08/14/12 By Jon Muchin
The Possibilities are Endless Celebrating 40 Years of Contemporary Improvisation at New England Conservatory
Concerts in Boston and New York Featuring Distinguished Faculty, Alumni and Students of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department August 3, 2012 – April 8, 2013
Featuring many of NEC’s distinguished alumni, faculty and students, and special guests, the Boston festivities include performances by Marty Ehrlich, Randy Weston, Carla Kihlstedt, Gunther Schuller, Anthony Coleman, Peter Row, Judy Bressler, Bert Seager, Linda Chase (with renowned poet Jane Hirshfield), The Sail Away Ladies (featuring Sarah Jarosz, Eden MacAdam-Somer and the Friedman Sisters), Dominique Eade, Manga Rosa, The Sol Y Canto Trio, Juanito Pascual, Lissa Schneckenburger, Dave Fiuscynski, CB Calloway Brooks, Ken Schaphorst, current department chair Hankus Netsky, founding department chair Ran Blake, and much more. Three New York events in March 2013 include a Contemporary Improvisation Showcase featuring renowned faculty and alumni; an all-day Contemporary Improvisation Festival in Brooklyn curated by Anthony Coleman; and a panel discussion and performance highlighting NEC’s pivotal role in the revitalization of Jewish music.
In addition, this fall violinist/fiddler/vocalist/dancer/improviser/composer Eden MacAdam-Somer launches New England Conservatory's new Continuing Education/Preparatory Department program in Contemporary Improvisation. Initial offerings will include Music of the World, a Jewish Music Ensemble, an African-American Music and Improvisation Ensemble, the “Walking Between the Worlds” ensemble, and private instruction in ear-training, improvisation, composition and performance, all focused on preparing today’s musicians for twenty-first century musical careers. All courses and ensembles are open to the public for credit or non-credit.
Contemporary Improvisation 40th Boston Events
• Commonwealth Concerts featuring groundbreaking original music and jazz from NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation and jazz departments in free concerts that precede Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s performances of Coriolanus on the Boston Common, August 3 through 12.
• Opening Night, a showcase for current Contemporary Improvisation faculty, curated by Eden MacAdam-Somer, to be held in Brown Hall at NEC at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 4, featuring Ran Blake, Aaron Hartley, Anthony Coleman, Dominique Eade, Tanya Kalmanovitch Ted Reichman, Jerry Leake, Eden MacAdam-Somer, Hankus Netsky, Nedelka Prescod, Amir Milstein, Peter Row, Bert Seager and others.
• Multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich, one of the most lyrical and inventive musicians around, follows with a week-long residency (September 5 – 13) including a talk on his music on Thursday, September 6 and a concert featuring NEC students and faculty on Thursday, September 13 at NEC’s Jordan Hall.
• Master Class “Expanding the Possibilities of the Double Bass” with bassist/composer Mark Dresser at 10 a.m. on Friday, September 14 in the Keller Room, NEC.
• Master Class with prolific composer, improviser, and pianist Satoko Fujii at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 25 in Pierce Hall, NEC.
• Family Barn Dance led by Eden MacAdam-Somer, Brown Hall. October 7, 2012. All ages: an introduction to fiddling and social dancing with the chair of NEC's Preparatory and Continuing Education program in Contemporary Improvisation.
• Everyone Can Improvise Workshop with Hankus Netsky, as part of The Fenway Alliance’s Opening Our Doors Day, a day of cultural experience in the Fenway Cultural District on Monday, October 8, 2 p.m. at NEC’s Brown Hall.
• Dominique Eade, Faculty Recital, 8 p.m. Thursday, October 11 at NEC’s Jordan Hall.
• Bert Seager’s Kombucha and Carla Kihlstedt’s Rabbit, Rabbit, at the Regattabar, Tuesday, October 16 at 7:30 p.m.
• An Evening of Music and Poetry with Linda Chase and Jane Hirshfield at 8 p.m. on Monday, October 22 at NEC’s Williams Hall.
• Contemporary Improvisation Workshop with Hankus Netsky and Eden MacAdam-Somer, on Friday, October 26 from 4-6 p.m. in NEC’s Pierce Hall.
• Contemporary Improvisation Alumni Showcase featuring Manga Rosa, Sol Y Canto, Juanito Pascual, Lissa Schneckenburger, Dave Fiuscynski, and CB Calloway Brooks with Ken Schaphorst and the NEC Jazz Orchestra, co-hosted by Hankus Netsky and Judy Bressler in Jordan Hall at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 26.
• Ran Blake, A Life in Music (curated by Aaron Hartley), Saturday, October 27 from 10 – 11:45 a.m. Featuring musical and video tributes and a live interview conducted by Hankus Netsky at NEC’s Williams Hall.
• A “World Barn Dance” featuring the Contemporary Improvisation Department’s American Roots, Jewish Music, and World Music Ensembles, in Brown Hall at NEC on Saturday, October 27 at 8 p.m.
• Brando Noir, this year’s multi-media Film Noir extravaganza, curated by Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley, in Jordan Hall at NEC on Monday, October 29 at 8 p.m. Now an annual Halloween tradition, this year's concert switches from a director focus to the work of the actor who brought the word "brooding" into everyday speech: Marlon Brando.
• Contemporary Improvisation Department Singer/Songwriter and Vocal Showcase hosted by Dominique Eade, at Scullers Jazz Club on Wednesday, October 31 at 8 p.m.
