Mother Falcon Blazes a New Path for ‘Orch Dorks’

Giving Back: Mother Falcon's Music Laboratory

With a rotating group of 15 to 20 members and a hodgepodge of classical instruments, it’s almost more accurate to call Mother Falcon an orchestra than a band. But their unique sound—a blend of rock, hip hop, and just about everything else—has blown past the boundaries of the classical genre, and made them one of the top live acts in Austin.

Comprised of several UT alums and students, Mother Falcon has headlined and sold out iconic Austin venues like Antone’s, Mowhawk, and The Parish. Their first full-length album, “Alhambra,” debuted in 2011 to heavy airplay on UT-Austin public radio station KUT, and secured the band’s spot as an Austin Chronicle favorite. They played six showcases at South By Southwest this year, getting the hard-won attention and praise of NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and Bob Boilen.

The group’s roots go back to Westlake High School where, in 2008, singer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Gregg decided to join an after-school quartet with founding members Maurice Chammah and Rita Andrade, BM ’12. Gregg, Chammah, and Andrade thought they could get better funding for their high school orchestra program if they could prove that classical instrumentation could be relevant to today’s pop music—so they decided to start a band.

Gregg and Andrade later attended UT where they met violinist Clara Brill, BM ’13, and a host of the band’s other talented musicians. Tamir Kalifa was playing accordion at the UT Tower one day when Gregg, BA ’13, happened by and asked him to join the band.

“That’s something that is special about UT,” says Kalifa, BJ ’12. “There are so many people who can meet each other serendipitously in that way.”

UT’s size also gave the band a lot of networking opportunities, says bass player Dusty Rhodes, BA ’13. Many of their first shows, he explains, were on campus.

“So many of us went to UT. There’s a community there that we were able to network through,” Rhodes says.

Ryan Graham, a theater major at UT, says the major challenge of being in such a large band is the physical clutter onstage and the extra prep work that goes on before the show. Thanks to their orchestra backgrounds, the members are used to a large group dynamic by now, and they don’t have much trouble getting along with each other. Gregg says it’s like having a self-run orchestra camp.

Brill agrees. “It’s like being with all of your orchestra nerd friends,” she says. “‘Orch Dorks.’”

Thanks to their growing fan base, Mother Falcon raised almost $25,000 to release their May 7 sophomore album “You Knew,” and they were able to use the leftover funds to go on a summer tour. They spent the entire month of June on the East Coast with weekly residencies in New York City, and they plan to head west in August.

At such a critical point in their career, a lot of bands would be focused on their own success. But later this month, Mother Falcon will be back in Austin to host their second annual Mother Falcon Summer Music Laboratory, a week-long summer camp offered to middle and high school orchestra students at the Scottish Rite Theater near campus. Brill says that the camp encourages and teaches students to find their own personal voice as musicians, rather than limit themselves to their classical training and the constraints of the genre.

“For me, a big part of being in Mother Falcon was about creating a dialogue with young musicians who are looking for somewhere to turn,” she says. “The way I see it is that we might succeed or fail as a band, but we will have made way more of a difference in the world by doing this than if we focused on our own success.”

Photo by Shervin Lainez, courtesy Julia Maehner.


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