The Dried Tobacco Project has been a long time coming. We started working on this piece in August of 2015, not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into.
We both fell in love with Will’s text, and we probably didn’t know why. Something about it just struck a nerve and moved our hearts. It’s funny to look back on the process, given that it turned out like a, “we’ll do a song…no, let’s do a couple of songs…oh-wait…it’s the week before the premiere and we’re still adding to this,” type of process. Honestly, Cassandra added the final touches of the composition 6 days before the premiere and Ian spent many hours this past week ruminating over it.
Will’s text is so honest that it hurts. Perhaps the preoccupation with it comes from the fact that Will is brave enough to be blunt about the human experience, especially the rejected human experience, or the defeated human experience. And whether or not we are gay or straight or somewhere in between, that human experience of rejection, reclaiming one’s identity and healing is truly ubiquitous.
The musical material may seem disorienting, so let us provide a road map. The beginning to the end traces an emotional journey from pain to love, release and acceptance. The prelude is the most abstract, esoteric thing that Cassandra’s brain could conjure. The piece itself is rooted around a pentatonic scale, presented in the context of a southern folk tune-- hence Dried Tobacco--reminiscent of Kentucky, where Will and Ian grew up and the social climate surrounding sexuality and human rights, in some areas, was not so understanding and supportive. In fact, all of the material in the piece was inspired by the same pentatonic scale and the natural sounds of the human voice as it processes trauma. It paints a picture of desperation, exhaustion and isolation. From there, the musical material travels from dark to light through dissonance to consonance, ending as a hymn.
Why a hymn?
A hymn is an offering of love to something greater than we are.
Well, what is more sacred than love and kindness…acceptance and honesty?
For some of us, a religion guides our spirituality. For others, spiritually guides us to love and kindness. Either way, the root of all humanity is love.
This piece is a call to look at your neighbor with clarity and tenderness. We all have a journey, incomprehensible to one another, that shapes us and the communities surrounding being alive.
One year later, we hope to convey that we want each and every one of you to feel fully alive; to love yourselves, to love your neighbor, to release darkness and embrace hope. This world can be a cruel place, and people can be cruel components of it, but in the end, we wish for each journey to end in a hymn, and for that hymn to be a beacon for another struggle and so on and so on….
We have spent hundreds of hours on this piece. We have spent even more emotional energy on translating words into music.
We are charging a ticket price to give back and to support the future platform for our works and the works of our colleagues with similar social goals. To PFLAG— thank you for what you do. To Roosevelt University, thank you for being a Social Justice-prioritizing school. To all of you…we wouldn’t be here without you.
Hello friends, brunchers, countrymen (and women!),
Cassandra here. I am so delighted to report that Ian and I successfully pulled off stuffing 30 Chicago creatives into my living room to share new music, wine and community!
Ian opened the show with a quote that should probably be our official business statement:
"Brunch is not an event, but a state of mind."
Yes! Relax. Listen to, appreciate and patronize music and the arts. We are the future of the new music and art cultures in this city.
I'm compiling some of my favorite photos from the show, and you should know that it has a life beyond our maiden voyage. I'm slowly but surely working on the program for two more shows, which won't have a space-limited capacity.
ALSO, YOU GUYS. You must-must-must buy your tickets to the Dried Tobacco premiere at Mary's Attic! It'll be intimate and (gasp!) a preview before our donors in academia see it!
Thank you so much for your continued support...We cannot stress that enough. You folks are the lifeblood of BPP.
BUY YOUR TICKETS.
-Cassandra and Ian
Good evening, friends.
We are so excited for our upcoming event this Sunday. We will be featuring local Chicago composers and vocalists in a casual think-tank environment. Bringing new music--art music-- to the home is something that hasn't been valued, or acknowledged, per se, since the "romantic" era...or so most people think.
An important part of art, music, connection and the future of these things is deeply rooted in the comfort and the mutual appreciation between artist and patron/listener.
This Sunday's program features new music by Nico Gutierrez, Jonathan Hannau, Michelle Issac, Jordan Jenkins and Cassandra Kaczor, along with their ridiculously talented singer and pianist friends. It's an exclusive, one-time, private function. From here on out, BPP will be planning, publicly producing and supporting local, live musicians with a mind to pioneer socially oriented art in the city of Chicago.
We have many more concerts to come...stay tuned.
AND check out this super fun sneak preview from our upcoming soft premiere at Mary's Attic in Chicago.
October 17th. Alcohol. LGBT Youth Suicide Awareness. Supporting the Arts. What's to be regretted?
Get your tickets now!
We love you. Brunch on.
-I & C
Guys. We are so excited.
This is Cassandra posting on behalf of Brunch Project Productions. Ian is busy at work helping other people celebrate a late brunch at his bartending gig...but don't worry. He's probably toasting us as I type!
We are pleased to announce that Dried Tobacco Project will be traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 11th for a presentation of our major song cycle of the same name at Kalamazoo College, sponsored by the Arcus Center for Social Justice and Leadership and the Kalamazoo College Music Department as a part of their Social Justice Series!
