The Blackbird Creative Lab is a two-week creative immersion hosted by Grammy-award winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird.

The 2024 Lab will invite chamber ensembles and composers to join us at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin from May 28th – June 11th, 2024.

The Lab offers an immersive experience and ongoing community of practice for contemporary classical musicians with expansive artistic vision who are seeking collaboration, mentorship, and a viable life as an artist.

Applications open Nov 1st – Apply by January 7th, 2024

What happens at the Lab?


Prior to the Lab, participants, faculty, and the creative team gather virtually to kick-off new collaborations, gain insights about the upcoming immersion, and explore the process – and site-specificity – of the Lab commissions.


Selected composers are asked to develop a composition specifically for one of the Lab ensembles. It is encouraged that the works of 7-10 minutes in length take inspiration from Yerkes and the universe. Prior to the Lab, composers have the opportunity to meet with the performers, their Lab coach, and a Lab composition faculty member for feedback and support and, during the Lab composers will have the opportunity to sit in on rehearsals, coach with faculty, and offer peer-to-peer feedback. There is no payment for the commissions.

Performance and Presentations 

In addition to a final concert, featuring the commissions, the Lab offers several other performance opportunities, including:

  • An opening concert at Tiny Tempest Farms, an agricultural and creative Hub in Lake Geneva, featuring Eighth Blackbird
  • A presentation at the Black Point Estate and Gardens featuring insights from Lab composers on their artistic process and chamber works featuring both Lab performances and faculty
  • Several composition faculty performance-lectures
  • Salon performances designed for informal performances or works-in-progress and socializing.


Through the Lab, artists will receive practical and creative workshops, led by faculty and guest artists. Sessions on visioning and the artists’ life will be paired with hands-on workshops of strategic visioning and discussions on grant writing, legal contracts, and community engagement. Additionally, artists have the opportunity to work with Yerkes faculty and staff, and engage in site-specific research, including historical tours, telescope viewings of the cosmos, panels on the astronomers’ life, and glass plate workshops.


All Lab artists will have the opportunity to coach with faculty members in various capacities, including one-on-ones, group seminars or masterclasses, and informal conversations. Further, performers will collaborate with members of Eighth Blackbird in a player-as-coach model as they rehearse and perform an additional chamber work.

Lab Project 

Each year, the Lab artists participate in a cohort-wide collaboration, developing a new work deeply impacted by the site of Yerkes.


The Lab offers a need-based sliding scale tuition from $250 to $2,500. In 2023, the majority of participants paid $500 or less to attend the Lab. We encourage applicants to apply regardless of ability to pay. We will request information from finalists seeking financial aid around January 20th.

As context to the participation fee, the Lab cohort is small in order to keep the intimacy and collaborative spirit of the program. As a result, the total cost to Eighth Blackbird for each Lab artist to participate in the program – including food, housing, faculty, guests and staff, and production costs – is approximately $7,250. We are fully committed to building an immersion that is accessible, sustainable, and tuition-free in the long term, and are working to build the support to do so.

Who Should Apply to the Lab?

The Blackbird Creative Lab is seeking composers and chamber ensembles to join us for our second immersion at the Yerkes Observatory.

Applications will be evaluated based on: 

  • Openness to collaboration, risk-taking, experimentation
  • Artistic dedication and voice
  • Insatiable curiosity and vision
  • Capacity to communicate effectively, with a focus on clarity
  • Technical prowess

We are seeking ensembles with the following qualifications:

  • Ensemble is between 2-8 players (note, if you exceed 8 players but are still and unconducted chamber group, please reach out before applying)
  • Ensemble has been operational for a minimum of one year
  • Ensemble has a 3-5 year strategic plan
  • All members of the ensemble will be 21+ years old before May 28th, 2023.

Note: All members of the Lab must be 21+ years of age by May 28th, 2023. Members may be of any nationality.

application process

The application for the Blackbird Creative Lab will launch November 1st, 2023 and close January 7th, 2024.


Under the Application Info section on this page, you will find links to PDFs that offer a detailed explanation of the content of our application. We encourage you to read through these PDFs and gather the necessary materials before heading to our application portal. Please use these as your guide – however, do not hesitate to email our team with any questions or sign up for one of our info sessions (linked here).


Under the Application Portal section on this page, you will find direct links to our application portal’s welcome pages. Upon clicking through, you will find the application. Please read carefully, looking closely at file format and labeling.

There are three applications listed: composers, ensembles, and individual member of ensemble supplement. Composers, you only need to complete the composer application. Ensembles, please complete the ensemble application as a group, and individually complete the Member Application Supplement.

Applications should only be submitted via our online portal. Drafts of your application may be saved, but we encourage to complete in one session. We ask that you upload materials via a folder link, google drive or dropbox preferred. However, any accessible online folder will work! Please reach out if you have any questions or need support.


The application fee is $50 for ensembles and $25 for composers. Please reach out directly to Lab Director, Garrett Obrycki at [email protected] if you are seeking financial assistance.


Applications will be reviewed by the faculty and creative team during the month of January and notification status will take place during the first week of February.