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Gather Hear West Virginia

Pianist and actor travel around Alaska with a piano in a van, inviting local residents to share stories on stage in live performance pieces

The Latest Update

Vlog series complete!

Posted on January 25, 2021 by Miki Sawada

After working on/off for 2 years, I finally finished the vlog series for Gather Hear West Virginia! One episode per tour day (and then some), totaling 15 episodes. Before I went to West Virginia, I only had heard negative stories from the state – the opioid crisis, tanking coal economy, Trump supporters. To be honest, I was a little bit scared to go. Once there, I was floored by the kindness of the people I met, their resilience, and their passion for the land. I also saw the power of the arts at work in the communities that were intentionally choosing to nurture culture. The vlog is a collection of stories and music from place and people that gave me hope for the future of classical music and the future of this country. 

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Gather Hear Alaska 2017

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Miki Sawada

OFFICIAL 3-minute Trailer of Gather Hear Alaska 2017 is now available! 

Overview

For the first iteration of Gather Hear Alaska in 2017, I logged 2500 miles driving a piano in a van around Alaska. In a state where I did not have a single acquaintance much less musical connections, I set up my piano for 25 performances in community gathering spaces such as bars, cafes, lodges, libraries, schools, and parks. The visited communities were mostly rural, some with populations as small as 150. The tour was entirely shaped by complete strangers who, through cold e-mails and social media, became my collaborators and friends by hosting my performance, promoting the tour, and inviting me into their homes.

I was driven to undertake this tour by two main urges. One was to attempt to cultivate through classical music meaningful relationships with people of a part of America that is completely foreign to me. This urge still is particularly strong after the 2016 presidential election. Secondly, I felt I had to begin to face the unavoidable question of whether classical music is needed or relevant in our world today. Can classical music really have an impact outside the safety of concert halls mostly filled with a homogenous audience?

The answer to this question was a resounding “yes,” a response so consistently enthusiastic throughout the tour that it shocked and moved me beyond expectations.

With support from New Music USA, I will continue the project with a second tour through West Virginia that expands on the possibilities that were opened in 2017. The AK tour focused on curating the classical music experience so that the concerts were welcoming and inclusive, yet challenging audiences to engage using their emotions, intellect, and imagination. In WV I hope to deepen my impact, this time by introducing them to a large-scale new music work and simultaneously inviting local residents to participate as performers. This will take the form of a new show called “A Kind of Mirror.” 

“A Kind of Mirror” with new compositions by Brendon Randall-Myers and directed by Daniel Pettrow, is a unique and experimental take on a piano concert that reflects who the audience is every evening.  Theatrical prompts and audience interaction are woven throughout the show with Brendon’s music acting as the pillars, living alongside works by Bach, Ravel, and Scriabin. The performance is continually transforming to reveal a deeper connection between the performer, audience, music, and the space and time we inhabit. 

Brendon’s composition for the show, two movements for piano and electronics (25′), was eventually expanded into a five-movement album-length piece, premiered at Roulette in 2019. 

Project Media

Gather Hear Alaska in 2017

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Features: Miki Sawada

A retrospective on the inaugural Gather Hear Alaska tour of 2017, featuring footage from the tour, narration by Miki, and a studio recording of Miki performing Gershwin/Wild’s “Embraceable You.” Created October 2017.

“Sustenance” by Brendon Randall-Myers
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“Sustenance” for piano and playback by Brendon Randall-Myers (2015)
Performed live by Miki Sawada, Spectrum NYC Oct. 15, 2017.
This selection showcases Brendon’s interest in the acoustic properties of the piano, exploring its sonic capabilities when combined with electronics, and using these characteristics to shape the piece in a language that is clear, direct, and palpable.

Start and End Dates

10/27/201811/08/2018

Location

Multiple, West Virginia

2 updates
Last update on January 25, 2021

Project Created By

Boston, Massachusetts
Concert pianist Miki is best known for her Gather Hear Tour, in which she travels the country state-by-state with a piano in a van to perform free shows in rural community gathering spaces. The project explores the power of classical music to bring us together through an elevated communal experience, with the goal of igniting real connections…

In Collaboration With

Composer
Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn, New York

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