Eighth Blackbird

© Saverio Truglia

Eighth Blackbird is “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune). Launched by six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory undergraduates in 1996, this Chicago-based super-group has earned its status as “a brand-name…defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality….known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers and even puppetry artists” (Detroit Free Press).

Eighth Blackbird’s 2017-18 season marks debuts in Turin, Milan, Budapest, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Cincinnati Ballet, tours through 11 states, and the release of Olagón, a new album featuring music by Dan Trueman, poetry by Paul Muldoon, and sean nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. Eighth Blackbird celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016 with tours of music from Filament and Hand Eye, as well as keystone performances celebrating Steve Reich’s 80th birthday, a fresh round of raucous shows with “Appalachian post-punk solipsist” (The Wanderer) Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy), and world premieres by Holly Harrison, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, and Ned McGowan.

Eighth Blackbird first gained wide recognition in 1998 as winners of the Concert Artists Guild Competition. Over the course of two decades, the group has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers such as David Lang, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli, and Steve Reich, whose Double Sextet went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. A long-term relationship with Chicago’s Cedille Records has produced eight acclaimed recordings and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. They were named Music America’s 2017 Ensemble of the Year, and in 2016 were the inaugural recipients of Chamber Music America’s Visionary Award and the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

Eighth Blackbird’s members (Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin & viola; Nicholas Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; Lisa Kaplan, piano) hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, aphoristic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (1917).

Keithlyn B Parkman, Lighting Designer

Keithlyn B Parkman is a lighting designer as well as a theatre collaborator. Favoring works that take place in non-traditional spaces and new works that can only come to life with collaboration across the board, she loves to get down and dirty to make art.

Recent productions include Guerilla Operas’ Loose, Wet, Perforated, a new piece commissioned by the group, written by Nicholas Vines, directed by Austin Reagan; College of the Fenway’s Spring Dance Festival.

Keithlyn studied lighting design at Boston University under Mark Stanley. She worked professionally for 4 years in Boston before returning to her home town of New York City, though she has not entirely removed herself from the Boston scene. Living and producing works in these two very different cities has opened her eyes to the possibilities provided by time and space of each individual production she works on.

Matthew McCabe, Technical Director

Matthew McCabe is currently Assistant Professor of Audio Technology at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.  Dr. McCabe holds degrees in music from the University of Richmond, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Florida. Trained as a composer, he has focused on electroacoustic music and the creative use of music technology throughout his career. He worked as the music technology specialist at the University of Richmond prior to graduate study and has served as the technical director for both the Florida and Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festivals.

He teaches courses in audio recording, technology, and electroacoustic and computer music and guides students in independent studies and internships on a wide range of topics including HAM radio, building theremins, auditory neuroscience, and electroacoustic performance practice. The Schwob School’s recording studio is also under his supervision, producing more than 250 live concert recordings per year and working on many commercially-available recordings.  Artists he has worked with include pianist Hsin-I Huang, Peter Steiner (2016-2017 season trombonist of the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera), George Curran (New York Philharmonic), James Markey (Boston Symphony Orchestra), Jason Bergman (University of North Texas), guitarist Paul Galbraith, and CSU colleagues Lisa Oberlander, Andrew Zohn, Bradley Palmer, Paul Vaillancourt, among others. He is also a student of the Irish language and will complete his certificate in that language this spring from Fairfield University in Connecticut.  

Peter Ferry, Stage Manager

Celebrated as “the ingenious percussionist Peter Ferry,” (Chicago Sun-Times), Peter Ferry (b.1991, New York City) is a young American percussion soloist dedicated to compelling performances of contemporary repertoire and innovative collaborations.

Following his concerto debut at age 18, Ferry has been called as “one of the most promising and committed soloists of his generation” by composer Michael Daugherty and has championed the concerti of Joe Duddell, Emmanuel Sejourne, Michael Torke, Ney Rosauro, and Jacob ter Veldhuis among others.

Collaborations with choreographer Nick Pupillo have been praised as “full of vitality” (Chicago Tribune), and projects with live flame working glass artist Carrie Fertig have been nominated for the Coburg Prize and inaugurated into the European Museum of Modern Glass’s permanent collection with performances in Germany. As a TEDx speaker, Ferry delivered the closing talk and performance on creative collaborations titled “Striking at the Edge.” 

