Reflections, moments, ideas, dreams, hopes, compositions
Check out this lovely footage of our rehearsal weekend, recorded by Elizabeth Loo, and edited by our very own Michael Genese.
See you soon, Israel & Palestine!
-“The passion behind creating has to come from the enjoyment of the every-day grind of working”-
I am so glad Megan asked us to write these little snippets of our current selves, as I find it difficult to focus on the present in my journey as an artist. I often find myself thinking about what I could have done, or what I should be doing in the future. It is easy to get lost in the self-critique of creative works, especially when you’re in such a competitive field. I also think focusing on the present really ties in well with our most recent repertoire theme, Here I Am. There is no judgment involved, only observance and proclamation of the present moment.
After I graduated in May 2016 with a BA in Music and American Studies, I found myself doing all kinds of random artistic projects. Between recording a few songs, to producing and acting in a horror-spoof film, to even singing with a funk band in Gloucester, I was certainly a Jane-of-all trades/wannabe Renaissance woman. After I had had my fun trying out different gigs, I found myself in need of money and therefore a real job. After a long job search in the corporate world and a reality check, I found myself working at Improv Asylum as a box office agent and doing a few temp jobs in Arts Administration. It was then that everything started to click, or rather, crumble.
Should I pursue music education? Should I try my luck out in opera? Will my friends doubt my technical abilities and knowledge of music theory if I sing musical theatre repertoire and four-chord pop songs? Do I need some sort of performance degree to keep up with my peers? Should I become an ethnomusicologist and do field work for the rest of my life? All of these questions (and more) demanded my time and attention for a good 6 or 7 months, until I came to a few conclusions.
It simply is not plausible to know where I will be in five years, because I hardly know where I will be tomorrow. I cannot worry about the destination, because to me, it simply is not important. I must focus on the journey (did I mention I’m a yogi?), and continue to ask myself, “What do I want to see grow? Where do I see potential?”
It cannot be about the title or the trophy, because that is not what creating art is about. The passion behind creating has to come from the enjoyment of the every-day grind of working, practicing, networking, and creating. From that, I hope, will blossom some sort of collective of passion projects.
This is why I am so happy to be singing with Voices 21C, because our performances are all about being in the moment, and about delivering the music from a place of inner and outer acceptance. We do not strive to be the best choir in the country, and we do not think we are so entitled as to create peace among nations. Instead, we focus our energy on how to perform our repertoire so that we can spark insight and ideas among our audiences. We hope they will realize things about themselves, just as we are realizing things about ourselves while we are performing!
So, what is my current passion project? Well, I do music therapy in Jamaica Plain every once in a while. I’ve performed at a few open mics, taken a theatre improv class, have half of an album written and a fourth of a musical script written (you can guess what happened), and I am now creating a repertoire list of jazz and musical theatre songs to work on for the next few months. And, I sing with my Voices 21C family!
I suppose you could say that my project is trying to figure out where I want to put most of my energy over the next year or so. In the meantime, I will keep aspiring to have as much stamina as Andre de Quadros!
(Side note: I guess I should mention that I will be attending NYU’s masters program in Performing Arts Administration in Fall 2017…I had to figure out some way to get my foot in the door of the NYC performing arts scene!)
Anais Azul, like Michael Genese, is a founding member of Voices 21c. She sees the mission of the group through a very personal and international lens. Born in Peru, raised in San Francisco and educated at Boston University and the Royal Academy of Music in London, Anais has an eclectic ear and an understanding heart.
Visit her website at anaisazulmc.blogspot.com to delve into the interesting collaborative work she has been doing since her time as a singer/song-writer on the BUMP record label as a teen.
"My favorite collaborative project this past year has been my senior recital: “Mundane Delirium, " a ten song narrative musical theater piece about healing internal psychological turmoil in order to be able to heal the world.
Once I compiled the songs for the piece, a few performers and I brainstormed ideas about creating poetic transitions and developing narrative continuity between the songs. Two poet-musicians and a rapper helped develop aleatoric sections within songs so multiple voices and experiences about internal turmoil were represented.
One of the most rewarding processes of the recital was working with three other vocalists to create improvised harmonies for a musicalized poem I wrote. Exchanging vulnerability with my fellow performer-collaborators in this project was the most fulfilling experience I have ever had."
It’s funny, because I feel that if I just take a step back from everything I do, teaching, performing, composing, and living, it feels like a drone of all the same. Almost like a John Luther Adams piece in the way that it might sound like a steady stream of consciousness that doesn’t change, but if you actually pick yourself up and put yourself somewhere else in the score, it sounds completely different from where you left.
Being a first year general music teacher presents me with such an abstract picture of what I’m doing. It’s a struggle to meet your new students on the same playing field with the same baseline assumptions, and influence their intuition in the musical world. Identifying my students needs and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out who they are, feels like a guessing game in the first year. 20% of a grade level I work with may have scored proficient on the last standardized test, yet I hear at least 80% of them mimic a pitch pattern and sight-read solfege patterns on the first try. Music may be the only part of the day they feel inherently successful.
So the idea of music benefiting society, saving the world, these notions of what music does, I think of it as my world. I never voluntarily step out of it. Music helps me cope with most, if not all of my hardships. To instill music in the future of these children, no matter how much they use of it, is my responsibility. Not to force my own worldviews on them, but to give them the tools to create their own world if they ever need to.
When I step into the composing realm, it feels like these pieces I write in mid-procrastination are musical gifts I give to myself. Creating new pieces keeps me sane in a way- these pieces save my world. Going home after teaching to finish a section of whatever piece I’m working on, editing the way a part looks- making whatever I’ve made better. It’s not only incredibly rewarding, but it’s something I can look back on where sense-memories return in a way that give me a mental picture of what my life was like when I wrote that piece. It’s how I sort of keep track of myself.
Of course, coming from a solitary place, studying and creating, then on to performing with Voices 21c, is something I can’t ever find myself taking for granted. The programs are so rich in content. We go into a rehearsal where everything rapidly locks together. We become so emotionally connected, not only with each other, but with the material- that type of human involvement in anything can save the world. To be so kinesthetically and emotionally, spiritually, mentally involved in one moment of life, in something so profound, is a level of human engagement people can accidentally miss out on these days. Deeply meaningful experiences, whether from the perspective of the performer or the audience, serve as a reminder of who we all are as human beings in a society. It always ties back to the music.
Last weekend was the first rehearsal for the 2017 tour to Israel and Palestine as well as a collaboration concert at Vilna Shul in April and our May tour preview performance.
It was great to meet and meld with new singers and bittersweet as some of our founding singers are on hiatus. As a project choir, Voices 21c has a flexible roster of auditioned singers. We currently are looking for a soprano and two basses to fill out the tour.
We want to get to know you better and our new blog is a great place to meet. In the coming weeks, before our trip, we are going to be introducing our singers, one by one. Friendly comments are welcome and don't hesitate to share.
In 2015, Professor André de Quadros of Boston University envisioned bringing together creative singers from around the United States to form a project choir capable of traveling internationally to bring goodwill, peace and global understanding. After auditioning over a hundred singers from all walks of life, twenty-two highly experienced and open-hearted singers were selected. After the initial project in the summer of 2016 at the Choralp Festival in France, VOICES 21C has developed a highly collaborative organizational and artistic structure that capitalizes on the individual strengths and gifts of its members.