Cellist Johannes Moser Embarks on “Sounding Off: A Fresh Look at Classical Music”

“Johannes Moser is one of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists.”– Gramophone

On January 17, cellist Johannes Moser and his collaborator, the performance artist and toy pianist Phyllis Chen, embark on their first U.S. tour together: “Sounding Off: A Fresh Look at Classical Music”. The two will travel to six cities across America, bringing their fresh and original take on the creative process and concert experience to universities, schools, and community groups. Before each performance – featuring works ranging from classical to experimental – they will conduct a variety of educational outreach activities, designed to allow each city’s audience to find and develop its own unique identity. Moser and Chen begin their “Sounding Off” tour on January 17 in San Diego, CA, with further stops in San Francisco (Jan 19-20), Detroit (Jan 22), Malibu’s Pepperdine University (Jan 24), Boulder (Jan 27), and New York City (Feb 1).

For this bold audience development project, Moser has reached out to a broad range of community and campus organizations in each university town on the tour, from high school students in Detroit to marketing and business students at the University of California at Berkeley. Rather than performing in concert halls, he and Chen have elected to appear at alternative performance spaces, including bars, clubs, and galleries, with the tour culminating at (Le) Poisson Rouge, Manhattan’s leading venue for eclectic gigs. Playing on traditional and electric cello, and on traditional, prepared, and toy piano, Moser and Chen will present repertoire from both the classical canon and the cutting edge, to show how the latest trends in modern music can influence classical performance and presentation.

“Sounding Off” is a project tailored to engage and excite university students about contemporary classical music and performance. By contrast with the conventional concert format, each event will be somewhat open-ended. “My goal on this tour is to integrate the outreach activities and performances in a new way,” explains Moser. “Our hope is to create a sense of excitement and investment in our music-making through intimate and informal activities outside of a formal concert setting. The students will then enter the performance having a personal connection to the performers and a close connection to the artistic process.”

Johannes Moser has long been an advocate of music education and audience development during his travels around the world. He has been a frequent ambassador to schools, hospitals, and community groups, both through “Rhapsody in School”, which coordinates these activities throughout Europe, and by reaching out directly to community organizations. In the U.S., Moser has taken the initiative of contacting such organizations, and provides performances and demonstrations between his formal concert dates. “I started visiting hospitals, schools, retirement homes, and hospices when I was 19 years old. Until then, playing concerts had been something fun but rather abstract to me,” Moser explains. “The more I played in these environments, the more I learned that music can make a real difference in people’s lives, including mine. Performing these activities on a regular basis has changed the way I think about making music.”

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