The Classical Station’s interview with Time For Three

Interview with Time For Three

by Bethany Tillerson

Photo © Shervin Lainez

Time For Three has grown in popularity as a classical string trio that loves to experiment, merging Bach and Kanye West, classic and pop arrangements. The three members, Nicolas Kendall, Charles Yang, and Ranaan Meyer, have performed at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, offered Masterclasses on music education, and are dedicated to making classical music more accessible.

Time For Three spoke with Rob Kennedy about the inspiration for their trio, and the way it first began during their time as students at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Time for Three: We would stay back after everybody cleared out of the hall and turn down the lights and make it super moody. And we’d have these jam sessions that would borrow themes or melodies from what we were just working on—but adding in from many different genres. And I think what we were craving at the time was a different kind of energy. As you can imagine, working or playing or exploring any of these great masterworks takes a lot of discipline and energy, and we craved another type of energy—one of using the tool of improvisation as a communication mechanism between each other, and also as a way of playing games and using music in a very inventive way, very much in the moment. It was not thought out at all, but people kept loving it–our friends and supporters, and our teachers. And we decided instead of just phoning or winging it, why don’t we actually put some thought into it and make it a thing? And by accident, Time For Three was born.

Besides just doing instrumentals, Time For Three also throws vocals into their music every now and then.

Time For Three: In addition to being so like-minded as instrumentalists, we just collectively, I think, had to find a way to add vocals because it was just another element—taking our instruments from three, multiplying it by two. So we have really six instruments now that we get to make music and blend together to enrich our existence with one another. I think my background in vocals was really, really wonderful until Mother Nature interfered with it when I was about 13 years old. Now, with our concertos, we sing in both at different moments, tastefully placed at different times. Definitely it’s not the lion’s share, but it happens and it adds color, it adds variety. And it’s just remarkable to take this journey with each other as an ensemble in that way.

For their most recent album, Letters For The Future, the trio collaborated with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Here are their thoughts on the experience.

Time For Three: As I said before, our roots are the beginnings of Time For Three. We’re in Philadelphia and there’s such an extended tradition in both directions, both from Curtis to the Philadelphia Orchestra, but then from the Philadelphia Orchestra to Curtis. The change of culture of sound and the fabulous Philadelphians, as it’s been coined, is because of the sound of the heart and soul of that orchestra.[…] They’re classmates of ours, just friends, so it really is a family situation. And this album is full of heart, full of love, and it is for the future, and it’s a snapshot of what’s happening in music in our world and in music. Hopefully it’s something that will be listened to for future generations.

Time For Three is certainly a string trio attempting to do something new on the classical music stage, and they are well worth checking out. Rob Kennedy’s full 10-minute interview with Time For Three premieres Sunday, September 11th. Please listen to Preview if you’re interested in everything that these talented musicians have to say about their unique project and their relationship with music.