Very rarely do musical groups today get to work with Pulitzer Prize winners, but most groups aren’t Roomful of Teeth. Most ensembles aren’t a cappella educators who have studied throat singing, P’ansori from Korea, and the music of Persia. But most ensembles aren’t Roomful of Teeth.
According to group founder Brad Wells, they want to “mine the expressive potential of the human voice”. Essentially, they are the musical equivalent of Doctors Without Borders. But that is only the beginning. Meeting annually at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, this nine-piece ensemble has worked with some of the best composers around today. And about that Pulitzer Prize, they’ve actually worked with two winners.
In 2013, group member Caroline Shaw won the prize for her composition Partita for 8 Voices, which appears on their 2012 self-titled debut album, as well as a solo package on iTunes. The album eventually won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Music Ensemble. Just last year, the group worked with 2015 recipient Julia Wolfe.
In 2014, ROT was one of only three American groups invited to participate in the International Federation for Choral Music Symposium in Seoul, South Korea. But perhaps what is most interesting is that beyond being just singers, the group are also educators and teachers. They regularly lead improv-based workshops, master classes, and vocal technique workshops at various colleges, high schools, elementary schools and community centres across the US.
Simply put, Roomful of Teeth is a big deal.