For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 15: Brice Smith
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 Brice Smith about being a/life as a multi-instrumentalist (flutist and violinist), educator, and activist, including his recent GoFundMe experience raising money to commission composer Carlos Simon. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Brice Smith, check him out here: www.bricesmithflute.com . Parts of this episode originally premiered on Sep, 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 grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we're joined by Brice Smith, who we spoke to in September 2021. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS] Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. You not only have a degree in flute performance, but also violin performance and German as well. What drew you to all three?Brice Smith:
It is such an honor to be interviewed for ensemble for these times. Thank you so much for having me. This year has been an emotional journey for everyone and the ability to connect with you all is especially cherished. I have a Bachelor of Music with majors in flute performance, violin performance in German language. I received my master's in flute performance and chamber music from the University of Michigan performer diploma from Indiana University and my doctorate in flute performance and pedagogy from the University of Colorado Boulder. In high school, my passions centered around maintaining proficiency of the German language, in addition to advanced studies and flute and violin performance. Fortunately, the highly advanced studies in all three disciplines served as a seamless transition to achieving a well rounded undergraduate education providing the ideal model of an evolved professional musician, scholar and academic. I applied to well regarded research one institutions with reputable music programs to enhance my passions at the collegiate level to obtain their respective degrees. The University of Arkansas provided a structured curriculum that allowed me to receive excellent instruction in all three disciplines in a four to five year timeframe while preparing to be an excellent and well rounded candidate for a graduate school program. Admittedly, the coursework and demands of my degrees were challenging. My success solely relied on time management, balancing day to day practices, assignments, labs, rehearsals, among other responsibilities. Thankfully, I sculpted a balanced social life and prioritized health and wellness through the people that I met. During my studies. Specifically, many of my friends were music majors, some who also participated in the symphony orchestra, when symphony and Razorback marching band. During my graduate studies, I enjoyed the ability to further cultivate a sense of collegiality with friends and faculty. Additionally, my passion for music education, curiosity and creativity has shaped my sense of personal agency. I would like to thank my family, close friends and the phenomenal faculty from each of my collegiate institutions, who influenced my sense of personal autonomy.Nanette McGuinness:
How has the experience of pursuing these passions shaped you into the artist you are today?Brice Smith:
The artist I am today is ever evolving. I believe my diverse passions including my love for literature, or dance, and nature inspires my creativity. I also thrive on surrounding myself with people that have passions and skills different than mine. varying perspectives cultivate values, such as respect for others, as well as opens many opportunities to collaborate and create new projects.Nanette McGuinness:
How has the current situation of our world today shifted your mindset about performing and your vision of your future artistic goals?Brice Smith:
I would have to say purpose. The current situation of the world today renders how I conduct my day, I perform everything with intentionality. Time is not a luxury that we have, and every moment is precious. American singer, songwriter, musician arranger and civil rights activist Nina Simone stated that an artist's duty is to reflect the times. As an artist, I uphold parallel values.Nanette McGuinness:
You successfully launched a GoFundMe campaign to commission a new work by composer Carlos Simon raising over triple your goal. Congratulations. That's amazing. Could you tell us about your experience?Brice Smith:
Due to the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, the past 2020 National flute Association convention in Dallas, Texas, got canceled. The news of the cancellation shocked and saddened the flute community at its core, the yearly NFA convention holds a great tradition of flute performances, educational events and camaraderie amongst friends. Dr. Jennifer Grimm acted as Program Chair of the Dallas NF, a convention and helped create the summer series, a recital series that showcased black flutists of various Despres. Upon receiving her invitation to perform, I thought deeply about providing a meaningful project, catalyzing accessibility and inclusivity in the flute community by advancing 21st century composers. And wanted to commissioning work by a black composer, one who is a current compositional precedent in the classical music industry, as well as among the quintessential American composers. I'm honored that the NFA convention provided me the opportunity to showcase music from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups, particularly African American and black composers. Carlos Simon is a phenomenal composer. We were cohorts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He served as a doctoral candidate in music composition while I was studying flute performance and chamber music as a master music candidate. In June 2020, I extended the invitation to commission Carlos to compose the unaccompanied flute piece, move it. He graciously finished the composition in time to be premiered at the 2020 NFA convention Summer Series. This GoFundMe was my very first fundraiser. With excitement and slight trepidation. I asked for donations for the solo project with awareness of the socio economic climate, and then sued financial crisis caused by the pandemic I proceeded with the hope that this project could serve as a sense of solidarity and inclusivity among the flute community. Astonishingly, Carlos and I met the goal in two hours, I look forward to how this project will catalyze to bring the community further together.Nanette McGuinness:
Could you talk about being a black classical musician in today's world?Brice Smith:
I am an African and indigenous American flutist, educator and activist. As a person with intersecting identities, I exist in this sort of paradox. And one light what I perform reflects who I am, and in no way can I be separated from the art. Simultaneously, I am highly regarded in an art form, not created for my identities. For example, many of the gems in the repertoire that perpetuate white supremacy are based on cultural hegemony. Whether or not I accept it, there are societal expectations for me to be an individual that bridges race and classical music. tokenism is at once necessary for appearances. However, still, successful people of color are often not perceived as a part of the collective. The synthesis of these things has created a responsibility to liberate preconceptions of how black musicians are and can be involved in classical music.Nanette McGuinness:
What is one message you want to convey not only to your students, but also to the music world as an artist of our times.Brice Smith:
This is such an important question and reflection. And I often tell students, colleagues and friends that who we are matters, our ambitions and our life story, it truly matters. It's important for us to live in a constant world of curiosity and to work to notice details. We should pursue ideas that energize us, even if we find them daunting, it's almost certain that we will be judged or misunderstood. However, it's important for us to take criticism, and use what works for us and improve ourselves.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure, and a special thank you to our guest, Brice Smith 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 Measure" is 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 ENDS]