Suki Rae Interview
DK: To call you a multitalented performer, would certainly be an understatement, how did you get involved with so many instruments and what was your first instrument that you started with?
SR: Music chose me, not the other way around. I always joke that I was born with a silver flute in my crib instead of a rattle! I began playing piano at the age of five under my mother’s tutelage.
DK: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
SR: I took up the flute in fifth grade. Guitar followed in high school. I sang for as long as I can remember.
DK: What were some of your first inspirations in music and also outside of music?
SR: My mother a classical pianist, was my first and foremost inspiration musically. My two brothers played clarinet and violin respectively. We held quartet performances in our living room for an appreciative audience!
WFMT could be heard prominently in my childhood home throughout my school years. My family attended classical concerts at Grant Park including the unforgettable concert of Van Cliburn performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1.
I was enamored of the three B’s- Bach, Beethoven, and the Beatles! I was a John, Paul, George, and Ringo fanatic! Their pictures were scotch taped to my wall and I biked around the neighborhood shrieking, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”! I also wore out the stereo needle with the folk music of Pete Seeger, the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, Odetta, and Joan Baez.
I began writing melodies at six, as well as poetry, but it wasn’t until college that I figured out how to combine the two!
DK: How long were you classically trained for?
SR: Classical flute studies included: Ralph Johnson and Walfried Kujala of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Gary Sigurdon at Interlochen Arts Academy; the Northwestern University Music Institute, and private lessons at Stephens College and at the U. of Cal- Berkeley where I got my B.A.
I won music contests and performed in band and orchestras from junior high, through high school, and college.
DK: How long did you perform in Isreal and Spain and what experiences would you like to share about your time spent in those countries?
SR: In 1991, I was chosen to be an artist in residence at the Hilai art Colony in Mitzpe Ramon and Ma’alot Tarshiha, Israel. This was my second trip to the Holy Land. I performed two concerts, one in each location. Mitzpe Ramon, the cradle of the world’s largest crater (the Maktesh) inspired me to write my work “Maktesh” for flute and percussion, set to poetry and dance.
I spent 1992-1993 as a member of the Arad Arts Project, thirteen artists from all artistic genres, chosen to show their art throughout the country. My concerts included: Beersheva, the Jerusalem Womens’ Music Festival, the Arad Arts Museum, and as incongrous as it may sound,a club and recording studio called the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem. I have no idea why they named it that! I also appeared on Channel 1 Israeli television as well as on a recording with a husband and wife singing duo.
I incorporated the sounds of Oriental music I heard on the radio to the best of my ability in the songs I wrote during my Israel residencies. I also finished a four part work, “Medaber Medaberet”(the Desert Speaks). based on my travels through Ein Geidi, the Flour cave, the Dead Sea, and Mt. Masada. Several of my new songs, were recorded live by my ensemble, at the Yellow Submarine in Jersualem. My “Water and Fire” CD consists of the live songs at the Yellow Submarine, and several other songs written during this period.
One of my most memorable concerts was at the Arad Arts Museum with the Black Hebrews of Dimona. I performed my work, “Neshamah”, (Breath of God) in which I read my poetry, sang and played the flute with percussion and a modern dancer. It was quite controversial as it was the first performance by African Americans in the City Center.
It was also a near disaster – an hour and a half before showtime there was a huge mechanical black out in the town. Fortunately, the lights returned, ten minutes before the concert. I have always attributed this miracle to Divine Intervention!
My other artist residencies include: Cornell University, the Wurlitzer Foundation in New Mexico, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Fundacion Valpariso in Mojacar, Spain.
My music residency at the Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain took place in July, the summer of 2001. It was well over 104 degrees many days. I performed for the Fundacion as well as performed in several concerts with local groups in the town.
I will never forget the welcoming speech by the Manager of the Arts Colony which included her holding up a large jar with a scorpion in it for all the new residents to identify!
It was my dread of Scorpions that prompted me to write Part II of my four part suite, “Mojacar,” which I entitled, “The Dance of the Scorpions.” We were warned to shake out our shoes every day and be on the look out for the menacing creatures.
One day, one of my fellow artists shrieked as she found a Scorpion by her bathtub. I rightly assumed that if I wrote the Scorpions a piece, they’d leave me in peace! Fortunately, I remained Scorpion-free throughout my residency!
I was delighted to premiere the “Dance of the Scorpions” in November 2001 in Woodstock, New York featuring the Linda Diamond Dance Company. The dancers were all dressed up as giant scorpions complete with martian-like headgear with orange flashing lights!
DK: Do you foresee yourself moving into more genres of music ever in the future?
SR: My eclectic musical journey has metamorphisized from classical music to jazz, from pop/rock to gospel, country, through world, new age, musical theatre, and comedy/novelty music. I have performed all types of music, listen to all styles, and my compositions run the gamete.
