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Cristina Spinei grew up dancing, but what drew her to the craft was less the movement and more the classical music accompanying her pliés and pirouettes. Her mom noticed her fascination with music and enrolled Spinei in piano lessons, and, by age 10, she was crafting her own melodies. “I’ve kind of always known [composing music] is what I wanted to do,” Spinei says.
Born in Connecticut, the Latin Grammy nominee ended up in New York City to attend The Juilliard School, where she received her bachelors and masters degrees in composition. Two years ago, she made the move to Nashville after meeting her now-boyfriend during a vacation in Music City with her sister.
In Nashville, Spinei’s ties to Julliard have proven to amp up her career even further. On November 11 and 12, fellow Julliard alum and choreographer Banning Bouldin’s dancers of New Dialect will be performing to a song written by Spinei.
“Banning pretty much gave me free reign,” Spinei says. “We talked about a few buzzwords, like ‘playful’ and ‘humor’ and ‘upbeat’ and ‘risk,’ and I wrote the music from there.” The performance will take place at the TPAC’s Polk Theatre and features acclaimed choreographers Yin Yue and Idan Sharabi, too.
Spinei also recently released her first album, Music For Dance, in July, and she already anticipates her next record. “I’m really impatient,” she admits, discussing how the adrenaline from her first album has her imagining another so soon. In Music For Dance, the six tracks are minimalistic and rhythmic, using string and percussion instruments.
But, in her second album, she says, “I want to do something a little more cross-genre. I want to add a little bass, a little grit, because I love rhythm.”
She plans to compose everything by the end of the year and record in the spring, but, without a cut-and-dry deadline, it could take longer. “If I have a project, and I know a deadline is coming up, it kind of kicks me into gear,” she says of what motivates her more than anything else. “It’s really a deadline. I need to have a sense of, ‘This needs to get done.’ And then I’m more inspired. It’s cliché, but it’s true.”
As for her not-so-near future, she dreams of writing for film and garnering a bigger repertoire for orchestra.
“I want orchestras all over the planet playing my music, because it’s so hard to get an orchestra performance,” she says. “You’re competing with music that’s written 200 years ago, and it’s hard for contemporary composers to get a piece on an orchestra’s season.”
She’s thankful to have gotten a good number of them so far, but, she adds with a laugh, “I want more—always more.”