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Q&A: Kate Nordstrum, Liquid Music curator

Liquid Music Curator and Executive Producer of Special Projects at The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Kate Nordstrum. (photo by Cameron Wittig)

This month marks the sixth anniversary of our Liquid Music series. Patrick Marschke, an alum of the series team, returned to interview Kate Nordstrom, Liquid Music Curator and Executive Producer of Special Projects at The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. See excerpts of the interview below. To read their entire conversation, visit the Liquid Music blog for October 13, 2017.

Patrick Marschke: How does this season of Liquid Music compare to what you thought the series would be like when you first conceived of it?

Kate Nordstrom: Over the years, Liquid Music has evolved in its role as an instigator in the development of new and one-of-a-kind projects. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with artists in project building, not simply to present roadtested work. This season you will see this in full effect.

Dance is a recent addition to the series, which I hadn’t thought about including initially and am thrilled it’s happening (Orpheus UnsungTU Dance & Bon IverAshwini Ramaswamy & Jace Clayton).

PM: How does LM’s programming compare to series in other cities?

KN: This is a question I prefer to have others answer!

I will say that Liquid Music is an anomaly when compared to other subseries of U.S. orchestras. The SPCO is incredibly progressive in its openness to supporting a flexible, dynamic program that is meant to foster a love of music without borders and broader understanding of the new music landscape. The orchestra is then part of a dialogue; not sequestered.

Liquid Music has sister series/festivals/institutions across the country like Contemporary Art Center Cincinnati led by Drew Klein, Ecstatic Music Festival at Kaufmann Center curated by Judd Greenstein, Big Ears in Knoxville, MASS MoCA in North Adams, EMPAC in Troy (NY), and there is a kinship now in some Eaux Claires programming. Each has its own thing going and distinct brand, but there are through-lines. I am very conscious of and interested in this ecosystem.

PM: What is the difference between curating, programming and producing?

KN: Programming involves selecting artists and presentations for a series, season or festival. Curators are called upon not just to select, but to organize, contextualize/interpret and present. Producing is the process of bringing a project to life logistically and technically, from idea/concept to premiere/final incarnation.

PM: What does curation mean for you in your role at the SPCO?

KN: I take seriously that I am at an orchestra, that Liquid Music exists within an organization committed to classical music. I want there to be connective threads with the orchestra each season, so I think a lot about what is fitting (and expansive) given that environment. I work closely with SPCO Artistic Director Kyu-Young Kim, who sets the orchestra seasons, and we’ve just begun annual festival programming that involves both Liquid Music and orchestra presentations under a conceptual umbrella: last season’s Where Words End; this season’s No Fiction; and we are actively working on next season’s festival offering with SPCO Director of Education Erin Jude and Artistic Programming Manager Paul Finkelstein.

One of the goals of Liquid Music is to encourage a culture of curiosity, exploration and a genuine hunger for discovery — in our audience and our artists. This is an essential investment for a classical organization; it infuses the whole organization with possibility.