Soprano, Artistic Director of CMASH (Chamber Music Art Song Hybrid) San Francisco, CA
I’m so fortunate to have studied at a conservatory where collaboration between composers and performers is strongly encouraged. I had the opportunity to forge musical friendships with several members of the Composition Seminar, and by the time I founded CMASH in 2008, I had already been working with fellow Longy alums Vartan Aghababian and Liam Wade for over six years. The nature of our long-term commitment to one another’s artistic growth and development could serve as a model on which to build something both structurally concrete and creatively profound.
Through conversations with Vartan, Liam, and other composers and performers in my extended community, we discovered a shared craving for a deeper sense of connectivity and meaning in our creative work. We wanted to coax composers out of what we perceived as an unhealthy cycle of isolation and competition, and allow performers to participate more actively in the creative process so as to take greater responsibility and ownership of the repertoire. Most of all we wanted audiences to feel included in our environment of positive creativity.
And so it was that CMASH (Chamber Music Art Song Hybrid) emerged out of activities and perspectives that were already embodied in our way of working together. Rather than an ensemble or presenting organization with a traditional non-profit business model, what has emerged is a loosely organized group of like-minded collaborators who share a desire to contribute to the future standard repertoire of vocal chamber music. Concerts are produced collectively, we share the workload of running the organization, and most importantly we support one another through the creative process.
In August, 2012, CMASH celebrated a half-decade of artistic collaboration with the fifth installment of our New American Chamber Music program. In this program model we bring together five to six composers and a featured ensemble to present a program of new and recently written chamber music, enabling our core and affiliate members to work in close collaboration to create each new piece. Works presented in the NACM format receive repeat performances throughout the year, often in other cities and states. We’ve given 17 world premieres and 5 west coast premieres within this format, and works have received subsequent performances in venues around the San Francisco Bay Area, in southern California, Texas, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and northern Washington.
In 2013 I took a hiatus from organizing the New American Chamber Music program in order to focus on recording my debut album Currents, which features performances by five CMASH performers and works by three CMASH composers, two of whom are Longy alumni. It took over a year to raise the funds to make Currents and over fifty hours at Skywalker Sound to lay down the material. When I finally held the finished album in my hands, rather than experiencing the moment as an arrival I felt a profound calling to continue the work. This is why I am ecstatic to be teaming up with an incredible crew of musicians, engineers, and multi-GRAMMY® award-winning producer/engineer Leslie Ann Jones to create my second full-length album, Love Life.
Where Currents was a sprawling, musical self portrait, Love Life offers a more intimate view into my relationships with family, love and home. The central repertoire comprises new and recently written music for soprano, cello and piano, which I am blessed to record with the spectacular duo of cellist Emil Miland and pianist Steven Bailey, a co-founder of CMASH. We are joined by an array of special guests including composer/pianist Jake Heggie, San Francisco based GRAMMY® award winning ensemble Chanticleer, and Hausmann Quartet violinist Isaac Allen, who also a Longy alum.
Alongside my own albums, I have had the opportunity to record new works with several of my composer collaborators from CMASH and beyond. This feels like a natural step in my creative progression, from the thrill of birthing new works before a live audience to the fulfillment of creating lasting documents which can be shared with listeners around the world. These recordings are a culmination of over fifteen years of my work in collaboration with composers, work that began for me at Longy School of Music.
Check-out Ann performing The True Encounter from Liam Wade's (UD ‘06) 4 Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay with the Hausmann String Quartet (April 2010, Noe Valley Chamber Music)