milwaukee art museum

It’s day 4, and time for our first off-campus public performance at the Milwaukee Art Museum, as part of their Target Free Thursdays!

We performed in the front lobby, near this gorgeous walkway. We couldn’t have asked for a better space to showcase some wonderful music, and the talents of our performers.

Millie was in on the act as well, being her thoroughly modern self in front of the glass sculpture that sits in the entryway.

She also was on hand to help with video documentation. Millie is a multi-talented…well who knows what she is, exactly…

Audiences of all ages got to see some fantastic music in a gorgeous space at noon, written by composers ranging from Bach to Stravinsky and David Lang. Upon seeing the toy pianos on parade, one of them exclaimed, “Are they actually going to PLAY those little thingies!?!” Glee ensued.


We’re so proud of everyone for such a great show!! And, as one Facebook friend comments on this final pic: “that is slick as HELL!”



public speaking primer

It’s day 3, and after a long morning of rehearsals, we gather after lunch for one of our favorite sessions: the public speaking workshop. How many of us don’t get nervous before going on stage to perform? And when we have to say a few words to the audience, that amps up the pressure even more.

Enter our resident public speaking expert and pianist, Adam Marks, who takes us through an activity that highlights the different ways that artists traditionally present their work. We see works by the same artist paired together, we examine the Wikipedia-style facts of their life, and we hear Adam’s personal feelings on the work. Does any of that information change our perception of what we see? Then we consider what happens if we let some of the relevant facts and some personal details blend together into the story of how this work came to be presented today, all in a vocal style that matches the audience we’re reaching. Now we get nods!

We challenge ourselves to create connective statements, bringing musical concepts audiences by relating them to ideas they know and enjoy. Trying to explain the return of many themes at the end of the Poulenc Sextet? Compare it to a soap opera, in which you know you’ve reached the end of the hour by the quick changes that begin to occur (pregnant woman at top of stairs, couple gets into the car on a rainy night, coma victim’s eyes begin to flutter…).

Once you’ve got your content, it’s time to start thinking about the physical act of speaking and finding your natural voice. To that end, Adam leads us through some vocal warm-ups in the dark. Huh huh maaaaaaaaa!!!!

After hours, we get a visit from Jenny’s son, Charlie, who won the “who tires out faster, the 2-year-old or the 32-year-old” contest between him and Eric. Here they are running down the hallway like birds!

What a great second day! We started things off with instrumental lessons, then off to a couple of lightning-speed workshops. The first was Arts Start-Up, a session in which Melissa led the participants through the process of identifying their artist/mission statements, figuring out what musical activities they’d like to pursue, then determining the best business structure to support their artistic vision. We even had some drawing fun with crayons!

Following that, an educational outreach session with Crystal, which began with our rendition of Dave Crawley’s poem “I Will Not Tease Rebecca Grimes” and Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca.”

Crystal goes over the basics of educational concert program and residency design, and some of the philosophy behind how 5HE puts together its curricular work. Later this week, fresh inc participants join us at the Boys and Girls Club for a performance of our “Music Can Tell a Story” program, as well as a composition workshop for kids.

Following that, a full afternoon of rehearsals, including this one on Paquito d’Rivera’s Aires Tropicales with participants Grace Lai and Erin Cameron along with members of 5HE.

Between rehearsals, Kyle grabbed the best practice room in the house! Outdoor marimba, anyone?

After an afternoon of rehearsals, we are joined via iChat by James Buckhouse, Director of Corporate Design at Twitter. He’s had an incredibly multi-faceted career as an illustrator, animator for Dreamworks, and social media guru. He tells us that the common thread between all of these different things is the concept of crafting a compelling story. James leads us through the thought process behind interacting on Twitter, building relationships and curating the kind of content that people can’t wait to share. We were so delighted to have him join us digitally!!

The last activity of the night was the first of many salon concerts we’ll be holding over the next 2 weeks. These are an opportunity for us to workshop pieces we’re developing during the festival, or share pieces we’ve brought along for the ride. Millie was present, in a face mask provided by Uncle Davy.

Looking forward to a full day of rehearsals tomorrow, and a performance at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Thursday at noon!

PS: Because we couldn’t let Millie have all the fun, here are some photos of 5HE faculty in uncannily well-chosen face masks, courtesy of Uncle Davy!


welcome to fresh inc 2012!

Well folks, it’s finally here! fresh inc has officially launched, and we’ve all arrived safely at the beautiful Carthage Campus. Here are a few attendees flying in now!

A few items of business to begin with. First, as decreed by composition faculty Stacy Garrop and Davy Rakowski, the official theme song of the festival is George Michael’s Faith, so expect to see that little ditty pop up at various points throughout the next 2 weeks. There is a rumor that the composer with the best arrangement of this song wins a cake.

Second, our festival mascot is Millie, an odd little bouncy thing that erupts into flashing light when provoked. We’ll be chronicling her travels throughout the festival. Here she is, having checked into her room and configured her iPad for wireless access:

Arrival day was a fun mix of loading in, checking out keys, and figuring out where the food was. Because there can be no summer festival without s’mores, we gathered near a fire pit to make that happen.

