An Appetite For Construction – Musician Candice Hoyes On Using Her Artistry To Build Community.

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By Candice Hoyes

“Appetite increases with eating,” said avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky.

I make music more because of my appetite than for happiness. It all requires appetite: my training and the discipline it takes to make music professionally, to balance family life and friendships with concerts that start at 1:00am (Yes, really: my Blue Note Jazz Club debut was a Cinderella special). More than happiness, I see my work as a pursuit of deep joy, taking the guttural satisfaction in playing.

After I wrap a good project if feels like the completion of a satisfying Thanksgiving where I am so full I feel dreamy, planning what’s next before I even fall asleep… yet I am hungry again when the sun comes up. Whether the jobs are there, or the reviews are in my favor, the appetite for music rouses me everyday.

When I describe why I am a musician and performer for a living, I am more likely to say I do it to be a fuller version of myself, which strikes me more as growth than of being happy. I love to be fully honest and feel that happiness exists in that complex of other emotions. When I arrived at music school for my Masters degree, I was full of optimism. Having studied law and sociology up to that point, I built my musical training through voice lessons and college music courses at night.

Candice Hoyes performing at Blue Note | Photo by Caroline Conejero

That road took discipline and imagination that has served me well now that I am a pro. Furthermore, I had won a vocal scholarship and financial award upon admission, so I felt up to par and eager to start. Yet when I got to music school, the first professor assigned to be my advisor, the head of the Voice department, passed me off to another teacher before even meeting with me. I was told secondhand that she did not know how to help someone with a background as unusual as mine.

That opening gesture was all the more hard to swallow because she was a woman. Years later, I now view this more as an example of how divergent perspectives can be even on the choice to be a professional musician. For that person, being a professional required a linear path, a sequence of checked boxes. For me, before I began school and every day since, I pour my diverse facets, seeming contradictions of me, and my deepest unanswered questions about life into my music.

As far as I can see, this unique mix of me is what has made me not only professional but also memorable. I am an artist for all seasons, not just in summer.

I preserve this core of joy and growth among the wintery mix of elements: loneliness of traveling for work, stress, and self-doubt that comes with the artistic process, where the main standard of my growth is my self-opinion. With the growth I find in music, my purpose is to discover through the musicians I play with and the audiences for which I play.

Candice Hoyes performing with Cedric Hanriot and Razvan Cojanu| Photo by Fedele Manganelli

Being an artist can be viewed as a solitary pursuit, but in fact you construct your art, and those listeners who love it come together and feel the emotions as one unit at a live show. In fact, making music constructs a community where I play. One goal is to shift the energy with my presence for the span of time while I am performing, allowing both myself and the audience to transcend into a place that is a moment to remember.

As the title of this piece implies, I have an “appetite for construction.” We all work hard, especially as women, to get a place in our careers where we feel fulfilled. I also lecture at educational institutions and companies around the country, from Harvard to Google to Jazz at Lincoln Center, where I am the first young, black female lecturer. I share the importance of musicians of our past, such as the relevance of Lena Horne in the age of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and how these movements shapes my work.

I want our younger generations to know more about how we got to where we are today, through the legacies of artists who made their mark on their peers and how we can work towards becoming a generation that also steers change towards a kinder and more peaceful society.

Let’s construct together. Let’s grow together. Let’s expand our appetites together. Whether as an audience at a show, a women empower group that may you support, a job you find solace in, a relationship that makes you smile everyday… tap into your creative juices and find your own personal #wonderwomen.

Catch Candice in performance on March 8 at 2pm: Jazz at Lincoln Center and CUNYArts present Black Futures and Jazz – Exploring Afrofuturism with Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty & Endea Owens.

Candice Hoyes is a groundbreaking multi-genre artist poised to “shape the modern musician-cum-activist role” for her generation [NPR]. This season, she performed at the legendary Blue Note NYC, The Public Theater, Harlem Stage, La Petite Halle in Paris and BET France. She has shared the stage with Wynton Marsalis, Lin Manuel Miranda, Ray Angry of The Roots, Philip Glass, Deepak Chopra, and more. In 2015, she released her own critically-acclaimed album debut, ‘On A Turquoise Cloud.’ In 2017, Hoyes delivered a TED Talk performance reflecting her evolution to date, composing music across genres inspired by literature and archival research from the Black Diaspora.
As a public speaker and educator, Hoyes has written for publications including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law and Blavity. Hoyes created and leads a lecture performance series for Jazz at Lincoln Center and the City University of New York, and has taught across the US including UC Berkeley, Duke University, and the United Nations School, as well as numerous museums, cultural centers, and public schools for all ages. She is the first music curator at The Abbey in Princeton, NJ. Hoyes is recording her second album, which she composed, for 2019 release. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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