Artist’s NameMichelle Smith Johnson
Address3417 Potomac Ave
Roanoke 24018
United States
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Instagram Handle (if any)alma.ensemble
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Tell us about you, the artist. Please include a few sentences of biographical information.

This project will include two artists: Michelle Smith Johnson and Dr. Kyle Hutchins.
Dr. Kyle Hutchins
2902 Short Street
Roanoke, VA 24012
(254) 396-1693

Kyle Hutchins, saxophone + composer:
Hailed as “epic” (Jazz Times), “formidable” (The Saxophone Symposium), and “gripping” (Star Tribune), Kyle Hutchins is an internationally acclaimed performing artist, composer, and improviser. He has performed concerts and taught masterclasses across five continents at major festivals and venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Mexico, Scotland, South Korea, and across the United States including Carnegie Hall, The Walker Art Center, World Saxophone Congress, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, International Computer Music Conference, among many others. He has recorded over two dozen albums on labels such as Carrier, Klavier, GIA, farpoint, Mother Brain, and his work has been recognized by awards and grants from DOWNBEAT, New Music USA, The American Prize, American Protégé International Competition, Music Teachers National Association, Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation, and others. Most recently, Kyle was recognized by The Roanoker Magazine as a member of the 40 Under 40 cohort in 2024.

As a specialist in experimental performance practice and electroacoustic new music, Kyle has performed well over 200 world premieres of new works for the saxophone. He has worked with some of the leading composers and performers of our time including Pauline Oliveros, George Lewis, Chaya Czernowin, Georges Aperghis, Richard Barrett, Steven Takasugi, Claire Chase, Douglas Ewart, Duo Gelland, and Zeitgeist. Over the past fifteen years, Kyle has built long standing collaborations and championed the music of many close collaborators such as Ted Moore, Tiffany M. Skidmore, Joey Crane, Emily Lau, Elizabeth A. Baker, Charles Nichols, Eric Lyon, and many more wonderful artists and dear friends.

Kyle has numerous performance projects currently such as 113 (One Thirteen), a collective of composers and performers of experimental new music who curate concerts, educational programs, festivals, seminars, and masterclasses around the world; Binary Canary, a woodwind-laptop improvisation duo alongside electronicist Ted Moore; and the Roanoke-based surf rock/exotica band Cinémathèque.

Kyle has served on the faculty of Virginia Tech since 2016 where he is Assistant Professor of Practice and Director of the New Music + Technology Festival at the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

​Kyle has a Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degree from the University of Minnesota, and Bachelors of Music in performance and Bachelors of Music Education degrees from the University of North Texas. His teachers include Eugene Rousseau, Eric Nestler, Marcus Weiss, and James Dillon.

Michelle Smith Johnson, clarinet:
Michelle Smith Johnson, clarinetist and accomplished music educator, is currently serving as a middle and elementary school orchestra director for her fourteenth year with Roanoke City Public Schools, where her ensembles consistently earn Superior Ratings at Virginia Band and Orchestra Director’s Association (VBODA) Concert Assessment. Due to her outstanding achievements in music education and her positive impact on the lives of her students, Michelle has received several awards including Roanoke City Superintendent’s Award (2023) and John P. Fishwick Middle School’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

In addition to her work in Roanoke City Public Schools, Michelle serves as the clarinet instructor at Radford University.

Michelle maintains an active schedule as a performing artist and clinician championing underrepresented voices in the musical arts. Michelle is a co-founder of Alma Ensemble – a Roanoke, VA based chamber music collective that specializes in performing and commissioning works by historically underrepresented composers. She works with her co-founders and numerous community partners to amplify the need for equity among performance venues alongside fostering community engagement through chamber music.

Michelle holds performance and Music Education degrees from Radford University as well as a Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Ms. Smith Johnson is a member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and an honorary member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a National Music Honor Society.

Please describe your artistic practice including the media you work in and your approach to your art.

In the realms of sonic exploration, Hutchins investigates the delicate intersection of vulnerability and experimentation. As a saxophonist, free improviser, and composer, Hutchins’ work unfolds in the realm of soft noise and shifts in spectral and timbral perception, often combining electronics and multimedia featuring data sonification, field recordings, and acoustic instruments where the subtleties of sound become a canvas for introspection and melancholic musings.

