Zeitgeist is pleased to welcome pianist Julie Sweet to the stage with them this season, starting with the New Music Harvest concerts next weekend. Julie will be stepping in for the 2013-14 season as Shannon Wettstein takes a leave of absence. Here's an interview with Julie so you can get to know her and say hello at the next Zeitgeist concert!

Tell us about your musical background before joining Zeitgeist.

I started with piano lessons at age 7 (I remember watching my dad, in total awe, playing the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis), participated in competitions, played for a female group called Hot Potatoes and church services. During my academic years and years after, I participated in a variety of musical projects, including solo and duo-piano recitals (presenting works by composers such as Debussy, Prokofiev, Barber, Ravel, Schönberg, Poulenc, Ewazen, and Jeffrey Brooks), tons of theater productions and vocal/instrumental recitals. After I moved to Minneapolis I slowly but surely connected with musicians to form a New Music ensemble; I'm currently keyboard specialist and coordinator of Skeleton Crew.

What interests you about new music? How did you become drawn to it?

My passion for new music transpired when I first heard Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 at the age of 13 on the radio (meanwhile my oldest sister was blasting Guns ‘n’ Roses in her bedroom). During my teens to early 20s, I surrounded myself with sounds of independent film scores, albums by Sonic Youth, Portishead, Crass, Bauhaus, Butthole Surfers, Miles Davis (especially Bitches Brew), Poster Children, many local bands of Mankato, MN and so much more. Then I curiously purchased a book called Avant-Garde since 1945. The book contained descriptions of the evolution of music since the mid-40s. I could not help myself but investigate further. My interest was rapidly evolving, so I took on a contemporary music course for a couple semesters. It was the state of my mind, being open and listening to what was really going on that drew me in. Texture, tone color, dynamics, rhythm, communication between instruments/voices, exploitation of noise, piano having no boundaries. The icing of the cake was meeting Minneapolis composer/mentor Jeffrey Brooks at a master class. we had a knack for connecting musically, and my artistic sense exploded learning about Bang on a Can, the Yale scene, and conceptual art. It was then I fully understood my role as a musician and composer.

What has it been like working with Zeitgeist so far?

Working with Zeitgeist has been an enriching experience! I am so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with them. I really dig their dedication and enthusiasm and not to mention, the music. It’s equivalent to shoving fresh cut spinach down your throat... so nutritional. Always excited for the next rehearsal!

What do you think are going to be the highlights of this season?

Buckle up! The entire season will be a joyride for all involved, including the room next to Studio Z. Not to mention, come 2014, we will be presenting works by eminent composer, George Crumb.

Julie Sweet received her bachelor and master's degrees in Piano Performance at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Toy Wilson Blethen Fine Arts Award and Stein Music Scholarship. In addition, Julie studied composition and developed close ties with guest artist/composer Jeffrey Brooks from Minneapolis. Since 1998, she has been an educating enthusiast. Julie's versatility and insatiable passion allows students to take on pieces from any musical genre, bringing a sense of adventure and enjoyment to all their lessons.

Aside from teaching, she performs frequently as a new music soloist and chamber artist in the Twin Cities. Currently, Julie is coordinator and keyboard specialist for mixed chamber ensemble Skeleton Crew and recently joined forces with widely acclaimed new music ensemble Zeitgeist for their 2013-14 season. She continues to charm vocal and instrumental studios with her accompanying skills at various institutes. Julie also has composed numerous solo and small ensemble works for instruments such as toy piano, CP80 electro-acoustic grand piano, synthesizer, amplified cello/double bass and electric guitar.

Julie Sweet