Maria Finkelmeier

August 1, 2018

1. You recently received a Paul R. Judy Center Grant for your involvement with Masary Studios, a multidisciplinary collective you helped to create. Can you describe how this initiative came into being?

Masary Studios is being presented at the Pindrop Sessions season finale at Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, Massachusetts. The collaboration came about after ESM alum, Jason McCool, witnessed the Masary Studios production “Know No.” at the Boston Center for the Arts. Jason and I connected over our ESM roots and passion for bringing high level art to new venues. Jason curates the Pindrop Sessions at Aeronaut, and we’re thrilled to bring our energy together for the final concert of the season!

2. Masary Studios is collaborative in nature, but you also have a successful career as a solo artist. How do these roles differ in the skills they require, and in what ways are they the same?

The skills I have gained through my experience as a solo artist have translated directly into the work I do as a collective collaborator and non-profit leader. The fundamentals of creating new work – from visioning and communicating an idea to fundraising and managing logistics – are very similar, just scaled depending on the size of the project. However, when working with a team of artists or administrators, I’ve had to learn how to translate these skills into a more universal language or structure. Often, I’m challenged with the opportunity to translate my vision or direction into new statements – making sure I am taking into consideration collaborator’s experiences and understanding of my type of music or project. This enables me to think more deeply about what I’m creating, as I need to find the most direct and concise language to communicate my ideas.

The most exciting aspect of collaborating, especially with Masary Studios, is that each member of the collective comes with a package of strengths. We often look to these strengths, and how they balance one another. While we are all dedicated to creating new work and project partnerships, we’ve been able to identify the type of skills that come more naturally to each member. We then try to amplify these strengths in how we divide the administrative and creative work. This is refreshing in comparison to my solo work, as we also offer a support system and sounding board to one another.

3. As an active freelance musician and entrepreneur, you are involved in many different projects. How do you find yourself meeting the challenge of devoting your time and energy to each of these projects?

The flow of every week constantly changes as a multi-project arts entrepreneur. While at times it can get overwhelming, I find that the best way to manage the density of responsibilities is to try to stay centered and consistently check in and prioritize deadlines and projects. This means that I am always looking at the week ahead, and making sure that I am holding the appropriate practice, administrative, and meeting time to meet my goals. If a project is imminent, sometimes other work must take the back-burner (for example, during the production week of “Know No.” I delegated work with my non-profit, and rescheduled lessons).

Over time, I’ve also learned about my personal peak productive hours in the day. I know that I am most fresh as soon as I wake up. Therefore, I plan on the best use of this time: if I am approaching a creative deadline, I will either compose or practice, if I am in the middle of organizing a project, I will use the morning to write emails, proposals, or make phone calls.

When we founded Masary Studios is 2015, we decided to dedicate at least one day a week to meeting – whether rehearsing, planning, or brainstorming. We always hold Thursdays from 10am – 4pm to focus our energy on the growth of our company regardless of our deadlines or upcoming projects (noting that this time is the weekly minimum). This agreement allows me to plan around this commitment to sustain my other work, while always giving the appropriate space and energy to Masary Studios.

4. How does technology contribute to the scope of the projects you create, both collaboratively and independently?

I embrace technology as often as possible! I began to experiment using electronics in my music while working with a colleague in “Ensemble Evolution,” my project after graduating from ESM and moving to Sweden. My group partner, Charles Martin, created interactive apps using recorded samples, and we would infuse the apps as instruments in our work. Then, as I began incubating solo projects, I learned how to introduce a loop pedal into my set-up. This allowed me to play with multi-layers and not feel as lonely as a soloist.

In the past few years, I’ve been producing music using Ableton Live. I first learned about the program when building a workshop called the “Beat Bus.” In collaboration with a recording studio, we created electronic bucket drums by attaching small triggers to 5 gallon buckets. Now, I can program the buckets to make any sound that I want, and I’m able to take the system into schools to teach drumming using a variety of melodic tones in addition to the acoustic percussive sounds.

My use of the production software is now infused in my compositions and work with Masary Studios. In the collective, we marry the music performance with the visuals by syncing the program running the electronic sounds (Ableton) with the program controlling the visuals (Resolume). This allows for real time control of the visuals, even when we are improvising.

In this growth, I now see technology as simply another tool – or palette of sounds or possibilities – in my toolkit as a performer and composer. I love blending electronic and acoustic sounds and experimenting with new ways to infuse technology into my work. I feel that as my sound palette grows, my music is able to access new listeners and collaborators and I am pushed as a creator.

5. You present a solo program entitled “#improvadayLIVE” that incorporates Instagram with live performance. How do you envision social media impacting the careers of musicians, both at the moment and in the future?

I believe that musicians can use the various free online tools – such as social media platforms – to propel and feed their careers. While I do not believe in measuring the “success” of one’s career on the amount of followers or likes a social media platform receives, I do think that these platforms can be used as a communication tool to share ideas, pieces, thoughts, sound bites, projects, visions, and more. I think it’s important for musicians to understand that these are powerful tools in our industry, providing free avenues for listeners, supporters, fans, and community members.

While I do believe that social media platforms can help build a community around your work, they will never take the place of the hustle and drive it takes behind the scenes to connect with presenters, venues, and collaborators. I see the landscape of social media platforms constantly changing (from the antiquated Vine to gifs on Twitter, declining users of Snapchat to popular Instagram), so musicians should not rely on these platforms as the only means to get work noticed. Human to human networking will always exist in our industry, and social media currently acts as one avenue to instigate or facilitate conversation.

Behind the Scenes at Know No. from Masary Studios on Vimeo.