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Groovin’ with Chelsey Green

Violinist–vocalist to play BAMS Fest

Scott Haas
Groovin’ with Chelsey Green

Chelsey Green will be performing music on stage at the BAMS Festival in Franklin Park on June 11. Green, who grew up in Houston, Texas, is a vocalist, violinist, composer and Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music who defies genres. By creating music that is both personally expressive and draws upon rich traditions of African American historical imperatives, Green creates sounds that are new and yet familiar. Her music goes to the core. By intentionally reshaping perceptions of that musical essence, she asks listeners to rethink cultural experience. Green spoke to the Banner recently about her work.

What, and with whom, will you be performing at the BAMS Festival?
It’ll be myself and my group, The Green Project, performing a set of what I like to call the genre of music that feels good! Many people ask me about the genre, where my music fits: It’s a blend of jazz, soul, R&B, funk — and definitely classical.

Chelsey Green and The Green Project. COURTESY PHOTO

Tell us about the Green Project.
It’s my contemporary music ensemble. I’m on violin, viola and vocals; Cory Baker is on electric and synthesized bass; Ignatius Perry is on keys; and Brian “Spyda” Wheatley is our drummer. The impetus behind the group coming together is to experiment and create sounds, with my goal being to disrupt subconscious music sensibilities.

Subconscious music sensibilities?
Our subconscious awareness can stifle our awareness of what art is. Jazz was always meant to be a contemporary art. So with our music we want to evoke every moment: That’s what keeps art fresh!

What’s your work involve at Berklee?
I just finished my fifth year. I’m housed in the string department. I teach ensemble, among other things. And teaching at Berklee, I get to do a lot of innovation. It keeps me on my toes as an artist and an educator. What I love about this generation that grew up with social media is that, in addition to that platform being a challenge, it’s a good tool. They feel limitless because of it.

You also started your own educational program, TGP Educational Outreach. 
We have workshops focused on the power of what music can do. It’s an extension of The Green Project, and we work in kindergarten classes, retirement homes, and Fortune 500 companies. We cover a range of topics, including focus and creation. It’s a mind-blowing opportunity!

What were you up to during the pandemic?
It was rough for many of us. I felt isolated, alone and without family nearby and no musical performances. All of that led me to be more introspective, and I felt more as a human being who is apart from what I do as a musician. So it was transformative: It transformed my approach to music. And nowadays, it’s a divine experience to connect to audiences.

How did you come to the violin?
It was not my choice! I come from a family of musicians. My mother had pre-determined that whatever comes out is gonna play the violin! I started taking lessons at age 4. And I have a dad who is a musician and composer. Music was the language in the house. I’d come from a violin lesson, and he’d say, “Play this Herbie Hancock tune with me!”

Any advice to youth starting out?
One of my biggest things is that our young people need to dig deeper, to dive in for historical context. To discover the stories of artists of previous generations, what they were living through. Like Blanche Calloway, older sister of Cab Calloway, who was a great vocalist and composer; she was the first woman band leader, and of an all-male group. Or Charlie Parker: I ask students, “What would his Instagram posts look like?” Understand your ancestors.

arts, BAMS Fest, Chelsey Green, jazz, music
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