In July, I conducted a crowdfunding campaign to cover travel expenses in order to attend and perform at the National Flute Association convention in New Orleans. I crowd funded for a variety of reasons:

  • a very short time frame of only 3 weeks
  • the importance of performing new music at such a large gathering
  • not knowing when this type of opportunity would come around again
  • and more which you can read about here

As a freelance musician, earning a living in this business is very challenging. Sometimes, no matter how much you learn about the business side of things and implement it into your day to day routine, the new students, the paid gigs, or the cushy traditional jobs just never materialize. This is why crowdfunding can be so attractive.

Crowdfunding is a way for creatives to invite their audience to participate in the creation process, and cultivate a patron-artist relationship that was mostly out of reach of all but those with enough disposable income to commission a piece or painting. Crowdfunding now enables us all to become patrons and shareholders in art that we believe in.

Personal reasons aside, let me walk you through the steps I considered to set up my crowdfunding campaign.


There are a lot of platforms available for your campaign – Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub are just a few. Research each site’s fees and decide where your project would best fit. For my recent campaign, I decided to go with GoFundMe, a donation website that can be utilized for a wide variety of causes and projects. Since my campaign wasn’t funding a specific creative project but funding travel costs for myself and my pianist, I felt that GoFundMe was the most appropriate option with affordable fees.


If you’re setting up a campaign that enables you to keep all the funds you raise, don’t be afraid to set a realistic budget and add 10% to cover the website fees. Although I came very close to raising the entire amount I needed to cover travel expenses, I set a lower budget because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Be bold and ask for you what you need. If what you’re asking has any value, your supporters are going to help you out.

If they see the value in your project, you should too!


Another thing I factored into my overall projections was the amount of time I would need to spend to raise a daily minimum amount. Anyone who has crowd funded will tell you that running a crowdfunding project can become a full time job. I was fortunate in this instance that my budget and daily minimum were low enough that I didn’t have to stay up all hours of the night to raise funds.

With that said, if you’re thinking about crowd funding a project now or in the future, think about your social media presence and your online brand. Do you have a core audience beyond your family and friends? Cultivating a strong network – local and online – will come in handy when you need to raise money. If you have these building blocks in place, promotion will be a lot easier. Don’t try to build a brand and promote all at the same time!


I don’t think crowdfunding is going away anytime soon, but I do think that it isn’t appropriate for every project. If I’d had more time to find travel grants or ways to generate additional income on my own, I would have not undertaken this campaign.

Fiscal sponsorship is another viable option for musicians and Fractured Atlas is one resource for artists. Research all viable options and decide what fits your goal. When you have the details of your project and a projected budget figured out, you’ll be able to decide which option works best for you. You’ll have more success when you use the right platform, whether it be crowdfunding, grants or fiscal sponsorship.

New Resource for Flutists

February 7, 2013

Hello –

I thought that many of you would be interested in this site put up my the Swiss flutist Mats Möller. It’s a mini-textbook of sorts for extended flute techniques that includes both audio and notation examples.


Dear Readers,

I am in LOVE with this new blog of Jeffrey Agrell, and wanted to share the Improv Game of the Day that just arrived in my inbox.  Check out this blog, there are wonderful teaching and performing tips to wake up the improviser in you and your students!

Thanks to Jeffrey for this new resource.

Laura Lentz for IPAP

Improv Game of the Day: Gregorian Chance

gregorian chant

2 players. Player One plays a drone on a chosen note. Player Two uses a choice of one of the following scales to create a slow, chant-like melody:

Dorian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

Phrygian mode: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Aeolian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

go to for the rest of the post…

How I Founded A Flute Choir

October 17, 2011

Flute Choirs are kind of new territory for me.  Sure, I played in them all through college, and in grad school even conducted them…but founding one once you’re out in the “real world”?  New ballgame.

