LAURA CARMICHAEL IS A CLARINETIST...

rehearsal with Musik Fabrik in the Berlin Philharmonie

rehearsal with Musik Fabrik in the Berlin Philharmonie

As a rebellious classical musician, Laura contended with the paradox of wanting to succeed in the establishment while being irresistibly pulled to challenge the status quo. Having played with orchestras like the San Francisco Symphony, Laura discovered her love for improvisation, and has played with major contemporary music ensembles in Europe, including MusikFabrik, Ensemble MAE, and her own projects like Duo X. She's lectured and taught masterclasses at numerous universities and conservatories, including Harvard, Stanford, Rice University and the Mozarteum. Creative collaboration with artists and composers from Julio Estrada and Toshio Hosokawa to Michael Gordon and Cindy Cox, has driven more than two decades of innovative performance practices and re-evaluation of audience interactions. Along the way she became an expert in how to strategically bear the discomfort of ambiguity in order to invoke originality. 

Since 1990 Laura immersed herself in body-mind training systems, not only to support her professional performance work, but also in large part to help her recover from a major car accident in which her spine was broken. Since that time she has practiced Alexander Technique, martial arts, meditation and peak performance techniques, along side doing personal development work.

Most recently Laura completed Tara Mohr's Playing Big Facilitators Program, and she integrates elements from this work into her trainings. 

who challenges the status quo

I grew up being told I could be anything I wanted to be, do whatever I wanted to do if I worked hard enough. I believed it, and I went for it. But what did I go for and how did I go about it? What seemed valued, important and had status I now recognize as mostly "male." I grew up being told that in all the books I read with male protagonists, articles with masculine pronouns, that I was somehow also included in a universal "he." "He" also meant "she." This simply isn't true. Gender issues used to go right over my head. Now I realize how profound it is. 

The current systems and values were overwhelmingly created by men, and I think it's time to expand that. The stories we reference, the leaders we idolize and the values reflected are an outcome of that status quo. The cannon is a lot of wonderful stuff, stuff I love, but not the whole story. What else might be out there? How else might the world be organized? That's part of the untold story I want to tell -- and write.

What might it mean to shift from trying to succeed and prove ourselves in the world as we know it to shaping the creative landscape and culture of the future?

Who can do what? Everyone has the potential to make an impact, in lots of different ways. So many things need fixing and changing, but it can require courage. I recognize my privilege and hence my opportunity and responsibility to move things forward. I'm committed to handing off empowerment and an inclusive culture to the next generation, starting with ourselves making the difference.

As for many people, becoming a parent amplified my perceptions. In particular I felt the "versus" script rearing its head, something many people are confronted with even if they are not parents. The framework handed to us is one of scarcity and conflicts – the expectations of caregiving vs. the expectations of being professional, and especially of pursuing a life in the arts. Those expectations and unspoken agreements were shaped when only men were professionals.

Not that there is any simple answer, but

I have discovered that testing fundamental assumptions bears fruit. It is possible to speak up about how personal things can be, and ask for help and flexibility in the work place. It is possible to be creative about working methods, routines, standards, roles, and most profoundly – the stories we tell ourselves. Including ourselves is vital.

performing Robin Koek's Tuned City at BYU while six months pregnant

performing Robin Koek's Tuned City at BYU while six months pregnant