BIG THINGS AHEAD: ANNIE

March 30, 2012


I have always been a big fan of the orchestra- the history of the music, the physical experience, all the beautiful instruments and the musicians! In the fall, I went to several performances at the SF Symphony in an attempt to try and figure out how to get more of my readers interested in classical music (myself included!). Annie works as a publicist for the symphony and had checked out my blog and noticed the Brown Paper Bag logo over there on the sidebar. In a strange coincidence, Annie and Sara from BPB, know each other from Baltimore! What a wonderfully small world! So she emailed me and we met up at the symphony after an incredible performance that included a slight disruption from an EARTHQUAKE! Woah!!!

Annie and I met up again recently for lunch- we discussed music, her work, and the difficult struggle to reignite interest in institutions like the symphony in a younger audience. I was fascinated by her classical training as a musician and her choice to take an alternative approach to a traditional practice by focusing on more organic personal projects within the music community. Besides working at the symphony, Annie also manages Magik*Magik, a “modular orchestra” that helps outfit indie musicians with orchestral musicians and also aims to “attract new listeners and participants to the orchestral experience.” Bringing the orchestra to the people- I am all about that! Magik*Magik has played with John Vanderslice, the Dodos, and will be going on tour with Death Cab for Cutie this spring!

Catch Annie performing at the Switchboard Music Festival this Sunday, April 1st at the Brava Theater in San Francisco and check out the blog that she writes for the SF Symphony, which includes cool backstage info and coverage of performances at Davies Hall. Thanks Annie, you are awesome!

Name:  Annie Phillips
Age: 26
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Where are you right now? How’d you get there? Right now I am in San Francisco! I got here by minivan from Baltimore, MD where I attended the Peabody Conservatory.  I moved to California to study clarinet and bass clarinet performance at the SF Conservatory, and now I manage and play in the Magik*Magik Orchestra, play contemporary music in a chamber group called Nonsemble 6, work full time in the publicity department at the San Francisco Symphony, and do a little freelance PR on the side.

Where are you going? I’m going into the musical gray area between indie rock/pop and classical music.

What will you be doing when you get there? Hopefully I’ll be a participant in the music scene in many different ways.  I really enjoy playing music, be it what I classify as ‘art’ music (music that comes from the classical canon), or playing with bands.  But I want to also be helping behind the scenes, either through organizing and planning like i do with Magik, or doing publicity, which is really just helping people find out about fun and interesting concerts to go to.

Who/what/where was the inspiration that lead you in this direction? Is it really dorky to say my parents? My parents are pretty great. They both work really hard at things they love, so I learned that from them. Also, my teacher at the SF Conservatory, Louie Baez, who plays in the San Francisco Symphony, who taught me that being a happy person is a really important part of being a successful artist. And finally, Minna Choi, the director of Magik*Magik.  She’s a true visionary and I can’t imagine a better person to get to work with every day.

How are you feeling? Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Thrilled? I’m pretty thrilled! I get to make up my own career, and pick and choose the things that make me happy and most excited to do or play. It’s the best.

What kind of expectations do you have? I have pretty high expectations. One thing I like about working in a creative city and industry is that there is no real precedent, and there’s no preexisting ceiling to hit in terms of what we can accomplish artistically, and it affords us the opportunity to basically re-create an industry that can be a tough one.

Are you scared of anything? No. Most of the things I’ve ever been really scared about, like moving from the East Coast to California, turned out better than I ever could have expected.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? The best? The worst thing that could happen is if I ever have to stop playing music.  The best thing would be is if my peers and I manage to pull off a big change in the music world.

What are you taking with you/leaving behind? I suppose I’m leaving behind the “traditional” classical music path of taking orchestra auditions and a career as an orchestra player. But I’m definitely not leaving behind the fact that playing music still makes me really happy,  which unfortunately some musicians lose.

What do your friends & family think? I think my family is proud that I’m doing what makes me happy.  Most of my friends are musicians too, so they’re right there with me!

ARE YOU READY? I feel like the right answer is “I was born ready.” But really I was born excited.  I’M EXCITED!

Magik*Magik is about to go on tour with Death Cab for Cutie- congrats! The concept behind the group and your involvement is quite interesting. Tell us more! Magik*Magik wants to bring more listeners and participants to the orchestral experience (that is our mission statement).  My friend Minna founded it, and I came on later to help her manage it.  Basically, we aim to be one-stop shopping for anyone who wants to have orchestra involved in their music project, so that a band who maybe doesn’t write notated music can come to us and have string quartet or woodwinds and brass or whatever they want arranged and recorded into their songs.  So far we’ve played on records by John Vanderslice, Death Cab for Cutie, the Dodos, and others, plus we just did our first film score in January for a movie coming out this September and also played with the ODC here in SF.  The Death Cab tour will be pretty special–they’re going out for 5 weeks all across North America and will be accompanying the band on most of their live set.  We have 8 string players plus Minna going along, and they’ll finish up back here on the West Coast right after they do three nights at the Fox in Oakland (May 8, 9, and 10).

What do you find most exciting about working and playing within the Bay Area music community? The Bay Area is this cool crossroads between many different kinds of people who play and listen to many every different kind of music.  So someone I know from the indie rock world will be super excited to go to the Symphony with me, and the classical kids I know from school all play in bands on the side, and it all sort of starts to merge together–it makes me really inspired to see what new places music will go.

Are there any strange musical instruments of the past or future that you would want to play? Once in college I had to play the organ for an early music history class performance (organ is one of the oldest instruments actually), and Peabody Conservatory has a mini Baroque organ that’s housed in an armoire on wheels. I wanted to steal it! A mini organ on wheels! Who doesn’t need one of those?

Annie’s headshot is by Vince Donovan, shots of her performing with John Vanderslice at NoisePop are by Nicole Browner of The Bay Bridged.

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