The words 2020, social distancing, COVID-19, pandemic, are now a part of the vocabulary of people literally at every corner of the world and in all arenas. Some industries flourished while others, the arts included, found many people paralyzed with shock on how to pivot and to maintain relevancy in this new world. But it also afforded space for seeds and opportunities to blossom and grow. This was true for the Honeywell Arts Academy.
The conversation of expanding the successful Wabass Institute and the “sharing of knowledge” ideology behind it happened at least yearly between Artistic Director, Ranaan Meyer, and Honeywell Foundation CEO, Tod Minnich, during the decade plus years it occurred. The full schedules of day-to-day operations and opportunities at hand left it a “down the road” vision or a “someday when” idea. Then the world stopped and the groundwork laid with these conversations and thoughts began to take root and the goals became clear.
Along with Wabass Institute for the double bass, the addition of Resonance Institute for multifaceted musicians of any discipline, and Soundboard Institute for pianists would culminate as a 3-institute, full scholarship summer program called the Honeywell Arts Academy with its first season in June 2021.
This almost mandatory creative and big picture thinking was not lost on Nathan Ben-Yehuda (piano), Juan-Salvador Carrasco (cello), Michael Siess (violin), and Misha Vayman (violin) the members of Astral-Mixtape. Juan-Salvador, Michael, and Misha were living in Los Angeles in early 2020 and into lockdown. Nathan had been living in New York City post graduate school but decided to come home to LA with the all of the uncertainty in the world. In an effort to exercise their craft (and stave off the stir crazy) during the early months of the pandemic the four of them connected, all finding inspiration at the intersection of genre fluidity and classical training.
The connection of Honeywell Arts Academy and Astral-Mixtape both being products of the pandemic is an interesting one.
Their dynamic motivation made them excellent candidates for Resonance Institute which was their first showing as a collective group. This early stage of formation along with their approach to music making made them quite malleable and excited to try new things and push their boundaries.
Astral-Mixtape's first live performance as a group on the Eagles Theatre stage.
“The energy and buzz that was being fostered at all times was really exhilarating.” said Carrasco.
At the Academy, fellowship scholars are immersed with music from sun up to sun down. They share knowledge and stories. Over meals or coffee, they ask questions with faculty mentors as well as other fellows, truly breaking down traditional hierarchical barriers and shifts the focus to the importance of the music making.
“..after having done Honeywell it was pretty drastic. Everyone really noticed a huge stylistic change and we had a major tool kit palette that Honeywell had given us.” Siess said
This tool kit Michael mentioned was not only musical but also professional.
Nathan Ben-Yehuda piano
“I learned so much about how things were built. The fact that I hadn’t thought about the landscapes for classical vs popular music; it was wild that I hadn’t considered that.” Ben-Yehuda said
Giving them the knowledge to push their own boundaries and continue to challenge themselves is exactly what the sharing of knowledge is.
They now have implemented a short internal contract to hold themselves accountable to move toward and realize the dreams and goals they have collectively set out to achieve. And while they can internally progress and push forward, they now have a community of artists and advocates behind them.
Misha Vayman violin
“The community that was fostered over the course of Honeywell, I feel free to text anyone - like no time has passed at all. The friendliness and energy was really one of a kind.” Vayman said
After their time in Wabash they put together a complete virtual performance which you can view here. This video is a perfect depiction of their intentional focus on the vibe and aesthetic of the greater experience they aspire to create. Astral-Mixtape is looking to perform more, especially in person, as there is no replacement for the connection made through music in a live platform.