Guest Bloggers: Colin Thurmond and Rich Chwastiak

AcousticaElectronica. Quite a mouthful to say, but then again – quite an idea.
The concept of the show was simple. Blend the virtuosity found in the classical concert hall with the energy of the late-night dance club.   The show seeks to reconcile two worlds that are seemingly distant- classical and electronic. We didn’t want cliché, though. We felt that it was not enough to take an existing piece then add a beat and effects. We wanted to totally restructure the DNA of the music. Sound sacrilegious? Maybe, but a hell of a lot more fun. Check out our remix of a Faure chanson.

The pieces seemed to fall into place. Recent graduate from the Master’s program in classical percussion,

Rich Chwastiak (AKA The Wig)

Rich Chwastiak (AKA The WIG) has always been a fan of electronic dance music and combines his percussion skills to add a live performance element to his DJ sets throughout the US and Europe.   Although having positive feedback from the dance club, he felt inhibited to showcase this side of his musical personality in a traditional classical music environment.  Was it wrong to combine these two worlds?
While studying composition at Juilliard, Athena Adamopoulos felt hesitant to show off her own work as a producer of electronic dance music (EDM). Being recently turned on to EDM, and struggling to juggle popular music with classical training, Colin Thurmond, posed the idea of combining the two worlds in a single concert. It didn’t stop there. While meeting with the amazing amount of talented students across Boston, we realized that it was not just musicians struggling with the idea of how to create something fresh and relevant in the face of such a great tradition. It was also dancers and artists. How does one create a painting after the likes of Monet, Van Gogh etc.?
Wagner had his Getsamkunstwerk. This was ours, just without all that Anti-Semitism.  A total work of art. Everything, from the music, art, dance, to the clothes on our backs, all working to the goal of expressing a young generation’s reality in today’s world.
This is how AcousticaElectronica was born. The WIG plays the Music of Athena with live string quartet, vocals, guitar and piano.  The music is complemented by dance and visual arts. Visual artist, Josh Wisdumb, improvises on canvas to the performance stimuli. The dancers also improvise an unbelievable combination of classical dance with modern movement.  We paired the show with the Boston Together Festival the largest electronic music festival in the New England region. AcousticaElectonica premiered at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA on April 22.

Music, dance and art exhibit tremendous artistic integrity and depth paired with an extremely visceral response. At once: sexy and classy, sensuous and stoic, irreverent and reverential. The three pillars: music, dance and art show great historical command by paying homage to past masters yet finding a fresh new voice. German art song of Schumann combines with Latin grooves and a dance club back-beat for a listening experience unlike anything ever heard before.  16th-century lute songs of John Dowland meets trance, Carmen’s habanera and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are blended with house music.

Ok, so why?  The 21st -century musician needs to wear many hats. This question of breadth vs. depth has always been an issue, but today we need both. Having multiple skills will not only lead to more success but will lead to a more fulfilling career. We cannot afford to estrange our audience or sit in an ivory tower. Neither can we afford to be a huge “rebel.” We need to take a hard look at what it means to be an entrepreneur. Arts in the community are only as strong as it’s arts organizations. For a young musician to ignore the stark reality that is the business world, is virtual suicide. To be an exceptional artist is not enough. Many of our educational institutions are beginning to see the light. Luckily,  New England Conservatory is on the cutting edge and the support from the Entreprenurial Musicianship (EM) program for AcousticaElectronica was incredible. A huge thanks goes out to Rachel Roberts, Eva Heinstein, and Nell Buck for their support.
It seemed like a huge waste to live in Boston and not collaborate with the wealth of talent that resides within, say, a five-block radius of Symphony Hall.  For this reason, toUch performance art, was established.  Collaboration is the heart of this venture. toUch performance art, is the company we founded in order to promote the larger conceptual works, such as AcousticaElectronica, that seek to give a new art experience to diverse audiences.
The mission of the group is to create high-quality, innovative and unique art by integrating music, theatre, dance, performance, poetry, and visual art. We bring a remarkable experience by engaging the senses through emotional and thought-provoking programming. toUch aims to create and host current and relevant new work as well as uphold great tradition. We push boundaries and questions our current conceptions of art by encouraging communication with the audience. toUch is rooted in collaboration and community service, bringing art and education to all types of audiences.

We had an amazing group of artists collaborate on the project. Truly the cream of the crop. Tessa Lark and Grace Park, violin. Elisa Rega, viola. Debbie Pae, cello. Adrienne Arditti and Laura Jobin-Acosta, vocals. Colin Thurmond and Jesse Weiner, guitars. Steve Martin, bass. Athena Adamopoulos, piano. Rich Chwastiak, DrumKAT, percussion and turntables. Marissa Roberts, Elizabeth McGuire, Lydia Zimmer and Josh Beaver, dance. Josh Wisdumb, visual arts.
To keep up to date with future performances visit For booking email: We would like to thank Tony Woodcock for the opportunity to write this blog.

About the author

Tony Woodcock
Tony Woodcock

New England Conservatory President [b]Tony Woodcock[/b] grew up in the Middle East, England, and Wales, where he studied music at University College, Cardiff. After leaving the university, Woodcock took positions with regional music promoters, and later ran the newly opened St. David's Hall, the National Concert Hall and Conference Centre of Wales.

Before coming to the United States, Woodcock held top positions with the City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox Singers, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. In Liverpool, he played a significant role in planning the 150th anniversary and commissioned Paul McCartney to write his first-ever classical piece, The Liverpool Oratorio.

Woodcock came to the US in 1998, when he was invited to take over the Oregon Symphony. He remained in that position until 2003, when he became President of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Deeply committed to education, Woodcock led the Minnesota Orchestra to win back-to-back ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Awards for Excellence in Educational Programming and secured underwriting to make the orchestra’s popular family
series admission-free.

A self-styled "recovering Brit," Woodcock took steps to permanently cure his condition. In summer 2009, he and his wife Virginia were sworn in as American citizens.

Read Tony Woodcock's blog [l=]here[/l].

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