The Ambassador Ensemble Documentary & Performance Film will make its debut November 21, 2015 at the first Warsaw Ave Film Festival. Eddy Kwon, director of MYCincinnati (the youth orchestra program under which the Ambassador Ensemble performs,) took a few minutes from his busy schedule to chat with us about the documentary and exciting upcoming collaborations for the Ambassador Ensemble.

AW: Before you tell us about the documentary itself, please explain: what exactly is the Ambassador Ensemble? 

EK: The Ambassador Ensemble is a radical youth string sextet that is committed to social justice, collective action through avant performance, and experimental collaborations. Now in its second year, the group is pushing the expectations for what a youth string ensemble should or shouldn't do. This year, the ensemble is engaged in a truly unique collaboration with Swedish musician Jens Lekman. Jens is a poetic songwriter and storyteller who has traveled all over the world with his music. It's an immense honor for us to share in the process of music making with him and his band. [We are] gearing up for the almost sold-out show with Lekman on November 20th at the Woodward Theater [, where] we'll accompany him on 6-8 of his songs. The whole process will be documented by Henry and Michael Wilson, the same team that captured our project last year.

Ambassador Ensemble Group lo res BW
(2014-2015 inaugural Ambassador Ensemble group)

AW: Fascinating. What's covered in the documentary?    

EK: The film, by Michael Wilson and Henry Wilson, is a document of the group's 2014-15 project that combined social justice work with avant chamber music performance.
The 2014-15 inaugural Ambassador Ensemble project was an experiment in trust and vulnerability. During our discussions, we talked openly about experiences that hurt or confused us, that made us angry or depressed, or made us question who we were. (The Ambassador Ensemble toured and performed songs created from material generated in these discussions around the city, and was supported by a grant from the City of Cincinnati as part of the Arts Ambassador Fellowship Program, submitted by Kwon for consideration.) That vulnerability is at the core of the ensemble; it's where our entire music making comes from. It's what makes us powerful. 

It's impossible to share all of that in one performance, but through film, Michael and Henry Wilson were able to share some of our process which, in turn, helps frame the audience's experience of the music and performance. The two of them were flies on the wall during the ensemble's discussions and rehearsals, and really became part of the family. They followed us around for a good six months. The resulting documentary, which is gorgeous, shares the story of the ensemble and of the challenging journey they went on together.

AW: We can't wait to see it. Give us the details on this film festival, please! 

EK: The Warsaw Ave Film Festival, organized by Price Hill Will (the non-profit comprehensive community development corporation which operates MYCincinnati,) will be held at the MYCincinnati Firehouse on Saturday, November 21st. The free festival will bring together documentaries and shorts from around the country, in the hopes of stimulating critical discussion and collective action around the festival's theme, "Social Justice." Kevin Burke, Professor of Electronic Media at CCM, and Dr. Lisa Wagner Crews, Assistant Professor of Communication and New Media Studies at Mount St. Joseph University, will open the evening with a discussion about the intersection of film and social justice. The Guatemalan Chefs Collective will be serving homemade tamales, and Tap & Screw Brewery will be providing beer and light appetizers. 

The festival is just one of the ways Price Hill Will is working to make the MYCincinnati Firehouse into a hub for the arts, activism, and community building

price hill firehouse image
(Historical photograph of the MYCincinnati Firehouse)

Information and tickets to the Warsaw Ave Film Festival can be found here: 
Information and tickets to The Ambassador Ensemble’s performance with Jens Lekman can be found here: