Artist Spotlight: Jackie Traish, piccolo player on Opus One.
Jackie is a musician, educator, and collaborator living in NYC, and she is so much more than the piccolo. She is currently pursuing her dream through a variety of musical endeavors that involve her love of teaching, her passion for singing and musical theater, and her goal of implementing body positivity in the classical music world.
I met her almost 3 years ago when we both arrived in New York for grad school. We have a mutual friend who introduced us through facebook, and we bonded over flute duets and the fact that we’re both from the southeast. I have yet to meet a kinder, more versatile, and more professional person. To know Jackie is a joy. She’s punctual too. We met exactly on time at Bar 6 for brunch, a great place around the corner from Mannes that gives 10% off to students and faculty.
Find Jackie at www.jackietraish.com IG: @jackie_traish
Find her Musical Theater work on IG: @13thandbroadway
Samantha Marshall: What made you a musician?
Jackie Traish: I don’t really know what made me a musician, but I remember when I picked the flute very vividly. In North Carolina they don’t start teaching music until 6th grade. So what always happens is the 5th graders go to the auditorium and they have someone come in and demonstrate every instrument. Immediately I heard all the different things and I was already so intrigued by music because we were doing chorus and playing recorders which you do in elementary school. And I knew I loved music but I didn’t realize I wanted to play an instrument until hearing the flute. What’s funny about that is I remember hearing the flute and thinking “that’s it” because my Dad watched these- well I call them Arab Telenovelas, which are like Arabic soap operas, and all the music in the background is either folk music or current popular music, and there’s a lot of flute in those shows.
For the longest time I never really wanted to stand out as a person. I was always the kid that did what I needed to do, I followed the rules, I just wanted to be a good student. So I never tried to get the solo or be the instrument you can hear over everything. And what was funny is when we got to 6th grade and we were putting the instruments together, (so it was like we were all in a woodwind class) and I realized that was the instrument you have to hold up to the side of your face, and I questioned ALL my choices. Cause I remember putting it together, (you’re recording this so you can’t see me now) putting on the foot joint, putting on the head joint and then trying to hold it like a clarinet because I was convinced that that’s how all instruments were held.
SM: Would you say having picked the flute, now you’re more likely to request the solos and be in the spotlight?
My dad is an immigrant, and he would say “you’re so smart, you should become a doctor.” Because that’s what smart people do, they become doctors. So I remember in 9th grade was the first time I realized I love [music] more than anything.
JT: I was good at it. It was one thing to be good at math. It was one thing to be good at English. But it was an entirely different thing to be good at a skill. I thought “I think I’m ok at this.” I wanted to have the opportunity to solo more and play things in the band, and it kept growing throughout high school.
My dad is from the Middle East and my mom was a nurse. She always wanted to be a nurse, she became a nurse, and that was that, but for her it was like “do what you love.” My dad is an immigrant, and he would say “you’re so smart, you should become a doctor.” Because that’s what smart people do, they become doctors. So I remember in 9th grade was the first time I realized I love [music] more than anything.
...I thought ‘I can run with the boys, I can do this.’
SM: Any particular past projects that you’re really proud of or that stand out to you?
JT: A project that was really important to me that was really successful last year was our musical theater group. I had been at Mannes for almost a year, and I knew 5 people who just love musical theater.
Josh had the scores. I met up with him, Zach, Jeremiah and Diana and we just read through things. I got roster together, pretty much by just asking “what do you think about joining us, super chill?” Funding was through University Student Service.
...If you have reliable people, they will show up. But you don’t know if they’re reliable until the first rehearsal.
Cabaret Sondheim. Mannes came and supported, took photos for Mannes promos, gave us a locker.
(Official name: 13th & Broadway)
SM: How did you get involved with NewOrch?
JT: Well, I was teaching last summer at PLAY Music up in Bethel, NY (with Bethel Woods Center for the Arts) as a teaching artist, and I got a Facebook invite…and I was like ‘Sure!’ Some of the other teaching artists were also Mannes students and were like ‘what’s this?’ And I said ‘I don’t know. Looks cool.’
