All of the Above ensemble of CCM alumni releases debut album

Listen to the recording, featuring works by Edward Smaldone and CCM Professor Douglas Knehans

Cincinnati-based contemporary chamber group All of the Above recently released its much-anticipated debut album, Double Portrait. The album features works by two American composers, Edward Smaldone and UC College-Conservatory of Music’s Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar Douglas Knehans, and the ensemble itself is comprised entirely of CCM alumni.

All of the Above recorded the album in 2018 at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and at the LeFrak Concert Hall at Queens College. It is available for purchase via Amazon and through Ablaze Records. It is also available to stream on Spotify and SoundCloud

William “Buddy” Langley (MM Orchestral Conducting, ’18; DMA candidate) was invited to travel to New York with the ensemble and conduct two works featured on the album. He is currently a conducting fellow with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as well as the music director of the Memphis Repertory Orchestra. For Langley, the best part of making Double Portrait was working with other musicians on the project.

“Nothing makes recording easier than getting a chance to work with world-class artists, like every single member in All of the Above, our fabulous composer duo, and the incomparable recording engineer Adam Abeshouse,” Langley says.

Conductors and performers collaborate all the time on projects like this, but the opportunity to work with a living composer is a little less commonplace in classical music circles. For Langley, this mutual effort was one of the most satisfying parts of the recording process.

“I feel like Knehans and I have known each other forever, and you’d think the same if you saw us working together,” Langley says. “The collaboration always feels organic, and our mutual respect for each other makes the music electrifying!”

All of the Above recording their album at the LeFrak Concert Hall.

All of the Above ensemble recording at the LeFrak Concert Hall at Queens College's Aaron Copland School of Music. Left to right: Douglas Knehans, Edward Smaldone, Scott Jackson, Yijia Fang, David Abraham, William R. Langley, Matthew Umphreys, Mikey Arbulu and Nave Graham. Photo/Provided.

All of the Above ensemble members are Nave Graham (MM Flute, ’14; DMA Flute, '17), Mikey Arbulu (MM Clarinet, '15; DMA Clarinet, '18), Zack Stump (BM Clarinet, '15), Scott Jackson (BM Violin, ’10; DMA Violin, '17), Yijia Fang (AD Cello, '15; MM Cello, '17; DMA Cello, ’18), Matthew Umphreys (MM Collaborative Piano, ’14) and  David Abraham (DMA Percussion, '17). The ensemble has had success together, earning a spot as Xavier University’s ensemble-in-residence in 2016, but the group is also earning individual accolades.

Graham, the ensemble's flutist, is the new Instructor of Flute at the University of Mississippi, while clarinetist Arbulu is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Field Band. The ensemble’s other clarinetist, Stump, has held positions with the Omaha Symphony, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

Jackson, the ensemble's violinist, is a fellow with the New World Symphony, and cellist Fang is a chamber music instructor at the University of British Columbia. Umphreys is a staff pianist and adjunct instructor at Xavier University, as well as the music director at several Cincinnati churches. Abraham, the ensemble's percussionist, works with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the sax-percussion multimedia duo 'dosa.'

“When you are lucky enough to work with artists, composers and a recording engineer such as these, you’re able to focus all of your energy on what really matters — the music! It helps to have a rapport, and that was the easy part for all of us, as we got along like peas in a pod from day one,” Langley says.

“Little did I know, when I received the invitation to fly to NYC with members of All of the Above and record this album, that I would gain a number of friends and join this family of greats!”

Read more about Langley, including his work with All of the Above, in this UC News story from April 2020.

All of the Above is a Cincinnati-based sextet featuring Nave Graham (flute); Mikey Arbulu and Zack Stump (clarinet); Scott Jackson (violin); Yijia Fang (cello); Matthew Umphreys (piano) and David Abraham (percussion). All of the Above made their Carnegie Hall debut in December 2017 and their international debut in July 2017 as an ensemble-in-residence at the Cortona Sessions for New Music in Cortona, Italy.

All of the Above is currently in their third year as the ensemble-in-residence at Xavier University. The ensemble’s residency includes performances in the Xavier Music Department Concert Series as well as various ensemble coachings, recruiting of future music majors, master classes and side-by-side performances with Xavier University students. Additionally, AOTA has been a Next:Generation ensemble with Concert:Nova since 2015. As part of this mentorship program, members of AOTA have been given the opportunity to perform alongside Concert:Nova artists while also participating in workshops on interactive performances, marketing, non-profit education, and improvisation.

All of the Above’s 2018 season included a concert series at the Cincinnati Art Museum in conjunction with a gallery opening by local Cincinnati artist Ana England, a featured concert at the Dimenna Center for Classical Music in New York City sponsored by the International Society of Contemporary Music, as well as a residency at the University of South Carolina with the new music organization CICA (Collaborations in Contemporary Art) and the Wired Music Concert Series. Most recently, AOTA returned to Carnegie Hall for a performance in the New York New Fusion Music Festival in Weill Recital Hall. Additionally, All of the Above’s premiere full length album featuring the music of Douglas Knehans and Edward Smaldone was released on Ablaze records in 2020.

Learn more at All of the Above's website.

Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

Featured image at the top: All of the Above at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Photo/Provided.