite bassoonist, inspire me, and make me smile.
– Cecilia Huerta (Class of 2011 · MM in Cello Performance)
Andrew was exactly the kind of friend anyone would want in music school: an inspiring player, a hard worker, and tons of fun. Our ability to blend well started even before I knew his name, and once we figured out we were both swing dancers, we knew this was a friendship that was destined to last. He was always warm, forgiving, and ready to find the humor in any situation. So much more can be said to honor this incredible person, but what matters most now is for us to remember that Drew loved his friends more than anything in the world, and his memory will be kept by the love we have for him.
– Jennifer Berg (Class of 2011 · MM in Oboe Performance)
I first heard Drew’s voice when I was desperately searching for a place to live in Boston and anxious about the upcoming major life transition of moving up North. He called me and offered me an open room in his apartment, which instantly relieved all my stress. His calm, inviting voice was a welcome comfort for someone who had never lived in a big city or attended a music conservatory. Living with Drew was a pleasure beyond words. I will remember his gentle demeanor, virtuosic bassoon playing, and his desire to seek out and share camaraderie and friendship wherever he went. For those looking to pay tribute to Drew, I’d recommend taking a quick trip down Huntington and having a Gulden Draak at The Penguin, his favorite neighborhood bar.
– Mark Williams (Class of 2013 · MM in Vocal Performance)
If there is one thing that Drew taught us, it is to live your life to the fullest: he danced his way into our lives, and his music will always be in our hearts.
First-Year GD Trombone
If you haven’t met Steve Drury yet, I suggest you do so as soon as possible – he’s a fascinating person! An NEC graduate himself, Steve joined the piano faculty after completing an Artist Diploma as a student of Patricia Zander. In addition to teaching and soloing, he serves as director of the renowned Callithumpian Consort and director of NEC- based Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice.
Steve has worked with many of the big players in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, including John Cage, Helmet Lachenmann, Christian Wolff, Chaya Czernowin, and Lee Hyla. However, he also enjoys collaborating with non-musicians. Notably, Steve performed with choreographer Merce Cunningham, John Cage’s partner, in 1999– the last time Cunningham ever danced in public. Drury played Cage’s Music for Marcel Duchamp while Cunningham and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced a duo around the plastic boxes Jasper Johns designed in tribute to Duchamp.
“Cage would write a new piece for Merce, they’d agree on how long the piece was, and that was it,” Drury recalls. “They’d show up for the dress rehearsal and Merce was hearing the music for the first time. I asked Merce if he had made choreography to go with the phrases [for the performance in 1999] and he said “No, no.” In fact, I was a little worried because I was on stage at the New York City Theater and I didn’t want to be on there using music for a simple little piece. But the memory is tricky and I thought if I had a memory slip it would throw them off.”
Not just content as a soloist, Steve is the founder and director of the successful NEC-based group Callithumpian Consort. Callithumpian Consort is filled with former NEC graduates, some of whom have also participated in Steve’s summer festival at NEC – SICPP. Both Callithumpian the group and Steve the soloist have several engagements down the road at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum throughout the season.
Along with his wife, Yukiko Takagi, Steve is pioneering an interesting new concert series called In and Out Monday Afternoons at the Gardner’s impressive Calderwood Hall (editor’s note: the Gardner is only a 15-minute walk from NEC!) This was the brainchild of museum curator Scott Nickrenz, the husband of NEC faculty member Paula Robison. Calderwood Hall consists of a perfect cube with a flat floor, in which the stage forms the center of the cube with rows of chairs along the walls on the floor and two elevated balconies above. This unique design will allow museum-goers to slip in at any point in the performance, “hopefully quietly,” Steve reminds, and stay anywhere from five minutes to two hours. Drury’s former teacher in New York, William Masselos, used to give similar concerts for hours on end. “He would put a note in the program that said ‘Ingress, egress as you please,’” shares Drury, “and the idea for In and Out is essentially the same.”
At an In and Out concert in the coming spring, Steve and Callithumpian will be working with Roger Miller, former lead of punk band Mission of Burma. “I wasn’t a punk, but I followed [Mission of Burma],” Steve says. “For me Roger Miller was a legend, so it’s a real trip to be working with him.”
In closing, Steve once again reiterates his passion for contemporary composers: “There’s no reason to assume that there’s not a composer alive today that you feel that you can commit to in the same way you would commit to playing music by Chopin, Brahms, or Haydn…God knows we have enough piano players playing Pictures at an Exhibition. There’s gotta be [a new composer] out there for you. If there’s not, man, get out of music and go be a banker or a politician. Young people are writing the music now, and that’s where my work came from.”
