When No One Shows Up

When No One Shows Up

There is always something risky about performing live. Whether it is dealing with the adrenaline (as your brain goes into fight or flight mode), heightened pressure or expectation (your worth is often assessed on how perfect or flawless your performance was), or even ensuring that your best is always being presented (being special and unique is how you get hired…or fired)…it’s a tough gig.

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2018-2019, here we come!


Each summer seems to fly by faster and faster, and this summer was no different. Even though Bow & Hammer’s event calendar takes a breather, it is by no means a pause for our planning. So much debriefing, problem solving and plan making happens in the sunny months, and now, here we are ready to share it with you!

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First and foremost, the music. What are we playing this year? Gear up for a bunch o’ Brahms, ring o’ Ravel, and mess o’ Mozart. All right, enough o’ the o’s. But also, keep your eyes peeled for Beethoven, Bartok, Debussy and Prokofiev. Got it? *paws tingling* Here are some of the ways you’ll get to hear it all.



IndustryNight (year FIVE) will light our torch on October 9, and we’re really thrilled to be featuring Cellar Door Provisions in this familial affair (insert *heart emoji*). True to form, IndustryNight is staying on Tuesdays, ready for your vibes and votes.



Élevé still lives at Ovation Chicago with our cohorts from Rhine Hall, and is turning over its pop-up leaves for year three, so each date will be a surprise! The first will be Wednesday, November 7, and we’ll be welcoming multimedia artist Sean Archer (remember the guy who made us into Kick-A$$ cartoon heroes?) to create a visual realization of Prokofiev Sonata No 2. LIVE.


Welcoming a NEW SERIES to our Bow & Ham fam, we’re kicking off Chamber Sundays at The Promontory, following a successful pilot mini-series in the spring. Beginning October 14, you’ll find us there every Second Sunday for a 60-min daytime program. We love to go early, brunch it up, and then play a show...and maybe top off with a celebratory cocktail.

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So, that’s us in a nutshell for the next couple months! We can’t wait to see you.

My Homage to Lazar

This past spring I had the distinct honor to celebrate Ludmila Lazar's 50th year of teaching at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA). She was my professor during my master's degree at CCPA, and has continued to be a mentor and coach for Bow & Hammer. The history of Dr. Lazar's tenure highlights not only the legacy of Rudolph Ganz but the rich tradition that has existed at CCPA. 

Dr. Lazar as a student with Rudolph Ganz

Dr. Lazar as a student with Rudolph Ganz

Just to give you a little background: Dr. Lazar first came to Chicago to study at CCPA as a young woman from Slovenia. Her time as a student under Ganz shaped so much of her work and led her down many roads of musical discovery. Dr. Lazar's musical knowledge is one that is extremely vast while yet being extremely personal. Her Slovenian heritage remains an incredible compass in navigating different customs and languages. She describes Slovenia as a crossroads of many cultures, and attributes her life there with giving her a sense of discovery and also the ability to recognize the dance and song within many musical languages. She is especially celebrated for her performances and lectures of the music by Béla Bartók. 

While I know she has touched and truly changed the life of many, I'd like to (as poetically as I am able) share my experience of studying with her.

If there’s one thing that can be difficult to navigate as a student (or a teacher) in the arts, it’s the balance of cultivating self intuition and expression while learning techniques, styles, and forms. While that may not sound like a tricky balance, often in the pursuit of learning proper technique and style, students can straight-jacket themselves into regurgitating examples from their teacher or become solely concerned with getting a passage ‘correct’. While at the same time, students who forge ahead on personal feeling that is uninformed, can produce playing (or art) that lacks sophistication and maturity because they are not informed of historical context, fail to recognize references from the composer, and/or understand concepts that would make the work clearer and more palpable to the listener. 

A lesson with Dr. Lazar addresses these two paradigms effortlessly. I remember working on the “Les Adieux” Sonata by Beethoven, and we spent the entire hour on the first 3 lines. The dotted rhythms in the introduction were not high on my priority list, and it became clear to her that it wasn’t a lack of rhythmic coordination on my part but furthermore that I wasn’t sensitive to what Beethoven was referencing with these distinct dotted rhythms. She asks, “Come on, Elizabeth, where have you heard these rhythms??” I shrug my shoulders. She exclaims, “Baroque French Overture!” I nodded, even though this perplexed me. Afterwards, I scurried home to listen to several recordings. 