• Contemporary Improvisation Night at the Lily Pad, hosted by Joe Morris, Thursday November 1 at 8 p.m.
• The Sail Away Ladies is a groundbreaking contemporary acoustic quartet that originated as an NEC honors ensemble featuring Eden MacAdam-Somer and Mia Friedman on violin and vocals, Sarah Jarosz on mandolin, banjo and vocals, and Ariel Friedman on cello and vocals. At Club Passim, Wednesday, November 7 at 8 p.m.
• Rebirth of the Third Stream featuring the NEC Jazz Orchestra, directed by Ken Schaphorst in Jordan Hall at 8:00pm on Thursday, November 29.
• Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Faculty Spotlight Concert on Monday, January 28 at 8 p.m. in Jordan Hall.
• From Third Stream to Contemporary Improvisation
Co-curated by Gunther Schuller and Tanya Kalmanovitch, with a 6:15 p.m. pre-concert panel discussion in the Keller Room moderated by Tanya Kalmanovitch, featuring Gunther Schuller, Ran Blake, Allan Chase, and Hankus Netsky on Tuesday, February 19, 2013. 8 p.m. concert in Jordan Hall at NEC.
• Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 2012 at Boston’s Symphony Hall featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman, vocal soloist Chazan Yitzchok Meir Helfgot and musical director Hankus Netsky, Chair of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department and Maestro Russell Ger with members of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and Chamber Orchestra. Presented by the Celebrity Series.
• Monk/Webern, a concert celebrating two 20th-century compositional masters, curated by Anthony Coleman. Monday, April 8, 2013 at 8 p.m. in Jordan Hall at NEC.
• Contemporary Improvisation Honors Ensembles: Jazz/Wild Card on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8 p.m. in Jordan Hall.
• A residency April 16 – 18 featuring pianist/composer Randy Weston, culminating in a concert with the NEC Jazz Orchestra directed by Ken Schaphorst in Jordan Hall on Thursday, April 18th at 8 p.m. Weston is renowned as one of the world's foremost improvising pianists and is widely credited for his pioneering work in bringing African and Middle Eastern roots music to the world of American improvisation.
Contemporary Improvisation 40th New York Events in March 2013 to be announced.
History of the Contemporary Improvisation program at NEC
Founded in 1972 by musical visionaries Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake, NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation program trains creative musicians to broaden their musical palettes and develop unique voices as composer/performer/ improvisers. “We have entered an era when musical labels mean less and less and each individual musician draws on multiple influences to define who they are,” says current Contemporary Improvisation chair Hankus Netsky.
Led by Ran Blake for its first twenty-six years, the program is unparalleled for its structured approach to ear training and its emphasis on singing, memorization, harmonic sophistication, aesthetic integrity, and stylistic openness. Under later chairs Allan Chase and Hankus Netsky, the department expanded its offerings considerably. Among the department’s current student ensembles are the African American Roots Ensemble, the Songwriter’s Workshop, the Jewish Music Ensemble, the Interdisciplinary Ensemble (drawing on poetry, painting, and dance for inspiration), the World Music Ensemble, the Twenty-first Century ensemble, the American Roots Ensemble, the Film Noir Ensemble, the Cobra Ensemble, the Indian Modal Improvisation Ensemble, and composition and improvisation ensembles led by Anthony Coleman, Joe Morris and Tanya Kalmanovitch. Every student is encouraged to develop a wide array of musical skills, preparing them for any and all musical challenges that might come their way in their professional lives. In a guest appearance at a departmental event in the fall of 2011 that included world music, chamber music and free improvisation, Gunther Schuller (featured in our February Jordan Hall concert), who coined the term “Third Stream” in the 1950s and articulated the idea of the “Complete Musician” during his presidency at NEC said: “I feel that my vision for this department has now been realized.”
The program’s alumni include internationally renowned clarinetist/composer Don Byron, keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood, Jacqueline Schwab, whose solo piano improvisations were featured in Ken Burns’ award-winning PBS series "The Civil War," and Aoife O’Donovan, featured on Yo-Yo Ma's recent Goat-Rodeo project and, for many years, with the acclaimed hybrid bluegrass ensemble, "Crooked Still." Departmental faculty include violinist Carla Kihlstedt of the Tin Hat Trio, iconic improvisational pianist Ran Blake, acclaimed vocalist Dominique Eade, and pianist/composer/ improviser Anthony Coleman. “New England Conservatory’s Contemporary Improvisation department is special because it truly empowers its students to become artists,” says Rabbi Greg Wall (CI 1982), a celebrated recording artist whose innovative downtown blend of jazz, world music and Jewish sounds has filled the halls of top venues from Carnegie Hall to stages throughout North America, Europe and Israel.
Current Contemporary Improvisation department chair Hankus Netsky has taught at NEC since 1978. A multi-instrumentalist, composer, scholar and educator, he is founder and director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, America’s premier klezmer and Yiddish repertory ensemble. He has composed extensively for film and television, and has worked closely with such artists as Robin Williams, Joel Grey, Theodore Bikel, Marty Ehrlich, Linda Chase, Ran Blake, Itzhak Perlman, and Robert Brustein, with whom he has collaborated on two full-length musicals. He has produced numerous recordings, including ten by the Klezmer Conservatory Band. His latest collaboration with Itzhak Perlman, "Eternal Echoes - Songs and Dances for the Soul," is scheduled to be released by Sony Masterworks in September, 2012.
For further information on Contemporary Improvisation at NEC, go to: http://necmusic.edu/contemporary-improvisation
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