NixWorks News Jan/Feb 2021
Read the about NixWorks activities and future plans
New Year Greetings!
I am grateful for all of the support and encouragement that I have received this this difficult year. Thank you.
Many arts organizations and performers have ceased activities, curtailed performing, or gone out of business. I have been lucky to have been able to roll with the punches and adjust to the new pandemic environment. We are busy learning and implementing new technical skills, and readjusting the way we will deal with performance and teaching in the new year.
First a rundown on what's new for 2021, then a recap of 2020.
Looking forward to 2021
I will concentrate on virtual lessons and classes this year which will take place in three formats:
On-Line one on one lessons
Private lessons of 1/2 hour, 3/4 hour, or 1 hour length. Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Jitsi, or what ever format is comfortable for the student.
Private lesson openings can be found at /p/20/Private-Lessons
On-Line Zoom group workshops and classes
In January 2021 I will offer Zoom workshops and classes as single subject mini intensive master classes. Workshops will be 1.5 hours in length as a single session. Classes will be four 1.5 hour sessions covering a single topic in depth.
My first class:
Music Theory 101 for Plucked String Players
Four Thursdays Feb 2/18/21-3/11/21, 7:30 - 8:15 pm, Eastern Standard Time
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Nix teaches an overview Zoom course on fundamental music theory for plucked string players laying out the concepts of scales and chords along a string and across the fretboard rather than the traditional keyboard centric presentation. The course will not utilize classical notation. Any instrument - guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc. -with a G string is welcome. Each session will cover an hour of material with a 15 minute open Q & A time to follow. A great way to introduce your self, or fill some of those holes in on your basic theory skills!
• 2/18/21 Session 1: the musical alphabet, half steps and whole steps, the Chromatic scale.
• 2/25/21 Session 2, Major, Minor Scales and Modes
• 3/4/21 Session 3: Triads - 3 note Chords and the V7 chord
•3/11/21 Session 4: Tension and Release, I, IV and V: The "Three Pillars of Harmony"
Price: Four 75 minute sessions
$100 for the four class session for each computer
Level: Skilled beginner (6 months) on up.
Prerequisite: Any instrumentalist is welcome to participate. Your instrument should have a G string as all of the basic concepts will be laid out along this single string. You will be best prepared for this class if you have had some beginner lessons, and can play a bit of melody and G, C, D chords on your instrument with some facility. You do not need to know how to read music.
For more detailed information and to register: /p/30/NixWorks-Academy-Zoom-Classes-and-Workshops
NixWorks Academy, an on-line school for self instruction for guitar, banjo, and mandolin, using video lessons and downloadable supplemental material.
I am developing an on-line school for self-directed learners. On a subscription basis, courses are structured according to instrument, style, and topic. Material will be presented with video instruction supplemented with downloadable print outs. Students will be able to work at their own pace, reviewing videos as many times as they wish, and track their progress in a private portal. I will be setting up group pages and break out rooms for student discussion and community. Students will have several options for me to personally review their progress, from submitting video of their work to scheduling a Zoom review session. This project is in the development stage. I will send out a notice when NixWorks Academy goes live.
New Classic Banjo Project 2021
New Works are in development right now. I am at work on the next set of 5 short solo pieces for five string banjo, a set of Emily Dickinson songs for mezzo-soprano and banjo, new pieces for seven string banjar, and a new piece for banjar and members of the NixWorks Ensemble.
Commissioning of new works for banjo continues. A composer from Great Britain is working on a new piece for me. I will be putting out a call for composers interested in the project and for new scores. I'll be working on new music videos and an audio recording of the New Classic Banjo Repertoire.
The landscape for income a business-based performance career like mine have changed. Lesson income takes care of basic living expenses and bills, but the performance and touring, which used to support fund the creative side of my activities through ticket sales, CD sales, and performer fees have been decimated by Covid-19. To maintain the same level of artistic output that happened pre-covid, I am having to change the way that I think about funding the art.