How many musicians does it take to successfully light a fire? Answer: only one who is willing to gather twigs. Justino Perez saves the day!

He celebrates with the finished product in a pensive pose:

Once the flames got going, we had many a discussion about the proper way to toast a marshmallow for s’mores. Many of us (ahem, me) have no patience, and prefer to light the sucker on fire and blow it out. That said, a rare pleasure is the perfectly golden brown, slow-roasted s’more that only comes with time.

Mmmmm (Herine has patience)

And pigeon toes.

On day 1 we gather in the recital hall after a morning of rehearsals for our first guest workshop with Cliff Colnot.

He starts us off with an intonation workshop, using the Poulenc Sextet as an example. We learn how and when to use just diatonic, expressive, and even-tempered tuning. And, just as importantly, how to use science and objectivity to overcome the ruffled feathers that are an automatic extension of any intonation criticism in rehearsal! (You’re sharp! You’re flat! You stole my girlfriend! I hate your face!)

Cliff follows up by answering a ton of questions about the rehearsal process, and about creating a diverse career in music. In his view, avoiding concentration in any one area is a major priority and ensures that you have options (think: not dropping your whole life savings on the Facebook IPO – and if you did, we’re sorry, you’ll be fine…).
Speaking of which, visit our Facebook page for more photos! (we love you, Facebook!)
After dinner, we had fun times in the Student Union, introducing ourselves, then breaking into teams to produce tiny performance pieces using our personalized sounds and movements. Silly, yes. Fun, also yes. Millie’s action was the bounce.
And here are Davy and Millie doing their best Iron Man impression. She’s so excited she got all lit up.
Major takeaway from Day 1: everyone here is awesome. We’re having a great time getting to know everyone musically and personally, and we couldn’t be among better folks.
Time to get some rest before Day 2! We do instrumental lessons, an arts start-up workshop, educational outreach training, and a whole mess of rehearsals. Bedtime!

fresh inc festival and Fifth House Ensemble are extremely thrilled to announce the lead sponsor for the 2012 fresh inc festival, U.S. Bank.  This exciting partnership will help fund scholarships to students who would like to take part in the festival.  Read the press release below for more info.  Applications are due by Feb. 1.


Fifth House Ensemble is pleased to announce a new partnership with U.S. Bank, lead sponsor of the 2012 fresh inc festival. Through a grant from the U.S. Bancorp Foundation, U.S. Bank will support participant scholarships, bringing top-tier composition and instrumental talent to Kenosha, WI from the nation’s finest music schools.

fresh inc is a one-of-a-kind chamber music festival that redefines the training process for emerging musicians. Under the guidance of Fifth House Ensemble and composition faculty David Rakowski and Stacy Garrop, emerging composers and instrumentalists will spend two weeks creating performance experiences for audiences of all types, covering repertoire both canonic and newly inked. Participants perform with 5HE members at venues in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Chicago, showcasing the various potential habitats for musicians and composers to ply their craft.

fresh inc performance schedule:

Thursday, June 7, 2012
Milwaukee Art Museum, Target Free First Thursday
700 N Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Rush Hour Concerts at St. James Cathedral
Live broadcast on WFMT and wfmt.com
65 E. Huron St., Chicago IL

Saturday, June 16, 2012
Ravinia Festival, Bennett Gordon Hall
200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park IL

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Kenosha Civil War Museum
5400 1st Ave, Kenosha WI

For more information, including performance details and online applications, visit www.freshincfestival.com.


About U.S. Bank

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $321 billion in assets, is the parent company of U.S. Bank, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,086 banking offices and 5,086 ATMs, and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Through the U.S. Bancorp Foundation, we provide cash contributions to nonprofit organizations in our priority areas of education, affordable housing and economic opportunity, and artistic and cultural enrichment. Total charitable contributions from the U.S. Bancorp Foundation reached nearly $21.4 million in 2010. For more information, visit www.usbank.com.


About Fifth House Ensemble

Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble is a versatile and dynamic group praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse.” Having pioneered the art of narrative chamber music with its signature series Black Violet and The Weaver’s Tales, Fifth House’s innovative programs engage audiences through their connective programming and unexpected performance venues.

5HE is defined by its limitless imagination and energy, and an insatiable desire to bring chamber music to audiences of all types. 5HE harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to create transformative cross-media performance experiences that bring together elements as diverse as storytelling, physical theatre, graphic novels, and fashion design. With humor and joy, 5HE breathes life into repertoire both established and emerging, equally at home on the most prestigious stages and unexpected venues including aquariums, train stations, and bars.

Bringing its signature connective programming from the stage to the classroom, 5HE develops young audiences through curriculum-integrated interactive concerts and residencies for students grades K-12. Currently Ensemble in Residence at Carthage College, Fifth House also frequently performs for college audiences, including workshops, residencies, and performances at Yale College, Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois-Chicago and the Colburn School.

For more information on the ensemble, visit www.fifth-house.com.