2017 PhoenixPhest Grande Faculty
Gabriel Bolkosky has performed and taught across the United States and abroad. He performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works with different collaborative artists from many genres of music making. Over the last decade, Gabe has founded and directed the music festival, PhoenixPhest. He founded the festival with the intent of creating an environment open to all levels and ages of musicians, creating a more holistic musical experience without sacrificing quality.
Gabe’s performances have focused in the areas of contemporary music, jazz and tango as well as traditional classical music. In 2008 he performed in the premiere of Fredric Rzewski’s "Natural Things" for Carnegie Hall’s Making Music Series. He has also collaborated with other composers, among them Fredric Rzewski, William Bolcom, John Harbison, Thomas Ades, Bright Sheng, William Albright, Andrew Kirshner, Lars Holmer, Carter Pann, Michael Daugherty, George Tsontakis, Derek Bermel, and Bernard Rands. As a jazz and tango musician, Gabe has worked with great artists such as John Lindberg, Peter Soave, Tad Weed, Ed Sarath, Chris Howes, Andy Bishop, and was a founding member of The Oblivion Project.
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Gabe began his violin studies at age three. His primary teachers were Michael Avsharian of Ann Arbor, Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan, and Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Gabe earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance and a master’s degree in chamber music, as well as studying improvisation at the master’s level at the University of Michigan. At the Cleveland Institute he earned a Professional Studies degree, served a year as Weilerstein’s teaching assistant and won the school’s prestigious Darius Milhaud prize. He attended the Aspen Music Festival from 1991–98 on fellowship, first playing with the Aspen Chamber Symphony and then the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble for four years. During those four years he premiered hundreds of new works, and with his group, Non Sequitur, conducted workshops and concerts for thousands of students in the Aspen valley as well as at schools such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Brandeis and Princeton.
Gabe has released seven CDs that show his breadth as a musician. His debut solo album, This and That, features classical and jazz music. Other albums include The Shape of Klez to Come with the klezmer group Into the Freylakh; The Orchestra Is Here to Play, a live recording teaming the Gemini children’s-music group with a full orchestra; The Oblivion Project Live, showcasing the music of Astor Piazzolla; Non Sequitur, contemporary and experimental music, including one of his own compositions; Home from Work, an eclectic mix of jazz, folk and blues in collaboration with San Slomovits, and as sideman on John Lindberg’s recording Two by Five. His most recent CD is Bonne Nuit, which includes the Debussy Sonata and other small works for violin and piano with Michele Cooker.
Gabe was guest artist at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor teaching violin and chamber music for six years. He has worked with all ages of young musicians in most of the 50 states and parts of Asia. He is the executive director of The Phoenix Ensemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a musical resource for artists and educational institutions. Gabe also directs PhoenixPhest! and PhoenixPhest! Grande, and maintains a private violin studio.
Linda Case is a Teacher Trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Teaching for 38 years, Linda has performed, taught workshops and teacher development courses throughout the United States, Canada, New Zealand, France and Italy. She has been concertmaster of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra in Ithaca, New York since 1983 and has taught on the faculties of Ithaca College, Eastman School of Music, Cornell University and Mount Royal Conservatory in Alberta. Linda is also a licensed Brain Gym Instructor and Educational Consultant for Brain Gym International where she offers training in whole brain-body learning. Linda studied with Josef Gingold at Indiana University where she received her Bachelor of Music Performance degree and with William Starr at the University of Tennessee where she received her Master of Music Performance degree. Linda was introduced to the Suzuki Method in 1974 by Dr. Starr and is most grateful to have received his Suzuki pedagogy training.
Graduate of Eastman School of Music; studied with Carroll Glenn; writer for the Violin Column of the American Suzuki Journal; recipient of the Leadership and Excellence award from the American String Teacher’s Assn.; VA ASTA Teacher of the Year 2008; faculty of ASTA International Workshops in Austria, Switzerland, Hawaii, France, Scotland, Norway and Australia; Clinician in U.S., Canada, Central and South America; SAA Teacher Trainer; Presenter, Keynote speaker or Violin Coordinator at twelve S.A.A. Teacher’s Conferences: Presenter, Keynote speaker at Australian String Teachers Assn. in Cambura, Australia and Australian Suzuki Assn in Melbourne, Australia; Violin faculty at the University of Maryland; (formerly) Director of Master Degree program in Performance with Specialization in Suzuki Pedagogy; Directs and teaches full time at the Northern Virginia Suzuki Music School. Director of the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute. Recently created a DVD called May I Help You Tune?, to help parents and students with learning to tune a violin, viola or cello.
Ronda believes in stimulating the development of expressive talent right from the beginning stages. Technique should be made easy using balance and release as key components, so that the player can have their heart invested in musical expression rather than on technique. Musical literacy can be fostered from the start, even in the Suzuki format.
Dr. Timothy (Terry) Durbin’s unique brand of teaching excellence makes him one of the most sought-after clinicians/conductors in the country. With infectious enthusiasm and inspired musicianship, he brings smiles and laughter to students throughout the United States and around the world. His dynamic teaching career includes over 700 workshops and institutes! His performance and teaching career stretches across the United States and Canada into Bermuda, Germany, Italy, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, and he has recorded two CDs, including the complete chamber music of Marcel Dupre for the Naxos label. Terry Durbin is also an accomplished composer and notable arranger.
Dr. Durbin holds a DMA in orchestral conducting from Claremont Graduate University in Los Angeles, California, a Masters in violin performance from the University of Illinois, an undergraduate degree in violin performance from the University of Alabama, and is currently the director of the Suzuki String Program at the University of Louisville. He is a registered teacher trainer with the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Terry lives with his wife, Sandy, on 75 acres north of Lexington, Kentucky. They have three children and two grandchildren. He believes in the magic of music’s power to enrich our lives.
Simon Fischer enjoys a distinguished and wide-ranging career. He has given many solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall and the Purcell Room, broadcasts for Radio 3 and BBC Scotland, and has frequently played as soloist or leader with many of the major UK symphony and chamber orchestras — including the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Scottish Chamber, Ulster Orchestra and others, working with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Charles Groves, Richard Hickox, Andrew Litton, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Yan-Pascal Tortelier, and Andre Previn.
He also writes and performs his own transcriptions of important classics by composers such as Tschaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Johann Strauss, Rossini and Purcell, and his recording of the complete Brahms Sonatas with Raymond Fischer received high praise in The Gramophone.
Simon Fischer’s published work greatly influences the teaching of the violin. Having written for The Strad magazine since 1991 his so-far 275 consecutive monthly articles have attracted a world-wide following. His technique books Basics and Practice (translated into Korean, Italian and German), Scalesand The Violin Lesson, and the DVD The Secrets of Tone Production, have become standard on many continents. He has also written Warming up, described by The Strad magazine as “23 pages of pure technical gold,” with a DVD called Warming up based on the book.
He frequently gives masterclasses, mini-residencies, recitals and broadcasts abroad, most recently several visits to the USA, to Holland, Italy, Norway, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany, and two five-week tours of masterclasses and recitals in Australia.
In 2014 Simon Fischer was awarded the European String Teachers Association prize “in celebration of a lifetime contribution to String Teaching.”
Stephanie Sims Flack received her Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from Louisiana State University and Master of Arts degree from Indiana University where her teachers included Sally O’Reilly, Kevork Mardirossian and Henryk Kowalski. She studied violin pedagogy with Sally O’Reilly (Louisiana State University) and Marla Mutschler (Arizona State University) and received her initial Suzuki teacher training at the British Suzuki Institute in London, England where she achieved accreditation, level three, through the European Suzuki Association examinations. Stephanie is continuing her pedagogical training with Suzuki teacher trainer, Ronda Cole, and attended the Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies at The Juilliard School in New York in 2009 and 2011.
As a professional violinist, Stephanie has performed with many symphony orchestras including the Cambridge Philharmonic (England), Ely Sinfonia (England), Arizona Opera Orchestra, and Baton Rouge Symphony, and is currently a member of the first violin section of the McLean Orchestra as well as a freelance violinist with chamber groups and orchestras throughout the metropolitan Washington DC area. In addition, Stephanie founded and performs with String Quartet of Northern Virginia.
She has served on the board of directors for Suzuki Association of the Greater Washington Area for six years serving as treasurer from 2007-2009 and Board Chair from 2010-2012. She maintains a private violin studio at her home in Alexandria, Virginia where she resides with husband, Sean and daughters, Emily and Shannon.
Dan has taught violin at Eastern Michigan University since 1987. A student of Paul Rolland at the University of Illinois and of Angel Reyes at the University of Michigan, he holds degrees in violin performance from both schools. Since 1978, he has appeared frequently throughout the United States as a solo and chamber artist, with repertoire ranging from the seventeenth through the twentieth century. As a baroque violinist and violist, he has performed and recorded with Ars Music Baroque Orchestra, Smithsonian Chamber Players, Oriana, and Tafelmusik.
He is also a current and founding member of two early music groups: Xantippe, a trio for baroque flute/recorder, cello and violin, specializing in music of the late baroque and early classical periods, and La Gente d’Orfeo, a quartet for violin, cornetto, cello and early keyboards, specializing in Italian music of the early 17th-century. He currently serves as concertmaster of the Macomb Symphony, under Thomas Cook, and is a founding member of the Red Hot Lava Chamber Music Festival in Honolulu. He is a member of the Alexander Trio, faculty piano trio at Eastern Michigan University. Professor Foster’s teaching includes emphasis on musical values and expression, cultivation of free physical movements, and enhancement of the mind/body connection.
Shakeh Ghoukasian is the Executive and Artistic Director of the Nevada School of the Arts, and has been the driving force of the school’s new vision, new initiatives and community partnerships. Her vision and passion for NSA’s artistic and educational growth has inspired her to create many innovative programs for students and community alike. Ms. Ghoukasian has established Guest Artists, Musical Crossroads Concert series since 2009. These concerts establish guest artists short term residencies and introduce NSA and Clark County School District students to renowned classically trained musicians and educators who are equally well versed in performing in other genres and introducing students to concepts of jazz, rhythms of the tango and flavors of Latin music.
Ms. Ghoukasian’s own curiosity in film music has also created a program called “Kids2Kids” concerts prepared and performed by students for students. These concerts have been received with great acclaim by administrators and student audiences.
Ms. Ghoukasian is an active chamber music and orchestral musician. She is the Principal 2nd Violinist of the Las Vegas Philharmonic since 1998. Ms. Ghoukasian also performs with the Nevada Ballet and the Las Vegas Philharmonic Principals Quartet, presenting educational outreach and chamber music concerts in the community.
She has performed with many notable classical and pop artists including Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Boccelli, Placido Domingo, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Smokey Robinson, Itzhak Perlman and others. Her solo performances include appearances with Henderson Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Ms. Ghoukasian has received her early music training in Armenia. After moving to the United States she has received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in performance from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has studied with Lori Ulanova, Haik Balian and John Kendall.
Ms. Ghoukasian is an established pedagogue. Consequently she has been invited to present master classes and teach workshops in Arizona, Utah, California, Idaho, South Dakota, Alaska, Oregon, New York and Las Vegas Summer Music Festival. Shakeh Ghoukasian was one of the presenters at the American String Teachers National Conference in February 2005 . She is a recipient of ASTA’s Studio Teacher Award in Nevada. Shakeh Ghoukasian is the founding member and Program Director of Green Valley Chamber Music Festival.
Ms. Ghoukasian’s students are winners of several local and national competitions and have been chosen to participate in numerous notable summer music festivals and camps. She enjoys working with young musicians and guiding their musical and artistic development.
Nancy Jackson is the Assistant Director of the Western Springs School of Talent Education, in Western Springs, Illinois, where she teaches both violin and viola. She is a registered Violin Teacher Trainer with the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and is active in training young teachers locally and at summer institutes. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Music Education and a Master of Music in Violin Performance from Northwestern University. Her principal teachers were Talmadge Smith, Mary Ann Mumm, and Henryk Kowalski. Her Suzuki teacher training was done with Margery Aber, James Mauer, and Carol Dallinger. She founded the Suzuki School of Music in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1986. She has also taught at the University of Evansville (IN) Suzuki program, and Western Illinois University. Nancy is an avid golfer and cyclist, and also enjoys spending time with her two cats, Mimi and Musetta.
Rebecca (Appert) Kaltz is known as a dedicated performer and teacher. She has played with many local orchestras in the area including the Saginaw Bay, Battle Creek, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Adrian, Lansing, Ann Arbor and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestras.
