TEDxBoston 2011

Jason Fisher, Jesse Irons, Jae Cosmos Lee, Michael Unterman

A String Quartet from A Far Cry

A String Quartet from A Far Cry Orchestra opens TEDxBoston 2011 with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Tenabrae” composed by Osvaldo Golijov. The piece is accompanied by breathtaking photos of Boston taken by Peter Vanderwarker. The Quartet continues with an uplifting and energetic rendition of Ljova’s “Budget Bulgar”.

Founded in 2007 by 17 young musicians bent on making music according to their own rules, the groundbreaking, self-conducted string orchestra A Far Cry has enjoyed a heady ascent toward the highest ranks of today’s new generation of classical ensembles. Hailed by the Boston Globe as “thrilling,” “intrepid” and “brilliant,” A Far Cry explores the traditional boundaries of classical music, experimenting with the ways it is prepared, performed, and experienced.



Speakers' Biographies

Jason Fisher

Jason grew up in Seattle and is a proud enthusiast of rainy days. Coming from a relatively non-musical family (his brother an outdoorsman, his mother a banker, and his father a foundryman), he thought very little of it when at age 11 in his public elementary school his music teacher told him they needed “somebody to play the viola” in orchestra. Jason agreed to take a crack at it. His passion for music quickly took shape and he soon realized music’s power to transcend the mundane and break down barriers between people.

Although he rarely eats granola, and is seldom seen wearing a pair of Birkenstocks, Jason holds deeply rooted in his soul the magnificent evergreen forests of the Olympics and the crystal clear, heart-stoppingly brisk water of the Puget Sound. A hardened native of the Northwest, Jason learned how to swim at the age of 5 when his grandmother (bless her Irish heart) threw him off of a raft in the middle of the Hood Canal. He admits that the whole idea that it rains ‘all the time’ in Seattle is “nothing more than a bunch of hooey we tell the Californians so they won’t move up!” And, yes, he also remembers when Starbucks was just a cozy little neighborhood coffee shop down the street from his house.

Jason is also famously talented as a bartender, mixing, among other mouth-wateringly delightful classics, arguably the best Manhattan north of, well, Manhattan. (find instructions on our website – afarcry.org – for mixing a Manhattan Jason’s way, as well as the Fisher family recipe for “Bacon-Wrapped Dates,” a dazzling appetizer that risks converting even the most wholesome of vegetarians). He does not look forward to the day when his youthful metabolism gives out and he is forced to start balancing consumption with exercise.

Jason has traveled on concert tours across North America and Europe, as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, and the Kyrgyz Republic. After completing his undergraduate studies with Victoria Chiang at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Jason spent a year in New York as a student of Katherine Murdock. Having recently completed his Master’s degree at Longy School in Cambridge studying with Roger Tapping, he is quite certain he couldn’t be happier than he is when he’s surrounded by his fellow Criers. Jason plays on an English viola by Richard Duke, 1768.

Jesse Irons

Born in Berlin, Vermont, Jesse Irons has been praised by the Baltimore Sun as a “polished and sensitive” violinist, his performances “moving… with a perfect mix of passion and precision.” (Baltimore Magazine) He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, serving as graduate assistant in chamber music. Upon realizing he had spent six unrecoverable years of his life living in Baltimore, Jesse immediately moved to Boston. He wears his Red Sox cap whenever the Yankees are in town and contemplates finishing his half-complete Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory. Jesse’s many wonderful teachers include Pamela Frank and Nicholas Kitchen.

A card-carrying chamber music fanatic, Jesse (in partnership with fellow Crier Jason) founded the Rivendell String Quartet, which had a nice little run, appearing in concert across the United States, as well as in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Singapore. When the Rivendell venture finally came to a close, Jesse concentrated on his own violin playing. He won a competition or two, performed in France, and subbed with the Baltimore Symphony, but Jesse felt a quartet-sized hole in his musical life – sure he was content to chip away at Brahms Concertos and Bach Fugues like a good little violinist, working towards fame and individual glory, but something was missing.

In an effort to reconnect to the fun of music-making, Jesse decided to explore music outside the classical mainstream. He participated in a workshop on the music and traditions of the Silk Road, which culminated in multiple performances with Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall. Great resume stuff, and inspiring music-making. Delving further into the improvisatory side of life, he worked with an experimental jazz string quartet and with (yet another) string quartet transcribing, reinventing, and performing music from throughout Asia for a Marco Polo-themed school presentation program. He recently appeared at Carnegie Hall with the Tres Americas Ensemble.

