During a recent visit from Trio Chicago and Friends, an American music ensemble dedicated to travelling the world as cultural ambassadors, the NYUAD community enjoyed a slice of Americana. As part of a series of concerts in the UAE, the group performed the music of famous US composers such as George Gershwin, Scott Joplin, and Aaron Copland.
Led by Elliot Golub, a distinguished violinist from Chicago, the group also includes Marlou Johnson on the viola, Kay Kim on the piano, Meret Bitticks on the flute and the piccolo, and vocalist Katherine Keberlein.
Prior to the concert, the ensemble held a master class for approximately 10 of the University's music students that offered them insight into what it is to be a musician and the opportunities that await them in the real world. The performers also spoke about the advantages of versatility and knowing how to manage opportunities, and then asked the students to perform for them.
I had the chance to perform my latest piece with flutist Meret Bitticks. It is a piano and flute duet, but because the piece is a little tricky to read at first sight, we decided to wait and play it after the concert. However, other students performed before the concert, including Manuel Nivia, NYUAD Class of 2014, who performed a classical guitar piece; Lan Duong, NYUAD Class of 2014, who performed a piano piece; and Emlyn Van Eps, Class of 2016, who, according to Golub, performed a "fantastic" viola piece.
The group's visit was a nod to the development of the music performance culture in the capital.
The concert itself was well attended by the University community. The group played a diverse array of eight or nine pieces including Sweet Home Chicago, Memphis Blues, Maple Leaf Rag, I Bought Me a Cat — which elicited the most audience response — and Summertime, as well as other traditional US songs. Golub then surprised the audience near the end of the performance with Oblivion, a piece by famous Argentinian composer Piazzola.
The group had a wide range of repertoire in terms of genre, but, due to the performers' training (all had a conservatory-style education), pieces including Sweet Home Chicago and Memphis Blues lacked the character and identity so intrinsic to blues. I also felt that there was some spice missing when it came to the solos.
After the concert I had a moment's practice with the flutist, during which we reviewed the score a couple of times and played my piece through once. It was the first time anyone outside of the NYUAD community had read my piece and I felt nervous and excited, but I was very happy that my score allowed her to understand what was happening. She gave me feedback on a few parts that could be clearer, which I took gladly, complimented me on my piece, and asked me to send it to her so she could play it properly. Now we're in touch!
The event as a whole was not only a memorable experience for me, but also important for the NYUAD music program and for the arts in Abu Dhabi. In addition to paving the way for future performers to come and inspire students to pursue or continue with their music studies, the group's visit was a nod to the development of the music performance culture in the capital.