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Cello/rock quartet Break of Reality bridges gap between past, future of classical music

Break of Reality will close the Northwest BachFest’s December Winter Classics Concerts with a show, co-presented by Terrain, on Friday at the Washington Cracker Co. Building. (Chris Owyoung)
Break of Reality will close the Northwest BachFest’s December Winter Classics Concerts with a show, co-presented by Terrain, on Friday at the Washington Cracker Co. Building. (Chris Owyoung)

When you study classical music during the day but frequent rock shows after class, it’s only a matter of time before the two genres collide.

And when that collision happens, it’s bound to sound a little something like cello-rock quartet Break of Reality.

When performing both original songs and covers, the group blends the rich tones of string instruments with the pulsing beat of rock-centric percussion.

Break of Reality came to be after founding member Patrick Laird (cello) asked a few fellow students at the Eastman School of Music to perform rock charts he arranged.

The group’s first gig was sans percussion, but soon after Laird asked percussionist Ivan Trevino to join the band.

“At first, we were a heavy metal cello band,” Trevino said in a press bio. “We had amps, we were loud and played rock covers or original rock tunes. Slowly, our classical side crept into what we were doing for a more all-encompassing sound. We’re still rockin’, but with more nuance.”

The group will close the Northwest BachFest’s December Winter Classics Concerts with a show, co-presented by Terrain, on Friday at the Washington Cracker Co. Building.

At the Winter Classics concert, Break of Reality will feature Laird, Trevino and cellists Laura Metcalf and Cicely Parnas, who have been with the band since 2011 and 2015, respectively.

At this show, Break of Reality will perform original pieces, the music of Radiohead, Weezer and Tool, the group’s “Games of Thrones” theme, Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and a movement from a Bach cello suite.

Grammy award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey, the festival’s artistic director, will perform a solo set at this show.

In the band’s 13 years together, Break of Reality has released four albums, most recently 2014’s “Ten,” which featured all original material.

Earlier this year, the band worked with Turkish film composer Toygar Işıklı on a new project.

When the quartet is not working on new music or performing overseas as music ambassadors for the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad initiative, Break of Reality can often be found performing in schools across the country.

The group’s half-dozen workshops cover everything from transcription and composition to jam sessions and playing techniques not often taught in traditional classes, all in effort to fulfill the band’s mission to inspire musical interest and creativity, develop musicianship and keep instrumental music alive and relevant.

Earlier this week, Break of Reality performed a free concert at Eastern Washington University.

“Our goal is to increase awareness for music education, raise funds for the schools we’re visiting and encourage the kids we’re working with,” Trevino said. “We invite students to perform with us, which is inspiring for both them and us. Student reaction has always been extremely positive. We show them they can play any kind of music, not just classical, and encourage them to think outside of the box.”

Thinking outside of the box has always been a goal for Break of Reality, and it’s earned them worldwide critical acclaim.

The band’s cover of the “Game of Thrones” theme song, for example, has been viewed more than 18 million times on YouTube.

With more people paying attention to the band, and by default, classical instrumentation, the band is bridging the gap between what both classical and rock music once was and what it can be.

“Rock is as much in our blood as classical music,” Trevino said. “Our music is organic; we’re not doing it as a gimmick to play rock music on the cello. We want our instruments to be respected both in the classical and rock worlds.”


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