I have some exciting news to share with you. The New York Times announced that after 15 years, I am proudly passing the Artistic Director torch to my beloved colleagues Joshua Rubin and Ross Karre. Together with Vanessa Rose, our Executive Director, they will lead ICE through another electrifying evolution.
Today we are celebrating at ICE. This is an occasion of rebirth, metamorphosis, and, in many senses, formation. When I formed ICE with my classmates at Oberlin a decade and a half ago, we had big, bold, audacious dreams: we wanted to create an artist collective in the tradition of radical trailblazers like the AACM; we wanted to form an American ensemble that played the music of our time with the precision and distinction of European groups like EIC; and we wanted to forge a new kind of non-profit organization, one with a hybrid and adaptive identity as a producer, advocate, educator, and transformative force for cultural change.
We wanted to create an institution dedicated fiercely and uncompromisingly to new work – dedicated, importantly, to the work of our generation of artists, vital work by underrepresented composers, improvisers and music-makers toiling gutsily in the margins. This organization would be as indispensable to the life of a city as its symphony orchestras, opera, and theater companies. I said this very thing to the New York Times back in 2007, when Steve Smith wrote a profile on ICE’s work as we were setting up shop in the Brooklyn loft affectionately known as ICEHaus.
With your support – you, our treasured community of listeners and friends, fellow artists and advocates – ICE has accomplished all this and more. A quick scan of our 2015-16 season showed that rather than rain, snow, or a meteorological catastrophe, there was a 42% chance of an ICE concert on any given day. Last year alone, the group played 151 shows, gave 91 premieres, and performed 10 new operas. We also had an outpouring of new programming through OpenICE that was free and open to the public – something that has been central to ICE’s mission since our very first free public concerts in Chicago in 2002.
Each of these programs, each of these pieces, and each of the unforgettable musical moments that fuel them is a formation – a new beginning, the restless and sensuous act of creating, making, changing– a practice that this group of artists does more fearlessly and faithfully than any group of people I have ever known. Making something beautiful out of whatever we have is the daily, hourly, and lifelong work of this organization.
On January 6, 2002, the original ICE formation was a ragtag concert at The Three Arts Club in Chicago. We produced it with $603, which was what I had in my bank account at the time – amassed from my holiday catering tips. Investing what I had in the dream of ICE was the best financial and artistic decision of my life. I am as proud of that decision as I am of my decision to invest my MacArthur award in ICE’s programs and in nonprofit causes in the new music field. Thousands of people have joined me in contributing to the ICE cause and to our community’s shared cause over the years.
And so today, as I lovingly hand the reins of ICE’s direction to my brilliant band mates and executive staff, I am proud to unveil ICE Formation, a new initiative that will seed ever more audacious formations by ICE’s artists and collaborators. I logged into LUIGI, ICE’s database (named, of course, after Luigi Nono, for his collaborative ideals) to see what I had made in concert fees playing with ICE last season. LUIGI told me it was $25,650, an amount that in 2002 I never, in a million years, would have believed I’d make playing the music that I love most with the people I love most.
I am donating that amount - $25,650 - to ICE Formation today with the same spirit of adventure and big dreams as when I gave $603 to ICE. With this donation, I am thrilled to smash the champagne bottle on the launch of a new era, to celebrate the infinitely regenerative act of formation, and the process of crystallization that is the liquid shore of ICE.
I won’t be straying far from the ICE nest. I will stay deeply involved in the organization’s work as a band member, staff member and cheerleader of the ICE artists’ metamorphic vision for the field.
I am delighted to share with you that as of this afternoon, we have already had several donors match my contribution, making the ICE Formation $115,000 on its first day out of the box. Will you join me with a contribution? Let’s make something beautiful with whatever we have.
To the future!
ICE Formation artwork by Maryam Khosrovani