The Knights
Black and white photo of violinist playing and dancer moving towards the shot in dancers pose.
Home / The Knights

Artist In Residence: The Knights

Flexible in size and repertory, The Knights are dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audience and music. Led by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and collaboration, The Knights seek to engage with contemporary culture through vibrant performances that honor the classical tradition and our passion for musical discovery.

The year 2020 marked the start of The Knights’ residency at Usdan. While the first summer of Usdan’s Artist in Residence program is typically a research year, this was unfortunately altered due to the COVID pandemic. Though we did not run camp, the partnership between Usdan and The Knights was alive for Summer 2020 just the same. 

We hope to have The Knights work safely with some of our students in Summer 2021, which could include observing classes and student learning, trying out creative ideas, and more.


Thank you to the Principal Sponsors of the 2021 Residency and Concert of Maile Okamura, Colin Jacobsen, and The Knights:

Debra and Dale Lewis, Arts Reach Fund, Long Island Community Foundation


Artist in Residence Statement

As we prepared for what was supposed to be our initial research year of Usdan's Artists in Residence (AIR) program in spring 2020, news of the coronavirus pandemic swept the world and we thought it was going to be a completely lost summer. Thanks to the generosity of Lauren Brandt Schloss and Usdan, we were able to pivot and make several trips to Usdan's beautiful campus and at least get to know (and play!) in its physical space. We noticed its physical beauty, and how quickly nature starts to take over spaces in the absence of people. We noticed how the absence of people, particularly children, in a place designed for their joyous interaction can create its own kind of presence or atmosphere. Our 5 year old daughter Mimi accompanied us on these trips, and through her eyes, we were able to imagine how children see and experience Usdan's physical campus. Mimi had us search campus-wide for monsters and joined us in exploring the empty pools as a venue for dance and music...

The pandemic's pause has allowed many people, artists and institutions to ask bigger questions than we often have time or space to ask: What kind of world do we want to live in? What is our relationship to the land, planet, each other? While our original AIR proposal related to some of these questions, we decided to align ourselves more specifically with Usdan's sustainability goals and let the topic of sustainability fuel our creative exploration. Part of this was inspired by our participation in Usdan's virtual "Sustainability Sandbox,” started in the fall of 2020, which consisted of a selection of Usdan staff, artists, teachers, students and was a place for virtual experimentation and connection during the pandemic. In the Sandbox, we started to play with the idea of the 4 Classical Elements (Water, Earth, Fire and Air) as a way to wrap our mind around the huge topic of sustainability and how it can be translated artistically. 

We’re thinking of this first year of actually working with students as a hybrid research + creation year, where we'll get to test some ideas/ways of working with the students that could get scaled up in size the following two summers. We will focus our work with one dance class and one music class. 


Passing Notes

In conceiving of this project, we knew that we wanted to work across music and dance to collaboratively create a piece related to ideas of sustainability. The four classical elements will be the focus through which we examine: nature, our surroundings; a sense of how systems interact and how everything is interdependent; and a sense of the power we have as individuals to effect positive or negative change within those systems. We envision the work being process-based and exploratory from start to final "showing" this year. Both the music and dance classes will be given a series of guided prompts that will help each class create movement and sound to go with each element. Given Covid restrictions, we are planning for each class to "Pass Notes" back and forth (with us as messengers) that will help create the work. This will truly be cross-disciplinary, as the musicians will be asked to engage in simple movement, and the dancers will help create sound motifs as well. We imagine that the collaboratively created music/dance piece will be represented as a graphic score, and in essence will be the symbolically represented rules of a game, which will be "played" as part of the showing on the last day of our residency. 

We hope both students and ourselves will walk away with a greater awareness of our surroundings, a sense of how we are completely interconnected, and the consequences of actions upon a closed system. We are thrilled to work with children who can bring a unique and fresh perspective to these universal concepts. We’d like to tap into the direct and instinctive art making methods that children have in abundance by including kids in decision making to empower them as thinkers and creators. Through conversation, exploration, improvisation, and organization, we hope to enrich our ways of making art as a community and most importantly, to have a lot of fun together. 

As we learned from Aimee Arandia Østensen, our friend and a sustainability educator from Shelburne Farms:

"Knowledge of Place + Understanding Interdependence + Sense of Self-Efficacy = Engaged residents creating sustainable communities." We believe the arts, and specifically music and dance can make these ideas visible in a fun and creative way for both the students and ourselves and can't wait to play/explore this summer at Usdan! 



Sustainability Sandbox (Spring 2021)


Caprice 6: Dance Heginbotham & Usdan AiR (Summer 2020)

In an ambitious new virtual dance on film project, Dance Heginbotham (DH) is collaborating with Usdan Artists in Residence Colin Jacobsen and Maile Okamura. DH founder John Heginbotham, his team of dancers, and some surprise guest artists explore the eclectic, delightful, dark and melancholic turns of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. Creating 24 miniature dances on film, each caprice is a captivating jewel, rhythmically intricate and varied in range, capturing a moment in this unprecedented time. 

DH shared the world premiere of the newest installments of 24 Caprices at a virtual watch party hosted by The Hop at Dartmouth College on February 23. Caprice 6 was filmed on Usdan's campus and performed by Colin and Maile.

The filming at Usdan was part of the development for Variations on America - Our Land 2020, a video project choreographed by John Heginbotham. Mimi helped to workshop the material that was later taught to professional dancers and other children for the piece.


Rehearsal in McKinley Amphitheater (Summer 2020)

In late July, our dormant amphitheater came back to life thanks to The Knights. For three days, a sextet rehearsed with masks on, in the safe open air, to prepare for their livestream broadcast from Caramoor on July 23. The rehearsal was written about in Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss’ weekly Musing “Waking Up the Senses”

Rehearsal of Brahms String Sextet No. 2 in G, Op. 36


Interview with co-Artistic Director Colin Jacobsen


This Time (Spring/Summer 2020)

The Knights created a two part piece for the Usdan community. “This Time” was choreographed and danced by Maile Okamura accompanied on the violin by co-Artistic Director of The Knights Colin Jacobsen. Part I was filmed in Prospect Park near Colin and Maile’s home in Brooklyn and shared at a virtual Usdan community gathering. Part II of the piece was filmed while on the Usdan campus.

This Time: Part I



This Time: Part II


Back to Artists In Residence / Artists @ Usdan