Rebecca has been actively teaching Suzuki and traditional violin lessons for the past thirteen years, and received her Bachelors degree in Violin performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2004. She also did two years of graduate work with Piotr Milewski there as well. For her Suzuki pedagogy training, Mrs. Kaltz studied with Pat D’Ercole, Martha Shackford, Linda Fiore, and Mark Mutter. Rebecca has done workshops with Gabe Bolkosky, Terry Durbin and Mimi Zweig. She also has extensive experience playing for opera and musical theatre genres, as well as recording studio experience with various types of music such as rock, jazz, Celtic and folk.
Currently Rebecca maintains a private studio in Ann Arbor at Kerrytown Concert House and at home in Chelsea, Michigan. As of February 2011, she joined the faculty as a violin teacher with the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute. Other projects include managing her event business, the Horizon Strings Group, and playing fiddle with her Celtic folk band, Foxtree.
Originally from Vancouver, Washington, Mrs. Kaltz comes from a very musical family. Her mother is an opera singer, her father is an orchestral conductor and composer, and her sister is a professional violist and teacher. In her spare time she enjoys the great outdoors, and spending time with friends and family. Rebecca plays on a 1997 Mark Moreland violin and a Frederich Hellmer bow.
Steffani Kitayama, a native of Boulder, Colorado, began studying the violin at age 4. She was a Starling scholar at the University of Cincinnati, where she completed her Bachelor of Music degree under the tutelage of Won-Bin Yim. Recently, she graduated from Northwestern University studying under Blair Milton for a Masters of Music in violin performance and pedagogy. While in Chicago, Steffani played with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and Civic’s MusiCorps String Quartet, working closely with Yo-Yo Ma for two years. She has also spent time playing with Orchestra Iowa, the National Repertory Orchestra, and studying at the Aspen Music Festival. An avid chamber musician, she has studied with some if the greatest quartet musicians, notably, Mathias Tacke of the Vermeer Quartet and members of the Takacs, the Tokyo, and the St. Lawrence String Quartets.
Kimberly Meier-Sims joined the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2004, where she is a Violin Faculty member and Director of the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies. A registered Violin Teacher Trainer through the Suzuki Association of the Americas, she conducts a two-year graduate Suzuki teacher-training program at CIM, which is part of a unique Master of Music dual degree in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy. Over the past thirty-five years Ms. Meier-Sims has worked with young students and teachers, promoting the Suzuki Method of teaching at Suzuki summer institutes and workshops throughout the U.S. and internationally in England and Ireland. In 2015 she received the CIM Excellence in Teaching Award, and in 2001 she received the Tennessee Governor’s School Outstanding Teacher Award. In 2002 she was the violin coordinator for the Suzuki Association of the Americas National Conference in Minneapolis. Ms. Meier-Sims presently plays in Cleveland’s Blue Water Chamber Orchestra. Prior to moving to Cleveland she was a regular substitute violinist for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Principal Second Violinist of the Cedar Rapids Symphony in Iowa. She has published articles in the American Suzuki Journal, Strings Magazine and the Tennessee Musician.
Ms. Meier-Sims received her Bachelor of Music degree in education and violin performance from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where she studied violin and Suzuki pedagogy with John Kendall, the founder of the Suzuki Method in the United States. At Western Illinois University she received her Master of Arts degree in violin performance studying violin and Suzuki pedagogy with Almita Vamos. The summer of 1986, Ms. Meier-Sims studied violin and pedagogy with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in Matsumoto, Japan at the Talent Education Research Institute. From 1984-1996 Ms. Meier-Sims was a full time violin instructor at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, where she studied Suzuki pedagogy with the founder of the school, Doris Preucil. In 1988, she became one of the youngest Suzuki Teacher Trainers in the U.S. Prior to moving to Cleveland with her husband Stephen Sims (graduate of CIM), she was a faculty member of the University of Memphis Scheidt School of Music (1996-2004), where she conducted the two-year graduate Suzuki violin teacher-training program, coordinated the Suzuki String Program, and directed the University of Memphis Suzuki String Institute.
Ms. Meier-Sims’ CIM Conservatory Suzuki Pedagogy graduates have received full-time positions at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, the University of Arkansas, and the Dallas Suzuki Institute. Other employment includes the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies, Suzuki-Orff School of Music in Chicago, Western Springs School of Talent Education, Levine School of Music, Cleveland Music Settlement, Avon School of Music, Broadway School of Music & Art, and the Interlochen Arts Camp.
Ms. Meier-Sims’ private violin students have been members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and the Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra. They have included winners of the Lakeland Concerto Competition, the CIM Pre-College Concerto Competition, and the Sigma Alpha Iota Competition. They have performed in the Learning Through Creativity Composer’s Guild project, the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and in Suzuki Association of the Americas Conference master classes with Paul Kantor & Scott Conklin.
Founder of the Harpeth Suzuki Strings, Dana is a graduate of the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music and has been teaching publicly and privately for more than 25 years. She has performed extensively with chamber music groups and major orchestras in the United States and has toured Europe with the American Sinfonietta. Former performing faculty positions include the the Bellingham Festival of Music, Wintergreen Performance Academy, the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina, Middle Tennessee State University Governor’s School of Music and St-Anne’s Belfield Summer Music Academy in Virginia. Currently, Mrs. Meyer is a faculty member of the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute, the Suzuki Institute at PhoenixPhest in Michigan, the Fine Arts Summer Academy in Nashville and part of the performing faculty with the Chamber Music in the Mountains in Tucson, Arizona.
Mrs. Meyer has registered training with the Suzuki Association of the Americas for violin books one through seven, viola books three through six, and has completed her violin practicum. Her major Suzuki teachers have been Ronda Cole, Betsy Stuen-Walker, Edmund Sprunger, Linda Case, Bill Preucil, and Martha Shackford. She is the president of the Middle Tennessee Suzuki Association; former president of the Suzuki Association of South Florida; member, Suzuki Association of the Americas; member, MTNA, TMTA, and NAMTA.
Rachel Noyes earned her Masters in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy at University of Maryland, College Park, where she was a student of Ronda Cole and David Salness, and her Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music with academic honors, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein and David Updegraff. She has participated at festivals such as Tanglewood’s BUTI program, Musicorda (MA), and the Aspen (CO) Center for Quartet Studies. Rachel has had extensive experience as a chamber musician. As a founding violinist of the Chiara Quartet, she studied with members of the American, Audubon, Cleveland, Emerson, Guarneri, and Orion string quartets. Born into a musical family, she began playing the violin at the age of three in her mother’s Suzuki program. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is performing with the Marin Symphony and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and has a private teaching studio.
