Friday, October 8, 2010

Terrace Club’s International Music Festival Celebration: Explore your Senses with MIMA

When I first learned that the 501(c)3 tax-exempt Modern Improvisational Music Association was to perform at the über-trendy Terrace Club, I was baffled. Maybe I was being a typical freshman, but it struck me as paradoxical. What was the logic behind organizing an association for improv musicians? Why come to sleepy Princeton and, more specifically, to Terrace Club? And why should we bother to see them?

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one on campus oblivious to this organization. MIMA was founded 10 years ago this week by its current trustees Cristoph Geiseler, Jonathan Barnes, and Adam Nemett, with whom I had the immense fortune to speak. These Princetonians felt that music should have more passion in it, elicited by the art of improvisation. Essentially, they believed that the over-produced Billboard Top 40 MTV pop played on repeat on Prospect Street was getting old. Together, they pursued a humble goal: to expose their peers to something new and exciting outside the insular Orange Bubble.

To accomplish this end, they brought innovative musicians and DJs to Princeton parties and organized trips to underground shows in Trenton, NYC, and Philadelphia. In fact, by the end of Nemett’s tenure in MIMA, there were over 500 undergraduates associated with the organization. It seemed as though MIMA had single-handedly stimulated Princetonians’ appreciation for more authentic music.

Afterwards, Geiseler took over the operation and transformed MIMA into an international non-profit NGO that aimed to empower individuals from countries around the world through the art of improvised music. The trustees saw musical education as a way to rescue kids from risky situations in their communities. So, they found and trained musicians in such areas to teach local children how to make music and improvise with each other. Such activities kept teens out of trouble and afforded them opportunities for upward mobility. Additionally, they learned to maintain and promote the traditions of their respective cultures. Through this newly acquired talent, these children were empowered with confidence, respect, and leadership in a way that could improve their communities immeasurably. Since 2004, MIMA has hosted 30 such outreach programs for 700 students in 15 cities in the United States, Cyprus, Argentina, Brazil, China, Jamaica, and elsewhere.

And now, 10 years later, they’re back. After having established such centers in impoverished communities around the world, MIMA wants to show Princeton what they’ve accomplished. They’re kicking off this week of celebration for the International Music Festival with an incredible sequence of interactive exercises at Terrace Club on Saturday night. Visitors can learn and practice musical traditions and improvisation from around the world in each room of the club while DJs entertain everyone else in the dining rooms and basement.

The next night, alumni of the association will host a fundraiser concert at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. Students will then have several opportunities at their residential colleges every night during the week to attend more songwriting and improvisation workshops. The anniversary week will culminate with a concert and keynote speech by Brazilian culture minister, Grammy award winner and political icon Gilberto Gil in Richardson Auditorium.

MIMA has proven to be a generous and effervescent organization that deserves our attention, so don’t forget to visit for more information about the association and this week’s festivities, as well as ways in which you can help to fund this most righteous of causes.

-Michael Becker ‘14

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