I have to briefly brag that Eighth Blackbird recently did a short residency at the University of South Carolina. They performed as a part of the local music and film festival, Indie Grits, and gave workshops at the School of Music. If you have never heard of them, stop reading this post and look up their music immediately.
While most people fangirl over boy bands and rock stars, I tend to get overly excited about new music ensembles and Eighth Blackbird is basically the pinnacle of that genre.
But I gained an even stronger appreciation for them when meeting them because they are more than just musician-robots who play their instruments really well; they are generally just awesome people.
I got the opportunity to play for their flutist, Nathalie Joachim in a masterclass and she was equal parts complimentary, inspiring, and challenging. She talked about playing musically while tapping into one’s own artistic voice and exploring the full range of the flute sound possibilities.
We then got to interact with the whole group in a seminar setting. I was happy to hear how much control the current members have over the organization which, at this point, has received so many Grammy’s and other awards, they must be surrounded by agents. It would be easy for them to hire managers to tell them what to do but they have remained the primary organizers of the group both artistically and logistically. There are so many similar organizations that hire their musicians and tell them what to do and where to be so it is refreshing the see a group that is so successful and so engaged.
The musicians’ investment in the success of the group is clear on stage as well. The communication among them while performing at Indie Grits captured my whole attention despite a 15-foot video projection behind them. This, I think, is what sets them apart from other groups and makes me like them so much.
Lastly, I got to pick their brains very briefly about how they started the group. I told them I had a new music collective that liked being creative together and they were excited to share their wisdom with me. It is easy to get a transcendent idea of a group like Eighth Blackbird but they too came from humble beginnings commissioning their friends and playing for tips.
It was an amazing couple of days getting to interact some of the people I look up to and finding them to be far cooler than I thought they could be. I want to be them…this is my new life goal.