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Flyah Interview: Evergreen, "Delicious Vignettes Of Recent American Kind"


Could you tell us a little about your upbringing?

I am a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and cello teacher. I grew up in the vibrant Austin music scene, raised classical, and attended a rigorous conservatory for cello performance. After several months, I recognized that the scope of music available for my study had deepened in technical diculty but had not broadened in cultural representation, and the school was unable to teach me more about the genres of music I was actually interested in. After I left the conservatory, I spent the following years studying every type of music I could access: from Afro-Indigenous Brazilian percussion to rock to jazz to bluegrass to Celtic folk music and improvisation with cello goblin Rushad Eggleston... By the time I was 25 I had performed on stage with musicians such as Sarah Chang, Father John Misty (opening for Paul McCartney), Chris Brubeck, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Eagles. I also maintained a cello teaching career, focusing on teaching cello to students who may or may not necessarily have much interest in learning specically classical music but rather would like a truly general music education including folk and traditional music from all around the world, composing and improvising, the science of sound waves, rhythm, grooves, 20th and 21st century music, music production, sound engineering, and more.

What is the concept behind your project and the message that it conveys?

How often have we heard the adage, “music is a universal language”? Growing up in the classical world, the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was one of my heroes. He composed his String Quartet Op. 96 No. 12 (nicknamed the “American” String Quartet) in 1893 while living in America and was deeply inuenced by singularly American sounds such as native birds, trains, First Nations rituals, and especially African American spirituals. The piece subsequently entered the canon of classical standards, and as a result of nearly a century and a half of trend developments in classical music, a stylistic distance has grown between performances of the piece and its American roots. The project of the LP is to reinterpret the American String Quartet in genres that derived from the music and sounds that originally inspired Dvořák’s composition.

When the people I was running with in the classical circles used to say “music is a universal language” and simultaneously frown at other (especially more percussive) genres such as hip-hop and rap, I realized that the implication was that classical music is a universal language, and that simply can’t be true. I remember a visit to my grandmother, a Chinese woman who had never heard western music until China opened its borders in 1980. She was a lover of the great Chinese songs, but she didn’t remotely understand or enjoy western classical music. I realized that music is a universal form of language, in that every culture and community has a way to express emotionally through sound. However, similar to language, each culture also develops music in amazing ways to express what they need. Cultures have dierent emotional messages to convey based on their histories, their internal community structures, and their relationships with other cultures and the Earth. I needed to learn more about this in order to properly feel I was learning the language form of music, and therefore I

 needed to learn as much as I could about all sorts of musical cultures. Defeating the implied elitism in the statement that western classical music is for everyone is central to the work, and reimagining the leitmotifs composed by Dvořák as if he had been raised with a dierent musical background was simultaneously a wonderful brain puzzle for my own musical learning and fundamentally important to delegitimizing classical elitism.

Do you find yourself growing as a recording artist/band?

Yes, of course! For as long as I have musical ideas, at least!

Suppose there's another occupation for you besides music, what would it be?

Organic and sustainable farming and gardening. I have lived on and planted food forests across the world and continue to study traditional and indigenous practices of land stewardship deeply, and it really is the other mission in my life other than equity in education.

Would you like to have a dream collaboration, if so who would it be with and why’s?

I want to learn how to use recording software from Jacob Collier, and I want to learn the English language from Joni Mitchell.

Do you feel that your genre of music has a step of evolution to reach?

Well, I can’t say that I subscribe to any single genre of music; also, any musical evolution that comes would be inextricably tied with the experience of the artist, which is informed by the surrounding environment and events. As I can’t tell the direction of the world, I can’t say that I can tell what the next step for any genre of music is! What I do look forward to is that there will both continue to be people upholding traditional music all around the world, and also that people will continue to genre-bend and genre-blend. I want to learn more niche genres and read more poetry, and make more visual art, and make a smoothie out of everything I learn.

Are there any important achievements you have gained since beginning to do music?

Everyone does music from birth. As a species, back when we were Neanderthals, we sang before we developed language. So, yes, in a way I’ve had many important achievements I’ve gained since beginning to do music: learning to walk, learning to play hopscotch, learning to ride a bike, graduating high school! I’m authoring a music curriculum that uncovers a person’s innate ability and desire to authentically express themselves, from that basic and beginning place, in a judgment-free and culturally inclusive way. More on that to come... In my professional work as a musician, I got hired for a couple cool gigs with The Eagles, Chris Brubeck, Father John Misty and some other folks, and I really enjoy

playing my favorite folk songs with my partner Sol Chase in our duo The Love Bards (readers can follow our journey making music and traveling the world at!)

Who are some of the notable artists and people that inuenced your career thus far?

For this project, the rst person who comes to mind as far as inuencers go is the music teacher I had who laughed at me when I proposed the idea for this album a dozen years ago. Perhaps if she hadn’t laughed I might have innocently forgotten about the idea, but as it went, the idea cooked at the back of my mind ever since as I developed my understanding of the supercilious and problematic attitudes prevalent in the classical and academic music industry while the project waited for its moment to come out. That teacher taught me a lot about how to be a great classical musician and got me to a great place in the classical world, don’t get me wrong. But that’s just not necessarily the only world I want to inhabit.

Another person who deeply inuences me is my partner, Sol Chase. He is rst of all an incredible songwriter and bluegrass mandolin player with ngers of re, and you should check his work out on Spotify as well (his upcoming album is called “The Eclectic Life of an Only Child”). Second of all, he is the most positive person I’ve ever known and over the course of our less than 2-year relationship it has rubbed o on me. We spend our time complimenting each other and manifesting our dreams, which so far has included a 7 month backpacking tour of Europe, two album releases, and acceptance to universities in dream programs that we will be attending in Ireland in fall 2023. We lift each other up and learn how to lift ourselves up from each other. Healthy love is the best thing ever.

What would you like to be known for in this music industry?

I’d like to be known for breaking down barriers that are constructed to uphold elitism and racism in the classical music industry and that often psychologically aect “recovering classical musicians”. I’d like to be known as a person who empowers the inner artist that we all have inside of us through my music, teaching, social activism, and other artistic pursuits.

How do you manage to keep a creative mind in making music?

I do what I want! With this particular project, I had an injustice to address; the additional tracks beyond the Dvořák reimaginations are just for my pure fun. I gure, if I’m going to be spending so much time and money on the studio experience, I might as well go for it as hard as I can! I basically keep a creative mind by remembering that the universe has endless possibilities and I can learn anything I want to make any creative project happen. In my free time I paint and journal and read books about incredible legends and history changers and travel the world with my partner, and in those internal and external journeys I learn more about what is inside me that needs to be expressed.


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