The members of All of the Above have made a name for their ensemble locally by performing with Classical Revolution Cincinnati and the MUSE concert series at the Cincinnati Art Museum. One of the goals of the ensemble is to create innovative musical experiences by challenging the aesthetics of the traditional classical concert, and the members believe that this new residency will enable their ensemble to bring their unique vision of art music to a wider audience.
The residency was in part created by the ensemble; All of the Above pianist Matthew Umphreys (MM Collaborative Piano, 2014) is an adjunct professor at Xavier, and he approached the head of the music department to discuss the residency. Xavier has had ensembles-in-residence in the past, but not recently. The other members of All of the Above are CCM alumnus Walter Park (BM Violin Performance, 2015) and CCM doctoral candidates Mikey Arbulu, clarinet; Caitlyn Chenault, cello; Nave Graham (MM Flute Performance, 2014), flutist and David Abraham, percussion.
It can be difficult for students and young professional musicians to initiate a chamber ensemble, let alone a successful one. There are many constraints on their time, as young musicians often have multiple jobs, such as teaching lessons and freelance gigs, which lead to limited availability.
The members of All of the Above have received the support of not only each other but also CCM faculty members, who coached the group on both musical concerns and the administrative challenges of running a music ensemble and setting cohesive artistic goals. However, Umphreys believes that these concerns are secondary to the meat-and-potatoes of an ensemble: musical cohesion.
“I strongly believe that musical greatness is at the heart of any successful ensemble. Yes, we all are overloaded with ideas of business savvy and self-promotion, but this won’t get one very far if at the core there is an absence of intense capabilities and talent on one’s instrument,” Umphreys said.
“CCM has helped me become a better musician, no question. It has also taught me about hard work, dedication, tenacity, preparedness, how to collaborate with others, among many other skills — but this insatiable passion to be an incredible musician is the greatest thing I have taken from my time at CCM.”
All of the Above is a Pierrot-plus-percussion ensemble, which means that it uses the same instrumentation as Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, plus percussion. In fact, there’s a good reason that All of the Above has the Pierrot ensemble at its core, aside from the broad range of contemporary music written for that instrumentation.
“One of my favorite projects as an ensemble was one of our first: we tackled Schoenberg’s famous Pierrot Lunaire,” Umphreys said. “Working on such a complex and difficult piece forced us to develop rehearsal and performance practices that we still use to this day, and we learned how to communicate effectively with each other.”
“This residency has definitely put our ensemble on the map within the (contemporary) music scene in Cincinnati,” Graham said. “Even if people aren’t familiar with contemporary classical music, they have likely heard of Xavier University. So now we have a springboard to reach out to people with our unique mission and music."
“I think the familiarity of an established academic institution will allow people to feel more comfortable coming out to our shows. If our prospective audiences believe in Xavier, and Xavier believes in us, then in some way, the Cincinnati community already believes in us.”
Story by CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle