Eigsti will be joined in performing the piece by Grammy Award-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer and a 12-person band.
Eigsti has toured as a duo with Fischer off and on for the past few years and some musicians in the ensemble are frequent collaborators as well.
"The people that I wanted to have on this show were people that I know the way that they play really well. I want to showcase everyone throughout the show. There will be some improvisation throughout," he said.
"Imagine Our Future" is not only the name of the piece, but also of the open-ended prompt given to local students, elementary school- through high school-aged, who could submit visual art such as drawings or photography, poetry, and even dance or musical works reflecting on the theme. Many of the students take classes at CSMA.
"Basically everyone had a different version of what that means and the idea was that I would take all of their ideas and weave them all into a one-hour-long show with a narrative," Eigsti said.
"I wanted it to be something that reflected in an organic way the process of creativity in which you create something and come up with ideas, but you never know how those are going to be used or what they'll end up as."
The piece was commissioned by the Community School of Music and Arts and funded by a Hewlett 50 grant. Hewlett 50 is an initiative commemorating the Hewlett Foundation's 50th anniversary, with grants given to support 50 new works by artists partnering with Bay Area nonprofits.
CSMA is a Mountain View-based nonprofit that offers education in music and visual arts for all ages. A Grammy-nominated musician, Eigsti, who grew up in Menlo Park, is a CSMA alum who has 31 years of history with the school, where he began taking lessons around age 6 after a private piano teacher recognized his penchant for improvising.
"I remember going to CSMA and starting weekly lessons with Randy Masters, who is a trumpeter, pianist, composer and just all around really brilliant guy. He really opened my mind up to so much music and so many ideas," Eigsti recalled.
Eigsti's talent for improvisation had a hand in the idea to crowdsource inspiration for "Imagine Our Future." His "speed composing" masterclass, in which he takes suggestions from the audience — everything from chords to tempo — and melds them into a full composition in about 45 minutes provided the idea for "Imagine Our Future," but broadened considerably in scope. The unifying narrative that Eigsti created for the composition was that a time traveler has come back from the future, where people have stopped listening to young people (and as a result, the world may be ending). The visitor comes back to 2018 to talk to young people here in "the ancient land of Northern California."
"I wanted the point of this thing to be kind of twofold in that it's important to create and share your creativity but also that it's important to listen to the ideas of young people," Eigsti said.
He noted that some students' submissions played larger roles than others in creating the work, but everything contributed to the piece, sometimes in unexpected ways.
A 6-year-old drew images of a fanciful future world that included rainbow vegetables, square clouds and people riding whales, and he used the young artist's own colorful description of her artwork as lyrics for the piece's first movement.
Audiences will get to enjoy the visual imagery as well, with the students' visual artworks, some of which have been animated, projected on a screen during the performance.
Eigsti said the biggest challenge was bringing all the artworks together and identifying the common ideas and themes, but though the pieces were individual and personal, they did reflect a lot of common ideas.
"There were a lot of kids with very progressive hopes and very accepting and loving and hoping that the future is like that, but also a lot of them shared the same concerns and anxieties and questions," he said.
Despite its forward-looking name, the piece also offers a bit of a pre-pandemic time capsule, having been commissioned in 2017, with the students submitting ideas in 2018. The work was supposed to debut in 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. Some of the then-teenaged students who submitted pieces will be young adults in college now, Eigsti noted.
"I'm hoping that it'll be cool for them to revisit that little moment in time," he said.
Fittingly for a piece that explores the creative process — and highlights the creativity of so many — Eigsti said that a lot of the work came together organically.
"The biggest point of this show was that I wanted each student to know that without their contribution, this could never sound or look exactly like this. It would never be the same without their input," he said.
"Imagine Our Future" will be performed March 26, 7:30 p.m. Eigsti will discuss the piece in a pre-concert Q&A session at 7 p.m.
The Mountain View Center for Performing Arts is located at 500 Castro St., Mountain View. Tickets are $25 adults; $20 seniors; $15 students (age 21 and under) and $10 children (ages 8-12). For more information, visit arts4all.org.
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