After moving to Panama City, FL, I wanted to grow the flute scene here.  What I found is that there really wasn’t much going on.  And, to my annoyance and frustration, I found that I haven’t seen much effort or encouragement on the part of the band directors in this area either, so my job was doubly hard.  I started a Flute Day at a high school and that had a grand run of 3 times.  I think I had somewhere between 1-3 people show up each time?  Out of a county of hundreds of flutists?  They gave me the excuse of “well, the kids are busy.” or “they’re at the beach or they have jobs or or or or”.  I don’t care what the excuses are, the excuses are still excuses.  The kids chose not to come and the band directors chose not to make it mandatory.  In TN, where I come from, I would have had probably 20-50 students come because it’s just that important there.  You are EXPECTED to take lessons and go to extracurricular music activities, etc.  Here, I have trouble even getting the band directors too call me back.  They don’t make it a priority for their students, and the parents don’t see it as necessary, henceforth the kids don’t care much either.

So, seeing that there was a large  pool of people not involved gave me the opportunity to mope and say “woe is me, there are no opportunities, I can’t do anything here” or go in a different direction.
I went in a different direction!

I play in the Panama City Pops Orchestra, a community orchestra that is better than the average bear.  I feel very blessed to be able to play with them and have a good flute section.  So I started asking them if they would be interested in doing a flute choir.  They all said yes, they would commit and I asked around everywhere to see if I could find other adult members.  We have gone through some changes in personnel, but overall, these founding few have stayed with us and we’ve developed a choir!

What were my steps?

I am by no means an expert in this area and I’m learning more each day I go about this. But this is what I did and what I’m doing so far so that maybe you can learn from this as well.

  1. Recruit members I asked around to find members, got their contact information and sent them all preliminary emails asking if they had preferences for times/days.
  2. Find a Rehearsal Venue Found a band director that would let me hold rehearsals in their band rooms.  The school board has since decided they will charge groups wanting to use their facilities so we’ve moved to a choir member’s house for rehearsal.  You HAVE to find a place to rehearse!
  3. Pick a Consistent Time This can be easier said than done.  We went around and around in trying to pick a time and a place and ultimately, since I was the leader, I had to make an executive decision and say when it would be.  If you cannot commit, I’m sorry.  We did our best to work with everyone’s schedules, but of course not everyone can be accommodated: be prepared for that.  We started out with an hour and realized that we just didn’t have enough time, so now we’ve migrated to two hours once a week.
  4. Repertoire I was very fortunate in that all the flute choir music we have has been donated by various members.  Ask around, see who has trios, quartets or whatnot and use what you have.  Double parts.  Buy music only when you really need it.  If one person is generous enough to buy music for the group, great, but if not, don’t be shy about mentioning that we need funds to buy music, what can we donate to that fund and is there anything specific we’d like to get?  With rep, also be really aware of scoring.  We have a unique situation in that we have more instruments than members!  We have 2 altos, 2 piccolos, 1 bass and everyone has a C flute, but we only have 8 members, one of which is only in town for a few months out of the year.  So, 8 members and 13 instruments?  Kind of a neat problem to have…but then you look at how some pieces are scored and it’s for 6 C flutes, alto bass, piccolo, etc. and you don’t have enough people even though you have the instruments.  Don’t be afraid to double on trios and be the conductor, or transcribe parts from madrigals and choral music.  Put that music education/theory/instrumental class to good use!
  5. Get Goals for the Group Do you just want to get together to play or do you want to perform?  Why are you getting together, what do the members want out of the group?  We’ve decided we want to perform, so after many rehearsals, go out and either find or create gigs.  My members mentioned a LOT of great places to play that I didn’t know about because I’m not from the area: the library has a grand piano and hosts groups, an historical house that hosts concerts, FBA meetings (band directors meetings), partnering with schools to play on their school concerts or at an orchestra concert, nursing homes, hospitals, local events and fairs, etc.  We are going to be performing 15 minutes at an FBA meeting, at a middle school concert (with the middle school kids joining us on a piece), a full concert at the historical house and as prelude music in the reception hall before the Pops Orchestra Concert. We have plans to submit to perform for the Flute Flute Association Annual Convention in coming years, but we need some local performances under our collective belt first.  Be creative.  You don’t have to have a full hour long concert where people just come to see you.  Your goal is to get in front of people and get known!
  6. Set Deadlines and Be In Constant Communication After every rehearsal I send out an email to the group reminding them of what we did, what we need to work on and what we will do next week, this way they can be practicing and preparing for it.  I also let them know when our concerts are, remind them what we are going to be playing and since we’ve now committed to them, we have to be prepared to play at our highest level!  Don’t be afraid to set the bar high – set the bar too low and you’ll get what you asked for.  Set it high and be amazed.
  7. Advertise I have included our name as a flute choir everywhere I can think of: on my blog, webpage, facebook notices, listed on the FFA website, NFA website – and I’ve had people find us to join us because of that.  Hobnob and network with various band directors and tell them to send you their star players.  Can’t get them commit?  Our next plan is to go play in the schools.  Get a middle school or elementary school assembly and play as a group or get your choir together and go on a school tour during the day, hitting a bunch of high schools.  Play for the kids, get them to ask questions, mention you teach lessons and you are an open group – they can join, and LEAVE SOMETHING IN THEIR HANDS or they won’t remember you were there when they get home.
  8. Don’t be a Taskmaster, but Don’t Be Afraid to Say What Needs to Be Said or Do What Needs to Be Done Remember, people are doing this because they enjoy it, so don’t take a holier-than-thou approach or constantly criticize.  However, there is that fine line that needs to be walked because you don’t want to not criticize at all. Be tactful in pointing out mistakes or “opportunities for improvement”.  Ask for group feedback.  Step back every once in awhile and let them solve things.  Remember, this is your group if you want it that way, so you are the leader.  Lead, but still serve the group in leading.  Say what needs to be said in a tactful way.  Pick your battles, sometimes it’s the right time, sometimes it’s not, so walk the fine line of not being a taskmaster or a pushover.

