Castle of our Skins: BLACK in EUROPE and BEYOND
Ashleigh Gordon Artistic Director of Castle of our Skins & Violist
Ashleigh Gordon has performed throughout North America, Europe, and Hong Kong, ranging from chamber and orchestral music settings to off- Broadway and new music productions. Passionate about contemporary music, Ashleigh performs regularly with Boston's Callithumpian Consort, NYC's ECCE Ensemble, Providence's Ensemble Parallex and is founder and violist of Sound Energy. Her work in the late 20th and 21st century new music world has led her to work and record with Switzerland's Ensemble Proton, Germany's Ensemble Modern and Boston's BMOP. Excited by collaborations, Ashleigh enjoys working with living composers and has worked with Beat Furrer, Thomas Adès, Heinz Holliger, Luca Francesconi, Chaya Czernowin, Steve Reich, Matthias Pintscher and Jeffrey Mumford among many others. Ashleigh is a firm believer in holistic teaching and strives to spark curiosity in the arts, foster necessary life skills through music and serve as a mentor to each child. As an advocate of social change through education, she is a viola instructor in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra's Intensive Community Program (ICP), a rigorous string instrumental program which provides instruction to populations often underrepresented in classical music. Prior to ICP, she served as a teaching artist, mentor and violist of musiConnects, a unique organization serving students, communities and families through the transformative power of chamber music. Ashleigh attended the Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt (Germany) and is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace University and New England Conservatory. She is a 2015 St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award recipient, a 2016 Charles Walton Diversity Advocate Award recipient, and can be heard on chamber music and orchestral recordings under the Mode, Siemens, BMOP/Sound, Navona and Musiques- Suisse record labels.
Anthony Green Associate Artistic Director of Castle of our Skins & Composer-in-Residence
Internationally recognized musician Anthony Green approaches all of his musical activities from a historically all-encompassing perspective, and strives to integrate the musical contributions of the past within an interpretation or a composition of the present. He has performed as a pianist and vocal improviser at the Cantor Arts Center in California, Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston, and other venues across the United States, the Netherlands, France, and South Korea, interpreting solo, chamber, and orchestral works. He has also personally worked with numerous student composers, as well as David Liptak, George Crumb, and Steve Reich for performances or premieres. Throughout his varied compositional career, he has received commissions and performances by ALEA III (Gunther Schuller, guest conductor), the Zukovsky String Quartet (performance at Symphony Space, New York City), the Playground Ensemble (as the winner of their 3rd annual composition commission), Ossia New Music Ensemble (as the winner of their 2nd International Composition Prize), Dame Evelyn Glennie (performances in 4 countries), Sound Energy, Transient Canvas, Ensemble Mise-en, and Alarm Will Sound, among others. His work has been recognized by Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation, Argosy Foundation, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and ASCAP, among others. His opera has been workshopped by Ft. Worth Opera Frontiers and New Fangled Opera, with future performances in Israel and the USA in the works.
Renèe Baker Composer, Conductor, Violist, Visual-Artist, Director of CMOP
Renèe Baker has been at the extreme forefront of creative/avant garde music while developing the unique Chicago Modern Orchestra Project since 1991. Utilizing some of the finest musicians that cross the classical world as well as jazz greats, she has crafted a group of the best traditionalists and married them to dedicated improvisers. A true genre bending experience, her skills as a conductor and musician coordinator have been used by some of the finest musical organizations in Chicago. Ms. Baker is also the Artistic Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta Chamber Ensemble as well as Mantra Blue Free Orchestra. As an improviser, Renèe has performed and recorded with Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings, Karl E. H. Seigfried's New Quartet and Galaxy String Quartet, the David Boykin Expanse, Orbert Davis, George Lewis, Mwata Bowden, the Great Black Music Ensemble, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. She is a member of the Chamber of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In recent years, Renèe has premiered original compositions with the Chicago Sinfonietta, The Joffrey Ballet Chamber Series, and as part of the PianoForte Salon Series and the Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy.) Future collaborations will include Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Architecture Foundation, South Shore Cultural Center, among others. Renèe is Principal Violinist of the internationally renowned Chicago Sinfonietta and has been a participant in many international music festivals including Classical Music Festival (Eisenstadt, Austria), and Philomusica di Chicago (Martigues, France.) She has performed extensively throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. Her debut at the prestigious Ravinia Festival was as the viola soloist for “Don Quixote” (Strauss), in which she partnered with John Sharp, Principal Cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She has performed numerous solo recitals at venues such as the Chicago Cultural Center, and has been a featured performer with many chamber music ensembles, including her own FAQtet – an ensemble that primarily performs classical repertoire by African-American composers.
