Jamaica Plain resident Maria Finkelmeier, who is an internationally-recognized percussion performer, was recently selected by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to be the next Polly Thayer Starr Artist Series guest artist. The program supports artists in the Boston area by providing them with opportunities to develop artistic experiences and to run workshops for visitors at the museum. The Gazette conducted a question-and-answer session through email with Finkelmeier to discuss her selection and about her musical career. (The session has been edited.)
Q: What prompted you to want to join the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum artist series?
A: When the ISG approached me for this residency, I was honored. I’m inspired by their charge to bring local artists and community members into the museum through this series. The museum is a highlight of the Boston cultural scene, and I cannot wait to explore it through the lens of this residency.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out you were selected?
A: My brain started to spin with ideas and questions! What to do? What to make? How to engage through my voice!? The most exciting part of this residency is that incubation is built in. So, I’m able to spend the first month of the project exploring the museum, discovering new nooks, spaces and pieces I haven’t digested in the past. I’ll have access to the staff and curators to learn more about the collections, which is so exciting! I can’t wait to see how my brain as a composer and musician accesses “the Palace” and brings a project and workshops to life.
Q: How do these workshops operate? Who is your target audience?
A: The Bertucci Education Studio at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is open every Saturday for a program called Saturday Open Studio. Saturday Open Studio workshops are drop-in format: the workshops are included with museum admission, no registration is required, and participants can stay for a long or as little as they like. I will be exploring the museum and creating the workshops in June and July – so stay tuned and we will announce what I come up with later this summer!
The Gardner Museum seeks to uphold the high value Isabella Stewart Gardner and Polly Thayer Starr placed on artists’ contributions to community. Polly Thayer Starr Artist Series workshops offer local audiences within the direct vicinity of the museum wonderful opportunities to discover the artistic and cultural richness of this neighborhood. I think it’s amazing that the institution is not only focusing on local artists, but also local participants for this series!
Q: If people want to join the workshops, what is the process?
A: It’s easy! Simply stop by the museum’s admissions desk to purchase a general admissions ticket, then head to the Studio. The Bertucci Education Studio is located on the first floor of the new wing of the Museum. Often, hands-on Studio workshops allow visitors to discover insights into the historic collection. The workshops that I lead will be listed online later this summer.
Q: What is your musical background? When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician?
A: Pinpointing a moment that I wanted to become a professional musician is difficult! Music has always been a huge part of my life – from childhood piano lessons, to playing snare drum in marching bad, to traveling internationally with chamber ensembles and orchestras. Choosing to be a professional musician is really a daily choice based on reflection and goal setting. I am constantly responding to the world around me to create new music and projects. I have to be creative not only in the music-making, but also in the career-building aspects!
I have a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Upon completing that degree, I moved to northern Sweden as an artist-in-residence at the Piteå Institution for Music and Media. I lived there for three years, and loved exploring the arctic region, learning Swedish, and honing my skills. I moved to Boston in 2012, and have established myself here as a performer, composer, and entrepreneur.
Q: You’ve performed throughout the world. What are some of your personal favorite performances?
A: Engaging with international communities is a thrill, and amazing way to connect with others. A performance that comes to mind is one just after the Boston Marathon in 2013. I was to travel to Kaliningrad, Russia the day of the lock down to play with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. I was emotional, as so many of us were, and kept up with the news as I traveled. I joined colleagues in Kaliningrad and everyone was sympathetic and curious about the state of our city. Our performance that week was a huge church in the heart of Kaliningrad. I will always be thankful for those colleagues – all of which from the Baltic region – as it was a reminder that we were all united in some way.
Q: You are the founder and director of Kadence Arts. What does the organization do?
A: Kadence Arts is a non-profit that aims to unite the community by providing new experiences to support and encourage an appreciation and understanding of how music impacts and enriches our lives. We have three core programs: Make Music Boston (free summer solstice music celebration! Look out for over 70 events on June 21), Times Two Series (a contemporary music series pairing two acts to form new conversations), and the Beat Bus (a mobile educational workshop based on electronic drumming). We also produce one major event per year, in 2015 we opened the Outside the Box festival with an original composition for 13 percussionists and an Indian Carnatic singer, in 2016 we performed John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit at the Arnold Arboretum featuring over 90 percussionists, and this year we organized a work called Amid the Noise by Jason Treuting uniting both student and professional musicians. Each of the programs and projects are imagined by the Kadence Arts team, and started on grassroots budgets and infrastructure. I passionate about not only pursuing my own artistic career, but also building structure for others to thrive and succeed!
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I can’t wait to work with the Isabella Stewart Gardner team, and am grateful for the opportunity! I’d like to thank the Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust for providing support for this Artist Series collaboration.