I love to feature artists on this blog who are passionately sharing their art and/or craft with others by means of their own entrepreneurship. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Nicole Newman, founder of Yoga for the Arts. After five minutes of conversation, I knew that I had to share Nicole’s work with all of my readers.
So what is Yoga for the Arts exactly? It’s stated mission reads:
“Yoga for the Arts combats performance-related injuries and anxieties, which undermine confidence and performance potential. Yoga for the Arts is about preventing the preventable and early intervention through changes in habit. Artists are empowered to take ownership of their health by fully inhabiting their bodies through breath-centered yoga sequences, tailored to meet the individual’s specific needs and goals.”
When speaking with Nicole, I was captivated by her passion and commitment for the fusion of entrepreneurship with artistic training. While interviewing Nicole for this profile, I came to understand that for her, creativity and imagination drive both her artistry and business. I asked her to describe the moment when she came to realize that she needed to pursue an entrepreneurial path in order for her to find career fulfillment.
“I became an entrepreneur out of a deeply rooted conviction to help the countless musicians who unnecessarily endure debilitating performance-related pain and injury. A coherent health and wellness curricula for musicians does not currently exist, in spite of the very real need. I am responding to this unmet need – especially for young musicians, where early intervention is paramount.”
Filling the gaps that result in the absence of a well-rounded approach to a musician/performer’s training was an area of common ground between Nicole and myself. On this blog and in many public forums I have both spoken and written about the importance of building a complete ‘toolbox’ of strategies, skills, and resources that musicians can draw upon when they leave school and enter the world as professional artists. I asked Nicole how Yoga for the Arts fits in the larger structure for the need of “life skills” in a musician’s training.
“In addition to being an accomplished performer, the modern musician must excel in marketing, sales, networking, opportunity evaluation, mental fortitude and time management skills, just to have a chance of earning a living. Unfortunately, health and wellness falls to the wayside, to the detriment of all their other responsibilities. A simple approach to preventative wellness, however, can easily fit into a daily routine, but it needs to be made a priority and taught in concert with the other mandatory skills to create a sustainable career.”
As I usually close my profiles on The Tuxedo Revolt Blog, I like to ask my guests if there is any advice they’d like to share with readers about their entrepreneurial/artistic experience. Nicole has 5 tips to share with you:
1. Answer the 10 Questions inspired by Guy Kawasaki:
- What is the problem?
- What is the solution?
- How big is the market?
- What makes it so special? (Find the underlying magic of your solution and package it in your 30-second pitch.)
- What is the competition?
- What exactly is your business model?
- How exactly will you make sales?
- Have you assembled a qualified team?
- How will you secure required resources?
- What are you proposing for an investment?
2. Network relentlessly. Tell everyone – even people who you think have no connection to your market.
3. Take reasonable risks and embrace failing forward.
4. Know how to pivot and innovate to readjust your business by listening to your clients, not your critics. (Tip: Read the subtleties of your clients’ micro-expressions)
5. Give back. What goes around comes around. You will find that paying it forward not only spreads the word – it contributes to your growth as an entrepreneur.
“And, as my teacher in India avows, “Be strong. Don’t fear. Lift higher.”
Thanks for stopping by to read today’s Tuxedo Revolt Blog post. I have more profiles planned in the coming months.
Some interviews are easier than others—but not my recent interview with Yoon Jae Lee, founder and conductor of Ensemble 212 based in New York City. I reached out to Yoon Jae a while ago because I admire his great entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to curate great concerts within Ensemble 212. It’s no easy feat to establish a successful chamber orchestra in NYC. So I thought, if anyone has had to grapple with some of the “big” questions surrounding engaging performance today, it would be Yoon Jae.
I asked him for his take on the culture, environment and challenges surrounding classical music in the United States. Here is what he had to say:
“I believe that the challenges facing “classical music” are numerous and extremely complex. Like most social issues in the US (immigration reform, health care, etc.) there are no easy answers can which solve all of classical music’s problems with the snap of a finger. However, there are many things that our generation, the young professionals, can and must do to make classical music a part of our everyday culture and at the same time enjoyable as well.
