When she was pregnant with him, Spencer Wirth-Davis' mom, Christi, played a lot of Bach to him. "It worked," he observed today. He became a musician. On Thursday, he debuts a project in tribute to her, about two years after her death from ovarian cancer.
"It wasn't until awhile after she had passed, I felt I needed to do something to honor her and help me deal with what's going on and help me make music," Wirth-Davis (aka Big Cats) told The Current's David Campbell on this week's The Local Show.
The album, For My Mother, is a collection of instrumental Hip Hop compositions, with 75 percent of the proceeds going to the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, in honor of Christi Wirth-Davis.
"(She was) always the person most interested in seeing what I was working on," he told me this afternoon. "The biggest and most obvious inspiration is the fact it's entirely an instrumental project. She was ...more interested in my instrumental work. I tried to avoid having the record ... be sad and depressing." He wanted it to be a celebration of her life as a person.
That it's instrumental music is significant because his mother listened to instrumental classical music to relax during her fight with cancer.
The project didn't start off as therapy, but Wirth-Davis says he realizes that to some degree, it has been. It's "the process of taking a negative situation and a negative event in your life.... turning it into something beautiful." He had drifted away from music, especially in the latter stages of his mom's illness.
He received a $25,000 composer's fellowship from the McKnight Foundation, the youngest person ever to receive it. But he needed more funding, so he crowd-sourced the funding via a website for artists.
That allowed him to quit his job at Lionsgate Academy in Crystal, a charter school focused on a students with autism. Now that the project is finished, he's thinking of returning to working with kids.
"I haven't had too much time to step back and think about what's next. What does it mean that this project is done? I don't really know what that means as far as what comes next... if that chapter is closed."
He finished the record at the beginning of the summer and played it for his mother's mother. "My grandma was in a nursing home not doing well," he said today. "I'll never be able to play it for my mom, but it was great to have a parent's parent experience it. She listened to the whole thing and then said, 'nice music.'"
She died of dementia not long after.
The album release party will be held at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday night.