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Ignite!

by SARAH ATWOOD
First-year MM Violin

 

 

Phoenix is a brand new ensemble founded by, and made up of, current and past NEC students. Matt, the director, gave us some time to answer a few questions before their March 24 launch event.

What is Phoenix Orchestra, and what do they do?

Phoenix is a new orchestra in Boston focused on presenting music in an accessible way to expand the reach of classical music. We play the same music as other orchestras but we focus on changing the packaging around that music to present it in a more casual atmosphere.

What inspired you to create Phoenix? What’s special about it?

I wanted to create a similar avenue for people to enjoy classical music as the one I followed when I was a teenager. I grew up in a non-musical family and became exposed to the music I love today because of movie soundtrack and video games. From there I applied to the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and fell in love with a lot of the repertoire we’re more familiar with in our concert halls today. But that’s a tough path to replicate. There need to be more ways to fall in love with classical music, Phoenix strives to be one of those ways.Ignite

Any fun facts about you/the orchestra/your rehearsal process etc.?

My favorite thing about Phoenix is how democratic our structure is. The administration is all made up of players. The players have influence over programming, marketing, concert formats, social media, everything. We think of ourselves as an ensemble for the audience, but we’re also an ensemble by the players for the players. It gives everybody a real sense of ownership over the product we’re putting on.

Any future performances in the area?

Our launch event, Ignite, is at 7pm on March 24th at the Oberon in Cambridge. www.phoenixorch.org/schedule for more info!

How can current NEC students get involved?

Drop us a line! If you want to get involved just email us at phoenixorch@gmail.com.

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Deepti Navaratna

by ANDREW NISSEN
Second-year GD Trombone

 

 

NEC presents to us people with such monumental and diverse talents every single day, that it can be a bit mind-numbing when we take a step back and contemplate the impact we can make beyond its hallowed halls. When we do, however, it’s a rewarding insight into music not just as an art form, but as a way of life.

Deepti Navaratna perfectly illustrates this fact. A Master’s student in the Contemporary Improvisation Department, Deepti is also a qualified research neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. In 2013, as part of the Entrepreneurship Seminar class run by Tanya Kalmanovitch, Deepti developed a non-profit organization named the Carnatic Alchemy Project. Carnatic music is Indian classical music, and with this project Deepti aimed to bring it to a “more mainstream presence in America” via a number of different ways.

One of these ways is with the new concert series Dialogues With The Divine. A six-concert project, Dialogues With The Divine explores the role sacred music plays in today’s society through “intercultural music making.”

In Deepti’s words: “As a singer of sacred music interested in taking my musicSacred Songs of Hindus and Jewsbeyond traditional boundaries through my cultural entrepreneurship initiative … I was aware that sacred texts were deeply entrenched in symbolic meanings relevant only to certain communities. Given this constraint, I wanted to explore if sacred music could be used to create dialogues that transcend them? Dialogues with the Divine is a series of concerts where we invoke imageries of the divine across world religions, thereby enabling us to transcend religious, spiritual, and cultural boundaries to be united in a singular spiritual experience.”

The first foray into this territory took place on March 1st with Sacred Songs Of Hindus And Jews as part of the Boston Jewish Music Festival, which Deepti developed with the help of Hankus Netsky and Eva Heinstein. Alongside Cantor Randall Schloss and a small ensemble consisting of Middle Eastern violin and percussion, Deepti explored the similarities, differences, and unifying aspects of the two ancient religions. The concert was well received by the audience and critics, and is a positive indicator for the success of upcoming concerts in the series exploring other religions.

Deepti explains, “Jewish cantor music is very similar to South Indian classical music. In fact, that’s why we started out with this concert – it was the easiest one to use as a pilot concert! They have similar modal ancestries that are fairly compatible. And sometimes, when it doesn’t work together, that also brings up something interesting to explore, too.”

The next exploration into the synthesis between religions on May 23rd will study the interactions of Hinduism and Christianity at First Parish Church in Cambridge. “It’s new music in old places,” jokes Deepti. After that, plans are in place for an Islamic Sufism concert, a Buddhism concert, and more.

