Meet a Member 2020-21
Mishkar Núñez-Fredell, LAB’s Artistic Associate, has been with the organization since its inaugural concert in November 2016. Joan Lounsbery caught up with him during LAB:Live outdoor sessions, fall 2020:
I would love to hear about your early musical training.
I was born in the Dominican Republic. Elementary schools there recess at 1:00 pm. One day my mom said, “why don’t we find something for you do in the afternoon?” I suggested piano and began to study piano at the age of ten. Then a year later I saw someone playing violin and I wanted to do the same. By the age of 11 I was studying both piano and violin, and learning all sorts of styles of music: jazz, marengue (which originated in the Dominican Republic) and salsa mixed in with classical.
How did you find your way to the United States?
As a teenager I had come to the US for the Aspen Music Festival and to The Juilliard School for the Starling-DeLay Symposium.Then, back in the Dominican Republic I met a professor from Luther College, Tony Guzman, who was on tour with his jazz band. He encouraged me to apply to Luther College. I applied there and also to both Berklee College of Music and The Juilliard School. I got accepted at all three, but was offered only partial scholarships at Berklee and Juilliard. Luther College offered me a full scholarship so I accepted their offer and moved to Decorah, Iowa, for my undergraduate years, majoring in composition and violin.
Then it was on to USC for graduate work, and I assume this is when you discovered Baroque violin.
Yes indeed! I applied to USC for graduate study with legendary violin professor Alice Schoenfeld and received a full scholarship. One of my roommates during this time was Aki Nishiguchi (one of LAB’s coaches). For my Optional Practical Training year (required of me after earning every degree since I wasn’t a U.S. citizen), Aki suggested that I play in the Baroque Orchestra at USC. She introduced me to Adam Gilbert, he put a Baroque violin in my hands (this was in 2009), and I ended up getting my Doctorate at USC in Baroque violin. It was hard to play at first but I grew to love it.
You and I have talked a bit about your work with young kids. I would like to know more.
During my undergrad years at Luther College I studied developmental psychology. I was fascinated by its principles and how they could be applied to introducing music to little ones. Then, while studying at USC for my masters, a man approached me and we talked about how he teaches kids. A couple of weeks later I observed his class and loved it. I now teach at rock4kids.com. It has become one of the greatest joys of my life. The kids range in age from newborn to six years old. I play for them, show them a great number of instruments from all cultures, then the kids get to touch them and play them. The program is called Rock for Kids, and the class that I do is called the mini-masters class. We play classical music, rock, folk, jazz for them. At any time you will find in my car an erhu, trumpet, banjo, recorder, accordion, drums, violin. The kids love it.
How did you come to find LAB, or I should say, how did LAB find you?
Alexa and Lindsey approached me to participate in LAB. I find it to be such a soul-enriching activity. It was and is serendipitous that I live so close to St. James’ Episcopal Church, LAB’s home and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy playing and working with LAB’s members.
One of the reasons LAB wanted to profile you this fall is your involvement in an LA Opera project. Tell us about it.
My wife Leila is a violinist, and Founding Member and Artistic Coordinator of Opera Ritrovata, a company whose mission is to promote and produce the work of minority composers. While researching appropriate works for the company to produce, she came across an opera by Joseph Bologne, a Black composer born in the Caribbean with ties to France. The music to The Anonymous Lover existed online but it was in need of major cleaning up and editing. It took four of us two months working 24/7 to produce an edited score. We then recorded three arias from the opera (go to YouTube to hear the arias) and that’s how LA Opera found us. They were looking for a workable edition of the music, and we were able to provide it to them. They will perform the opera, live-streamed, on November 14. Reserve free tickets here. Since then there has been growing interest in our edition, including from the National Opera of Paris and San Jose State, to name two. We are beginning to receive requests from many places around the world.
Congratulations, Mishkar. I’ve already got my ticket. And thanks for speaking with me.
Meet a member 2019-20
Los Angeles Baroque member Steven Pranoto talks to Managing Director Joan Lounsbery in February 2020, as LAB prepares its "Game of Tones" program for performances in March:
Growing up, did you have family members who played musical instruments or sang?
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. We moved to Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles in 1986. My late father was a pop-rock-gospel singer and was fairly well known in Indonesia. I’ve always been interested in gamelan music, traditional Indonesian music. I listened and loved the sound from the time I was a little kid, and it was unusual, but my parents encouraged it. I grew up with ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s pop music. When I was nine or ten I got into classical music. I played trombone in fifth grade. I didn’t like it, but in sixth grade I picked up the flute and loved it. I played cello and violin in junior high because there was only a string orchestra. I played piano also. In high school I played in the marching band. I was also part of the Santa Clarita Youth Orchestra.
Then you went to college and I understand you played many instruments.
Yes. I went to UCLA and double-majored in music composition and cognitive science. I got very involved in ethno-musicology and picked up the Chinese pipa, a 4-stringed lute, and studied with Chi Li. She and I have a close relationship to this day and I’m called to play with the ensemble occasionally. I actually gig on pipa from time to time. At UCLA I also played the Japanese shamisen, a 3-stringed lute, which is played with a plectrum. Also, I played in the Javanese and Balinese gamelan ensembles there. For one year I played tenor viol in a viol consort at UCLA. Finally, I got quite involved in film scoring at UCLA and I have actually scored music for seven full-length independent films. I am still called upon to score films.
After UCLA I used my cognitive science experience to become a computer programmer and worked for MySpace, which was really big at the time. Since then, I’ve worked in computer programming with several dot.com companies.