Throughout her career, Smith Johnson has been a community-minded artist serving Roanoke citizens of all ages through the musical arts. Through her work in the public schools, local symphony, and educational endeavors, she strives to make music chamber music accessible, relatable, and an all-encompassing experience.
Smith Johnson strives to curate her performances with equity and diversity that allow audiences space to reflect, enjoy, as well challenge their own paradigm of musical interests. Frequently partnered with imagery, poetry, and other forms of art, her performances resonate with audiences of all backgrounds.

Describe the proposed work or project.

A new work for clarinet + electronics will be composed by Kyle Hutchins. This piece will be dedicated to and performed by Michelle Smith Johnson and will be published by Dr. Hutchins to be performed by other clarinetists around the globe.
This work, entitled ‘downcast eyes’, approximately 6 minutes in length, will be composed for clarinet alongside fixed media / playback to allow ease for the performer.
Hutchins will use image sonification and field recordings as basis for the fixed media. Additionally, Hutchins’ process will involve several recording sessions between the two artists to capture musical ideas, effects, and extended techniques to allow the composer to manipulate the sounds into the fixed media track. After the fixed media track is completed, Hutchins will compose the accompanying clarinet portion to be performed live.
The length of this work will give extensive programming accessibility and allow for a very broad reach.

How will the work advance wellness, justice, or inclusion in Roanoke? Consider a community issue that you hope to address, something you want to celebrate or a condition you want to change.

This new commission will advance wellness, justice, and inclusion on several levels. This piece is commissioned, written, and performed by historically underrepresented groups in classical music including queer and female artists. This commission will give Roanoke the opportunity to contribute to the canon and help balance the historical inequity in both Roanoke and in the wider field of classical music.
Performances of this new work will offer Roanoke audiences new opportunities to engage with art that will contribute to audiences health and well-being through meditative thought and mindful exploration of sound.

When do you anticipate undertaking the work? If the project is tied to a set event or date, let us know.

As soon as grant funding is announced, work will begin. We have a tentative world premiere date set for May 31, 2024 as part of the Alma Del Core Community Music Series at Community High School in downtown Roanoke. Additional performances will follow in the fall.

Are there partners in this effort? If so describe the partnerships and what each partner brings.

Our primary partnership in this project is with Alma Ensemble and their Roanoke, VA based Alma Del Core Community Music Series that will host the world premiere of this new work on May 31, 2024 at Community High School. Subsequent partners will include Community High School, Radford University, Art Rat Studios, and Virginia Tech.
Additional local performances of the work will include: Art Rat Studios in Roanoke, the Virginia Tech New Music + Technology Festival in Blacksburg, Faculty Recital at Radford University, and multiple touring performances of the Alma Ensemble across the commonwealth.
Alma Ensemble has established a long-standing partnership with the Virginia Commission for the Arts as a successful member of their artist touring roster which allows many performances each year throughout Virginia. This new work would be showcased in touring dates in 2024-2025.

Your theory of change: How will the work advance your efforts as an artist toward an established goal? How will you, a partner organization, or the community be changed?

It is critical that we amplify the voices of underrepresented composers and promote the value of new music. With this collaboration, we will be highlighting the talent and creativity that lives in our region. With performances of this new, creative, audience-accessible work, we will broaden Roanoke’s lens through performance and musical art.
Further performances, locally and on tour, will highlight the boundless creativity and musical richness that exists in our wonderful city.

How much money do you need to accomplish the project? (The allowed range is $500 – $3,000.)3,000
What other resources do you need to accomplish the project?

All of our requirements will be fulfilled through our partnerships.

Attach a full budget for your project. Include all costs and revenues. This can be a spreadsheet, word document, PDF, or image.Hutchins-_-Smith-Johnson_-downcast-eyes-Budget.pdf
Submit your CV, resume, or brag sheet here.
Do you have general liability insurance coverage for your arts-based business, either through your own policy or through a project partner?Yes