The Nu Deco Ensemble, billed as a Miami-based 21st century chamber orchestra, was launched with the twin ideals of innovation and collaboration. The group, which performs for the first time Saturday at the Miami Light Project’s The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood, was co-founded by two young classical musicians looking for new ways to foster the music they love.
Artistic director Sam Hyken is an arranger, composer, producer and musician, who is on the faculty of the University of Miami Frost School of Music and is also composer-in-residence and principal trumpet for the New World Symphony. He co-founded Nu Deco with Jacomo Bairos, a conductor and musical director for the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra in Texas.
The pair met 11 years ago auditioning for the Singapore Symphony.
“We knew from that moment that we were kindred spirits,” Hyken recalls. “From the beginning [we were] interested in pushing ourselves in interesting and challenging ways.”
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Hyken landed in Miami on a fellowship to work with the New World Symphony, while Bairos, originally from Homestead, wanted to fulfill his musical dream in his hometown.
Hyken says they began asking each other questions such as, “What does symphonic music look like in the future? What will a modern orchestra look like? Where is classical music going? Can a classically trained group influence the popular music world? We wanted to change the world through music.”
Nu Deco will be a collective of 20 to 30 local musicians, drawn from New World Symphony Fellows, University of Miami professors and freelance musicians who play with the Florida Grand Opera and Miami City Ballet.
The two co-founders were inspired by ensembles in other cities who are seeking solutions to the challenges facing large orchestras.
“It’s very difficult to sustain an 80-person ensemble these days,” Hyken says. “This is taking off in other cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — the idea of small, dynamic, flexible orchestral collectives that are much more sustainable.”
Nu Deco hopes to join this new wave of contemporary chamber ensembles with an orchestra that is both “virtuosic and eclectic.”
“We want to work with not just composers but dancers, visual and media artists, DJs and filmmakers, blending classically trained musicianship with a wide ranging repertoire,” Hyken says.
The first half of the group’s Saturday debut concert will feature music by some of America’s top young composers, including Adam Schoenberg, Chris Rogerson, Paul Dooley and Andy Akiho. All but Akiho’s piece will be chamber orchestra premieres.
The second half focuses on a fusion with pop styles in a bid to attract younger audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily attend a chamber ensemble concert. It features a performance by Miami electronic duo Afrobeta, a popular fixture on the local club scene.
“I’ve taken their music and scored it for chamber orchestra, so we’re doing this unplugged acoustic version of their music. It’s a reimagining,” Hyken says. They’ll close the concert with Daft Punk Suite, Hyken’s acoustic arrangement of music by the French electro-pop-dance duo.
Miami Light Project executive director Beth Boone was key to the launch of Nu Deco, Hyken says. The group’s name is now on the side of Miami Light’s Wynwood building, where the ensemble will be an artist-in-residence.
“Beth has been an amazing mentor to us,” he says. “We went to her with just an idea and a mission statement and she really guided us. … She opened up her space to us and wanted to partner with us right off the bat.”
But Hyken hopes that his ensemble, which has received a $75,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant, will take its innovations beyond Wynwood.
“What we want is for Nu Deco Ensemble to represent Miami on the world stage,” he says.
ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of South Florida dance and performing arts coverage.