Violinist Nurit Pacht was selected as one of the “Stars of the Year 2000” by Le Monde de la Musique and since then her career has blossomed with appearances in London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, Moscow’s Great Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, The People’s Hall of China in Beijing and at Ravinia’s Rising Stars Series. Chosen by director Robert Wilson to be the featured musician in his multi-media piece Relative Light featuring solo violin works by John Cage’s and J.S. Bach, Nurit is equally at home in the standard repertoire as in the contemporary.
Last season, Nurit performed as soloist in collaboration with the dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones in one of Europe’s greatest Cathedrals, the Duomo in Milan as well as at Kennedy Center and on tour in many U.S. capitals with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company culminating in performances at the Lincoln Center Summer Festival. She is now in her third season serving as the artistic director of the “Alliance Players,” a dynamic group of musicians who perform innovative programs in New York City. Nurit performed in duo recitals with Philip Glass playing the composer’s works for violin and piano. She commissioned and premiered works from other leading composers including, Michael Hersch, Noam Sheriff, Annie Gosfield and Octavio Vazquez.
Nurit has toured as soloist with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra. She also performed the world premiere of Noam Sheriff’s Violin Concerto Dibrot, a work dedicated to her, with the Israeli Contemporary Players in a radio broadcast from Jerusalem and in the Contemporary Music Festival in Tel-Aviv. Nurit was also the soloist on a tour of China with the Young Israel Philharmonic, performing in the major concert venues of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In the United States she has been a soloist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Alliance Players, American Youth Symphony and Santa Rosa Symphony. In Italy she performed with the Filarmonica di Roma, in Poland and Germany with the Wroclaw Chamber Orchestra, with most of the major orchestras of Romania including the Georges Enesco Philharmonic and with the National Symphony of Columbia.
In the spring of 1996, immediately following the cease-fire, she concertized in six of the worst war-devastated cities of Bosnia to enthusiastic audiences of the three ethnic minorities, with the sponsorship of the United Nations and the European Mozart Foundation. At the invitation of the European Commission she also performed on the occasion of the inauguration of the European Monetary Union in Bruxelles. She was heard at the festivals of Santa Fe, Mecklenberg Vorpommern, Divonne, Stresa, Kfar Blum, George Crumb, Tartini, Monadnock and, at the invitation of Christoph Eschenbach, performed in Ravinia’s Rising Stars Series. One of her live performances from Wigmore Hall was released by Nimbus records.
Nurit Pacht grew up in Texas and made her first solo public appearance on national television at the age of 12. In 1990, at age seventeen, she made her U.S. solo debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and has since won top prizes in international competitions in Europe and the United States, including the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland. She plays on a violin made by P. Guarneri in 1750.
Mari Sato, violinist is a member of The Cavani String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at The Cleveland Institute of Music. The Cavani Quartet is the winner of numerous awards including the Naumburg Chamber Music Award, the Cleveland Quartet Competition, an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and the Guarneri String Quartet Award for Artistic Excellence from Chamber Music America. The Quartet has been featured on National Public Radio’s Performance Today and St. Paul Sunday, NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS television. Cavani Quartet recordings of Bartók, Dvořák, Schumann, Brahms, Erb, Chausson, Brouwer and Primosch are available on the Azica, Gasparo, New World, Albany, and Pantheon labels.
Ms. Sato is honored to have collaborated with many distinguished artists including Robert Mann, Alisa Weilerstein, Anton Nel, Stephanie Blythe, Charles Neidich, Itzhak Perlman, Franklin Cohen, and members of the Cleveland, Juilliard, Miami, Takács, Ying, Emerson, Borodin, Amadeus, St. Lawrence String Quartets. Music festival appearances and residencies include The Aspen Music Festival, The New World Symphony, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Kniesel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Interlochen Center for the Arts, The Perlman Music Program, ChamberFest Cleveland, and PhoenixPhest.
As a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Ms. Sato and her colleagues have coached many outstanding young musicians in the Intensive Quartet Seminar, the Apprentice Quartet Seminar, and the Art of Engagement Seminar. Former chamber music students include members of the Jupiter, Daedalus, Aeolus, Miró, Fry Street and Afiara Quartets, as well as members of the Cleveland, St. Paul, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.
Ms. Sato received her musical training at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Michigan. Her mentors include David Cerone, Paul Kantor, and Peter Salaff. The 2014-2015 season’s exciting projects include Cavani performances as part of the Violins of Hope project in Cleveland, a performance of violin/piano works by Jean Sibelius to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and performances of the Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas with pianist, Robert Cassidy.
Anna Weller received her Bachelor of Music degree in music performance from the University of Wisconsin. She did further study at the Bern Conservatory of Music in Switzerland and received a diploma in chamber music from the Santa Cecilia Academy of Music in Rome, Italy. She lived in Rome, Italy for six years performing with the Soloisti L’Aquilani and the Sinfonia Abruzzesi. Anna has performed frequently with the Toledo Symphony and is currently a member of the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra. She has taught violin for over twenty years, teaching both traditional and Suzuki method. She has taught at the Intermountain Suzuki Institute in Salt Lake City and the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point. She maintains a full studio of students, ranging from age three to eighteen. Her hobbies include yoga, photography, cross country skiing, and travel. She resides in Ann Arbor with her husband, Derek Weller, and daughter, Francesca.
Celebrated for a “tone like toasted caramel. Amazing.” (Musical Toronto), Eric Wong is the violist of the Cavani Quartet, ensemble-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). He was also a member of the JUNO-nominated Afiara Quartet and the Linden String Quartet.
Mr. Wong is a frequent guest educator and has given masterclasses and lectures in many institutions of higher learning in North America and Europe including Yale University, American University, the University of Iowa, the Royal Academy of Music of Århus, Middlesex University, and the University of Toronto. He is also active in collaborating with directors of several up-and-coming chamber music festivals including the Geneva Music Festival and the humanitarian initiative “Music Feeds Us”.
Mr. Wong has performed on the most iconic stages around the world including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Severance Hall, Kings Place, Koerner Hall, and as a featured guest artist at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His chamber music collaborators have included the Tokyo Quartet, Sharon Isbin, Itzhak Perlman, Richard Stoltzman, Donald Weilerstein, and pianist and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others.
