Classical Rev’s Mattie Kaiser: An Exit Interview

The "Mattie Takes Manhattan" party at The Waypost gave Kaiser a chance to bid Classical Revolution a fond farewell.

The “Mattie Takes Manhattan” party at The Waypost gave Kaiser a chance to bid Classical Revolution a fond farewell. photographer: Gary Stallsworth

Last Friday, Classical Revolution stomping-grounds The Waypost hosted “Mattie Takes Manhattan,” an exuberant sendoff for violist and “fearless leader” Mattie Kaiser. During the evening’s karaoke, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” became “Our Hearts Belong to Mattie”. Sporting a too-sexy-for-symphony off-shoulder black dress and swearing like a sailor through her many farewell speeches, the irreverently passionate woman of the hour said goodbye—for now—to Classical Revolution PDX, the first offshoot of the original Classical Revolution (SF) that she founded in 2006 and quickly grew to 300-odd members under the mission statement:

“We love classical music.

We love playing classical music.

We love listening to classical music.

We are tired of the elitist and inaccessible nature of the classical world.

We believe that there are many that would enjoy classical music if they could access it in a setting that is comfortable for them.

We believe classical musicians should be allowed to perform in a setting that is more casual – where the audience is allowed to have a drink, eat a scone, laugh a little, and clap a lot.

We believe everyone can enjoy the music that we love.”

The Itinerary

Yesterday, Mattie departed for Bloomington, Indiana, where she’ll serve a two-day stint as Indiana University’s entrepreneur-in-residence, hopefully inspiring students to start their own Classical Revolution chapter. Then she’s on to Classical Revolution Chicago for a concert featuring young Egyptian composers who’ve created new work in response to the Arab Spring.

Next week, she’ll arrive in Manhattan—and immediately catch Icelandic mega-band Sigur Ros in Madison Square Gardens. “That just seemed like something very epic,” she said of the timing. “From there, I want to hit the ground running.”

Ceding her post as Classical Rev’s executive director to composer and longtime group member Christopher Corbell, Kaiser will retain her role as creative director, hopefully leveraging it alongside more opportunities from afar. She’ll take private lessons from fellow violist (and sometime Classical Rev guest) Jessica Meyer and continue her training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics at Carnegie Mellon this summer (her second swipe at grad school there; she attended briefly before her Portland adventure).

“One of my students got me a year-long membership to MoMA, and I just wanna go hang out there every weekend and study Kandinsky paintings! I want to get to know the musical community there…and…I’m looking forward to growing. I know that sounds really cliché, but I’m really excited about what’s out there.”

The Goal

“My ideal longer-term setup would be bicoastal, working in music promotion. Basically, I’ve created a bunch of musical relationships on the east coast, and while I’m learning things in New York and experiencing that [larger] scene, I also want to funnel all the great things that are there back through Portland—but I don’t know how easy that will be. My parents still live in Portland, so for sure I’ll be here for every single Bachxing Day [Classical Rev’s holiday staple show].”

Fond Regrets

“Aw, it’s just heartbreaking to leave my students,” says Kaiser. “I have 15 students from 5-70 years old, and they all give me the googly-eyes. But many of them saw Jessica perform when she came to town, so when I tell them, ‘Look, I need a teacher too!’ they understand why I have to leave.”

“I’ll miss Portland’s opennness and the inclusiveness, and the rapport between the performers and the audience. There’s a really amazing connection that’s happening there that I haven’t witnessed in any other city except San Francisco. Especially at The Waypost, there’s no disconnect between musicians and audience; everyone is interacting w/ performance whether they’re playing an instrument or not. Portland also has an openness to new classical music that I haven’t ever seen before. It doesn’t matter if you’re professional, semiprofessional or amateur, we can all be creating things together. I’ll also miss the food—and, oh! I’m leaving plenty of unfinished romances….

Moment of Truth

“If there’s anything I can leave you with, it’s just ‘give, give, give,’ gushed a tipsier Kaiser from the Waypost stage on Friday. Upon further reflection on Monday as she finished final packing, she simply said, “We created something really really beautiful. It’s overwhelming to me what Classical Revolution has become, and the relationships that have formed with everybody. It’s a pretty incredible thing, and I’m grateful for it.”

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