From our hearts and homes to yours (Part II)


Dear Birdfoot friends & fans,

It feels like the world has been turned upside down. Many of us are struggling with the uncertainty of this moment and countless other losses—for musicians, this means the loss of nearly all concerts and work for the foreseeable future. Honestly, there are days when the realities of the moment and the economic challenges ahead sink in and I despair. But when I talk with colleagues about their new projects, or pick up my violin to play for neighbors through my front window, I am reminded that we still need music as much as ever—if not more.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to give recently—there are many reasons, but the fast approach of GiveNOLA Day on June 2 is one of them.

When I think about giving right now, my thoughts turn to the hope and consolation music can bring, and to sharing memories of what we can look forward to. Thanks to your support, Birdfoot has grown through eight inspiring seasons and has been able to support its musicians through a cancelled ninth season.

To mark the tender nature of this moment, we are doing things a bit differently this year: This year for GiveNOLA Day, Birdfoot is highlighting the remarkable work being done by Birdfoot artists, sharing an opportunity to support these musicians whom you’ve gotten to know during past festivals, and giving back to you, our audience and supporters.

Our first gift for you, in celebration of a wonderful week of Birdfooting in Place with Classical 104.9 FM/WWNO HD2 is a live recording from a past Birdfoot concert—Tune in today between 12–1pm CDT to catch the last edition.

Our second gift for you is a musical memory from 2018: Photographer Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, an integral part of the festival for the past eight years, worked with festival musicians to create a 360-degree interactive video that immerses you in a circle of musicians playing the Enescu Octet. Filmed just before the final concert of 2018, this video brings back so many wonderful memories of a thrilling performance—I hope you enjoy exploring it (literally! Hint: click and drag to move around)!

Our third gift for you is the chance to support musicians while sending someone you care about a Birdfoot Care Package. Do you know someone who could use a care package? Or maybe it’s you who needs one? We have several friends who are isolated in retirement residences or undergoing medical treatments alone in a hospital. Not being able to see them is really tough, and for those unable to leave their rooms right now, it’s even worse. Alongside a gift of $135 or more made on or before GiveNOLA Day (and through June 6), you can request (by email) that a care package be sent in your name to someone that you designate. Care packages will include a recording by a Birdfoot artist and and a personalized note.

And lastly, you can add to your music library while supporting musicians by purchasing your own copies of these recordings. There’s an exciting new page on Birdfoot’s website where you can view and find links to purchase 51 (and counting) recordings made by Birdfoot artists. It’s an inspiring array of music covering more than 500 years that represents the broad talents and pioneering projects of the musicians that have been involved with Birdfoot over the last nine years. Find out more about this initiative here.

Over the past few months we have been in close touch with many Birdfoot artists. I’m awed that even during this challenging time, these incredible individuals are continuing to create music and finding meaningful ways to connect and give back to their communities. Here are just a few examples:

• You may have already seen some of the videos made by Birdfoot artists that have been shared on Facebook. Cellist Peter Myers’s fantastical rendition of the music from the Nintendo Wii Shop Channel, Vladimir Waltham’s wonderful performance of a Vivaldi Concerto for two cellos (and an orchestra of mini-cellos), Clara Kim’s collaborations with composers (and a ukulele debut dedicated to nurses and healthcare workers). The list goes on and on and we’re looking forward to sharing a few of them every week.

As this period of uncertainty continues, Birdfoot’s musicians, like so many others, are also struggling. Vladimir told us: “To be honest it’s been very much up and down, but the kids have kept me busy, and these videos have kept me sane by giving me some kind of musical outlet.” But he said he thinks it’s important to be aware that even musicians with videos going around aren’t necessarily always doing great.

Patrick Castillo (Birdfoot Board member and composer in residence in 2019) wrote to us about his recently completed string quartet (we’ll share it next week, but you can already watch it here on YouTube), “a work that grapples at once with homesickness—the sobering realization that life moves on without you, and that even places that feel like home will go on changing, with a callous disregard for how you feel about it—and with the crisis of our changing climate: the most profound manner in which all of our homes will inevitably change. Amid the ongoing pandemic, the strange amalgamation of hope, anxiety, desperation, and rage that hovered over the conception of the quartet (Skyline Palimpsest) has felt newly urgent.” Patrick is also writing a solo violin miniature for Jennifer Koh’s “Alone Together” project and managing the ensemble Hotel Elefant which has now presented two virtual concerts as artist relief efforts (you can see Birdfoot violinist Karen Kim performing in one of these concerts here); Patrick says that “the first concert raised over $1,700 to help the group’s musicians meet basic cost-of-living expenses in the wake of the spring’s wholesale cancellation of concert activity.”

Han Bin Yoon, founder and artistic director of the Belgian Cello Society, recently recorded this United Nations message of solidarity (while also juggling a run of concert and event cancellations).

• Violist Nathan Schram, founder of Musicambia, an organization which brings music learning and ensemble performance to prisons throughout the US, has overseen the transfer of the organization’s activities online. He says that while it’s been challenging, it has allowed the organization to bring music lessons to even more people.

Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performed all six of Bach’s cello suites (live and online) for the University of Washington and is also busy working to help Decoda, the chamber ensemble she co-directs, move to playing online concerts and finding ways to bring music to families, senior citizen homes and vulnerable populations.

• Many Birdfoot artists told us that they are enjoying more time to cook at home, but that they are finding that just getting by day to day is a full-time job right now—they are homeschooling children, applying for unemployment and support grants, and grappling with the uncertain months ahead. We understand all too well and appreciate the many challenges they face.

If you have enough to share and want to help Birdfoot support musicians, your gift, either scheduled today, or on GiveNOLA Day, June 2, will be gratefully received. Your support will be used exclusively to pay musicians and cover non-refundable travel expenses.

There are also non-monetary ways that you can help Birdfoot make the case for why art and music are essential to our lives: Click here to tell us about a time when music moved, consoled, or inspired you.

None of us yet know what the next months will bring, but we are hopeful that, with your support, art and music will soon bloom again with a renewed sense of urgency and vitality.

Stay safe and keep making (and listening) to music.

Warmest wishes,

Jenna Sherry
Artistic Director