“We plan to make music any way we can,” says Irene Feher, regarding the “Art of Improvisation” (AOI), coming to a computer near you, Aug. 2-5. “Music uplifts us and connects us to one another. How amazing to have this opportunity during such difficult times.”
Along with fellow Art of Improvisation facilitators Mary Knysh and David Rudge, Feher looks forward to bringing the fun and excitement of Music for People (MfP)’s summertime program, usually held at SUNY Fredonia, into people’s homes.
Feher says that while Zoom is no substitute for the “magic of the live experience,” videoconferencing redefines the possibilities of music making. “It’s rewarding to collaborate with people who otherwise wouldn’t travel to Upstate New York,” she says.
Adds MfP Board Chair Todd Rogers: “We’re particularly excited to offer a collaborative recording project, in which you can work with other musicians in real time or on your own time. Regardless of your musical or technological expertise, you’re invited to participate.”We recently caught up Knysh, Feher and Rudge to talk about AOI, whose early-bird registration ends July 15.
Who are some of this year’s guest presenters?
Knysh: We have an international team of teachers. So far, they include Stu Fuchs, known for his “Ukulele Zen” workshops; Clíodhna Ní Aodáin, an Irish cellist who will lead a session on connecting with nature; Ami Sarasvati, author of “Learn to Play the Native American Style Flute: Discover Your Heartsong”; Kofi Donkor, a master drummer, teacher and artist; and Terry Beck, an award-winning choreographer and dancer who teaches Tai Chi.
We’re also proud to present Christoph Weismann, a Swiss multi-instrumentalist who incorporates Qigong movement and meditation into his music, and Bernhard Maurer, a German cellist who teaches basic harmonic improvisation.Feher: The Vocal Track series features four special guests. On Sunday, we will ease into vocal exploration and discover the soothing power of our voices with Joelle Danant. The following day, we will explore Circlesongs and vocal orchestration with Jan Hittle. On Tuesday, Nancy Salwen, author of “The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program,” will show us how to overcome self-doubt and take pleasure in singing. The series will conclude with Dawn Tyler Watson, a Montreal-based blues recording artist and singer/songwriter, who will lead us in joyful vocal play.
Sounds like the benefits of going online outweigh the challenges. Do you agree?Rudge: The video format may be challenging for some people, but I think technology enables us to connect with a larger, international audience. It also creates more recording opportunities as well as a wider range of program options.
Feher: We’ve learned a lot recently from “Fill Your Home with Music” and “Music Alive,” weekly webinars co-sponsored by MfP. They certainly have uplifted my spirits while creating an international community of musicians. The turnout for both has been excellent.
With AOI, our overhead will be lower, and nobody will incur any travel, meal and lodging expenses. This makes the week more affordable and accessible.
Kynsh: Agreed. Technology expands our community while bringing individuals closer together.
What do you hope people get out of the experience?
Knysh: Connection. Meaningful musical growth and exploration. Inspiration. Joy.
Rudge: A chance to experience what MfP is all about, without the usual logistical challenges. You’ll have a chance to musically connect with other like-minded people during what has been a very disconnected time.
Feher: The human experience of creating music together—“musicking”—is incredibly enrichening. Every time I improvise with someone, I learn something about myself and how I interact with others. It makes me a better person.