HUBweek Change Maker: Maria Finkelmeier

Named a “one-woman dynamo” by The Boston Globe, Maria Finkelmeier is a percussion performer, educator, and active arts entrepreneur. Maria was one of the masterminds behind the “Waking the Monster” piece at HUBweek 2015’s ILLUMINUS.

You’ve performed all over the world, what made you decide to put your roots down in Boston?

I originally moved to Boston to work in the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at New England Conservatory. Since then, staying in Boston has been an easy decision! I love that the city offers a platform to create. Boston has a robust history in the arts, but a lot of room to grow and advance in the contemporary field. I also love being close to the ocean (I grew up in Ohio), and enjoy living in Jamaica Plain, surrounded by a diverse population and a lot of green space!

How would you describe the Boston arts community in three words?

spirited. hungry. tough.

Can you tell us about one unexpected path you took in your career?

After completing my Masters degree (in percussion performance and literature — a very niche field!), I decided to move to Sweden to study improvisation and composition with Anders Åstrand. I moved to a small town near the Arctic Circle, called Piteå, and lived there for three years. I created projects, wrote music, taught lessons and classes, performed, and absorbed as much of the culture as possible. The time in Sweden taught me how to be a self-reliant artist and challenged me to create my own path. The skills and inspiration I gained from this experience drives me everyday. I’m forever thankful for taking the risk, even if there was no sunlight in the winters!

What was the most challenging, and the most rewarding part of working on your project, “Waking the Monster,” during HUBweek’s ILLUMINUS?

The “Waking the Monster” project was a whirlwind! To pinpoint the most rewarding aspect of the project is tough — it definitely pushed me as a performer, composer, and organizer — contributing in a major way my growth as an artist. Beyond the personal growth, I formed relationships with an incredible team of creatives that have become family. The biggest challenges were the week to week trouble-shooting. Our vision was clear, but we were essentially writing the playbook on how to activate the Green Monster structure, which resulted in many late nights followed by early mornings on Landsdowne street.

Beyond ILLUMINUS, you are incredibly involved in arts community here in Boston. What else have you been working on?

I’m currently building my own non-profit organization called Kadence Arts, dedicated to presenting and incubating performance and educational opportunities driven by percussion and technology. We run the Beat Bus in collaboration with The Record Co, offering electronic bucket drumming workshops to community centers in the summer. We host the Times Two Series, pairing contemporary musicians or groups to instigate conversation and community, and present the free outdoor festival, Make Music Boston, on the summer solstice! Our annual project is also in the works: we’re partnering with the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University to produce Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams’ epic piece for 9–99 percussionists on June 12!

What project that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?

That’s a difficult question! The “Waking the Monster” project is definitely high on the list (not to mention the highest point that I’ve had to climb in order to perform!) Another project that has created a lasting impression is the “Sounds from the Treetops” project with my percussion trio, Ensemble Evolution. We composed, performed, and recorded 6 compositions inspired by the TreeHotel in Harads, Sweden in 2012. I feel that this project launched me into my professional career, as it was a first true representation of my voice and goals as an artist.

What’s next?

I’m going to do my best to keep the beat! Learning how to build and sustain Kadence Arts is a priority at the moment — from fundraising to building a Board of Directors. I’m also developing a solo show called “Human and/or Machine” exploring the ways in which acoustic and electronic percussion instruments interact with one another. I’m writing a few pieces for the show, and commissioning colleagues to contribute. I premiered part of the program at the MFA in January, and aim to launch the complete program next fall. I’m also happy announce the formation of Masary Studios with Ryan Edwards and Sam Okerstrom-Lang. The three of us worked together on “Waking the Monster” and have decided to keep the momentum going. Since Illuminus, we’ve met numerous times to build a portfolio of new ideas!

The HUBweek Change-Maker series showcases the most creative and inventive minds in art, science, and technology making an impact in Boston and around the world.