Fill Us In: Pedja Mužijević

Welcome to Fill Us In, our rapid fire fill-in-the-blank questionnaire inspired by the famous Proust questionnaire where we take a peek inside the minds of Carolina Performing Arts’ artists.   

In  this  edition, we’re talking with bold and innovative pianist Pedja Mužijević who has defined his career with creative programming, unusual combinations of new and old music, and lasting collaborations with other artists and ensembles.

A graphical version of Pedja Mužijević's artist questionairre answers with Carolina Performing Arts brand colors and whimsical shapes. The answers in this image are identical to the answers in text below.

What is the best way to start your day?
Waking up.

What is the worst way to start your day?
Not waking up.

What would the title of your memoir be?
“I Got Away With It.”

What is something you splurge on?
Food and wine.

If you had a motto, what would it be?
Walk through every door that opens to you.

What person do you admire most?
Mahatma Gandhi.

What advice do you have for artists who are just starting out?
Question everything, most of all yourself.

How do you hope others describe you in three words or less?
I like him.

If you could transform into an animal, what animal would you be?
A friendly tiger.

What smell can transport you back to your childhood?

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Do something kind to someone you don’t know everyday.

Ocean, bathtub, or pool?

If you weren’t an artist what would your profession be?

What is your favorite meal?
The next one.

What is your idea of a perfect day?
Playing chamber music with friends and cooking together.

What thing is necessary for you to make art?

The “Last Live”: Reflections on Meredith Monk’s Cellular Songs

When was the last time you saw a live performance? Until recently, this was a simple question, but in this COVID era it calls to mind wistful memories of sitting beside friends and strangers in a dark space full of collective concentration.

In my recent conversations with UNC faculty and students, many responded to this question with a distant look followed by a pause or a sigh, signaling nostalgia and loss. Others became animated, enthusiastically recalling the energy in the performance hall or a late-night post-show debate over dinner.

Two women stand outside on UNC's quad holding puppets on long strings as they rehearse for an opera.
Students in Marc Callahan’s class rehearse for Atlas, Monk’s opera.

For both me and professor Marc Callahan in the Department of Music, the answer to this question was Meredith Monk’s Cellular Songs, the last live performance that took place at Carolina Performing Arts in March 2020. The performance, which Callahan and his opera students attended, struck both of us as immediately singular, even before our current extraordinary circumstances. A pioneer of interdisciplinary experimental performance, Monk uses “the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words.”

In Cellular Songs, Monk and her all-female ensemble embodied and vocally expressed a profound connectedness that resonated beyond the Memorial Hall stage and into the audience, where Callahan, his students, and I sat in disbelief. Afterward, student Imani Oluoch described this performance as “primal and primordial.” Her fellow student performer, Hannah Lawrence, recalled “the sense of community as each woman laid their head on each other’s shoulders before the lights faded out.”

“I gained from Cellular Songs…a renewed commitment to presence of mind in each instant I live.”

Carson gartner, unc opera student

Callahan’s students were particularly attuned to Monk’s performance, as they were deep into rehearsals for a student interpretation of Monk’s lyric-less opera Atlas, which was set to premiere on campus in early April 2020. Six months later, the opera students are yet to perform Atlas live. While the current remote semester unfolds, they are working on an Atlas film that they hope to publicly stream this winter (watch a clip here). 

At Callahan’s urging, I made a brief Zoom visit to his class to prompt these undergraduate Monk experts to consider the gravity of their last live Meredith Monk performance. Their insightful reflections were as much about their individual reactions to Cellular Songs as they were about the arts as a practice of togetherness, a practice that has renewed poignancy after extended isolation. Carson Gartner shared, “I gained from Cellular Songs (albeit on a slight delay) a renewed commitment to presence of mind in each instant I live.” Mackenzie Smith wrote that delving into Monk’s practice encouraged her “to learn and explore within the uncertainty.”

For me, the words of these students feel like important lessons for this time. Indeed, I see Carolina Performing Arts’ current pause in live performance as an opportunity to reimagine our organization, to recommit to our theaters not only as stages for performance, but as spaces where artists and audiences are invited to come together to embrace the uncertainty of the live.

Amanda Graham is the associate director of engagement at Carolina Performing Arts. Through her work, she regularly engages with faculty and students across campus. Currently, she is cohosting Feedback: The Institute for Performance, a new set of free virtual courses on performance open to adults in the Triangle. 

