Day in the Life: Magdalena Abrego '19 MM Contemporary Improvisation

We continue our Day in the Life series with a day in the life of Magdalena Abrego '19 MM, a guitarist in the Contemporary Improvisation department.

Magdalena Abrego looking to the side, guitar in hand


Today we're taking you through a day in the life of Magdalena Abrego '19 MM, a guitarist in the Contemporary Improvisation department. We've also explored other students' lives at NEC: violinist Abigail Hong, mandolin player Simon Dunson, and opera singer Whitney Robinson.


Student Magdalena Abrego in a rehearsal with other CI students


This photo shows me working on I/O-related tasks while waiting for my turn to run through music for tonight’s concert. In the last few weeks of school, I basically had to use every free moment possible to prep for the launch of my Entrepreneurial Musicianship project INPUT/OUTPUT, a platform dedicated to supporting women and non-binary musicians working in creative music in the U.S. EM has played a large role in my second year at NEC and I have had the honor of winning two grants from them for I/O. Plus, the EM courses on Grant Writing and Marketing were a huge help during its planning phases. 


Magdalena Abrego performing with Tandem Saint


Playing with Tandem Saint, the Contemporary Improvisation Honors Ensemble. Allison Burik and Grace Ward are both multi-instrumentalists, and our piece for the CI May Day concert was a special one in that it featured both of them on their many instruments: Allison on bass clarinet and sax; Grace on voice, guitar, and bass. Playing with them is always a lot of fun.


Close up of Magdalena Abrego in practice


Reading through Allison’s piece titled “Beltane.” I met Allison at Berklee as an undergrad student pursuing my B.M. in Performance. It was cool that our time at NEC overlapped since she’s one of my favorite people to play with. 


Practice for Magdalena Abrego's EM project


Here I am leading the choir in Lautaro Mantilla’s arrangement of Chico Buarque’s song “Construccion.” We are singing alongside Lau’s Contemporary Rock ensemble, which is a course I took last year. It was the most positive ensemble experience I’ve ever had as a student!


Magdalena Abrego performing with ox ox


Playing with ox ox—the Jazz Honors Ensemble—has been a highlight of my time at NEC. In March, we traveled to Amsterdam together and it was an incredible bonding experience. We are planning on keeping the band together after graduation!


Close up of Magdalena's mint green electric guitar


Playing at NEC often demands that I use some unconventional techniques to make unconventional sounds, haha. It’s part of the fun, for sure.


Magdalena Abrego playing her electric guitar


My pedalboard has quickly become an essential part of my set up in the past two years. Often the composers I work with are looking for sounds that go well beyond the typical electric guitar palette. 


Bob Winters meeting with Magdalena Abrego


Lautaro and I meeting with Bob Winters, NEC’s Director of Performance Production Services. Lautaro has been one of my closest friends and musical mentors in the past two years. During my time at NEC, he was always willing to provide guidance on any of my projects, including my graduate recital. My recital involved quite a bit of creative and strategic lighting, which we are discussing here with Bob.


Magdalena Abrego reading a book in Cafe Nero


Grabbing some lunch and quiet time at Caffé Nero. Forces in Motion is probably one of my favorite books because it discusses one of my musical heroes, Anthony Braxton. This book was recommended to me by one of my studio teachers, Joe Morris!


Magdalena rehearsing in Jordan Hall


Soundcheck for tonight’s May Day concert. Playing on the Jordan Hall stage is always a surreal experience. The way that sound behaves in that space is incredible.


Magdalena Abrego performing with Tandem Saint


This trio, Tandem Saint, got to play on the Jordan Hall stage many times this year including, the fall CI production, the Film Noir concert, the Honors Ensemble headlining show, the May Day production, and the annual gala! I feel very honored for these opportunities to share such a legendary stage with these two.


CI performance on Jordan Hall stage with red lights


The CI productions are some of the most unique performance situations I’ve ever participated in. Screaming onstage immersed in this amazing lighting was definitely a highlight of the show for me.


Jordan Hall concert for CI department


Concert time! Onstage with Anthony Coleman and his ensemble Survivor’s Breakfast. I studied privately with Anthony for my full two years of grad school. He has always pointed me to new things to read, new films to watch, new records to listen to - I am very grateful for his consistent support and encouragement.


CI department concert on Jordan Hall stage


I feel very thankful for the time I had in the CI department. Having the space to formally study improvised and experimental music is such a privilege and my time here had a profound impact on the way that I think about music. 


Red lights on students performing on Jordan Hall stage


I feel so lucky to have found such an amazing community of creative, passionate, and skillful musicians here at NEC and I'm certain that many of these artists will continue to be collaborators of mine for years to come.


Special thanks to Magdalena Abrego for taking us along with her on a very busy day!

Photos by Andrew Hurlbut / New England Conservatory