Here's our projected schedule!
5 p.m. : Interactive workshop on Creating Music to Address Social Issues
6:30 p.m. : Dinner Break
7:30 p.m. : The Dried Tobacco Project Performance
8:30 p.m.: Q & A
We are especially thrilled to be the first installment in the new "Radical Pedagogy" series at Kalamazoo College.
Why is that? Why are we excited to be "radical?" We don't care if our art makes you uncomfortable. We don't care if we share art with you in unconventional spaces or through unconventional means. We just want you to experience the human condition with us on several levels. We believe that art is about communication and honesty! Many thanks to K College for this opportunity!
We can't wait to work with students and engage in dialogue about what it means to be a social justice warrior with music and art as a weapon. We will address issues such as collaboration with artists of other mediums, multimedia art, sensitivity to survivors of trauma and engaging with audiences everywhere to achieve the highest form of communication that we can as artists! We'll talk about entrepreneurship in the arts and how to build your own personal empire!
We, as always, want to thank you, as our supporters, friends, and colleagues for your continued support.
Don't forget to check out DTP at Mary's Attic in Andersonville for its soft premiere on October 17th!
Drink on, dear friends,
c & i
Greetings fellow art and booze enthusiasts,
We're coming at you with an update on some of our upcoming prospects and confirmed gigs!
Word on the street is that PFLAG Louisville is interested in helping us host an event for late 2016-early 2017! This is super important since both Ian and our poet, Will, are from Bardstown, and it is integral to our dream that we get a few performances in the great state of Kentucky. We're about 37 steps closer to that now!
We're in dialogue with some local cafés and bars to host the Dried Tobacco Project, but also to launch our newest concert series which features collaborations with Chicago composers and vocalists! More details to come on this...but when they come, you kids better mark your calendars. It's gonna be so awesome. Like, "money will fall from the ceiling and we'll all be buzzed" awesome. Well. Definitely the second one. Ian is still looking for a money-spraying machine and a money tree to go with it.
Speaking of money trees...
If any of you or yours would like to be involved in hosting either of these two fresh and meaningful events, just shoot us an email. Your support means everything to us at BPP.
Stay tuned for more details. Until then, there's plenty of time and plenty of wine to keep y'all excited!
All the best,
Ian and C.
"Monumental processeeeeeeees have commenced."
We have procured a collaboration with PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois who will be the primary benefactor of the Dried Tobacco Project. We are very excited to work with this nonprofit as they represent allies and members of the LGBTQ community. This is a project that not only recognizes the hardship but the hope and progress of our pursuits in support of this community! Details to come! Have a drink on us! Mark your calendars for sometimeinoctober as we lock down the final venue!
Writing to you from my very comfy one bedroom apartment in Las Vegas is me, Will Brooks. I am the author of the book ‘You’re Uninvited’, which contains the text from which the ‘Dried Tobacco Project’ takes its message. The entirety of ‘You’re Uninvited’ deals with many issues, but for the purposes of this project I’d like to focus on one: LGBT youth and suicide.
Being anything other than what society deems ‘normal’ can be terrifying for someone who is still trying to understand who they are and how they work. It’s not strange to any of us that growing up was and is difficult. I don’t think anyone can say they got the hang of it. It’s just something you have to experience and push your way through no matter who you are. Unfortunately just ‘pushing through it’ isn’t as easy for many who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity.
While tolerance has grown more widespread, with more than 52% of the country believing same-sex marriage should be legal, not everyone is on board. If you take a look at our Republican presidential candidates you can see the hate that many people in this country still have for things they aren’t able to comprehend. This hatred can easily spread as fear, sparking outrage and panic in people who are susceptible to negative opinions. It’s this hate that many youth encounter on a daily basis.
Picture this: You’re a parent who has done everything possible to give their son or daughter a good life. You’ve supported them, disciplined them, and taught them what it means to be a good person. But at the current moment you don’t know that your son or daughter is fighting an internal battle just to accept themselves. He or she has already confided their personal struggle with you, and you’ve accepted them with open arms, but outside of the walls of your home, your son or daughter is being bombarded with messages of hate. He or she is being shoved in the hallways of their school, being called awful names like ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke.’ They are crying alone in bathrooms between classes so no one else can see their tears. When they turn on the TV all they see are the groups of people who are willing to kill to stop anyone who is different. They see law enforcement doing nothing to help, churches are turning them away, even God (by any name) seems to have abandoned them.
You come home from work late one night to find the house is silent, more than usual. Your partner should be home soon but your son or daughter is usually in the living room watching TV or doing homework. Tonight they are not. You call out to them only to receive no answer, something you aren’t used to. Curiosity is a powerful thing, as the eerie silence around you is enough to make you question the tranquility of your life. You make your way down a hallway toward your child’s bedroom. The door is cracked only slightly, but you can see the light from the desk lamp glowing just enough to calm your frantic heart. When you push the door open you expect to see your child in their bed asleep or with headphones in, but instead they are clasping an empty bottle of pills in their lifeless hand. There’s no note, no warning, only shock and pain. What you never knew didn’t hurt you, it broke you.
