Classical Music

DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman Wants You to Fund His Masterpiece – Now!

DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman Wants You to Fund His Masterpiece – Now!
Gary Isaacs

Despite all the advancements in how people consume and put out music, the art of crafting classical music has remained pretty much the same for centuries. The genre is timeless, pristine, and to be tackled only by musicians of the highest caliber. And unfortunately, it's not cheap to make.

Tom Hagerman is a musician whose prowess should not be questioned. He is a highly trained, cerebral violinist who has worked with the Colorado Symphony, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Calexico, the Flaming Lips, the Lumineers and countless others. His band, DeVotchKa, is highly decorated, accomplished and, at least in Colorado, practically a household name. Because of this duality of identities, Hagerman is often called upon to help bridge the disparate gap between the worlds of classical music and rock and roll. His expertise as a musician is vast and impressive.

When it comes to promoting his personal compositions, though, specifically his most recent work, a classical string piece he wrote for a 2015 Wonderbound dance performance titled The Seven Deadly Sins, Hagerman's expertise wears thin and he's a bit befuddled.

“In this day and age, when people don’t buy records, how do you put out records when it’s not part of your 'flagship  brand'?” he asks. “The marketing side of this is tough, because classical radio stations and their audience are a little conservative, and they just play the hits, like Brahms. And while [my composition] can work on a lot of college and indie stations, I’m not sure if they’re willing to program it, either.”

The current state of the industry, and Hagerman’s precarious position between aspiring composer and established rock musician, has left him with the decision to launch his first Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording of the music of The Seven Deadly Sins. It's a decision that Hagerman grappled with but ultimately justified: A project this ambitious would need some help.

The campaign, which ends soon, is the only real way Hagerman can foresee getting a quality recording of his work, which requires an eighteen-piece string orchestra. For these purposes, GarageBand just won’t cut it. Hagerman is asking for $20,000 to complete the project.

“It’s a lot of money to ask, and I know that, but it’s not even enough to cover all of it,“ he says. “I figured I could make some money back, but I’m not making money off of this. I’m looking just to get it out."

Although the music was originally performed by musicians from the Colorado Symphony for the Wonderbound performance, Hagerman hopes to enlist the help of Boston’s A Far Cry for the recording. A Far Cry is a world-renowned, Grammy-nominated, conductor-less ensemble, now in its eleventh year.

“Their level of communication is nuts. It’s like a high-end jazz band,” Hagerman notes. “Rock bands never reach that level of communication. It’s eighteen people all thinking in unison. It’s like one living organism. It’s kind of amazing.”

Because of the quality of the artists involved and the amount of time he put into it, it’s clear that Hagerman’s statement about him not making money off of this recording is truthful. This composition is something he is passionate about, and getting a proper recording is the only real way to archive the music and ensure its legacy. It’s a shame to think that art of this caliber can die because of a lack of resources, but in the digital age, that's the cold reality.

Having a recording to show bookers would make it possible for A Far Cry's performance of The Seven Deadly Sins to be toured around the world; without an album on hand, convincing venues to book concerts would be difficult. However, he insists that he would still find ways to perform the piece.

“I could still strip it down to have it performed as a quartet, so I could go do a living room show and play with three other people,” he says. “I think that’s the way classical music works best. You never get to hear an instrument straight to your ear; it’s usually through a PA or a laptop speaker.”

While the entire process may seem ambitious, at the end of the day, Hagerman has very simple goals.

“I’ve put a ton of work into this thing, which is why I’d like to see it as a record,” he says.

Find out how to contribute to Hagerman’s vision at The Seven Deadly Sins Kickstarter page.

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Andy Thomas is a music journalist who hopes other music journalists write nice things about the music he performs. He lives in Denver with his wife, their two cats and a massive pile of unfinished projects.
Contact: Andy Thomas