Sometimes, the best way to express yourself is through music. Sometimes, it’s through art. For Michiko Theurer, it’s often both.
“Everything I do is connected with what I’m trying to express,” says Theurer. “I find that pouring my ideas back and forth between the different containers of visual art and performance can help me figure out what those ideas are at their essence.”
In addition to the full-time responsibilities of being a violin doctoral student and Artist in Residence for the Boulder Bach Festival, Theurer is a gifted painter. Recently, she combined her two passions in a pair of well-received performances for the new BBF Education Series. Line/Color/Motion featured Bach and Debussy pieces—performed by Theurer and BBF Education Director and pianist Mina Gajic—choreography and dance by CU-Boulder dance professor Erika Randall and Theurer’s paintings.
Theurer has been a musician since she was a toddler. Both her parents are musicians, and she learned from them. “My mom started teaching me violin when I was 3. It’s always been a part of my life,” says Theurer.
While music is in her blood, Theurer says she always had a love for painting and drawing, too. “Art is something that’s always aligned closely with my musical studies,” she says. “It’s the flipside of what I do when I’m practicing. Painting is my release.”
That interconnectivity began to play out in earnest during Theurer’s graduate studies at Indiana University. “I presented a solo art exhibit and recital that explored the theme ‘threaded dances,’ which is a quote from a W.H. Auden poem. I was inspired by the ways different media can interpret the idea of motion and dance in their own languages.”
Dance is a major theme in Line/Motion/Color. “We thought dance was the perfect bridge between music and art,” continues Theurer. Together with Gajic, Theurer began to use music, art and dance to “explore the ideas of line and color” in Bach’s and Debussy’s music.
It was by happenstance that Randall also became involved in the project. “About two weeks before the performance, our dancer had to drop out,” says Theurer. “Luckily, the director got in touch with Erika, and she stepped in at the last minute. What started off as sheer panic became this incredible collaboration.”
Theurer and Randall instantly clicked. “Erika is so passionate about poetry, music and art, so to collaborate with someone who’s open to different ideas and art forms is inspiring,” Theurer says. “Even though we met at the last minute, I felt like we were speaking the same language … playing chamber music across genres."
Randall was equally thrilled to be working with Theurer. “After receiving the email requesting a dancer/choreographer to work with Michi, I went to her website to hear her and see her paintings. Immediately, I felt my inner kick-ball 4th grader jumping up and down, yelling, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’
“We both hear and feel color, sense that third thing beyond the score and floor. After just a short time of rehearsing together, we found ourselves deep in conversation, body and bow, and it was dreamy,” Randall says.
Theurer has several more projects on the horizon, each of them involving music, art and literature. Her final solo recital for her DMA is in January, in addition to a recording project based on “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf. “That’s in collaboration with composers I met at the Aspen Music Festival,” she says. “The piece imitates the structure of the story, which revolves around six different characters’ inner monologues. Those themes are woven together by my paintings.”
Theurer says she’s continually inspired by the opportunities available for a musician and artist in Boulder. “It’s amazing to be able to study with Professor Rhodes, and Ed Dusinberre and the Takács Quartet as a student. And to be able to work with the Bach Festival and director Zachary Carrettin, who is teaching the CU Early Music ensemble in Professor Elizabeth Farr's absense, both in school and through the festival has been an incredible and humbling experience.”
After graduating with her DMA, Theurer says she’d like to teach, and continue to perform. “I’m really interested in musicology. I’d love to combine an intellectual engagement in music with the passionate and physical performance aspect.
“The kinds of collaborations I’ve been able to have—sharing my experiences with audiences in that way—are vital to showing what music can be and why we do it.”
Theurer’s DMA recital is Jan. 14, 7:30 p.m., in Grusin Hall.