Mere Mortals

Caitlin Edwards violin
Daniel Schlosberg piano

Irene Britton Smith composer
Jonathan Bailey Holland composer
Ethel Smyth composer
David Baker composer
Ahmed Alabaca composer

Release Date: October 27, 2023
Catalog #: NV6563
Format: Digital
21st Century

Caitlin Edwards and Daniel Schlosberg work in collaboration to bring us MERE MORTALS, an exceptional performance and intuitive study on works for violin and piano by composers of marginalized identities with a brilliant legacy to share with the world.

In a world that often grinds us to the bone, MERE MORTALS asks us to slow down, step back, and appreciate the fruits of our labor, reminding us that although our time on this earth is fleeting, it can also be a rich and exploratory experience that enables us to leave an immortal and vital legacy behind.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Sonata for Violin and Piano: I. Allegro cantabile – Allegro di molto Irene Britton Smith Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 7:32
02 Sonata for Violin and Piano: II. Andante con sentiment Irene Britton Smith Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 5:00
03 Sonata for Violin and Piano: III. Vivace Irene Britton Smith Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 3:55
04 Sonata Variation Jonathan Bailey Holland Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 5:41
05 Sonata for Violin and Piano: I. Allegro moderato Ethel Smyth Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 10:52
06 Sonata for Violin and Piano: II. Scherzo: Allegro grazioso Ethel Smyth Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 3:13
07 Sonata for Violin and Piano: III. Romanze: Andante grazioso Ethel Smyth Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 8:46
08 Sonata for Violin and Piano: IV. Finale: Allegro vivace Ethel Smyth Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 7:18
09 Sonata for Violin and Piano: I. Flowing with feeling David Baker Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 5:01
10 Sonata for Violin and Piano: II. Reverie David Baker Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 6:03
11 Sonata for Violin and Piano: III. With Fire David Baker Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 5:37
12 Mere Mortals Ahmed Alabaca Caitlin Edwards, violin; Daniel Schlosberg, piano 4:03

This album is made possible in part by support from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Initiative on Race and Resilience, College of Arts and Letters, at the University of Notre Dame.

A special thank you to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, and to the following individuals:
Berthold Hoeckner, Sean Martin, Sarah Prince, and Norman Vesprini

Recorded July 11-13, 2022 at Leighton Concert Hall, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame IN
Recording Session Engineer Hunter Brown
Editing and Mixing Hunter Brown

Mastering Melanie Montgomery

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Chelsea Kornago

Artist Information

Caitlin Edwards

Caitlin Edwards


Caitlin Edwards is a violinist, arranger, recording artist, and teacher based in Chicago. She began her musical journey at the age of 8 within a non-profit organization in her hometown of Birmingham AL. She later attended the University of Louisville (B.M.) and DePaul University (M.M.). Edwards is a classically trained violinist, but she’s inspired by gospel, jazz, hip-hop, and neo-soul. She released her debut album, Exhale, in 2021. She composes original music and intentionally performs the works of Black composers to help ensure that these composers and their compositions are remembered and spotlighted for aspiring young BIPOC musicians and the world as a whole. 

Daniel Schlosberg

Daniel Schlosberg


Daniel Schlosberg leads a kaleidoscopic musical life. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in numerous chamber music concerts and new music concerts, and was a featured soloist in subscription performances of Messiaen’s Trois Petites Liturgies. He has a passion for contemporary music, collaborating frequently with Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion.

Ahmed Alabaca


Ahmed Alabaca is an African American composer, conductor, songwriter, pianist, and community facilitator creating power and possibility, through music, for himself and the diverse communities he is a part of. Raised in San Bernardino CA, in a low-income community, Alabaca knows the value of hard work and perseverance in the face of systemic and interpersonal challenges. Alabaca’s vision is “a new renaissance” for underrepresented composers, which centers on the works of people of color and creates opportunities for them to perform, record, and archive their work.