I have collaborated in and with all media including poetry, dance, theatre and film.
In the future, I foresee myself delving into even more esoteric musical genres. I would like to work more with multi-media production, minimalism, gypsy and world music, ad infinitum. I am always seeking to expand my collaborations in different genres. I will forever seek to expand my musical and performance horizons.
DK: Where do you find your greatest enjoyment in music as well as in life?
SR: This is a very tough question to answer. I am passionate about so many kinds of musical expression whether I be performing, composing, or producing. In producing my five recordings (I produced four alone, and co-produced one), I loved working with brilliant musicians, and the top notch engineers. In performing I love to perform classical flute as much as jazz or world. Singing is as much fun as playing the piano. I recently was thrilled to present a staged reading of my musical – I wrote book, music, and lyrics, acted, sang the songs/played keyboards and flute with a guitarist,co-directed and produced! Collaborating with dancers, composing – they are equally challenging,creative, and exciting.
I am as eclectic in my life as I am in my music. My passions run from yoga to spirituality, the arts, TRAVEL, hiking, swimming, kayaking, cross country skiing, and my all time fave – ping-pong!
DK: What subjects do you write about? Are there any common themes you find yourself writing in?
SR: What do I write about? It’s a given that most writers write either from or about their own experience. My musical, “I Don’t Wannabe a Wannabe” is an autobiographical sojourn from childhood through my quest to be a rockstar in my early 20’s. A common theme – for me as well as the rest of the world is – no surprises here – love – romantic love, joyful love, passionate love, painful love, deception, love lost, abandonment, longing, unrequited love. I also like to write social commentary- poking fun at the existential dilemma of the human condition – i.e. my song, “Dog is a Man’s Best Friend. I have a lot of comedy songs. A lot of my songs have been inspired by places I have lived or travelled to – including the rhythms and flavors of the
melodies.Many of my works deal with seeking God, finding God, seeking greater meaning – Jewish, Christian, Buddhist or interfaith themes. Noteworthy events or situations is another song topic- i.e. peace, the environment, politics, September 11th.
DK: What is your greatest achievement thus far and what would you still like to accomplish yet?
SR: My life – that I’ve made it this far and in one piece – now that’s an accomplishment!
The presentation of a staged reading of my musical on June 29, 2005 was a major feat which I am proud of! Producing two recordings-one comedy and one serious at the same time in 2003 was another one! Becoming an interfaith minister was a milestone! It was thrilling to perform in Alice Tully Hall in New York City for ten minutes! The acoustics were awesome. Seeing myself on National TV or hearing my songs on the radio was exciting….ya da ya da ya da.
What would I like to accomplish in the future? Plenty. I’d like to help organize some benefit concerts for hunger, peace, or the environment. A major goal is to have a full production of my musical. I would like to score a well-known film; have one of my songs as a cartoon or TV soundtrack; collaborate with more musicians, dancers, actors, etc.; perform in France… Cirque de Solei? That may be an interesting option…and the list goes on…and on……
DK: Do you have any performances scheduled in the near future?
SR: Recent performances include working with a modern dance troupe in Woodstock, NY and performing with the Puppetry Theatre Workshop. We have a few more upcoming Puppetry productions coming up. I have a number of performances where the date has not been confirmed as of this writing. I’ll keep you posted if you check out my website…. www.sukiatry.com… events are listed on the homepage….stay tuned!
DK: Where would you like to see yourself in the next 2 years?
SR: Hmmm… a Woody Allen move? I’ve always wanted to work with him! I’d love to tour in Japan… maybe have one of my songs on Shrek 5! Didn’t John Lennon say,”Life is what happens when you are busy
making other plans? There’s a million and one possibilities… I’m open to suggestions! For one thing, If I’m still on the planet, in this reincarnation or another, you better believe I’ll still be tooting my horn!
DK: Thank you very much!
SR: Thank you!
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ABOUT THE ARTIST.
Bandleader Flutist/singer/songwriter Suki Rae, MA, classically trained, defies categorization by playing outside the box. Embracing multiple musical genres and influences ranging from Debussy to Hubert Laws/Joni Mitchell/Beatles.
She has performed internationally for the last 20 years,was musician in residence in Israel, Spain, New Mexico, Rocky Mt. National Park and Cornell University and won awards including: ASCAP Popular Song Awards; Nashville Song Festival; American Song Festival; chosen as the only American finalist in the Hoiellart Jazz Festival in Belgium and nominated for NAR and Just Plain Folks Awards; Song of the Year Contest;; Great American Song Festival Award; and Kweevak.com Viewer’s Choice Award. She has appeared on Radio,TV, and Film,acted, and directed.
She recently produced a staged reading of her musical, “I Don’t Wannabe a Wannabe” at the Writer’s Voice in New York City. She wrote the book,music, and lyrics;acted;performed the music live, and co-directed.