A frequent touring recitalist, Ferry’s solo shows have garnered him reviews as “an artist of vision… presenting percussion in a stunning, thoughtful way” (Rochester Fringe Festival critic Jeff Spevak) and led to performances across the United States and abroad. His experimental Earsight Duo collaborations with video artist Xuan have been called “breathtaking… funny, boundary-pushing, thought-provoking” (Democrat and Chronicle). 

In the American contemporary music community, Ferry has stepped in as a guest percussionist with acclaimed ensembles Alarm Will Sound, Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, and Ensemble Dal Niente.

An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, Ferry graduated with the first ever John Beck Percussion Scholarship, an Arts Leadership Program certificate, and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate recognizing “outstanding performing ability.”

Annie Toth, Deputy Lab Director

Three and a half years ago, after working seven years at Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cook County, Annie Toth decided to leave her post as Executive Director to pursue a career in the arts. At that time, she joined the Eighth Blackbird staff as the Company/Operations manager and has hit the ground running ever since. For the last several years, as Eighth Blackbird’s Company and Operations Manager, she has honed her skills as being a razor sharp wing-woman. She has strong administrative skills, the ability to simplify complex situations, and a deep knowledge of the inner workings of Eighth Blackbird. Her work is fueled by her strong desire to support the work of the ensemble, and create a comfortable environment for them to continue to flourish artistically. 

She is committed to her local Chicago community and started the blog Secret Weapon, where she interviews Chicago composers. She also is one of the programmers for the series Comfort Music, at Chicago’s Comfort Station, and in her spare time writes pop songs for her band Weatherman, and composes music for things like Theater Oobleck’s Baudelaire in a Box. All this to say, she knows what it means to be an artist and thoroughly enjoys supporting the art that Eighth Blackbird creates. 

Elaine Martone, Lab Director

Elaine MartoneIn her more than 35 years as a music industry professional, Elaine Martone has devoted her life to making a difference in the world of serious music.

At Telarc as Executive Vice President of Production, Elaine Martone built the finest audio production team in the industry, garnering praise for excellence in all major audio publications. She led the Production Department of 12 highly motivated creative individuals who worked seamlessly to achieve the company’s goals and mission of audio excellence while adhering to the highest standards of integrity.  She was responsible for post-production audio direction and approval for every Telarc release.  As a key executive in planning and creative decision making in weekly Artist and Repertoire meetings, she managed more than 1,500 projects on time and on budget, accountable for over $6 million annually in production costs, and $15 million in sales.

A world-class producer, she is a 5-time Grammy Award winner in both Classical and Jazz, and a 14-time Grammy nominee; has been a member of the Grammy Producers and Engineers Wing Committee in 2008; and a participant in the Grammy Classical Screening Committee in 2006.

Elaine is Festival Producer for the world-renowned Ojai Music Festival, one of the most exciting and creative festivals in the field, since January 2012. In this position, she is in charge of budgets, logistics, planning and execution for over 30 events during the annual 4 day festival held in Ojai, California each June.

With her husband, Robert Woods, she has formed a music enterprise, Sonarc Music and is pursuing her passion, producing great music and musicians, as well as working with talented young people.  Elaine’s leisure time is given to spending time with her family, and she is an avid reader who also enjoys cooking and gardening as well as competitive ballroom dancing, fitness, volunteer activities and a variety of music. She was a founding board member of Red {An Orchestra}, which completed 7 seasons in Cleveland, Ohio.  She and her husband reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Mark DeChiazza, director

Mark DeChiazza is a director, filmmaker, designer, and choreographer. Many of his projects explore interactions between music performance and media to discover new expressive possibilities. His work can bring together composers, ensemble and musicians with visual artists, dancers, music ensembles, and makers of all types.

Called “wildly imaginative” and “a tour de force” by the Washington Post, Columbine’s Paradise Theater, his prior music-theater collaboration with composer Amy Beth Kirsten, continued an ongoing relationship with multiple-Grammy winning ensemble eighth blackbird that began in 2009 with their acclaimed production of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

Recent projects include: production concept, direction and choreography for Orpheus Unsung, a collaboration with composer Steven Mackey premiered at Guthrie Theater in June 2016; direction, video projection and set design for My Lai, an opera monodrama by Jonathan Berger featuring Kronos Quartet, traditional Vietnamese instrumentalist Van-Ahn Voh, and actor/tenor Rinde Eckert; direction and editing of the film Hireath, which partners with performance of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s 35-minute orchestral work of the same name, commissioned by North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra; choreography and design for Pulitzer-winning composer John Luther Adams’ Sila, a massive site-determined piece for 80 musicians commissioned by Lincoln Center; design and staging of SS15 and AW15 NYC fashion week installation/events for Japanese fashion label pas de calais;

DeChiazza’s film Colloquy with God for New York Polyphony, and his interpretive concert video of So Percussion performing Steven Mackey’s It Is Time have been featured on NPR Music, and American Composers Orchestra and The Crossing premiered his film installation for Amy Beth Kirsten’s strange pilgrims premiered at Carnegie Hall in February 2014.