Youth EnsembleAs an extension of this philosophy of collaboration and exploration, Dialogues With The Divine is now opening up to participation with other interested NEC students from any discipline. “The idea is to put people who would probably normally have nothing to do with each other, except for that concert, in the room.” Deepti tells me.

Those interested are encouraged to get in contact with Deepti at deepti.navaratna@necmusic.edu, and to check out the Carnatic Alchemy Project online at www.deeptinavaratna.com and www.facebook.com/DeeptiNavaratna. This promises to be an exciting project, with untold possibilities arising from the merging of ancient traditions with modern sensibilities.

On her unique artistic upbringing, Deepti says: “Growing up in India, a melting pot of cultures and sounds, I have truly come to understand the value of being rooted in tradition while seeking new musical conversations. Such intercultural immersion allows me to appreciate the beauty of our differences and celebrate my identity as a South Indian classical musician, all at once. Tradition like love is a many splendored thing! It is this thirst to engage with the brightest musical minds of the world that led me to study at the Contemporary Improvisation Department at New England Conservatory on research hiatus from neuroscience research.”

Indeed, we all have unique paths that have led us to be at NEC today. Some of those paths were set for us well in advance, and some of those paths were carved out by the skin of our teeth. Whatever the case, it’s clear that NEC – even amongst very prestigious peers – offers its students unparalleled chances for cross-collaboration between disciplines. We would be remiss to ignore the opportunities that may present themselves in this situation, and Dialogues With The Divine surely seems like one of the most exciting opportunities to present itself to us here at school.

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Spending Spring Break In The Bean

by ELIZABETH WENDT
Third-year BM Voice

 

 

It seems that spring may finally be upon us. Maybe. Probably not, but I’m hopeful! The sun has been out these past few days which has led to warmer weather (30° is seriously starting to feel like flip-flops and shorts weather) and fewer layers, and the mountainous snow banks are starting to melt away into streams of smelly brown slush…what a breathtaking spring image. Hopefully, this change in the air will make for a great spring break in Boston. Many people will be travelling back home for the break, but not all of us have that opportunity. If you will be staying in Boston, here is a list of fun things to do around the city to keep you entertained and to help ring in the spring season:

1. First and most importantly, you should start your break by praying to the nature gods to stop the snow for good. Light candles, burn incense, don an exotic headdress and mask and dance around an exorbitant amount of spring time fruits as an offering to Mother Nature. If all else fails, drop to your knees and beg for 60°+ weather and sun, maybe even shed a tear or two for dramatic effect. Don’t doubt me when I say that if you guys don’t do this, I most definitely will.

2. Attend Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade! On Sunday, March 15th from 1pm-4pm in South Boston, the city will be full of people in green and floats of all shapes and sizes. The parade starts near the Broadway T station along the Red Line and ends in Andrews Square. There will be plenty of good viewing spots along Broadway so be sure to bring a camera and definitely wear green! No one wants to get pinched by a stranger and no one will believe you if you use the old, “My underwear are green” excuse.

3. If you love flowers and gardens, you should attend Boston’s Flower and Garden show! It takes place from March 11-15 at the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston. Adult tickets for this event are $20. You will be surrounded by tons of beautiful flowers and garden displays, there will be vendors selling handmade clothes, art, and pottery, and you will be able to view and photograph the entries for several floral design competitions. No matter what the weather is outside, this show will be a great way to bring some color and beauty into your life!

4. If you’re looking for something music related that does not involve being holed up inside a musty practice room, you should go to the Boston Ballet for their performance of Shades of Sound. This performance begins on Thursday, March 19th and goes until the 29th. A celebration of music and dance, this production is, “Three riveting works of magnificent musicality and exhilarating choreography featuring the return of Wayne McGregor’s Chroma and the company premieres of George Balanchine’s Episodes and Hans van Manen’s deliciously comic Black Cake” (Boston Ballet). With music ranging from Tchaikovsky to The White Stripes, this production is sure to be entertaining and extremely moving. Tickets are on sale now on the Boston Ballet website.

