The Westerlies, “an arty quartet…mixing ideas from jazz, new classical, and Appalachian folk” (New York Times) are a New York-based brass quartet comprised of childhood friends from Seattle: Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. From Carnegie Hall to Coachella, The Westerlies navigate a wide array of venues and projects with the precision of a string quartet, the audacity of a rock band, and the charm of a family sing-along.
Formed in 2011, the self-described “accidental brass quartet” takes its name from the prevailing winds that travel from the West to the East. “Skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers” (NPR’s Fresh Air), The Westerlies explore jazz, roots, and chamber music influences to create the rarest of hybrids: music that is both “folk-like and composerly, lovely and intellectually rigorous” (NPR Music).
The Westerlies’ 2022-23 engagements include performances at Carnegie Hall Citywide, the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Clark Art Institute, Celebrity Series, the Lied Center of Kansas, the Bermuda Festival of Performing Arts, and the New York Philharmonic Sidewalk Studio Series, as well as tours with singer-songwriters Haley Heynderickx and Aoife O’Donovan, and indie-folk outfit Fleet Foxes. The ensemble was featured on Fleet Foxes’ Shore tour, playing 42 shows across the United States and Europe.
The ensemble has produced numerous critically acclaimed albums of genre-defying music. 2022 saw the release of the EP Songbook Vol. 2 on Westerlies Records, the ensemble’s in-house record label. The previous year was a prolific year for the ensemble, with the release of Fireside Brass: A Westerlies Holiday (Westerlies Records), Songbook Vol. 1 (Westerlies Records), and Bricolage (Westerlies Records), a collaborative album of improvisations with pianist/composer Conrad Tao. 2021 also saw the release of This Land, the ensemble’s collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Theo Bleckmann. The Westerlies have produced three albums of quartet music: their 2014 debut, Wish the Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz (Songlines), a 2016 double-CD of primarily original compositions, The Westerlies (Songlines), and their 2020 release, Wherein Lies the Good (Westerlies Records). Sought-after collaborators, The Westerlies are also featured on recordings by Fleet Foxes (Nonesuch), Big Red Machine (Jagjaguwar), Vieux Farka Touré (Six Degrees Records), Common (Lakeshore) and Dave Douglas (Greenleaf).
Education and community engagement are core elements of The Westerlies’ mission. In 2021, The Westerlies were named the inaugural small ensemble-in-residence at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School. The Westerlies also produce an annual music festival in Seattle called Westerlies Fest, which combines evening performances featuring numerous guest artists, an all-day open-to-the-public creative music jamboree, and workshops in local public schools. The festival’s educational programming reaches over 1,000 students in Seattle and surrounding underserved areas every year.
The Westerlies have engaged students of all ages and abilities around the country with their innovative assemblies and masterclasses, promoting the values of cooperation and inclusion through music. They have completed educational residencies with Clefworks (Montgomery, AL), Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (Orcas Island, WA), the School District of Osceola County (Osceola County, Florida), and Highline Public Schools (Burien, WA), among others. They have also taught masterclasses at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Yale School of Music, The Colburn School, and a variety of other colleges and universities.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, The Westerlies are on a mission to amplify unheard voices, paint new sonic landscapes, and cultivate a global community. The Westerlies are committed to dismantling racism, sexism, and economic inequality in their field, and aim to reflect their values of diversity and inclusion in the music they make and the spaces they occupy.