Local cellist goes on tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

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Rebecca Chung Filice (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Chung Filice)

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

Rebecca Chung Filice, 28, is not your typical classically trained musician. She rocked out on her cello with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on their European and U.S. Heist World tour this year. She will be joining them next year for their tour in New Zealand, Australia, and Malaysia.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Filice and her family moved to Seattle when she was 8 years old. She has one older sister, Sarah, and one younger sister, Annie, who are musicians as well and play the violin and piano, respectively. Growing up, they had jam-packed schedules, taking music and art classes because their parents have a great appreciation for the arts. Filice’s primary instrument is the cello. She also plays the piano, and has picked up the accordion, harp, and ukulele for fun.

“Observing my older sister play the piano and violin inspired me to get started, so I begged my parents to get into it as well,” said Filice. “Our mom liked to keep us busy and mentally stimulated.” As an Asian American, she felt the pressure to excel because of her heritage.

“When you’re the older sibling, you have to set an example,” said Sarah Chung. “Performing with my sister made me enjoy the experience that much more.”

When the sisters play music, they share a connection, and can communicate through music alone. They play about 90 percent of their performances together, and both started teaching music at young ages.  Filice actually started on the violin, but decided the cello was a better fit.

When she made the switch, she fell in love and built an instant connection with the instrument.

One of her proudest accomplishments was receiving a fellowship to the Carlsen Cello Foundation at the age of 12. The recognition inspired her to practice and work harder. Filice was accepted to study at the Seattle Conservatory of Music and the University of Washington with various scholarships.

When asked about her childhood dreams, Filice said with light laughter, “Growing up, I always dreamed of being a concert pianist or a ballerina. I think I was just enamored with the idea of wearing pretty dresses on stage.” On a more serious note, she added,  “I knew that I was meant to be on stage, there was always a strong pull to music.”

Filice consistently worked on music since the age of 6, but wavered between pre-med and law when going to college. Ultimately, her passion for music overpowered everything else.

Although she plays in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a rock and roll/classical fusion group, plays in the Passenger String Quartet, a group that accompanies various artists, and records for film and video games, Filice didn’t think she’d ever audition for a hip hop group. When she was invited to audition for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, however, she felt ready to broaden her horizons.

In May 2013, Filice was chosen to perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival to headline with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as their cellist, and was later asked to go on their three-month world tour.

“It was stimulating, waking up in a new city every day. The tour was an amazing experience, but looking back, it almost feels like a hazy dream, with so much going on each day,” she expressed.

Filice revamped her performance style for this group. Rather than sitting and playing, she learned to play standing, groove with the band, and add head bangs, while playing to pump up the crowd.

Out of the concert set list, “Wings” is her favorite song to play “because it is string heavy, and there is a mix of beautiful melodic lines and intricate rhythms to rock out to.”

“I really enjoyed the whole tour, the performances were always so energetic, and the crowd’s response to a performance was overwhelmingly amazing every single show,” she said.

Filice recalled her favorite show as the last stop of the Europe tour in Milan, Italy. Ben Haggerty, better known as Macklemore, called her out to crowd surf and it was her fist time stage diving. She said the gap between the stage and the pit was pretty big, and she was scared that she couldn’t leap to the crowd.

But when she jumped, she said it felt like she had landed on a giant cloud. “It was a once in a lifetime experience, crowd surfing over 10,000 people. We never know what to expect with Ben, he’s always full of surprises. Ben experienced an injury during a part of the Europe tour, and he picked out band members or dancers at random to crowd surf during our encore song where he normally does. We always had to anticipate being called on. He’s definitely unique, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist involve his band members so much.” she explained.

Filice was surprised by her influence on audience members while on tour. After concerts, Filice and her bandmates met with fans during “meet and greets.” A definite highlight was meeting and hearing from young fans that watching the performance encouraged them to keep going with their own music studies. “They would say, ‘I was thinking of quitting the cello, but now I want to practice more after seeing you perform.’ It’s encouraging to hear such words from kids. It is a great feeling to know I’m making an impact and making a classical instrument look cool in their eyes,” Filice said.

Up next for Filice in 2014 is performing with Mary Lambert on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in January, followed by another tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis starting in February. In addition, she’ll be touring with Judy Collins, David Bazan, and Built to Spill.

Filice currently does a lot of teaching and performing, but would like to make more time for composing and arranging. When she isn’t busy with her music career, she enjoys hot yoga, motorcycle riding, and home remodeling with her husband. (end)

To learn more about Filice and her musical journey, visit rebeccafilice.com.

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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