Claire Chase is a new music pioneer for our time and beyond. Armed with her concert flute, she is breaking down existing perceptions of classical music at all levels — from developing education programs for schoolkids which contextualize all forms of music, to presenting avant-garde performances halfway across the world, to festival co-artistic directorship at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (more on that later).
When Musical Toronto reached out to her for this interview, Chase was in the midst of performances in Japan and Europe. Between ensuing engagements with the MacArthur Fellows Program, celebrating her 39th birthday during the week, and co-delivering a Composer-Performer workshop at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Chase found time to write back to us. She takes us through her artistic philosophy and future plans, touching upon the help she’s received on her journey, one which cuts across the baseball diamond along the way.
In April, Chase was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in recognition of her contributions to classical music performance. She now shares this honour with Murray Perahia, Richard Stoltzman, the Emerson String Quartet, and Gil Shaham, to name but a selection from the Prize’s star-studded roster. In many ways, her nomination represents a sharp break from the American classical music pantheon, a position which only adds to her sense of purpose. “What we are seeing now is the beginning of a mainstream acknowledgement of what has been happening all along. […] I see [the Avery Fisher Prize] as an award for the work and for the field of change-makers at large; I’m just one little worker-ant among them […] the novelty of new directions has worn off, the new tradition is a consistently evolving art form.”