He received both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the CIM, studying violin with Paul Kantor and viola with Kirsten Docter and Lynne Ramsey. Other coaches and mentors have included Peter Salaff and the Cavani and Tokyo Quartets.
Dr. Beth Cantrell has been teaching using Dr. Suzuki’s principles since 1981. She works with students aged zero and up in Crozet, Staunton, and Lynchburg, Virginia. She earned degrees in cello performance and music history from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Florida State University, and the University of Georgia.
A Teacher Trainer, Dr. Beth is in demand as a pedagogue and clinician, teaching children and teachers throughout the United States. She presents regularly at SAA conferences and retreats. Her essay, The Best Reason to Practice, has been published several times.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Beth is an active performer. She has played with the Richmond Symphony, Opera on the James, the Waynesboro Symphony, and makes regular appearances on the Sunday Concert Series at Mary Baldwin College. Before moving to Virginia with her family, she was principal cellist for the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, a member of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra, and was on the faculty of Kennesaw State University. She was also active in the Atlanta area as a chamber performer, teacher, and recording studio musician. She can be heard as cello soloist on the best selling album Orinoco Flow, by the Taliesin Orchestra.
Carey Cheney, a native of Canada, has been teaching and performing for over 25 years. She is a Registered Teacher Trainer of cello for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and author/recording artist of the series of books and CD’s (eight volumes), Solos For Young Cellists published by Summy-Birchard (Alfred Music Inc.). She holds the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Cello Performance (a minor in musicology) with Highest Honors from University of Utah. For her Master of Music, she studied cello and pedagogy with Phyllis Young. She also studied in Germany for 2 years with Andre Navarra.
She has had much international teaching and playing experience, in Europe, Canada, Costa Rica, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. She was a guest teacher at the 1999 World Suzuki Conference in Matsumoto, Japan the 2006 World Suzuki Conference in Turin, Italy, at the 2008 and 2012 Hamilton Summer Suzuki String Institute in Rotorua, New Zealand, at the Festival Los Cedros 2008, 2010 and 2012 in Mexico City and at the 2012 Summer School in Sydney, Australia. She has been invited to return to Australia and New Zealand for the 2013 summer workshops in Rotorua and Sydney.
Carey is a part of the Cheney Cello Trio, a performing ensemble that has concertized in Utah, Idaho, Wisconsin, California, Ontario (Canada) and Mexico City.
Carey is interested in the balance of teaching and playing and enjoys concertizing in many types of settings, especially for young people. She enjoys designing programs that involve contrasting musical styles and high energy. She is an enthusiastic researcher and writer, having been the editor and publisher of the bimonthly newsletter that circulated world-wide from 1988–2001, Cello News. She has also published articles about cello pedagogy in the American String Teacher and the American Suzuki Teacher.
Carey’s favourite job is to be cello teacher to her almost 17 year old son Livingston, a position she has held for 13 years. For fun, she loves yoga, skiing and is an enthusiastic runner, with two marathons down, hopefully more to go!
Cellist Elliott Cheney holds Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees in cello performance from the University of Texas, where he studied with Phyllis Young. He has been the Principal Cellist of the National Symphony of Costa Rica and The Savannah Symphony, and has been on the faculties of the University of Costa Rica, Southwestern University, Armstrong College, and the University of Tennessee. He currently is Associate Professor on the music faculty at the University of Utah where he teaches Introduction to Music, cello, and coaches string quartets.
Elliott is active as a solo cellist, and has recently performed concertos by Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi, as well as the Brahms Double Concerto and the Beethoven Triple Concerto. In addition, he has recently performed over two weekend concerts, the complete solo Suites by J.S. Bach. He also gives frequent recitals, and has performed numerous recitals in Salt Lake on the University of Utah School of Music's series Sundays at Seven, but also throughout the United States and Canada, as well Brazil, Austria and Spain.
With his wife, Carey, the Cheneys maintain a large cello studio, teaching all ages, from three-year-olds on up. With the large numbers in their studios, they enjoy having group activities together, such as group lessons and student solo recitals, as well as taking students on musical trips near and far. They have recently formed a family cello trio with their son Livingston, who is almost 17 years old. They are looking forward to performing together more and more in the future.
Elliott is also in demand as a teacher and clinician at festivals and institutes. His performing and teaching activities have taken him to Hawaii, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, New York, Ohio, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France and Mexico. When flying with an extra seat for his cello, he always makes sure the airlines serve his cello dinner.
Elliott is a passionate antique car hobbyist, restoring cars whenever he is not practicing. He has a 1947 Pontiac woodie wagon, 1953 Chrysler New Yorker, 1953 Morgan roadster, 1946 Chevrolet Fleetmaster convertible and a 1967 MGB.
Rodney Farrar of Littleton, Colorado, has been a professional cellist for 30 years, enjoying a varied career ranging from symphony, chamber music, and solo recital performance to university teaching and private instruction for students of a wide range of ages and levels. He has been actively involved in the development of Suzuki cello teaching in this country and has been guest clinician at hundreds of institutes and workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada sponsored by Suzuki programs, public school music programs and private cello studios. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Rodney attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Indiana University School of Music. His cello teachers have included Gretchen Dalley, Peter Howard, Ronald Leonard, and Janos Starker. He was professor of cello at the University of Kentucky for many years. He also taught at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam New York, summer sessions at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and at the Brevard Music Festival in Brevard, North Carolina.
Dr. Melissa Kraut is recognized as one of the leading pedagogues of her generation. Having developed and trained some of the outstanding young musicians of today, Dr. Kraut has demonstrated a unique ability to teach all ages and stages of dedicated students, helping them reach their highest potential both at and away from the cello. With degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the University of Iowa and Northwestern University, Dr. Kraut has had the opportunity to study with the great pedagogues Alan Harris and Hans-Jorgen Jensen as well as summer study/masterclasses with cellists such as Aldo Parisot, Frank Miller, Yo-Yo Ma, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and David Soyer. As a student, she participated in the Aspen Music Festival, Banff Center for the Arts and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Europe.
An active performer, Dr. Kraut has led a diverse career on stage, with solo and chamber performances throughout the United States and Europe. She has held leadership positions in several orchestras, and has played under the baton of conductors such as Sir Georg Solti, Valery Gergiev and Semyon Bychkov. Dr. Kraut currently enjoys performing chamber music with her friends and colleagues throughout the world.