I often find myself asking this rhetorical question: What is “classical music” anyway? Is “new music” (defined as a sub-genre of classical music “classical”?!? Yet, aren’t The Beatles “classical” to most in the general public? What about Phillip Glass? Labels can be convenient but also limiting and harmful as music often defies categorization. For example, is Gershwin jazz or classical?
I think the single most problematic issue with “classical music” is that for the general public, it is something of a “fringe” interest and definitely not mainstream. We need to change that and make it relevant.”
Classical music as a fringe element? I’ve got to admit that even I hadn’t thought the general consensus was that classical music was considered to be that irrelevant. However, it is an interesting point– perhaps even a truth that all of us who love and cherish this form of art need to acknowledge. It cuts a little close to home, but isn’t the first step to correcting a situation to know and understand its full scope and breadth? Yoon Jae makes a great point, one with which I completely agree, that bringing classical music back into the scope of what is culturally relevant with audiences of today should be our first priority.
So where does this shift begin? Who is going to lead the change, and who will take responsibility for it? (I told you– all really big questions.) Yoon Jae had some powerful viewpoints on these issue that are worth sharing:
“I feel that music education in general needs a radical reform at all levels. I think the concept of having separate concentrations of performers and educators is fundamentally wrong. How many “performance” majors are going to be just performing and not teaching? I believe that most conservatories leave their graduates ill prepared to face the challenges described above. For me, it was only after I got out of school I realized what a perilous situation classical music and its professionals faced.
If we are not given the tools to teach properly or more specifically, have the ability to relate to the general public about what “classical music” is about and why we do it, how can we expect them to truly appreciate what we do and why? The recent derogatory articles on the SF Symphony’s strike is a clear example of writers who have no understanding about our profession. I don’t blame them 100% though, I think we musicians are partly at fault for not relating what we do to the general public.
I experienced difficulty relating to non-musicians once I left conservatory, especially working in a teaching capacity. We need to do a better job integrating our performing and teaching skills while still in conservatory so that when we go out into the real world, we can better relate to the general public and help them understand what music is about, especially for those who are willing…”
I believe in what Yoon Jae Lee is doing with his Ensemble 212. The orchestra’s stated mission ” to propel the careers of young professional musicians as they develop into the finest performing artists of their generation” is aptly suited to meet the demands of a changing arts culture. Ensemble 212 does not shape the careers of performers of past generations, but rather, shapes the careers of performers in this generation.
In a captivating performance on Wednesday night, Eunbi Kim and Laura Yumi Snell crafted a new kind of performance art, a new kind of presentation format for live classical music and a new message for contemporary performing artists. With the spell-binding production of Murakami Music, Eunbi and Laura made it clear that if you are willing to take big risks– your art will thrive.
It’s taken me several days to begin to write this review (for lack of a better term) of their performance. I’ve been thinking about the experience, what I took away from it, and how in the world I would try to explain it to you. I knew that a simple recap would never do it justice. This post is going to be much more detailed than other reviews I’ve done; for when I get the opportunity to write about something that absolutely embodies the core ideals of Tuxedo Revolt, I have to be able to share it with all of you.
When Eunbi first told me about her idea for Murakami Music, I featured the concept in a post back in January. If you aren’t familiar with this project or need a refresher– click here. Last week’s performance took place at The Cell Theatre in Chelsea. It was the perfect venue, living up to its definition as a 21st Century Salon. I must give a great deal of credit to the founding artistic director of the Cell Theater, Nancy Manocherian for her vision for such an innovative, elegant and multi-functional performance space. For a hybrid music/drama project like Murakami Music, the Cell provided a fresh and blank canvas for Laura and Eunbi to explore throughout their performance. But now— onto the performance itself.
Merely listing the order of events, pieces played, and highlights of the evening isn’t appropriate. I found Murakami Music to be so intellectually stimulating that I realized I would need to analyze the performance like a painting, or a piece of literature. This was no concert– it was a full-out experience.
When you consider that the project was based on passages of Murakami’s writings, combined with a performance of musical selections referenced in his novels, a book reading with musical examples is the first thing that comes to mind. The project’s director Kira Simring anticipated this perception and skillfully transcended it. As the program began, artist LauraYumi Snell read from a copy of Murakami’s book– as we might have expected. Then, as Laura continued to recite passages from the novel, Eunbi began to delicately introduce the solo piano into our field of perception. Laura continued to read aloud, but gently closed the book, all the while still reciting Murakami’s text. The dramatic narrative from the text then took on a life of its own. With flawless transition, our descent into the world of Murakami Music had begun.
