For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 76: Da Capo Conversations with Gabriela Lena Frank and Chelsea Hollow
Looking for a way to listen to diverse creators and to support equity in the arts? Tune in weekly to For Good Measure!
Today we revisit Gabriela Lena Frank’s and Chelsea Hollow’s perspectives on activism in music. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Gabriela Lena Frank and Chelsea Hollow, check them out here and here. Parts of this episode originally premiered on June 21, 2021, click here, and July 24, 2020, 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.
Co-Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Co-Producer and Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
With assistance from Adrienne Anaya, Hannah Chen, Sam Mason, Renata Volchinskaya
Nanette McGuinness 00:00
[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 Da Capo Conversations, a mini series where we'll be giving familiar segments a topical twist. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS] Today we revisit Gabriela Lena Frank's and Chelsea Hollow's perspectives on activism and music. Here's what Gabriela Lena Frank had to say:
Gabriela Lena Frank 00:39
So GLFCAM, or the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music was formed out of mainly an instinct at his impetus, which was that during this time, when I came up with this idea to form a small nonprofit, the timing was during the election of 2016. And if one goes their memory back to this time, this was when we're in the middle of a really divisive election, and it was quite shocking to see how awful the national discourse was...was becoming. And I was part of that group of people just increasingly dismayed and really worried about how things were going to turn out. And during a cross country trip that my husband and I took in the car, we drove the really economically depressed and culturally depressed area to the country where I could see why certain kinds of messages that were so divisive would make sense or would be appealing. And we experienced some really one significant awful event of just out and out racism and hostility, that changed everything for me. And I realized that I have to do something different other than enjoy a good career as a woman of color. And in a field that does not recognize a lot of accomplished women of color. And that came to me Well, we have a large home now, having left the Bay Area a few years earlier. And I can open up this house for my younger siblings that are coming of age and create a safe space for people, all demographics, multitude of aesthetics, in various stages of emerging, whether as a student or a young professional, to create music together. And if this is out of my house, then I can handpick the people, both the composers that would be mentored and supported, as well as the performers who would do the mentoring and playing and premiering of their music through workshops. And that simple instant over four years was still a pretty young organization. But in just four years, we've been able to become a force: a recognized nonprofit in the classical music world, and have started commissioning, have started opening the eyes of my composers even more to community work, and, I realized that, ultimately, what I wanted to do was to provide models for my composers and open up some doors for them so that they can have a holistic life as an artist, that they're not just producing music for a new music series, but they're also out in the community. And they're known and they can do teaching in public schools, while they have a gig from Carnegie Hall, while they are part of a climate action initiative that brings together artists, and I think it's really teaching my composers how to be nomadic - and to go into a bunch of different realms that are not necessarily the ones that are talked about in the music schools. And I think this is what's going to bring classical music more into the 21st century is being open to different voices and open to different avenues other than a storied concert hall to deliver our talents.
Nanette McGuinness 04:17
Here's what Chelsea Hollow had to say:
Chelsea Hollow 04:20
This is one of my favorite stories: when my daughter was about...she was about a year old, maybe a little older. She had this habit of picking up really heavy things and yelling, "big ramen!" [laughs] I have these vivid memories of her pulling her wagon in the park going , "big ramen Mama!" Like what is she saying? But as she got more articulate, I realized she was saying strong woman. Yeah, I get goosebumps every time I think it's so it's so inspiring. And after the 2016 election, I was really lost. And I was trying to figure out how being an opera singer made sense in a world that I wanted to support in a world that I felt. So my...I felt like my craft was disconnected from society and I wanted to be a more active member. And...I started to really develop this idea of activism in music. And, of course, it's been around forever, but it hadn't occurred to me, I think, much of my thought, my roles that I perform are either whimsical, you know, spirits, or comic characters, or dolls and cats. And I hadn't had a big opportunity to process a lot of deep emotion on stage. But, as I really started to think about it, I realized that so much of my favorite music comes out of times when artists were commenting on what was happening around them. And, so, I started to put together a program called voice for the voiceless, and the original idea was that we were going to showcase different vulnerable parts of our society. But, I really...I was feeling the feminism. And I, I started to develop this format that I realized could really work as a format for lots of other activist movements, and, so, we start with giving...we start with the sets of music by composers who are allies, so not women, but men who are really giving diverse, interesting characters to women and just acting as an ally and giving us some variety. Then I moved to the voice of the youth, and I have poetry by kids that's set [to music] by a young composer. And then of course, we move to world music and pop culture, and, finally, the last set is called "Voice of The Activist." And it is a song cycle, based on a speech by Valerie Carr. So, this whole program is based around feminism and strong women "big ramen," and I find that...I found that as I started to really put it together, all of these other ideas came to me on different vulnerable groups of our society that I could really start to gather information about and...and build up a bigger repertoire of activism in music.
Nanette McGuinness 08:14
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure's Da Capo Conversations, and a special thank you to our guests 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, or 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's produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times and designed by Brennan Stokes, with special thanks to co-producer and audio engineer Stephanie M. Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week, "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]