By Cristie Hine
This month, he takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to Indyfest about his work.
IM: What is your occupation at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga National Valley Park?
CAB: I am the Director of Programs at the Conservancy. I oversee and plan all of the Conservancy’s Cultural Arts events, which include music concerts, lectures, art gallery exhibits, and nature-focused programs.
IM: You recently received a grant for your music—can you tell us about that?
CAB: I was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship for the year 2016 by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The CWF is a program that directly connects artists in northeast Ohio to local communities by funding community-focused proposals from a variety of artistic disciplines—music, dance, visual art, etc. Forty artists were chosen this year and given a monetary award of $15,000 to fund their proposed projects.
My proposal entailed the creation of a new music ensemble that gives concerts in community centers and incorporates audience participation into the performances. Audience members become part of the ensemble, then in turn, the concerts are opened up to a larger community dialogue by a facilitator. The musical focus will be on ‘quiet’ sounds, or on giving each sound equal importance, its own ‘voice,’ so to speak.
IM: How many concerts are generally performed at the Conservancy in a year, and what types of performances are you looking to book this year?
CAB: We book about 30–35 concerts per year, in folk, bluegrass/newgrass, Americana, Celtic, Cajun, blues, and even Texas swing styles. We’re looking to expand our offerings a bit, to possibly include Afrobeat and other genres of world music.
IM: What type(s) of venue(s) is the conservancy? Is it audio only?
CAB: We perform music concerts at our main venues, Happy Days Lodge and the Hines Hill Conference Center. We also perform outdoor concerts at Howe Meadow in the summer. These shows feature performances by local bands. We can accommodate a video presentation, but our main focus for Cultural Arts events are music concerts.
IM: You are an independent musician. How did you start in the Cleveland scene and what instruments do you play?
CAB: I came to Cleveland in 1993 to pursue my masters degree in music composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I settled down here once I graduated, I got married, and started a family. I taught music theory and composition lessons for many years, and I play in a group called Trepanning Trio. I play alto sax, musical saw, udu, and melodica, and I throat sing. My main instruments are pencil and paper, however (I’m a composer by training).
IM: What types of gigs do you play/work?
CAB: Mostly experimental music gigs, but I also have my music performed at contemporary music concerts by other musicians in the area. But honestly, I’ll play anything I’m asked to.
IM: What are your favorite genres to write and have any been published?
CAB: I like writing anything, but I’m a composer, so the more experimental strains of music appeal to me most from a creative standpoint. I am published by the American Composers Alliance. I also write electronica from time to time.
IM: Do you have any advice for independent musicians who are looking to book a gig, or have a career as a musician playing at venues?
CAB: Work on your songwriting skills! I hear bands with excellent performers regularly, but the standout groups are the ones with original songs. Regarding booking, keep asking and don’t undersell yourself. Don’t play for free either; clubs that ask bands to play for free aren’t serious about presenting great music to their patrons. Sometimes playing for free is necessary, especially at a house concert or a similar situation where there’s no door charge, no bar selling alcohol and food, etc. But in general, avoid working ‘for the exposure.’
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