The Violin Channel recently caught up with composer Sam Hyken and conductor Jacomo Bairos, Co-Artistic Directors of the NuDeco Ensemble, in Miami.
The ensemble this week premiered their new work ‘Joy’ on The Violin Channel - in conjunction with the Time for Three trio.
Please tell us about the Nu Deco Ensemble?
"Nu Deco Ensemble is a hybrid chamber orchestra designed for the 21st century, with an emphasis on genre-bending, collaboration, and infusing performances with new music.
We strive to celebrate and cultivate living composers, collaborate with guest artists of all genres and mediums and engage our community in dynamic ways by providing educational and musical inspiration to our Miami community and beyond.
Our mission is to create compelling and transformative musical experiences that inspire and connect new and diverse audiences and artists"
You describe the group as a ‘hybrid-orchestra’. Please can you tell us more about this?
"We are inclusive of all musical instruments available to create an orchestra for the 21st century.
The orchestra has evolved over centuries to what it is today and we feel the symphonic institution can be the ultimate vehicle for musical expression.
We wanted to take that further by creating sounds, colors, textures and energy that haven’t been heard with orchestras before.
We added electric acoustic instruments such as a Moog, and other synthesizers as well as rhythm section elements like drums, world drums, electric guitars, and electric bass.
Can you imagine if Mozart had a Rhodes or Beethoven had a synthesizer, what they could do with it?!?"
What are your goals and dreams for the ensemble?
"We want to represent the best of creativity and the musical enrichment landscape of Miami on the world stage.
Nu Deco aims to foster a platform for artists to create, sharing our love and style of music making with people who enjoy classical music as well as other genres.
We want to be an entry point for a Daft Punk fan to enjoy the symphony orchestra, listeners of Holst to discover Kishi Bashi, Bernstein to Kimbra, etc...
And likewise, we hope to elevate living composers and give them a unique vehicle to compose for that has no musical or stylistic boundaries"
You are working with a wide range of artists from many different fields. Which collaborations, for you, in particular stand out as being the most memorable?
"There are so many we are grateful for!
TF3 was amazing as they are close friends of ours and we really respect their journey and mission.
Kishi Bashi’s return to Nu Deco with his Improvisations on EO 9066 which was based off the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII at the New World Center was an incredible highlight.
Since then, the work has gained steam and will be performed with other major symphony orchestras.
Cory Henry absolutely blew our minds with his artistry and virtuosity.
Kimbra brought the Arsht Center down with her eclectic mix of raw vocals, tech savvy and sheer energy.
Aaron Parks level of jazz mastery was elevating.
Wyclef Jean and Jacob Collier were incredible and astonishing collaborators who raised our game.
Too many special collaborations over the years to list here but we are always humbled and grateful to work with such unique and talented artists"
What does music mean to you?
"To us, music is Humanism.
The meaning of what it is to be alive, sharing a journey in harmony with one another.
It is a universal language that brings us together as a world community"
The ensemble has a number of initiatives specifically for youths, can you tell us about these?
"Our series of interactive educational programs, Nu Deco Imagination, is presented as part of our season and designed to help all students develop a passion for music.
The program is free-of-charge (including transportation), supplements the music curriculum in the schools, and has three major components:
Youth education concerts:
Our youth concerts started with a focus on schools in the southernmost portion of Miami-Dade County, a community that is underserved and has not had an orchestra visit for over 50 years.
We expanded the series to host more students across Miami at the Arsht Center and at target schools across the county.
This expansion has increased our geographical reach to all of Miami-Dade County, without losing our focus on the southern district.
90% of schools that attended our December 2018 performance identified as Title I programs, showing that as we expand north, we continue to reach underserved communities.
Nucleus, Nu Deco’s smaller and more nimble ensemble of 17 musicians, visits schools to perform its signature repertoire and engage in side-by-side student interaction.
These performances allow for a deeper connection and more immersive experience with the orchestra.
Virtual Education Concerts and Resources.
Nu Deco has utilized our cinematically filmed performance videos from our five seasons to create "virtual" education concerts.
These 45-minute education videos will cover various musical topics including rhythm, Latin music, collaboration, living composers, and more and will be accompanied by study/resource guides for students in all age groups.
The first video will be made available to all teachers in Miami-Dade County in May 2020.
This program was initially born in response to COVID-19 after our live education concerts were cancelled and has allowed Nu Deco to expand our reach to educators and students across the globe.
We will create four (4) additional education concerts during the 2020-2021 season to supplement & provide an alternative to our live performances.
Nu Deco NXT.
NXT is a Nu Deco-style youth ensemble that teaches students to be compassionate, socially conscious, and dynamic 21st century musicians.
The program is open to 7th-12th graders and takes the form of ensemble rehearsals and workshops (topics including improvisation, composition, mindfulness, meditation, entrepreneurship) throughout the year, virtual online classes and lessons, a one week intensive, and a culminating public performance.
Due to COVID-19, we had to postpone the week-long intensive of the program this year but continue to reach and service these students in the COVID world by hosting weekly zoom sessions.
These sessions include meditation and wellness, as well as music conversations around composition, improvisation, entrepreneurship, rhythmic techniques, inside looks of musical arrangements, and other engaging music subjects.
Our teaching artists also check in weekly with their students and offer 1:1 learning opportunities that include private lessons, music theory training, and audition techniques."
Please tell us about your recent collaboration with Time For Three?
"It was incredibly exciting to say the least.
Their artistry knows no limits, their virtuosity and energy is infectious, and they seamlessly live in so many musical worlds and genres.
This made it a perfect collaboration and certainly elevated us along the way!"
How did the opportunity come to you and how did you enjoy the experience?
"They are close and good friends. We at Nu Deco admired their work from a far for quite some time.
We called them up and said 'hey, we have this thing brewing in Miami, wanna come join us on the journey and make magic together?'"