For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 10: Gabriela Lena Frank (part 3)
Looking for a way to listen to diverse creators and to support equity in the arts? Tune in weekly to For Good Measure!
In this week’s episode, we talk to Gabriela Lena Frank about how her mentors guided her musical journey and her advice for young composers. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Gabriela Lena Frank, visit https://www.glfcam.com/people/gabriela . Parts of this episode originally premiered on Jun 21, 2021, found on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Roziht Edwards and Merve Tokar
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by a grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we continue our conversation with Gabriela Lena Frank, who we spoke to in June 2021. [INTRO MUSIC END] You are so marvelously open about who you are and what you're thinking with the larger world. Who are what inspired you to share your reflections with your fans and community publicly?Gabriela Lena Frank:
That's a very interesting question. I never really thought about it, there was somebody that inspired me to, to speak about myself in this way. I've had a lot of good models in my life teachers that were very articulate, very gracious, really full of hospitality. They just conveyed a deep interest in who their listeners and who their collaborators were, I think, some in public school, but starting with my music training, I think my primary piano teacher, Jeanne Fisher, was a really big influence in that way. She was just so warm and giving her husband Norman, was really wonderful with audiences. Sam Jones, my first really significant composition teacher was wonderful in terms of just losing that kind of openness about who he was and the way he was able to talk about the things he loved and why he wanted to share this with people. And I've had primary teachers at my second alma mater, University Michigan, the first being Rice University. The second that University of Michigan I remember one talk with my primary piano teacher, Logan Skelton, who turned me really turned me on to Bartok. He was a big Bartok pianist and, and one of his specialties was also list. And he was going to a small conservative community. Older school teachers, counter counter teachers that liked a lot of the old classics and really didn't like a lot of modern music. And he wanted to introduce them to Bartok and I went with him and I watched what he did was, he was really masterful. He started off with Bartok juvenilia little piece of TiVo as a little boy. And then what Bartok through the ages. And by the time he got to playing the big solo piano, Sonata, that audience was eating out of his hand. And he was super charming. And they all felt like mom and dad. And it was really, really great. So I think that left a big impression on me about being open about your loves, and how that has informed your choice of them music maker.Nanette McGuinness:
You do it beautifully and it just makes a whole integrated career. I think it's partly just a generational thing, that when I was growing up, we were supposed to be professional and not admit we had children and not admit there was anything going on, or talk about what's important. And that's changed. And you do that so nicely. So thank you for being part of that. It's great. What is an important message you want to share with young and or aspiring composers?Gabriela Lena Frank:
I would like to say to anyone who is aspiring to be a composer, whether you're young or not, but maybe, perhaps this message just for those that are younger, is that 2020 is what it looks like when the world is telling you this, it's time to change. And this is your generational prerogative is to take things that you see from the past, really look at the past, and take things that you see in absolute terms of valuable and carry those with you and then try to open the doors and get the skill set to fashion this world in your vision, fashion, the 21st century world, that it's truly 21st century, not just a continuation of the 20th century, which was in our field already out of date. And this beloved field of art has long considered itself exempt from being with the times and that no longer tenable. So even if you don't know what that looks like, what the 21st century looks like, there are things that you can do now In which is to meet people work with a lot of different people. Trust your instincts, if something just doesn't seem like even after you've stuck with for a while it may not be for you. And trust at the Music Conservatory is about 10% of what you will need. And that can seem really daunting. But you may not need three degrees, you might be able to stop after undergraduate and try and intern or work. I think the music conservatory world is going to change quite a bit over the next decade, in terms of the repertoire that they were asked you to learn and the Western oriented theory that they will ask you to learn may adjust and open you up to other non western ways of thinking about music and, and if it doesn't, you will need to do this yourself and you have this marvelous internet at your disposal, we communicate and find people but you're gonna have to be more of a detective. In some ways I envy you. Because this was the kind of environment that I needed when I was coming of age in in the 90s. And I managed to do things within the conservatory. And I got a lot out of it, I really did. But there were a lot of things that were going to do for me, I wanted to go to prove that I can wait a string quartet better. Most people were going to Vienna, and Paris and and in Berlin for this kind of thing. And I wanted to do volunteer work. And that was not something that was was really supported. I had to do that on my own time and wanted to study Latin American music, there were never any courses that were offered. So I found support in a women's studies department and blumea language department. And I just made money on my own and funded my own trips. So I think some of those kinds of strategies will probably really be good for you. I would question whether you need to really go into monstrous debt in order to become a musician, and I don't think you should, I think you should spend a fraction of that amount of money, take years off from school instead, use that to get great lessons with with incredible teachers and try to do short term programs, festivals or short term academies and meet people and grow your skill sets. This is a changing world and you're at the crossroads and sticking to old methods, I think will not serve you well. So that's what I would say and would also end on a positive note, which is you are really needed that if you want to do this. I love my job. I love what I do. I think you'll love what you do. If you're smart about the steps you take knowing that you're needed.Nanette McGuinness:
Wow, that was truly inspiration and wonderful. Is there anything I haven't asked you or that you would like to say? Any additional thoughts that you would want to share with those people who follow us or listen to this interview in the future?Gabriela Lena Frank:
I hope that people will continue joining on the arts and as artists themselves in our field is evolving very quickly. I think the pandemic really showed us that we had to evolve and to become more strongly rooted within the community that we couldn't be just married to old ways of doing things. And I think conversations like what you're brokering through the series are part of that change. Thank you for having me.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure. And a special thank you to our guests Gabriela Lena Frank for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT Our concert season online and in the Bay Area, where to make a tax deductible donation, please visit us at www.E4TT.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. For Good Measures produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble For These Times and designed by Brennan Stokes, with special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Stephanie Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC END]