Haven Trio and Jon Magnussen received a grant from Chamber Music America for him to compose this song cycle specifically for you three musicians. What was that process like? Did Jon present it to you as a finished work, or was there some back-and-forth? One of the really fun parts about working with living composers is that it truly becomes a collaborative process. Jon heard our performances and knew what our collective and individual strengths were, so he had that in mind as he wrote. If he had a question about something or wasn’t sure if it would work, he asked us. We met in August to play through the work for the first time, and after that, Jon made a few more adjustments.
Haven Trio is described as “a refuge for the creation of new music for soprano, clarinet, and piano.” How did you come to focus on contemporary chamber music? We all love all styles and genres of music, but I think it’s fair to say that we all like the process of bringing a piece to life from the initial stages of working with composers in composition, to performing the work, to introducing audiences to contemporary works. We tend to perform music of composers who know us well and are not afraid to tell us exactly what their vision of a work is. These same composers also know our strengths and can, therefore, write well for us. In our careers, we have found that listeners may be ‘scared’ of contemporary music. Ideally, we want to create music and present it so that audiences feel connected to the music.
You live in the Dallas area, but Lindsay is in North Carolina and Midori lives in Canada. How did the three of you meet and form Haven Trio? How do you work on music together? Is there a lot of traveling, or do you Skype? Well, it is a long story of how we met! Midori and I played together in a different contemporary music group for over 10 years when we both lived in Michigan. After that group stopped performing, Midori and I continued to perform, but she was in Toronto by that point. (Michigan and Toronto—still not so far apart.) Lindsay, Midori, and I then began to collaborate when Lindsay and I taught at the same institution in Michigan. We found we really had terrific chemistry, a similar outlook in our approaches, and we really love performing together. Even when new jobs and life decisions drew us to geographically distant places, we wanted to continue collaborating. Typically, we do 10-day “residencies” twice a year when we come together for a series of concerts in a single location. We do some Skype-type work, but we also do lots of recording of our own parts that we send to each other for help in preparation. When we arrive in the concert place, we have time to rehearse, but since we’ve recorded and listened lots to each other’s parts by that point, we can get right to music-making and interpretive decisions.
Do you find that being a teacher influences you as a performer? If so, how? I tell my students, “Teaching educates my performance; performing educates my teaching.” I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. If I am guiding my students to reach musical decisions or to incorporate certain ideals or aesthetics for effective performances, I am reminded that I must always do the same!
How old were you when you started playing the clarinet? Why did you choose it? I started playing the clarinet in my public school band program in New Mexico when I was 8 years old. I am grateful to my band directors—I wouldn’t be a musician today were it not for their guidance. I was lucky to begin private lessons when I was 12 years old. I hate to say it, but I chose clarinet because my older sister played flute! I didn’t really know enough to have a good reason to pick it! However, I truly love the clarinet sound and color—I can’t imagine playing any other instrument at this point.
What types of music do you like to share with your kids? What type of music do they like? We listen to all kinds of music at home. Honestly, my children prefer popular music to classical, but both play instruments and have studied music their entire lives. When I’m not teaching or playing, I typically listen to something other than classical music (since that’s what I hear almost all day). I love jazz and world music—especially Brazilian music.
Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Whatever composer’s music I am currently working on. Truly, I don’t have a favorite—there is so much wonderful, moving music!
What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I love sounds of nature—waterfalls, birds singing, wind rustling through trees, rainstorms. Least favorite? Fingernails on a chalkboard.
Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? That’s a tough choice! If it were possible to hear the premiere (or one of the original performances) of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, that would be amazing, I’m sure. But I wouldn’t say no to Bach at the organ… or Mozart at the piano.