Eighth Blackbird

Eighth Blackbird moves music forward through innovative performance, advocacy for music by living creatives, and its growing legacy of guiding an emerging generation of artists.

  • Lina Andonovska, Flutes
  • Zachary Good, Clarinets
  • Christopher Whitley, Violin
  • Aaron Wolff, Cello
  • Matthew Duvall, Percussion
  • Lisa Kaplan, Piano

Hailed as “one of the smartest, most dynamic ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune), Eighth Blackbird [8BB] has been operating for 27 years, beginning in 1996 as a group of six undergraduates and continuing under the leadership of two founding members, Lisa Kaplan, Pianist | Executive Director, and Matthew Duvall, Percussionist | Artistic Director.

8BB is firmly entrenched in the fabric of creative music, cited as “a brand-name defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality” (Detroit Free Press).

Accolades include: Four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance | The MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions | The Concert Artists Guild Competition Grand Prize | The Musical America Ensemble of the Year | The Chamber Music America Visionary Award | The APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards Performance of the Year.

In addition to chamber music performance, the members of 8BB value their roles as curators, educators, and mentors. Beginning exclusively as a chamber music ensemble, 8BB has expanded in recent years to represent numerous mission-driven initiatives.

In 2017, Eighth Blackbird inaugurated its boldest initiative yet: The Blackbird Creative Lab The Blackbird Creative Lab [The Lab] is an inclusive two-week professional development immersion for performers and composers, and an ongoing community of practice for contemporary classical musicians and composers. The Lab fosters expansive artistic vision, collaboration, mentorship, and building a viable life as an artist. It continues its mission beyond the two-week immersion to find opportunities for its network of alumni to present in professional engagements. The Lab’s next iteration will be hosted in May 2023 at Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva, WI.

In 2020, 8BB introduced The Chicago Artists Workshop. The Chicago Artists Workshop [CAW] was conceived with the purpose of creating work for artists during a time when the performance industry was enormously threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. When work for artists disappeared, CAW created paying livestream engagements for artists during the stoppage of 2020-2021. CAW continues as a presenting series in both live venues and livestream platforms. It is a determinedly cross-genre series defined not by genre or discipline, but by extraordinary caliber and creativity.

Additional Accolades Include:

Commissions and World Premieres of hundreds of works by established and emerging composers. In addition to traditional chamber music commissioning successes, 8BB has pioneered two particularly noteworthy genres in the classical chamber music field:

  • Fully Produced Theatrical Chamber Music Productions: David Lang, Composition As Explanation | Amy Beth Kirsten, Columbine’s Paradise Theater | Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire | David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolff, Singing in the Dead of Night | Dan Truman, Olagon | Steve Mackey, Slide.
  • Chamber Ensemble Concertos: Jennifer Higdon, On A Wire | Kinds of Kings, Nine Mothers | Viet Cuong, Vital Sines | David Schober, Concerto for Sextet and Orchestra.

An Extensive Recording Catalog: Round Nut Tool | Thirteen Ways | Divinum Mysterium | Strange Imaginary Animals | Lonely Motel | Meanwhile | Filament | Hand Eye | Olagón | When We Are Inhuman | Double Sextet | On A Wire | Singing in the Dead of Night.

Recent World Premieres:

  • 2023, Into the Night, by Joan Tower
  • 2022, Composition As Explanation, fully staged theatrical production. Composed by David Lang, with stage direction by Anne Bogart, and featuring text by Gertrude Stein.
  • 2022, Nine Mothers, concerto for 8BB and orchestra. Commissioned by and premiered with The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Composed by Kinds of Kings, a collective of composers including Gemma Peacocke, Shelley Washington, and Maria Kaoutzani.
  • 2022, Vital Sines, concerto for 8BB and Wind Ensemble. Commissioned by and premiered with the U.S. Navy Band. Composed by Blackbird Creative Lab alum, Viet Cuong.
  • 2022, Metamold, composed by Bekah Simms. Commissioned by the Barlow Foundation.

Long-Term Institutional Partnerships: The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago | The University of Chicago | Northwestern University | The University of Cincinnati | The Curtis Institute of Music | The Interlochen Center for the Arts | The University of Richmond | The Ojai Music Festival

The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, imagistic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: “I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.”

Lisa Kaplan is a Steinway Artist.

Matthew Duvall proudly endorses Pearl Drums and Adams Musical Instruments, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, and Black Swamp Percussion Accessories.


November 2024

Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.