Posts tagged #Artist Series

MMC Artist Series: Michael Cuadrado Sees Another World

We're wrapping up another incredible year with the Metropolitan Music CommunityBrooklyn Wind Symphony will be closing out the 2015-16 season Saturday, June 11 at 7 PM with their Spring Concert, a joint-program with the New York City All-City High School Concert Band. BKWS will be performing Aurora Awakes by John Mackey and Colonial Song by Percy Grainger, among other works.  

Our final Artist Series is Grand Street Community Band clarinetist Michael Cuadrado. Michael is a Drawing major at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and has been playing with the Grand Street Community Band for the last three seasons. Michael is an incredibly talented artist, and was given the artist's blessing/curse of having free-reign over the direction of the program art, after being told this concert had "no theme." Read about how Michael's piece took shape, and see the piece in progress along with much more of Michael's work in the slide show below! 

Finding a Feeling...

"When I was first approached to do a commission, I was told that this was the only cycle that didn't have a theme. That worried me a little, but I knew I could put something together. So this may have been just how I felt, but the pieces from this cycle posses a feeling of [being] otherworldly. They have these elements of being about about greater things, and that's what really drew me in. So I guess you could say I gave the cycle a theme [and] found it easier to make a piece that way."

Getting Started...

"The first thing I did was listen to all of the pieces but decided that it would be a little difficult for me to take something from all of them. I really had to listen to all the pieces over and over again, so I could get a sense of what the atmosphere was throughout every piece and try to make something cohesive. So I narrowed it down to specific ones--the ones that I instantly felt some kind of connection or reaction to. Aurora Awakes was the main one that has what I described earlier--that feeling of otherworldly. So I went with that because it felt right."

Letting Ideas Take Shape... 

"I didn't draw or sketch anything before hand, but I had a pretty good idea of what kind of color palette I wanted, and I knew I wanted it to be figural. So I just kind of made sketches in my head; it was all ideas at first. I also knew that it would take me some time to finish it and that things could change along the way, and if that was the case then I would just go with it. A lot of things went through my mind as well before I made the piece--what the color palate would be if I did decide to use color; if I was going to draw a person, what gender would they be; what material would be best for it, etc. Those aren't just the decisions I made for this poster--those are the decisions I have to make whenever I make an art piece." 

Revisit all of the Artist Series from this year right here. 

Posted on May 31, 2016 .

MMC Artist Series: Maggie Nelson's Joyful Dance

Grand Street Community Band is lacing up our step-dancing shoes and pinning on our clovers for two performances of Irish Night at the Pops! Our first performance will be Friday, May 13th at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, for "Victor Herbert's Ireland: Music of the Emerald Isle."  Then we return to our stomping grounds at Grand Street High School for our final performance of the 2015-2016 season on Friday, June 3rd at 8 PM. GSCB will be performing an exciting and entertaining program, including Leroy Anderson's Irish Suite and Percy Grainger's Molly on the Shore, among many other traditional tunes! 


GSCB trumpet player Maggie Nelson created the program art for this cycle, drawing on her own background and artistic style for inspiration. Maggie is an artist and art educator, and attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She joined GSCB three years ago after searching for a place to play, since, "Trumpets aren't great in small apartments with roommates!" Read on to hear about Maggie's process and how she dealt with an artistic curve ball, and see more of her work in the slideshow below! 


A Cultural Connection...

"I have a particular relationship to Irish music--I'm half Irish and did Irish step dancing when I was little, and heard a lot of the music from an early age. It feels very familiar to me. I didn't want to highlight anything very nostalgic or sentimental, but I did want to find something essential about playing this traditional music on the anniversary of the Easter Rising." 

Her Style, and a New Theme...

"It was tricky, because we had a different musical theme for this concert when I did the original piece last fall, which was inspired by "A Night at the Pops." Later, it changed to Irish Night, so I did a second piece where I took the themes from the first [piece] and inserted them into something like the Irish countryside. For both, I had to think through all of my tropes from my own drawing practice and find ones that fit with the music, [like] my dancing, joyous figures; my magical creatures that reminded me of Celtic fairies, sprites and ghouls; my wide-mouthed singing figures, and my water color landscapes. Something new that came out of the first drawing was incorporating my magical, singing creatures with gold tubing and bells reminiscent of wind instruments."  

Inspired by Dance...

"I was thinking a lot about dance, since that's what most of this music was originally for, and I was thinking about communities rising up together and celebrating their culture. [So] it was a combination of the dance music--the reels and jigs--that made me think movement and joy and brightness; and of the ballads--with their sonority and somberness--that made me think of lifted voices in unison."