Fill Us In: Abigail Washburn

Welcome to Fill Us In, our rapid fire fill-in-the-blank questionnaire inspired by the famous Proust questionnaire where we take a peek inside the minds of Carolina Performing Arts’ artists.   

In  this  edition, we’re talking with Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and banjo player Abigail Washburn, a CPA/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation DisTIL artist-in-residence and the first guest artist on The Spark with Tift Merritt.

Fill Us In: Tift Merritt

Welcome to Fill Us In, our rapid fire fill-in-the-blank questionnaire inspired by the famous Proust questionnaire where we take a peek inside the minds of Carolina Performing Arts’ artists.   

In  this  edition, we’re talking with beloved singer/songwriter Tift Merritt, a Raleigh native and UNC alumna who took the music world by storm with the release of Bramble Rose.

A Virtual Graham Masterclass

UNC students dance with Graham dancer Leslie Williams over Zoom.

Jess Abel is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Carolina Performing Arts, and had the pleasure of joining intermediate and advanced UNC student dancers in CPA’s inaugural virtual masterclass, led by Martha Graham Dance Company dancer Leslie Williams, on August 20, 2020.

After a trying week for the UNC community, starting the Martha Graham Dance Company masterclass––CPA’s first-ever virtual masterclass––with a few moments of deep breathing led by Graham dancer Leslie Williams felt both settling and profound.

We inhaled and exhaled to the count of eight from our living rooms, bedrooms, garages, and home offices, connected by Leslie’s voice and identical movements as we moved on to stretching and then to Graham technique over Zoom. As we moved, we pictured ourselves on beaches and in meadows, we related the concavity of Michelangelo’s Pietà to Graham’s iconic and striking poses, and we became more fluid with our movements.

Williams leads the class through an iconic Graham sequence.

Particularly striking was the ease and grace with which Professor Heather Tatreau’s dance students learned the movements amidst the physical distance and less-than-ideal studio settings (trading in Marley dance flooring for shag carpeting, for instance, can’t be easy). But the energy of the class was that of literal and mental flexibility, positivity, and resilience.

By the end of the hour, the home office I was dancing in seemed to become an extension on Leslie’s studio. It was challenging and freeing, private and communal all at once, and as we were nearing cool-down two things were very clear to this arts lover: five months of quarantine had not been kind to my athletic abilities, and masterclasses will continue to be as deeply meaningful over Zoom as they ever were in person.

Ellie’s Must-Have Vegan Eats

If you’re like us, you might be starting to run low on cooking inspiration after all these days at home. We called in Ellie Pate, artistic coordinator and chef of some of the most delicious work lunches at the CPA office, to lend us some inspiration. Whether you’re vegan, looking to jazz up your meals with more veggies, or just want to learn how to make the most beautiful pizza we’ve ever seen, read on.

A woman wearing glasses and a jean jacket smiles. She stands in front of a wooded backyard.

CPA: What are some good plant-based pantry staples to have on hand?
Ellie Pate: One of my favorite things about being vegan is that you can make so many different things out of the same food staples if you have basic spices. I always keep the following on hand, and use generously:
i. Garlic (I always use fresh and usually double the amount)
ii. Ginger
iii. Basil
iv. Oregano
v. Rosemary
vi. Coriander
vii. Cumin
viii. Nutritional yeast !!!
ix. Black pepper

CPA: Favorite single ingredient?
EP: I find many people aren’t big fans of mushrooms, but I love them and eat them probably every other day. They are the only plant-based source of vitamin D (important when we’re stuck inside all day!) and are actually really versatile in the ways they can be used. My go-to way to prepare them is to dry-sauté them by adding them, sliced, directly onto a pan over medium heat without any oil. When they get a little tender, add your spices (I like cooking them in rosemary, basil, and oregano). This method allows them to release water as they heat up, so they won’t stick and they’ll absorb flavor better. Try it this way if you usually find mushrooms too slimy! Add to pasta, pizza, mix in with rice, bake with potatoes, stir fry it, do whatever you want. I like to eat them with steamed garlic greens.

CPA: What’s your advice for meal-prepping?
EP: Most of my meals are basically vegetables on some sort of “base”, like rice, pasta, or quinoa. Some of my favorite ways to avoid eating pasta three days a week are to make polenta, gnocchi, and pizza! (We all have the Italians to thank.)


