The Nomad Ensemble, a trio of “musical wanderers,” will bring classical music to New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center Stage Oct. 6 in a free concert for students, faculty, staff, and Socorro community members. As part of the Presidential Chamber Music Series sponsored by NMT’s Interim President, Dr. Daniel H. López, the ensemble is expected to perform a music program from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. inspired by a Russian folk tale in which the physical and mystical worlds make contact. No reservations or tickets are required to attend the performance, although free-will donations are accepted.

Eric Sewell, raised in Socorro, looks forward to hometown perfomance.
Photo Submitted | NM Tech

The Nomad Ensemble features Socorroan violinist and curator Eric Sewell, pianist Yuri Chayama, and cellist Lisa Donald in a program titled “Spirit and the Maiden.” The performance includes works by composers Elena Kats-Chernin, Robert Fuchs, Horatio Parker, and Carl Nielsen.

  • Eric Sewell holds degrees in violin performance and musicology from the University of Alabama and Columbia University and is an alumnus of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. He has performed in orchestras across New Mexico, plays in Albuquerque regularly, and is the assistant principal second violinist of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. Sewell is also a paper sculptor with a handful of commissions and a solo exhibition under his belt. He enjoys hiking and occasionally runs triathlons. His violin, “The Traveler,” was especially made for him.
  • Yuri Chayama a virtuoso and master pianist, has performed in the United States, Germany, Italy, and Japan. After graduating from college in Japan, she received master’s degrees from the Musikhochschule in Aachen, Germany, and the University of New Mexico; her doctorate in musical arts is from the University of Arizona. Dr. Chayama won the Competition Internationalé in Santa Fe and a major prize from the Ibla Music Competition in Italy. The renowned composer Dr. Kurt Schwaen also awarded her the prize for Best Interpretation of his composition Nocturne Lugubre in Berlin in 2004. Dr. Chayama’s recordings of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, and Takemitsu have been heard on classical radio stations in the United States and Japan.
  • Lisa Donald is an Albuquerque native, having played cello in New Mexico for over 20 years. Her musical studies as a young adult took her all over the Southwest, and to Miami, Florida and Kansas City, Missouri. After living and performing in New York City, she returned to Albuquerque to be near family and has been playing with regional orchestras and Opera Southwest, as well as producing and performing in smaller chamber and solo recitals. She teaches cello privately.

Sewell said that as an ensemble of musical wanderers from different backgrounds, his talented trio consider themselves “nomads.”

Master pianist Yuri Chayama.
Photo Submitted | NM Tech

“Wherever we can find them, together we explore vital expressive landscapes and return with the fruits for all to enjoy,” he said. “Ours is an intrepid, harmonious ensemble, and we invite everyone along the way.”

NMTPAS Director Ronna Kalish said she’s excited to welcome back the Nomad Ensemble to Macey Center to kick off the 2023-2024 Presidential Music Series.

“Eric Sewell always amazes Socorro audiences with his unique program selections,” she said.

Sewell said he looks forward to his hometown performances because of the opportunity to introduce lesser known composers and works to students and classical music fans of all ages.

“Macey Center is a terrific venue in Socorro and very visible in the community,” he said. “Much of this is due to Ronna Kalish’s excellent curation of Tech’s Performing Arts Series, but also because bigger community events take place there as well. As a Socorroan myself, it is extremely gratifying to play for a hometown audience. PAS audiences are an enthusiastic bunch and very receptive to the diverse repertoire we perform – not just the ‘certified’ classics of the literature.”

Lisa Donald is native to Albuquerque.
Photo Submitted | NM Tech

Sewell said the program he assembled for the Oct. 6 performance features works few will recognize, yet may sound stylistically familiar:

  • Elena Kats-Chernin is an Australian composer whose trio composition, “Spirit and the Maiden,” is based on a Russian folktale in which the physical and mystical worlds make contact in a beautiful encounter.
  • An early work by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, which is a love letter to the classical period by a composer usually known for very challenging post-Romantic music.
  • A rare performance of music by Horatio Parker, an American composer bridging the turn of the 20th century. Composers from that era walked a tightrope between an emerging, New World individualism and the weight of Old World
  • Works by Robert Fuchs, an Austrian composer and professor of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory. Fuchs was admired by Brahms, who was notoriously stingy with his praise. Sewell describes Fuchs’ trio composition as “a true jewel.”

“The fact of its modern obscurity is actually a gift,” Sewell said. “Listeners may be more receptive to a state of wonder and discovery hearing music that may feel familiar, but is unknown and surely from a time and place foreign to our lives today.”

Sewell said the Nomad Ensemble treasures the opportunity to make classical music more accessible for students, families, and community members.

“Particularly our college students today are absorbed by the myriad demands of a hectic life,” he said. “Long gone are spontaneous chamber music sessions at home, yet many of our students are accomplished and curious amateur musicians. Those informed, young folk are excellent audiences. And, who knows, they may invite friends who find that ‘classical’ music still speaks to us and just maybe that our living composers have not exhausted the genre. Those kinds of personal connections enthrall us musicians as much as they may enrich and shape especially our younger listeners’ life experience.”

The Presidential Chamber Music Series, which sponsors several free concerts each season for New Mexico Tech students and community members, began more than 30 years ago, conceived by Adam Gonzalez, a faculty member in the New Mexico Tech Music Program under Director Michael Iatauro. The next free community concert in the series will be “Camerata Del Sol” on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, featuring a string quartet performing works by Jewish composers. A full schedule of PAS events is available online at: nmt.edu/pas.