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Written by Lindsay Westley   
Published on Monday, 04 February 2013 11:15

PROJECT TrioFebruary 4, 2013 - When NPR played a clip of PROJECT Trio’s music on the radio last week, listeners called in from all over with two questions: “Who is that, and what are they playing?!”

Good question. The classically trained trio incorporates elements of hip-hop, jazz, classical and pop to create their own genre of music—but it’s generally the beatboxing flute that throws people off. Greg Pattillo (who the New York Times named “the best person in the world at what he does”)—lays down some crazy beats on the flute, supplemented by high-octane bowing by cellist Eric Stephenson and bassist Peter Seymour.

Pattillo’s epic interpretation of popular theme songs from Inspector Gadget, Star Wars and the Muppets got YouTube buzzing—but it’s the toe-tapping rhythms of PROJECT Trio’s original compositions that have us counting the days until their February 24th concert.

We chatted with Peter Seymour, CEO and bass player of PROJECT Trio, about what makes their sound so unique and why they’re so passionate about music education.

When and how did the group first get together?
We all met in the mid-90s while studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music. We were diligent classical musicians, but enjoyed getting together to make different kinds of music after school. We’ve officially been performing as PROJECT Trio for about six years.

You play everything from your own classical compositions, to jazz, to Sweet Child of Mine; what happens during a typical brainstorming improv session?
We compose in any form possible—someone might bring a fully thought-out idea to the table, or it might be just the cell of an idea that we’ll take and improvise on. We do a lot of recording during those sessions to see what worked—and what didn’t. We all listen to lots of different kinds of music, and do our best to incorporate as many styles as possible.

When did the beatboxing and cello/bass percussion creep into the PROJECT style?
Greg’s always done things that are based on rhythm flute, which is actually a technique that’s been around for awhile. But in the early 2000s he started experimenting more with beatboxing flute, which really caught on. And in turn, that inspired Eric and me to incorporate some percussion. It’s really only one aspect of what we can do—we’re all classically trained musicians—but it is definitely what people tend to remember us for! There are only three of us, so we always try to push our instruments to their absolute limits in order to find more sounds.

You’re also very passionate about music education. Why is that an ongoing commitment for the group?
We made a decision right from the beginning that if we were going to go out on tour, then we wanted to do more than just play shows—we wanted to reach out to the community, too. And all kinds of communities. So maybe we play four, five shows in a day and four of them are at public schools. We feel passionately that music education is important, and maybe the only way instrumental and classical music will survive. We’ve played for thousands of schools and just started two summer music festivals for students and adults, one in Oregon, and another in New York.

How do you make the PROJECT Trio sound?
We blend a lot of elements to get the PROJECT sound. Some people tell us that our original works are “not classical music”—and I understand why they’d say that, because we’re writing music in the style of today. But that’s what the great composers of yesterday and today are doing: pulling from the sounds all around us. That’s why we have a lot of beats in our music. We pull from melodies that are in peoples’ ears and develop and push our genre to include those sounds, too.

 

[MORE info about February 24 concert]

 

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