For pizza, I usually just get pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s, but its pretty easy to make yourself too. Throw veggies on there–so easy. For the pictured pizza, first take dough out of fridge to rest for 20 mins. Meanwhile, cut up desired vegetables into bite sized pieces. Here, I used mushrooms, half one green pepper, half one large onion, (thinly sliced), broccoli (stems cut off, about 1 inch pieces), a handful of spinach, chopped grape tomatoes, and 3 minced cloves of garlic. Put them all in a bowl and drizzle 2 or more tablespoons of oil (I recommend grapeseed or olive), and then 1 tsp of each rosemary, oregano, and basil, and ½ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper to taste. I also added a good amount of nutritional yeast to get a cheesy flavor, but I put that on everything! Mix so everything looks evenly coated. Roll out dough to about 12 inches across and just thin enough not to tear. Add marinara/ pizza sauce and use the back of a spoon to cover the dough. Top with the veggies to desired thickness, and bake according to dough instructions.

Voila! (I had a lot of the veggie mix left over and ate it with pasta the next day for dinner)

CPA: Give us your best plant-based wisdom.
EP: Embrace the chickpea.

CPA: Best quick meal or snack?
EP: Omg, sweet potato and avocado sandwiches are GREAT. I bake my sweet potatoes in the microwave because its fast – just stab with a fork all over and put it in there for 4-8 mins depending on the size of the potato. Smear these things on toast and put a little salt and pepper – so good, and an easy lunch when you’re working from home.

CPA: What’s a good way to add a little pizzazz to a meal?
EP: Consider adding nuts to top things off and add flavor, texture, and protein! I found a whole bag of frozen walnuts in my freezer and have been experimenting with just toasting them in a pan and adding them to sautéed kale or pancakes.


CPA: What kind of bread should we be baking while social distancing?
EP: If you’re looking for a project, start making sourdough bread. It is a fun experiment and a way to eat bread that is kind of healthy (yay probiotics!)! There’s lots of resources online, but the way to start is to mix equal parts flour and water (leave a glass of tap water out for 8 hours first to evaporate off any chlorine, because it will kill the yeast) in a glass or steel bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. After 24 hours, pour off 2/3 of it, and add equal parts flour and water again. Do this every day for about 5 days – it should start smelling nice and yeasty. When its nice and bubbly (kinda foamy), drop a little of it into a glass of water. If it floats, it’s ready to use. If it sinks, feed and check on it again in about 4 hours, and then at 8 hours, then at 12.

Idalis’s Stay Home and Stream Guide

A What to Watch Guide from CPA’s Patron Services Coordinator

A woman wearing a bright dress and jean jacket stands in front of window boxes filled with plants, her hand on her hip.

Hey y’all! Hope this time at home is treating you all kindly, as it’s not a normal time. Many of us are having to transition to a work-from-home lifestyle which, I’ll admit, hasn’t been super easy – at least not for me. Although this is a challenging time, trying to retain a sense of normalcy and comfort has been a major key to me keeping some of my sanity. Below are four shows that currently have my attention.

Gilmore Girls – Netflix

Quality wholesome television. A pop culture classic. I’m on my first watch of seeing the Gilmore women take on the world, and I can’t complain. If I had to pick a small town to live in, it’d be Stars Hollow. One of the few shows where I don’t have the urge to press the “skip intro” button, mainly because I can’t help but sing along to the theme song, “Where You Lead” by Carole King.

3rd Rock from the Sun – Amazon Prime Video

Oh, the nostalgia. For some reason, I have very vivid memories of watching reruns of this show during the early mornings when I was home from elementary school. I’ve been working my way through this comedy since last fall, but now that we’re in full social distancing mode, I’ve found myself going back to this comedy. Quite frankly, I’d give almost anything to be Sally Solomon right now because who wouldn’t want to be an alien during a pandemic?

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness – Netflix

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge binge watcher. Every time I’ve tried, I usually don’t succeed. But y’all, Tiger King is just that wild – it’s worth the binge. There are only 7 episodes, not including the after show hosted by Joel McHale. Each episode is like traveling further down a never-ending rabbit hole of things that really happened. Even if you’ve been fighting the urge to watch because you don’t want to seem too mainstream, I guarantee you it is worth caving to peer pressure. This series does depict some very heavy topics and even though they aren’t always presented in a serious manner, I encourage everyone who watches to take a step back when necessary.