The NEC administration and Board of Trustees is thrilled to welcome our 4 new student senators! These students were chosen after a highly selective application process and they are here to serve YOU! Now that you know who they are, make sure your message is heard – email them with any concerns (or compliments!) you have about NEC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Classical guitarist Raley Beggs remains passionate about sharing and enlivening the rich traditions of the guitar. Currently pursuing his master’s degree under esteemed artist and performer Eliot Fisk, Raley has found a suitable podium at New England Conservatory for which to share the music of his instrument. Raley performs widely throughout the Greater Boston Area as a soloist and chamber musician, and is an active member of the Community Performances and Partnerships Program (CPP). In addition to performing, he also enjoys writing for the Penguin and running unreasonably long distances.
Born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, British-American Konrad Herath is a sophomore horn major at NEC. Apart from loving the works of Mahler, Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss, Konrad’s non-musical interests include traveling, learning foreign languages, and reading the works of author John Irving. Much of his leisure time is spent watching Downton Abbey or shows connected with vampires. Konrad is also a big fan of late singer/actress Judy Garland. His family residence is now in the great state of Vermont, and he welcomes you to contact him at his NEC e-mail address: email@example.com.
Tong Wang is an aspiring Canadian pianist currently in her sophomore year studying with Bruce Brubaker. Off stage, she…practices. But! She also loves to write and draw for the Penguin, hang out with friends, watch movies, eat out, jam, laugh, and play volleyball and badminton at Cambridge every weekend. Tong is excited to be part of the Committee of Student Activities, and is seeking all of the interesting student voices and ideas waiting to be heard! You can reach her at her NEC email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth (Liz) Wendt is a sophomore studying classical voice. Last year, Liz was an honorary Committee of Student Affairs member where she shared her experience as a first year undergrad. This year, Liz will return to the round table as a member of the CSA where she hopes to contribute ideas to help make NEC and even better place. As a Student Senator, Liz is eager to hear the issues and concerns that NEC students would like to be addressed by administrators. If you have ideas that you would like for her to bring up in the next CSA meeting, contact her at: email@example.com.
First-Year GD Clarinet
The first session of the day addressed a question that I think weighs on many of us: what’s next after I graduate? Ensemble members shared their own stories about how they navigated the transition, and it was interesting to discover how completely different paths led each of them to Fifth House. The founding members of the group met at the Chicago Civic Orchestra, but have also enjoyed unique careers along the way. Violinist Andrew Williams told of how the teaching job he never really envisioned for himself turned out to be one of the most rewarding facets of his career. Flutist Melissa Snoza discussed the practicalities of interviewing for a job, and Jani Parson, the group’s pianist, shared strategies for building a private studio. Eric Snoza explained that every job, whether musical or not, should be seen as an opportunity. There were times that he had to take non-musical jobs to pay the bills, and he has brought the skills he learned along the way into his work with Fifth House. That’s right, guys. He had a day job. And he didn’t die! As a matter of fact, he now has a successful photography studio in addition to his music career.
Lunch gave us another opportunity to speak one-on-one with ensemble members. I had a memorable conversation with hornist DeAunn Davis. One of the founding members of Fifth House, she has left Chicago and is currently pursuing her DMA at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her goal is to land a university teaching job and mentor a generation of hornists free from the “orchestral-musician-or-failure” mentality.
The afternoon was split into two parallel sessions. I opted to attend the “funding your dreams” session, which was far more valuable and straightforward than I could have ever imagined. Melissa Snoza discussed the differences between for-profit and not-for-profit business models, walked us through the basics of working contracts, and demystified the grant writing process. The session served as an excellent get-started guide for those of us with entrepreneurial projects in mind. For me, Melissa’s presentation filled in the daunting gap between having a great idea and taking the first step toward bringing it to fruition.
After a quick coffee break, Fifth House gave a moving performance of Black Violet, an original program that combines music by Walter Piston, Johannes Brahms, Jonathan Keren, Heitor Villa Lobos and Greg Simon with a story and artwork created by graphic-novelist Ezra Claytan Daniels. From the first note, there was something extremely special about the performance—I was struck by the passion and joy radiating from the group. These artists love what they do. If that wasn’t enough, there was an engaging and beautifully illustrated story to go with it. Having witnessed their performances, it’s no great surprise to me that Fifth House has had such success in reaching non-traditional audiences. Who would have imagined that a story about a spoiled black housecat in 17th century London could be so riveting? After a performance that was more than an hour long, I still wanted to hear more!
