Ledah Finck, (she/her)

(BM ’16, violin; MM ‘18, violin/composition)

Performer, Composer, Chamber Musician, Violinist/Violist

Ledah Finck is a violinist, violist, improviser, and composer who resides in NYC. A passionate creator, performer, and curator of contemporary classical music, she is a member of the contemporary-music quartet Bergamot Quartet, the 2020-2022 Graduate String Quartet in Residence at the New School. Her pursuit of contemporary music is strongly supplemented by performing and collaborating in other genres such as Jazz Manouche, Appalachian and Celtic folk, and experimental music. Compositional projects include commissions by Imani Winds, Ayane and Paul, Alarm Will Sound/Now Hear This, the Bridge Ensemble, The Peabody Community Chorus, and a work for the Bergamot Quartet and percussionist Terry Sweeney that is the title track for Bergamot’s debut album, In the Brink. Her solo albums “Mayfly” and “Outside Songs” can be heard on Bandcamp.com.

Tell us about your journey to your current career path. What were the pivotal moments? What surprised you?

I studied classical violin between the ages of 4 and 24, when I graduated from my master’s degree at Peabody. I was in high school when I knew for certain I wanted to be a professional musician. Perhaps the biggest pivotal moment was when I formed Bergamot Quartet with some then-classmates; Bergamot is now six years old and represents the bulk of my musical work. Other pivotal and surprising moments have largely taken place outside of the context of a traditional classical education. While living in Baltimore, I found my way into modern and early jazz. That music is a huge part of my life today, both bolstered by and in contrast to my classical training.

What opportunities did you take advantage of in school that helped you to build helpful skills and experiences?

I think the biggest thing that helped me grow as an artist (and human) was making the choice to immerse myself in showing up for my community. Attending every live performance I could, making connections with peers across departments, writing music for friends, working to understand the arts scene of as much of the city as I could (within and beyond school), putting on my own DIY shows. As a young student with low living expenses, I took advantage of this time in my life to use my resources to build my community. The most memorable experiences while at Peabody were directing and participating in Creative Access, and the Peabody String Sinfonia. Here, I gained leadership experience, learned how to curate engaging performances, and connected with folks all over Baltimore as well as my fellow students.

How has your network and/or community impacted your professional journey?

Hugely. I grew up playing in a band and frequenting jam sessions, dances, and festivals, so music has always felt like an intrinsically community-based pursuit. When I get to learn and play alongside others, I’m at my most inspired. I feel very lucky to be pursuing a career alongside my colleagues in Bergamot Quartet; we uplift and support each other constantly in every way. Cultivating a supportive community makes it less daunting to pursue a career as a freelance musician. My always-growing artistic community is what allows me to find the greatest degree of fulfillment for my curiosity and desire for personal growth. I’d play music for myself even if it wasn’t my professional endeavor, but the fact that I get to share it with others is humbling and deeply uplifting.

Who has been an influential mentor for you and why?

I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors; it’s impossible to single out just one! I’d like to first mention Maria Lambros, from whom I learned in a profoundly empowering way both how selfless and how self-fulfilling performing for others can be. The amount of trust and care I received from Maria while she was my chamber music coach, the director of the Peabody Sinfonia—and beyond, when she brought me into her concert series Our Joyful noise—is something I will always carry in my heart. In the last few years, the JACK Quartet has provided life-changing mentorship. They have given me some of the most rigorous musical education of my life and been an extremely inspiring role model for the career I am pursuing as a contemporary chamber musician.

What is an obstacle or challenge you’ve faced in your career journey, and how did you overcome it?

I know I’m VERY far from the only one, but I’ve struggled off and on a lot with performance anxiety. It’s especially distressing to me because I truly love performing. At times, including earlier this year, it’s reached a pitch where I’ve had to step back from performances because of the debilitating physical effects. In the last few months, I’ve taken a deep look at when I do and don’t experience this kind of panic and have been able to pinpoint some patterns. One thing that helped a lot was giving myself opportunities to perform where I knew I’d have fun no matter what: concerts with Bergamot Quartet where we performed only music I knew I loved and felt good playing; doing silly experimental theater house shows. Giving myself opportunities to really process feeling great performing helped me come back to the higher-pressure scenarios with positivity and grace.

Hear more from Ledah Finck here in her Max Q podcast episode. Plus there’s an episode with the entire Bergamot Quartet!


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