Good Mythical Morning – YouTube

Led by North Carolinians Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, Good Mythical Morning (GMM) has recently been a source of many early morning laughs – which are definitely needed during this strange time. Honestly, GMM is one of my favorite channels on YouTube and while we’re holed up, I highly recommend giving them a watch. Most of the videos are no longer than 20 minutes and sometimes feature special guests, which makes whatever challenge, game, or taste test that much funnier.

-Idalis Payne

Staff Intro: Mark Steffen, Events Manager

We are thrilled to introduce you to our friend Mark Steffen, events manager, in our latest staff feature! A tea lover, extraordinary meeting leader, and all-around office MVP, Mark works with other UNC departments and student orgs who present their work at CPA’s venues, and was one of CPA’s very first staff members.


The bulk of my work involves working with organizations that rent our facilities—primarily other University departments or UNC student organizations. So a typical day might involve responding to venue reservation requests, meeting with rental clients to help them plan and budget for their events, and working on invoices for events that have already passed. I also lead our weekly Operations Staff Meetings where we plan for upcoming events and discuss how past events went (both Carolina Performing Arts events and events by other organizations) and what improvements we can make in the future.


A long time! I started in November 2005, when CPA was only a few months old. It was supposed to be a temp job, but things turned out differently. I like to tell people my very first assignment at CPA was to assemble a particleboard bookshelf for our administrative office, which was in a retail space on Franklin Street near where CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio is now. It’s amazing to see how far CPA has come over the years.


I really enjoy working on multiple, diverse events all at once. You never know who will come knocking on CPA’s door wanting to have an event in one of our spaces. We work a lot with student organizations that put on performances in our spaces, which is really rewarding. They always try their best to put on the best show possible, which sometimes leads to some interesting requests. Like when a fraternity performing in the Step Show asks if they can fly a person in from the grid (No) or when one of the student theater groups asks if they can use fake blood for their performance of Sweeney Todd (Maybe, but we have to test to make sure the fake blood won’t stain the curtains first).

From time to time we’ll also have groups bring big name speakers to our venues. Neil deGrasse Tyson (a personal favorite) once spoke at Memorial Hall and Jimmy Fallon filmed an episode of Late Night on stage at Memorial Hall with President Obama and Dave Matthews as guests. That’s a hard one to beat.


Coffee first thing in the morning to wake me up, then tea throughout the rest of the day. Any CPA staff member should be able to vouch for the tea thing.


I haven’t done a lot of takeout recently, but I’ve definitely been missing Cosmic Cantina. It’s right next to our office at the Porthole Building. When I’m not working from home, it takes all my strength not to eat lunch there every day.

“I really enjoy working on multiple, diverse events all at once. You never know who will come knocking on CPA’s door…”

Mark steffen

Hopefully somewhere outdoors, on a walk or in a boat. I have a few favorite places—University Lake, the Occoneechee Speedway Trail, and Saxapahaw along the Haw River.


There are a lot of things I’m missing right now. Many things I either didn’t use to think about or took for granted. But lately I’ve been using those feelings as excuses to be more mindful and thankful for the things I used to enjoy and will, one day, enjoy again. Trading good mornings with my bus driver (extra special when it’s the CPA bus I’m riding), stores with shelves stocked full of toilet paper, and performances on stages instead of screens and with real audiences too. Those things will come back in time. Hopefully once they do, we will all cherish them a bit more. Thinking that way actually gives me a great deal of joy.


In 2011 CPA presented Black Watch by National Theatre of Scotland. It was a play about a regiment of British soldiers fighting in the Iraq War meant for a black box theater space. This was before CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio existed, so we built the set on stage in Memorial Hall and sat the audience on stage too. It was such an immersive, moving experience. The scale of the performance seemed incredibly huge, with the sounds of explosions making you feel as if you were really on the battlefield. At the same time there were moments that were truly intimate, when you were only ten feet away from an actor portraying a soldier in a way that was based on interviews of real soldiers. It was incredible.