This would be the first of many stories where context would illuminate notation, helping me to see the stories and narratives the composer was saying through each work. This isn’t to say it discouraged me from creating my own narratives, but it helped me to recognize the concrete ideas already put in place, their historical references, and the possibility of connecting ideas to other contextual suggestions. The ability of the performer to relate a work to the surrounding world, personal situations, and for a larger global context is vitally important, maybe now more than ever. And this ability (for me at least) undoubtedly relies on a creative balance between specific and ambiguous contexts. 

One last note about Dr. Lazar: She jokes about her 'dinosaur-ish' nature (refusing to email, not tech savvy). I find this quality about her extremely refreshing. As an American, I recognize my country's struggle with managing a talent for innovation and discovery while also maintaining and enlisting a deep and diverse knowledge of past and cultural traditions. These are often acknowledged as opposing ideas. Yet, her presentation of these two worlds is incredibly unique and genuine. To truly understand the past, to recognize the roots of our present abilities and actions with the achievements and failures of previous generations, can never be complete without acknowledging their risks, acceptance of new ideas, and ability to integrate the new with the old.

I'm so thankful to know her. I hope to be that person for others in the future. Thank you, Dr. Lazar, for all that you do and for all that you've done. 


Dr. Lazar with Elizabeth

Dr. Lazar with Elizabeth

Deconstructing Weather and Hot dogs


Though the past couple winters have been mild, the supreme reign of Seasonal Affective Disorder is real in Chicago. So much cold and grey, much like Narnia (“always winter, never Christmas [or insert whatever festive joyous occasion you’d like]”), but not even as beautiful, often covered in black slush snow that has no power to stop the grind of Chicago productivity. We all become Michelin men and women in our full-length puffy coats just to spare us from hurtful air. Snow day? Forget it.


Anyway, of course there are harsher climates in the world. But that’s not the point of this story. There’s nothing more restorative than that first sunny day that smells like spring. Everyone goes a little nutty for it because nobody knew how depressed they felt until it melts away with the sunshine. Suddenly everything you hated about Chicago is touched by the weather Midas (who may be Tom Skilling in disguise), and you love it all over again.

Right now, there are so many happenings in the world that mirror the worst Chicago winters. So much grey it’s hard to see any beauty. So many situations bundled under layers and layers of emotions in an attempt to protect from extremely harsh realities swirling about, with no respite in sight.

Way to write an uplifting post, Kathryn.

Wait! It gets better, I promise.


So what I decided I’d share with you today are my Bow & Hammer rays of sunshine that brighten my day even on the worst of the days. Little (or big) things we do that have sustained me through our journey as a duo, and maybe could empower you, if you’re feeling down.

We take action.

Bow & Hammer gets sh*t done. Working together for 5 years and counting, there is no rock left unturned when it comes to making progress. Life as a violin/piano duo has presented so many challenges: less pooled resource, fewer available venue spaces (piano), fewer helping hands (4 total), fewer festival/competition opportunities (often duo playing is not considered chamber music), lack of support from the classical music industry (often not taken seriously as a young professional duo without any previous solo career fame, or being told professional duo careers aren’t possible), just to name a few. So we have made our own way, creating our own opportunities, concerts and series with the communities and individuals who have appreciated and supported us. And we could not be more grateful for the diverse network we have found in the process.

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We believe each other.

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Just as in any relationship, we have disagreements and grievances with each other. If an issue arises, we’ve actively developed the habit never to shut it down. Sometimes resolution is as simple as granting a request exactly how it’s asked. Sometimes it takes more discussion to find the effective resolution. If the issue feels outlandish, we assume a miscommunication has occurred and start by asking questions to verify. We trust that there would be no benefit to the organization or friendship of Bow & Hammer to falsely accusing the other of something.

Rather than hide uncomfortable situations, we support each other through them.

Music evokes many emotions, and it is quite common for our lives to mirror these emotions, or visa versa. That can be uncomfortable, and can need extra support. Sometimes it’s just as simple as an affirming smile, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. But the key is we face it. Together.


We have moved beyond the need for perfection.

Ok, let me clarify this. We are professional classical musicians. We spend hours upon hours (and have for the past 20+ years) elevating and refining our skill and technique. What I mean is, we use this as the base, not the pinnacle of our aspirations. Every performer knows there is practice involved to become polished and well-represented, and exorbitant amounts of elbow grease are necessary. But that’s not where we stop. We use these skills in tandem with investing our skills back into the world as relevant human beings.


