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A Peek into Pierrot: Emma Schmiedecke, cello

A passionate chamber musician and advocate of contemporary music, cellist Emma Schmiedecke was most recently a visiting artist at both the Fresh Inc. New Music Festival in Chicago and the Vermont Mozart Festival Summer Fellowship in the summer of 2017. She has been mentored by composers Joan Tower, George Tsontakis, John Corigliano, Ana Sokolovic, and Susan Botti, and has performed with the Da Capo Chamber Players, Fifth House Ensemble, Against the Grain Theatre Company, and the Contemporaneous New Music Ensemble in multiple world premieres. Awards and prizes include the Temerty Family Foundation Scholarship, the George Martin/Hans Thatcher Clark Scholarship, and first prize in the Bravura Philharmonic and Bergen Philharmonic Young Artist Competitions. Outside of the traditional canon, Emma has recorded with soprano Measha Brueggergosman and for Penguin Group Audiobooks, performed with Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson, been featured at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and can be seen in the documentary Bach Among Us, a collaborative project of The Goldberg Variations as transcribed for string trio featuring members the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

As guest soloist Emma has performed with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic, and Bravura Philharmonic. She has performed in masterclasses for Colin Carr, Raphael Wallfisch, David Geringas, Denis Brott, Leon Fleisher, and Arnold Steinhardt, among others. Emma has been a visiting artist at The Banff Centre and has attended the Atlantic, Toronto Summer Music, Heifetz, Round Top, Bowdoin, and Summit festivals, the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the Oxford Cello School in Oxford, England where she was the Christopher Bunting Scholar two years consecutively. In 2015, sponsored by the US State Department, Emma represented the United States at the Connectt International Youth Music Alliance and Orchestral Conference in Trinidad and Tobago.

Emma currently attends the Schulich School of Music of McGill University as a recipient of the Ingeborg and Angela Kramer Award and a Graduate Dean’s Award, studying with Matt Haimovitz. As a chamber and orchestral musician, she is cellist of the oboe/cello ensemble Duo Caprice, cellist of the Vermont Mozart Festival Chamber Players, principal cello of the Opera Company of Middlebury, and cellist in the Orchestre Symphonique de l’Agora. She recently received her Artist Diploma in Cello Performance from the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music as a Dean’s List graduate, studying with Andrés Díaz and Desmond Hoebig. During her time at the GGS, Emma was a chamber music coach at the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists of the Royal Conservatory of Music. A graduate of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, she studied under Peter Wiley, Luis Garcia-Renart, and Sophie Shao. In addition to a B.M. in Cello Performance, Emma also holds a B.A. in Art History from Bard College, both magna cum laude.

She plays a 1918 Italian cello “Tutto” by Puglisi of Catania.

Are you originally from Montreal? If not what brought you here?

I am originally from the New York City tri-state area, but this is my fourth year in Canada!  I moved to Toronto to pursue my graduate studies at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music, but I had always wanted to come to Montreal and study at McGill University, so once I finished up there I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend McGill's Schulich School of Music where I'm pursuing my masters degree in cello performance, studying with Matt Haimovitz.

Do you come from a musical family?

I do come from a musical family!  My parents were both opera singers and music educators/administrators and my father is also a conductor.  There was always a lot of music in the house to say the least! Where in the world would you like to play but haven't yet?

I would love to perform in Australia and New Zealand; I have always wanted to see that part of the world and I've heard the music scene there, both classical and otherwise, is very vibrant.  Performing in Wigmore Hall in London would be a dream too!

Is there a particular composition or composer that is a favorite of yours?

As a musician, I feel a deep connection to composers of the 20th century and contemporary composers - Aaron Copland, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein, and Joan Tower are all favorites, just to name a few.  The piece that we are performing tonight, Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire", is a particular favorite composition of mine; it's such a milestone in musical history and a part of the core repertoire for 20th century contemporary music. Have you always wanted to play your chosen instrument?

The first instrument's sound that I fell in love with was the French horn, but I really wanted to play a string instrument and the cello was the closest equivalent to the French horn in the string family.  Once I heard Jaqueline du Pre's recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, I knew I wanted to play the cello, so I went with it and never, ever looked back! Do you have a guilty-pleasure pop song?

Not really! Musicians can be creatures of habit, do you have any rituals or superstitions surrounding a performance?

To be as relaxed as possible and make sure to have a good warm up session beforehand.  If I'm performing chamber music, just being with the other players and establishing a positive atmosphere beforehand is always great so that when we're onstage, we're ready to dive right into the piece. Do you have any crazy or strange performance/gig stories? Care to share it?

In New York I was once asked to perform at an awards ceremony with Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson where he stood behind a wooden statue of a woman he had created and made the statue "sing" by singing himself through the statue's movable mouth!  There were many high profile people there, including the crown prince of Sweden, and it was fun to see their reactions!  It was definitely one of the more out-of-the-box performing experiences I've had, but he was very nice to work with!

Come see Emma and the rest of the Pierrot team at La Sala Rossa on December 10th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online for a 10% discount, click here for tickets and more information on this incredible program. 

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