A Reflection on This Moment

It is hard to know where to begin, at such a moment of grief and outrage against the horrific violence perpetrated against George Floyd and so many others—a moment that is not momentary at all, but lifelong. Carolina Performing Arts has its home on a campus that has a full-throated history of racist ideology and action against Black people, in a region with the same, in a country with the same still. Our collective situation has been dire for some time, but perhaps we, wrongly, did not see it for what it was: an urgent call-to-action. Being able to even make this mistake or benefit from this blindness is itself a privilege.

We have work to do.

Many of us at CPA are drawn to work in the arts because we see it as a voice for the people—artists are activists, and they have been compelled throughout history to speak the truth, to make plain what we can’t or won’t, to expose the ugliness that so often simmers barely beneath the surface. To support such art, therefore, is to acknowledge the sacred right to make one’s voice heard against injustice, whether it occurs on the stage or in the streets. As such, the violent militarization of law enforcement against protesters in the United States is despicable.

To look across the spectrum of performance art is to see plainly who has been excluded from the canon throughout time. Often, when we invite artists to CPA, their performances take place in a venue that is itself a memorial to the wrong side of history. As a performing arts presenter on a university campus, our mission states that we strive to create arts experiences that encourage lifelong learning. In CPA’s history, our staff has taken pride in the multifaceted work we have supported that seeks to address the ills in our society, but we must go a step—many steps—further.

As others have said: it is the time to be vociferously, actively anti-racist. Part of that means listening more than speaking: to our BIPOC staff, community, artists, and colleagues. We will engage our staff in anti-racism trainings, and ask ourselves, and others, difficult questions. We will not shy away from the answers.

We will remain committed to presenting, commissioning, and curating art by people of color. We recognize that the premise that we must make such a commitment is itself faulty, and will work to correct it within our organization and with our peers. We urge our staff and audience to disrupt the structures of white supremacy, systemic violence against Black people, and oppression, and for those with privilege to use it in service to our fellow humans.

This is a humble start, certainly. In recent days, many of us have seen these words of Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Carolina Performing Arts stands in solidarity with the Black community, and we are committed to doing our part to dismantle the deeply embedded systems of racism and oppression on our campus, in our towns, and in our country.

For anyone looking to take action by supporting local organizations, we encourage you to support the NC Community Bail Fund of Durham, Take Action Chapel Hill, Community Empowerment Fund, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, Spirit House, NorthStar Church of the Arts, Hayti Heritage Center, Culture Mill, Orange County Justice United, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s own Campus Y. You can also find anti-racism resources provided by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion at this link.

We stand with you.


To be (read), or not to be (read): CPA’s associate director of marketing and communications on her book pile

It’s safe to say we’ve all got a little extra time on our hands in these strange new days. To make sure I’m not simply going from my computer screen to the TV screen, I’m getting outside for walks and making a real dent in my to-be-read pile (don’t worry: it’s still pretty big). Here are some books I’ve recently loved—I realize none of them are performing arts-related, but as Rory Gilmore once said, “my interests are teasingly diverse.”

Author Christina Rodriguez sits on the steps of a museum with pink and purple light from an installation bouncing around her.

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

I started reading Ruth Reichl’s food memoirs when I was in high school and it was a treat to live inside her brightly painted world again as she recalls the final years of Gourmet magazine. Plus: the title references the famous and wonderful William Carlos Williams poem.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Despite being a little embarrassed to admit, as a former book editor, that I had never picked up one of Whitehead’s books before, I tore through this novel in 24 hours. What a beautiful and heartbreaking work of fiction about one of the darkest times in this country’s history.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This novel by a retired wildlife biologist was a sleeper hit. Blockbuster or no, it is a gorgeously rendered mystery wrapped up in a bildungsroman—and it is set right in North Carolina. At a moment when most of us probably aren’t getting enough time in nature, Owens’s writing will make you feel like you’re out motoring around in protagonist Kya’s little boat in the wilds of our state.

Indian-ish by Priya Krishna

You might know Priya, as I do, from Bon Appetit’s videos or magazine. In this unique cookbook, she breaks down her Indian-American family’s style of cooking in a really fun and approachable way. Plus, perhaps you, like me, have loads of dried beans and legumes lying around and don’t know what to do with them. May I suggest Priya’s Lemony Lentils and Rice for your supper?

Fill Us In: Lang Lang

Welcome to Fill Us In, our rapid fire fill-in-the-blank questionnaire inspired by the famous Proust questionnaire where we take a peek inside the minds of Carolina Performing Arts’ artists.  