These  are the things that I NEED to do now.

  1. Advertise This one really never ends.  It doesn’t have to be expensive but it needs to be out there.  Try setting up a Facebook page, a Weebly free website for the group, maybe a blog with what you are doing, business cards or flyers.  Constantly be in contact with people and have your group at the forefront of their minds.
  2. Get a Name and Get it Known we already have a name: The Emerald Coast Flute Choir, but is it known? That’s another story.  Let your members know you have a name and get them to hand out things and talk about the group with the name, not just “hey we have a flute choir and we could come play”.  It sounds much better to have a name.
  3. Realize that you don’t have to be formal  If you want to look like the group in the first picture that’s fine, it depends on what your venues are and the image you want to project.  Us?  We live in a beach town, so while we want to be known as professionals, we don’t want to be too “professional” that we alienate our audiences, do you know what I mean?  Example: how we set up.  Due to how we rehearse and our limited space, we don’t play in a straight line.  We are more in a circle spread out around the room.  This has led to the thoughts of “how will we set up on stage”?  Considering we all have different parts at different times, it would get annoying to constantly be moving between pieces and honestly, I think we play better and are forced to listen more by staying in the same spot and standing next to someone who doesn’t have your same part.  So, we just might set up around the room instead of in a line.  We’ll see 🙂  Point is, be flexible and find what works for YOUR group.
  4. Include the local musicians whenever possible We have pieces that call for instruments we don’t have like string bass, claves, various percussion instruments and narrators.  If you are going to a school, include their band director, the kids will LOVE seeing their teacher actually perform.  We have people coming from a town 2 hours away to play with us occassionally, include them whenever possible.  Again, be flexible and include your audience if you can.

Um, I’m sure there are more, but that’s what comes to mind.

Biggest thing that was a hurdle for me: picking a date to start and then just launching the thing and seeing what happens.  It won’t start if you don’t, so pick a date, be in contact and go for it!

What does it mean to stretch adequately? And why should I bother?

Stretching is underrated and underdone and people, especially musicians, are paying the price for it. The body was designed to move and it was not meant to hold static positions for long lengths of time, be that sitting in a car, typing, playing an instrument, etc. If one is confined to a rather static position for a long length of time, the body will become stiff and tight in certain areas. If, after that, you try to move suddenly, or for example, spend a long day at work in front of your computer (or several hours in a practice room) and decide then to go lift weights, if you do not stretch and warm up properly, you are literally begging for an injury. You are asking muscles that are tight/weak/stretched to do things that they are not ready nor capable to do.

Let me give you an example. For my bodyweight workout this past week I did not take the time to adequately stretch and warmup before hand and for the last two days, my hips have been paying for it. They have been so incredibly tight that I was almost limping. This led me to stretching ever opportunity I got yesterday, almost to no avail. Today before my workout, I spent the better part of 20 minutes, if not more, stretching and warming up, making sure my body was ready to meet the demands I was about to put on it.

