Tag Archive for music

Alumni-Led Kitchen Ceilí and Friends Performs Traditional Music Spanning Cultures

Kitchen Ceilí and Friends performed at Russell House on Sunday afternoon of Family Weekend.

Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. A ceilí (English pronunciation: kā’lē) is a traditional Gaelic social dance or gathering with music.

On Sunday, the trio was joined by “Friends”—the Hindustani vocalists of the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer—and the group widened their geographic focus, performing not only original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, and Scotland, but also from South Asia.

The event was held in conjunction with the Center for the Arts’ Music at the Russell House Series.

Photos of their concert are below: (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)



 

Chen ’98 Explores Emotions of Directorial Debut for Filmmaker Magazine

Director Lynn Chen on the set of her first feature film I Will Make You Mine, an experience she wrote about for Filmmaker magazine. (Photo by Eric Yang)

Already an actor and blogger, Lynn Chen ’98 is now also a director, with her first feature film, I Will Make You Mine. She wrote about the experience for Filmmaker magazine: “I Just Finished Directing My First Feature Film, Why Do I Feel Like I Have Post-Partum Depression?”

The editors note that these low feelings are common for first-time directors but not frequently discussed. Chen, however, is an activist—the ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association since 2012—and not afraid to tackle emotional content and bring taboo topics to the forefront.

“When I was a women’s studies/music double major at Wesleyan in 1998, I found very little crossover academically and had to carve my own way through that degree,” recalls Chen. “Now, 20 years later, I’m carving my own way again.”

In the Filmmaker essay, she explains:

About a year ago I started writing my first feature, ‘I Will Make You Mine,’ which I planned to produce, direct, and act in. This is the second sequel to the “Surrogate Valentine” movies I starred in by filmmaker Dave Boyle. I chose to take the same characters and tell the story, six years later, from the female perspective. I spent several months living in the heads of these women, thinking about what it means to grow older, revisit your past, and feel hope again.

Over the summer we filmed the first half of the movie, and despite the drama that comes with any film production, I felt more excited, passionate, fulfilled, alive (and any other positive adjective used to describe feelings) than I ever had before. Yes, I was truly happy. And I don’t care what all the self-help gurus say – that happiness was everything. On the last day, I was still on that high. Until a few hours after we wrapped, when it all came crashing down.

(Read more)

 

 

Graduate Student Khan Performs at 2 International Music Festivals

Yorkston/Thorne/Khan album

In March, the group Yorkston / Thorne / Khan, featuring Wesleyan graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan (at right), performed in Spain and the United Kingdom.

Graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan recently performed at two international music festivals with his group Yorkston / Thorne / Khan. The band comprises James Yorkston, a folk singer and guitarist; Jon Thorne, a jazz bassist; and eighth-generation musician Khan, a sarangi violinist and a vocalist of Indian classical music. The sarangi is a short-necked bowed string instrument from northern India, regarded as sounding similar to the human voice.

On March 19, Yorkston / Thorne / Khan performed at the International Sacred Art Festival in Madrid, Spain. The festival included 39 concerts held over five weeks.

And on March 23, Yorkston / Thorne / Khan dazzled a sold-out theater at the Science Museum in London. The concert served as part of the museum’s Illuminating India series, which commemorated 70 years of independence and was part of the British Council’s U.K./India Year of Culture. “Yorkston / Thorne / Khan is one of the most inspired and inspirational cross-cultural acts to emerge this decade,” wrote Ken Hunt in a concert review published by Pulse Connects. “Their melding of, in order, Scottish and British folk music, jazz and electro, and sarangi lore, Hindustani classical and Sufi devotional music sings of a powerful musical alchemy.”

In this video, watch Yorkston / Thorne / Khan perform the song “False True Piya” from their newest album, Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars. “Piya is a word in the Hindi language, meaning beloved,” Khan explains on his band’s website. “The Hindi lyrics of the song were composed and written by me. They talk about a lover who is longing for a beloved, devastated by pain. A point comes when the lover starts hallucinating that the beloved has arrived and starts having conversations with this hallucination. There is a strange feeling of dark happiness: the beloved is there, but only as a hallucination.”

