Taking Nothing for Granted
written by Ron Blessinger
Artistic Director and violinist, Third Angle Music
Family. Love. Support. Kindness. Talented
These are just the top five words from a long list that describe dear Gabi, who with her work with the Creative Academy of Music shows us all how creating music is our way of making this the kind of world in which we want to live.
And boy, do we need it these days. Maybe the most disturbing thing about our current political situation is the way that cultural norms are being shaken up, how we simply can’t take things like orchestras and concert series and new music for granted anymore. What was unthinkable is now chillingly possible, and if we’re not vigilant and proactive, we will lose it all.
Music is perhaps the best fear vanquisher we have going for us, and Gabi is our top wizard of goodness, our Gandolfina who stands at the bridge and says to the dark forces of fear, “You shall not pass!”
I know, I know…Gabi will be embarrassed to read this, though I frankly don’t care ;)…Get used to it, girlfriend! These days we need to do a LOT more acknowledging of the best examples of humanity, and Gabi is at the top of that list.
It was a great honor for Third Angle Music, which I direct and play in, to be invited to be the resident ensemble for Gabi’s first round of workshops at her Academy. It got ramped up to eleven when we realized that our string quartet would be joined by the brilliant soprano (and fellow Obie) Tony Arnold. Our workshops in Boonville last spring in March of 2017 were so much fun! Tony is an absolute genius in this genre, a musician’s musician whose rhythmic chops just rock my world, with a voice that makes me smile like a smitten teen.
The six composers we worked with were very carefully chosen by Gabi to represent a variety of styles and approaches to writing for strings and voice. It was thrilling to be there at the beginning of their compositional process, to be their lab rats as they worked through their challenges with this instrumentation. At the end of those workshops, we all felt like we’d had a most excellent start to a journey that would result in some really great music. The final group discussion was something I’ll never forget, an inspiring chat about how our best artistic work flows from our sense of humanity and love for our family and friends.
In October, we brought the project to our home city of Portland for performances of the finished compositions. At Team Third Angle, we LOVE to show off our beautiful city to our guests, and we were so happy to get to see the gang again. And it was fascinating to see where the music had ended up. In some of the pieces, very little had changed from the spring, while other pieces had been completely started over again from scratch. In both cases, it was clear that the spring workshops had been an invaluable tool in getting the music right in the end.
Nina, Hitomi, Brandon, Carlos, David and David, you guys are so special to us at Team 3A. It was our privilege to work with you on your music, and we look forward to working with you all in the future.
And Gabi…you are my hero.
Violinist Ron Blessinger is an Oregon native, a proud graduate in 1983 of Hermiston High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and a master’s degree with distinction in performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, after which he joined the Oregon Symphony in 1990. Ron has long been a passionate advocate for the work of living composers, both as a performer and artistic director for Third Angle New Music based in Portland.