Longtime violinist Lydia Chernicoff launched New Muse Concerts to bring together her love of eclectic interpretation and classical arrangement | photo by Ruta Smith

Music, literature and visual arts coalesce in the mind of seasoned violinist Lydia Chernicoff, who founded local chamber music project New Muse Concerts.

“I want to change the conversation around classical music as being a formal and exclusive art form,” Chernicoff told City Paper

Musically ambitious from a young age and encouraged by creative parents, Chernicoff studied violin and chamber music. By age 18, she earned an associate’s degree in arts from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. 

“It was a time when I got really interested in how all of those things were or could be related to each other,” she said. “How language and music and drama and visual art could all be a part of the same conversation.”

Chernicoff and her husband moved to Charleston in 2017 after she completed her master’s of music in violin performance at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. She finished her doctorate in music arts from University of Maryland, commuting between cities. She knew Charleston was the perfect spot to bring her dream of creating New Muse to fruition, and she founded the company in 2019.   

New Muse chamber concerts all have a unifying artistic theme, yet deviate from the classic format. 

“We give background on the composers: who they were, how they lived, what they were going through,” Chernicoff said. “We show how the pieces on the program were constructed and how they relate to each other, and we give an inside view into the process of rehearsing and performing. We invite you in.”

Her first concert was an anniversary celebration at Principle Gallery Charleston on Meeting Street in 2019. Soon she was hosting more official New Muse events, including “Speakeasy,” a 1920s-themed program that took place just before the covid-related shutdown.

“We want these concerts to feel very casual,” she said. “The performances are at a very high level, but the atmosphere is lively and inviting, and you don’t have to know when to clap or what to wear. You can enjoy a glass of wine and some good conversation.”

During the pandemic, New Muse partnered with the Charleston County Public Library to put on virtual concerts. Now the series is experimenting with creative in-person concert venues that have included breweries and art galleries.

New Muse will put on a show in October, “From Chaos to Harmony,” that explores the concept of the Greek ideal. Chernicoff’s own Trio Appassionata will perform, which includes her longtime friends and collaborators cellist Andrea Casarrubios and pianist Ronaldo Rolim. The trio has performed all over the world together for the last 15 years and recorded a 2014 album, Gone Into Night Are All the Eyes.

Above all, Chernicoff is grateful to collaborate with artists of different backgrounds and disciplines in Charleston. 

“None of this would be possible without our community here,” she said, “and it’s really been a thrill to see everyone get excited about what we’re doing and get involved.”

New Muse Concerts’ “From Chaos to Harmony” will take place Oct. 26 at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Visit newmuse.org for more information.


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