Dear Garrett, Anni, Emily, Kara and Julian, Thank you for your time and for the opportunity to share some of your thoughts and ideas with our HocTok community. How did you all meet and decide to perform as the much praised WindSync Wind Quintet?
We met over the course of undergraduate and graduate work while pursuing our education in music performance. In our field there are many opportunities to connect with like-minded musicians and this connection increases our social networks exponentially. For each of us, our connection to WindSync stemmed from slightly different places, but we found each other for the most part through music conservatories, summer orchestra and chamber music festivals, or on international trips as teaching artists. The common bond between all of us is our passion for dramatic and fearless music performance styles as well as reaching audiences in a way that builds a sense of community and shared experience. The five of us have an enormous respect for the history of our craft, but enjoy the conscious and deliberate rebellion against all of the rules in order to exercise our own unique artistic expression. - Anni Hochhalter, horn
Does each member have an unofficial role when it comes to programming, organizing, planning, promoting and so on or are these tasks dealt with differently and you as musicians simply focus solely on the music? Some of us have rather official roles, actually! For example, Anni is Executive Director of our nonprofit, and Emily coordinates all of the logistics of touring and serves as the point of contact for our hosts in each city. We also take care of regular business tasks in both official and unofficial ways – producing our own concerts in the ensemble’s home of Houston, fundraising, marketing, social media, etc. And on a smaller scale, we each assume certain roles that developed through time: Garrett always drives the minivan, Anni leads the coffee runs, Emily investigates the local gym offerings, Julian requests the lunch break… - Kara LaMoure, bassoon
Who are your beloved masterworks to perform? Who are your favorite contemporary composers? Why?
The piece that we have probably performed the most is Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Besides being a brilliant composition, it serves as a great anchor for children’s concerts, and it tests our endurance as we chase each other around the stage, literally acting like animals.
Much of the core repertoire that has propelled our career comes from contemporary and recent American composers like David Maslanka and Leonard Bernstein. We love how the American style is so rhythmically driven and embraces a diversity of influences.
Our favorite composer right now is our friend Michael Gilbertson, from whom we commissioned The Cosmos, a concerto for wind quintet and orchestra. He has a special knack for translating imagery to music, capturing what a cosmic object like a comet or a solar flare would sound like. We’re still glowing from the awesome performance this piece received last weekend with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon
How would you describe the nature of your performances around the country and around the world?
Approachable, intimate, energetic. Because we perform from memory, the stage is free of music stands, eliminating the usual physical barrier between the “performing zone” and the “listening zone”. We generally play in small venues, so the audience sees every facial expression, every drop of sweat, and every spontaneous dance move. We also try to spend time meeting audience members after each concert since music-making, and especially chamber music, is predicated on social connection. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon Getting to know more about each member of your group, it is evident that you have a multitude of interests in addition to music. Do you spend time discussing these interests and do you allow them to have an impact on your music making?
Yes – outside of being colleagues and collaborators, we’re also friends! We’re on tour for over 100 days a year, and we spend a lot of that time on the road (in the minivan with Garrett driving), chatting about life. Frequent topics include Pokémon Go, cats, music-world gossip, and horror movies. You may have heard that this was an election year. We actually discuss current events and politics often, and that has led to conversations about our mission as an ensemble. In both subtle and obvious ways, such conversations inform the projects we pursue. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon Also, music education and teaching young people, especially from low income communities, is another common denominator in all of your resumes. Can you share something more about why you believe in the importance of music education and your involvement in it?
At a basic level, teaching is a way for us to give back. We each began playing our instruments in school band programs, and it is only through the dedication of our instructors that we were able to discover the rewards of a musical life. Through a broader scope, though, we see the arts as social glue. Sure, animals have some musical traits (have you seen those dancing cockatoo videos?), but music itself is a human experience. Everybody the world over will light up when asked to describe a favorite song. It is not hard to imagine that we can take that simple common experience and build from it – young children can learn pattern recognition and emotional expression, and youths can learn teamwork, discipline, cultural history, and immeasurably more. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon
It is impossible to ignore the events that go on around us in the political and socio-economic arenas. On that note, how do you see your role as musicians, artists, educators in the communities where you perform, teach, live?
“Community engagement” is a hot topic for arts organizations lately. But simply drawing an audience is not enough; engagement is not achieved unless you serve an actual need in your community. To that end, we strive for an authentic understanding of the places where we live and perform, and we present ourselves authentically in return. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon
We do not take our responsibility as artists lightly. It is our privilege to perform for students that teachers and administrators in schools work with everyday and to present creative and inspired programming in all settings - traditional and non-traditional. We believe in the enrichment of civic life through our performance and endeavor to change the world through the promotion of artistic forms as necessary, healthy, and beneficial vehicles for human expression. - Anni Hochhalter, horn The Holiday Season is here. What are you all thankful for and how do you plan to share your many blessings with your audiences, families, and friends?
As a wind quintet, we’re thankful for good reeds, airline overhead bins, and the spirit of Carl Nielsen. This week we are breaking from WindSync to spend time with the people who witness our erratic travel schedules and incessant cram-practicing and love us anyway. - Kara LaMoure, bassoon WindSync Wind Quintet aims for excellence presenting daring and exciting programs incorporating elements of staging and choreography. None of it is achieved without hard work, dedication, and faith in your abilities. Still, obstacles and challenges are never completely avoidable. How do you face these challenges and do you see them as opportunities to learn something new and continue to advance?
We definitely understand that there is a certain amount of ‘risk’ we’re taking when incorporating elements outside of simply playing our instruments. We always try preparing for the unexpected as much as possible but every performance is a new experience and on occasion things don’t go quite as planned. We try to find humor in these moments and we feel our audience does too. Adding these extra-musical elements enhances the overall experience for everyone and keeps our artistic product as an ensemble ever-evolving and exciting. Definitely worth the risk! - Garrett Hudson, Flute As creators, musicians, artists, what makes you hopeful of the days ahead? What are you most looking forward to achieving on professional and personal levels?
We are always inspired by the overwhelming curiosity and enthusiasm from audience members and children in schools, and are hopeful that we can continue to play a meaningful role in communities around the country and world. As trained musicians, artists, and thinkers, we are still very interested in contributing to institutions of higher learning and looking forward to the opportunity to reach and inspire a whole new generation of students at music conservatories or universities. Achieving artist residency positions at forward thinking institutions would be incredibly fulfilling on a personal and professional level. Also, winning our first Grammy. - Anni Hochhalter, horn