Fresh Inc a ‘fresh concept’ in classical music
If you've walked through the halls of The Rita since June 10, chances are you've heard music. A lot of music. The composers, instrumentalists, and singers attending the Fifth House Ensemble's two-week Fresh Inc Music Festival here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside are supplying the music. As they immerse themselves in the creation and performance of new music, those attending are also learning new ways to attract and cultivate a vibrant new audience for classical music.
"There is a huge need for people coming out of music school to know what to do after they graduate. We are taught as musicians and composers and artists how to become better artists but very few places actually tell us how to get our art out to the public," said Fifth House Ensemble's double bassist and series designer Eric Snoza. "This festival is not only geared at creating collaborations between artists and composers but how to create the collaboration between us and our community."
As the name implies, Fresh Inc is about creating fresh new music. Members of Chicago-based Fifth House aren't acting as teachers but rather as collaborators to move the creative process forward.
"What you hear in the halls is the rehearsal process of bringing new works to life," said Fifth House Ensemble Executive Director Melissa Snoza. "We wanted to make sure that we were incorporating members of Fifth House with our participants in groups together because I find that the best way to learn from one another is to participate," added Snoza, who also serves as the ensemble's flutist.
Aspiring composer Danielle Rabinowitz, who came from Boston to Kenosha to attend the festival, calls the idea of creating new music and pushing that new sound into the community--actively marketing classic music to potential new audiences--a "fresh concept," one she finds thrilling.
"Fifth House has done a tremendous amount of outreach that a lot of other music groups haven't done yet and so we're pushing forward into new territory," Rabinowitz said. "This is revolutionary and I am just very excited to learn what they have to offer."
"Days are really packed"
Right from the first note played,Fresh Inc has beennon-stop rehearsals, workshops, performances, and traveling. Musicians have coalesced as duos, trios, quartets, and quintets working with composers and vocalists. Informal concerts are held nearly every night.
Eric Snoza said between the performance experience and the educational experience, participants are fitting one or even two years of educational work into two weeks. "The days are really packed," he said.
And the performance pace is grueling.
"We have a ton of different performances between Milwaukee, the Kenosha/ Racine area, and Chicago where it ranges from an art gallery to the Boys and Girls Club to the Chicago Cultural Center with audiences of every possible type. We want people to see, not just talk about but see, what it's like for people to play for different sorts of audiences and what you have to do to engage them," Melissa Snoza stated.
Performing so intensively with so many talented musicians and composers gives a vocalist like Baltimore mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen the perfect opportunity to make contacts with potential future collaborators.
"We don't get the chance very often in the vocal world to collaborate with the chamber music side," Ihnen said. "Coming to festivals helps me do a lot of networking, a lot of collaboration...and keeps me connected to that whole world."
"Creating a new community of artists"
Pushing classical music out to the community and making the music--and the artists--more accessible to listeners has been a goal of Fifth House Ensemble since its inception. Danielle Rabinowitz sees it as, "laying the ground work for creating a new community of artists."
Eric Snoza sees Fifth House's approach, and the Fresh Inc Music Festival, as ways to remove the barriers between audiences and performers. He also sees it as a way to revive classical music.
"What we need to do here is break down that wall and find different ways that we can engage the artists with the community and the audience," he said. "None of [the Fresh Inc participants] are afraid to go out and talk with the audience members and even more importantly listen to the audience members and figure out what...can make us better artists."
To connect with the audience in southeastern Wisconsin, Fifth House Ensemble and their students present a concert of new music Sunday, June 23, at 2 p.m. in the Frances Bedford Concert Hall. More information on this free concert is available online.Photo courtesy SnoStudios and Fifth House Ensemble.