To finance future New Classic Banjo Project projects, I will be setting up a Patreon page and asking for donations and patronage. Donors and Patrons will take an active role in my career. We will establish a relationship whereby Donors and Patrons have access to information on the ideas and creation of the work, and pre-publication, or pre-release access to recordings and videos by digital download. Depending on the level of donation or funding a Donor or Patron my have a composition, video or recording dedicated to them by name, be named as a supporter in the credits of a video or CD, receive a private Zoom or YouTube livestream concert for family, friends, or an organization, and a number of other ways to interact with me and my creative process.
Once I have the Patreon page set up I will send a notice around.
Meanwhile, if you are moved to make a donation to the 2021 New Classic Banjo Project, please email.
These are ways to contribute to the NCBP:
Credit Cards: Square , please email or call 413-772-0320
Check: Made to Michael Nix DBA NixWorks
PO Box 400
Greenfield, MA 01302
Looking back to 2020
New Classic Banjo Project
2020 was the culmination of the first season of premiers of the New Classic Banjo Project featuring my own new work for both the seven-string Banjar, the traditional five-string banjo, and commissioned works for the Banjar by Thomas Schuttenhelm and Jim Dalton. A weekend of premier concerts were performed on March 7 at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield, MA, and on March at the Hingham Public Library in Hingham, MA, which has a delightful recital room. The March 7 performance featured some ensemble works with NixWorks ensemble players, Gloria Matlock, African drum and narration; Charlie Moser, electric mandola and bass; Bekka Eowind, violin; and guest percussionist Tony Vacca.
On March 15 all in person performing stopped. I performed a live stream concert in July for the Franklin, MA public library.
The 2020 performance schedule:
1/12/20 NCBP solo concert Watertown MA Library Winter Concert
2/15/20 Hosted Mason Coffeehouse 1/2 hr concert NCBP with Charlie Moser
2/20/20 Recorded Brazil/USA segment for GCTV: Koromanti segment
3/7/20 NCBP Premier Concert, Greenfield, MA
3/8/20 NCBP Premier Concert, Hingham, MA
7/24 Live Stream NCBP Concert for Franklin MA public Library.
11/8/20 Composing for the Banjo Panel Discussion Banjo Gathering 2020. I was invited by the Banjo Gathering, a forum to discuss the physical culture of the banjo itself and its social history to moderate panel discussion on composing new music for the banjo, featuring Tony Trischka, Adam Larrabee, John Bullard, Jim Dalton, and Thomas Schuttenhelm. The discussion took the form of a Zoom webinar.
2/14/20 NixWorks has moved our operations from my home studio to the LAVA (Local Access to Valley Arts) Center at 324 Main Street, Greenfield, MA (right on the corner of Main and Federal Streets!) . My business mailing address continues to be PO Box 400, Greenfield, MA 01302. The office/studio is perfect for audio/video production, and when safety permits, in-person lessons and classes. In addition to office space the LAVA Center has a large room that will be used as a flexible art gallery/performance space. Post Covid, we look forward to a vibrant art hub here in Greenfield.
Virtual Opera-Play Writing
This fall I decided to get involved in a Zoom playwriting workshop through the LAVA center to get back to working on my libretto skills, with an eye toward a future opera. The result was a five minute Sprechstimme Opera/Play in two scenes on the subject of climate change which was included in the LAVA Center "Facing the Future" climate change theater, a short play festival that ran on 12/4 and 12/5. "Chitin" follows New England's favorite bug band "Chitin" as Cockroach, Cicada, Cricket, and Katydid deal the physical repercussions of rising carbon dioxide causing rapid changes in the environment.
This is a link to Chitin:
This is a link to the festival program notes, and the archived version of the festival once it is uploaded:
Chitin will be archived on YouTube, and in the next newsletter I will include a link.
For those of you unfamiliar with my theater work, here's my quick theater bio:
Composer/Playwright Michael Nix studied playwriting at Kansas State University under the South African poet and playwright Joel Climenhaga, and holds a MM in Music Composition from the University of Massachusetts. In 1989 the UMass opera department commissioned him to produce a libretto on Italo Calvino's Italian short story "Limbruno" which was set by Salvatore Macchia. In 1992 Nix wrote a two hour theater project to celebrate the life of John Cage on which Tom Leamon wrote in a letter to Merce Cunningham "It was not Christmas at Westbeth, but it was very appropriate and authentic and funny and touching and we were glad to be there..." Nix spent two seasons at the Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, MA where Sonnets were set to his music, read by actors and interpreted by a modern dance company. For several seasons he made music and had a novelty (banjo uke!) walk on role with the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA.
