New American composers meet Miami’s Electro Funk: A genre bending debut for Nu Deco Ensemble

arts / Article

By Jacomo Bairos, Nu Deco Ensemble

What will live symphonic music look like in the future?


What are the trends in the music world that will eventually find their way onto the classical stage?


Can a classically-trained group influence the popular music world?


These were questions my friend Sam Hyken and I asked ourselves routinely when we first got to know each other 11 years ago.


When Sam and I met at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, we knew right away we were personal and musical kindred spirits. Our friendship blossomed around the excitement of performing with an internationally-acclaimed orchestra while creating and sharing musical experiences around the world. Whether we knew it or not, Sam and I began a life journey that comes full circle on April 4 when the orchestra we created, Nu Deco Ensemble, a Knight Arts Challenge winner, has its debut performance.


We sought to create an orchestra that is both virtuosic and eclectic, performing all genres of music and collaborating with artists of all mediums. We envisioned working with not just composers but dancers, visual and media artists, DJs, and filmmakers, blending classically-trained musicianship with a wide ranging repertoire from the classical and popular world.


We also understood it would need to be nimble and smaller to meet the needs of its community. In the past 10 years, we had begun to notice a trend in classical music, a move to a smaller ensemble. Flexible and dynamic orchestral collectives such as Alarm Will Sound, the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Knights, and Wild Up, were having success in cities like New York, LA, and Chicago, having been created and managed by musician entrepreneurs.

The last few years, both of our careers, influences, talents, networks and visions finally took clear shape. Nu Deco Ensemble is the culmination of the last 11 years of a friendship bonded through the most extraordinary and exciting musical and personal experiences.



Since living in Miami, Sam, who came to the city as a New World Symphony Fellow, has danced between the classical music world at the highest of artistic levels, and the popular music world seamlessly collaborating with Grammy award-winning artists of many genres. My brief conducting career has taken me around the world working with prestigious orchestras in Europe, Asia, and America. Nothing gives me more pride then to bring this ensemble to life back in my home, Miami, where I was raised and profoundly influenced.


We saw a tremendous opportunity in Wynwood. Although a hotspot for visual arts, fashion, and film, Wynwood had yet to house a musical ensemble of its own. The Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse, itself a flexible and dynamic space, was a perfect fit for our programming. Executive Director Beth Boone and the Miami Light Project have welcomed us with open arms, making us their very first musical ensemble-in-residence. Both organizations share similar values in wanting to be a vehicle to connect artists in Miami to one another. We are excited that our partnership begins this season, which celebrates 25 years of the Miami Light Project innovating and strengthening the cultural landscape.


We are very excited that our debut concert will take place at 8 p.m. April 4 at the Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse. We will be presenting an exciting program, featuring the music some of America’s most in-demand, young composers, including Adam Schoenberg, Chris Rogerson, Paul Dooley and Andy Akiho. The second half of our program will feature acoustical arrangements of the music of Daft Punk and a collaboration with Miami’s own Afrobeta for a special set that is a reimagining of their music. Afrobeta’s music has captivated both Miami and national audiences for years, and we are thrilled that they will be featured as our very first guest artist.


We are equally excited about our outreach initiatives that we hope both reach and inspire new audiences. For our debut concert, we have partnered with Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Goulds, with about 30 students attending our dress rehearsal. Afterwards, we will have a special session of activities, which will include a side-by-side performance with musicians of Nu Deco Ensembles and the Mays Jazz Band, as well as the reading of a student musical composition. We will also be working in conjunction with Southern Land Films to have students from Mays film all side-by-side activities. Nu Deco Ensemble and Southern Land films will be visiting Mays to mentor students in preparation for this event.


Nu Deco Ensemble intends to enhance the arts scene of Miami in a dramatic and sophisticated fashion, and we feel collaboration is key in doing so. We feel we can help strengthen Miami’s artistic voice, by commissioning multimedia works by Miami based artists. A chamber orchestra that regularly collaborates with national artists of all musical genres can help continue to make Miami a destination for artists and audiences. We also feel we can provide national leadership in genre-bending musical exploration, creating compelling new hybrids of musical expression.


Shortly after our debut concert we will be collaborating with O,Miami, and Manual Cinema for series of performances in Little River of a work called “My Soul’s Shadow”. We will also be performing again at the Light Box in June as part of the Bang on a Can Marathon Concert.


As we debut our inaugural full season in 2015-16, we will be presenting a series of concerts and educational initiatives at the Light Box. We also have plans to perform in other locations such as New World Center, the North Beach Band Shell, and the brand new Wynwood Greenhouse currently being spearheaded by Metro 1.   Within the next five years, we aim to be regularly presenting innovative concert experiences locally, nationally, and internationally. We want create both audio and video recordings of exciting living composers and innovative collaborations in a way that embodies Miami’s eclectic spirit. .


Our goals our lofty, but Miami is ready. While major cities around the world have groups similar to Nu Deco Ensemble thriving in their communities, Miami has yet to establish a homegrown group that can provide a live performing ensemble, and we hope, will become a cultural pillar for decades to come.


Conductor Jacomo Bairos is a co-founder, along with Sam Hyken, of the Miami-based Nu Deco Ensemble


Nu Deco Ensemble debuts April 4. Purchase tickets online.

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