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Conversations with the Inspiring Kathryn Satoh and Elizabeth Newkirk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathryn Satoh and Elizabeth Newkirk.

Kathryn and Elizabeth, please share your story with us. 
Well, we started as friends, meeting through music making (Schoenfield: Cafe Music) and bonding through food (pizza and beer, specifically). Perhaps not ironically, we were hanging out a few years later over food (rack of lamb and wine) and decided to add music making (Zigeunerweisen) to the evening. It sparked this idea to start really playing as a duo, and we’ve been running forward ever since.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
K: Personally, I feel like any road isn’t worth taking if it’s always smooth (though it sometimes makes for truly unpleasant days). Changes in terrain help keep you fresh and engaged. It’s possible, however, that our experiences have shaped my perspective to this, so in short, it has often been rockier than smooth road. I’d say our strongest allies have been three-fold: confidence in our skills and contributions to the environment most immediately around us, meticulous awareness to feedback from those we are reaching (including ourselves), and flexibility to be more efficiently and effectively engaged by combining those things.

We often remind each other that BH is unique, and that is why we are pertinent for what we are creating as musicians and entrepreneurs. The feedback is overwhelmingly supportive of that. But creating a new voice always takes intricate navigation, so we have also regularly assessed our fundamental values and goals to ensure we are using the correct rock as a cornerstone, or if we missed something more foundational underneath us. Being flexible doesn’t need to mean you’re selling out; there are many ways to create mutually beneficial and fulfilling outcomes if you’re willing to invest the time and energy to find them.

E: We actually get asked this quite a bit. I would love to share with young women starting out to always remember that the answer to most difficulties will be found within a solution that is either congruent with your personality, a growth that you would like to work on, or will take advantage of another strength or interest that you already have. Especially in the arts, many people stress over tasks like ‘networking’, etc, and we’ve found that the truer we are to ourselves and to our ensemble’s mission, these somewhat troubling tasks actually become natural and sometimes even fun!

What should we know about Bow & Hammer? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
K: Bow & Hammer is a first and foremost a classical music ensemble. Known for being relevant outside the music world. We, unlike many other classical music ensembles, HAVE a brand. We use it to work with other businesses that also strive to be relevant outside their own industries.

E: So true. Just to add, I’d say I’m super proud of who we collaborate with and why. We love putting great things together, and when you are based in Chicago, that equation has unlimited possibilities.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
K: I think we both have the double-edged benefit of being first generation professional musicians in our respective families. Neither of us ended up with the textbook “going to be a musician” life track, and have had to navigate a lot of industry traditions in roundabout ways.

When there isn’t an immediate culture around you for building a career as volatile and challenging on your personal self-esteem/worth as music, there’s extra energy necessary to actively invest in justifying your choices to excel in an already high-energy field. On the other hand, that same energy allows us to think outside of the box when managing some of the more conventional and deep ruts of the classical musician career.

E: Actually, we were just commiserating about this. Our midwestern upbringings (you know, like having a job since you were 13 yrs old) have quite positively shaped our business and how creatively we deal with all of the limitations we encounter. We definitely have not had anything handed to us, unfortunately, but we’re starting to see how sometimes that can be a good thing.


  • Tickets to Élevé: $25-30
  • Tickets to Chamber Sunday’s: $20
  • Tickets to IndustryNight: $10
  • Bow & Hammer Blend of Metric Coffee: $15
  • Bow & Hammer Diner Mug: $10
  • EP: Brahms & Milhaud: $2+

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Image Credit:

Richard Shilkus

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