This performance was focused on engaging the audience at all times. Murakami’s texts, so skillfully dramatized by both Laura and Eunbi, shared a symbiotic relationship with the music of Chopin, Debussy, Prokofiev and other composers whose music was featured in the performance. Spoken word and live music gave meaning and context to each other. Audience members who had never read the works of Murakami were introduced to his world of dual meaning and pensive emotion through beautiful music with similar dramatic properties. Audience members who were not familiar with solo piano music were introduced to it in way that they could begin to understand its emotional depth as it echoed the emotions of the unfolding drama.
For the music-must-stand-alone-as-its-own-art-form critics who are reading this, I must say that Eunbi and Laura created a performance where both music and drama took equal roles. The music, brilliantly executed by both Eunbi and Laura, was in no way impeded by the precisely planned and well chosen texts they also presented. Under the gifted guidance of Kira Simring, the pair used both music and drama to appeal to the senses of sound, sight, and spatial awareness. As an audience member, I was on edge waiting for what was to come next.
Transitions between scenes and musical selections were handled flawlessly and the performance never lost its momentum. I am most critical of transitions between events when I attend performances. These are the moments when audience members are not lost in their own thoughts, but rather present with you and in the moment. Transitions present a golden opportunity to introduce new themes, new ideas and new energy. Too often, transitions seem like TV commercial breaks, interrupting the flow of a performance and flat-lining the energy of the overall experience.
Murakami Music reminded me of why the tradition to hold applause until the end of a performance came to be in be first place. Once upon a time, musical performances were so captivating to audiences that no one dared to release the energy or flow of a performance until the event was truly finished. Audiences didn’t know what to expect as the next great work began to unfold. Finally, at the end of the performance, the moment came for the audience to express appreciation for the performers and to release through applause the energy that was building within each audience member throughout the performance.
As the final tableau in Murakami Music drew to a close, I glanced around at my fellow audience members. I saw young and old on the edge of their seats, leaning forward, captivated and ready it burst into applause. When the final note of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in d minor, op. 14 sounded, we the audience, finally had our moment to thank the artists who performed for us. It was truly a genuine exchange of gratitude.
When I am able to attend such a great performance, I am inspired to keep writing this blog. I am refreshed and reassured that through adaptation and innovation, live performing arts can still be socially relevant and meaningful to audiences. With its solo piano and stage absent of scenery and props, Murakami Music brought to my mind images from the great American playwright Thornton Wilder‘s Our Town. When the audience is challenged to use its imagination, but is guided to do so, there is a freshness to the performance and each audience member walks away with a unique and memorable experience.
I’m reminded of a line from Our Town spoken by the character Emily Webb, “Live people don’t understand, do they? They’re sort of shut up in little boxes, aren’t they?”
In Murakami Music the audience shared in an emotional journey together. We heard live music and spoken words. We saw expression on the faces of the performers which led to an expansion of our own sense of empathy. And for just a little while, we weren’t shut up in the little boxes of ourselves. As an audience we shared in the experience together, and it became ours.
Congratulations to Eunbi Kim, Laura Yumi Snell, Kira Simring and the Cell Theatre for a performance that was truly in the in the spirit of Tuxedo Revolt.
- Haruki Murakami’s new novel reaches 1 million print run in one week (japandailypress.com)
- You: New Murakami novel tops 1 million (japantimes.co.jp)
- Haruki Murakami’s new release: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki (themindsplace.wordpress.com)
One of the most fun things I get to do while writing this blog is to interview incredibly creative and dynamic artists who embody Tuxedo Revolt ideals. For the first Tuxedo Revolt Blog profile in 2013, I’m thrilled to profile my good friend and colleague Eunbi Kim.
Eunbi is an excellent musician, has a dynamic personality and an entrepreneurial spirit. As you’ll see, these three traits are integral to her artistry. Her recent performance at the Cell Theater in New York City, entitled Murakami Music, embodied Eunbi’s creative nature, pursuit of innovation in the performance of classical music, and the Tuxedo Revolt ideal to make classical music performances socially relevant. I sat down with Eunbi last week to talk about Murakami Music as well as her creative process in creating the performance event.