How did I know I was ready? Well, let me tell you. After sitting for a long time, the hip flexors get shortened, the hamstrings and lower back can get stretch and the glutes fall asleep and fail to fire. What is the first thing I did when I got in the gym today? Dynamically and statically stretched my lower body and did plenty of glute activation exercises. It took awhile, but when I finally felt like my glutes were working (there was a burn starting to happen, I could feel them working) and my hips no longer felt like they were going to snap, but instead started to feel loose, and move more freely, I knew I was ready to go.

Let’s apply this to woodwind players and the upper body. What can you do? Make sure you warm up your upper body before you practice, during and after.

Next time you are about to practice, try this little warm up sequence and tell me how it went for you:

Arm circles 2 sets of 10

Doorway chest stretch 2×30 sec.

Wall slides 1×30 seconds each side

Do all three once before repeating.

What is happening? Well, if you play an instrument, more than likely you will have your arms in front of you. These stretches will warm up the chest, upper back and shoulder girdle allowing the muscles to move better and fire more accurately. If you have extra time, (and ideally, an exercise ball) do a couple sets of prone lower trap raises and/or YTLW’s. These will really fire up your lower traps and upper back.

What about if you are going to be sitting?

One thing that you can do is to do the standing warrior lunge stretch. Stand tall. Take a long step forward and descend into a lunge. Stretch your pelvis back, you should feel a deep stretch in your hip on the trailing/semi-straight leg. For added glute activation/hip stretching, squeeze your buttock on the trailing leg, let the arm on the trailing leg side drop towards your leg and raise you opposite arm high until you feel a longer stretch up into your abs on the trailing leg side. Hold this for 30 seconds. repeat on the other side. Do twice on each side.
If you have some time before a rehearsal, you can do some glute bridges, but if you have nowhere to lie on the floor, an easy way to get your glutes firing (so your hips and quads are doing less work) is to take long strides as you are walking to rehearsal/concert/ the bus/around, etc. and squeeze your butt with each step.

Anything I can do while I’m playing or even walking around?

Yes! If you recall the neutral position you are to take whenever you begin weight training (chest out, back arched, stick your butt out, shoulder blades back and down), you can modify this stance to be useful during the day. Basically, if you will depress and retract your shoulder blades while you are playing/practicing/rehearsing and even just walking around throughout the day, you will accomplish several different things:

  1. Your chest will open up, stretch out and be less tight.
  2. You will have taller, easier posture with less effort.
  3. Your upper back will hurt less, and be less stretched and weak.
  4. You will automatically have more confidence as when you depress and retract your shoulder blades you have to stick out your chest, which is a subconsciously vulnerable area and to do so signifies confidence, whether real or imagined, eventually it will become real.

Try this for a week and tell me how it worked for you!

Once upon a time…

Like most people who learn an instrument in the USA, I learned to play the flute in 6th grade. I had wanted to start playing much earlier than this as I knew my mother had a flute hidden away under the stairs. Sometimes I would take it down off the shelf, carefully (like it had magic and I didn’t want to disturb it) and I would open the box to reveal the gleaming, silver tube inside. Seeing that shiny instrument, nestled in dark, navy velvet, I would reach out with wonder and touch the keys, thinking to myself “one day, I am going to get to learn to play this! One day, it will be mine to play and I won’t have to stare at it from a box”. After a few minutes of staring I’d put it away back on the dusty shelf and sigh with longing that I had to wait till 6th grade to learn.

the shiny buttons...

When the day came to sign up for band, I was first in line, waving my arms and proclaiming to everyone who would listen “I have a flute! I already have an instrument! Please, I want to play the flute!” I would rush down the halls every day at 2nd period with a giddy excitement that I, yes I was going to play that beautiful, shiny instrument and because of ME it was going to make sound!!!

I was one of the first in the band room, when it was time to wait for the bus, I would sneak down there to practice (once actually missing the bus and causing my mother to come get me….something she made known was NOT acceptable) and I always made sure that when I put my flute in the storage room with the other flutes that it was upright and protected. It wasn’t just that it was my mother’s instrument and I felt the pull of responsibility to take care of something that I undoubtedly cost a fortune, but I felt it somehow fragile, and extremely special because with it came the ability to express myself and communicate in a new way.