Dr. Kraut enjoys reaching students from all over the world through master classes and workshops. Her status as a Suzuki Teacher Trainer, enables her to pass on her love of pedagogy to the next generation of teachers. In addition, she is passionate about public speaking and the ability to reach audiences of a larger scope, about topics broader than cello.
Dr. Kraut’s committment to diversity and equality in the arts has led her to work on several projects, including A Gift For Music, which was a partnership between the University of Central Florida, A Gift for Teaching and Disney. Dr. Kraut served as the Artistic and Educational director for this program which reached 1200 inner city children in Orlando by bringing string education to their schools. For her work in this program, Dr. Kraut was awarded Arts Educator of the Year (2004) from United Arts of Central Florida.
In the summer of 2014, Dr. Kraut and famed cellist Zuill Bailey launched the inaugural summer of the Sitka Cello Seminar in Sitka, Alaska, bringing 10 elite cellists from all over the world to study under their guidance. In prior summers, Dr. Kraut was on the faculty of several summer festivals including eight summers at the Meadowmount School of Music and eight summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, where she was also the Head of Strings. Other festivals include the Lev Aronson Legacy Week in Dallas, TX, as well as Heifetz International Music Institute in Staunton, VA.
Dr. Kraut’s students have achieved great success, with top prizes in National and International competitions. Students of Dr. Kraut have won the Gold Medal and Audience Award at the Gaspar Cassado Competition in Hachioji, Japan, Grand Prize in the Music Teachers National Association Competition, First Prize in the American String Teacher’s Association, Grand Prize in the Walgreen’s Competition, Grand Prize in the Fischoff Competition, as well as prizes in many local and regional competitions.
Heralded for her “thoughtful, attentive” playing (Alabama Entertainment), cellist Laura Usiskin enjoys a versatile career as a soloist and chamber musician. Her playing has taken her to concert halls throughout the United States and Europe, including the Kennedy Center, Palazzo Chigi Saracini (Siena, Italy), Symphony Hall (Boston), and New York venues including Alice Tully Hall, Weill Hall, Zankel Hall, Merkin Hall, Miller Theatre, Barge Music, Steinway Hall, Klavierhaus, and more.
She has received such awards as the Prix d’Instrument from the Écoles d’art Americaines (France) and the Aldo Parisot Prize at Yale University, given to a gifted cellist showing promise in a solo career. She completed the nationally acclaimed two-year Artist In Residency with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra as well as a one-year fellowship with the Yale Baroque Ensemble. Ms. Usiskin has won orchestral appointments with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
Recent performances include concerts of the complete J.S. Bach solo suites in Los Angeles and Connecticut, concertos of Dvoràk and Takemitsu with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, and a chamber concert with Richard Stoltzman (clarinet) at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Ms. Usiskin has a penchant for new music and has performed with the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Axiom Ensemble, and as a member of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance. She has premiered dozens of new works as well as commissioned works in her name.
In 2011, Ms. Usiskin founded the Montgomery Music Project, an El Sistema strings program for school students in Montgomery, Alabama. In three years, the program has given intensive string instruction to over 150 underserved children across three counties. She served the Executive Director of the program from its inception through 2013.
Ms. Usiskin’s cello studies began at age five with Gilda Barston of the Music Institute of Chicago and continued with Richard Hirschl of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She graduated from Columbia University cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior, The Juilliard School with a Master of Music, and Yale University with a Doctor of Musical Arts. She currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is Adjunct Professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, member of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, cello teacher at STEP Birmingham, and founding member of the New York-based piano trio Arté Trio.
Dr. Diane L. Winder, professor of cello at Eastern Michigan University since 1988, is active as a recitalist and in symphonic and chamber music. The Alexander Trio, EMU’s faculty piano trio, tours with repertoire from Classical through Contemporary periods. Orchestral experience includes principal positions with the Plymouth and Charlotte Symphonies, as well as the St. Louis Philharmonic. She has also played seasons with the Knoxville Symphony and at summer festivals such as Brevard, Bear Valley, the Alaska Festival of Music, and the Superior String Alliance (SSA). Additionally, Winder has performed on viola da gamba and Baroque cello. She served as instructor of viol at The Florida State University and appeared there in faculty early music ensembles. Related groups include chamber music at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival and seasons with the Cappuccino Quartet and Orianna.
Recently Winder became music director and conductor for the Young Strings Camp of SSA in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and was a founding member of both the Michigan Cello Quartet, as well as Xantippe, an historically informed trio featuring violin, cello and flute/recorder.
As a conductor, Winder has led a variety of student and faculty groups, including the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra, the award-winning Tennessee Tech Chamber Orchestra, and a professional chamber orchestra in Albania.
At EMU Winder teaches private cello and orchestration, and coaches chamber music. She is also a Faculty Associate in the University Honors Program. She has experience with courses in theory-music literature, music appreciation, and a cello-double bass techniques class, and studio double bass. She holds performance degrees from the University of the Pacific, Converse College and the D.M. from The Florida State University. While at Eastern she has been recognized as Advisor of the Year in the College of Arts and Sciences, and as an outstanding teacher by the state of Michigan. She has previously taught at Tennessee Tech. She is author of articles for state ASTA with NSOA chapters and for The Instrumentalist.
Derek received degrees (MM, BM) from the University of Michigan. He is on the faculty of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Eastern Michigan University and is also Principal Double Bass with the Michigan Opera Theater, a member of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and a freelance player with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He performs chamber music frequently, including a recent performance with the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. He is also a member of the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra, which performs in Carmel, CA during the months of July and August. Derek was a member of a select international committee organized to rewrite the Suzuki Bass Method. He owns 5 basses, a 300-year-old Italian bass, a 200-year-old French bass, a Kay bass, and two modern instruments made by Aaron Reiley of Grand Rapids, MI.
Vivian Chang Freiheit made her debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 16, performing Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. As collaborator with singers and instrumentalists, she has performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and the 92nd Street Y. During the 2016 summer season, Vivian performed as Artist-in-Residence at the Monteverdi in Tuscany, Italy. She is also a core member of Chameleon Arts and Motyl Chamber ensembles and has performed live on WGBH Boston on multiple occasions. The Boston Musical Intelligencer recently described Vivian’s playing as “soulful, passionate, playful… and her sense of ensemble brilliant.”
Vivian studied both piano and violin at the Oberlin College-Conservatory, where she graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and was recipient of the Dean’s Talent Award. She continued her studies as a scholarship student at the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Samuel Sanders and earned her Master and Doctorate degrees in Collaborative Playing. As the recipient of the Citibank-Juilliard Stipendium she studied as a vocal coach at the Leipzig Opera House and with Phillip Moll in Berlin, while living in Germany for two years.