Dr. Kira Thurman Scholar, Pianist, Assistant Professor of History and Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan
Kira Thurman is an assistant professor of History and Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. A classically-trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria, she earned her PhD in history from the University of Rochester in 2013 with a minor field in musicology through the Eastman School of Music. Her research, which has appeared in German Studies Review, the Journal of World History, Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), and Opera Quarterly, focuses on two separate topics that occasionally converge: the relationship between music and national identity in European history, and Europe's historical and contemporary relationship with the Black diaspora. Her article, "Black Venus, White Bayreuth: Race, Sexuality, and the De-Politicization of Wagner in Postwar West Germany" won the German Studies Association's prize for best paper by a graduate student in 2011 and the DAAD prize for best article on German history in 2014. She is currently writing her first book, which is called Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. She teaches courses on a wide variety of topics, including Music and National Identity; Germany and the Black Diaspora; Global Cultural Encounters; Global Migration; and Performing Race, Gender, Nation (grad seminar). A newcomer to the digital humanities, she has become interested in applying geo-spatial technologies and data visualization tools to history and musicology, and has taken on two different digital history projects as a result: the first visualizes black biographies in European spaces, and the second maps the German musical diaspora around the world.
Julius P. Williams Composer, Conductor, Professor of Composition at Berklee College of Music
Julius P. Williams Is an award–winning conductor, composer, recording artist, educator, author and pianist. His career has taken him from his native New York to musical venues around the globe, and has involved virtually every musical genre. Maestro Williams Carnegie Hall conducting debut was with the "Symphony Saint Paulia" Inaugural concerts in 1987 in New York. He has conducted American Orchestras in Dallas, New Haven, Savannah, Hartford, Sacramento, Tulsa, Knoxville, Oklahoma, Vermont, Akron, Paducah , Norwalk, The Vermont Philharmonic, and The Wooster Symphony in Ohio, in addition, the Armor Artist Chamber Orchestra, the Connecticut Opera, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra in Boston and the Trilogy An Opera Company where he is Music Director and Conductor. He was Music Director of the Washington Symphony (1998–2003) which was the official Orchestra of Washington, DC. One of the most prestigious performances was the 30th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China at Constitution Hall in Washington DC as well as, conducting a celebration at the Chinese Embassy later that year. He was also The artistic director of the Music Festival of Costa del Sol, in Spain, and Artistic Director of the School of Choral Studies of New York State Summer School of the Arts for ten seasons, other appearances include, The Tri–C Jazz Festival in 1999 concert series in Cleveland Ohio where he opened the season conducting a powerful performance of Duke Ellington's "Sacred Service". He has served as Assistant Conductor to the late Maestro Lucas Foss with The Brooklyn Philharmonic and with The American Symphony in New York. He is currently Music Director and Conductor of the Trilogy Opera Company in New Jersey. He also has served as cover conductor for the Boston Pops orchestra (BSO) in Boston and the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
Chi–chi Nwanoku Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation, Double Bass
Chi–chi Nwanoku is the Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation, which supports, inspires and encourages Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians working in the UK and Europe. The Chineke! Foundation champions change and celebrates diversity in the classical music industry through its two orchestras, the Chineke! Orchestra and Chineke! Junior Orchestra, as well as its educational and outreach work. Ultimately, the Chineke! Foundation aims to give classical BME musicians a platform on which to excel, and by such methods increase the representation of BME musicians in British and European orchestras. More information about the Chineke! Foundation and its work can be found at www.chineke.org. Chi–chi is a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and held the position of Principal double bass there for 30 years. She is Professor of Double Bass Historical Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was made a Fellow in 1998. Chi–chi's range of musical interests have resulted in a broad career performing and recording in a diversity of styles from authentic baroque through to 21st century and new commissions, with many of Europe's leading chamber orchestras and ensembles. Some of her notable chamber recordings include Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet (recorded three times), and Octet, Beethoven Septet, Hummel Piano quintet and Boccherini Sonatas. Her solo recording of Dittersdorf and Vanhal Concertos with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Hyperion CD 67179 received critical acclaim. In 2012 Barrie Gavin directed a documentary film about Chi–chi's career, called 'Tales from the Bass Line'. As a broadcaster, Chi–chi presented BBC Radio 3 Requests for four years, she guests for the TV Proms and was Jury member of BBC 2 TV Classical Star. She presented a two–part series for BBC Radio 4 in 2015 which brought to life the stories and music of black composers and musicians from the eighteenth century, whose vivd presence on the classical music scene have slipped through the net! Chi–chi was also the 'mentor' for the 2016 BBC 4 TV series 'All Together Now, the Great Orchestra Challenge', showcasing the amazing talent of British amateur orchestras. More on Chi–chi here.