Dawn Avery - ACF Board Member
Dawn Avery is a cellist, vocalist and composer of Mohawk descent, Avery performs Native American music with her band and premieres solo and chamber music in collaboration with the First Nations Composers Initiative. She is Professor of Music at Montgomery College where she produces an annual World Arts Festival.
What sparked your interest in music? Do you have an early musical memory?
My earliest musical memory is of sitting against my father's drum set in his studio while he practiced to Miles Davis and John Coltrane records, and falling asleep against his drums. At dinnertime, he would have us play polyrhythms that he'd lead while using his left hand on a Dijon mustard jar. His right hand would play his drinking glass with a knife, while each of his feet would tap out a different rhythm. My sisters and I would each choose one or attempt two to follow or make up our own rhythm to fit in.
How did you choose the cello?
Apparently, I did well on my placement test and the string teacher was a cellist, so she wouldn't let me try out the violin. Later, when I was deciding between auditioning on piano or on cello for conservatories, I attended the Saratoga School of the Arts on a high school scholarship. There I played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Respighi Pines of Rome and Stravinsky Firebird Suite and I loved being in the middle of all that sound and beautiful music!
What excites you about new music?
Creativity, innovation, ingenuity, individuality, sounds, experimentation, life experience, newness, as well as political, social, spiritual, psychological, intellectual and sensual expression through musical sound.
Why are you involved with the Forum? How did you first hear of ACF?
I first heard about ACF when I was a student at the Manhattan School of Music. I was working part-time putting their Composer Opportunity newsletter together and ACF was always listed as a major player in support of composers and new music.
What are you currently listening to? What composers or pieces are you excited about now?
A lot of world music (commercial, traditional and classical) such as: Mamadou Diabate, Shona Mbira music, Baka Forest People, Tibetan, Tuvan and Innupiaq Throat Singing and lots of Native American music. Also Bartok String Quartets, Stravinsky, Bach Cello Suites, Ligeti and Wuorinen Cello Concerti, Sofia Gubaildalina and Arvo Part.
For more information about Dawn Avery and her music, visit dawnavery.com.
Contributed by Jonathan Salem Een Newton