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Art & Life with Rachel Beetz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Beetz.

Rachel, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up in a small town in Illinois on a commercial crop farm. Music was a big part of my household. It was a way for me to express myself growing up, which led me to want to be an orchestral musician. While studying at Indiana University, I started exploring newer works and opportunities to collaborate with performers and composers. This exploration led me to the soundSCAPE festival in Italy where I met flutist Lisa Cella, a champion of contemporary music. She really opened my eyes to new possibilities with my instrument and the community at the festival showed me how rewarding collaborative music making could be. At that point, I felt that I was having trouble fitting into the orchestral world; something about how I wanted to make sound on the flute and the music I loved did not fit perfectly in that box. Performing new works was challenging, rewarding, and alive; it was something that I needed to keep doing. Lisa shared with me the work of her mentor, John Fonville, the professor at UC San Diego, where I went for a Masters and Doctorate. (Yes, you can call me Dr. Beetz!) I am so grateful for the time spent in San Diego, where the community inspired and challenged me every day. While there I explored my instrument, met artists who are lifelong friends and collaborators, curated and produced a range of artistic experiences, and also found myself composing! My final project was a 30-hour sound installation, The Winter Stars, made while in residence in rural Iceland. If you had told me at age 18 that this is what I would be doing, I absolutely would not have believed you!

Two years ago, my husband, percussionist Dustin Donahue, and I moved up to Los Angeles. We felt like there was a strong community here and wanted to be a part of the action. Now, I co-direct the wasteLAnd concert series, teach and mentor students at Moorpark College and at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice in Boston, and am Development Associate with the Young Musicians Foundation in addition to performing with my duo, Autoduplicity, with cellist Jennifer Bewerse, and on other concerts around town. It is a busy life with too much driving – but I am so grateful for the vibrant community we have in Los Angeles!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am a flutist, curator, and composer. My projects focus on contemporary classical music, mostly by living artists. As a flutist and composer, I am inspired by challenging my instrument in collaboration with other composers and artists. Many projects involve premieres of works that were a result of a close collaboration and can be seen at wasteLAnd. This often means I’m making unexpected sounds on the flute: one reviewer described my playing as evoking “the roar of prehistoric animals,” and my fifth graders once thought I sounded like Darth Vader. I’m totally happy with these descriptions – they are completely accurate!

One collaboration, in particular, helped me expand my creative practice: Script-Rescript was made with visual artist, Nichole Speciale, where we traded tasks like a multidisciplinary game of telephone: she made drawings, then I made sounds from the drawings, and back and forth. I made a rule that every visual aspect of the drawing had to be realized in some fashion. This process challenged me to find new ways to create sound through technology that has been very fruitful for me. It was the inspiration behind my massive piece, The Winter Stars and pushed my practice to places it couldn’t have gone otherwise. In general, most of my projects are made in collaboration with other artists and have a connection to other disciplines, be it visual or performance art, writing, etc.

As a curator, I try to program concerts that speak to current political issues and/or relevant sonic experimentations. Often, these programs will feature the performing and composing strengths of my community. When someone comes to an event, I hope they not only engage with the overall curatorial concept but also find new persons to connect with, the concert being a jumping off point for new friendships or collaborations. It is important for creative persons to find others who are like-minded and also those who challenge them; I hope the concerts that I produce and perform on make an environment for audiences to connect with each other.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
In her book, Your Art Will Save Your Life, Beth Pickens points out that it is the artist’s responsibility to make and present their art to the world. If you make art, you are doing the world a disservice by not sharing it – because who knows whose life you will inspire or whose perspective you will affect which in turn changes the world. I am so grateful for the privilege to be an artist and through my work, hope to support others by creating space to share their voices.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Sign up for my mailing list: http://www.rachelbeetz.com/contact and visit https://www.wastelandmusic.org/ to learn more about upcoming shows.

If you do make it out – please say hello afterward!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Zach Bell, Jennifer Bewerse, Nichole Speciale

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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