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Eighth Blackbird
GenresNew music / contemporary classical
Years active1996–present
LabelsCedille Records
  • Lina Andonovska
  • Ashley Bathgate
  • Maiani da Silva
  • Matthew Duvall
  • Zachary Good
  • Lisa Kaplan
Past members
  • Molly Barth
  • Matt Albert
  • Nathalie Joachim
  • Yvonne Lam
  • Nicholas Photinos
  • Tim Munro

Eighth Blackbird (stylized as eighth blackbird until April 2016) is an American contemporary music sextet that is based in Chicago, Illinois, United States and composed of flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello (Pierrot ensemble with percussion). Their name derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.[1]


Eighth Blackbird was originally formed at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, while the members were participating in the school's Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Tim Weiss.[2] Weiss is consistently credited by ensemble members as helping to form the ensemble and with encouraging them to memorize and choreograph their shows.[3][4] In 1996, the ensemble won the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, a prestigious award given every year to the United States' best chamber ensembles.[5] Two years later, while the members were studying together at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, success at the Concert Artists Guild competition led to the ensemble's first management contract.[6] Since then, the ensemble has gone on to win many prizes and has routinely been hailed by leading critics as forging a pathway for classical music in the twenty-first century.[7][8][9]

The members of Eighth Blackbird hold degrees in music performance from the United States' leading music schools, including Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School, Northwestern University, and the Curtis Institute of Music. Current players in the group include Yvonne Lam, violin/viola; Nicholas Photinos, cello; Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael Maccaferri, clarinets; Lisa Kaplan, piano; and Matthew Duvall, percussion. Four of the group's six members are founding members; Joachim replaced flautist Tim Munro in 2015, who replaced the ensemble's original flautist, Molly Barth, in 2006, and Lam replaced violinist and violist Matt Albert in 2011.

In 2019, Joachim's album Fanm d'Ayiti was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.[10]


From 2012 to 2015, the group served as ensemble-in-residence at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Additionally, the group has led short-term residencies at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance (where it was the Barr Institute Ensemble Laureate), Colburn School, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, Southern Methodist University, Rice University, and the Interlochen Arts Academy. In 2015 the group engaged as Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, rehearsing and conducting daily business on the third floor galleries.[11]

An ongoing relationship with Chicago's Cedille Records has produced six recordings, all of which have garnered critical acclaim. Three of these recordings have won Grammy awards: 2006's strange imaginary animals won two 2008 Grammy Awards, including the award for Best Chamber Music Performance.[12] Lonely Motel: Music from Slide won in 2009 and features excerpts from the music and theater work Slide, a collaboration between Eighth Blackbird, composer Steve Mackey, and singer, actor, and librettist Rinde Eckert.[13] Meanwhile, an album featuring Stephen Hartke's piece of the same name, won a Grammy in 2011.

Since its founding in 1996, Eighth Blackbird has been active in commissioning new works from composers such as Steve Reich, David Lang, George Perle, Frederic Rzewski, Joseph Schwantner, Paul Moravec, and Stephen Hartke, as well as works from Jennifer Higdon, Derek Bermel, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, David Little, Daniel Kellogg, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and the Minimum Security Composers Collective. The group received the first BMI/Boudleaux-Bryant Fund Commission and the 2007 American Music Center Trailblazer Award and has received grants from BMI, Meet the Composer, the Greenwall Foundation, and Chamber Music America.

In June 2009, Eighth Blackbird served as Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival in Southern California. In February 2011, Eighth Blackbird curated the Tune-In Music Festival at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. The group devised a program which centered around Igor Stravinsky's controversial statement that music was, "essentially powerless to express anything at all," and culminated in the indoor premier of John Luther Adams' monumental percussion work Inuksuit.[14] In 2012, the group also developed the Metropolis New Music Festival in Melbourne, Australia, which featured Steve Reich as its composer-in-residence. Demonstrating its flair for combining musical and theatrical elements in its performances, Eighth Blackbird has also created an original cabaret-opera style staging of Arnold Schoenberg's seminal work Pierrot Lunaire, which the group performs entirely from memory and a fully staged, evening-length work by Amy Beth Kirsten entitled Colombine’s Paradise Theatre. [15]


''Round Nut Tool''

''Thirteen Ways''



''strange imaginary animals''

''Double Sextet • 2x5''

''On a Wire''

''Lonely Motel''



''Hand Eye'' (collaboration with the "Sleeping Giant" composer collective)

''Olagón: A Cantata in Doublespeak'' (collaboration with vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird of the Irish supergroup The Gloaming, Princeton-based composer-fiddler Dan Trueman, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon)

''Singing in the Dead of Night''


  1. ^ "Ensemble - Eighth Blackbird". Eighth Blackbird. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  2. ^ Chipman, Michael (1998). "Eighth Blackbird to Appear on CBS Sunday Morning and Make NYC Debut". Oberlin Online. Archived from the original on 2015-12-21. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  3. ^ Hautzinger, Daniel (October 4, 2013). "On the Record: Eighth Blackbird Pianist Lisa Kaplan, OC '96". The Oberlin Review. Archived from the original on October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  4. ^ Dunn, Arlene & Larry (November 23, 2013). "5 Questions for Tim Weiss". I Care if You Listen. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  5. ^ "Fischoff list of previous winners". Archived from the original on 2015-09-26. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
  6. ^ "Concert Artists Guild Website". Concert Artist Guild. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  7. ^ Caudell, Robin (February 28, 2002). "Eighth Blackbird: more than a wing and a prayer". Press-Rebulican Archive. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  8. ^ Midgette, Anne (October 14, 2009). "Classical Musicians Are Experimenting With New Venues and New Music". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 2, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  9. ^ Sandow, Greg (April 19, 2008). "A Larger Audience?". Sandow: Greg Sandow on the future of classical music. Arts Journal. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  10. ^ Yglesias, Ana Monroy (2020-01-16). "Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Nathalie Joach". Archived from the original on 2021-01-15. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  11. ^ von Rhein, John (October 20, 2015). "Chicago's dynamic Eighth Blackbird is MCA's new living art installation". Archived from the original on November 16, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  12. ^ "Strange Imaginary Animals | Classical Music". Cedille Records. 2014-10-29. Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  13. ^ "Lonely Motel | Classical Music". Cedille Records. 2014-10-29. Archived from the original on 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  14. ^ "Tune-in Music Festival : Program & Events : Park Avenue Armory". Archived from the original on 2015-11-02. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  15. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (2014-09-19). "Eighth Blackbird Performs 'Colombine's Paradise Theater'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2015-11-20. Retrieved 2015-11-16.