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Jess Ciampa, Jess Green and David Hewitt are Zeeko, a brilliant musical ensemble who are no strangers to Musica Viva In Schools. In 2021, Zeeko return with a brand new program, Two Wheel Time Machine. In this rock-opera, students and teachers are taken on a journey to discover that performing and creating music is just like learning to ride a bike. Inspired by the musicians’ unique musical palette of indie-rock, jazz and chamber music, schools will learn how to create through making happy accidents and lose their training wheels with simple tools to improvise.
We caught up with Jess Ciampa of Zeeko to learn more about the group. Who are Zeeko? What is the Two Wheel Time Machine? And what can students expect to get out of their performance? Read the interview below and see their 2021 touring dates here.
Where has the name Two Wheel Time Machine come from?
After much discussion and work with the Musica Viva In Schools team, we decided we wanted to base our new show around the concept of 'learning how to learn'. What do we need to do to meet new challenges and problems? In particular, meeting new challenges when playing music. In an effort to solve this, we liked the idea of returning to the state of a child trying to do something tricky for the first time. This led us to the idea of learning to ride a bike...Sometimes to do a thing, you just have to do it. The bike becomes this metaphorical two wheeled time machine, taking us back to this child-like state and remembering how we put tactics into place to meet this particular challenge.
Tell us about your performance. What can teachers and students expect?
Teachers and students can expect a song based show dealing with aspects of learning and facing challenges. Songs about courageous journeys, spectacular failures that lead to growth and success, and dealing with the stress and anxiety of challenges to emerge victorious. All of this with plenty of opportunities for student involvement through the activities found in the learning modules. There is also a theatrical element to our show, almost a 'Rock Opera' vibe, with plenty of sonic surprises and genre-hopping to keep the students captivated and involved.
Can you tell us about your ensemble's history with Musica Viva In Schools?
Zeeko has been performing for Musica Viva in Schools since 2010, but the group's history goes back long before that. Zeeko grew out of a group called Imbosima, which grew out of a group called Krakadak, which, in turn grew out of the group Southern Crossings - one of the very first groups to ever work for Musica Viva In Schools. I was a member of all those groups, so my involvement with Musica Viva In Schools goes back some 32 years. (I was actually inspired to become a musician from experiencing a Musica Viva show in my school back in 1981!). David Hewitt and I were also members of B'tutta, so David's work with Musica Viva In Schools goes back some 25 years. Zeeko brings a wealth of experience to our shows, and we absolutely love playing for school kids.
Outside of Musica Viva In Schools, what does the ensemble get up to musically?
Due to the distance between Zeeko members (Jess Green is in Canberra, I'm in Sydney, and David is down near Bega), the group's work is primarily for Musica Viva In Schools. Having said that, we do have plans in motion for work with the Four Winds Festival, Canberra Music Festival and some projects with City Recital Hall. The members of Zeeko are all very busy with various other projects in their roles as freelance musicians and composers.
2020 has been a difficult year. What have you done to keep creative and musical?
As my principal work is as a freelance player (across many genres and as a multi-instrumentalist), 2020 has been particularly difficult. I know that David and Jess have been busy writing, but composing is not my thing, so I've struggled to stay motivated. I really thrive as a performer. The last two months have seen a return to live gigging for me, which has been a relief. Prior to that, I accepted some work running an online unit for Gondwana Choirs called Rhythms Of The World. Fun, but also challenging, as the sessions were held through Zoom. During the COVID-19 period I've managed to do quite a bit of recording work. This is always exciting and rewarding.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
I'm really looking forward to bringing live performances back to the classroom. The group was rested from school shows during 2020 (a good year to have off, in the end), but playing live for school children is the most satisfying work I do, and I cannot wait to get back to it. I've really missed it. Other than that, I'm looking forward to concert halls reopening. Although my commercial work in various venues is returning, it feels like the concert halls may be the last to return. I'm looking forward to seeing my colleagues in the various orchestras return to performing, and joining them on a casual basis, as I've done in the past.
Learn more about Two Wheel Time Machine and when they are touring near you in 2021 here.