Filomena Jack, 41, began playing cello in middle school as a way to get out of gym class, but it’s continued to be a big part of her life. “I’ve played in traditional chamber groups and orchestras,” she says.
“During college [for photography] I had to sell my cello to pay rent,” she explains. “Later, I took winnings from a photo contest to buy a new cello. Then a few years later, sold that cello to pay for a word processing class, which allowed me to start my whirlwind career as a software trainer for ‘big, scary corporate America.’”
After 12 years, she left that job and launched her own fiber art business, which she says was a great experience, but left no time for music. “Eventually, I purchased ‘The Beast’… a custom-made, five-string, baroque-styled cello. The design allows for hitting multiple strings at once (called a double stop),” explains Jack, adding: “I heart double stops.”
She plays in the New York City-based band In Cages, which performs at the Hard Rock Café and other tri-state music venues.
“I’ve recently been working with my musician hubby writing pieces for a project we call Cameron Mills after our new hometown. Think: Jucifer meets The Deftones meets Zoe Keating,” says Jack. “Our first gig was at the Spencer Hill Gallery in Corning, New York. It was amazing!” They are also recording a demo.
“I currently work intimately with the Dewey Decimal system for a library system in Upstate New York, I am a freelance art tutor, and run an Etsy shop called Pink Velvet Bird and the photo biz FotoMena Gallery,” says Jack. “Oh, and I am training to be a WFTDA roller derby referee.”
“This current work/career path seems to fit well with my musical aspirations,” she says. “All of my various money making enterprises allow me to structure my schedule to fit in as much music and art as possible. I would love to tour with one of my music projects, just as long as my shelter dog Ruka can come for the ride.”
Who are your main influences?
Zoe Keating is my main cello world influence. I consider myself the Meg White (White Stripes) of cello. Otherwise I can’t live without Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Sound-
garden, Prince, The Pixies, The Beatles, or The Deftones.
Why do you continue to make music?
I can’t stop. I’ve tried. It always finds a way back into my overstuffed life.
How do you continue to learn?
Even after all these years I still very much feel like a neophyte. I struggle with practicing in the conventional way. I like to turn on one of my Pandora stations and try to play along.
What benefits have you found to making music?
Music (and art) get me closest to a space where I can pray. It’s the closest I get to just being. No extraneous thoughts, just vibration and sound and breath. It challenges me in ways nothing else can.
How do you make time for music in your life?
Choosing to work from home part of the week has helped me a lot. Finding work with a flexible schedule has been key. For my work with In Cages it’s about a five-hour drive one way to the studio and gigs.
What advice do you have for someone getting back into music later in life?
Sounds overused but: just do it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to consider what the end result is going to be. I truly believe that we have the power to manifest our desires. Play your instrument and imagine success and it’ll come to you.
What is your best memory of making music?
A final recital at orchestra camp when I was about 12. I made 6th chair! Being in the middle of all that sound was other-worldly. It was extra special since I didn’t fit in with the other kids. I was that “weirdo punk rocker girl.” In the middle of the music, it didn’t matter. Second would be playing at The Hard Rock Café in Times Square with In Cages. We came in 7th in a battle of the bands.