Wytold Lebbing

CR Cello
Solo Artist, Artist in Residence for the Strathmore Performing Arts Center

Wytold recently performed his original compositions with the National Symphony Orchestra for a sold-out audience of 3,000 at Echo Stage, which the Washington Post hailed as “virtuosic” and “hard to top”. He will join the NSO again in on February 28, 2016, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall as part of their Family Concert Series. Two of Wytold’s songs are featured in the Sundance award-winning documentary, Blood Brother, which received an EMMY-nomination for Outstanding Music and Sound. Wytold was selected to study and collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble in their 2015 Global Musician Workshop and recently gave a TEDx performance discussing the relationship between his six-string electric cello compositions and classical and popular music. Wytold is also actively composing and performing several commissioned works with the contemporary dance company, Christopher K Morgan & Artists (CKM&A). Recently Wytold was in residence with CKM&A at the Maui Cultural Center in Hawaii to create Pohaku, a piece that explores historical and current interactions between western and native Hawaiian cultures. Wytold is composing the score for Pohaku collaboratively with Kumu Hula Elsie Ryder, and the piece will premier in a 4-island Hawaiian tour in April 2016. Wytold is an NS Design featured artist, recent Strathmore Artist in Residence, and a recipient of several grant awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Wytold has also performed at the Sundance Film Festival, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the French Embassy, the National Geographic Museum, the Strathmore Performing Arts Center, the Levine School of Music, the Phillips Collection, Sydney-Harman Hall, the DC Jazz Festival, the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, among many other venues.

As an educator, Wytold teaches both classical and exploratory cello lessons and frequently travels throughout DC, VA, and MD offering ‘Classical Hip-Hop’ educational programs to elementary, middle, and high school students with GRAMMY-nominated progressive hip-hop artist, Christylez Bacon. In addition, Wytold regularly performs at Walter Reed Military Hospital and co-leads workshops that help Wounded Warriors heal through art at local USOs.

Wytold (William Wytold Lebing) began private lessons in classical cello repertoire at age 10 and participated in school and regional youth orchestras throughout Northern Virginia, often as principal chair. Wytold always dreamt of going to college to study cello performance but was held back by carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by an over-zealous and technically unsound approach to the instrument. After a 1.5 year hiatus, Wytold reintroduced himself to playing music by learning folk songs on the acoustic guitar. Guitar strumming and finger-picking gradually reintroduced Wytold’s fingers and wrists to the motions involved in performing and also instilled a new soul and passion for heart-felt musicianship and the musical experience.

Shortly thereafter, Wytold translated to the cello the techniques he learned on guitar, such as strumming chord progressions, finger-picking, playing improvised solos, and writing songs that incorporate contemporary grooves with a verse-chorus format. Just before receiving two Master’s Degrees from Pitt and moving to DC (one in Philosophy, one in History and Philosophy of Science), Wytold taught himself to play the shoulder-strapped six-string electric cello with live-looping. His mathematical studies helped him visualize and manipulate his different cello layers when composing and performing, often inspired by outdoor rock climbing and hiking trips in West Virginia and California. Energized by DC’s cultural and musical diversity, Wytold quickly became immersed in many different non-classical collaborations that in turn influence his own playing and compositions, including classical Hindustani, middle eastern percussion, hip-hop, go-go, folk, indie rock, americana, and jazz. Through performance, composition, and education, Wytold continues to learn from and synthesize these various influences while encouraging budding strings musicians to explore non-traditional musical styles and techniques.