Gloria Matlock and Michael Nix
Collaboration with Gloria Matlock, spiritual singer, dancer, playwright, videographer has produce a number of performances and three half hour videos this year. Our work music focuses on African American Spirituals, and songs that combine African American music with banjo and guitar. Our videos focus on the children and families from underserved communities in Franklin County. We tried to work at the intersection of educational and art film. Students of Musica Franklin, an El Sistema based school offering free music lessons, and Gloria's Twice As Smart community school are give a voice through these videos, which are in rotation on community cable stations in Greenfield, and Turners Falls, Ma.
8/13/20 Musica Franklin A Children's Fashion Show and Re-Imagining (30 min)
Gloria had the idea of a socially distanced "fashion show" as a way of engaging the children in the time of Covid.
10/9/20 When We Can Breathe Again... (30 min)
Interviews with the children about their feelings on dealing with Covid-19 are the centerpiece of this work.
1/23/21 When We Can Breathe Again... -Update (1hr 15min)
A virtual program for Racial Justice Rising, combines Musica Franklin A Children's Fashion Show and Re-Imagining and When We Can Breathe Again... with new interviews with the children five months later.
1/8/20 Gloria Matlock and Michael Nix Mohawk Trail Concert at the Franklin County Jail.
Funded by Mohawk Trail concerts, Gloria and I gave two concerts at the Franklin County Jail, one in the men's block, and one in the women's. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We were able to stay after the performance for a discussion with the prisoners about our music and performance.
1/18/20 Gloria Matlock and Michael Nix Fundraising Concert for Stone Soup Cafe
The Stone Soup Cafe provides a free meal on Saturday mornings at All Souls Unitarian Church in Greenfield, MA. Joined by the students of Musica Franklin , our concert helped raise funds for the Cafe. Since March Stone Soup has been offering the meal by curbside pickup.
Gloria and I also gave short performances at a number of social justice actions through out the year.
2/18/20 TMMC concert with Chris Devine
Chris Devine and I performed our "Bach and Banjar" re-imagined program. Covid has us on a hiatus, but when things get back to normal, expect a CD recording of this material!
In February of 2020 I began teaching guitar classes at the Franklin County Jail here in Greenfield, MA. One class for the men, and one for the women. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office maintains a robust education unit successfully reducing the recidivism rate. Unfortunately the Covid-19 restrictions halted any outside contact with the jail and classes have been curtailed until it is safe to return. We are hoping this will turn around next year.
By March 15 Covid-19 restrictions curtailed in-person classes and private lessons. All private lessons take place on Zoom, Facetime or any of a number of other video conferencing platforms. While some people found the technology based format frustrating, by and large students have been able to successfully continue their musical growth through scheduled on-line lessons. One advantage of the on-line lesson format is that I can take students from all over the world. I have students in California, Oklahoma, and have taught lessons with folks from Hawaii and Australia. As restrictive as Covid-19 seemed in March, it has opened up a wider world of possibilities for lessons and classes as people get used to internet base learning.
Early this year I re-instituted my idea for NixWorks field trips. Inviting students and people from the community to attend concerts, musicals, museums, and other cultural events is a great way to build community, and to generate interest in discussion. Often I will prepare some information or materials on the performance to share with field trippers before hand. On 2/8/20 NixWorks took a group of four on a "field trip" to see Aaron Larget Caplan's Con Fuego, a Flamenco collaboration between a guitarist, dancer and singer in Northampton, MA. When in person concert attendance comes back into our lives, I plan to lead more field trips. I will also work on the idea of a Zoom or or live-stream field trip as a guided cultural experience.
Posted: to NixWorks News on Tue, Feb 2, 2021
Updated: Tue, Feb 2, 2021