Q and A with Mallory McHenry

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Mallory McHenry and her duo partner, flutist Karen Baumgartner, were selected as Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) Class Notes artists for a second year. MPR’s Class Notes program chooses chamber groups to perform educational programs in classrooms across Minnesota. McHenry’s duo, e(L)ement, is one of only a few groups to be chosen for the program a second time. The MPR program comes on the heels of a big year for McHenry in 2020. She was appointed to the harp faculty at Texas Christian University, and she is completing her doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Austin. We reached out to McHenry to learn more about her MPR program and her plans for the upcoming year.

Congratulations on a second year with Class Notes! Could you give us a brief introduction to the program?

Thank you so much! Class Notes is an educational program with Classical Minnesota Public Radio. It is geared towards young audiences in classroom settings. My duo partner, Karen Baumgartner and I get to workshop curriculum with MPR’s team and take it into the classrooms of public and private schools in Minnesota.

How did Class Notes operate last year during the pandemic?

Last year, we had to operate on a much smaller scale. We were unable to visit classrooms and go through the motions of being artists with the program like normal. Fortunately, the Class Notes team worked super hard to construct virtual classrooms. Our group recorded in an outside venue in Minneapolis last fall. It was chilly, but so much fun!

Your duo is called e(L)ement. Tell us a bit about the history of the name and the ensemble.

Karen and I met several years ago during our time at the Eastern Music Festival. We attended the same master’s program at the University of Texas at Austin and played in orchestra and chamber ensembles together. We both have a love for new music and decided to commission a piece by composer, harpist, and flutist, Yoshi Weinberg. Yoshi wrote the most beautiful piece titled Four Elements and we adore it! Our connection with the piece contributed to the name, and the capitalized (L) stands for “lyricism” and being intentional with our message.

What type of music do you perform for Class Notes, and do you have any favorite pieces?

e(L)ement performs music written in the last 100 years. Besides Yoshi’s works, we love to program Jacques Ibert’s Entr’acte and Vincent Persichetti’s Serenade No. 10. We also play these with Class Notes!

One of the questions on MPR’S Class Notes application reads: “How do you incorporate music from diverse cultures into your ensemble?”  Tell us about how e(L)ement achieves this.

I love this question! As an ensemble, we feel strongly about representing all cultures in our programming. Most recently, we transcribed and performed Florence Price’s Adoration, originally written for organ, and William Grant Still’s Romance, originally written for piano and alto saxophone. We plan to continue to promote and bring exposure to the works of composers in the BIPOC community.

Are you anticipating being able to work directly with classrooms this year or will there be a large virtual component again?

As of right now, we are planning under the assumption that we will operate normally in classrooms. Just the possibility alone is very exciting!

What do you enjoy most about the program?

I love being able to connect with the students and am looking forward to being able to do that on a larger scale in the fall. Being able to see their faces light up when they see a harp, probably for the first time, inspires me to be a better educator. I also love being able to work closely with MPR’s Class Notes team. I learn so much from them and I am grateful to work with them again.

It’s been a big year for you! You were appointed as professor at TCU and you’re finishing up your doctorate. Congratulations on such huge accomplishments! What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?

Yes! Thank you so much. It has been a whirlwind of a year, even amidst a pandemic! I am so grateful for everything that has happened and am excited to see what the next steps have in store. In the upcoming year, I am very much looking forward to being able to play on stage again and being able to spend quality time in lessons and ensembles with my students.

Any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?

As of right now, a few new commissions are on the horizon and I have been working on a transcription project for solo harp and harp ensembles that amplifies the voices and music of Black women composers.

To learn more about McHenry, visit her website. Keep up to date with the Class Notes program on Classical MPR’s website.

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About Author

Hannah Palmquist is a freelance harpist and teacher based in Saint Paul, Minn. She is the associate editor at Harp Column. Hannah earned her doctorate from the University of Minnesota and is passionate about chamber music.

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