The Expo ended with a session entitled, “Putting Your Audience Center Stage,” in which ensemble members discussed the origins of Black Violet. To further their goal of bringing new audiences to classical music, Fifth House has found creative ways to bridge the gap for non-classical listeners. By offering an immersive experience that pairs their music with Daniels’ storytelling, they have created an opportunity to introduce graphic novel fans to the beauty and power of classical music.
I consider myself very fortunate to have spent the day with Fifth House Ensemble. The ensemble is comprised of some of the most creative and driven people I have ever met. I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and their willingness to share their hard-earned knowledge. Melissa explained that she had no fear of being put out of business by sharing her experiences because the number of creative, innovative ensembles that would have to exist in order to put Fifth House out of business would certainly ensure a culturally-rich world.
Save the date for next year’s EM expo! October 26, 2014
First-year GD Clarinet
For many of you, this is your first time away from home or your first time living in your own apartment, and that probably also means that it’s your first time trying to cook on your own. For those of you who fit in this category, I beg of you: no more ramen noodles!!! I hear all kinds of reasons from people who don’t cook for themselves: it’s too expensive, it takes too long, or it’s just too hard. But I want everyone to know that cooking doesn’t have to be any of the above! You don’t need to be a gourmet chef in order to enjoy healthy, delicious home-cooked meals. Trust me, you’ll thank me when all the cafeteria food starts to taste the same.
If you’re eating on a budget, the trick to saving money is to know which foods to buy. Generally pre-packaged or processed foods cost a lot more than their raw counterparts. Red meat and cheeses can also run up your grocery bill. You don’t have to avoid them altogether; just use them sparingly.
Eggs, on the other hand, are extremely cheap and very versatile. There are more than 100 ways to cook them! Beans, lentils, and other legumes are also inexpensive, especially if you buy them dried. Plus they’re good for you! In the veggie department, carrots, onions, celery, and broccoli are your best bets.
If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, there are a few tricks that will save you hours of time. You really can spend all day cooking if you want to make something really fancy (I once spent four hours making tamales from scratch, yikes!), but there are tons of recipes out there that can be made with little prep time. In general, I look for recipes with short ingredient lists. The fewer ingredients, the less time you have to spend peeling/chopping/sautéing them. Also, never shred your own cheese. Just pay a dollar extra for the pre-shredded stuff. I promise it’s worth it!
Another big time-saver and a must-have for novice cooks is a crock pot or slow cooker. If you don’t have time to stand over a stove for an hour, there are literally hundreds of crockpot recipes that take maybe ten minutes of preparation. After that, you just toss everything in the pot and turn it on. Recipes usually take 4-8 hours to cook this way, but they’re meant to be left alone during that time, which means you can turn it on before you leave in the morning and come back to a delicious dinner just ready and waiting. They can cook just about anything too, like soups, breads, desserts and even whole chickens! I recommend avoiding overnight use unless you want to be awakened at 3 a.m. by the smell of chili (Yes, this has actually happened to me).
To close, I’d like to put to rest the myth that cooking is hard. It’s really something that anyone can do with just a little practice and patience. I know it can be intimidating at first, but start simply and slowly build your skills. To the right, you’ll find three recipes to get you started. You can try them when you get tired of the usual fare, or use them to impress your friends at your next fall party. Two of them can even be made in
a dorm room!
Second-Year MM Guitar
I can’t stand cold weather. For as long as I can remember I’ve complained to no end about the pain and misery surrounding the feelings of any temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, vowing forever to avoid climates unsuitable for palm trees and board shorts. Well, like so many youthful promises I’ve made to myself only to be broken, here I am. Boston. Famous not for its excess of palm trees and sunshine, but instead for unpredictable and ruthlessly cold weather.
Perhaps this feeling isn’t so foreign to all of us. One of the finest qualities of NEC is the incredible diversity of the student body, which includes those of us who are not accustomed to below-freezing temperatures. Those of us who have never faced questions like: How can it be this cold and still be raining? How much snow is enough to cancel school? Who in their right mind decided to stay here in the 1600s? Some of you haven’t been here long enough to ponder the bulletproof logic of staying inside for a month or more, but we now find ourselves at the very end of days that guarantee warmth and now peer over a cliff of uncertainty (and a whole lot of snow!). This cliff, in New England, is named “Fall.”
Fall is one of the four seasons, another new concept for some of us, and is marked most famously by turning leaves of trees all too familiar with what is to come. Fall is the part of the year where you start to very seriously doubt the functionality of your wardrobe. Fall is the gravestone season atop any delusions you’ve held thus far– delusions like comfort, warmth, and physical and mental well-being.
Last year, Fall was when I myself began to wither and lose my leaves. I started to forget all the things that made up my personality, which had become delirious and numb from my first encounters with plummeting temperatures. I turned inward and cold, less from the changing seasons and more for the discomforts of being in a situation and climate I’ve never experienced before. Clinging to my familiarities, I fought it. And fall, above all else, is not to be fought.
What nobody told me then was that fall is a time for rejuvenation. Fall is a transition from the superficial, rocket-fueled types of fun associated with summer into the pensive and thoughtful rewards of winter. It is itself a personal growth– a shedding of one’s past to make room for one’s future. To deny the transition is to deny nature.
I hadn’t learned these lessons until facing their inevitability. I recognized my whining wasn’t helping, and that the seasons would continue as scheduled– with or without my approval.
Thinking back, that fight seems preposterous. Fact: Boston gets cold. I’m not claiming to have been logical about the process, I’m only admitting to my childish resistance to the seasons. When you haven’t experienced them they somehow seem avoidable, like they don’t apply to you.
To those of you now gearing up to experience your first round of seasons: don’t resist them. You’re from a warmer climate– yes, we’ve heard. But now you live in Boston, and you’re likely to stay for awhile. There are two ways you can handle this new reality. The first involves a long, prolonged, and exceedingly cold plummet into the pits of winter, accompanied by a distinct feeling of being a fish swimming upstream. Last year, this was my choice. The second involves two investments: good boots and a really, really good jacket. It also involves acceptance and a keen eye for the beauty found in places the planet hasn’t had the chance to show you yet. With the proper clothing and a smile, the cliff you now peer over will seamlessly turn into a fall you won’t forget.
Editor’s note: Florestan and Eusebius are two fictitious personalities created by composer Robert Schumann. They represent two sides of his bipolar personality.
Florestan: Eusebius and I have noticed that you’ve been paying a lot of attention to Robert Schumann and his music. But you don’t pay nearly as much attention to us.
Eusebius: It’s understandable, because both of us are best friends with Schumann, and all three of us are composers. It may be difficult to distinguish which one is which.
F: We’ll try to make it easier for you.
E: The basic difference is that Florestan is bold, rash, and passionate, while I am thoughtful, lyrical, and dreamy.
F: So, I’m a man and Eusebius is a girl.
E: Your name is Florestan.
F: Or you could think about it like this—I skydive and swim with sharks, and Eusebius picks flowers. I’m really fun to talk to, and when you talk to Eusebius, you get confused because sometimes he stops talking and his eyes glaze over.
E: Florestan likes to say outlandish, silly things, and then he changes his mind. I take the time to choose my words carefully, so when I do say something, it’s quietly profound.
F: Eusebius will move you to tears, and it’s very, very painful.
E: Hey! We don’t normally fight like this. Without Schumann, the balance is totally off.
F: Sorry. We’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
E: Commanding the League of David is tough. Suiting up every day to fight the Philistines, battling mediocrity in all its tiresome forms… It’s brutal, thankless work.
Dude: No way! You guys are on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
F: Are they anti-Rossini?
E: Have no fear. The enemy will be overthrown. It may take a couple hundred more years—but we will slay every one of those tasteless Philistines. Just saying.
We’re working hard. Doesn’t hurt to give a little credit where it’s due.
F: Ask yourself—when you’re drifting off to sleep at night, happily humming symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms—who’s keeping you safe from harmful music? Who do you have to thank for protecting you from all the bad music out there?
E: Think about it.
I’m Matthew O’Donnell, a bass-baritone-singing, basketball-playing, gallon-a-day-water-drinking, music-all-day-eating-and-breathing, almost-never-sleeping freshman voice major here at NEC.
I happen to be stuck here on this imaginary island after straying away from a concert tour of Bermuda at coordinates- 25.0000° N, 71.0000° W- (Some people have called this strange area I am in the Devil’s Triangle, but I think I’m just getting stir crazy from not having my tunes and fresh drinking water.)
If you are reading this, please, kindly send the following selections on a solar powered iPod with at least a 50-gallon drum of fresh water and a compass to the above coordinates. Better yet, make that an iPhone with GPS, and please tell Ms. Washburn that I think I’m going to be late for Monday’s rehearsal!
For some reason being here all-alone is making me very reflective on my music choices.
