Community Outreach

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Festivals, Future of Music, Opportunity

Make Music Cleveland


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by Hannah Santisi

Make Music Day is an international celebration of music. It originated in France as Fête de la Musique, and has grown its origins to include over 800 cities in 120 different countries. Hannah Santisi, Peter Slowik, and Credo Music were so excited to include Cleveland in the Make Music festivities this year!  

Plastic trombones, viola da gambas, and guitars, oh my! Those were just a few of the instruments that helped fill Cleveland with music on Make Music Day, June 21, 2016. When my Oberlin Conservatory viola professor and I began planning Make Music Cleveland in September, we were excited to bring the international celebration of music to this arts destination, but we didn’t know what to expect or how many people would be involved. As I worked on completing my Oberlin College and Conservatory’s double degree program that fall, Mr. Slowik and I continued to plan this day of music, creating lists of local venues at which we hoped to showcase music on June 21st.  

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Because it was our inaugural year in Cleveland, much of our work was spreading the word about this one-day international event. Make Music’s mission is to inspire people of all genres, ages, and levels to participate in the beauty and joy of music-making, to share their love of music through a free and public concert. Our job was to act as the catalyst in Cleveland to inspire over 50 concerts on Tuesday, June 21st. With the help of interns, we hit the ground running in January, contacting local schools, churches, and musical groups to spread the word about Make Music Cleveland. Our most exciting connection during that month was with Pastor Jonathan from Lakewood Baptist Church, who collaborated with us to create a Make Music Cleveland festival at his church.

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With the excitement of one large event planned (and a coincidence of good timing), we worked with the Cleveland Indians to organize four pre-game concerts and the National Anthem at Progressive Field during their home game on June 21st. We communicated with the local hospitals to create concerts at their facilities. Planned performances at Cleveland landmarks, such as Progressive Field, 5th Street Arcades, and Edgewater Park, helped us gain momentum, and people started talking about Make Music. People began making profiles on our software and organizing their own concerts. Soon, Mayor Frank Jackson proclaimed June 21, 2016 Make Music Cleveland Day and we were ready for the big day!  

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Fortuitous timing created the perfect day for Make Music Cleveland Day! After a huge Cleveland win (Go Cavs!) on Sunday, the city was excited and ready to celebrate with some music on a gorgeous day.  Make Music Day started with a fun viola duo in Tappan Square; then, the festivities shifted to a performance piece at Edgewater Park. After, participants made some noise with Conn-Selmer’s colorful plastic trombones, which were played by young and old at many locations through the day. Music traveled the streets with stops at Cleveland-based institutions such as MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Cleveland Institute of Music, The Music Settlement, and Progressive Field, as well as front porches, local churches, and small coffee shops. Make Music musicians also made history on June 21st, with the first performance of SousaPalooza in which over 50 brass, wind, and percussion players took part in celebrating the marches of John Philip Sousa. By the end of Make Music Day, 75+ concerts were performed in the Cleveland area, touching over 20,000 people with a variety of instruments and sounds! MMC was in its inaugural year, and we are so pleased with the concerts created, but we can’t wait for more movement and talk next year about this very exciting event!  

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Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Contemporary Music, Education, Ensembles, Future of Music, Inspirational Stories, Opportunity

Collaborative Composition: How Writing Together Helped The Kraken Quartet Evolve


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By Chris Demetriou

When we formed The Kraken Quartet, we had no master plan for where the group would go. Like so many other college chamber groups, we had no five-year goals, no catalogue of repertoire, and certainly no major notoriety. We were just a couple of friends who knew we loved playing music together. Despite this lack of long-term direction, we had one crucial characteristic that tied our group together: the willingness to try anything. So, for the first few years of our existence, The Kraken Quartet gave everything a shot. We were still trying to find out what “our thing” was, but we decided early on that no matter what we did, we would give it our all. We started volunteering to play on premiers of any and every student composer that would have us, and eventually pieced together our first ever call for scores (which boasted a whopping total of three applicants). We began tackling the lists of repertoire that percussion groups were “supposed” to play, striving to build some kind of foundation for our group. We started commissioning every composer we had contact with, organizing community shows, exploring alternate performance models (including one of our first experiments, a concert that was designed to put the audience to sleep), and grasping at every opportunity possible. Even though we loved every second of it, the four of us still hadn’t settled into exactly what it was that made our group unique.

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The Kraken Quartet is an Austin-based percussion group. The ensemble includes (from left to right) Sean Harvey, Chris Demetriou, Taylor Eddinger, and Andrew Dobos. Photo credit: Evan Monroe Chapman.

Our direction took a major turn one night when Taylor, one of our members, asked for a favor. He was enrolled in a composition class, and wanted help playing through an assignment he was working on. We got together in our usual room, set up the gear, and started going about it like any other rehearsal. But, almost immediately, a different feeling emerged. As we worked through the music, offering advice and making edits, a level of comfort formed that we could have never expected. Here we were, great friends who were united by a love of playing music, stripping that motivation down to its core. We were working together to create our own sound, our own unique voice. The feeling was liberating. Soon, other members of the group began writing similar frameworks for us to shape as an ensemble. It didn’t take long before we were skipping that first step altogether, writing pieces from the ground up as a group. After so much time spent trying to find the repertoire that best suited us, we simply created our own.