Vivian currently makes her home in Pleasantville, NY, where she teaches both piano and violin and brings interactive music making to schools in metropolitan NY. She is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and Special Needs interests; in March of 2016, the Westchester Jewish Council awarded Vivian the Julian Y. Bernstein Distinguished Service Award for creating and running Special Needs programming for individuals and their families within her local community.
Vera Parkin, pianist, made her debut under the auspices of the Artist Presentation Society in 1985. Since that time, she has enjoyed an active and varied career as a performer and pedagogue in the St. Louis area. Educated at Northwestern University, Southern Illinois University, and Washington University, her teachers have included Gui Mombaerts, Ruth Slenczynska and Seth Carlin.
As a performer, Vera is widely known as a collaborative pianist. She has been a keyboardist with the St. Louis Symphony since 1986, and is a frequent collaborator with many SLSO members in chamber recitals and outreach programs.
As a pedagogue, Vera is involved with many levels of music education. She is the founding director of the Preparatory Program for gifted high school instrumentalists at the Community Music School of Webster University, now in it’s 17th year. This program takes the most advanced students in the region and prepares them for college/conservatory and adult professional life as a musician. In her applied teaching, she works with young children through college level, and serves as staff accompanist at the Community Music School of Webster University and Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville. Vera has been a vocal coach for Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ AiT program, and often collaborates with Union Avenue Opera. In summer, she is a teaching artist at Phoenixphest in Ann Arbor, MI. Vera was previously Artistic Director of the Innsbrook Institute for 10 summers, as well as the director of the Wintergreen Festival Summer Academy. Vera serves as a mentor and accompanist for the cultural diplomacy agency American Voices, and is excited to make her third trip to Lebanon as a teacher for the Beirut YES Academy in summer of 2015. Vera Parkin was named Music Educator of the Year by the St. Louis Symphony in March, 2011. Her most recent innovation is the founding of the Generations Ensemble, a chamber ensemble of flexible instrumentation that couples Prep alumni and current students with mature artists who serve collaborate in performanance and as mentors. The Generations Ensemble will also borrow principals from the New York based GroupMuse concept.
Andrew Bishop is a versatile multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, clarinet, flute), composer, improviser, educator, and scholar comfortable in a wide array of musical idioms. He maintains an active national and international career and serves as an Assistant Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he teaches applied jazz saxophone, composition, and improvisation. He studied jazz and improvised music with David Baker, Jerry Bergonzi, Tom Fowler, Dave Liebman, Craig Owens, Ellen Rowe, Ed Sarath, and Reggie Workman; saxophone with Donald Sinta and Jean Lansing; and composition with William Albright, William Bolcom, Evan Chambers, Michael Daugherty, and Walter Mays. Bishop earned five degrees in music, including a DMA in music composition from the University of Michigan.
Bishop’s two recordings as a leader, Time and Imaginary Time and the Hank Williams Project (Envoi Recordings), received widespread acclaim from The New York Times, Downbeat Magazine, The Chicago Reader, All Music Guide, Cadence Magazine, All About Jazz–New York, All About Jazz–Los Angeles, and The Detroit Free Press, among others. He leads a variety of projects including a jazz trio Bishop/Cleaver/Flood, a broadminded roots chamber ensemble, Andrew Bishop’s Hank Williams Project, a mainstream jazz group the Andrew Bishop Quartet, and a global blues project called Blue Origami. As a sideman, he has performed with Reid Anderson, Geri Allen, Karl Berger, Sandip Burman, Kenny Burrell, Eugene Chadbourne, Ray Charles, Gerald Cleaver, Drew Gress, Jerry Hahn, Robert Hurst, John Lindberg, Chris Lightcap, The Either Orchestra, Mat Maneri, The Manhattan Transfer, Tony Malaby, Ben Monder, Jeremy Pelt, Hank Roberts, Jacob Sacks, Craig Taborn, Clark Terry, Ben Waltzer, Matt Wilson, and John Zorn, among others. Bishop has recorded over 30 compact discs as a sideman and regularly performs as a member of Gerald Cleaver’s Violet Hour and Uncle June, the Ellen Rowe Quartet, the Tad Weed Freedom Ensemble, Phil Ogilive’s Rhythm Kings, and the contemporary concert music group Opus 21.
As a composer and arranger, he has received over 20 commissions from professional organizations and universities and numerous residencies. He has also received recognition and awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP); The Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and a nomination from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His orchestral composition Crooning was recorded by the Albany Symphony Orchestra on Two American Piano Concertos (Albany Records), featuring pianists Ursula Oppens and Ian Hobson. He has also completed composition and arranging projects for percussionists Matt Wilson and Steve Houghton and is currently completing a chamber music project for saxophonist Dave Liebman.
As an educator, performer and composer, Christian Howes has gained great notoriety and respect from critics and players alike. In recent years, Howes has become an in-demand violinist on the New York scene, performing and recording with a bevy of jazz artists, including alto saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist D.D. Jackson, guitarists Les Paul , Frank Vignola, and Joel Harrison, drummer Dafnis Prieto, vibraphonist Dave Samuels’s Caribbean Jazz Project, crossover pioneers Spyro Gyra, and a 4-year chair in Bill Evans Soulgrass. In August 2009, Christian was ranked (for the third time) as the #2 violinist in the Downbeat Critics Poll “Rising Stars.” According to the Chicago Reader, “Not since Jean Luc Ponty has a violinist ranged from pure classical to fuzz-tone rock to convincing jazz with such authority.” An Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music, he is also the founder of the Creative Strings Workshop and Festival, which convenes every summer at Otterbein College. After spending 8 years in New York City and touring the world constantly, Christian has recently returned to his native Columbus, Ohio to reclaim his roots. For more information visit christianhowes.com.
String bassist Paul Keller is a jazz hero of Michigan who wears many hats: Paul is the leader of several successful and busy jazz ensembles including his 23-year old, 15-piece big band The Paul Keller Orchestra; he’s an in-demand side man, a prolific composer, a creative and skilled arranger, an enthusiastic and innovative jazz educator, a recording company owner and producer, and a nationally recognized recording artist. Paul can be heard locally every week at Zal Gaz Grotto on Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor (on Mondays with his big band and on Tuesdays with the Easy Street Jazz Band). Check out Paul Keller’s website at www.pkorecords.com.