Tunes to place on that iPhone you are airdropping (don’t forget to charge it first!):
1. Mozart-Le Nozze di Figaro, Non Più Andrai
This is the tune that I learned from my first classical vocal teacher, Stephen Bryant, and was my audition piece for my entry into the Juilliard Pre-College Program.
I love this piece and had the opportunity to sing it a number of times in some really neat spaces. I sang this most recently at a sing-in with the NY Choral Society. My parents made me go with them and suggested that it would be a good excuse to work on my sight singing before coming to NEC. I was glad I joined them. (Please don’t tell them, just concentrate on getting me that water.)
3. Eric Whitacre-Cloudburst
This is an amazing piece that I had the chance to sing with my High School Chorus in Nutley, NJ, as well as with the All National Chorus at the Kennedy Center. This piece uses the human voice to make environmental sounds in addition to some really cool close harmonies. I never get sick of hearing, or singing, this work. (Is that really the wind?)
4. Dan Hill-Sometimes when we Touch
Old school introspective. Call me a softie…I just like it.
5. The King’s Singers-Oh my Love is like a red, red Rose
Just great choral singing…in tune and musical! (Water….water…)
6. Dietrich Fischer Dieskau-Im Wunder schonen Monat Mai
The best of the best…A big influence on who I am striving to be.
7. Luciano Pavarotti-Nessun Dorma
Why do people on all of those talent shows insist on singing this?
Probably because they never heard it REALLY sung or perhaps they need to drink more WATER!!!!
8. Mumford and Sons-Thistle and Weeds
Something draws me to their music…perhaps the folk-like quality yet it’s still modern.
9. John Williams-Buglers Dream
Prolific composer John Williams is someone that I really like. Since I was a young lad I was hooked on this Olympic Theme and can relate to the message of hope and inspired perseverance (and eventually being rescued) that has become his trademark.
10. Z. Randall Stroope-Amor de mi Alma
I had the opportunity to sing this under Mr. Stroope last year with the All Eastern High School Chorus. Mr. Stroope is intense and this song is about all things love…in life and in death…save me… - - - … I’d love a glass of… - - - … oh yea…- - -… make sure it’s an iPhone…not an iPod…
11. Tower of Power-You Met Your Match
Feel good soul music…5 horns and this one has guest Joss Stone.
12. Chanticleer-Die Lorelei
I heard this group from San Francisco and was blown away. They sang this and had the audience in the palm of their collective hands. This song is about giving the sailors a message where perhaps the Sirens are beckoning. Are the fair maidens of the sea calling too close to the rocks? Look, for crying out loud….OK…help me out here…iPhone and water…better yet a boat, sub, canoe…you get the idea.
Forget Die Lorelei…here are the guys singing Ave Maria! Maybe those Navy guys can find this place!
Hope to see you soon!
NEC Freshman, Vocal Performance
How do you score a movie with little or no noise??
Last week, Alfonso Cuaron’s movie “Gravity” was released in theaters all over the United States. The movie takes place in space, hovering above earth, where two astronauts have been lost due to debris damaging their ship. Not only is the movie incredibly unique because of its two person cast (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), the film score had to be captivating and had to capture the essence of space – silence.
The 36 year old composer for the movie, Steven Price, told Huffington Post in a recent article about his experience working on the movie, “With a lot of action scores, you’re competing with a lot of noise,” Price said. “Say there’s a big explosion: the music would conventionally have a lot of Hollywood-style percussion or brass, because that’s the only thing that will cut through. You’d hear stuff within their spacesuits,” Price said. “If they touched something, you’d hear the vibration that they’d hear, but you don’t hear any exterior noises. We kind of knew the music would be responsible for all the other things. I was asked to try and tonally represent things that would ordinarily be sound. You don’t hear an explosion in the film, but you might hear some pulsation in the music that reflects it. The score is doing the job of traditional sound, while the sound crew was able to do an interesting job on their own.”
To me, this concept is fascinating. As musicians, our ears are constantly listening and analyzing the things we hear, but how often do we take a step back and analyze or appreciate the silence? Can you imagine having to write an entire film score based on complete, isolated quiet? Or better yet, can you imagine being an astronaut going from a ridiculously noisy environment, to only hearing the singular sounds that you produce? Astonishing!
In another Huffington Post article, a former astronaut, Jerry L. Ross, recounts his experience on his multiple space-walks and how the silence only emphasized the beauty of the silent vacuum that he was observing.
If space is your thing, follow the links provided for both articles and be amazed at what you will read. And if you have the time, pop into your local movie theater and witness “Gravity” for yourself!
NEC School of Continuing Education Work-Study Student