Published March 10, 2021
We are pleased to present “A Musician’s Manifesto” by Sara Shiloh Rae.
Sara, neé Sara Hershkowitz, is an acclaimed opera singer who is now returning to her bluegrass roots with her own band, Bluebird Junction.
We at NoteWorthy Music have a deep respect for all artists. We are thankful and appreciative of all that people create, regardless of genre or label. We love when we connect with those artists and persons who share our passion and speak out for what matters to them. Thank you, Sara, for your thoughtful regard for all music, for reaching out to us, and for sharing your words.
A Musician’s Manifesto
by Sara Shiloh Rae
I would love to clarify something.
I am not a crossover artist.
You will never see me make a crossover album.
I do not combine opera with bluegrass.
I do not combine opera with folk.
I was singing and listening to this stuff way before I knew what opera was.
My first singing gig was not at the Bremen Opera—
It was at the Ash Grove in L.A. with my guitar, at age 16, invited by the legendary Ed Pearl.
I am a multi-genre performing artist.
And in a post-COVID musical universe, we are about to see artists breaking alllllllllll kinds of previously unspoken rules about what we do and don’t get to do.
Hear this: There are no more rules except the ones you make for yourself.
In case you were wondering if there was a catalyst for this post, there was. Mostly it was kind, well-meaning folks reacting to my stuff, like, “YAYYYY opera meets bluegrass, finally we get to have operatic country!” And me internally cringing like, yeeeaeah, if that’s what you get from it, you’re either not listening or I need to make it real clear where I stand on crossover.
In a post-COVID musical universe, we are about to see artists breaking alllllllllll kinds of previously unspoken rules about what we do and don’t get to do.
For me, it is hugely important, just for my own integrity, that I approach every style of singing with respect and knowledge of that particular style.
The same way I would never sing Wagner the way I would sing Bach? I would never sing Sondheim the way I sing Donizetti. And never, ever will I bring a Puccini warble to a bluegrass/Americana/folk song in some attempt to “crossover” and then call it opera meets country. To me, that would be like giving western classical music a kind of cultural supremacy. And musically/taste-wise, it just insults my soul.
Let’s lift each other up, in all stages of our development, to sing the music of our soul.
So I would like to invite you—and I’d like to invite myself, too—to start listening to music from a deeper place.
We could listen without rushing to jump to what genre it is, or what genre we want to project on the artist.
We could listen without classifying.
We could listen without the brain judging, labeling, bla bla chatter.
We could listen to whether it feels authentic, to whether it offers something unique, to whether it touches or exhilarates us.
And instead of pressuring artists to pick a shoebox, and then stay inside it for life, let’s lift each other up, in all stages of our development, to sing the music of our soul.
Sara Shiloh Rae
Sara Shiloh Rae, neé Sara Hershkowitz, grew up in both L.A. and North Carolina, immersed in bluegrass/folk music. As a child, Ms. Rae took guitar lessons at McCabes and was invited by Ed Pearl to play her first gig at the legendary Ash Grove when she was sixteen. Sara would then go on to enjoy a career in Europe as an acclaimed opera singer, receiving a nomination in 2020 for "Singer of the Year" in the German magazine, Opernwelt, and performing as guest soloist with orchestras such as BBC Scottish Symphony, L.A. Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, and Theater an der Wien.
Due to the 2020 pandemic closure of all musical venues, Sara joined forces, digitally and across an ocean, with California-based German banjo player Max Hoetzel, returning for the first time to her bluegrass roots. The band Bluebird Junction was born as they teamed up with Brooklyn based fiddler Alex Hargreaves, described by David Grisman as "destined to be one of the fiddle giants of the 21st century," plus the exceptional Nashville-based Dominick Leslie on mandolin, Mike Robinson on guitar, and Myles Sloniker on bass. Sara's music has been featured twice in Bluegrass Today. Ms. Rae is currently working on a debut album of original material.
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