Conversations | Composer Teodora Stepančić on the Power of Collaboration
The Serbian-born composer, pianist, and curator is a 2020 NYC Women’s Fund recipient.
As Women’s History Month nears, so too does the NYFA’s announcement of the next cohort of NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre recipients (stay tuned for details!).
In anticipation of this announcement and in celebration of the work of women-identifying artists everywhere, we spoke with Teodora Stepančić, a Serbian-born composer, pianist, and curator who received a 2020 grant from the NYC Women’s Fund. Stepančić graciously shared insights with us on her creative process, recent projects, and the importance of collaboration with other artists.
NYFA: Who would you consider to be some of your influences or sources of inspiration in the work you make?
Teodora Stepančić: I am most strongly driven by playing music with others. Each piece I compose is inspired by the performers that will play it—their practices, ideas, and relationships with their instruments. I write to create situations for people to play and be together.
Also, I find inspiration in the environment and sounds around me. The physical and imaginary spaces with their sounds become part of the music, merge into it and overlap with it, and never compete or bother.
I think I write in quiet dynamics because, this way, I can hear a lot more sounds. When I play quietly, I hear the colors of the instruments and the details of their sound, voices from the street, neighbors’ footsteps, birds, heating, distant sirens, my pulse. Maybe I play one tone, but there are so many sounds and movements alongside it. Everything, in fact, is getting louder. Maybe my compositions are not quiet at all.
How much do I need to add to what is already heard? What am I adding, what am I replacing? And, am I leaving enough empty?
NYFA: What did your NYC Women’s Fund grant mean for you in your practice as a musician?
TS: The NYC Women’s Fund award was especially meaningful for me, coming at the perfect moment for a project that I strongly believed in. I created and released dueti, an album of four duets, for myself with four great musicians, friends, and collaborators: Katie Porter, Erin Rogers, Lucie Vítková, and Rachel Mangold.
Being able to collaborate with these four inspiring musicians and spend time together working on the pieces made it possible for us to give that much more care to detail and for ideas to settle. These turned out to be important works for the development of my practice and for sustaining our community.
NYFA: NYFA Learning specializes in professional development programs for artists. What kind of programming that you feel may be lacking do you think would help music artists gain skills and knowledge for a sustained career in music?
TS: I always got inspired by and learned the most from workshops and projects where musicians and artists of different backgrounds, professional and amateur, would experiment together, create collaborative works, realize each other’s ideas, compose for each other. A dynamic space to create and experiment. These practices create meaningful connections, give perspective to the artists and open possibilities for other projects and long term collaborations.
NYFA: What’s one piece of advice you’d pass onto someone hoping to break into the music industry?
TS: For me, again, collaboration with other musicians and artists is the most important. To play, create, listen together. To find and build your community; to create and participate in welcoming, non-competitive, and safe environments where people can share, express, and exchange their ideas freely, rather than being oriented to individual success and career. I think this creates interesting music and art, and a better society.
About Teodora Stepančić:
Teodora Stepančić is a composer, pianist, and curator. She is founder of Piano+, a concert series running in Brooklyn since 2017.
Born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, she lived in The Netherlands before moving to Brooklyn in 2015. Stepančić has been integral to the inception of many musical groups and scenes internationally. She is a pianist of Ensemble Modelo62, the Netherlands; and a founding member of LCollective, a group dedicated to performance of challenging musical works in inclusive and unconventional environments, around which grew an engaged community of artists and friends.
Stepančić has premiered numerous compositions, some written for her. She is passionate about performing and curating rarely-played and new music by experimental, lesser-known, and underrepresented composers.
Her work has been released on Another Timbre, Indexical, Dumpf Editions, Infrequent Seams, Other Minds, and her label Love Records. She regularly performs and organizes concerts in Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. Recent appearances and collaborations include DogStar Orchestra, Los Angeles; Gaudeamus Muziekweek, The Netherlands; Klangraum, Düsseldorf; Musical Ecologies, New York; Negra 40, Argentina; Ghost Ensemble, United States; Ausland, Berlin; and StudioŠest, Belgrade.
– Interview conducted by Kyle Lopez, Program Associate and Editor, Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter
This post is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #146. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events. Learn more about NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.