Ear Taxi Festival celebrates UChicago composers and performers in several new music performances

Ear Taxi Festival logo


By Laura Norton

Ear Taxi Festival 2021, a multi-day presentation of new and experimental music traditions, celebrates approximately 600 Chicago artists in dozens of concerts and draws international attention with both live audiences in Chicago and virtual audiences around the world. Through the Hear Chicago initiative, Ear Taxi Festival 2021 demonstrates a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the planning, organization, and programming of concerts and events. With Summer Preview concerts and Spotlight concerts running from July through September, Ear Taxi Festival is already in full swing with the majority of Mainstage concerts scheduled for September 30 through October 4.

This year’s highly anticipated Ear Taxi Festival includes concerts and events across Chicago, including a full day of concerts at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on October 2 culminating in the Wet Ink Ensemble concert presented by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition (CCCC). The festival, started in 2016 by UChicago Professor of Composition and Director of the CCCC Augusta Read Thomas, has grown and evolved since its conception, but the original intention of the festival is still present today.  

Conceived with “the image of a composer’s head (imagine that famous bust of Beethoven) with a line of 10 taxi cabs driving out of each ear,” Augusta Read Thomas describes the idea behind creating the festival: “The open, collaborative nature of Chicago's new music community is home to an extraordinary crop of ensembles and a vibrant landscape of composers; Ear Taxi Festival was created to showcase and celebrate the fact that our city has one of the most innovative, effervescent, and exciting scenes for new music in the world.  

This year’s Managing Director, Jessica Wolfe, is also the Director of Production and Education for UChicago Presents. She is excited to see the festival come to life:

“We look forward to bringing music to venues across the city and celebrating Chicago's incredible and expansive music community. I am particularly excited to bring Ear Taxi Festival to my home at UChicago. See performances at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and Logan Center for the Arts on Saturday, October 2, including the world premiere of a co-composed work by Tonia Ko and Zachary Good commissioned by Ear Taxi Festival. Chicago is a place of connection, collaboration, and innovation. In exploring the festival this fall, we hope you discover new sounds and places and connect with people you might not have otherwise crossed paths with.” 

The festival features many UChicago faculty, artists, and students in numerous events and concerts. Augusta Read Thomas’ compositions are included in several of this year’s Ear Taxi Festival concerts, including the Singing Bronze concert on September 28 featuring UChicago Carilloneur Joey Brink, a September 30 performance by Claire Longendyke (recent UChicago Artist-in-Residence), and the 5th Wave Collective concert on October 1. John Corkill, Director of the Percussion Ensemble, performed as a member of Beyond This Point on September 24.

Many student composers have pieces being performed during the festival, including Rodriguo Bussad, Alison Yun-Fei Jiang, and Maria Kaoutzani. Hunter Brown and Darlene Castro both had world premieres on the September 28 Singing Bronze concert and Kari Watson will see the world premiere of one of her pieces on the Quince Ensemble concert on September 30.

Along with current students, several UChicago alumni including Pierce Gradone, Andrew McManus, Clay Mettens, Ted Moore, and Igor Santos all have pieces being performed during the festival. Former CCCC Postdoctoral Researchers Ashkan Behzadi and Tonia Ko have pieces being performed during the festival. Tonia Ko also co-composed a work with Zachary Good that was commissioned by Ear Taxi Festival and will be performed on October 2.

Nick Photinos, a guest member of the Grossman Ensemble and a Chamber Music Coach in the Department of Music, is featured in a concert with Sarah Plum on October 1. Grossman Ensemble members Matt Oliphant and Andrew Nogal and guest member of the Grossman Ensemble Kate Carter are all performing during the festival and Daniel Pesca is performing the world premiere of his piece Taking a Line for a Walk on October 3.

2020-21 Don Michael Randel Ensembles-in-Residence ~NOIS and Quince Ensemble are both performing during the festival, with Quince Ensemble premiering a work by student composer Kari Watson. Ralph Shapey, founder of the UChicago Contemporary Chamber Players (later the Contempo series and now evolved into the CCCC), also has a piece being performed during the festival. Professor Emerita Shulamit Ran has several pieces being performed on numerous festival concerts.

For a schedule of these events and all the Ear Taxi Festival 2021 concerts, please visit their website.