In  this  edition, we’re talking with renowned pianist Lang Lang, whose performance of the Goldberg Variations was planned to be the culmination of our season. 

CPA: What is the best way to start your day?
Lang Lang: A hot shower 

CPA: What is the worst way to start your day?
LL: A cold shower 

CPA: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
LL: Be patient 

CPA: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever given someone else?
LL: Be patient  

CPA: What smell can transport you back to your childhood?
LL: Popcorn 

CPA: What would the title of your memoir be?
LL: Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story 

CPA: What is your favorite meal?
LL: Homemade dumplings 

CPA: What is your idea of a perfect day?
LL: A nice walk in the park, a wonderful concert and dinner with family and friends afterwards  

CPA: What one thing is necessary for you to make art?
LL: A piano 

CPA: If you weren’t an artist, what would your profession be?
LL: Football player 

CPA: What does the perfect “room of one’s own” look like to you?
LL: One with a Steinway piano inside  

CPA: If you could transform into an animal, what animal would it be?
LL: A dragon 

CPA: What advice do you have for artists just starting out?
LL: Look for a good mentor 

CPA: What do you splurge on?
LL: Good albums  

CPA: What person do you most admire?
LL: At the moment: Glen Gould 

CPA: Ocean, pool, or bathtub?
LL: Ocean 

CPA: Who is your role model, dead or living?
LL: Leonard Bernstein 

CPA: What do you want your tombstone to say?
LL: Music was my life 

Staff Intro: Laura Pinto-Coelho

We’re missing all our CPA colleagues, so it feels like a good time to introduce you to another incredible staffer: Laura Pinto-Coelho, Development Manager, who’s got some great recommendations for when we’re all out and about in the world again! #CPAatHome

💼What’s your role at CPA?💼
I support CPA’s development officers with everything from tracking the budget and sending acknowledgment letters after donations to event planning and stewardship.

❤️What’s your favorite part of your job?❤️
The events. I love executing event planning and socializing with our donors.

🍔Where’s your go-to place for food on Franklin St?🍔
Imbibe for a blackened catfish po boy and curly fries.

☕How about coffee?☕
Dunkin’ for a hazelnut iced coffee.

☀️It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon. Where would we find you?☀️
Playing board games with friends at either Vecino in Carrboro or Bull City Ciderworks in Durham.

💡What’s the most memorable performance you’ve ever seen?💡
When I saw the Tallest Man on Earth in Durham. I listened to them a lot in college, so it was super nostalgic for me.

Statement Regarding Silent Sam Decision

Statement on Silent Sam Decision 

As an arts organization whose work is rooted in fostering opportunities for experiences that expand one’s understanding of the world and encourage individuals to engage with their communities, we are appalled at the agreement entered into on our behalf by the UNC System Board of Governors. Granting money from the earnings of UNC’s endowment to an organization that is dedicated to a distorted and false version of history is an action contrary to this University’s search for truth. 

The arts present countless opportunities to spark understanding, foster discourse, and nurture empathy. Every day, the individuals who represent Carolina Performing Arts exercise these ideas through the work we do together, considering it ever more important to do so as part of a university community.

We work at the first public university in America. But we do this work on a campus that was built by enslaved people, surrounded by physical reminders of the Confederacy and institutionalized racism. Indeed, we present and produce art in a building filled with these reminders. As such, we consider it our responsibility to reckon with the truths of our collective history, listen, and create safe spaces, as part of our dedication to the principles of social justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity that support the mission of this 21st century global research university. 

We are working toward creating a better future, for our students, our community, our state and nation, and the world, as fervent believers in the power of the arts to transform individual lives and, indeed, institutions. 

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis. 

James Moeser
Interim Executive and Artistic Director
Carolina Performing Arts
Chancellor Emeritus
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Statement on Silent Sam Decision

Listening Guide: The Future is Female

The Future is Female: Sarah Cahill, piano will be performed on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Studio at CURRENT. For more information and tickets, click here.

Written by Dan Ruccia

“Like most people who play classical music,” Sarah Cahill says, “I grew up with the classical canon, which is all white male composers. But when you get past Bach and Mozart and Beethoven, even the minor composers and the minor-minor composers are men.” Her project The Future is Female, which she calls a “ritual installation and communal feminist immersive listening experience,” attempts to fill in some of those missing women. For the project, Cahill collected roughly sixty relatively short pieces by women, both famous and obscure, spanning over 300 years of musical history.

