Hailed by the New York Times as an “elegant soloist” with a sound “devotional with its liquid intensity,” Nathan is a composer, entrepreneur, and violist of the Attacca Quartet and the Founder and Executive Director of Musicambia, which brings music learning and ensemble performance to prisons throughout the United States.
What were you doing prior to the shutdown and how have those projects been affected?
I am a touring musician, which has me travelling about two-thirds of the year from my home in Brooklyn. This year would have been mainly in Europe, the United States, of course, and South America, mostly with the Attacca Quartet, but also with some solo projects. I am the founder and artistic director of Musicambia, an organization that creates music education programs in prisons throughout the country. I often travel to different prisons around the country and perform concerts; that was also a big part of my life.
Kenyatta Hughes performing his song Ghetto Love at the Musicambia at Sing Sing Program concert in November 2018. Yoshi on guitar, Shedrick on percussion and Hamilton Berry on cello
How do you think this will affect the nature of performances?
Maybe a year from now it won't be so bad, but the immediate effects will be somewhat disastrous. People are not going to want to gather in a room and listen to something where they have to be around a lot of other people. Half of what makes going to performances so special is the shared experience, and how the energy of the audience interacts with the performer. I've started seeing some people trying to figure out solutions, whether that means audiences are gonna be super spread out, or things will be entirely digital for a while. I think we are going to have to get really creative with how to make the art form survive - the live music making art form.
Music and video performed and recorded by Nathan Schram (Attacca Quartet). Featuring Justin Stanton (Snarky Puppy) on synth bass. Viola loops were recorded, sampled, and processed in Ableton Live.
How has this changed the way you approach your work?
I have switched to a more individually focused approach. I feel like I've been given this time basically to dive into that. I've been writing a lot more music, trying to do more studio recordings, and figuring out ways I can collaborate as an individual with other artist in ensembles that I really admire. With Musicambia, I've been raising money to send in textbooks to the prisons and try to develop courses that they can do on their own that don't necessarily depend on being around a lot of musical equipment or outside influences.
(Video made in Quarantine, A collaboration with legendary singer-songwriter, David Crosby - A loose theme and variations based on Croz’ "I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here")
What parts of your industry do you think will be left behind after all this is over?
This idea that you can't make money digitally with music has been an increasing issue. Once recordings stopped being a significant form of income, live performances became all that more important. Even the biggest artist had to tour, whereas The Beatles could live off record sales. Maybe we can get back to a place where recordings are more valued. I just worry that the prosperity of musicians past may have a little bit of waning, but I am trying to keep positive.
“It's the moment when the millennial generation gets to redefine itself."
If you were to identify a silver lining, what would it be?
I think every artist is getting the opportunity to delve into what they really want to do, without any issues of not having time. That has been such a special thing for me. I've always had these things that nagged me - I want to do more composing, I want to do more arranging, I want to do more recording, etc., and this is the perfect time. I'm stuck at home where I have every tool I need to do all of the things I've been wanting to do. It's the moment when the millennial generation gets to redefine itself. We are often bashed for being this self -entered, self-concerned, lazy generation, and now, everyone's going to see what happens if you give that generation time to do what they really want to do - it can be explosive.