The details at a glance:
Performance name: “Overture”
The Musicians: Eunbi Kim , piano and artist-in-residence
Guest artists: Laura Snell, actress; Nelly Rocha, cello; Christopher Scanlon, trumpet
When: Friday January 18th, 2013 at 8pm
Where: The Cell Theatre (New York, NY)
What: A preview concert of performances to be developed into large-scale projects at the Cell in 2013-14 during Eunbi’s artist residency. Program included solo piano works by Debussy, excerpts of “Murakami Music” with music by Chopin, Schumann, and Beatles interspersed with live readings by actress Laura Snell, and performances by chamber group “Blink Ensemble” of contemporary works written by William Schmidt and Carson Cooman for piano, cello, and trumpet.
Like many Tuxedo Revolt blog readers, Eunbi is a young artist, recently graduated with her Master’s of Music degree, and launching her career in the midst of the recession. Sounds a bit ominous (and a little too close to home), right? Yet, in the face of opposition, Eunbi is moving forward. These are Tuxedo Revolt ideals; to be optimistic, creative and relevant. As a classically trained pianist, Eunbi sought ways to connect her performances to potential audiences and to make the socially relevant. She believes that she can, through her own innovation and creativity, sidestep many of the problems that plague the traditional performing arts– and she is doing exactly that.
I asked Eunbi what was her point of inspiration for Murakami Music– you might find her response rings true for you also:
Eunbi is a thinker and innovator. But the most unique aspect of her artistry is her ability to seek out creative performance solutions that integrate the social elements she found missing in the performances of others. Thus, the Murakami Music project was born. In our interview, Eunbi’s face lit up when I asked her to describe the project and its origins.
“I had the inspiration to create the Murakami Music program around one year ago when I thought about what I really wanted to say and create as a performer.” said Eunbi. “I had this idea in my head for the longest time of setting writer Haruki Murakami’s novels to music by taking selected reading passages and performing solo concert music with them. He creates amazing texture in his works through heavily referencing music. I saw the potential in my head for a live performance. Then I found an amazing collaborator, actress Laura Snell, who is also passionate about Murakami’s novels, storytelling, theatre, and also music- she is an accomplished pianist as well.”
“We proposed this project to the Cell Theatre in Manhattan, which they accepted. We workshopped and presented it this past October with ideas of making it an evening length concert in the future. At the end of 2012, the directors of the Cell asked me if I would like to do an artist residency, which was really exciting. It meant that I would have incredible support to present new works and projects at the cell. Then, this idea of a preview concert came about where we could show short performances of this project as well as my project with Blink Ensemble- performing accessible contemporary music for an unusual instrumentation- piano, trumpet, cello.”
I feel that there is much to learn from Eunbi’s enthusiastic response. First, we must understand that ideas need time to incubate and/or percolate in our minds for a time before they are ready to be introduced to the world. Second (and most importantly), we must realize the when an opportunity presents itself to us, we must jump at the chance to bring our ideas to life.
For Eunbi, the idea for her project wasn’t perfected in her mind before seizing the opportunity to make it a reality. I asked Eunbi what kept her going on this project, how she and her collaborators managed to tie together all the loose ends, and what it took to bring this project from a thought into reality. Her response was not the lofty or idealistic response that you might expect from a classical musician, but rather– a response filled with determination and work ethic:
“Truthfully, a deadline.” said Eunbi about what kept her on track. “It’s unromantic but it’s the truth. There was also a sense of responsibility.”
“We [the musicians] were all passionate about the concert and had so many ideas and dreams of its potential– but it can all become overwhelming when it has to be put into action. Creating something absolutely new and innovative like Murakami Music was daunting- it takes a lot of work and emotional energy (tons of self-doubt), more than people realize.”
“Even though I had the Cell’s support, there were lots of logistics and marketing that I had to take care of in order for the concert to be a success. There is responsibility to my audience that they have the best possible experience- they are my guests. There is responsibility to the other performers that I have an audience that will be there to support their creativity.”
You can see that Eunbi Kim feels a heartfelt and deep obligation to her audience– an obligation that transcends all aspects of the art she creates. From the music itself, to the logistics surrounding the concert experience, Eunbi puts her audience’s best interest as a top priority.
