Pandemic inspires Wyndmoor musician to compose 'Apart'

by Len Lear
Posted 3/11/21

“Apart (2020),” is a modern classical composition scored for flute, piano, cello and women’s voices. As the year of social distancing dragged on, Cathy recorded her piece remotely and produced a video including interpretive dance and an accompanying descriptive text.

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Pandemic inspires Wyndmoor musician to compose 'Apart'

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Wyndmoor resident (for three years) Cathy Mazza was in her fourth year of teaching music at AIM Academy in Conshohocken last year when the school shut down because of the pandemic. “I had to teach my students through Zoom, which was heart-breaking,” she said. “I missed seeing them in person, and I still do. I was a music teacher for many decades, and it is very difficult to interact with kids online when you are used to singing with them, playing games together and making music with instruments in the classroom …

“This has been so isolating and at times, depressing. I miss the outside world, my friends and playing and hearing live music, which is nearly impossible now. Being a musician these days is tough, but I am thankful to have my health, my imagination, my piano and the comfort I can get from recorded and virtual music.”

But Mazza, who previously lived in West Mt. Airy for 20 years and Germantown for six years before that, has not just sat around and watched TV during the pandemic. She used the extra time at home at her piano to express her pandemic-related feelings. The result was “Apart (2020),” a modern classical composition scored for flute, piano, cello and women’s voices. As the year of social distancing dragged on, Cathy recorded her piece remotely and produced a video including interpretive dance and an accompanying descriptive text.

Her talented collaborators include Melissa Brun, cellist; Kara Silverman, flutist; the voices of the Philadelphia Women’s Music Project (PWMP) and Philomusica Chorale of the Delaware Valley; with Emily Kline and Melissa Faller of Emme Dance Collective, choreography and dance. The video will have its premiere on Tuesday, March 23, 7:30 pm, during the virtual spring concert of PWMP (director Gayle Wieand) in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

“The music just flowed out naturally as a result of my anguish and anxiety about such an uncertain future during the early days of the pandemic. I felt the need to try to find a way to express those emotions at the piano. I thought about the many ups and downs I was experiencing as I was adapting to the new ways I had to teach, live and cope with all of the bad news, including the horrifying politics.”

When asked her age, this native of Easton, PA, said, “I am a Generation X-er. I’m old enough to be a proud and young grandmother to David, 21 months old, whom I care for full-time now, while his mom, our daughter Lainie, works as a nurse practitioner at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.”

Mazza earned a Bachelor of Music in Keyboard Performance from West Chester University in 1988 and a Master's in Music Education from University of the Arts in 2017. She is both a classical pianist and a rock and pop keyboard player as well as a singer, songwriter, composer and conductor. Cathy has performed locally at the Kimmel Center, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Longwood Gardens, Settlement Music School, World Cafe Live, Please Touch Museum, The Sedgwick Cultural Center, Pastorius Park Summer Concert Series, The Tin Angel and many more and has also performed in New York City and Eastern Europe. Cathy currently sings with, and is Board President of, Philomusica Chorale of the Delaware Valley and is the collaborative pianist for the Philadelphia Women’s Music Project.

“Probably my most favorite performance,” Mazza said, “was singing 'Carmina Burana' with the Mary Green Singers, accompanied by The Kennett Symphony at Longwood Gardens. It was an unforgettable thrill because we sang about fate in 'O Fortuna' just as a rainbow appeared after an unexpectedly rainy day during a summer drought.”

When asked what individuals have had the greatest impact on her life, Mazza replied, “My sister Marcy and I were lucky to be raised by two fun and loving parents, who always were listening to music or dancing! My dad played sax with The Kwerks, my old band. My grandfather, Frank Poch, played the piano. I learned on his old upright, and he always took the time to listen to me play.”

Today the only people in Mazza's “bubble” are “my wonderful husband and daughter, Tom Hutt and Helena Calkap, her husband and my grandson. The rest of our family and friends are carefully keeping their distance, staying 'Apart' from one another.”

For more information, see Mazza's profile on pianoaccompanists.com. For info on the March 23 premiere of “Apart (2020)” and the Zoom link, visit philomusicachorale.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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