What does an orchestra for the 21st century look like? Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble has been asking that question for the past three years. Founded and led by conductor Jacomo Bairos and composer Sam Hyken, Nu Deco Ensemble is a genre-bending orchestra, both in terms of featured instruments and music.
The ensemble closed the season Saturday with the music of hip hop duo Outkast and a collaboration with two-time Grammy-nominee Luke James. Hyken said this fusion of genres lends to wider community engagement.
“We’re not targeting only young people, we’re targeting everybody," he said. "This is allowing us to create a community; we really feel like it’s more of a universal experience.”
Nu Deco Ensemble was born at the Miami Light Project at Goldman Warehouse, where the ensemble hosts shows most frequently, but has also played at the Adrienne Arsht Center and the New World Center. Last week's concerts were hosted at the ensemble's home in Wynwood.
The strings, brass, woodwind, and rhythm sections sit next to electric guitars and analog synthesizers. The ensemble reinterprets the music of non-classical musicians, like Daft Punk or Queen, to fit an orchestral setting. In addition, shows also feature special collaborations with contemporary musicians. Past collaborations have included the British multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier and musician Ben Folds.
Audience member Nancy Gelles said Nu Deco Ensemble is a welcome addition to Miami’s music community.
“I am a Miami native, there was nothing going on when I was a kid," she said. "So whether it’s contemporary, or rock, or pop, or jazz, hearing the range that they perform is very exciting.”
Nu Deco Ensemble will return for another season in October, after spending the summer recording in studio.