The Blackbird Creative Lab: a Photo Journal

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I travelled from Ohio to Ojai to arrive at the Blackbird Creative Lab, an education and mentorship program for composers and performers established by the ensemble Eighth Blackbird. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Just looking at the two names—Ohio and Ojai. They seem pretty similar, don’t they? The Lab couldn’t cause that big of a difference in my life, right?

Wrong.

The Blackbird Creative Lab is held at the Besant Hill School, nestled in the mountains of Ojai. My current home in Ohio is surrounded by a landscape of cornfields, flat as far as the eye can see. The different terrain of Ojai was striking.

 

8bb Creative Lab
Me being struck by the difference

 

I am certain that I speak for all members of The Lab when I say that the experience in Ojai connected me with a fount of empowerment, bravery, camaraderie, and creativity.

Every morning at the Blackbird Creative Lab, I took in a breath of inspiration as I opened the door to a dramatic, gorgeous landscape, with hills that morphed and grew with the changing sunlight. Starting the day in this manner led to an open mind that was ready for saturation. The Blackbird Lab quenched this thirst each day.

Cue the mountain montage!

 


Communication was key throughout the two-week residency. We opened up our hearts and minds through rehearsals, performances, the hang, learning from each other in one of the most open environments that I’ve ever experienced.

Guest artists spoke with the community each night, but not in a stuffy lecture format. The salon talks were bona fide times of connection, leading all of us on a rollercoaster of deep inspiration.

 

Jennifer Higdon, laying down some inspiration
Jennifer Higdon, laying down some inspiration

Fellows rehearsed with members of Eighth Blackbird, working on compositions by other fellows, faculty, and composers who resonate with the contemporary music world. These pieces were performed in a marathon of concerts in the final three days.


What did I garner from this experience? I don’t have the words to describe the magic created at the Lab (thankfully, pictures are worth a thousand). But, I’m going to try to respond as sincerely as possible. First, I was imbued with a renewed sense of artistic direction. The community built around the Blackbird Creative Lab is intensely passionate about their artistry. Their passion is highly contagious, fueled by the Blackbird’s core values of unquestioned quality,pervasive innovation, intense work ethic, genuine informality, and bold openness.

We all garnered tools that can “feed our flame,” as faculty member Jennifer Higdon put it. The community built at the Lab nurtured the potential of each and every member and encouraged us to be the most authentic versions of ourselves.

Nurturing
Nurturing was happening all around campus…
Nurturing
…in shapes and sizes that you might not expect.

 

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