Art, Everyday...

"I'm an art teacher in an after-school program at an elementary school in Sunset Park. It's the best! Making art with kids is really important to me, and I love working in after-school [programs] because there's an understanding that it's not like the rest of public school--you're trying to do something different, something better. Then at home I make art, while trying to figure what I'm able to make in my little room with little time! I draw, felt, and sew primarily. I make objects out of fibers and ceramics and I make drawings and books. I'm also Quaker and spend a lot of time in that community--right now my most exciting project is organizing an artist residency at a Quaker summer camp in Maine, called Art Camp!"

Posted on May 4, 2016 .

MMC Artist Series: Jill Austen's Floral Symphony

We're fast approaching the third concert of the 2015-16 season, Modern Wind Symphony, a joint program with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Grand Street Community Band. GSCB's program will feature music inspired by "the third stream," a fusion of classical and jazz-influenced works including Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli and Asphalt Cocktail by John Mackey; and BKWS will be performing Andrew Boss's 2014 work, Tetelestai- A Symphony for Wind Ensemble, among other contemporary selections.  

Tasked with combining and interpreting such a varied concert program was artist and musician Jill Austen. Jill is a flutist with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony and has been playing with the Metropolitan Music Community since their very first rehearsal! As an accomplished music educator, musician and artist, Jill has worked and taught around the US, Mexico and the Caribbean and currently has some of her art work displayed at Columbia University.

Jill describes her paintings as "quirky and whimsical, and always colorful." Her painting, titled Metaphoric Wind Ensemble, is a combination of both ensembles' concert themes, and incorporates Jill's love of nature and floral motifs. Read on to hear about the challenges Jill experienced creating this piece and where she finds inspiration for her art, and see her process and more of her work in the slideshow below! 

Finding a common thread...

"At first it seemed an impossible commission. Both programs, although extremely creative, had little in common. On the GSCB side, wonderful representational possibilities lie in the classical/jazz fusion of their third stream music line-up. However, the BKWS program, which features the extended complexities of a new symphony (Tetelestai), was not so artistically straightforward. I did not want to focus on a single piece or musical style at the exclusion of others. Visual metaphor seemed the way to go."

Getting Started...

"First, I listened to recordings of the music and jotted down ideas in the form of pencil sketches. While I played around with several ideas, I kept coming back to the flowers in small bottles. [Then] I did a preliminary study in watercolor. Satisfied I had worked out the composition, I sketched the final version in charcoal over a peach-toned underpainting. I began by focusing on the individual blooms and adjusted for color hue and intensity as the work progressed. Next, I concentrated on achieving "believable" transparent bottles - always a fun challenge - and finally, I heightened the contrast of the bright light and purple shadows."

A Floral Symphony...

"Flowers in small bottles are arranged like the rows of a musical ensemble. Single blooms indicate the individuality of performers within the group, but work together in a larger, cohesive composition, like musical collaboration. Bell-shaped lilies in the last row stand in for brass instruments: the single white lily is a reference to the biblical theme of the [Tetelestai] symphony. Overall, bright colors evoke the many shades of jazz and the contemporary sonorities of both GSCB and BKWS programs."

Staying Inspired...

"I'm never at a loss for projects, especially if they involve collaboration and travel. I am fascinated by the interconnectedness of music, art and and poetry. On December 31, 2015, I completed a challenging year-long project, The 365 Series, for which I completed a painting a day. I find inspiration for painting in traditional subjects--landscape, seascape, still life, floral. Nature is fond of sculptural beauty and unexpected juxtapositions of form and color. I simply strive to interpret those which I find most lyrical."

See much more of Jill's work on her website,  

MMC Artist Series: Kristin Sedivec Remixes a Classic

Our second cycle is well-underway; both bands preparing for our December 12th concert 40 Under 40 at the Grand Street High School at 7 PM. The concert will include a joint performance by Grand Street Community Band and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony of Alfred Reed's Russian Christmas Music. 

Designing the program art for this cycle is Brooklyn Wind Symphony oboist Kristin Sedivec. Aside from playing in BKWS and as an oboist with Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, Kristin is a stellar tattoo artist who specializes in music-related tattoo art. She has a private studio in Brooklyn and has tattooed six current and former members of the Brooklyn Wind Symphony with her designs! Kristin is even offering to tattoo this cycle's program art on willing participants for free! (Now or never folks! Send her a Facebook message!) 

