Alfredo Muro
Alfredo Muro
Blair Tindall, who plays with Oboe Fusion–appearing on the BIG ARTS classical lineup Jan. 13 is not only a musician but also a journalist who has played with renowned symphonies, orchestras for Broadway musicals and wrote music stories for 12 years for The New York Times.

Perhaps most notably, though, she is the author of the 2005 book “Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music,” a roman-a-clef of the classical music scene in New York in the 1980s that was produced as a critically acclaimed four-season Amazon Prime video series by Roman Coppola and others.

Although plenty of people were aghast at her depiction of musicians playing dignified scores while conducting their private lives with considerably less dignity, Tindall believes it made the music a bit more accessible to the average person.

“Honestly, very few people know anything about music,” she said in an interview, “and I think ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ makes that clear. I probably shouldn’t have, but I read all the online (comments). People said they were afraid to go to a concert, but now they’re going to give it a try.”

That some people feel intimidated about going to classical concerts is “distressing to musicians,” Tindall added, “because we really want to share this with people.” Her membership in an oboe combo and writer of a controversial book are just two of the quirky things about Tindall. Tindall performed on film soundtracks of “Malcolm X,””Crooklyn” and “Twilight,”and with Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts at the Blue Note jazz club. And then there’s that book about musicians behaving, well, badly. “It was really like that. I didn’t have to make anything up,” Tindall said.

Seeing her book become a TV series was an incomparable experience. “The thing I’ll never forget is I live about a mile away from the executive producer’s office, and it was the day after my birthday. I remember I was a little hung over. I met this really famous Hollywood director, Paul Weitz, in his office. We chatted a while and he turned on the pilot. There was this very funny opening sequence with ‘Mini-me,’ as I called Lola (Kirke, the lead actress). Then cut to Joshua Bell, and I’ve known him since he was about 10. And there’s Joshua on the screen and I just burst into tears.” She thought the pilot was that good.

One thing we surmise talking with Tindall about “Mozart” is this: Quirk could possibly be a universal factor among freelance musicians – including others on the BIG ARTS classical series. (See accompanying story for a few sound bites about them.)

Officially, Oboe Fusion consists of oboes, vocals, and keyboard, performing their own renditions of music by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Gilbert and Sullivan; a special arrangement of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”; music from the Golden Age of television; classical works by Beethoven and Mozart; Handel’s Water Music; and more.

But the group, also consisting of Tom Gallant and Marilyn Coyne, has several versions of a show. One of them they call the “Oboe Fusion AARP Reunion Tour,” Tindall said, laughing, because they play songs such as “I Will Survive” and “Stayin’ Alive.” It’s a whole disco thing. I have go-go boots, Marilyn has this whole sparkly outfit, Tom has a bowling shirt.”

Some people say you make your own luck, and Tindall’s life seems to bear that out.

Tindall ended up playing the oboe by chance. She learned piano at a very young age, but didn’t have a choice of instrument when the music education powers-that-be had young students choose what they’d play in alphabetical order by last name. The oboe was the only instrument left.

But she flourished, and in addition to her other credits, can be heard on the soundtrack of “Mozart in the Jungle” and appears in a cameo near the end of the second season. “And now I’m in the Screen Actors Guild and do voiceovers ”she said. But seeing herself on television was surprising. “I must have lost 60 pounds as a result of seeing myself on screen,” she said.

SOUND BITES ON THE BIG ARTS CLASSICAL SERIES
Meet a few of the artists on the BIG Arts classical music series, running from Jan. 10 through Feb. 6.

Alfredo Muro and his half sister, Connie Bieberach, a singer, performed on the Peruvian talent show “Trampoline to Fame” in 1971 when Muro was 13. They performed as a duo under the name of Hermanos Lopez because their mother sternly disapproved of them seeking careers in music. They took first place.

Muro taught himself to play guitar, then won scholarships and trained with guitar masters. “The music of Alfredo Muro elevates the guitar to a higher plane than most I’ve had an opportunity to hear. It is moody and melodic,”said fellow Latin musician Jose Feliciano.

Oboe Fusion
One of the three members of Oboe Fusion, Blair Tindall, wrote the book "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music," a 2005 memoir of her professional career as a freelance musician in the ’80s in New York.

It was optioned by Amazon Prime and became a series for four seasons (just ended this year, with season 4 released in February), starring Gael Garcia Bernal (in a character based on conductor Gustavo Dudamel), Lola Kirke (as the Tindall-inspired oboist), Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell. It won a Golden Globe for best television series/comedy in 2016. Tindall appears in a cameo on the show, has taught journalism and oboe and written about classical music for The New York Times.

Dover Quartet
Called “the next Guarnari Quartet” by the Chicago Tribune, the Dover takes its name from “Dover Beach,” a composition by Samuel Barber, a fellow alumnus of the Curtis Institute of Music, where the quartet formed.

The quartet’s sophomore album, titled “Voices of Defiance: 1943, 1944, 1945,” was released in October 2017. It is a journey through works written during World War II by Viktor Ullmann, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Simon Laks.

The Dover Quartet is involved with Music for Food, which raises awareness and resources in the struggle against food insecurity.

Jonathan Biss
Jonathan Biss’s official biography credits his first performance as having occurred “prenatally,” when his pregnant mother, a violinist, performed in the Mozart A Major Violin Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra.

After learning to walk, talk and play the piano, Biss alone studied at the Curtis Institute. He is now a faculty member.

For Curtis, Biss led the first massive open online course offered by a classical music conservatory, “Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas,” which has reached more than 150,000 people in 185 countries. In early 2017, he released the sixth volume of a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas.

Pacifica Quartet with Sharon Isbin
The Grammy-winning Pacifica is quartet-in-residence and its members full-time faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. It is “recognized for its virtuosity, exuberant performance style, and often-daring repertory choices over the past two decades” (press materials).

Sharon Isbin is an American Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist and the founding director of the Guitar Department at Juilliard. Isbin has appeared as soloist with over 170 orchestras and has commissioned more concertos than any other guitarist. In 2015, she performed with Josh Groban on the Billy Joel: Gershwin Prize concert broadcast nationally on PBS, and in February 2015 she was featured on the Tavis Smiley PBS television series.

Parker Quartet
Fresh from its fourth year in residence at Harvard University, the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet is based in Boston and has spent 2018 criss-crossing the United States and Europe.

Violist Jessica Bodner began music studies on violin at age 2. She is married to quartet violinist Daniel Chong, who began his own violin studies at 4.