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Eighth Blackbird Announces Launch of BLACKBIRD CREATIVE LAB


Eighth Blackbird today has been named Ensemble of the Year by Musical America, adding to the shower of accolades the group has enjoyed throughout its 20th anniversary (2016). Earlier this month, Eighth Blackbird was named recipient of Chamber Music America's first-ever Visionary Award, and last February the group picked up its fourth Grammy Award along with a prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Ever in creative motion, Eighth Blackbird propels itself forward from this 20th anniversary milestone by investing its vision, talent, and experience in an ambitious new initiative for the next generation: The Blackbird Creative Lab.

The Blackbird Creative Lab, an annual tuition-free two-week intensive for emerging artists envisioned by the ensemble's six co-artistic directors (Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin & viola; Nicholas Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; Lisa Kaplan, piano), launches June 12-24, 2017, in Ojai, California. Thirty fellows (twenty-four instrumentalists and six composers) will be invited to develop projects in a collaborative two-week immersion with esteemed faculty, including the members of Eighth Blackbird, two professional composers, one choreographer/director, and select prestigious guest artists. The Lab, hosted at the beautiful and remote Besant Hill School in Ojai, will include rehearsals and coaching sessions with the members of Eighth Blackbird, opportunities to foster new works by composer fellows, informal salon performances of works-in-progress, and presentations by guest artists. Room and board will be provided.

The inaugural faculty includes the distinguished Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, the provocative Los Angeles-based composer, TEd Hearne, the collaborative and spirited choreographer/director Mark DeChiazza, and luminary guest artists to be announced at a later date. The application process for 2017 Fellows will open November 15, 2016 at

Says Eighth Blackbird, "We came together as students and education has always been an integral part of our mission, whether in residence at the University of Richmond, the University of Chicago, the Curtis Institute, or at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. With The Lab, we seek to empower emerging artists in the other facets of our mission: to move music forward through innovative performance, to advocate for new music by living composers, to build community connectedness, and to foster openness among our colleagues. By increasing the number of artists who make a difference, we hope to elevate performance experiences and inspire a great many others to be creative in their own lives and work."


Eighth Blackbird is "one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet" (Chicago Tribune). Launched by six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory undergraduates in 1996, this Chicago-based super-group has earned its status as "a brand-name...defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality....known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers and even puppetry artists" (Detroit Free Press).

Over the course of two decades, Eighth Blackbird has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers such as David Lang, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli, and Steve Reich, whose Double Sextet went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. A long-term relationship with Chicago's Cedille Records has produced seven acclaimed recordings and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. Hand Eye, their most recent recording released in March 2016 and featuring the music of composer collective Sleeping Giant, was hailed as "dazzling" and "vigorously, flawlessly performed" (WQXR).

Eighth Blackbird celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016, winning its fourth Grammy Award, Chamber Music America's inaugural Visionary Award, Musical America's Ensemble of the Year, and the coveted MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Anniversary celebrations continue throughout the 2016-17 season with tours of music from Filament and Hand Eye, as well as keystone performances celebrating Steve Reich's 80th birthday, a fresh round of raucous shows with "Appalachian post-punk solipsist" (The Wanderer) Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy), and world premieres by Holly Harrison, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, and Ned McGowan. This season marks debuts in Paris, at Justin Vernon's (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner's (The National) Eaux Claires Festival, with the San Francisco Symphony, and also includes a three-week return to Australia.

Eighth Blackbird's mission-moving music forward through innovative performance, advocating for new music by living composers, and creating a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians -extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education. The ensemble served as Music Director of the 2009 Ojai Music Festival, has held residencies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at the University of Chicago, and holds an ongoing Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Richmond. The 2015-16 season featured a pioneering residency at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art: a living installation with open rehearsals, performances, guest artists, and public talks.

Eighth Blackbird's members hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. The name "Eighth Blackbird" derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens's evocative, imagistic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: "I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know." Eighth Blackbird is managed by David Lieberman Artists. For more info, go to

Nathalie Joachim is a Burkart Flutes & Piccolos artist, Michael J. Maccaferri is a D'Addario Woodwinds ArtiSt. Matthew Duvall proudly endorses Pearl Drums and Adams Musical Instruments, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, and Black Swamp Percussion Accessories. Lisa Kaplan is a Steinway Artist.

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