If you stare at it long enough
the mountain becomes unclimbable.
Tally it up. How much time have you spent
waiting for the soup to cool?
Icicles hang from January gutters
only as long as they can. Fingers pause
above piano keys for the chord
that will not form. Slam them down
I say. Make music of what you can.
–from “Against Hesitation” by Charles Rafferty (A Less Fabulous Infinity, Louisiana Literature Press, 2006)
When it comes to singing, my two favorite things are planning recitals and writing ornamentation.
I love the creative part of the process the most—getting to put my own stamp on things, combining things in new ways, taking the expected and turning it on its head. These are the times in classical music where I feel I am allowed to play—to experiment—to come up with something entirely new and entirely my own.
This is when I think we are at our best—when we find complete ownership of something. It doesn’t happen as often you wish it would; admittedly, it is vulnerable, a little scary. It takes a great deal of confidence and an even greater deal of skill. We work so hard to be able to let go.
And of course, all of this is so much easier when you are cradled in the creative cocoon of school. I was lucky enough to go to a school that’s known for its wonderful sense of community, where I had the opportunity to explore a staggeringly wide range of repertoire and musical experiences. I also was taught the great value of collaboration. I was always and continue to be so inspired by my friends and colleagues.
I’ve struggled since leaving school with a sense of “musical homelessness”. Like many post-grad emerging artists, I’ve been doing a lot of practicing on my own and not a lot of creative storytelling—not a lot of experimenting or innovating or collaborating. I’ve missed those things as I’ve found my network scattered across the country. I’ve strung together gig after gig, some great, others not so much, and watched as I and my friends and colleagues have embarked on the beginning of a very long, very uphill journey.
One day earlier this year, I realized that the only thing stopping me from having the kinds of experiences I was longing for was me. There was no reason why I couldn’t make something—why I couldn’t make the kind of thing that I love making—something real, something fresh, something unique. Something that was not about me at all but about all of us—coming together in whatever shape or form we can to learn from each other, better each other, grow with each other. In turn, our music would have something new to say—something that can change and adapt to fit whatever is most needed.
And so, that something is taking the form of the Patchwork Project. I’m calling all of my friends and seeing if they want to make something together. We’ll have a core program of both standard and lesser-known American repertoire that will travel across the country with Will and I, and be breathed new life in each city by a variety of wonderful guest artists. We want to celebrate the myriad ways in which music is made in this country and provide opportunities for collaboration between singers and instrumentalists that might not otherwise occur. We hope that this fresh take on the recital will allow us to reach a broader population—by letting our program be whatever it needs to be in each city and venue.
Mostly, we hope to make art with as many of you as possible. Each of us has a unique voice to bring to the project, and together, we can make something so much better than any of us could hope to make on our own. For our audiences, we hope to share a new story, one that reflects and honors the individual and collective voices of this nation. We’re passionate about telling stories and singing in our native language—we’re passionate about making connections and collaboration—we’re passionate about learning from each other and learning from you. When we patch all of these things together, we’re left with a vibrant quilt that’s as familiar as an old blanket. We hope you’ll take this storytelling journey with us, and can’t wait to see how it grows.