For those of you who know me and are familiar with my Nellie's Letters project, you know I find it really important to make personal connections with the music I’m working on. As I prepare for a performance of Ravel's Chansons madécasses at UW-Madison, I’ve made a few of these personal connections while also learning about some important figures that may not always get the spotlight.  

Before I share these connections, I need to vent some frustration real quick. It’s just way too easy to become overwhelmed in our information age – gluing ourselves to a screen to compare performances and translations, researching the composer and poet, not to mention coordinating rehearsals and the countless distractions that tempt us whilst searching and scrolling. For me, and I’m sure for so many other musicians these days, a crucial part of the preparation process includes a minimum of three self-scolding sessions to get back in front of the music and away from whatever screen I’m looking at.

OK, I feel better.

I suppose if it weren’t for these screens, this ease and speed of consuming information, I might not have learned so much about the people involved in creating the Chansons madécasses so quickly, along with making my important personal connections.

While some of these are very simple, I believe that anything that will deepen my own connection to the music will result in the audience being more deeply drawn into the performance. So, here is a short list of these connections, given as my own inner dialogue during some of the screen-time portions of the preparation process:

      Neat! Ravel’s birthday is three days before mine!

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge…Huh, should’ve known more about her sooner, “vision to make chamber music available to all  commissioned some of the most important new chamber music of the twentieth-century…”

…she lived at the same time as Nellie Kedzie Jones…kind of a Nellie Kedzie Jones of chamber music…

Ooo! here’s a documentary…

…Cyrilla Barr was her biographer? She’s a Viterbo and UW-Madison grad too!


If you are interested in this concert, which includes the rarely performed Le Pierrot Lunaire, mark your calendars for 8 pm Friday, March 17th. Performance details here: