the westerlies join the new school's school of jazz and contemporary music as first small ensemble-in-residence

Photo by Kevin W. Condon

June 15, 2021, New York - As The New School is planning for a robust in-person student experience this fall, the College of Performing Arts (CoPA), including Mannes School of Music, School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and School of Drama, is further investing in the future of new and cross-genre music with the appointment of The Westerlies as the first resident small ensemble at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

The Westerlies, an acapella brass quartet performing original and extant works that draw on a wide range of musical styles and genres, will begin its tenure as a resident brass quartet at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music this fall, when they will coach chamber ensembles, lead master classes, and give concerts. Each member will be appointed to the faculty at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and the private lesson faculty at Mannes School of Music. The residency will evolve to include a Westerlies elective ensemble, a cross-CoPA brass class and New School Studio Orchestra rotation. The Westerlies will work on projects and partnerships across the entire College of Performing Arts and The New School.

The Westerlies appointment will be the first small ensemble-in-residence at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music as the school approaches its 35th anniversary. The ensemble includes two members who are also alumni of the College of Performing Arts. Trumpeter Chloe Rowlands graduated with a BFA, Jazz and Contemporary Music in 2014 and trombonist Willem de Koch with an MA, Arts Management and Entrepreneurship in 2019. The appointment of The Westerlies follows that of the JACK Quartet as string ensemble-in-residence at Mannes in 2019, and the appointment of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as ensemble-in-residence at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, also in 2019.

“The Westerlies have always sought to build bridges across the boundaries of genre; we avidly pursue collaborations with a wide variety of artists. We could not have found a better home than The New School, an institution dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration and progressive thinking. As a proud alumnus of The New School, I am thrilled to be joining the esteemed faculty at CoPA,” said Willem de Koch, co-founder of The Westerlies.

“It’s difficult to describe how much I admire The Westerlies. In a relatively brief amount of time they have reinvigorated the notion of a brass chamber ensemble and are well on their way to building the most exciting new repertoire for brass ensemble. They are all such fine human beings, not to mention great artists, who can do just about anything that is required of chamber ensembles in the early 21st century. I have no doubt that the students and the entire New School community will benefit greatly from this residency,” said Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts and Dean of Mannes School of Music.

“It is an immense joy and honor to be joining the community at CoPA. I have long been a fan of the open-mindedness of the institution and the broad perspectives of the faculty.” said Andy Clausen, co-founder of The Westerlies. “The spirit of creativity, improvisation, and genre agnosticism we so cherish as an ensemble feel very much present in the curriculum already, and we are eager to begin collaborating, learning, and working with students and distinguished colleagues across the institution.”

The Westerlies, “an arty quartet…mixing ideas from jazz, new classical, and Appalachian folk” (New York Times) are a New York-based brass quartet comprised of childhood friends from Seattle: Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. Equally at home in concert halls and living rooms, The Westerlies navigate a wide array of venues and projects with the precision of a string quartet, the audacity of a rock band, and the charm of a family sing-along. Formed in 2011, the self-described “accidental brass quartet” takes its name from the prevailing winds that travel from the West to the East. “Skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers” (NPR’s Fresh Air), The Westerlies explore jazz, roots, and chamber music influences to create the rarest of hybrids: music that is both "folk-like and composerly, lovely and intellectually rigorous” (NPR Music).

The Westerlies’ upcoming engagements include performances at Bay Chamber Concerts, Southern Exposure New Music Series (University of South Carolina), and Michigan State University, and among others. Recent performances include New Music at the Nasher, Noe Valley Chamber Music, Earshot Jazz Festival, the Norton Center for the Arts, the Moore Theatre, Shenandoah University, Purdue Convocations, the Oxford Performing Arts Center, Luther College, the Schubert Club, St. John’s University, and the University of Washington. The ensemble was also featured with Fleet Foxes at Coachella, the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre Berkeley, Red Rocks, the Newport Folk Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Santa Fe Opera, Outside Lands in San Francisco, Panorama New York City, and the Pitchfork Music Festival.

The ensemble has produced numerous critically acclaimed albums of genre-defying music. In May 2021, The Westerlies released Bricolage (Westerlies Records), a collaborative album of improvisations with pianist/composer Conrad Tao. 2021 also saw the release of This Land, the ensemble’s collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Theo Bleckmann. The Westerlies have produced three albums of quartet music:  their 2014 debut, Wish the Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz (Songlines), a 2016 double-CD of primarily original compositions, The Westerlies (Songlines), and their 2020 release, Wherein Lies the Good (Westerlies Records). Sought-after collaborators, The Westerlies are also featured on recordings by Fleet Foxes (Nonesuch), Vieux Farka Touré (Six Degrees Records), Common (Lakeshore) and Dave Douglas (Greenleaf).

Education and community engagement are core elements of The Westerlies' mission. In 2021, The Westerlies became the inaugural small ensemble-in-residence at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School. The Westerlies produce an annual music festival in Seattle called Westerlies Fest, which combines evening performances featuring numerous guest artists, an all-day open-to-the-public creative music jamboree, and workshops in local public schools. The festival’s educational programming reaches over 1,000 students in Seattle and surrounding underserved areas every year. The Westerlies have engaged students of all ages and abilities around the country with their innovative assemblies and masterclasses, promoting the values of cooperation and inclusion through music. They have completed educational residencies with Clefworks (Montgomery, AL), Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (Orcas Island, WA), the School District of Osceola County (Osceola County, Florida), and Highline Public Schools (Burien, WA), among others. They have also taught masterclasses at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Yale School of Music, The Colburn School, and a variety of other colleges and universities. 

As a 501(c)(3) organization, The Westerlies are on a mission to amplify unheard voices, paint new sonic landscapes, and cultivate a global community. The Westerlies are committed to dismantling racism, sexism, and economic inequality in their field, and aim to reflect their values of diversity and inclusion in the music they make and the spaces they occupy.

The College of Performing Arts at The New School (CoPA) was formed in 2015 and draws together the iconic Mannes School of Music, the legendary School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the ground-breaking School of Drama. With each school contributing its unique culture of creative excellence, the College of Performing Arts is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, bold experimentation, innovative education, and world-class performances.

The over 1,100 students at CoPA are actors, performers, writers, improvisers, creative technologists, entrepreneurs, composers, arts managers, and multidisciplinary artists who believe in the transformative power of the arts for all people. Students and faculty at CoPA collaborate with colleagues across The New School in a wide array of disciplines, from the visual arts and fashion design, to the social sciences, public policy, advocacy, and more. 

The curriculum at CoPA is dynamic, inclusive, and responsive to the changing arts and culture landscape. New degrees and coursework, like the new graduate degrees for Performer-Composers and Artist Entrepreneurs are designed to challenge highly skilled artists to experiment, innovate, and engage with the past, present, and future of their artforms. New York City’s Greenwich Village provides the backdrop for the College of Performing Arts, which is housed at Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street and the historic Westbeth Artists Community on Bank Street.

The School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, founded in 1986, is one of the most influential institutions of its kind. The quality and uniqueness of the school lie in its artist-as-mentor approach to learning, its progressive curriculum, small ensemble-based performance, a stellar faculty composed of artist-practitioners, and access to unique musical opportunities throughout New York City. Notable faculty include Reggie Workman, bassist, bandleader, composer; Ben Allison, bassist, bandleader, composer; Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet; Robert Hurwitz, President, Nonesuch Records; Yosvany Terry, saxophonist, percussionist, bandleader, composer; and Jimmy Owens, trumpet. Among the many remarkable artists who have given master classes or lecture presentations are Cassandra Wilson, Randy Weston, Geri Allen, George Lewis, Marc Ribot, Fred Wesley, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Pauline Oliveros, Don Byron, Ben Sidran, Tommy LiPuma and George Wein.

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