You never saw the pain, the heartache, because your son or daughter didn’t want you to see it. You thought you were doing everything right, but when you found them staring lifeless at the ceiling, the light that once glowed behind their eyes extinguished, you questioned everything.
Unfortunately, this is a common scenario in our society, our world. Young people are seeing your hate, your apathy to correct people who say hurtful things. They see you look away when a bully throws a punch, or a pastor tells a congregation that gays are going to burn in Hell. They see your acceptance of bigoted politicians and hate crimes. They see the negatives, and it kills them little by little, day by day, until they think so little of themselves that living is no longer an option.
This is the message of the Dried Tobacco Project. This musical composition takes the voices of victims and put them in front of you. When I wrote these poems my goal was to take someone’s pain and make it clear. I wanted to put the audience in the front seat of a car careening towards the cliff side, or standing on the railing of a balcony. I wanted them to know what it feels like to lose everything, to feel so lost and destroyed even a rope couldn’t fix it.
To write something so dark, I had to draw from my own experiences with coming out and attempting suicide. I’m one of the lucky ones. I survived, but many people don’t get to grow up and see the good that can come from pushing forward. The goal of my book, and of this project, is to give you, the audience, an insight into the pain and suffering these young people face so that you can take the opportunity to save a life. We have the power to change the world. I think it’s time we started.
Best wishes to all,
Last evening marked our second public performance of Dried Tobacco! Many thanks to Roosevelt University CCPA, Associate Dean and Director of the Music Conservatory Dean Berna, and Dr. Brown, Opera & Voice Chair and Coach Extraordinaire, without whom the evening’s event would not have existed.
Cass and I, along with a fantastic collaborator, Chao Gao (SHE WAS AMAZING), presented our centric movement, IV. Dried Tobacco, to the National Association of Schools of Music. It was a wonderful opportunity to show everyone our work so far and our intention with DTP. (Let’s be honest, we’ll take as much stage time as we can get!)
Here are some thoughts from tonight:
I spent the past few days prepping for this performance: reciting the text, working over the notes, reviewing the dramatic points, etc. I had my score in hand while I was lying sleeplessly in bed or while I was on the train during my daily commute. If there was one thing that I didn’t want to do, it was to screw up this infinitely important message.
A common practice for dramatic performers is to take their work to an individual that they trust, like a teacher or a coach. Thankfully, I have access to a huge pool of individuals who have already taken me to new musical heights. These are artists that I respect immensely. So I took “Dried Tobacco” to them and we poured through the work.
We tossed around several ideas, tweaking my musical interpretation and diction precision and something was said to me that I will never forget, in this project and all my endeavors to come.
I think you’ve lived with this text too long. You are losing the meaning.
You could hear my heart hit the floor when I heard this. This message, this meaning, that is so important to me and to this project, was being lost because I was too focused on being perfect. Can you say “reality check”?
So I sat on my thoughts for a few days. I didn’t look at the score. I didn’t tune out the world with my headphones and my recording of the mp3 rehearsal track. I just sat and listened to the heartache that comes with the themes that resonate so strongly in DTP.
Tonight was the night that affirmed what we are trying to do, at least for me. We are spreading a call for hope, awareness, and love. This isn’t about perfection in performance or my own self-evaluation. This project is bigger than me and I had, in a small way, lost sight of that.”
So now we’re looking forward. Cass and I are on a mission to tour this puppy around and give the message to as many people as our voice can reach! This train is running high-speed down the tracks and we are not going to stop until everyone knows what the Dried Tobacco Project is all about: Social Justice, Acceptance, Hope, and Love.
Thank you for reading my little blog entry and please follow us on our journey!
We’re around on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/brunchprojectpublishing/) and we’ve got some more exciting material that we’ll put on the website soon! (Can anyone say videos and sound excerpts!?)
Much Love and hey…you know…let’s get brunch!
Happy 2016 and happy brunching. Cassandra here--I just hosted my own brunch featuring Prosecco and breakfast burritos and I am hoping that you are all feeling inspired about art and good food/drinks.
As I settle in with a fine rosé, I would like to let you know that BPP is proud to announce that we have received funding for our Dried Tobacco Project (meetings are coming up next week), Ian is plotting an elaborate scheme to revitalize opera in a young community, and Cassandra is connecting artists and planning a concert series for sexual assault survivors. Oh, also, we both started our second semester of grad school.
Dried Tobacco Project will see at least 5 states (hopefully more) in 2016. We are thrilled to be working with poet Will Brooks who has been picked up by a publisher! You can find his book, "You're Uninvited" on Amazon or here.
In the future, we plan to unleash a full-blown production company and open a Chicago Space through Cassandra's future art gallery.
So much awesome. So little time to explain. Please keep in touch with us and we will keep inspiring young artists in Chicago and drawing attention to social issues via the arts! More details to come on all of the above projects. :)
Cassandra (and Ian, in spirit..obviously. He's furiously sending emails and booking meetings so I get to do the fun stuff!)