Kristin combined the contemporary styles of the 40 Under 40 concert theme and played off the traditional motif of Russian nesting dolls in her design. Read on for more of Kristin's thought process in creating the program art, and scroll through the slide-show to see the piece in progress, along with more of her artwork! 

Gathering Inspiration...

"To get inspiration, I made a spotify playlist with every song for both bands and just put it on repeat while I was working on it. I already knew I loved Russian Christmas Music and I thought it could be fun to incorporate the themes of other pieces into the intricate designs of Russian stacking dolls. 

Mixing Modern and Traditional....

"The turning point came when I saw the name of one of GSCB's pieces is in the massive boom boxes of the 80s and 90s that are carried on shoulders. That brings to mind all things early hip-hop, heavy graffiti, and even heavier lip-liner. It wasn't until I was staring at my design of a chick holding a boombox that I remembered "Top 40" [music] is also a thing. 

There isn't one stand-out programmatic piece among a list of abstract standard repertoire, so it was hard to choose. The music itself is really colorful for both bands this cycle." 

Incorporating Tattoo Style....

"Sarah Cohen (our head graphic designer) originally asked if I wanted to contribute a photo for the cover. She left it totally up to me and even said it could be photos of tattoos I had done. I liked that idea, but I couldn't figure out a way to combine existing photos in a pleasing way or to get a group shot of band members I've inked, so I just scratched that idea and decided to draw something new. 

That urban graffiti aesthetic is also a common tattoo style, so turning the Russian stacking dolls into a stylized tattoo sketch seemed like a good fit. I definitely had to Google some boombox references, but then the curvy and cartoony elements were just fun." 

Mixing Music and Tattoos....

"I did that kokopelli tattoo (in the slideshow) on my former high school band director's forearm. It can be seen by all of his students and the community band he conducts. I never would have predicted that back when we were sitting in his office discussing my upcoming college auditions! And then a year after I tattooed him, he was in the audience watching [BKWS] at Midwest! It just goes to show you that you never know where life will take you!"


Posted on November 18, 2015 .

MMC Artist Series: Al Perkins Paints the Music

This year, the Metropolitan Music Community commissioned several of its members to create art for the concert programs and marketing materials. For our November 1st concert, the Grand Street Community Band will be performing a variety of Halloween-themed selections for their concert, "Things That Go Bump in the Night"; followed by Brooklyn Wind Symphony's performance, "A Night with Michael Markowski."  

Our first artist is Al Perkins, the principal horn player for the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. Al has been with the MMC since 2009 and also serves as the organization's librarian. Al is not only a talented musician, but a gifted artist, often finding inspiration through music. For this first "Artist Series," Al shared his process of creating the program art for this cycle--creating his pieces based on "Dance of the Witches" and Michael Markowski's "City Trees." He even gave MMC an inside peak at his studio space! Read on below and take a look at more of Al's work in the slideshow. 

Starting with the music...

"It's very important for me to know the piece intimately, and more so what the piece is trying to say. [For example] Michael's program notes are always a good place to start, even though on once occasion I had to turn to him to get a better insight. 

Once I absorb the music and the material, I try to capture the mood as I see it. Then it's almost like purging. Once it starts flowing, it's fast and furious."

Creating "City Trees"

"City Trees" was based on a photo I found so it had details of a real building. Then I started to layer it so it had an almost impressionistic feel. I wanted the tree to be a contrast to the roughness behind it, but I didn't want it to look like it was in a different painting. So I tried to always be aware of where the light was coming from and to keep it all consistent." 

On "Dance of the Witches" 

"I had to mull over the GSCB's program for a while to find the one that jumped out at me. The more obvious choice would have been to go with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," but I felt "Dance of the Witches" would have made a better overall image. 

The witches in "Dance of the Witches" started as sketches, which I later carved into a stencil on a piece of acetate that could tape down on the canvas and brush over.  For the shadows I used painter's tape to allow me to dry brush the color to get the effect I was looking for."

Creating the final pieces....

"A lot depends on what I'm trying to do -- if the image is literal or implied.  I'll sometimes find pictures and paste images together for the composition I'm looking for and use it as a guide.  Then I'll figure out what sort of technique I want to use, or what the piece calls for.  Often I'll turn to YouTube to learn a new technique or two (remember, I'm still fairly new to this painting thing, so I have a lot to learn).

And then there are times when I approach an effect in a similar way that I would if I'm painting a theater set, which is viewed from a distance, not too close. (But) if I dwell too long on one painting, the soul of it is usually lost. It's an image--a thought--so I try not to belabor it. That's why I try to keep it simple and I don't obsess once it's done."

Posted on October 7, 2015 .