No matter how you choose to spend your break, just be sure to balance enough time to rest with time to have fun. This semester has been absolutely insane due to the weather and we all deserve a pat on the back for making it through to spring in one piece. Keep up with your practicing, but don’t over exert yourself. Get out into the city and enjoy the beginnings of spring in The Bean!

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High-Flying Tales of Audition Adventure

by ALEXANDRA GILLIAM
Fourth-year BM Voice

 

 

Gossamer clouds billow past my window, suspended in the cerulean expanse like whales, lazily floating in the ocean. Below me, the patchwork farms of West Virginia whiz past, dwarfed at such a great distance. As I sit, with a score open on my tray table, pondering Strauss’s musical intentions in preparation for my senior recital, a nagging voice jars my focus.

“Ugh. You must be a musician.”

Disgruntled and irritated at my seatmate’s commentary I give her a quick once-over. Middle-aged and well dressed, the lady wears a look of condescension behind a pair of Burberry reading glasses. Deciding not to take the bait, I sweetly respond, “Why, yes, ma’am, I am. I’m an aspiring opera singer, on my way to audition for graduate school.”

“Ah, I see. Y’know, my daughter is majoring in biomedical engineering. She’s a senior in college now, but she wanted to be a professional singer when she was in high school. I told her that she couldn’t pursue music, because it’s just such an impractical degree and career path. I didn’t want to allow her to set herself up for failure later in life.”

Hot anger boils in my throat, and the be-khaki’d man on the aisle seems to notice his Bloody Mary and hummus wrap for the first time as he pretends not to hone in on our conversation. I take a deep breath and reply, “Believe it or not, ma’am, a conservatory education is a fantastic prerequisite for a career in the sciences and humanities. As a matter of fact, many people actually become doctors or lawyers after their musical training if they don’t go on to become professional musicians, and some even run arts management companies.” Ignoring her visible contempt, I continue. “Music majors are actually very competitive candidates in the job market, because hiring committees know that we are extremely disciplined, focused individuals who have excellent time-management skills and bring a ton of passion to the table.”

At this comment, the man on the aisle grins and turns to me, saying, “You are absolutely right. I’m the CEO of a Fortune 500 office supply company, and I always look to promote classically trained musicians and veterans to executive-level positions because I know that they’re some of the hardest working and dedicated individuals out there.”

The lady pales and drifts into a contemplative silence as the man and I converse for the remainder of our flight. Finally, as I reach into the overhead bin to retrieve my luggage, he hands me his business card. “If you’re looking for a job in five years,” he tells me, “give me a call. I will remember this conversation.”

While I did not anticipate a reaffirmation of my career choices that day, that discussion really spurred some deep introspection for me. Earlier that week, I had been embattled in an internal debate, as this was the first of seven grad school auditions that I would take throughout February and early March. Anxiety filled my mind and disturbed my dreams at night, and I lay awake, asking myself over and over, what if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t get in anywhere?  What if I’m really not cut out for a performance career? What if I should just give up and switch directions?

Through talking to that woman and having to defend my decision to come to NEC just four years ago, I realized that I’m not making the wrong choice in pursuing my musical dreams. While my five-week audition tour was extremely stressful and pushed me to my emotional and physical limits, it provided me an opportunity to learn that I have a musical story to tell and I’m at my best when I’m telling it. For no other career would I be willing to leave the warmth of my house at 3:00 am on a Friday morning to fly to a far-distant city. No other profession would inspire me to stand up in front of a room full of people and bare my soul. And, most importantly, no other job could possibly fill me with as much anxiety over the possibility of rejection.

With this in mind, dear reader, do not lose heart. The musical journey that we chose is difficult, and the road ahead is stony; you may occasionally lose the path as you lay awake in the wee hours of the morning this March and check your email for the seven hundredth time in a day to see if any results have come in. Consider the fact that, if you did not feel pain or stress, you would not be emotionally connected to your craft. Make yourself a warm beverage and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that regardless of whether you get into that summer festival or grad school, life will go on and more opportunities will soon follow. What may appear to be an insurmountable snow drift right now will melt to charming puddles in just a few short weeks. After all, you made it through the blizzard – spring is just around the corner.

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