Sonic Escape, a flute and violin duo of Maria Millar and Shawn Wyckoff, will perform at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey on November 7. MyNorth Media’s entertainment writer Ross Boissoneau checks in with Maria about this Northern Michigan music event and the duo’s background.
For Maria Millar and Shawn Wyckoff, combining their love of music and love of exploring other places was not just a no-brainer, it became their calling. “We wanted to travel as far as we could. The group is a way to have fun and make music,” Maria, a violinist, says. The two now escape their New York City apartment to travel the country, Canada and abroad while performing as Sonic Escape.
It certainly took them long enough. The two Juilliard grads became a couple 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2009 when they put their musical talents together. “People asked us to play at their events,” Maria says. But pairing her violin and his flute was problematic. Millar said finding music featuring their two higher-pitched instruments in duo was a challenge, so she began crafting arrangements of folk, classical and Celtic tunes, as well as writing originals.
Now their music has made a believer of both of them as well as others who would like to follow in their footsteps. “When I hear a string quartet now, I think, ‘Where’s the flute?’” Maria says. For fellow musicians interested in pairing what Maria calls such “trebly” instruments, sheet music of her arrangements are on sale on their website.
Today, with occasional musical partner Nan-Cheng Chen on cello, they perform at libraries, concert halls, churches, schools and other venues. Not to mention ski slopes. Look elsewhere on their website and you’ll see a brief video of Wyckoff schussing down the slopes, flute in hand. “He’s got a knack for not falling,” Maria says. Let’s hope so.
Sonic Escape, a flute and violin duo, with occasional cello as well. Together they make what they call hyperinstrumental music.
How They Got Their Start
Graduates of Julliard School of Music, Wyckoff and Millar combined their love of music and anything-goes sense of fun into a duo where, yes, anything goes. They added cello player Nan-Cheng Chen as a third voice and now perform as both a duo and trio. The group will be performing as a trio in Petoskey.
Classical, folk, Celtic, Asian, Gypsy, klezmer, tango, Turkish, blues, jazz, pop, rock – is there anything left?
Influences and Inspirations
Chamber music, world music
All three musicians have backgrounds as soloists and featured performers with other groups. Currently Maria is working on a project, including a blog, for Canada Council for the Arts. She said they hope to perform more with orchestras after successful sojourns in Maine and Nova Scotia, the debut of her symphony “The Seasons.” It’s a part of Four Seasons Rising, an ambitious fusion of music and action. With either the symphonic show or “The Rave” (an electronica exploration) as the centerpiece, the group will include community activities such as a hike, jam session, panel discussion or clean-up of an area as a way to connect to the planet.
Oh yeah, they are also active in home swapping, exchanging their NYC apartment for locales across the country and our neighbor to the north.
“It is rare for our audience members to immediately ask us to re-engage artists … Sonic Escape was one of those rarities.” – John Ashton, President, Fairmont Chamber Music Society (Morgantown, WV)
“An absolutely riveting experience… pure and radiant talent!” – Hillary McAndrew-Plate, Senior Manager, Lincoln Center
Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey
Date & Time
Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for members, and $35 for non-members. Tickets are available at MyNorthTickets.com.