Mason Bates, Ben Folds & The National Symphony Orchestra-DECLASSIFIED Series


Last night I had the honor of attending the kickoff concert for the National Symphony Orchestra’s DECLASSIFIED Series and it was amazing. So amazing that I had to share in greater detail why you should do your best to attend the next concerts in the series that will be happening throughout 2016. Sarah HicksMason Bates, Ben Folds,

Ben Folds and Sarah Hicks at the Kennedy Center- Image by More Cowbell Liv

and the National Symphony Orchestra, came together and created an unimaginable evening of amazing music, fun, and added yet another dimension to the already incredible performance repertoire that is known to be presented by the Kennedy Center. Here is some insight into the evening for you.


For starters, Sarah Hicks is impressive in her own right. She has been known for versatile style and her support for performing new music and last night was a testament to her commitment to shaking things up a bit. She’s absolutely fantastic. Here’s a clip from last night of her conducting conducting the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “The Chairman Dances” by John Adams.

Now let’s think about that setup and then add a DJ spinning beats to it. What?! Yup. That’s what happened last night. If you’ve never heard of Mason Bates, go check his music out right now!

Mason Bates is currently the first ever composer In-Residence at the Kennedy Center and he has revolutionized the symphony going experience by fusing his electronic beats and his  high energy orchestral compositions. What you get is an completely unique experience all together when you listen to his tracks, especially live. Last night, I got to experience Mason Bates and the National Symphony Orchestra perform his own masterpiece, Mothership and it was absolutely incredible. Here is a clip of last night’s performance of Mothership.

I encourage you to really explore more of this amazing composer’s music.

And finally, let’s talk about Ben Folds, one of my favorite artists of all time. I first started listening to Ben Folds back in the late 90s. I have always been a fan of Ben Folds Five.

Remember this beautiful song, Brick? And how incredible awesome it was to have piano rock surface onto the scene?

And remember this song? Army.

We all realized that Ben Folds could really rock out on the piano. “Let’s rock this bitch!” (I kept wanting to yell that out during the concert last night but I figured it was not deemed appropriate to yell such “profanities” at the Kennedy Center…although the symphony and Ben surely did rock it.) And then a few years later, he released this song with Regina Spector! You Don’t Know Me. I LOVE this song.

Okay now that we’ve reminisced on all the amazing things that Ben Folds has created, the real question is: have you listened to his new album So There? You can buy it here: Ben Folds So There Album. I bought the vinyl album last night! IMG_4781It contains a mix of 8 chamber rock songs with yMusic and includes his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.

Last night he performed his entire Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and quite simply, it blew me away. I love hearing him play with symphonies. His talent as a pianist truly shines and last night was no exception.

Here is the NSO’s video of last night’s performance. This video highlights Movement 3 of his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.

Here’s is a clip from last night of Movement One: Ben Folds & NSO.

And here’s another glimpse of this grand event:

Personally, I feel the need to share that my favorite part of the Concerto is Movement 2. Ben Folds’ unique melodic undertones shine through especially in this movement and you definitely can tell that it is another one of his masterpieces.

I hope this inspires you to explore new events like this in your own home town. I am also writing to inspire other Symphony Orchestra’s across the United States to support these types of collaborations in order to attract younger followers and a more diverse audience. Last night’s audience was the most diverse and possibly the largest age range I have ever seen (Early 20s to 50s) at a National Symphony Concert, and it made me really happy. I’m a big supporter of classical music and symphonies having grown up playing an instrument. There is nothing more powerful than attending a live performance of classical music and listening to the amazing intrumentation and composition fill the room.

Bottom line: the National Symphony Orchestra’s DECLASSIFIED Series is nailing it. They are appealing to a broader audience. The Kennedy Center describes the series as

taking on a whole new vibe with this innovative mix of classic and modern sounds, special guest artists, dynamic multimedia, audience interaction, and exciting activities before and after the show.

Lastly,  Mason Bates, Sarah Hicks and Ben Folds came out to the foyer of the Kennedy Center after the show to say thank you for supporting live music! Bates also captured it with this statement:

Orchestra is the world’s greatest synthesizer. Don’t forget about that!

Ben Folds even tried his hand at playing DJ during the after show foyer dance party! – Image by More Cowbell Liv

Upcoming DECLASSIFIED Series performances include The B-Sides with Mason Bates & Anne Akiko Meyers (April 9, 2016) & Cabaret of Sins with Storm Large & Hudson Shad (April 29, 2016).

If you find yourself in the DC area, make sure you check them out. I am definitely going to the next one! If not, check back here for a back brief on them. I can’t wait to see what Mason Bates does next!






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