We had the good fortune of connecting with Diana Wade and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diana, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
As a performer, collaborator, and colleague I have come to embrace the idea that people do not always remember what you do, but they do remember how you make them feel. This concept permeates how I operate from my commitment to showing up early and prepared for gigs so people see that I am taking the work seriously to letting my enthusiasm show for the projects I am involved with. When I have artistic control over my projects the question of how I want my audience to feel is often at the top of my concerns. Of course, I cannot control people’s emotions but I can consider: how do I make everyone feel welcome? how to I give permission to everyone to feel their deep emotions? how can I facilitate myself and others tapping into their childlike wonder? I don’t always come up with the solutions to these questions, but they are always at the front of my mind. The performances I’ve felt most proud of resulted in audience members telling me “I needed that.” What an incredible response! I see my job as an artist as that of a facilitator. I’m helping myself and the audience feel and tap into the inexpressable. I don’t see this mission stopping when I get off stage, when I am talking about my work, when I am engaging with colleagues, or even a new aquaintance I try to welcome them into my experience as a musician. This often translates to unexpected calls for collaborations or new jobs. The freelance life can be scary and unstable, but I can feel proud of the energy I’m putting out there.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I love being a freelancing violist in Los Angeles because I am able to have an incredible diversity to my work. I am particularly dedicated to performing contemporary and avant garde classical music, however, I love that I also get to play big standard works for chorus and orchestra with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, or record scores for film and television, or even record with legends like Barbra Streisand or Pat Metheny. This is definitely not what I thought my career would look like when I earned two degrees and a certificate in Music Performance at excellent institutions. I really believed that “the path” was winning an orchestra job. Well, it turns out I’m not the greatest auditioner and it’s a pretty brutal musical, emotional, and financial experience to put oneself through. As I started working in Los Angeles, I had my eyes open to the much wider scope of possibilities for myself. I also began composing and formed an experimental duo SpacePants. As I have gone down the rabbit hole of the “strange” I’ve realized how fun and inspiring it is to express myself in ways that were considered outside of the box in music school. I was even described as making my viola sound like it had laryngitis one time in a review and I’m proud of that! As I’ve put more time and enthusiasm to experimental music I have also begun to feel like I’ve carved out a space for myself. This year I received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for Ted Hearne’s Place. A highlight I hadn’t imagined was in the cards for myself. With my duo SpacePants, we recently recorded an entire album in an empty water tank in western Colorado that is comprised mostly of original music co-written by the two of us. This is all to say, I’ve learned I wasn’t dreaming big enough when I was 18, or 22. My creatived life continues to delight me because I try to say “yes, and” to people I trust and admire. It certainly wasn’t a straight trajectory from schooling to this career, I have been dealt quite a bit of intense rejection and flat-out poor treatment over the years and figuring out how to keep moving has been an on-going learning experience. I think it’s important to continue to destigmatize therapy and taking care of one’s mental health. I would not be the musician and artist I am today without the incredible resource that is my therapist! From learning to trust myself more and how to develop the skills of setting boundaries, I cannot tell the story of my career without including her. When I have the chance to speak with college-aged musicians and composers, I try to find a time to encourage them to try out therapy while it might be free for them at school. So I will say here what I always try to tell students: You don’t need to be “in crisis” to go to therapy, just being curious about it can be a good reason to try it out! Of course, I also recognize the huge privelege I have in being able to afford therapy, and I try to give to organizations that provide free and discounted therapy for underserved populations. This dedication to self-reflection and exploration has led my duo SpacePants to find a particular topic we like to talk about: enthusiasm. We have written an essay “Enthusiasm is Space Fuel” for the Seers’ Catalogue and given talks on the importance of enthusiasm as a guiding principal in our work. We are even in the very early stages of planning an Ethusiasm Summit to gather artists and audiences across different disciplines to talk about how they utilize and cultivate ethusiasm. We’ve learned that enthusiasm is inclusive, enthusiasm makes space, and maybe most importantly, enthusiasm is contagious. It’s hard to fully describe what SpacePants is: I am a classically trained violist, my duo partner Jennifer Beattie is a classically trained opera singer, we also make sounds on a 25 foot long drainage tube, we improvise, we lead singalongs, and we have had a tin foil hat making station at one of our shows. I would have been terrified to do a lot of what I do with SpacePants a few years ago and it’s become the long term project I am most proud of,
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I really miss going out in Los Angeles! Some of my essential activities might be: Visiting the Getty Villa, hitting the beach at Annenberg Beach house, if the person is into movies the WB studio tour, screening at the Egyptian or Chinese theater, concert at Disney Hall, maybe a show at the echoplex, visiting the gardens at the Huntington, visit a few of my favorite record stores like Amoeba and Record Surplus, if there’s time getting in a walk up to the Griffith Park Observatory is fun (and in my neighborhood) Restaraunts that I adore: Genwa (great for korean bbq newbs a lovers alike), Carousel, nothing like drinking margs under the tree and Casita del Campo, must have the garlic knot at Milo and Olive, and one of my favorite restaraunts to splurge at would have to be Rosaline, I am obsessed with Ricardo Zarate’s food. Don’t worry, tacos would also be involved, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers by leaving any of my favorite trucks out, so let’s just say a taco crawl is a must-do. My all time favorite happy hour, and all-around bar is The Thirsty Crow, but other good hangs at Sunset Beer Co, Hermosillo, HMS Bounty. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if people hadn’t given me some pretty incredible opportunities. In particular, I am thankful for the support of Tim Loo, Synchromy, and Tuesdays at Monk Space.
Other: www.spacepantsmusic.com @spacepantsmusic – instagram and twitter
Adam Borecki, Karajaka, Jayme Halbritter