Hello and welcome to Theremin Major.
A bit of background info:
My name is Jen Hammaker. I’ve been playing the theremin here in NYC for about 5 years. I got my first theremin, a Big Briar Etherwave, in May of 2002.
I had my first gig in an improv show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in December of 2003. The show was supposed to be funny so that was convenient.
In January of 2004, a harpist friend of mine asked me to play with her band, The Holy Bones in a play that she had written. Thus began my journey to play actual notes and melodies on my theremin.
In August of 2004, some hilarious friends and I formed STICKERBOOK. Stickerbook rocked then, and we continue will continue to rock either until the universe folds in on itself or until we get so really big and make several platinum albums and then have a dramatic break-up when we’re all 90 years old and playing geriatric retreats in Boca.
Moving on to November of 2004: in addition to playing with Stickerbook and The Holy Bones, I went to a gig at a small East Village club and talked my way on stage with Omri. I continued to play with Omri until January 2006. (See the website for details.)
My first solo performance was in April of 2006 with the NY Theremin Society.
After that, I began to try harder to improve as a thereminist. I started to learn classical pieces. I posted adds on Craigslist, trying to find projects to work on. I think the responses that I got on Craigslist were mainly out of curiousity. A few opportunities presented themselves, but nothing that I was especially passionate about. Frustrating.
I want to be professional thereminist. I don’t think this goal is too far-fetched. In order to become a professional thereminist, I have to become an excellent player.
In December of 2006, I made a phone call to [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education].
Snippet of Phone Conversation with the Director of the [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education].
. . .Me: Well, I play an unconventional instrument. I play the theremin.
Director: The- Wow. WOW. Are you GOOD at it?
Me: Yes I am.
Director: THERE AREN’T MANY OF YOU AROUND!!!
Me: No, there aren’t.
Director: First of all, before we get into if we can accommodate you or not, as musician myself, having studied in the 60’s during the dawn of electronic music, let me say that I find you fascinating!! Regardless of whether you study here, I would love to HEAR that. I wonder how we can – just a second – RICHARD!!! There’s a young lady on the phone who wants to attend our school to study the THEREMIN!!! Sorry. I’m back. We don’t have any theremin teachers here –
Me: Well, I was hoping you would consider treating the theremin as another type of instrument, say, a string instrument, in every aspect except for technique . . .
Director: That is a great idea! The only matter we have to deal with is finding a teacher who is willing to be that open – wow! you came to the right place. This school is especially flexible. I was going to try to recommend another school for you, but I can’t think of any other school that would be willing to accommodate you!! This is exciting! Do you want to apply for the Spring Semester? You are REALLY late, but we can try to squeeze YOU in. You should come in and meet with us this week . . . Long story short, I auditioned with The Swan by Saint-Saens and Bach’s Air in G. They excepted me into the Extension Division, found an excellent violinist to teach me and I started in January. I’ve been too busy to write about it until now because it’s “spring break.”
I’m going to try and document all the experiences that I’ve already had, and I’ll continue to write as I continue along on my journey towards becoming a professional thereminist.
I chose to go to school for SO many reasons.
- It will force me to practice.
- I’ll meet people to work with.
- There are composers at music schools who may want to compose for the theremin.
- I’ll learn more about music. duh.
- I’ll expose others to this fantastic instrument!
Oh, and after I got into school, I finally upgraded to a Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin. It’s a beautiful instrument.
Anyhoo – This is my story. Read it and weep, theremin lovers!