Sixth Floor Project Finds Energy in Varied Music

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When Teddy Abrams attended the Curtis Institute of Music, he lived on the sixth floor of his dormitory building. After he graduated in 2008 with a conducting degree, he continued to play with a number of people who lived on that same floor.

The band that blossomed from those jam sessions, aptly named Sixth Floor Project, will perform at Chautauqua Institution for the first time at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as a part of the Logan Chamber Music Series.

The group consists of clarinetist Abrams, bassoonist and fiddler Harrison Hollingsworth and percussionist Gabriel Globus-Hoenich.

Abrams said when he and his fellow band mates graduated from Curtis, which enrolls about 150 students at any given time, it was only natural they would be drawn back together in a creative way.

The group, Abrams said, prides itself on having no boundaries with regard to genres. He described labels, such as classical music, as “suspicious.”

“All [of us] were really open to trying things and experimenting and connecting the dots between different styles of music,” Abrams said.

The concert, he said, will bridge the gaps between genres including folk, bluegrass, jazz and classical.

“It has been a great journey with the other musicians to explore how all these musics in some way share a core energy,” Abrams said.

Abrams, who described the type of music Sixth Floor Project plays as a “living form” of music, said the band’s guiding principle roots itself in playing anything it likes or is passionate about, rather than trapping themselves into a genre.

If there is a specific piece that is really fascinating or inspiring to them, Abrams said, they find a way to adapt it and make it their own in a manner that is still very respectful and conscientious about the selection’s history.

“They can play music that was written 350 years ago or written just yesterday,” Abrams said.

Sixth Floor Project wrote many of the songs they plan to play at today’s concert themselves. Abrams said one of his original compositions offers homage to big band music of the swing era.

However, the ensemble found it can surprise audiences with how well the music all comes together, according to Abrams.

“We try to make a setlist that flows from one piece to the next that feels organic,” Abrams said.

Although the flow of their performances may feel very natural, Sixth Floor Project has been known to bring those performances to some very unexpected places.

The band worked with a project created by the Knight Foundation, called “Random Acts of Culture.” The project encourages musicians to mobilize their performances so people will encounter them in places that are unexpected, Abrams said.

Sixth Floor Project, which has played more than 250 of these shows, performed in airports, hospitals, bus stops, Wal-Marts, fast food restaurants, Starbucks and libraries.

“People responded very positively,” Abrams said. “There are so many people that love the idea of live music, but don’t really think about it or engage in it.”

Julia Mericle

The author Julia Mericle

Julia Mericle is a journalism/mass communication and English student at St. Bonaventure University in the class of ’17. She is reporting on the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Contact her at