Xenia St. Charles Iris Llyllyth (b. 2000) is a composer, violinist, singer, and improviser who is obsessed with integrating love, social identity, politics, and the collaborative spirit with music to make the world a better place. Her personal identities and experiences as a trans woman are integral to her music, and she hopes that by being open and honest about her life, she can foster more love and acceptance of trans people and trans experiences. Xenia is frequently inspired by recklessness: the reckless beauty of nature, the reckless musical stunts of Rushad Eggleston, the reckless virtuosity of performers, the reckless fabulousness of Richard Bobo’s bizarre-instrument-making, the reckless desire to try new things, and the reckless kindness of her friends.
A dear friend once described Xenia’s Vase of gardenias, flowing over for solo trombone as “so cathartic and glorious and weighted-blanket-plus-cuppa-hot-tea-on-rainy-late-autumn-evening-esque :)”. Xenia felt this description really captured the ethos of the piece, which was written about the joy and warmth of her friendship with Zoe Cutler, for whom the piece was written. Xenia, despite her love of cold weather (and her yearning for a summer home in the arctic), often seeks to evoke warmth through her music—an evocation which is also referenced in several of her piece titles, including Chasing the Sunrise, Sometimes the bridges burn themselves, and No Sweater Needed. Xenia considers herself blessed to be surrounded by many wonderful performers and has had the privilege of writing music for Front Porch, the Cincinnati Symphony Chamber Players, the Converge quartet, Ancel Fitzgerald Neeley, Zoe Cutler, and lots of bassoonists, among many others. As a supplement to the wonderful musical community around her, Xenia often seeks foolish destiny by soliciting institutional validation for her work; in doing so she has received awards from the National YoungArts Foundation, the Michigan Music Teachers’ Association, the Center for Advanced Notation, the Music Teachers’ National Association, and the Facebook meme group 4’33” Dangerposting.
Fueled by her not-so-secret desire to be a pop singer, Xenia is also active as a performer. In the world of contemporary classical music, she has performed works by many incredible composers including Dai Fujikura, Ellen Harrison, Ancel Fitzgerald Neeley, Jessie Montgomery, Jeffrey Mumford, Kristin Kuster, and Brian Raphael Nabors. She also frequently performs her own music, and has recently commissioned new works from Grey Grant, Maya Johnson, and K. R. Palka. She loves performing with other musicians, and has been a member of the Flamingo Quartet, the University of Michigan Creative Arts Orchestra, the Klezmer band Vaguely Yiddish, improv band Vulnerability Hours, and The Fibonaccis (a band she started with her friends in fifth grade). She was recently named the new second violinist for the University of Michigan’s contemporary music quartet Converge Quartet and hopes to start a noise band with her friend Emily Whitelaw.
When she’s not making music, Xenia can be found sleeping, spending time with loved ones, learning about linguistics or geography, or climbing the global leaderboard for Swipe Brick Breaker (she is currently in 416th). She also owes a lot to the complicated world of academia, which has provided her with many wonderful mentors, including (in no particular order): Kristin Kuster, Ellen Harrison, Matt Albert, Stephen Rush, Aaron Berofsky, Roshanne Etezady, Lina Bahn, and William White. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Composition and Violin Performance at the University of Michigan and received pre-collegiate music education at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.