We take action.

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This sounds shockingly like the first point I made. But we recognize that the only way we can hope to support change in the world is by starting closest to us: ourselves. The way we interact together and with our growing network, the way we create, and the way we invest in each other. Trusting that there are others out there like us. Bonding with them to create business relationships built on integrity. Proving it’s possible.

There’s a lot of darkness around this winter. We’re there in it with you, and feel so many emotions. Despite all these inevitable storms, if we can provide each other with rays of light, maybe we can find more warmth in the world to change the proverbial seasons. We don’t all need to be politicians, artists, doctors, or philosophers. We all need to be humans together in our own ways, listening to how we can support each other.

So, cheers to a punctual springtime.

And, cheers to a ketchup-less hot dog.



Throwback Tale of Gratitude


It’s 2010, I tell myself “You’re living the dream, how could you be so down?!”, and it’s true. In a beautiful small town of Italy, I wake up daily to stroll through cobbled streets, chat with locals, enjoy my fresh pastry with a marocchino, and then proceed to rehearse and make music with delightful colleagues. Weekly, we perform warmly received concerts somewhere within the breathtaking architecture of town. Seriously, the dream.

But I cannot shake this feeling of being so alone. It’s gotten so bad I can’t even enjoy this whimsical existence, let alone feel like a quality musician, which of course makes me feel all the more guilty. What is my problem?!


An altogether proactive person, I am determined to solve this issue: Sunrise jogs around the town’s borders, a perfectly picturesque omnimax experience of the horizon; practicing my repertoire harder, learning music faster and cleaner each day, conversing longer in Italian, tasting every new gelato flavor (avocado is amazing). Nothing works, but damnit, I’m going to enjoy this experience if it kills me.

Almost a month passes. I cannot believe how much I have accomplished: my Italian is finally different than my Spanish, my capacity to drink wine and eat gelato has grown admirably, I have watched every full length Michael Jackson music video projected nightly in town, and I have at least 5 performed works of repertoire freshly under my belt.

That’s how I feel.

My colleagues and I are concluding lunch with a daily trip to the gelateria, there’s happy chatter about this or that. I blurt out:

“Guys, I just realized it’s been three weeks since I got a hug.”

Um, yikes. Hello Awkward. As I blush from the suddenly unbearable heat, trying to reclaim my words out of the air, I can’t breathe.

Not a panic attack, my airflow was indeed constricted. But it’s because of the crushing bear hug that so rapidly enveloped me, snapping me out of this crazy funk and affirming all this work to make the dream. Someone heard me. Who knew. A hug.


Fast forward: 2017

Bow & Hammer is our dream now.

Consistently presenting shows that are that click for people in just the way they need. Collaborating with other artists and businesses as collective humans to provide more affirmations than exclusions between us.

But amongst the rush and hulaballoo of providing others with this human affirmation, we can often feel like I did in 2010, needing a hug ourselves. As a small organization, it’s almost embarrassing to admit how much each dollar counts. We put on a good face, truly love this dream, and work to the bone to make it happen, but we can’t do it alone.


Your financial support would be the biggest hug to us right now. Whether through Patreon, a one-time donation, buying a million tickets, telling all your friends to do the same, it all means we might actually make this dream last for a while. And hopefully all of us can benefit from that.

Living the arts career can feel like such a saga, every trek worthwhile for the dream. Thanks for your consideration to support us in this time critical to our growth and survival.

Much Love,


PS. Thank you to Elizabeth for that hug in 2010, and all the hugs since. I don’t know where I’d be without them.


Teamwork = Dreamwork

Last week we had our first Élevé of the season. Tickets sold, people purchased our newly available coffee roast, there were smiles all around! Yasmin’s work was stunning (as always), and Ovation and Rhine Hall were (again, as always) spot on for supporting a beautifully received evening. After finally decompressing for a day (amazing and rare to have a day off), I was able to reflect on everything this means and how it exemplifies us as a duo. The actual event is just the tip of the iceberg, and for Élevé to happen, we needed to navigate so many moving parts.

Rather than bore you with the details of everything we did (though I am a sucker for spreadsheets, agendas, and timelines, and am very proud of all of the meetings and documentation from Élevé), I am more impressed by the “how” of our functioning, and I think it’s a great snapshot of Bow & Hammer as a whole.


