Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Emily Hope Price: Letting Go

The warmth that radiates from Emily Hope Price fills the room with a sense of calm and comfort. A genuine smile welcomes, lively eyes sparkle, and a breath of fresh air swirls around as the talent of this classically trained cellist grabs your attention. Observing the variety of ways Price uses the cello to make original sound, it's easy to forget there is a soothing yet powerful voice to match the music.

First starting cello lessons in fourth grade, Price trained for over 12 years, receiving a M.A. in Cello Performance from Carnegie Mellon, and an Artists Certificate from SUNY Purchase. This impressive education fine-tuned her exquisite mastering of the cello, but left Price wanting more. Moving back to Utah upon the Artist Certificate completion, Emily toyed more with the idea of songwriting and improvising. "I had a secret desire to sing," she said slyly, but found it difficult to break out of the "classical" stereotype. "When people know you as one thing you have to talk them into believing you can do something else."

Price first began to explore songwriting while in the Masters program at Carnegie Mellon. Despite spending most of her teenage years pouring out thoughts and feelings into a journal, Emily did not transcribe them into a musical outlet until collaborating with friend and opera student Anna Vogelzang, composing and performing a song called "At Last," in which Anna sang and Emily played cello. During her post-graduation period in Utah, Price continued to play with sounds and songs, using previously composed music to create experimental tracks. Having spent years being classically educated, Emily struggled with the question, "What do you do with your life when you're a trained cellist?"

The answer came upon moving to New York City and finding her niche in the ever-growing music scene. Playing out as both a solo artist and a member of "Pearl and the Beard," Emily has flawlessly crossed the line from the classical audience to the indie/rock/pop crowd. As a classical cellist, "You have to practice hours to get nearer to perfection. I move my hand millimeters and it changes the sound. You have to do it all from muscle memory, intonation must be spot on... if I move my finger it will create a different note, or a different color of the same note," Price explained. The subtle intensity of this training made the transition into the singer/songwriter scene slightly easier, with the rock/indie audience less attentive to the perfect details and more interested in the overall quality and pleasure of the music. "I want to be a better musician. I want to play better and be more proficient on my instrument then I am. That's why I came here," claims Emily, who has called New York home for the past two years.

Still, being a "singing cellist" is rare to find in a scene inundated with piano players and guitarists belting their music at the hottest venues. Emily continues to push through with her music, believing in the expanding scene and performing solo and accompanying sets with fellow colleagues. "Things are starting to break through where you wouldn't normally expect it... little niches are starting to come into play," Price believes. "I hope some of the things I'm doing will change the expectation about what a cello can do."

Citing early Barbra Streisand as a guilty pleasure and Radiohead and Bjork as two favorite artists, Emily keeps as much of an assortment as possible in her music collection. An artist who enjoys soundtracks for their variety, loves watching movies, and whose instrument repertoire is expanding to learn accordion, Price is one of the most down-to-earth, humble, and genuine people to represent the scene.

While still feeling the struggles of the dampening economy and dealing with financial stress, as most artists do, Emily is able to truly treasure the small moments that have added to her blossoming career. A few years ago while living in Salt Lake City, Utah, Emily was approached by a friend who was working as a music therapist who asked her to play for a patient at a hospice. This particular patient had a career as a professional cellist prior to falling ill, and had not touched a cello in close to 25 years. After she played for him and was packing up to leave he asked her, "Can I play that?"

"He played my cello for the first time in years and was so happy," Emily revealed with joy. "I ran into the girl about a year later and when I asked how he was doing found out he passed away two weeks after I played for him." Knowing that the music and time with this former artist had filled one of his dying wishes, she described the experience as "one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me."

There is a quality about Emily Hope Price that reaches out and soothes your aura. Creating sound that is "sensual, warm, and thick" it is not difficult to understand why her presence is so easily accepted and appreciated in a diverse city like New York. Pearl and the Beard, the band that Price plays in, began from simply showing up at an open mic and connecting with Jocelyn Mackenzie and Jeremy Styles. My personal connection to Emily came from seeing her performance at Rockwood Music Hall a few weeks ago with Dan Torres, another featured artist. Everyone has a chance to intertwine, mingle, feed off of and inspire one another. These chance encounters have made the New York scene a place that continuously amazes Price. "I could not have had the experiences I have had here anywhere else. You can be drenched in music here. It's unbelievable," Emily stated emphatically. "It's amazing the way music can bring people together."

It has not always been an easy road though, as any fellow artist will concur. Shifting gears from one style of training to another is difficult, and causes more of an internal struggle than anything else. Emily's best advice? "Just love what you do. I love classical music. I would feel so intensely about the pieces I would play because I thought they were so beautiful," Price declares. "At the same time I felt it wasn't me. I didn't trust myself enough to let go. It's hard to let go. Change is really hard. I'm still in that transition."

Even though Price's laid back, carefree attitude can be infectious at times, it would be impossible to say this musician is anything but motivated. With numerous goals and plans for the future, it's important for Emily to open up her ability to communicate, because "the more you communicate the more you can move people." A person who truly speaks from the heart, Price enthusiastically described another secret goal: "My dad has been watching David Letterman for the past twenty-seven years. Anytime a musical guest would come on if there was a cellist he would yell downstairs for me to come and see it. I just want to perform on David Letterman and wear a t-shirt that says 'Hi Dad.'"

So David Letterman, if you're reading, please contact Emily Hope Price. It's for her dad.

For more information and tour dates for Emily Hope Price check out

1 comment:

  1. I just saw Emily play last night at the Knitting Factory, and while I wasn't 'there to see her', I knew from the moment she started playing that the effort to get out for the night was worthwhile. She's nothing short of engaging, intelligent, entertaining, deep, thought provoking, and bursting with more talent and energy than anyone who hung around talking about her well after her set was over could put into words. All I can do is gush run-on sentences about her and wish her the best in her career. What a treat!