5 Questions to Emily DiAngelo about the Ithaca New Music Collective

You might have heard that Ithaca was Gorges or 10 square miles surrounded by reality. Apart from the clichés, Ithaca is truly a special place with a vibrant arts scene and two major universities. The Ithaca New Music Collective fits perfectly in this landscape and is doing outstanding work in the community. I was excited to get the origin story from Emily DiAngelo (founder, director, and oboist), and hear more about what’s working for them.

Can you tell me about the Ithaca New Music Collective? When was it started? What was the impetus?

INMC is a collective of musicians and composers that want to share the diverse sounds of contemporary music with the Ithaca, NY community and beyond. We had our first “show” in December 2015. I put “show” in quotes because it was basically just a group of us taking over the hotel bar at the Argos Inn and performing whatever new works by Ithaca composers we could get our hands on. It was put together super fast and there were a ton of people there enjoying the music, having drinks, performing, and putting heads together about how we were going to do this again…which was awesome!

The idea for INMC started when I was the Artist-in-Residence at Risley Hall (the student-governed creative and performing arts dorm at Cornell University). I was immersed in an Interlochen-type atmosphere there (but as an adult figure this time) and seeing all of the students creating, collaborating, and taking risks as both artists and academics was quite inspiring to me. It was my second year in Ithaca after leaving NYC and I was missing working with fellow musicians and composers on projects that were outside of the concert hall. I spoke to some composer friends in the community, at Cornell, and Ithaca College to see if they would be interested in a night of their music at a local cocktail bar, and the rest was history! Josh Oxford, a composer that founded the group with me actually came up with our name. It was perfect for what we are. A true collective of composers who also play, musicians who might want to compose, etc.

Ithaca New Music Collective - Photo credit: Lilac Milk

Ithaca New Music Collective – Photo credit: Lilac Milk

What is the most rewarding thing about programming only local composers? Is this still your focus?

Well, we don’t just program local composers any more. That was our plan at first, but that limited our repertoire, and there is such great music out there that we want share with our community. We try to spotlight Ithaca’s composers as much as we can, and when we start to go on tour, we will definitely make that our priority when we bring our shows to different cities, eventually. I will say that “locally grown” is important to the Ithaca community, so we decided to dedicate two of our shows each season to present all local composers and call it a “Local Composers Showcase” that stays true to the all-local program. It’s been pretty incredible to get to know all of the composers that live in town that have hopped out of the woodwork to collaborate with us on pieces they want to have performed. Community building in action!

What are your strategies to engage new audiences in such a small town?

Ithaca is more of a small city than a small town. :) Having a strong liberal arts college like Ithaca College (of which I am an alumna!) and an Ivy League University in Ithaca helps the arts thrive in the community. The biggest thing that has helped us to pack our venues is to involve as many local musicians as possible that are passionate about performing new music in our shows. Each of us knows a lot of people around town and we are so excited to play this music for our audiences, so we invite friends, colleagues, and students to come check us out. I also think that doing the shows in venues that are known for their great drinks is a big plus! We want people to feel comfortable, we ​want them to feel like they are a part of our growth, and we love hearing from our audience members. We have started having talkbacks as well at the end, and the conversation that is happening between the composers, musicians, and our audience members is mainly about how they love to hear something new every time they come to show. I also ask at every show… “Who here has never been to a new music show before?” We usually get at least a quarter of the audience raising their hands. As the director of the group, I make sure to find them and ask them what brought them here and that we can’t wait to see them at our next show! Ultimately, our success comes from sincerely wanting to get to know our community better through sharing this music with them.

Ithaca New Music Collective in concert - Photo credit: Lilac Milk

Ithaca New Music Collective in concert – Photo credit: Lilac Milk

Fair wages for all musicians—including composers—seem to be an important value for INMC. Are you aligned with national initiatives or are you developing your own ways to make it happen?

We are not aligned with national initiatives, and we are still researching and discussing how to achieve this goal. As the director of the group, I believe in big grassroots numbers for fundraising $5, $10, $20 by hundreds of people can go a long way. These types of donations can eventually turn into subscribing monthly donations, which can go even further. Fair wages is important in a town where community action is abundant, and many people I have spoken with about this didn’t know that freelance musicians struggle with being paid fairly.

Can you tell me about your upcoming concert on Feb 12?

We are so excited for this one! This show is our first ensemble show with a piano, and we are playing for the first time at the Carriage House Loft in the Cornell neighborhood. We’re calling it “With Love, from INMC” because we have felt so supported by our audiences over the years that we want to give it back and do a show based on love. Also it’s close to Valentine’s Day and our themed shows seem to bring people in that may not have come without a relatable theme! For more info on the concert, visit https://www.ithacanewmusiccollective.com/events.