I know you own a lot of instruments because I’ve seen them when we’ve played library concerts together. It’s a beautiful collection.
My first exposure to traverso flute (Baroque flute) was at UCLA where they had plastic traversos! I started playing traverso seriously two years ago, after I bought a beautiful instrument from the Von Huene Workshop in Boston. However, it is pitched at A=440hz, and then I found out about LAB and that we played at A=415 pitch, so I bought a 415 traverso and joined LAB two seasons ago. And then I just started collecting flutes. I now own eleven flutes including a piccolo.
I happen to know that until recently you owned 13 flutes. I’m curious to know where those two flutes went.
I sold them to Elizabeth Mahone who is our newest LAB member!
This is your second season with LAB. How has the experience been for you?
I’ve had a lot of fun playing traverso, piccolo and Baroque guitar in LAB. I bought the Baroque guitar last spring after a small group of us played Zefiro Torna at a public library. I played ukulele for it and then was inspired to buy a Baroque guitar. Now that I’m steeped in historically-informed playing, it’s hard for me to listen to Baroque music played on modern instruments.
I really love LAB. It’s a great group of people and a lot of fun. I was lucky enough to find it on Google! We are all passionate musicians. And I emphasize the word passion because you have to have a passion for Baroque music and authenticity to want to play this music.
Los Angeles Baroque's Artistic Director Lindsey Strand-Polyak talked to Managing Director Joan Lounsbery in November 2019, as LAB opened its fourth season:
When did your music education begin for you?
I grew up in Seattle. While my parents are not musicians (my dad proudly declares that he plays stereo) they value music education and intended to have me play piano. However, when I was four years old I saw Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street talking about easy and hard… it was a moment that changed my life. I started asking my parents “Where’s my violin going to go?” They assumed I would grow out of this, but six months later I was still asking them that question. So, they acquiesced and bought me a violin. Over the years, they kept that first violin, a 1/8 sized instrument, and sent it to me recently. I was a Suzuki kid, learning through a method based on parental involvement. I learned by ear in the beginning and didn’t learn how to read notes until Book 2 of the Suzuki Method Books.
Until I was 13 I was convinced I was going to be a violin-playing paleontologist. But I gave up that idea and decided to camp exclusively in the world of music instead. This happened after I went to the Bravo! Summer Music Academy in Minnesota, studied with Sally O’Reilly and discovered I actually liked to practice four hours a day. It was a touching moment for me when recently I returned to the University of Minnesota and performed with Ensemble Bizarria in the same building and the same hall as my music camp.
I would love to hear about your university years.
I have always been a music nerd and a history nerd. I moved to LA to attend UCLA, study with Mark Kaplan and freelance. I was working on Bach in my junior year when Professor Kaplan invited me to try out a baroque bow. I loved it… it made sense to me immediately. Then I discovered musicology and minored in music history. Another of my professors, Susan McClary, told me I could go to graduate school in musicology. UCLA allowed me to keep up with private violin study as I began my PhD studies in musicology. I got into early music through musicology and I learned about seventeenth-century music through Professor McClary. I was fascinated with the repertoire and thought the music was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. While on a summer fellowship, I re-found the Baroque bow, and Professor McClary guided me through the repertoire week by week, including fabulous and quirky composers from Italy, England, Germany and France. Then I got interested in historical performance practices and that led me to Professor and cellist Elisabeth LeGuin. I started wondering why no one was playing all this music. Good chefs all have a suite of knives. And once I got my hands on a 17th-century English bow, it was like having the best chef’s knife in order to shape, ornament and figure this glorious literature. I ended up with two concurrent degrees at UCLA: a PhD in Musicology and an MM in Violin Performance.
Tell me a bit about your professional life outside of LAB.
My professional life is a variable mix of performing and teaching. I started teaching privately when I was 16… little ones. While in college I taught through the Young Musicians Foundation, and the UCLA Mentorship Program in Compton. I have also worked with Elemental Music, Education Through Music-Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Mira Costa High Schools. I was a teaching artist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well. Music Education is an important part of my portfolio. I have a private studio of violin and viola students. Also, I am an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. As to my performing life, Alaska Airlines seems to see me more often than most as I hop around the country performing and teaching! I have started being invited to be artist-in-residence at several universities. I love introducing students to historical performance practice, artistic choices and artistic freedoms. I try to give them knowledge to make their own decisions in empowering ways. I do this with my high school students as well. It is always deeply satisfying to watch musicians own this process for themselves, at any age!
If a musician is reading this interview and is thinking about joining LAB, what would you say to this individual?
I would say: Join LAB! We started LAB four years ago because we see the value of learning from the old in order to experience all music, and LAB allows us to explore these connections. I never enjoyed playing in large orchestras and love playing in Baroque orchestras. Everyone here loves Baroque music and LAB gives people the experience of exploring music of a different place and time for the whole purpose of learning and having fun in an appropriately-sized orchestra. We learn how to do things in new ways.
I will say that we started LAB to give everyone a chance to experience this music hands-on, as it were. Doing, playing, the music was so important centuries ago… as important as listening. It was written for the performers. I think of Telemann… the jokes he puts in music to entertain the performers. We all got into this because we started playing this music and falling in love with it. Through LAB, my co-artistic director Alexa Haynes-Pilon and I want to provide a space for anyone in LA to experience the joy and the fun of playing Baroque music.
For more on Lindsey visit strandpolyak.com