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  • Writer's pictureSOUNDWEAVERS

S1. E13. Fifth House Ensemble

Feb 17, 2021


Melissa Ngan and Herine Coetzee Koschak of Fifth House Ensemble join us to discuss their roots in the community engagement initiatives spearheaded by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and their origins on a 36-hour road trip. They share their philosophy on the importance of relationships as the basis for developing ensemble membership and an avid listener base. We discuss the studio, social, and civic practice continuum, and how they design arts integration initiatives in collaboration with teachers and students in a way that perpetuates arts education beyond the initial residency. We chat about the Fresh Inc Festival for emerging artists and about Melissa’s video game evolution from Duck Hunt to Journey.


Praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse,” the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to reach beyond the traditionally-perceived limits of classical music. The ensemble’s artistic, educational, and civic programs engage theater groups, video game designers, corporate innovators, and folk bands to share stories as diverse as the communities it serves.

Through the ensemble’s heartfelt social and civic practice work, Fifth House has co-created artistic projects with urban neighborhoods, social service organizations, and an agricultural community to spark conversations on issues that matter. Recent projects include Broken Text, a collaboration with Raven Theatre and DJ Searchl1te inspired by multi-week residencies at the Cook County Temporary Youth Detention Center and St. Leonard’s Ministries; Voices from the Dust Bowl, a collaboration with composer Steven Snowden and bluegrass band Henhouse Prowlers exploring stories from workers’ rights organizations nationwide; Nedudim, an exploration of music and cultural identity in collaboration with Baladino that engages Chicago-based organizations representing Israel, Iran, Germany and Spain, and Harvest, a year-long partnership with DePauw University and the Greencastle, IN community culminating in a Mother’s Day celebration of the people, places, and stories of Putnam County. In 2012, Fifth House launched Fresh Inc, a two-week, intensive training program for emerging composers and performers where Fifth House works with participants on building careers in music in line with their own unique vision and values. Fifth House is currently an Ensemble in Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago.


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S1.E13 Fifth House Transcript
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