When Miami Beach reinvented itself post-hurricane in the late-1920s, Art Deco was the style du jour. New and reactionary, Art Deco served as a modernist response to the natural, nouveau style that preceded it.
Chamber ensemble Nu Deco embodies those same principles of creative reinvention. Miami’s brand new chamber ensemble aims to present classical music alongside other forms of contemporary multimedia in both traditional and nontraditional venues throughout the city.
Nu Deco’s very first performance takes place this Saturday, April 4 at The Light Box in Wynwood. The first half of the program includes original compositions by young American composers like Adam Schoenberg, Chris Rogerson, Paul Dooley, and Andy Akiho. The second half, however, features original arrangements of Daft Punk songs and acoustic orchestrations of local electro-pop duo Afrobeta’s tunes with the band members themselves.
For co-founders and co-artistic directors Jacomo Bairos and Sam Hyken, Nu Deco is the realization of a dream born out of both desire and necessity. The two 30-some-year-old musicians first met while taking auditions for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in New York City. Bairos played tuba and Hyken played trumpet. When they both reached the final auditions in Singapore, they both stayed in the same hotel. When they both won those jobs, they each accepted and moved to the South Pacific in 2004.
Since leaving Singapore, though, Bairos and Hyken realized that traditional orchestral performance jobs weren’t what they sought out personally or professionally. Instead, Bairos left the tuba to focus on conducting and Hyken has expanded his repertoire to writing, producing, and arranging music. And now, they’ve finally created the ensemble and organization they always wanted right here in Miami.
“There are ensembles that are small and flexible and dynamic that can do multiple genres of music that are occurring in cities like New York, L.A., Chicago like Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Wild Up. That’s a big trend that’s been happening over the last 10 years,” explains Hyken.
Bringing that type of experience to Miami was immensely important to Bairos, a South Florida native, and Hyken, who lived in Miami through his fellowship at the New World Symphony and subsequent master’s program at the University of Miami.
“That model didn’t exist down here,” Hyken continues. “In terms of what makes us different, the fact that we’re multi-genre is a big one in terms of collaboration. Collaboration is a huge part of what we do. We look at ourselves as a vehicle to connect artists in the city with one another and help grow the local culture. We also want to be collaborating with national artists of all genres and make Miami a destination for national artists and thus making it a destination for audiences.”
Bairos agrees. Adding even more examples, he continues, “There are people out there who love chamber music. There are people out there who love acoustic arrangements of popular stuff. There are people out there who love living composers. And so we decided to combine this all together to create an ensemble that is very eclectic and very versatile, but at the same time, is providing something that we know people really wanted. I think we’re hitting it in stride and starting to touch on something that Miami really wanted.”
The musicians in Nu Deco include some of the area’s most talented musical representatives. The ensemble includes members from the former Florida Philharmonic, professors at local universities, and New World Symphony alumni, and can expand to as many as 26 people or shrink to a quartet. This kind of flexibility allows for the most creative musical experimentation and performances in the most extreme locales.
But performances are only a part of Nu Deco. Bairos and Hyken believe in giving back to their community. Prior to Saturday’s debut concert, Nu Deco will partner with Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Goulds, inviting 30 of their students to attend a dress rehearsal and side-by-side performance. Additionally, members of Southern Land Films will mentor other Mays students who will film their peers' side-by-side activities in advance of the event.
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If all goes according to plan, Nu Deco’s inaugural full season should commence in the 2015-16 season. But for now, Bairos and Hyken are just working to make sure Saturday’s event is engaging for both the musicians and the audiences. They won’t stop until they get it right.
“The thing for Jacomo and I...we’re the type of people that see an opportunity and do our best to go for it. We love to connect dots in our community to see how it can all come together for a common and shared goal. We just figure out how to do it,” says Hyken as Bairos laughs in the background. “We see an opportunity and we get excited about, and we just go for it !! Both of us just have that personality of going for our dreams, and figure out the "how to" later...We’re just love to go after projects and goals and use our talents and to make things happen. That’s how we’ve been building our careers over the years!”
Considers Bairos, “Yeah, Sam and I have very strong ideas, musical tastes and wills. We eventually try to will our way to where we want to go. I think together we have really challenged each other over the years. We never lost touch, and we always have dreamed big together.”
Nu Deco's debut performance is April 4, 8 to 11 p.m. at the Light Box in Wynwood. For more information visit nu-deco.org.