Artemis Visits Oberlin, Leads Master Classes and Panels

Jazz supergroup provides valuable lessons in music, artistry, and mentorship by engaging with students and community members through a presentation, Q&A, master class, and career talk.

March 21, 2024

George Rogers

five women performing piano, bass, drums, trumpet, and sax on Finney stage
Artemis performs in Finney Chapel as part of the 2023-24 Artist Recital Series.
Photo credit: Jonathan Clark

All-star jazz collective Artemis served a two-day residency at Oberlin from March 12-13, adjacent to their appearance on the 2023-24 Artist Recital Series. The band—consisting of musical director and pianist Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Noriko Ueda, and drummer Allison Miller—was presented in a variety of educational and interactive events, well attended by Oberlin students and community members, all leading up to their culminating performance in Finney Chapel.

Kicking off their residency, the quintet’s first session with students was held at the intimate Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse—an anchor performing and teaching space for Oberlin’s Jazz Division. The band opened with innovative and complex renditions of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” and Wayne Shorter’s “United,” both arranged by Rosnes. Following the brief set, band members gave introductions before delving into a Q&A session, facilitated by the Oberlin Crimson Collective. The discussion was intimate and casual, addressing a range of relevant topics from maintaining trust on the bandstand to practicing self-care on the road and balancing activism with artistry.

The Crimson Collective’s opening question about conditions for feeling comfortable in professional environments eventually led Artemis into a thorough discussion about the importance of self-acceptance, musical risk-taking, and having your bandmates’ backs on and off the bandstand. 

“You know, there’s a real deep amount of work, and then the balance of enjoying being in this space with one another… it’s just trust,” said Jensen, who also led attendees through the breathing and stretching exercises she uses when practicing her instrument and decompressing while on tour. 

The trust, love, and camaraderie among members of Artemis are palpable. And, they care deeply for the tradition and the causes which their music represents. “For me, I always try to marry my activism with my music,” Miller said, “and this is one version of doing that—this group.”

jazz quintet with lead singer performing

Artemis continued their afternoon at the Cat in the Cream with an ensemble master class. Student-formed jazz groups performed and received feedback from the band members, all of whom are accomplished educators in addition to esteemed performers. Artemis's feedback touched on holistically learning jazz standards,

pianist and bassist perform

maintaining compelling stage presence, accompanying soloists symbiotically, and methods for improvising captivating solos.

As the saxophonist for the second of the two student groups, I can say firsthand how exciting and valuable an experience this was. After our group opened with Miles Davis’s “Little Willie

saxophonist leans into a solo

Leaps,” members of Artemis divided up and focused on their general areas of expertise. Their first priority was centered on facilitating interaction between drums and piano while accompanying soloists. Rosnes isolated our rhythm section and asked them to play several more choruses of the tune while focusing on catching each other's rhythmic interjections. Artemis’s frontline—Jensen and Glover—then shifted to our own frontline of saxophone and vocals. They provided valuable ideas for structuring a compelling solo, emphasizing melodic playing over lengthy and complex improvisation. Rosnes then set us loose to experiment with this feedback and give another complete performance of the piece. For me, this second run-through felt more deliberate, digestible, and engaging—both with my bandmates and the audience.

The next day, Artemis gave a career talk entitled, “What does it take to have a career in jazz?” Opening up the panel, Rosnes stressed the onus on students to utilize their undergraduate years by committing themselves to music, surrounding themselves with it, and studying it as thoroughly as possible. “I don’t think the goal should be to be a star in the music,” she claimed, “The goal should be that you become the best musician that you can be, and that you rise to your personal highest potential. The rest of that, in terms of your career, will take care of itself.” 

Rosnes then prompted Glover to describe her takeaways from moving to New York City from Portland. “There’s a presence that makes people aware of you,” she said, “and there’s a presence that makes people remember you.” Glover went on to further describe the equal importances of putting yourself out there and maintaining a positive reputation. “It’s one thing to get a call, it’s another thing to get the second call.” 

This segued perfectly into Miller’s story of meeting and joining the band of famed jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. She also recounted experiences with her own queerness in the jazz world: “I had two worlds of New York City: I had my queer life and my jazz life, and I was afraid to let those be the same.” She later acknowledged that “the bubble of improvisational music is becoming way more open-minded socially,” a long way from her Southern upbringing in Texas. 

Hailing from Japan, however, Ueda described her journey from growing up playing pop music to discovering jazz while watching the anime Lupin the Third. “It was a jazz version with vibraphone and walking bass,” she said, describing the movie, “and when I heard it, I was shocked by how cool the bassline was. I was interested and started listening to jazz.”

Jensen discussed what it was like growing up in a musical household, surrounded by the music of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, and more. Jensen remembers thinking to herself as a child, “Well, things aren’t going well in math or science or anything else, but this music thing, it just keeps coming back to me.” This love took her all over the world, from Boston to Copenhagen, and eventually New York City.

After hearing from each band member, the panel opened up for questions from the audience. Jazz Composition and Cinema Studies double-degree fifth-year student Jace Mason is considering pursuing his interests in jazz and film separately and questions finding a way to integrate them. Artemis members encouraged the combining of these fields, leading Miller and Glover to recount previous multimedia works they were part of and the plethora of ways that different mediums can positively influence each other. Ezra Rudel ‘23 is interested in finding mentorship, to which Glover responded by stressing the importance of always having a mentor, especially after graduating from college. Fourth-year jazz vibraphonist Kelsi Bolden thinks about hunkering down after graduation before making a big move to enter a music scene. Artemis unanimously agreed that isolating after school can be a great opportunity to gather mental strength and further artistic skills before applying them in professional environments.

With decades of musical and professional experience between them, Artemis’s series of events leading up to their culminating performance in Finney Chapel provided countless invaluable lessons to all who attended. Artemis undoubtedly left a positive and indelible impact on Oberlin’s jazz community and the school’s music scene.

Artemis takes a bow after their performance in Finney
Artemis takes a final bow after their March 13 performance in Finney Chapel. Photo: Jonathan Clark

George Rogers is a second-year saxophonist and is a student communications assistant for the Conservatory Communications Office.

Two student ensembles receive feedback after their master class performances for their peers and Artemis at the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse. The five members of the ensemble engage in discussion with students during the panel in the Birenbaum.

Photo credit: Jonathan Clark (master class), Abe Frato (panel discussion)

You may also like…

Keeping Creation Collaborative with Silkroad

April 10, 2024

Percussionist Haruka Fujii and friends elevate women composers and their cultural influences on the Silkroad Ensemble’s “Uplifted Voices” program, coming to Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series.
six artists, female and non-binary, onstage playing various instruments