On lesson days I was uber-excited because I knew that I got to stay after school and play to my heart’s content…well, for an hour and a half at least. Some of my friends were taking lessons that day too and we’d play duets which was thrilling, and then when I was last, I’d have the huge empty room all to myself. I’d love to listen to my sound bounce off the walls.

As I grew up through high school and even into college, that same excitement followed me – sneaking down to the band room, getting special permission to not have to sit in study halls so I could go practice, playing every chance I got and going to every honor band I possibly could. I had an in-exhaustible curiosity to learn new things, new music, and lessons were always something I looked forward to because it wasn’t about not being prepared and playing for the teacher it was the thought of “what will she say that’s new to me today? What will I learn today? When I leave here, I’ll be better than when I came in!”

The beginnings of body awareness

In all those years of teaching, very seldom was any emphasis placed on being aware of my body, save hand position being correct and an awful lot of talk about my embouchure. In fact, it was the teacher in 7th grade who taught me my current (more or less) embouchure and thinking back on it, she put a great deal of emphasis on awareness of my lips. She had me play in front of a mirror to see what the embouchure looked like, and then step away, play and see if I could feel it without looking. I would go down the hall to the bathroom and stand on my tippy toes to see in the mirror, enjoying not only the sound of my playing bouncing off the walls of the deserted bathroom and down the hall, but enjoying the thrill of discovery with how my body worked.

Interlochen Center for the Arts

Image via Wikipedia

From there, I started to notice that I was becoming increasingly interested in the body, especially mine, with how it worked in regards to playing my special instrument. I heard about Alexander Technique and took classes in it at Interlochen Arts Camp.

Then, I was told that there was a woman named Barbara Conable giving a workshop at a nearby university and her workshop was an all-day event titled “Everything The Musician Needs to Know About the Body“. My friend, a music therapy major, and I packed up and spent the day learning things that to this day, I have not forgotten.

Photograph of right posterior human distal rad...

Image via Wikipedia

At the time, I was still recovering from tendonitis acquired from my practicing at Interlochen. She asked for volunteers who had present or previous health issues. Of course, I volunteered, and she began to give me a body mapping lesson in front of the class. She told me to take my finger and run it all the way down one finger until I felt a mass of bones together: that was my wrist! Where the finger bone joined the wrist was actually the first joint of the finger! She told me: move your fingers and feel how they move….not move them from the first joint. It felt soooo much freer!

The grad school experience

I went on to graduate school where I took a class in Alexander Technique at Appalachian State for a whole year. It was wonderful to learn how to move and to learn how the body is supposed to move. But it wasn’t until I got to FSU that I REALLY began to be aware of my body.

Now, all through these years I had had an interest in exercise and weight training. I had been going to the gym since 7th grade when I was on the tennis team, but I really got into training regularly when I got to college. I read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on, and while I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was determined to learn and in the process of lifting, I began to develop mind-body awareness. My programming skills might have been seriously lacking, but I knew that when I did a one-arm row I supposed to feel it in my back, and I tinkered around with it till I did. I have no doubt this set me up for great body awareness come grad school.

At FSU I began to take Dynamic Integration (Feldenkrais) classes with Eva Amsler. This class began with all students lying on the floor for an hour every Thursday morning while Prof. Amsler walked around the room, asking us the strangest, easiest, and yet most difficult questions, in her Swiss accent.

“Do you feel your left leg lying on the floor? Which way are your toes pointing?”

“How much space is there between your ankle and the floor?”

“Do you feel your shoulder blades lying on the floor? Could you draw your little wings?”

“Think about how to get up, what would you move first?”

The class was incredibly eye-opening and between that class and her lessons I found myself questioning how I played this instrument that was almost a part of me, and questioning was there a better way? A different way?

While I was at FSU I continued my workouts, getting up about 6 every morning to walk to the gym, do my workout and walk home before preparing for class. I found myself asking the same questions in my workouts:

“Is there a better way to do this? ”

Am I moving most efficiently/effectively?”

“Should I feel this here or there?”

“If I increase the weight, does my form change?”

Looking back through my notebook of those two years of grad school, the practice notes in the beginning are peppered with questions to myself. The lessons revealed all kinds of new thoughts on how to think about my body, how to re-learn playing my instrument in the way that was best suited to me.

