ALIAS Artist Spotlight: Lee Levine, clarinet

This month, our Artist Spotlight features Lee Levine, who plays clarinet for ALIAS, and is Education and Outreach Coordinator for the GLF Project

Q:  How long have you been a member of ALIAS?

A:  Since its inception in 2002.

Q: What do you like most about being a part of the organization?

A:  The freedom of it all! With ALIAS, I have an opportunity to explore new music and new creative ideas; and because it’s chamber music, I have tremendous freedom of artistic expression in practice and performance. I’m always looking for ways to keep people interested in coming to hear chamber music concerts. Setting a high standard is one way to bring the audience back; another is to introduce them to something new, and surprise them with how much they like it.

Q:  Tell us a bit about the education and outreach portion of the GLF project?

A: Two days after the world premiere, we held a brief residency in one of Nashville’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods. It started with a concert for families at Antioch High School Auditorium, and audience members were urged to join us on the stage for an up-close view of the performance. The next two mornings we visited Cole Elementary and Paragon Mills Elementary, where students had focused for several weeks on an arts-integrated curriculum designed specifically for this project. Last, but not least, we held a Performance Master Class for high school music students at W.O. Smith Community Music School. In each scenario, we spoke between movements, and listeners could question the musicians and talk with the composer about her process of composition.

Q:  Why do you think the effort was so important?

A:  From the beginning, everyone involved with the project was in agreement (composer, musicians and funders) that the new quartet should be taken from the concert hall into the community. It was a golden opportunity to reach new Americans and build a larger audience for classical chamber music. The outreach was directed toward those who could relate to (or identify with) the cultural influences that inspired Gabriela. We knew they would be fascinated with her process of transferring ethnic heritage into musical elements.

Q:  What do you attribute to the ed/outreach program’s success?

A:  Several factors made it successful. The curriculum specialist, Melissa Javors, provided teachers with guidance and lesson plans that met state standards for social studies, reading and arts.  The faculty and administration at each school fully supported the project and prepared the students for our visit, ensuring a rich arts-integrated educational experience. The musicians were totally willing to step outside their comfort zone by speaking Spanish with students and playing ethnic instruments like the cajon. But the biggest factor by far was the composer. Understanding the commission completely, Gabriela composed the work with a civic purpose in mind. She created a piece that is at once accessible and sophisticated, a joy to perform and delightful to hear.  I am confident that another chamber group could take this same piece and the same curriculum model, and use it with great success in any school district in the country.