Trailblazer: Sarah Plum

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My regular Trailblazers posts will feature interviews with people who are championing new music off the beaten path. Meet violinist Sarah Plum, who currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah when she was in Denton for the ICMC last month (thanks to my former student Zo Manfredi for introducing us).

How did you get started doing new music?

My parents are/were visual  artists so I think it just always seemed natural to be involved with newly created works.  I grew up with that – people making art in real time.  So that was the backdrop.  And then, as I said in [UNT’s contemporary performance practice] class, I was lucky to have amazing teachers like Szymon Goldberg who were involved with the music of their own time (in his case Hindemith, who was a friend and collaborator of his and who also, it could be said, saved his life by  arranging  a concert tour for him with his duo partner Lili Krauss to Dutch Indonesia.  He ended up spending the war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and survived the Holocaust) and also  Felix Galimir, who premiered lots of 2nd Viennese School works with his quartet before emigrating to the U. S.

What is your favorite new music venue?

Favorite venue? Well Spectrum is pretty cool. What a wonderful thing Glenn Cornett has made there. I love the space and am very appreciative of what he has created – which is vital and living. I love places like that and am so happy to see them springing up all over these days. And I love playing non traditional venues like Libraries and art galleries. But I also have a weakness for lovely concert halls, like the Philharmonie in Cologne where I used to work. Two recent favorites – the Elias Kuppel Saal in Berlin – a beautiful domed room, with a freakishly amazing acoustic. I would love to record there. Go to Berlin and hear this hall! It is amazing! And I also want to mention New Music San Francisco which is a great place for new music, has great audiences and a really engaging spirit. I really loved playing there – great space.

Do you have a favorite audience? Favorite performer? Composer?

All these favorites! I am fickle – change favorites all the time. I love all audiences. Performers? Gidon Kremer (if you are going to limit me to people that are alive) takes the prize. Great player, great commissioner, someone who has changed the game and created things. And as for composers I have lots of favorites and opinions but they are SECRET!!! As a professional I do it all with gusto! So you have to get me pretty drunk for that list!

Where have you not played yet, that you’d like to?

I would love to play a solo program at Warsaw Autumn, Huddersfield, the BBC Proms (we are dreaming here, right – all for fun!).

How often do you present new music?

I play new music all the time – now starting a presentation where I bring my own tech, speakers and set up to do school visits at high schools and show students the range of music that is out there. And also doing stuff at non-traditional venues. So it is a big part of my life.

How do you decide on new projects?

New projects – well I always have more ideas and people and things and composers than I can support. I commission a lot and believe in it – so lots of names of composers. This is what we do. What I am proud of. The best part of working in new music as a performer is commissioning things and and building a new world of music – the composers deserve it – create it. Happy to have you all on board!

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