Elizabeth and I are admittedly a great team. This may seem a rudimentary comment, as we have been playing together for 5 years now, but each year we strengthen that statement. There are so many ways this statement applies (musically, professionally, personally), but I think it (sort of) boils down to a single fact: We’re really different.

There are so many benefits to having a partner-in-crime who is very different: We constantly refresh each other’s perspectives, curate diverse programs, tag team being supportive and leading, and are, overall, good at presenting well-rounded projects. It’s a constantly spinning top of productivity and progress. But what is really mind blowing to me is how we have learned to value our differences, and everything that comes from being different. One observer might notice that we don’t agree on most things during a meeting/rehearsal, that there is often a point or few of tension. Someone else might think that we don’t argue at all.


Both are true. There is rarely a topic of discussion without disagreement. But we don’t argue that much anymore. Trusting that we both want to communicate effectively as performers, we are able to value our disagreements as necessary for becoming more effective together, and reach more people.

It takes trust that neither of us would knowingly jeopardize the other out of mutual respect.

It takes patience and confidence to explain our side in times of conflict, without condescending or patronizing the other, and vulnerability in hearing about our blind-spots or weaknesses.


It takes the admittance that we make something really great as Bow & Hammer, and that we’re equal parts in that duo no matter how different we can be.

I’m not sure ours is the most popular interpersonal plan floating around these days, but it sure works for us, and I think it shows through everything B&H creates. Each time we put it to the test, whether it be for Élevé, Industry Night, Patreon, launching a non-profit, rehearsing, traveling, or getting lunch, I am increasingly grateful and reassured, and can’t imagine Bow & Hammer without it.

So, thanks to all who came! We’d love to see you November 7 for IndustryNight with Dearborn Denim. We need you guys, and hopefully provide you with something you need too.


Élevé: the Finale, Myths, and HAROLD GREEN

it's the finale...

We have quite a line up to end our first season of Élevé. This series has been an awesome platform for us to invite colleagues from several disciplines to collaborate with us for an evening of artistry, beautiful aesthetics, and one heck of a good time. 

For the finale, we'll be performing the MYTHES by K. Szymanowski. Arethusa, Narcissus, and the Nymphs and Pan are the mythical characters that inspired the 3 movements of the MYTHES. You'll for sure hear quite the soundscape that explores the stories, emotions, and trajectories of each mythical creature.

We're not stopping there. We are also adding another artist for this exploration of the MYTHES. Harold Green, the amazing spoken word artist, will be joining us and performing original work within our performance of the MYTHES. We're so excited to not only work with Mr. Green, but his incredible storytelling will completely take this experience beyond the original source by adding elements of modern word, experience, and culture. 

Harold Green III

Harold Green III

Tickets are available for Élevé via Brown Paper Tickets. Tickets include admission with either 2 or 3 drinks tickets for the amazing cocktails provided by Rhine Hall Distillery. 

wednesday, june 7th
doors open at 7:30p, music starts at 8pm
tickets $15-$20
@ Ovation Chicago: 2324 W Fulton

We're so looking forward to seeing you at the finale!



a special thank you to our sponsors!

EP: Brahms & Milhaud

It's finally here!

Bow & Hammer's new EP is being released today!

Available for purchase at www.bowandhammer.bandcamp.com, you can hear B&H's recording of the 3rd movement from Milhaud's 2nd sonata for violin and piano AND the 1st movement of the 3rd sonata by Brahms. This is an awesome intro to B&H's style, aesthetic, and sound. We hope you enjoy!

EP: Brahms and Milhaud was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Bob Weston.

Industry Night w/ Angel's Envy!

Hey gang,

This next IndustryNight will be so much fun! Our dear friend Shaunna McCarthy (whiskey guardian for Angel's Envy and all around amazing human being) is coming over and presenting 3 (yes THREE) cocktails highlighting the delicious bourbon that is ANGEL's ENVY. What are the cocktails, you ask? That you'll have to see for yourself. All I can say is: punch, stir, and DIY...

Now this pairing we find especially on point because we'll be performing the 3rd Sonata by Johannes Brahms. This sonata is jam-packed with all of the ups and downs in any brilliant novel, and we are so excited to share this work with you, as it is super near and dear to our hearts. And of course, last IndustryNight winner, Poulenc: I. Allegro Fuoco will be performed!



tickets to industry night are still available online or at the door for $10. NOTE: attendees must be 21+years to attend!