DeChiazza studied film at Dartmouth College and Rhode Island School of Design, and set design and contemporary dance at North Carolina School of the Arts. He worked as a scenic artist for theater, before moving to New York City to begin a performing career in contemporary dance and dance-theater that spanned nearly two decades. Investigating the body and its relationships to space, time, and experience remain vital to his process across all disciplines.

More info and press at www.markdechiazza.com.

Ted Hearne, composer

© Nathan Lee Bush

Composer, singer and bandleader Ted Hearne (b.1982, Chicago) draws on a wide breadth of influences ranging across music’s full terrain, to create intense, personal and multi-dimensional works.

The New York Times included Hearne’s oratorio The Source on its list of the best classical vocal performances of 2014, and (along with The New Yorker and The Nation) of the best albums of 2015. Law of Mosaics, Hearne’s 30-minute piece for string orchestra, was recently performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony, and was named one of The New Yorker’s most notable albums of 2014 by Alex Ross.

Hearne performs with Philip White as the vocal-electronics duo R WE WHO R WE, belongs to the composer collective Sleeping Giant, and recent collaborations have paired him with great artists of many disciplines, including filmmaker Bill Morrison, director Daniel Fish, poet Saul Williams and legendary musician Erykah Badu. An active recording artist, his albums Katrina Ballads, The Source and Outlanders are available on New Amsterdam Records.

Ted Hearne is the recipient of the Gaudeamus Prize and the New Voices Residency from Boosey and Hawkes. He recently joined the composition faculty at the University of Southern California. Recent and upcoming works include commissions from the LA Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, A Far Cry, MIVOS Quartet, Ensemble dal niente and Roomful of Teeth.

His website is www.tedhearne.com.

Jennifer Higdon, composer

Jennifer Higdon, Pulitzer Prize and Grammy winner, is one of the most performed living American composers working today. She has also been the recipient of a Guggenheim, Koussevitzky, and Pew Fellowships, as well as two awards from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Commissions have come from a wide range of performers: from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony, to The President’s Own Marine Band; from the Tokyo String Quartet to the new music ensemble, eighth blackbird, as well as individual artists such as singer Thomas Hampson, violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist, Yuja Wang. Her first opera on Charles Frazier’s book, “Cold Mountain”, was commissioned by Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera; it has been a resounding success, selling out both runs and winning the International Opera Award. She makes her living from commissions and serves as composer-in-residence with various orchestras throughout the country. Her works are recorded on over 60 CDs. She holds the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

For more info, visit www.jenniferhigdon.com.

Tom Morris, producer

Tom Morris

Tom MorrisSince 2004, Tom Morris has served as artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival in California, one of the preeminent festivals of musical experience and adventure in the world. He was one of the founders and artistic director of the innovative orchestra festival in Carnegie Hall, Spring For Music, and has served as chair of the Board of Overseers of the Curtis Institute of Music, and on the Curtis Board.

Tom is an active teacher, writer and speaker, and has served as a consultant to over 50 musical organizations. He was executive director of The Cleveland Orchestra for 17 years from 1987 to 2014, and prior to that worked for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a variety positions from 1969 to 1985 including 8 years as its chief executive.

He is interested in engaging people in new musical experiences, and studying not-for-profit organizational issues of governance, vision and leadership. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of orchestra, chamber and contemporary music. Some of his favorite artists are George Szell, Charles Munch, Pierre Boulez, Fritz Reiner, and John Philip Sousa and all the great bandmasters.

Tom is a free-lance percussionist and has performed often with the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, and the Blossom Festival Band. He states, “The arts are more important than ever before in a rapidly changing, and changeable, world. As such we must find ways of training our young people today so that tomorrow they continue to nurture a love of and curiosity for arts and music – for themselves and others.”

Tom and Jane have three adult children; Elisa, Charles and Will. He loves great food, adventurous music, stimulating companionship, fabulous books, and a great sense of humor.