Keller spent several years on the road with guitarist Russell Malone and later with singer/pianist Diana Krall. Together with Russell and Diana, Paul recorded Diana’s grammy-nominated GRP/Impulse CD All For You. Paul frequently travels to all parts of the world to play special concerts and festivals with a myriad of jazz stars including Jackie Ryan, Benny Green, Ken Peplowski and Warren and Alan Vache. In 2010 Keller led his own trio in concert at the National Israeli Opera House before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,000. Already this year Keller has performed in 20 states with a variety of jazz bands. In August, 2011 he toured Eastern Europe with San Francisco pianist Larry Vuckovich. Keller appears on Vuckovich’s new CD Something Special which features saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Noel Jewks and drummer Chuck McPherson.
Like Clark Kent, jazz percussionist Pete Siers is soft-spoken and unassuming — but put him behind a drum set, and a hard-swinging, intensely physical, dynamically sensitive drummer emerges. When Pete plays, “straight-ahead, readily apparent musical joy” can be expected, according to the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association. And Paul Pearce of Bass World magazine writes that “Pete absolutely ‘sings’ with his drum kit.”
A consummate professional, Pete has an international reputation for his “restless curiosity, attention to detail, and mastery of many different styles,” according to Mike Stratton, host of the FM 89.7 radio show, “The Vinyl Side of Midnight.” Siers has played with jazz luminaries such as Russell Malone, Mulgrew Miller, Marian McPartland, Lee Konitz, Benny Golson, James Moody, Kenny Werner, David “Fathead” Newman, Eddie Daniels, Frank Morgan, Scott Hamilton, Bob Wilber, and Barry Harris. In addition to his expansive performance career, Siers has played on over 50 recordings, including Russell Malone’s Black Butterfly on Columbia Records. He recently played Carnegie Hall, has toured Europe several times, and is a long-time favorite at many jazz parties and festivals across the U.S. Pete continues to perform orchestral pops shows such as trumpeter Marcus Belgrave’s Louis Armstrong Tribute and Dave Bennett’s Salute to Benny Goodman.
In addition to his performance and recording career, Pete has taught percussion and jazz drumming for over 25 years. He teaches privately as well, as having taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor School for Performing Arts, Emory University, Purdue University and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. He was also an artist-in-residence at Interlochen School of the Arts.
Despite being a veteran teacher, Pete recognizes the impact of other musicians on his style such as New York pianist and educator Kenny Warner with his concept of “effortless mastery,” Jeff Hamilton’s dynamic showmanship, New York drummer Bill Stewart’s flawless execution and coordination, and Elvin Jones’ primitive, organic drive. But one of Pete’s greatest lessons was from Detroit saxophonist Larry Nozero back in the ’80s when Nozero told him before their show, “Rehearsals are over — it’s time to play.” “This hit me like a shot,” says Pete. “From this, I began to understand what it is to play music at the highest level. When I play, I want to go up there and disappear, to be the sound.” Siers is an authentic risk-taker who serves the music and surrenders to what it calls for.
Siers’ aspirations are as numerous as his accomplishments. The ultimate goal for his Latin quintet, Los Gatos, is to experience first-hand the roots of Afro-Cuban rhythm in its place of origin, Cuba, and to study with the masters. The Pete Siers Quartet, including two tenor saxophones and organ, will release a new CD in 2009. The repertoire is post-bop and high-energy, straight ahead jazz. Pete also has his eyes on a trio project with piano and tenor saxophone. The arrangements are unique yet reminiscent of the Gene Krupa Trio from the early 1950s. This year, Pete will also continue his piano trio settings with the release of Organic Roots.
Says Siers, “Staying inspired is important, whether it’s practicing, teaching, playing, or just being a husband and father. I feel very lucky to be around positive energy.” Pete resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife, Stephanie Hale, and their two children, Charlie and Neva.
Jazz saxophonist, educator, and author Jack Wagner grew up in Enfield, Connecticut. He received his B.M. Degree in Jazz Studies and Performance from William Paterson University and his Masters Degree and Teaching Certification from Ithaca College. Jack studied with Steve Wilson, Gary Smulyan, Jerry Bergonzi, Rufus Reid, John Riley, Steve Turre, David Berger, Conrad Herwig, Steven Mauk, Harold Mabern, Todd Coolman, Dave Demsey, Steve Brown, Mariann Ploger, and Kenny Burrell.
Jack has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico. He has performed with Michael Brecker, Joe Williams, Hamiett Bluiett, Bill Mays, Brian Lynch, Nick Brignola, Muhal Richard Abrams, Stephen Riley, Jane Ira Bloom, Mark Shim, Steve Houghton, and Carl Fontana. Jack has gigged in such NYC clubs as Birdland and The 55 Bar. He had the honor of playing with Joe Salzano and the Blue Devils for the New Millennium International Swing Dance Festival in Ensenada, Mexico.
A devoted educator, Jack taught public and private school bands in New York State for five years and then became the Jazz Studies Director at the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts (AASPA) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 2002-2008. Jack’s AASPA combo, the 6 O’Clock Jazz Combo, won Best Performing Arts High School Jazz Group in the prestigious international 2006 Downbeat Magazine‘s Student Music Awards contest. Jack’s private student also won Best Jazz Soloist in the same Downbeat competition.
Jack now serves as the Jazz Program Director of Ann Arbor Community High School, where he was hired in 2008. Mr. Wagner directs 8–10 high school jazz combos at Community each semester, focusing on small-group jazz and improvisation. He founded the Community High Jazz Guest Artist Series, which has hosted or co-hosted such musical luminaries as Victor Wooten, Hal Galper, Rodney Whitaker, Matt Wilson, Gary Versace, Michael Weiss, Randy Napoleon, Ambrose Akinmusire, Christian Howes, and Marcus Belgrave. The Community High combo Superbad was honored to perform for and with Wynton Marsalis at the 2014 Ford Honors Gala. Community has won numerous awards and competitions, including the 2010 International Downbeat Magazine’s Outstanding High School Jazz Group award. Community High’s recent CD releases include Jazzspring 2010 and 2013’s Super Nu. Jack is the author of the jazz instruction book The Straight Ahead Toolshed. In June, 2013, Jack was the recipient of the Ann Arbor Public School district’s Celebration of Excellence Award for Customer Satisfaction and Innovation.