duo526 was founded in 2011 by violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Futaba Niekawa at the Eastman School of Music. Since 2014, duo526 has toured Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Japan, New York, Virginia, and was in residence at Avaloch Farms, Brandon University, and Indiana University. Recent travels to Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Budapest, New York City, Iceland, and Amsterdam have offered duo526 insight and inspiration.

duo526 is dedicated to creative thought and the art of listening through the study and performance of a vast repertoire across an array of styles. Their joy of collaboration results from risk-taking, inspiration, and spontaneous reactions. Their name was inspired by Mozart’s last Sonata for Violin and Piano K. 526, the first work presented to them by Charles Castleman for their equal virtuosic flair and refined musicianship.

Today, Kerry and Futaba are our featured artists in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what this album means to both artists…

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

F: I loved playing with all things creative when I was little. It could be origami folding (which I still do all the time), clothes arranging, improv-dancing to LPs with my brother, drawing, and playing music. When I was 4, as a kindergarten project, everyone in class recorded their future dream profession on tape, and I said I wanted to be a pianist. My dream has never changed since then.

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

F: My most embarrassing story actually happened when I was playing a concert with Kerry as duo526 a few years ago. I was wearing a jumpsuit dress with an exposed back, so I decided to wear a silicon bra. The recital program was really intense and long, and I was sweating much more than usual by the end of the concert. I had faith in the silicon bra because it’s supposed to be sweat-resilient, but as I was playing the last notes of the last piece, the bra cups fell off and dropped down to my waist!  There was no way to fix them onstage. Fortunately, the dress had a waistband, so the bra didn’t fall all the way to the floor–that would have been even more mortifying. Luckily not many people in the audience noticed anything wrong with my dress. It took me a while to come back for the second bow…

What is your guilty pleasure?

K: Watching my TV series–some of my favorites include Game of Thrones, Westworld, Handmaid’s Tale, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, and Six Feet Under. No matter what, I always make time to watch a bit of TV and when I am watching my favorite sports (hockey and tennis), I often practice violin at the same time (You do what you have to do!). My other guilty pleasure is anything True Crime related. I listen to several podcasts and read about cold cases, serial killers, and legendary criminals. I have always been fascinated by unsolved mysteries and criminal justice!

If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?

K: Professional traveler! I love going places and discovering the local culture, food, and scene. I always thought some kind of job for National Geographic would be the best: adventure and travel.

Duo526, Kerry DuWors and Futaba Niekawa, (Colin Corneau photo)

What does this album mean to you personally?

K: For me, this album is the culmination of a body of creative work with Futaba through several artist residencies at the Banff Centre and Avaloch Farm Music Institute and a lot of inspiring travels in Europe and North America over the past few years. Something about the “fantasia” aspects of the Villa-Lobos, Bax, and Bolcom duo works spoke to us when we were reading through stacks of music. The variety and intrigue of discovering each piece’s style and meaning catapulted the project into the recording process. I love bringing to life works that are relatively unknown and genius in their own right. Being able to imprint my own style and give them our own unique duo526 spin gives me great joy. The album is also a complete collaboration through and through, as good friends were involved in the project: Jason O’Connell, a fellow classmate from my undergraduate degree, was the producer and engineer, and Glen Carruthers, former Dean and colleague at Brandon University, wrote the liner notes. It is exciting to know our work will be shared with curious listeners and duo526 supporters all over the world. Since our DUO FANTASY album is our second recording release, it also signifies a new chapter in our artistic journey.

F: Being an artist and a creative soul allows me to constantly explore my identity, both on a musical and personal level. Kerry and I have been performing and working together for eight years and one of the qualities we shared from the beginning is that we are brutally honest with each other—which brings lots of discussions and thought-exchange along with some tears and arguments! Listening back to our first album from five years ago shows the distinctive style we possessed from earlier times, but this new album brings to the fore another level of maturity as a duo gained over the last few years; and the theme, Fantasy, was the perfect kind of challenge for my imaginative and expressive qualities.

DUO FANTASY is now available for streaming or purchase through Navona Records. Click here to explore this new album.