To get a feel for the breadth of music in The Future is Female, I’ve selected eleven representative pieces which may or may not be part of Cahill’s five-hour marathon performance on November 16 at CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio. While the list includes giants like Clara Schumann, Fanny Hensel, Yoko Ono, and Kaija Saariaho, I’ve generally leaned towards lesser-known composers, with a few exceptions. Cahill’s list only barely scratches the surface of what’s out there. Which says that women have been making fantastic music just as long as men have. We just haven’t chosen to pay attention until recently.

Composer Sarah Cahill wearing a yellow, vintage dress sits amongst foliage, a flower crown in her hair.

Anna Bon Sonata No. 6 in C Major (1757)

“Altezza Serenissima!” (the most serene heights) Thus the 18-year-old Anna Bon began the dedication of her six harpsichord sonatas to Princess Ernestina Augusta Sophia of Weimar. This, the final sonata of the set, is dutifully serene, its tenor unflappable through three short movements that seem to draw on Telemann’s stateliest airs. The second movement’s use of space is especially delightful.

Teresa Carreño Un rêve en mer (1868)

Teresa Carreño’s dream by the sea is anything but serene. This nocturne thrashes about violently, with minor-key waves crashing from the depths of the piano. Even the sighing, major-key middle section is wracked with the nervous energy of a constantly rushing pulse. Whether the mood is autobiographical or just a burst of imagination is unclear. However, even at 15, this prodigy had had plenty of experience with the sea: emigrating to the U.S. from her native Venezuela in 1862, touring twice in Cuba, and traveling to Europe where she toured extensively beginning in 1866.

Johanna Beyer Dissonant Counterpoint V & VII (1930s)

After emigrating to the U.S. in 1924, Johanna Beyer fell in with some of the most progressive musical thinkers in New York City at the time: Ruth Crawford, Henry Cowell, Dane Rudhyar, and Charles Seeger. “Dissonant counterpoint” was a concept of Seeger’s, an attempt to invert the rules of traditional, tonal counterpoint differently from Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone music. All the composers in this circle used dissonant counterpoint to varying degrees throughout the 1930s, but this is the only piece that takes the method as its title. In Beyer’s hands, dissonant counterpoint is fluid, spectral, and playful. “V” is a kind of canon, but one where the relationship between the two voices is constantly in flux. And in “VII,” the two hands of the piano sometimes feel entirely disconnected, like watching two cats meandering in parallel, completely oblivious to what the other is doing.

Germaine Tailleferre Partita (1957)

Growing up, Germaine Taillefesse’s father didn’t support her musical aspirations, once equating the study of music with prostitution. Nevertheless, she persisted. She would go on to be the only female member of Les Six, a grouping of modernist Parisian composers including Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Francis Poulenc which came together shortly after World War I. Written for her daughter, François, Partita feels like a rainstorm, sometimes splashing in puddles, sometimes floating in the clouds just as the water begins to form into droplets, and sometimes falling in deluges. Occasionally the sun shows up, setting all the droplets ablaze with a thousand different colors at once.

Sofia Gubaidulina Chaconne (1962)

One of the earliest pieces in Sofia Gubaidulina’s catalog, Chaconne was written while she was still a graduate student at the Moscow Conservatory. It marks the beginning of her long obsession with Baroque music, though you’d barely know from listening to the opening gesture. Those huge, granite-like chords cycling through odd harmonies at eight-bar intervals would seem to have next to nothing to do with Bach. But slowly, Bach begins to seep through the cracks: a flash of figuration here, a gesture there, a walking bassline (that could just as easily be from a Shostakovich march) somewhere else. And before you know it, a chromatic line resolves itself (for the briefest of seconds) into a two-part invention in C major before quickly dissolving into something much more complicated (though no less rigorous).

Margaret Bonds Troubled Water (1967)

A student of the great Florence Price (whose spectacular Piano Sonata is also part of The Future is Female), Margaret Bonds remains one of the best known African American women composers, a list that is still painfully short. She was the first African American woman to play with the Chicago Symphony in 1933, the same year the group performed Price’s First Symphony. This piece, written when Bonds was 54, is a rhapsodic adaptation of the Spiritual “Wade in the Water.” She seamlessly blends jazz harmonies and rhythms with more classical structures and techniques to make a work that brims with energy.