International Women’s Day Celebrated with Alumnae Spotify Playlist

Featuring album covers from four alumnae musicians, the logo of the “Women of Wesleyan” playlist on Spotify highlights the range of music performed by Wesleyan artists. Wesleyan collected the 43 songs as part of the university’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

On March 8, Wesleyan’s Facebook post read: ”In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the most talented musicians we know with our ‘Women of Wes’ Spotify playlist. There’s something for everyone in this eclectic mix of Wesleyan alumnae, including Amanda Palmer ’98, Santigold ’97, J.R. Rhodes ’90, and Dar Williams ’89. Listen here, or go to #NowPlaying #IWD18.”

Also included on this list of 43 songs were pieces by Flo Anito ’01, Jess Best ’14, Amy Crawford ’05, Beanie Feldstein ’15, Mary Halvorson ’02, The Overcoats (JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15), Chris Pureka ’01, Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’09 (of Anna and Elizabeth), Peri Smilow ’92, Tierney Sutton ’86,  Julia Scolnik ’78, and Nina Zeitlin ’03.

If you are a Wesleyan musician on Spotify, please let us know, so that we can include you in future music highlights. Contact Wesleyan’s digital content manager Sami Jensen.

Ganbarg ’88 Co-Produces Another Grammy Nominee with Dear Evan Hansen

The Broadway cast recording of the Tony Award–winning musical Dear Evan Hansen earned a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album on Nov. 28. Produced with Atlantic Record’s President of A&R (artists and repertoire) Pete Ganbarg ’88, along with music supervisor and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and Broadway producer Stacey Mindich, the album had debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 when it came out last February.

Artist/Designer Marowitz ’81 Rocks A Grammy Nomination with Best Recording Package

Independent designer for music Gail Marowitz—here with singer-songwriters Jonathan Coulton and Aimee Mann—says that with its resurgence, vinyl recordings have brought “a little kick” to her schedule. “I recently spoke at a conference about vinyl and I pointed out that nobody really invited anyone over to listen to iTunes on your laptop, but you will invite friends over to hear a record on your turntable and pass around the album jacket. Kids are seeing value in what I saw when I was their age. I say that I have a misspent youth in record stores—but I guess it wasn’t misspent. I guess it panned out.” (photo by Sheryl Nields.

This year the list of Grammy nominations includes work by Gail Marowitz ’81. Founder of The Visual Strategist, a company devoted to designing for music, Marowitz is not a first-timer on the coveted list. Her work has garnered her three nominations in the Best Recording Package category, with a win in 2006.

Now in the running is Marowitz’s work on Jonathan Coulton’s Solid State.

Marowitz, who claims “a misspent youth, looking at albums in record stores” and sends e-mails under the name “childorock,” says that her fascination with album covers began when she was 6 and her older brother brought home the Beatles’ Revolver. “There was so much to look at—drawings and collage. I remember staring at it for long periods of time.”

Miranda ’02 up for Moana Grammy, Receives Special Latin Grammy Award

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, here in a still from the official video for “Almost Like Praying,” which he wrote and recorded with a number of other artists to benefit hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. He recently was honored at the Latin Grammy Awards and has been nominated for a Grammy Award for a song he wrote for Disney’s Moana.

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, the Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur Genius, and Tony Award winner for Hamilton and In the Heights was honored with the Latin Recording Academy President’s Merit Award at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 16. This is a special award, not given annually, and it was presented to the well known composer, lyricist, and performer by Latin Recording Academy President/CEO Gabriel Abaro to honor Miranda’s many outstanding contributions to the Latin community.

Abaroa told  Billboard, “Lin-Manuel’s urban and social poetry have provided strength and encouragement to every Latino motivated to get ahead. He has brought pride to our community by reminding us of the resilience and fortitude we demonstrate on a daily basis.”

Most recently he composed and released “Almost Like Praying—Relief Single for Puerto Rico, (Atlantic Records, Oct. 6, 2017). Miranda, who performed the song with various artists, donated all proceeds to The Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund to help the survivors of Hurricane Maria

Additionally, when the Grammy nominations were released on Nov. 28, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work appeared in two categories, both related to his work on the soundtrack for Moana, Disney’s animated adventure-comedy. Moana: The Songs, a compilation of works by various artists, including Miranda as singer and performer, appears in the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media. Additionally, a song he wrote for that film, “How Far I’ll Go” (performed by Auli’i Cravalho), appears in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category.

