How critically acclaimed violinist Edward W. Hardy turns mood into music
The United States is the world’s largest music market, accounting for one-third of the total global recorded music market and 45% of its total annual growth, according to the 2020 Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) report, âThe US Music Industries: Jobs and Benefits. A year after the onset of the ongoing global pandemic, in-person performances remain largely on hiatus, reducing income opportunities for music artists, especially classical musicians who perform most often in groups.
American virtuoso composer and violinist and violist Edward W. Hardy is one of those performers looking for creative ways to pursue their craft. The 29-year-old New York artist, well-known for his roles as composer, musical director and solo violinist in the 2012 Obie-winning Off Broadway play “The Woodsman” by James Ortiz, has discovered that overcoming an artistic challenge requires embrace the current mood of the world.
âI’m fortunate to have had a fulfilling music career before the pandemic, but now most of my career has evaporated,â said Hardy. “Recently, I’ve composed and performed music that reflects our present times, and one piece even connects most genres of black music.”
After the start of the pandemic, Hardy began writing and performing new music that reflected the news. In response to this summer’s racial calculation, he pieced together a video compilation of various current events, including the murder of George Floyd. He then composed and recorded an original piece for classical violin to accompany the video, titled “Mama, now I can breathe”.
In a Facebook post sharing âMom, now I can breathe,â writes Hardy, âIt’s a classic piece that reflects our current times, and as an artist it’s my job to bring light into the dark. , transmit pain. of what I witness and experience, to inspire changeâ¦ and, if I’m lucky, to escape the reality of America. Music is and always will be my therapy.
Hardy has also arranged and safely performed with his peers a string quartet arrangement of Abel Meeropol’s song “Strange Fruit”. The song, released in 1937 and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, is based on a poem about hate and racism.
Celebrating the history of classical music, jazz, blues and hip-hop, Hardy recorded a live performance of “Evolution”, a piece inspired by the 1901 songs from the Underground Railroad tune “Wade in the Water” . The performance was part of Nnenna Ogwo & Sterling Strings’ annual Juneteenth Celebration at New York’s Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, and “Evolution” was originally composed and performed for the Congressional Black Caucus at the Howard Theater and was part of the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Initially, after the lockups started, Hardy remained very productive playing new music he had little time for before. He soon realized that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon, forcing him to rediscover his goal now that playing live was not an option.
âPlaying for people was such a daily occurrence for me that now it has become such a luxury,â says Hardy. “Now that things are starting to reopen, I’m trying to form some kind of imaginary future of what I think is possibleâ¦ that’s what propels me forward again.”
Hardy’s passion for the theater also guided his creativity, resulting in musical compositions and performances for several other Off Broadway plays. He has performed across the United States, most notably at private events for American rappers Nas and 50 Cent.
Growing up with a mom who loved rock and roll inspired Hardy to choose the Red Hot Chili Peppers as his first music gig. He started playing the violin at the age of seven while attending Central Park East II Elementary School in Manhattan. He reported a group of violinists to his mother and soon found himself attending Opus 118 Harlem School of Music and later performing at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art and other cultural destinations.
Speaking of the lack of diversity traditionally found in the classical music scene, Hardy says it was also rare for him to meet a black teacher while in school. He says if the classical music community is to address the lack of diverse cultural representation that exists in schools, leaders must come together and encourage administrative leaders to make a long-term commitment to diversifying programming.
“It was weirdâ¦ I felt like I had to make a new path for myself, and in some ways I still do, even though I now know that there are other musicians out there who look like me.” , explains Hardy. “At the end of the day, I think about who I want to inspire, and I think it’s important to have people who look like me to inspire others in my community to join orchestras.”
Hardy was recently accepted into the Doctoral Program in Music Performance at the University of Northern Colorado. With the faith that classical music will follow the future reopening of Broadway, he plans to begin the program this fall and compose a new musical that will hopefully be performed live one day soon for an enthusiastic audience.