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Artist profile: Thom Mayes performs new chamber music at Make.Shift

Thom Mayes is among the musicians performing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at Make.Shift, in a concert hosted by Bellingham Chamber Music Society.
Thom Mayes is among the musicians performing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at Make.Shift, in a concert hosted by Bellingham Chamber Music Society. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Upright bass player Thom Mayes is one of a group of musicians performing in a concert called “Cheating, Lying, Stealing” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at Make.Shift Artspace, 306 Flora St., hosted by Bellingham Chamber Music Society.

It’s an unlikely venue for a chamber music concert, but the music is anything but typical classical music, with a program that includes contemporary compositions by Bruce Hamilton, Jon Bash, James Holt, Tonia Ko and David Lang.

Here’s more about Mayes.

Question: What drew you to pursuing music professionally?

Answer: I discovered music when it was offered in my public school, starting in fifth grade. I began on cello, and switched to the bass and the viola shortly thereafter. My initial reason for learning bass was seeing it in the middle-school jazz band while I was still in elementary school. I did end up playing jazz through high school, but around 16 my focus shifted to classical studies.

Question: Where did you attend university?

Answer: I studied music performance for my undergrad degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder. While in my last year there, I did an internship through the school that had me doing administrative support work for the Boulder Philharmonic. It was mostly filing papers and other basic tasks, but it allowed me to explore what happens behind the scenes.

I believe that administering art, like making art, requires a core passion for what you do.

Thom Mayes, musician

Question: Then what?

Answer: I returned to the Northwest after college, and while performing in orchestras around the region I began working in the administration of Seattle Opera. I realized working on behalf of the arts was immensely gratifying for me, more than just performing alone.

I entered a master’s program in arts leadership at Seattle University in 2008, and while completing it was offered my first executive position at the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon. Since then, I’ve led the administration of the Olympia Film Society as well before becoming the Whatcom Symphony’s executive director in 2013.

Question: Why do you enjoy the administrative end of things?

Answer: I believe that administering art, like making art, requires a core passion for what you do. Leading a nonprofit organization, especially an arts organization, puts one at the center of many people with varying interests: boards, musicians, staff, donors, subscribers.

Question: What can people expect at the concert at Make.Shift?

Answer: It will be a musical experience more than a traditional “classical” concert. Bruce Hamilton’s new piece conveys very clear moods, which are meant to be experienced more than just heard. Like many modern-day works, it doesn’t stick to melodies and structures to convey its message; it draws the listener into a certain mood, or sense of place. With the other new works on the program, and a relaxed, intimate setting like Make.Shift, I think this will be an evening of exploration for the listeners.

Margaret Bikman: 360-715-2273, @bhamentertainme

Chamber music

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28

Where: Make.Shift Artspace, 306 Flora St.

Cost: $10 general, $5 students

Details: Bellingham Chamber Music Society

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