Jesse has decided that life is as good as the people you spend it with, and on that count is thrilled to be a member of A Far Cry. When he’s not playing violin, he’s usually sleeping. Quite the connoisseur of firm mattresses, Jesse estimates his sleep number to be up around 85 or 90. Jesse also enjoys unwinding by cooking elaborate meals for friends, particularly since his recent acquisition of a pasta machine – ask him about asparagus pesto ravioli!

Jae Cosmos Lee

Simply put, Jae is an idealist. He is often attracted to things less conformed, be it font type, flicks, coffee beans, bands, neighborhoods or combinations of pizza toppings. A lot of people ask him where his middle name “Cosmos” comes from: He was baptized in the Catholic church (unfortunately, no longer a participating member) at age 2 along with his little brother, and as a pair they were given baptismal names of brother saints, Cosmus and Damian. When his family moved to the US, the name “Cosmus” was mistranslated into “Cosmos”, and though unintentionally changed, “Cosmos” was the version that made it onto the legal papers.His family moved around frequently during his early years, and though he had started playing the violin at age 3, by the time he entered high school, he had already switched teachers a dozen times. Having spent 10 years of his life in Korea, and thanks to the steadfast prodding of his novelist mother, he is still thoroughly bi-lingual. His love for music has always been apparent, whether while conducting and singing in his 3rd grade class choir or mixing beats of Dutch and Chicago house records in front of sweaty ravers later in his college days. But the moment he started playing chamber music, and string quartets in particular, he knew it would be a life long passion.

For many summers, Jae attended Kneisel Hall, an intimate chamber music festival on the shores of the Down East Maine region. Upon finishing college, he flocked around the US, living on the left coast of San Francisco, the eastern front range of the Rocky mountains (where he became obsessed with snowboarding), and in a basement apartment with no natural light in New York City. And in the middle of all this migratory living he strongly bonded with the history, beauty, and the good people of Kneisel Hall, which remained his only invariable home over those years.

Violinwise, he has played in different continents, countries, cities, communities and festivals, has won some prizes, collaborated with a bunch of luminaries, and studied with great teachers at schools considered “prestigious” as far as classical training goes. Although he understands the current marketplace necessities of having to drop more than a few names for recognition, he’d rather give hugs and tell Nordic children’s fairy tales to approach strangers. He is a boisterously rabid fan of the Boston Red Sox, loves his filet grilled over an open fire, dives frequently in attempts to catch Frisbees on both sides of the end zone, and believes his ceaseless loyalty to his friends and family will one day be the seed to a self-governed artist colony on a small island off the eastern coast of Panama.

Michael Unterman

Michael Unterman is the latest addition to A Far Cry. Although he has been playing with the group regularly as a guest, he has been a full Crier for only three weeks! Michael says, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be the latest addition to the A Far Cry crew. The experience of playing with these guys has everything I could possibly hope for: inspired performances of great music with folks I’m proud to call my friends.”

Michael sort of chose the cello without knowing it. When he was a wee young thing back in Vancouver, BC, he would discretely sneak out of his violin class to the cello class next door. So his parents took the hint and signed him up with his first teacher, Judy Fraser, who he ended up staying with for the next 12 years, and who taught him not just to play the cello, but how to approach music with integrity and love. Michael is currently in the second year of a Master’s program at NEC, which was preceded by a year in Barcelona, Spain, and four years at NEC. He is grateful to his teachers, Laurence Lesser, Lluis Claret and Natasha Brofsky, who have consistently challenged him, expanded his mind and have been nothing but inspiring and supportive. Michael has gotten into the new music thing, mostly with Steve Drury and his groups (nec) Shivaree and the Callithumpian Consort, and he has also gotten into the old music thing, with Robert Mealy and Phoebe Carrai at the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra. Michael is also interested in a great many things outside of performing music. Thanks to his home country, he grew up playing ice hockey; in fact, his original life goal as a kid was to play in the NHL and do music festivals in the “off-season.” His current obsession is cooking, and he has been extremely fortunate to have travelled to many places around the world, including Ecuador and the Galapagos, Argentina, Antarctica, the other Arctic, Egypt, and Israel.