A Concert, A Recital, A Show

I hate artist statements. I hate them with a fiery, burning passion. I’m not good at writing them and I often feel like I’m leaving out something significant in an effort to fit my creative practice into an approachable, understandable box. The fact that I’m still in school and still learning about aesthetics and sound worlds and crafting environments doesn’t help—I’ve known since undergrad that unless a project started with me, I’m very comfortable molding my sound world to fit around an instructor I’m learning from or a period of music I’m learning about at any given time. These days, that’s not exactly something I consider a skill.

While fitting a project with its own sound world is vital to my practice, my projects have begun to take me into a performative gray area this year. I still enjoy writing music for concert settings—I do it all the time—but when I’m brainstorming and looking forward at what I might do next, I find myself thinking less as a brass player or composer and more as a performer and deviser. Sure, I’ll still get the music from my brain to your ears, but I don’t know that my trumpet’s always going to be part of the equation. (To be fair, it hasn’t always been as much an integral part of my practice as much as my connection to performance has, but my application and admissions process at CalArts very starkly painted the Performer-Composer program as this beast where everyone plays their own work that they write for them and only them, and I’ve been struggling with how much I want to conform to or rebel against that concept.)

Before we get any further, a general disclaimer, for my parents if no one else: for now, the game plan still involves playing brass. In some capacity, anyway. I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with The Ensemble at CalArts on parts I never could’ve imagined playing in my wildest undergrad dreams—parts I would’ve reserved for People Better Than Me. I’m entering the rest of my MFA with a renewed commitment to section playing and ensemble work despite expecting to leave it behind as I ventured further into the professional world. I hesitate to say it’s going to be a staple of my professional career, because I’m in the middle of a years-long battle with TMJ and a host of other tension-related issues, and the throughlines aren’t so clear right now. It might not always make sense, physiologically, for me to be a brass player. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

However, the longer I spend in a stare down with the possibility of the brass thing not getting better someday, the more committed I am to furthering my performance skills in every other way. I’m back to dancing this semester, which has done loads for my mental health and physical strength—thanks, Sofia!—but it’s also begun to ground me back in myself. I’m thinking more critically about why my body responds the way it does and why I move and speak and present myself the way I do. It’s shaping how I’m structuring my grad recital; I’m moving away from the traditional concert format and leaning more toward a show. Don’t ask if that makes me more of a theatre person than a musician—I’m still figuring that one out. The important thing for me right now is that performance and composition can go hand in hand in perfectly valid ways without it being me playing a bunch of trumpet songs for you that I wrote myself.

So, in short, I don’t know exactly where I’m going. I couldn’t begin to tell you how I’m going to get there. A lot of the path forward is anxiety-ridden, because my favorite pastime is worrying about disappointing my parents and teachers. But I’m writing a show. I’m figuring it out. My recital is March 3rd, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in April, so maybe I’ll even get the show out into the world beyond CalArts. But thanks to some good friends and a solid support system, I’m figuring it out. And then, once I have any clue where I’m going, maybe I’ll be able to write that elusive artist statement that ties me to my work.

And that’d be something. ♦

Hi! I’m glad you’re here. If you’re looking for a recent performance of my work and are emotionally prepared for a piece about sexual assault, the fantastic folks at 5th Wave Collective just did an amazing performance of Take What You Want. Catch the recording of the whole concert on their Facebook page and throw ’em a like while you’re at it (TWYW starts around the 1:12:00 mark). If you’d like more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm. To follow my ramblings and creative process in real time, or to support the work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.