Cut to- I get back to the city and back to school. I was meeting with Louis and Chanmi and Tylor for a different project proposal…Louis said ‘you should keep the dates blocked off, who do you want to play with?’ And he called me and-
SM: And you said yes without even knowing the piece, right?
JT: It was one of those things where I hung up the phone and said ‘what did I just do?’ Yea, because I was very sold on this concept of making music- I’ve always thought of the different barriers between generations and worlds with watching music. As musicians, we want to keep
to the things we know and love which is classical music and these incredible works that excite us. And unfortunately we live in this world of immediate satisfaction where I can listen to these amazing classical works on my iPod on the train, I don’t need to come to your concert. And it’s one of those things, there’s got to be a way to bridge that gap.
It sounded way better than I expected! I’d heard it’s large and they do circuses. And that’s all I knew about the Muse
SM: How did you like the venue?
JT: It sounded way better than I expected! I’d heard it’s large and they do circuses. And that’s all I knew about the Muse. And we got there and I thought ‘this is actually very cool, it’s got all this space for an audience, it’s got this outside area which I love. And the bonus part was when we played, it sounded good. I was shocked!.
SM: How did you like the piece?
JT: You can’t go wrong with Tchaik 5. It was the most massive was to open a program. The members of the ensemble were very good, and it seemed like a lot of us have played Tchaik 5 before which really helped a lot.
SM: Tell me about some future projects for you.
Right now I’m trying to apply for teaching artistry positions. I’ve always enjoyed teaching but when I came here for my masters I kind of had to put teaching aside for my schoolwork and performance obligations.
MT (Musical Theater) Ensemble is going really strong. We have plans that we are developing for the spring that involve more concerts and collaborations with other schools.
Recently over the last couple months I’ve written 2 songs. It’s interesting, I’m trying to share them with a couple people to see how they like them.
One of my friends is a plus sized activist who puts on cabarets around the city. It’s based on a musical she is writing about being a plus sized artist in the city. It’s called Curves of a Journey.
I’m leaning into including body positivity in a teaching program for kids through college students in the arts. Your body is talked about in terms of function as a musician but never in emotion as a musician.
I’ve done a lot of work on my own in terms of body positivity in the last two years and I think it’s something we need to talk about as musicians, not just in terms of acting where you find your body type and work with it.
JT: It’s one of those things where you just feel honored that the city has accepted you. The city is not nice to you when you first move here. She has to whip you into shape.
SM: How do you like living in New York?
JT: It’s one of those things where you just feel honored that the city has accepted you. The city is not nice to you when you first move here. She has to whip you into shape. But I feel like I’m meant to be here and I love it. The opportunities and the things I love doing are here for me. I love New York. It’s one of the few places in the world where no one cares what you look like or think like, just you do you. Because there’s too many of us to care. So if it means you have to wear no shirt and cheetah pants and strut your stuff on union square, you do you babe.
Growing up in the south I went to school, I fit in, it was fine. There people accept you despite your story, here they accept you because of your story.
SM: Anything else?
JT: There’s one thing I have to remind myself a lot of the time (that I feel like is not talked about enough). Your version of success is never going to be someone else's version of success.
We’re often taught as classical musicians “if I’m not doing ‘fill-in-the-blank’ then I’m not successful.” To be successful should be whatever you think success is. Whether it takes 3 or 4 or 10 years to make, that’s success. Truly, even if you wake up and it’s the hardest thing in the world, it’s success. We forget sometimes to revolve around ‘what makes me joyful?’
www.jackietraish.com IG: @jackie_traish FB: https://www.facebook.com/jackie.traish Interview by: Samantha Marshall. Musician, Artist, Teacher. www.sammarshallarts.com
IG: @sammarshallflute Twitter: @samanthaflut359