Spotlight: Gretchen Yanover

Photo by David Speranza

Spotlight features interviews with musicians and industry professionals who contribute to our success.

This week we are proud to feature cellist Gretchen Yanover. Gretchen is a true Gigs4U success story, transforming her music from a part-time endeavor to her profession. Her meditative performances at the Seatac airport have created a sense of calm in a place not exactly known for such a thing.

Artists like Gretchen are performing for Gigs4U every day in the Seattle area. If you book corporate events, private parties or just need top notch musicians and sound professionals for a one-of-a-kind concert experience, fill out the form at the bottom of this page for more information.

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Tell us a little bit about your introduction to the cello and how you got started.

I started playing cello in 6th grade. I wrote a blog post about it called Beginning Strings. I didn’t know what a cello was when I chose it. My parents signed me up for strings, and I met the first girl with the same color skin as me besides my sister in that class. We both agreed to play cello at the suggestion of the teacher! I think we both knew we weren’t like everybody else, and so we didn’t want to choose violin like everybody else (or so it seemed).

How long have you been working with Gigs4U and how did you get started? How has it affected your music career?

I joined Gigs4U in July 2014. I applied on the recommendation of a friend, and feel so fortunate to have been chosen to join the roster! The Seatac airport gig in particular has been life changing. I was a school music teacher for 17 years, and was teaching at the time of joining Gigs4U. The response to my music at the airport was very positive.

I saw a wide world of people out there and started to realize that I could potentially transition to performing full-time. I left teaching at the end of 2015 and have been performing steadily! I am glad for my career in school teaching, and I am also thrilled for this new chapter in my life, which would not have happened without Gigs4U. My skills as a solo performer, including my abilities to speak about my music on a microphone, have taken a giant leap from being part of the Experience the City of Music program.

Who is your favorite Gigs4U performer to watch?

Ooh, Ah! This is such a challenging question, because I can’t really narrow it down to one! Some standout experiences for me: I have had tears spring to my eyes upon hearing Andrew Landers’s voice. I have been transported by Tomo Nakayama’s singing. I have been heart-lifted by Champagne Sunday. I am delighted by Marina Christopher. I could go on…

What would you say is the coolest thing about performing at the airport? 

One of the coolest things about performing at the airport is that there isn’t a chance for someone to pre-judge if they like “cello music” or “classical music”… folks generally don’t know what my instrument is, so they just hear Music. This has been true in the reverse as well. If I thought I had a certain demographic that fits the picture of who might listen to ambient looped cello, that notion went by the wayside. As I say in the liner notes of my Bridge Across Sound album, I am sometimes surprised and always delighted by the diversity of people who enjoy my sound.

You have been a lifelong follower of classical music and are part of the Northwest Sinfonietta, the region’s premier chamber orchestra. But you’ve also been in a number of bands. Can you tell us about that and what you enjoy about being in an orchestra vs. being in a band and vice versa?

I love being in an orchestra because I get to perform amazing literature, work with some incredible conductors, and hear outstanding soloists from the stage! Being in bands was a fun departure for me, from the intense structure of the classical world.

Your electric cello is one of the coolest instruments I’ve ever seen. It’s a total conversation starter for you at the airport. When did you get it? Where did you get it? How does it differ from playing an acoustic cello?

I got my Zeta Electric Cello in 2001 from Hammond Ashley, a shop that for many years mostly specialized in (double) basses. I went to the shop and there was this one random, beautiful electric instrument sitting there. It seemed meant to be. One of the main differences I feel in the electric cello is that the bridge is lower, and therefore the “action” or impact on my left hand is less, which enables me to play for longer without as much fatigue on my fingers.

Your sound is definitely experimental, ambient and calming. When did you get the idea to start looping your cello?

I have a trumpet player friend who is really into pedals, and he let me try out all his gear one day. I was immediately hooked on the loop!

I know what a TED Talk is. You are performing with dancer Noelle Price as part of a TEDx event in Seattle on Saturday, 11/23. What is TEDx, how did this opportunity develop, and what should people expect from your performance?

From the TEDx Seattle website: “In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events bringing people together to share a TED-like experience. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but each TEDx event is self-organized.”

My path to performing at TEDx as an Entertainer was different than the paths more likely taken by the speakers. No one will tell me how I came to be known to the event curator/entertainment team, but I was contacted and invited to apply. I did a phone interview, shared work samples, wrote a draft proposal/narrative, had an interview with TEDx team members, and then was chosen for one of the two “Entertainment” spots out of 26 finalists. I will perform one piece solo, talk a bit, and then have Noelle Price join me to dance to one more composition of mine. Every presenter has about 15 minutes onstage, and the event runs from 9am-4:30pm. I’ll probably be on around 11:30am for anyone who wishes to catch the live stream, which I think will be accessible through the Facebook event page.

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