Of course, the idea of an ensemble writing for itself is nothing new. In many musical realms, from pop to rock, this is in fact expected. But after years in music school, a certain barrier had been put up for us. Whether it was intentional or not, we were made to feel that (in our musical culture, at least) there was a line separating composer and performer. But as soon as we pulled away that divide, our group propelled forward faster than we could have ever imagined. This structure become our focus, and for a while we performed exclusively our own music. We played shows wherever we could: bars, concert halls, basements, parks, living rooms, art galleries, and more. The liberation that came with creating our own music flowed into everything we did. Motivated, we packed our cars and started driving to any venue in any city that would have us. Summers became time for touring, recording, and writing. Even after we graduated and spread out across the country, we always gave the group everything we had.

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The Kraken Quartet performs live in Ithaca, NY.

After far too many long commutes to rehearsals, today we finally find ourselves located in the same city once more. Based in Austin, TX, we have made The Kraken Quartet a major priority in our lives. With the skills we developed through writing music together, we have come full circle, returning to the works of other composers. However, after all we’ve been through, we can’t help but come at it in a different way. The process of collaborative writing gave us an acute ear for the sensibilities of our ensemble-mates. As we find ourselves preparing music by other composers, whether it be Steve Reich or a friend who wants to collaborate, our experiences have given us a feeling of comfort and community. Our understanding of one another helps us bring music to life, and we really do believe this connection shines through.

We have by no means abandoned composing for ourselves. This fall, we are headed to the studio to record our next album, featuring entirely original music. Collaborative composition has been a valuable asset to our group’s growth, and starting this year, we are looking to share this process. Over the next several years, we will be developing a series of masterclasses centered around this concept of collaborative composition. We will be heading to universities, conservatories, and public schools with the goal of helping students learn to be comfortable writing music with their peers. When that barrier was removed from our group, we soared forward faster than we could have imagined. We want to do the same for others. Our goal is to help tear down this divide, and ultimately make composition an important part of any student’s music education.

Although we are thrilled to share the lessons we have learned by writing music together, getting others to follow us is not exactly the point. In the end, we want other young ensembles to feel the same sense of liberation that we found. The music world today is rapidly changing, and with that the definition of what makes a chamber group is shifting. We have started to figure out what we love to do, but it took a willingness to shake off expectations. More than anything, we want other young groups to know that it is okay to find your own way, and that anything is fair game. This mentality is what will continue to push our art forward, and help keep music alive and growing.

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Education, Future of Music, Inspirational Stories, Travel

Familiar Territory


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This is the third update from Music in Familiar Spaces on musicovation. To read their first two posts, click here: Music in Familiar Spaces: Two Months In, Music in Familiar Spaces: January Update

We are Steuart and Michelle Pincombe. Every week we travel to a new place, meet new people, and present concerts in new places. We tell people our story – in a nutshell – of how we grew tired with our busy careers in Europe and decided to live in a 1959 travel trailer for one year, travel the country and bring classical music to non-traditional venues. We call the project Music in Familiar Spaces, because on its most basic level, that’s all it is: [classical] music in [people’s] familiar spaces.

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Steuart played for a packed house at Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA.

One of the most difficult things for us has been the unfamiliarity of each new space or community we enter. We need to somehow figure out a venue in which to play, one that is well-connected and well-respected by their community, and figure out how to tell people about the concert. When we arrive, we need to figure out where to get groceries and a good cup of coffee, and where we can let our dog run around. We need to figure out how to tell our story to each new audience in a way that will be clear and relatable. As we enter places that are familiar to most everyone else there – the local cafe or bar, their church or home – we feel like strangers.

And then the music starts.  At once we are in familiar territory – we know how to do this. This shared experience gives us all something in common. It gives us all permission to relate to each other in a way a bit more intimately than strangers. We can’t tell you how many profoundly meaningful conversations we have had with audience members after concerts, people whom we had just met. At once we are no longer strangers.

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Steuart’s Bach & Beer concerts draw a great mix of people. Here he is at Anthem Brewing in Oklahoma City, OK. Photo by Nigel Bland.

We still have almost six months to go on our yearlong journey. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to do a project like this, and there’s no way we could have done it alone. In fact, there are thousands of people who have supported Music in Familiar Spaces in one way or another: letting us park our home in their driveway, recommending a venue, inviting their friends to concerts, coming to concerts, playing in concerts, sharing a news article about our project on social media, and so on. That is what makes this project so special: people of all backgrounds are supporting classical music in a direct way, from the ground up. We just get to bring it to them.

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We hope you will take a moment to get to know our project by visiting our website. We still have much of the country to visit, so be sure to check out our route and upcoming concerts.