We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Elizabeth Baba and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren Elizabeth, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“To be free to create without fear.” & “Uncomfortability creates awareness.” — these are my most powerful mantras. I use them constantly as a reminder in situations out of my control and when I feel overwhelmed or stuck or confused or lost. It centers my focus back to embracing the inevitable unknown and creativity in unassuming openness; and back to the music.
Unplanned or unwanted uncomfortable situations sadly happen throughout our life and they take healing, patience, and compassion to blossom forth from; which only time can provide. But with every uncomfortable situation big or small, I’ve found that a persistent drive for peace and openness around the unknown creates a deep awareness in your life and others.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice as to when uncomfortability occurs — but every other moment in your life is an opportunity to choose to create your own space of positive uncomfortability. Unknowingly, I’ve explored this throughout my life and it always relates back to music, and through that, back to life and being. When composing and practicing, it’s about making boundaries to purposefully follow or intentionally break and questioning concepts like, “what does it mean to understand 2 simultaneous notes as being 1 simultaneous note?” or “what does it sound like to play the color blue” or “what does composing 2 perceptions of time sound like?” In existence, it’s taking solo camping trips or sitting in silence at the top of a mountain or taking a dance class you’ve never heard of.
Facing fears is inevitable, so creating a space for compassionate exposure has always brought me peace, and composing for big band is a form of solace and a safe place for me to exist with the unknown. You hear notes differently, you think differently, you feel and breathe differently — and then you’re being in a new form of awareness. These experiences expand exponentially throughout your life if you become open to them.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a violinist and violist trained in classical and jazz; specializing in creative improvisation as well as folk, pop, electric, and new music. I am a professional musician in the LA industry — I freelance as a performer, as well as a composer and arranger. Composing, specifically for my big band, theBABAorchestra, is one of my greatest musical joys and a form of solace or safe place for me to exist and explore with the unknown.
My latest big band album release for theBABAorchestra is entitled, Marigold — a commission from the Los Angeles Jazz Society for their New Note Series, which premiered at the 2018 Angel City Jazz Festival at The Ford Theatre.
Marigold is 45-minute through-composed suite and consists of 4 movements, and was conceived as a loop — no beginning or end — and extension of what has come before and what will be. This piece explores through-composition + improvisation and continues my search to conceptualize time + music + existence and how our perception impacts our reality — understanding that the past, present, and future are simultaneous experiences. Being is a never ending line — which to me, at this moment, is expressed as a loop — and in the time spent composing Marigold, I found peace in knowing there is a continuous flow of creativity, understanding, equality, and limitless boundaries present for us each moment — encouraging us to be free to create without fear.
Difficulties and challenges will never disappear, just as love and beauty will never disappear; and If we are able to, we should strive to express for those who can’t; to find a place that encourages others to be free to create without fear.
My newest endeavor is a brand new LA music series I’m curating called “Big Band Nights” — it is a space for big band leaders to perform + workshop music + ideas. “Big Band Night” is a monthly series featuring different big bands at different venues throughout LA — hosted by my big band, theBABAorchestra. The 2nd show of this series will be held at The Mint on Monday, January 17th — I’m very excited about building a stronger big band community, and for anyone interested in experiencing big bands performing live throughout LA.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Drive to the Angeles National Forest and have a silent afternoon lunch or backpack through the wilderness; or head west and camp by the ocean. My neighborhood in Little Armenia/Thai Town has a bunch of amazing food. Some of my favorite music spots are Mr. Musichead Gallery, Sam First, Baked Potato, Zebulon, ETA, Arts 2220, Vitellos.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to Saddleback Community College and California Institute of the Arts [CalArts]. The teachers, faculty and programs at both colleges provided exceptional educational guidance and unequivocal support in my musical exploration.
Saddleback Community College introduced me to classical violin repertoire studies, jazz studies, improvisation, composition, arranging — and it’s where I discovered my love of writing for big band. Not only was I deeply supported in the classical and jazz music programs but also full-time in the dance program.
CalArts offered to create a specially made program for me as a Jazz Performance student, as there was no violin/viola jazz degree or resident student big band. I was given the space to follow my dream of having my own big band a reality; forming my 17-piece experimental big band, theBABAorchestra, as composer, conductor, and bandleader.
The education, musical opportunities, master classes, guest artist performances, and community received from the teachers and faculty at both colleges is something I’ll be forever grateful for!
Mehdi Hassine Angel City Jazz Festival