Eunbi is a great example of a much needed mindset for performers today. We must break away from any notion that what we do as performers we do for ourselves. It simply isn’t so. Our performances help our audiences connect with our art–and us as individual people. We must take these connections into every level of planning, rehearsal, and performance we undertake when turning our ideas into reality.
Stay tuned for more artist profiles from Tuxedo Revolt coming you way!
- Haruki Murakami? There’s an iPhone and iPad diary app for him… (guardian.co.uk)
Last night, I was a very lucky arts blogger. We seek out material that fits the mission of our blog, but not often does a performance, or performer, or organization cross our path that completely fits our personal aesthetic as well as our own artistic mission. The preview concert performed by the new Ensemble LPR last night (at Le Poisson Rouge) was a pleasure to review. One major purpose of this blog is to profile and review performances that uphold Tuxedo Revolt principles of performance innovation. So if you didn’t get to attend last night—I’ll tell you all about the performance, and why you should care.
What: The music of Max Richter featuring Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed: The Four Seasons (2012) (U.S. premiere), and Richter’s INFRA (2010) (U.S. premiere).
Where: Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, NYC.
In a previous post, I described a little bit about the venue of Le Poisson Rouge. As I took my place at a table in the back of LPR, ordered my glass of wine, and began to settle in—I realized that Le Poisson Rouge is a bit like an empty vessel, ready to take on whatever art is there to fill it up. As I was waiting for the concert to begin, I opened my mind to interpret the music that was to follow.
The house was packed and the atmosphere electric. I was delighted to find on my table, a kind of proclamation heralding the creation Ensemble LPR (abbreviated here):
“Ours is a uniquely exhilarating moment for music. The old hierarchies of taste have been called into question; the old distinctions of genre have been revealed as obsolete…Indeed, a newcomer to classical music might be forgiven for wondering: Why in the year 2012, is the work of classical music so little a part of the larger cultural dialogue?…Why, among its peer art forms, is classical music the least nimble and most conservative in its patterns of thinking?…Ensemble LPR is that newcomer.”
As a creative rebel, I was delighted to read this public statement. It was a bold move, artistically aggressive, and spoke volumes about the mission of Ensemble LPR.
The musicians took the stage and David Handler made a brief introduction. Then, it was all Ensemble LPR. Tito Muñoz led the Ensemble in the music of Max Richter. Muñoz led the ensemble with precision and through his gestures, helped to highlight both Baroque and Modern elements in Richter’s score.
Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed: The Four Seasons was deserving of its own blog post. I wondered how this piece was going to work—Vivaldi? Baroque music? Reworked? What? How would that be relevant? Needless to say I was intrigued. Richter did an amazing job of reviving and infusing new life into a work that is approximately 289 years old. Richter blended in electronic sounds, amplification and technology into the original score. Richter deftly reworked rhythmic and melodic elements from the Vivaldi original to give a fresh, 21st Century perspective to the piece. I sensed influences of electronic music, dance music, and possibly world music. Recomposed was an interesting cerebral experience as well. It was as if we, as a collective audience, were trying our best to remember Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but somehow we fused it to the songs and music we experience in our everyday lives. Not because we couldn’t remember only one or the other, but because we love both kinds of music so much. The experience was truly unique.
Daniel Hope, the solo violinist, played a special role in the performance. I tried for a moment to put myself into his shoes. As the soloist with Ensemble LPR, an ensemble focused on cultural relevance, Howe became an extension of the Ensemble’s mission and thus a bridge to the audience. From his performance, you could be easily perceive his awareness of this responsibility. He played with great sensitivity and he filled Richter’s creation with the same artistry he would have used if playing the Vivaldi original. Howe’s playing soared from the violin and filled the space, captivating us in a moment shared together.
As a musician, arts consultant, and writer, this concert was the perfect way for me to wind down the Tuxedo Revolt for 2012. It gives me, and should give to you, both encouragement and energy to do your own artistic projects that focus on cultural relevance. This performance wasn’t about audience education, it wasn’t about learning about Vivaldi or why or when he wrote his score. The focus of Ensemble LPR is to lead the creative charge into a new era of classical music—where the music we perform, where we perform it, and how we interact with our audience is completely relevant “…to the lives of the people who follow the arts, and to people who do not…”
Happy holidays, and I’ll be back in 2013.