Actual Questions from my Notebook

Practice Notes:

I found that when slurring octaves my throat moves. I am attempting to only use my lips, mainly my upper lip. I find I can do this but it’s not clean at all. *How do I change octaves?

….the next day I answered this question:

I can change octaves by changing my support which creates faster air – blowing harder? But it sounds better when just my top lip moves down.

Warm up: long tones while singing – focus only on throat. Notice that air crept into cheeks. As I go lower, pitch wants to jump up, if I focus on only my aperture, I can feel it barely move to sculpt the air! Can only play very softly.

Played one note feeling upper lip move up and down and upper lip only while upper lip stays relaxed!

Long tones ascending concentrating on 1) Keeping an uninvolved throat 2) smallest possible movement in aperture 3) relaxed corners and/or air in cheeks.

The higher I go the louder I get! Why am I gripping the keys so tightly???

Flutter tonguing work: If I sing with the vowel “ih” in my mouth while I flutter tongue, the back of the tongue goes down. However, something changes when I take the voice away…I’m getting it but this is going to take WORK!

Pentatonic scales – focusing on feeling in whole body, am I creating unnecessary tension anywhere? Tension -front of shoulders, left rear deltoid. While I am just observing what’s happening in my body, tension-wise I am noticing more inflation in my cheeks only concentrating on that, not thinking about support and keeping fingers close to the keys.

When I sit on the ball and play, I notice I collapse into myself.

Lesson Notes/Questions:

The tongue is a muscle so we can relax it. When double tonguing, let the air move the tongue. Tongue is only interrupting the air.

Figure out which way I learn – hearing, visual or muscle memory. Sing it, write it down, or play it without blowing.

(about support) Just feel that you hold the tension – how it feels to play with and without.

Teaching principle: go where you haven’t been before – unexplored. You don’t have to say “I change you”

Observe, don’t control. Allow yourself to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, don’t stop, it punishes yourself. Just be aware when you do something wrong or right – was that easy? Hard? Instead of”when I do….then…” that’s controlling.

Trust = risk. To trust myself: 1) Observe when you control 2) risk 3) start to observe when you DON’T trust

For 3 weeks, every day, do finger work: practicing slowly, fingers slow close to the keys, observing – can also practice slowly pressing/lots of tension and then easy to feel the difference – but be really patient for 3 weeks before working other way.

Work on holding the body open.

There are lots and lots more of those in my notebook, but do you see the theme? The questions I was asking myself actually took a lot of guts. That excitement to discover, to learn, to play that I had in 6th grade that followed me all the way till now served me well; it gave me the courage I didn’t know I had to not put so much stock in what old teachers had told me was the “right” way, but it gave me the courage to discover and learn my own way. Not only did this make me a better player, it made me a much better teacher, I feel.

Exercises in developing self-trust and body awareness

As you can see by now, developing body awareness can go hand in hand with developing a trust of yourself. Look at te questions I wrote down as I practiced; have you ever asked yourself those questions? Has your practice session looked something like that?

1) this week, each time you practice, write down your own observations of your practice session. Notice what you are doing – can you do it without judging?

Look at the questions my professor asked of me and the way she guided me.

2) Take one of these each week and apply it to yourself and your practice session. Write down your observations

Are you afraid to observe? Do you find judgements coming up as you observe things? Do you have the courage to change if you observe yourself doing something less effectively than you would like?

3) sometime during the day take time to lie on the floor and make observations of yourself. Notice every part of your body and where it touches the floor. If judgements come up about how you are lying on the floor, just let them pass. Start on one side of your body and work your way up from your feet to your head – then compare each side to the other, and do the other side. When you get up after this, how do you feel? When you play after this, how do you feel?

4) while playing, start to feel other parts of your body than your fingers. You might be surprised to find you don’t even feel your fingers when you play. Take a day and focus on how your lips feel, what do they do? How do they change notes? Feel your feet when you play. Where do they touch the floor? All these thoughts think WHILE playing – how does it change your playing to concentrate on feeling your body and putting the “doing” on auto-pilot?

