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Willamette University Musician Takes Home Grammy

Willamette Music Instructor Molly Barth won a Grammy Award at this year's ceremony, along with members of the sextet she co-founded, eighth blackbird. The group won the award for Best Chamber Music Performance for its album "Strange Imaginary Animals."

The group has been the subject of profiles in The New York Times and on NPR's All Things Considered; it has also been featured on Bloomberg TV's Muse, CBS's Sunday Morning, St. Paul Sunday, Weekend America and The Next Big Thing, among others. Members of the group have been praised for virtuosic flair and for their efforts to make the new music genre more accessible.

"Strange Imaginary Animals" was recorded before Barth moved here in 2007. Based in Chicago, eighth blackbird tours internationally up to eight months of the year, and Barth performed with the group for a decade before moving to Oregon for a life off the road. She now teaches at Willamette, plays with the Oregon Symphony and the Eugene Symphony, and serves as principal flutist with the Salem Chamber Orchestra.

Barth also performs with Fear No Music and Beta Collide, which she started. She is described as "ferociously talented" by The Oregonian. "Barth gave an electric performance ... effortlessly leaping across registers and conveying a sense of intense dialogue," The Oregonian wrote of one of her performances.

"I feel like this award is the punctuation of my career with eighth blackbird," Barth says. "There's a definition to that part of my life."

Her new ensemble, Beta Collide, continues to explore the new music genre, but takes a different approach. "We're not approaching artists from a classical genre, but are experimenting with free jazz and incorporating elements from the art world," she says.

You can hear Barth Saturday, April 5, in Hudson Hall. The free performance will feature a new work by sound installation artist Stephen Vitiello, who manipulated an original photo into a graphic score, which the group will play. The concert, part of the New Music at Willamette Series, is funded by the W. M. Keck Foundation.

Beta Collide will also perform at the University of Oregon April 14. "Sound-Bytes" will feature physicist Amit Goswami, who is best known as one of the scientists interviewed in the 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? Goswami will also be featured in an upcoming documentary about the Dalai Lama, narrated by Harrison Ford. The scientist will talk about quantum physics, consciousness and spirituality while Beta Collide accompanies with an improvised sound stream.

Barth has been playing flute since fourth grade. "I wanted to play in the school band and my orthodontist gave me a choice, flute or percussion," Barth says. "He said any other instrument would damage my orthodontic treatment. So it was flute."