Isaiah Gage - navigating new paths
Son of renowned bass luthier David Gage, Isaiah Gage grew up surrounded by artists. His parents would host jam sessions at their house until wee hours of the morning, and there were constantly famous musicians coming and going from the shop, which occupies the back of the family’s Tribeca apartment. So it was only natural that Isaiah started playing music at a young age- it was literally inescapable. “These big wig jazz musicians would come through the apartment and just look at me and say, ‘play something, kid.’” Isaiah reminisces.
Even though music was an inevitable part of his upbringing, there was a period of his youth in which he abandoned it for a while; the idea of practicing for several hours a day was understandably unappealing as a high schooler. However, as Isaiah approached the college application process he realized that going to school for music was a good option- as a somewhat unfocused teenager, music was something that always kept him engaged and inspired. He attended the music conservatory at Boston University on scholarship.
After 4 years of studying strictly Western "classical" music at the conservatory, Isaiah found himself, as many art school graduates do, degree in hand and no clue where it could take him.
A career in classical music demands a particular type of personality; the kind of person who can diligently focus on a single objective for years on end, knowing the rarity of success. Classical music also requires a certain ability to "follow the rules," so to speak- there is little room for experimenting. Isaiah, more rebellious and risk-taking, didn't see himself as someone who fit into the classical "mold," and therefore used his solid conservatory base to start to branch out and explore different kinds of music.
Isaiah found home for a while playing "indie rock" music with a band called La Strada. Having never really performed music that wasn't classical, he had the time of his life discovering new musical potential in his instrument. Touring with a band and getting to travel while playing music was also a thrilling experience. Since his time with La Strada, Isaiah has branched out even more, playing with groups all around the city and exploring all sorts of new horizons in music.
As a musician, Isaiah always envisioned himself as "a cog in a larger machine"- he very much enjoys the process of working in a group to produce something bigger than the sum of it's parts.
"There's a saying that the problem with the arts is that everyone wants to be in the spotlight and no one wants to be in the audience. I don't mind being in the audience; I don’t mind being part of the process as opposed to the star of the show” says Isaiah.
One’s first impression upon meeting Isaiah is that he is one of the most laid back people ever. However, when performing he becomes illuminated with a magnetic intensity- the transformation is fascinating.
The set that Isaiah will be performing tonight is an experiment in solo work and a total departure from his musical comfort level. First off, the music has lyrics, which, according to Isaiah, was the most challenging part of the composition process. "I would write something and Will (Isaiah’s collaborator and producer) would just be like, 'no, those can't be the lyrics. That doesn't work.' It's really difficult to write something that doesn't sound cheesy."
Another major challenge of the solo project was getting used to singing and playing at once. After 20-some years of having his cello to communicate musically, exploring this new instrument of his voice has been an interesting adventure.
So where is it going next? Isaiah didn't necessarily intend for his first attempt at composing to be a solo project, it just makes the most sense logistically. He would love to have his music performed by a group of musicians, but says that a “band leader” role isn’t something he feels entirely comfortable with, so for the time being his compositions will be performed solo. However, considering Isaiah's charisma and passion, I imagine it won't be difficult to get other musicians to rally behind his artistic vision.
Be sure to catch his set with For Locals by Locals, tonight at 8pm.