In an interview with Hollywood Reporter Melinda Newman, Miranda explained that the insight into creating “How Far..” for the title character of the film came in recalling his own teenage years:

Where she [Moana] and I met was having a calling — not necessarily even understanding the calling, but knowing that it’s there inside. I knew I wanted a life in some creative endeavor for as long as I can remember. For me, I think the song took the final turn it needed when I realized it’s not a song about a young woman who hates where she is and needs to get out, it’s a song about a woman who loves where she lives and her family and her culture and still has this feeling. So what do you do with it? I related to that as well and so that was the final insight we needed to get that moment to really strike a chord because it’s messier, it’s complicated.

YouTube Preview Image

Assistant Professor of Music Sorey MA ’11 Wins MacArthur “Genius” Award

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo Credit: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who joined Wesleyan’s faculty this fall as assistant professor of music, has been awarded a fellowship—better known as a “genius” grant—from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The announcement was made Oct. 11.

The fellowship is a “$625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur website. Fellows are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

“Your Pillow”: Starbucks Selects Single by Rhodes ’90

J.R. Rhodes ’90 has a new album coming out Nov. 3, and a single from it has already been picked up for play in Starbucks. (Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis)

Next time you’re seeking a caffeine fix in Starbucks, keep your ears open for a song by J.R. Rhodes ’90. Hers is a haunting alto voice—with a throatiness and rich, emotional depth reminiscent of Joan Armatrading—and the song, in a minor key, “Your Pillow,” was the first single released from her album I Am, due out Nov. 3.

A music major at Wesleyan and a singer/songwriter since then, Rhodes had released three albums previously: Elixir (2011), Afriqueen Stare (2003) and Songs of Angels (1999).

The high-profile single placement, however, is something entirely new.

“A career in music can definitely be a winding road,” she says. “You have your days when you want to give up. And then you get a little help. And sometimes—you get a lot of help.”

6th Annual The MASH Highlights Wesleyan’s Music Scene

Inspired by Fete de la Musique (also known as World Music Day), the sixth annual The MASH festival on Sept. 9 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles to student, faculty and alumni bands.

Stages were set up at Foss Hill, outside Olin Library and North College. More than 20 groups and soloists performed at Wesleyan’s The Mash including Bonanza, Good Morning CT, McCleary McCleary, MEG, Saint Something, Jal, The Basukes, Smokin’ Lilies, Jess Best ’14, Prometheus, New Group, Gabe & Brien, Savannah Jeffreys ’18, Johnny Gilmore ’18, Anna Savage ’18, Quasimodal, Sloane Peterson, ethereal whoosing, The Purple Windsounds, LAZ, Cicero Presley and Tasty Desert Creatures.

The MASH was held in conjunction with the City of Middletown’s Main Street Stroll, a family-friendly celebration of Middletown’s Main Street and the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The stroll featured music, street performers, specialty workshops and more.

Anna Savage '18 performed at the Olin stage.

Anna Savage ’18 performed at the Olin stage.

Faculty/Staff Band Mattabesset String Collective Performs

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece Wesleyan-affiliated acoustic ensemble playing an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, folk, mountain, country and rock, all in a string band style.

The group’s name, Mattabesset, is the Algonquian name for the region that became Middletown. “Since our music reaches back into history, we thought it was appropriate. We were attracted to the term collective because it suggests the egalitarian nature of our enterprise,” said band member Marc Eisner, dean of the Social Sciences Division, the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

The band performed July 29 in Higganum, Conn. Photos of the concert are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece string band featuring dobro, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo or cuatro. Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. 

Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. They have about 80 songs in their repertoire, ranging from old-time traditional jug band music, to string band versions of Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses, and a few songs written by band members. “One of the pleasures of playing in this band involves reaching for, and occasionally attaining, new levels of musical cohesion,” Skillman said.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective. Skillman taught himself guitar as a teenager. “Once you learn to play one fretted instrument, learning others is primarily a matter of varying the approach to sounding the strings, which is easier than learning to play an instrument from the ground up,” he said.

Sorey Is ‘Obliterating the Lines,’ According to New York Times Profile

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo by John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, assistant professor of music, is called a “preternaturally talented multi-instrumentalist who has built a career in the territory between standard definitions” in an extensive profile in The New York Times.

“In some circles, he’s thought of as a jazz drummer; in others, he fits in more as an avant-garde composer,” the article says of Sorey, who is about to release his sixth album, “Versimilitude.”

The article discusses Sorey’s background, from his modest upbringing in Newark—where his public schools offered little in the way of arts education and his father “helped foster his affinity for music”—to his study of jazz drumming at William Paterson University.