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Meet Michael Avitabile of Hub New Music in Jamaica Plain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Avitabile.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michael. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I founded Hub New Music while I was a graduate student at the New England Conservatory. When I got to grad school, I was confused about what I wanted my path as a musician to be – I had taken some unsuccessful orchestral auditions and was hitting a wall creatively. Lucky for me, around the same time a speech by Claire Chase (a MacArthur Fellow and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble) was going around Facebook. The speech was essentially a large call to arms for a new generation of cultural entrepreneurs that encouraged young artists to pave their own paths and build the organizations of tomorrow.

From there I was hooked on the idea of starting my own group and Hub New Music was born. I spent the next several years interning and working in arts management (including a summer internship working from Claire) to gain the skill set I needed to run my own organization, all while putting on free concerts of new music in various churches and art galleries around Boston with Hub. We were programming work that wasn’t often played in the city, music that lives at the intersections of popular and classical music idioms. As such we very, fortunately, began to garner attention from the Boston Globe. Those early press features helped us propel our career as an ensemble to secure us concerts in bigger venues around Boston and also launched our career as touring artists. Now going on 5 years, Hub New Music is maintaining a busy concert schedule with concerts both in our hometown and across the country, with artistic projects being planned several years in advance.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think there’s ever a smooth road as an artist or in any entrepreneurial endeavor, but it’s the roadblocks that help us grow. I remember graduating from school and being thrust out into the reality of working at a restaurant, running a budding arts organization, taking the occasional freelance gig, working part-time in arts management and being completely exhausted all the time. There was a particularly funny instance when I tried [key word here is tried] to bring classical music to an unconventional space by staging a concert of new electronic music in a nightclub only to find out that we sold no tickets and our audience consisted of a few friends and a drunk guy screaming whatever incoherent expletives he could come up with. There were teachers, colleagues, friends, and family members who thought I was insane and that I should try something else, but in my time doing this I learned that entrepreneurship is an exercise in tenacity and I stuck with it. I honestly wouldn’t trade those setbacks and words of discouragement for the world, because each of those “failures” (and believe me, there are many) offered an opportunity to learn something new about running an organization.

Please tell us about Hub New Music.
Hub New Music is an artist-led ensemble dedicated to playing the work of living composers. Most often, the common association classical music is dead European white men of the 19th century, but Hub New Music plays music by composers actively writing today. All of our repertoires is written after 2000. What is unique about Hub, and what I’m especially proud of, is our instrumental combination of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello which is not a configuration one often encounters. As a result, we perform works that are rarely heard and we commission a lot of the music we play.

What is particularly exciting about that music is how diverse it is. One night we might be playing music that uses groove-driven rhythmic patterns, or that incorporates folk music influences, that features multimedia, or that takes listeners into more experimental sound worlds. There is never a moment where we feel artistically static, and that makes me excited to work with Hub New Music every day.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I grew up in a foodie household and I wanted to be a chef before I even knew how to read music. I actually came to music quite late and food (and sharing food) is a pretty integral part of my life. Cooking with my parents are some of fondest memories whether it was getting ready for a big holiday party or just a weeknight dinner. To this day, the smell of fresh basil brings me back to my childhood home.

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Image Credit:

Ken Sawyer, Forrest McKiney
Kate Lemmon
Nile Scott

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