Future EnVaGe Performances

  • Chamber Variations: Exploring Chamber Music. Nov. 18, 2017.
  • Celebrate Diversity: Music and Poetry. Feb. 10, 2018.
  • Play It Forward: Benefit Concert. May 12, 2018

Niky Tejero was ready for her solo.

As clarinetist, she would be the only musician playing during “Abyss of Birds,” a movement in Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time.”

“It’s hollow and desolate and then, out of nowhere, comes this musical gesture like a little birdlike call,” she explains, offering a vocal interpretation of the section’s trilling notes.

“There was a child in the audience and when I played it …,” she says, imitating a high-pitched giggle.

“I remember that afterwards, one of the other musicians went off about it: ‘Oh my gosh, people should leave their children at home.’ And I was like, ‘No! That was the most real reaction to what I did.’ The child got it and they reacted. That day I did my job and that day I connected with my audience,” says Tejero, associate professor of music theory and applied clarinet in the Department of Performing Arts.

Although trained in a classical repertoire, Tejero rejects the snobbery and stodginess—both real and perceived—that surrounds classical music. Which is why  she and her musical partners, Cesar Leal and Jessica Usherwood, are bringing EnVaGe, the Ensemble of Variable Geometry (pronounced in-VAZH), to campus.

Before you get freaked out or confused by the idea of combining music and obtuse angles, take a breath. In this case, variable geometry has nothing to do with Pythagorean theory.

“It refers to the fact that the ensemble is malleable,” she says. “The ensemble size and makeup are dictated by the repertoire we choose to program. As the program requires, as the program demands.”

In other words, they bring in the number and types of musicians they need to perform a specific piece of music. On Saturday, they’ll be performing Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, a piece written for an orchestra of about 100 players. EnVaGe will bring in 15, and one of those is a soprano for the piece’s vocal movement.

In future performances, they may have video or amplification or dancers or lighting. Again, whatever they believe is needed for the music as well as enhancing the experience.

“It’s not just pre-packaged for you. Go listen to your CD if you want that,” Tejero says. “We want them to feel like they’re part of the music-making process.”


EnVaGe offers a listening experience that’s different than going to an orchestral concert or an opera, she admits. But that’s the whole point.

“Society is being trained to be increasingly more insular, more isolated, you put your earbuds in and the world disappears; you create your own imaginary landscape,” she says. But a live performance should embrace “the human element at work. It’s a human part of the art.”

It’s one of her personal requirements as a musician.

“I need the audience. I go into a performance as a musician to connect with the audience. I feed off that.”

And the truth is, classical music needs a transfusion of younger blood, she says. The current audience tends to be older and, to be frank, is dying off. Young people need to be shown that classical music doesn’t have to be wear-your-suit-and-tie, sit-up-straight and be quiet, Tejero says.

“There has been perhaps some bad PR; classical music has gotten a bad rap that it’s kind of snobby; that there’s this concert etiquette concert. I don’t know when to clap and that makes me feel really uncomfortable. That it’s hoity-toity people, better-than-thou people that I have to sit next to.”

And that’s not untrue, she admits. But EnVaGe hopes to erase those strictures and bring the audience closer to the musicians and the music itself. And, at the same time, also bring the audience members closer to each other, to pull the earbuds out and burst the insular bubble.

“The arts make us human and they put us in touch with our humanity and they make us feel alive,” she says.



Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call (423) 425-4363.
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