As I scanned through composer biographies before writing this piece, I paused at Ahmed Alabaca’s fond portrait of their high school experience. They wrote, “high school was great. I played in concert band, marching, and jazz band. I played keyboards, violin, and percussion in all the musicals, ultimately playing piano my senior year…I literally was in everything musical on campus. I loved high school.” Alabaca not only appreciated having access to a wide range of musical experiences, but importantly highlighted the band teacher that encouraged exploration and experimentation on a variety of instruments. Having had a similar experience in high school, I sat with gratitude for my teachers who had made this kind of musical upbringing possible.

That gratitude illuminated an important thread connecting the composers and works featured on this album: MERE MORTALS is an album almost entirely of music educators. Each composer is in dialogue with their historical moment, musical peers, the listening public, and the future of music composition through their roles as students and mentors. The way Ahmed Alabaca describes their relationship to music education inspires a lens through which we can see and hear the other four composers gracefully interpreted by Caitlin Edwards and Daniel Schlosberg. As an introduction to the album, here are the ways education shaped the lives of these composers and the featured works.

— Reed A. Williams

By the time Irene Britton Smith (b.1907) finished her sonata in 1947, she had 17 years of experience as a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system. Smith herself was born in Chicago, and attended Wendell Phillips High School, one of the only high schools open to Black students in the 1920s. Wendell Phillips was known for its music program and produced many musicians that remained in Chicago to mentor future generations of artists. The year prior to completing her violin sonata, Smith took a short sabbatical to study at Juilliard and began earning a graduate degree in composition. She kept composing until 1962, but it was her passion for education that was ultimately responsible for her nearly 50-year career in Chicago’s elementary schools.

The very inception of the second piece speaks to institutional lineages educators are often connected to. Sonata Variation was commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music and the Samuel Barber Society as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Samuel Barber’s birthday. Barber himself studied at Curtis, connecting Barber’s violin sonata to the premiere of Jonathan Bailey Holland’s (b.1974) Sonata Variation in 2010. Most recently, Holland was appointed as Dean of the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, where he is now able to guide burgeoning musicians through the rich network that connects him to Barber.

Ethel Smyth (b.1858) did not have a formal teaching post, but she was certainly connected to public education in other ways. Smyth’s Sonata was composed during her one-year enrollment at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1878, after which she eventually returned to England by 1890. Smyth’s advocacy for her own career and the careers of other female composers motivated fierce involvement in the suffrage movement. Her activism was on par with her musical prowess and her political writing was featured in various publications until her death in 1944. Ethel Smyth may not have been a public-school teacher like Irene Britton Smith, but she used her platform to educate the public on the unequal treatment of women, particularly in musical realms.

Our final composer, David Baker (b.1931), is perhaps best known for his pedagogical impact on the world of jazz. In the biography titled David Baker: A Legacy in Music, jazz educator JB Dyas writes, “I have known David Baker for 25 years, actually longer if you count the decade or so I knew him through his jazz improvisation books before ever meeting him in person. Back then, in the 1970s, his and a few others’ were the only books available demystifying the secrets of how to play this music.” The level of familiarity granted through learning creates a unique kind of musical engagement. This description elucidates precisely why Baker’s legacy is alive years after his passing: people can get to know David Baker through his jazz pedagogy, even if only one part of him.
Although the final piece is not a sonata like the others, the poetic significance of MERE MORTALS perfectly encompasses how we carry our most vulnerable selves in all parts of life, but especially as teachers and students. In reference to the piece, Ahmed Alabaca wrote, “either systemically or naturally, human life is precious and should be treated with compassion and care. We are just mere mortals, doing our best to survive.” Our teachers bear witness to this survival in all its beauty and flaws, and reflect that duality in their positions as both educators and composers. The fact that these composers are/were educators is noteworthy not only because of their teachings, but because of the interconnectedness they model. I close my eyes and picture Irene Britton Smith, Ethel Smyth, Jonathan Bailey Holland, David Baker, and Ahmed Alabaca sitting in an imaginary classroom where they are immersed in conversation through these pieces. And this reverie feels all the more important at a time when queer and Black histories are being silenced in our education systems. I invite you to listen, dream up your own classroom, and consider the teachings these mere mortals have to offer. I imagine you’ll learn quite a bit.