The Full Story
Connection Experiment was founded in 2017 by Ashlee Young and Stephanie Cooke, two colleagues who connected on a common theme: the need for authentic musical expression. After spending the majority of their academic and professional lives trying to fit our societies' expectations of what it means to be an artist, Ashlee and Stephanie decided to try another way: to allow their unique human-ness and honesty to guide their performances and their teaching. What started as a few friends and colleagues performing together in concert has expanded into an entire musical philosophy.
Connection Experiment isn't about impressing. It's about expressing. Music is the expression of ideas and emotions, and we connect through music best when we can relate to our shared' humanity. The foundational belief of Connection Experiment is that people connect through authentic, shared experiences. We connect when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand one another's strengths and struggles.
The goal of Connection Experiment is to make music attainable for everyone. We empower our students to embrace their own unique musical voice. In performing, we strive to bridge the gap between performer and witness by creating a shared story.
We are all familiar with our society’s romantic idea of a performer and musician: a musical superstar, taking uninterrupted command of the stage, being a divine vessel through which music moves. At the core of this is an unrealistic expectation for performers to be supernatural rather than human. We must breathe life into music by allowing ourselves to be real with one another. When we idealize music and make it something divine, we inadvertently create a sense of distance and separation between artist and audience. Connection Experiment seeks to shed the preconceived notions of what a concert or musician should be, and take ownership of what it is: expression and connection. Everyone is an artist, it’s just about tapping into your creativity and discovering your authentic voice.
Ashlee is a dynamic pianist and educator who leads people to find the excitement, passion and life force in music. She believes that music has the power to bring people together to recognize our shared humanity, if we let it. In the fall of 2020, Ashlee joined a group of like-minded pianists to work on a project titled, A Seat at the Piano﹘an advocacy group with a searchable database of piano works by composers forgotten in a history dominated by white men. A Seat at the Piano advocates for the inclusion, study, and performance of this more representative body of piano works. Ashlee has an extensive background in performance and competitions. She has placed in the Franz Liszt International Piano Competition, the Liberace Piano Competition, the VSA Arts International Young Soloist Award, the Coeur D’Alene Young Artist Competition, the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras Competition, the State and Divisional Levels of the Music Teachers National Association, and went on to be one of only seven in the country to make it to the national level of the competition. She has performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. She currently resides in Oregon, where she performs, owns, manages, and teaches through her music studio, “Ashlee Young Music Studio, gives workshops, and is the piano head at Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus. For more info please visit ashleejyoung.com.
Stephanie is a versatile pianist, performer and instructor with a passion for making music education and artistic expression a reality to all levels and ages. She is a confident classical, jazz, and pop artist who incorporates aspects of each genre into her teaching and performing. Stephanie is a teaching artist who is dedicated to musician wellness through her work in body mapping, a form of somatic education that teaches how the understanding of anatomy can help prevent musicians becoming injured throughout their career. After receiving her Master’s degree in Classical Piano at Portland State University, Stephanie spent two years touring as the pianist for indie-pop group The von Trapps in addition to making guest appearances with internationally-renowned ensemble Pink Martini. Stephanie’s music and live performances are an expression of raw vulnerability and honesty; Stephanie believes that by owning her authentic voice, she can empower herself and her audience. Stephanie’s mission is to encourage others to embrace their own creative, unique voices. Based on this idea, she and Ashlee Young co-founded the Connection Experiment in 2017 and have been striving for authentic artistic connection ever since. Visit stephaniecooke.org for more information.