Tania León Rituál (1987)

Rituál begins in languid meditation, with notes floating up lazily from a few heavy bass notes. After a few minutes of quiet reverie, León falls again to the bottom of the piano, to begin the ritual for real. Piece by piece, she constructs a rhythmic machine, a Yoruba translation of Stravinsky’s “Danse Sacrale” from the Rite of Spring, with irregular accents, staccato attacks everywhere on the piano, and an abiding sense of building towards some unknown climax. In dedicating the work to Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook from the Dance Theater of Harlem, León says the work is about “the fire that kindles the spirit of those who inspire others, for these others see something they themselves do not perceive: the fire of initiation.”

Linda Catlin Smith A Nocturne (1995)

This is another bit of musical ritual. But whereas Rituál is full of ecstatic density, A Nocturne is about ecstatic space. Smith allows every gesture to ring and decay before moving on to the next, allowing silence to overwhelm the listener. But it is the process of arriving at that silence, the way different notes vibrate, clash, and evaporate that gives the piece shape. “As I was writing this piece,” Smith writes, “the material seemed more and more to be disappearing.”

“As I was writing this piece, the material seemed more and more to be disappearing.”


Meredith Monk St. Petersburg Waltz (1997)

When you think of Meredith Monk, piano is not the instrument that comes to mind, but she has played piano since childhood and written occasional works for piano since 1972. This song feels like her ecstatic vocal music made into mallets and strings, a billowing waltz that loops and twirls through the darkness with moody grace. All that’s missing are her signature contorting ululations, of which the piano can only create the merest simulacra. Left unanswered is what we’re doing in St. Petersburg.

Kui Dong Earth, Water, Wood, Metal, Fire (2001)

This is one of nearly a dozen pieces in The Future is Female commissioned by Sarah Cahill. Over five movements, Dong reshapes various piano improvisations into representations of the five elements that are believed to make up the world in traditional Chinese philosophy. The final element, “Fire,” is by far the most complicated of the set, blazing through ideas at an alarming clip. Just as one texture gets established, it floats off, replaced by a new, equally intriguing flurry of notes.

Theresa Wong She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees (2019)

Nina Simone, North Carolina’s favorite musical daughter, haunts this, one of the newest pieces in The Future is Female. It’s not just the fragments of her song “Images” (itself an a cappella setting of the Harlem Renaissance poem “No Images” by William Waring Cuney) which Wong embeds within the sweeping glissandi which open the piece. It’s also Simone’s mystical invocations of the power of womanhood, embodied by the lopsided 13/8 groove that underlies the second half of the piece. “After I began to first compose with this meter,” Wong writes, “I learned how the now ‘unlucky’ number originated in many ancient cultures as a symbol of the divine feminine. For example, there are 13 cycles of the moon and menstrual cycles a year, and Friday (from the Norse goddess Freya or in Neo-latin languages, Venerdi from Venus) the 13th represented the day of the Goddess—a day to celebrate the cycles of creation, death and rebirth.”

Staff Intro: Dani Callahan, Business Operations Assistant

We’ve got another star staffer to introduce to you today!⭐ This time we caught up with the radiant Dani Callahan, Business Operations Assistant.

💼What do you do in your day-to-day at CPA?💼
I handle all the daily finances and expenses, anything from artist payments to office supplies.

❤️What’s your favorite part of your job?❤️
I love that I get to touch a little bit of everything at CPA. Whether it’s an artist’s contract or new equipment, almost everything CPA does has to pass through the business office.

☕Where’s your go-to place for a caffeine kick?☕
When I was a student it was ExpressOasis, but now it’s The Meantime for a hot caramel latte.

☀️It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon. Where would we find you?☀️
In my apartment with the blinds open to let the sun in as I clean. I love cleaning—I like to think if you put love into your laundry, it’ll love you back.

🎉Which performance are you most excited for this season?🎉
London Symphony Orchestra—when they’re here you better believe I’ll be in that auditorium. A close second is “The Future is Female” by Sarah Cahill because the concept is so cool.

💡What’s the most memorable performance you’ve ever seen?💡
In high school, a lot of my friends were in the musical “Footloose.” I wasn’t because I had stage fright, but I went to see it. It was TERRIBLE, haha, but I loved it because it was all my best friends.

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