The Chicago-based, contemporary music sextet eighth blackbird is one of the most musically accomplished and innovative ensembles in the world. They are equally at home playing viola and flute, or kazoos and reverberating gongs, or opening a piano and playing on the strings and frame with toothpicks, credit cards and dish brushes. The group performs from memory and often incorporates theatrical elements into its shows. Eighth blackbird formed in 1996 when its members were students at Oberlin Conservatory of Music; since then, they have appeared in concert halls and festivals worldwide; released four acclaimed CDs, including the Grammy-winning strange imaginary animals in 2008 (Best Chamber Music Performance); received numerous grants and awards; and commissioned and premiered new works by eminent composers, including Steven Reich’s Double Sextet, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.
During their residency in fall/winter 2010, eighth blackbird conducted numerous classes and rehearsals with students and several public events, including a panel discussion on the business aspects of running a chamber music ensemble, a reading workshop of student compositions, and a free concert. Their residency focused on developing new curriculum to help musicians become more entrepreneurial and engaged in their own career plans. It became part of a new Meadows School initiative that included the launch of the nation's first minor in arts entrepreneurship. In addition, founding eighth blackbird member and acclaimed violinist and violist Matt Albert is now on faculty at Meadows as director of chamber music.