An original musical production by flugelhornist and composer Dmitri Matheny, The SnowCat is the heartwarming tale of a little girl's search for her wandering white cat on a chilly afternoon.
Each year, Dmitri and friends bring The SnowCat to life in a popular series of performances for families, combining singing, storytelling, live music, and visual art.
"I was born on Christmas Day, and I love the traditional songs and stories of the holiday season," Matheny said. "The SnowCat, however, is our own creation."
The SnowCat is based on the ancient Asian parable of the oxherder, in which a herdboy's quest to find his missing ox is likened to an individual's journey through life. With origins in India, the parable became popular in medieval Japan and was depicted on 13th century handscrolls as the "Ten Oxherding Songs" or "Ten Oxherding Pictures." The scrolls traditionally divide the hero's journey into ten stages each illustrated by a circularly framed image and a simple verse. Rendered in the graphic style of Japanese narrative illustration, the story is as simple as a modern day comic or coloring book, yet offers profound lessons of spiritual beauty which still resonate today.
As in the ancient parable, the hero of Dmitri Matheny's The SnowCat finds her companion and returns home to appreciate the beauty of nature, play music, and have fun with friends. She maintains hope, optimism and determination in the face of adversity; discovers the gentle power of sitting quietly; and embodies the spirit of sharing and gratitude that makes the holidays such a magical time.
"I was inspired by the profound message of 'The Oxherder,' and the simple shape of its narrative," Matheny remarked. "In The SnowCat, however, our hero is not a boy, but a girl named 'Sam.' Instead of an ox, her companion is a luminous white cat. Our setting isn't 13th century Japan, but 21st century San Francisco. And instead of a flute, Sam plays a flugelhorn!"
"The SnowCat story is certainly spiritual, but it is secular, not religious, and thus it is universal. It contains great messages for both kids and adults," Matheny said. "Children will appreciate the spirit of fun and friendship between Sam and the SnowCat. Adults may also view the story as an allegory or parable." Our narrative poses questions worthy of adult contemplation:
Who am I? What am I seeking? What does it mean to go home, or to cross to the other shore? What is serenity? And why are dancing, music, and play so important?
ABOUT DMITRI MATHENY
Few horn men in America enjoy such universal acclaim as Dmitri Matheny, whose unforgettable sound has been described as "so cool it'll run a shiver through your martini" (Los Angeles Times).
Celebrated for his warm romantic tone, soaring lyricism and masterful technique, Matheny was first introduced to jazz audiences in the 1980s as the protege of flugelhorn legend Art Farmer (with whom he studied privately for ten years). Now hailed as "the first breakthrough flugelhornist since Chuck Mangione" (San Jose Mercury News), Dmitri Matheny has been named "Best New Artist" in the JazzIz Readers Poll and "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition" in the Down Beat International Critics Poll.
Dmitri Matheny has appeared on dozens of recordings as a composer, arranger, producer and featured soloist. Matheny has released seven critically-acclaimed recordings as a leader: Red Reflections (1995), Penumbra: The Moon Sessions (1996), Starlight Cafe (1998), Santa's Got a Brand New Bag (2000), Nocturne (2005), The SnowCat (2006) and Best of Dmitri Matheny (2008).
Born on Christmas Day, 1965 in Nashville, Tennessee, and raised in Georgia and Arizona, Dmitri began playing the trumpet at age 9. He is an honors graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
While still in college, the young trumpeter led his own bands while working professionally as a sideman with the Temptations, Martha Reeves, and the True Colors Big Band. In 1989 he graduated magna cum laude from Berklee and relocated to San Francisco, California, where he makes his home today.
Although best known as a flugelhorn player, Dmitri Matheny is also a prolific composer and lyricist whose published compostions span the jazz, popular, symphonic, choral, chamber and world music genres.
Matheny has received premieres and commissions from Meet the Composer, the Manhattan New Music Project, the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, the Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra and 20th Century Forum. His film scoring and soundtrack credits include the PBS documentary Mary, Paradox & Grace (1996), the industrial short film Greenhorn Creek (1997), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art production Voices & Images of California Art (1997), and the RKO Pictures feature film Shade (2003). Most recently, Matheny contributed music for the Cannes Film Festival premiere of "Stanley's Girlfriend," a short film from the horror anthology, Trapped Ashes (2006).
Matheny's most ambitious creation to date is Spiritu Sancto, a monumental sacred work scored for chorus, organ, percussion, brass quintet, jazz ensemble and gospel soloist. Commissioned by Ted W. Hall for St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco, the composition received its world premiere at midnight on the dawn of the new millennium. The long-awaited recording from the historic "New Millennium Mass" concert is scheduled for release this year.
A strong arts advocate, published writer, and gifted public speaker, Dmitri Matheny is passionate about music education. He has held teaching faculty and arts management positions with the Jazzschool (Berkeley, CA), Boston Center for the Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Monarch Records. He has served as Director of Education for SFJAZZ, the San Francisco Jazz Organization, as Assistant Education Director for the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Colony at Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and as Artist-In-Residence for the Young Musicians Program of the University of California, Berkeley.
Dmitri presents clinics, lectures and workshops at leading universities and conservatories worldwide, and offers private lessons in the San Francisco Bay Area. This year, in association with the San Francisco Symphony's innovative Adventures in Music program, the Dmitri Matheny Group will perform for more than 15,000 children in over 100 public schools.
Dmitri Matheny has performed with a number of jazz luminaries, including Nathan Davis, Red Holloway, Denise Jannah, James Moody, Max Roach, Sam Rivers, Bud Shank, Billy Taylor and Bobby Watson. He began touring with the Dmitri Matheny Group in 1996, with the Amina Figarova International Band in 1997, and with the chamber jazz duo Grant & Matheny (with pianist Darrell Grant) in 1998.
Today, Dmitri performs extensively year-round as a soloist and bandleader throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. At home in San Francisco, he stages two major, annual series of concerts. Each spring, Matheny collaborates with visiting artists to present the Dmitri Matheny Home Season. During the winter holidays, Dmitri produces The SnowCat, an original theatrical production for children and families.