Be kind to yourself. Body awareness takes time and is constantly developing. Try some of these techniques and tell me below how you feel. Do you already have good body awareness? How did you develop it? If you have taken Alexander, Feldenkrais, Dynamic Integration, or body mapping lessons, share with others how it helped you.

My advice to young musicians is simple: find out what you love the most, what you can’t live without, and what your wildest artistic dream is; and then find out where that’s needed—Claire Chase

LL: When did you found ICE, why did you found ICE, and can you talk about the general mission of the ensemble?

CC:  I founded ICE on a greyhound bus en route to Chicago in June 2001 immediately after graduating from Oberlin. I knew that I wanted to try my hand at building an organization from the ground up, but it wasn’t until that bus ride that the idea of ICE came to me, caught fire in my mind, and wouldn’t let go of me. Ten years later, it still hasn’t!

I wanted to create an international organization dedicated to new music that would someday be as vital culturally, artistically and sociologically as the great opera houses, symphony orchestras, and theater companies of the world’s great cities. The music of our time deserves a place in contemporary culture that is not on the margins but rather in the epicenter of our lives, and I wanted to create a company and build a community of artists that would champion that idea uncompromisingly, a company that would blaze trails and set an entirely new standard for what is “possible” in the 21st century.

The mission of ICE, in a nutshell, is to expand our notion of what is possible on a daily basis – in the concert hall, in the classroom, in the rehearsal studio, in our imaginations, as listeners and as performers.

LL:  What makes ICE unique, and at the same time, how do you see ICE’s role as part of a changing musical landscape with more musicians as entrepreneurs, creating their own opportunities?

CC:  What makes ICE unique in my mind is our shared enthusiasm for making impossible things possible. Ten years ago, the idea of creating an American counterpart to an organization like Ensemble Intercontemporain or Ensemble Modern seemed impossible; today, it’s absolutely possible, not just through ICE but also through the extraordinary movement of young ensembles and organizations that we are fortunate to be a part of. We’re a part of this ecosystem, especially in New York where fantastic young groups are sprouting up by the minute, each with a different, and in my mind, complementary vision for the future of music. It’s an incredibly exciting landscape in which to be making music, and I see this movement strengthening, deepening and widening by the day. Don’t believe the critics and nay-sayers; this is a great time to be doing what we’re doing, perhaps the best time ever. Don’t believe the folks who say they’re competing for few donor dollars either; every dollar that a new-music organization raises to do its invaluable work is also an invaluable service to the larger community of new-music lovers and doers alike. We are all in this together.

In Europe, the contemporary music ensemble is already an institution, and has been so for nearly a quarter of a century. In the US, this organism is just starting to take shape. I want ICE to help shape this movement, accelerate it, build communities around it, and create a modular, malleable, artist-driven organizational model that future generations can use.

The dream in the beginning was to create a company that would have bases in multiple US cities – so that our work as an ensemble could have broad reach and wouldn’t just be limited to one geographic location (or, just as limiting, to a touring schedule that makes sustained, meaningful contact with audiences impossible). I thought, why not have an ICE outpost in Chicago, an ICE outpost in New York, and eventually an ICE outpost in Los Angeles? Someday, why not expand internationally? Why not have 50 events a year rather than a season of just half a dozen? Why not build up to 100 events annually eventually? Why not have a robust budget of a million dollars to do our work? These were crazy ideas in 2001, but they were real questions, and we came up with real answers. We started with $500 and we’re now headed toward a budget of just under a million. We’re going to keep growing and keep dreaming.

LL:  How is ICE structured as an organization? Is this structure related to your mission?

CC:  ICE’s structure is very much connected to our mission. ICE is its own manager, its own producer, and its own artist. We don’t see any need for division among these traditionally disparate categories; we see them as symbiotic parts of a powerful, generous, and constantly evolving totality. What happens when the artist needs no approval from a producer to do the work that that artist wants? This is our early-21st century question, and I think it’s a fabulously exciting one. We’ll see what happens. We’re right in the middle of it now, so it’s too early to tell, but my prediction is that the 21st century artist is going to be more powerful than she has ever been historically, and we’re about to see an explosion of artistic breakthroughs in our generation.

