yMusic inspires students

Innovative group finds collaborative spirit alive and well in MSU Music students.

yMusic performs on the Fairchild Theatre stage at the end of their residency in spring semester 2018.
yMusic member Alex Sopp speaks to the Fairchild Theatre audience about their music, as did all members of the ensemble throughout the performance.
yMusic members perform MSU student compositions during a new composition reading session.
yMusic members CJ Camerieri and Gabriel Cabezas talk with students about new frontiers in creating careers in music.

Sarasota Opera House, DTE Energy Theater, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall. These are just a few of the diverse locations where the renowned chamber ensemble yMusic has performed. The MSU College of Music Fairchild Theater can is now added to that list after the College of Music hosted the sextet in a residency in the spring of 2018.

During their residency, the members of yMusic led master classes for the trumpet studio and the wind chamber music class, read new works from MSU student composers, and led career discussions about how musicians today may have roles as performers, producers, curators, and entrepreneurs.

The group is well known for bridging the gap between pop and classical music, as their unique instrumentation of a string trio, flute, clarinet and trumpet lends itself to the exploration of new music as well as collaborations with pre-existing groups and singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and Son Lux.  Their unique sound was on full display at their performance in Fairchild Theater, which concluded their two-day stay at MSU. The group is on tour this summer with Paul Simon.

Hannah Boissonneault, a composition student, attended the concert on campus and was inspired by the group’s unique sound.

“I was absolutely blown away at the concert. After their residency, I would love to write music of a similar genre. It was exciting, rhythmic and innovative, and something that I’m extremely interested in exploring,” she said.

Since yMusic’s repertoire is primarily made up of commissions and original compositions, members of the group worked closely with student composers to give feedback and advice on working with performers.

“In the seminar with Nadia Sirota and Alex Sopp, Nadia discussed a great deal about her collaboration with the composition students when she was attending Juilliard,” Boissonneault said. “This was not only inspiring, but it was something that really resonated with me as a composer. I learned that collaborating with fellow colleagues is one of the greatest resources as a composer.”

yMusic members (from left) Rob Moose, Nadia Sirota, Gabriel Cabezas, Hideaki Aomori, and CJ Camerieri talk with MSU Composition students about their process of commissioning new music and collaborating with composers during a composition studio class.
yMusic members Alex Sopp and Hideaki Aomori coach a student chamber group in a chamber music masterclass.
CJ Camerieri and Professor Justin Emerich during the yMusic trumpet masterclass.

yMusic’s Gabriel Cabezas agrees that collaboration has been a key part of not only the group’s mission, but its success. “We just try to do things that interest us no matter what ‘kind’ of thing a project is, and let the sum of our varied interests define us,” he said.  “I definitely believe a musical career at this point and moving forward can be more like a portfolio of interests than a defined job description.”

yMusic clarinetist , Hideaki Aomori, encouraged students to start now. “The best advice I can give is that I've started many other groups that never toured with Paul Simon,” he explained. “Not everything we do turns into something exciting and lasting, but we all have to try a bunch of things to have a chance.”

This willingness to explore new frontiers was part of the reason that Christine Beamer, director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship in the College of Music, worked closely with several college faculty members to ensure the group was able to visit East Lansing despite their busy touring schedule.

“yMusic was a priority to bring to campus because of their unique ability to throw genre out the window and collaborate with diverse artists,” she said.

In reflecting on the visit, Cabezas mentioned the unique collaborative spirit that is already present at the MSU College of Music. “Sometimes, at a music school, you might encounter students that aren't that interested in looking out of the comfort zone of how their degree is defined just yet,” he said, “but it seemed like all of the students [at MSU] were interested in exploring different ways of making their career and artistry happen, and they just needed to hear that their instincts were valid!”

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