Although I ran the company myself for seven years without a salary, we’ve in the last three years moved toward a more sustainable model with support staff. ICE currently a full-time staff of four, two of whom (myself and my Program Director, Joshua Rubin, one of the finest clarinetists of his generation) are also founding members of the ensemble; our other staffers are a Development Director and a Managing Director, both of whom are two of the most brilliant, passionate, committed and inspiring people I know. We have 33 musicians, 10 of whom are core members of the group and participate actively in programming, composer selection, guest artist selection, and general artistic direction of the group. We are not a top-down company, but rather a bottom-up, inside-out community. The best ideas really don’t come from me; they come from members of the group.

LL:  Can you explain what ICElab is.

CC:  ICElab is a four-year program (2011-2014) that pairs 24 emerging composers and multimedia artists with ICE to collaboratively create genre-defying new work in upwards of 100 performances over four years all over the world. ICElab is also eventually going to be a digital space where anyone from anywhere in the world can tune in and see this work come to life in audio and video. The program is going to completely change the way that we create work, and I’m terribly excited about it. It’s definitely the coolest thing we’ve ever done.

ICElab is all about putting composers and performers on equal footing and giving them unfettered time, space and resources to let their imaginations run wild and inspire each other to explore new terrain. The core philosophy of the ICElab program is that composers and performers form a symbiotic relationship – we need each other. By
working closely and collaboratively very early in the process, we are in a sense turning the process of composing, and also the process of learning a new piece, inside out and upside down. ICElab provides an open, malleable, creative space in which we are constantly bursting the ceiling open, burning the walls around us down, and going deeper into the ground on which we stand. We expect that the composer will come into this space and embrace this process as we do – with the intention of being changed and redefining what is possible.

LL:  Can you also talk about any educational work you do (Listening Room or any other initiatives).

CC:  Education is as important to ICE as performance. We don’t see the two projects as separate – we see them as absolutely inseparable. If we’re not building the audiences of tomorrow, we have no business expecting the audiences of today to show up to our concerts and engage with our work. How do we get a group of kids interested in new music? Easy! We let them do it themselves. We do away with the mystique of new music as some secret society unavailable to all but the select sophisticated few, and we give kids a blank sheet of paper, some markers, a few tools, some prompts and a bit of guidance, and we let them create a piece of music themselves. They write shapes, they draw wiggly lines, they burst ideas onto a giant piece of construction paper, expressing what is in their magical and phenomenal little minds with whatever vocabulary they have, and ICE “plays” what they’ve written. We perform these compositions, these works of art. It’s great fun, and totally empowering for everyone. This is the premise of The Listening Room – a space where kids listen, to themselves, to each other, to ICE, and ICE listens to them, and we create music together.

LL:  Do you have any thoughts on how music training prepares musicians for their professions, and what musicians might want to do, if anything, to complement the training they receive?

CC:  The idea of ICE sprung, in a sense, from my dissatisfaction with the choices that I was implicitly given in my musical training: 1) get an orchestra job, 2) stay in academia and get an academic job, or 3) get a manager and have a solo career. I wanted a fourth option – a career and life in which chamber music, collaboration, and the ability to take an idea from its tiniest seed all the way to its fullest flowering, were all complementary parts of an integrated whole. I also wanted to play solo concerts and develop my own voice as an artist while I was also helping others develop theirs, and I wanted to work in a team and build communities of other teams around us so that literally anything would be possible. ICE became this space for me, and for the other 33 members of the group. When we put our heads together and open our hearts (and you’ve got to have both heart and head in this game, one’s not enough), anything is possible.

My advice to young musicians is simple: find out what you love the most, what you can’t live without, and what your wildest artistic dream is; and then find out where that’s needed. It’s not what you do or how well you do it that matters most; it’s where you’re needed. You’ve got to have both: something to say, and someone to say it to. For everyone this cocktail is going to be different, but I do believe every musician has the power within her to figure this out.

For more on ICE, go here.

For more on Claire Chase, go here.

For her talk on Self Promotion and the Musician Entrepreneur go here.

For “The Economy on ICE” from WQXR go here.

For recent work from one of the ICElab’s composers go here.

For an interview with co-founder of Melissa Snoza of Fifth House Ensemble go here.

And you might want to read these related articles:

House music (or putting the YOU in what you do)

The Art-Career Tango

Participatory Music Making Part 1

Participatory Music Making Part 2

eighth blackbird:  What Can Groups Like This Teach Us?

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