About

 

 

The Canada Council for the Arts since 1957
Le Conseil des Arts du Canada depuis 1957

LONG BIOGRAPHY:
The first, entirely improvised NEXUS concert in 1971 marked the formation of a group that would touch and entertain people worldwide. Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Russell Hartenberger and Garry Kvistad are virtuosos alone, and bring elements of their knowledge and character to a distinct and powerful whole. They stand out in the contemporary music scene for the innovation and diversity of their programs, their impressive history of collaborations and commissions, their revival of 1920′s novelty ragtime xylophone music, and their influential improvisatory ideas.

NEXUS’ firm commitment to music education and a steady output of quality CD recordings and compositions by its members continues to enhance the role of percussion in the 21st century. NEXUS’ music, with its widespread appeal, has taken the group on tours of Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Brazil, Scandinavia, Europe, and regularly to the United States and Canada. NEXUS is proud to have been the first Western percussion group to perform in the People’s Republic of China. They have also enjoyed participating at international music festivals such as the Adelaide, Holland, Budapest Spring, Singapore Arts, Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Blossom Music Festivals, as well as the BBC Proms in London, Music Today and Music Joy festivals in Tokyo, and many World Drum Festivals. NEXUS is the recipient of the Banff Centre for the Arts National Award and the Toronto Arts Award. NEXUS was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999, just before celebrating their 30th anniversary season.

Especially renowned for their improvisational skills, NEXUS was called upon to create the musical score for the National Film Board’s award-winning Inside Time. TV and radio broadcasters such as CBS TV, PBS, and CBC have regularly featured this leading percussion ensemble. NEXUS also created the chilling score for the Academy Award-winning feature-length documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest. NEXUS’ list of high-profile collaborations includes Steve Reich, the Kronos Quartet, the Canadian Brass, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.
Toru Takemitsu, a great friend to NEXUS, composed one of their signature pieces, From me flows what you call Time…. This work, written with each NEXUS member’s personality in mind, was premiered for Carnegie Hall’s centennial celebration in 1990 with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra (recorded on Sony with the Pacific Symphony). In 2005, Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich composed Rituals for NEXUS and Chamber Orchestra. New Music Box calls it “one of Zwilich’s most exciting compositions to date…[a] blockbuster piece!” The recording features NEXUS and the IRIS Orchestra.

In the past 6 years, NEXUS has premiered newly commissioned works from Peter Schickele, Libby Larsen, Michael Burritt, Eric Ewazen, Gordon Stout, and Canada’s Norbert Palej, as well as co-commissioning Steve Reich to write Mallet Quartet which launched their 40th season. New arrangements have been created by NEXUS members Garry Kvistad (Mallet Phase premiered in Greenwich Village at La Poisson Rouge) and Russell Hartenberger (Persian Songs and Moondog Suite). Their newest CD is entitled The City Wears A Slouch Hat and features once-lost works by John Cage that NEXUS was asked to resurrect and premiere for The John Cage Trust in New York State. Their CD Persian Songs features the much-beloved young Iranian vocalist and setar performer Sepideh Raissadat, following on the solo CD Wings (2009) and the Juno-nominated Drumtalker. Ms. Raissadat was the first female vocalist to perform in public in Iran after the 1979 revolution. Her virtuosic performances of traditional Persian music have been enthusiastically praised by audiences in Europe and North America. In 2015 NEXUS joined her for an hour-long Voice of America broadcast of this new musical collaboration. NEXUS has so far performed this new program in Toronto, Kitchener, Ottawa, New York State, and San Antonio TX.

2011 and ‘12 brought sell-outs in Japan, a featured appearance on the Canadian Brass’s best-selling CD Stars and Stripes – A Tribute to the USA, after which the two ensembles appeared together in concert, and John Cage’s 100th Anniversary at Bard College’s Fisher Center. 2013/14 found NEXUS performing with the Eastman Wind Ensemble in Toronto and the Rochester Philharmonic in Rochester NY. 2014 through ‘16 has taken NEXUS to performances with Steve Reich in Toronto and New York celebrating his 80th birthday, residencies in North and South Carolina and to the Curtis Institute of Music, a concert performance with the percussion section of the Philadelphia Orchestra featuring works by NEXUS members Bob Becker and Bill Cahn; the launch of Maverick Hall’s 100th Anniversary concert series and an appearance with the acclaimed Toronto Children’s Chorus; concerts in San Antonio TX and Rockport MA, Percussion Rochester, Open Ears Festival, Drum Boogie Festival and the Ottawa ChamberFest, and with seven-times Grammy-winner Paul Winter and the throat-singers of Prana which has resulted in a just-released CD Chiaroscuro.  NEXUS wishes to thank Pearl/Adams and The Canada Council for the Arts for their ongoing support.

SHORT BIOGRAPHY:
“NEXUS is widely recognized as one of the most influential percussion ensembles to have emerged in the post-war period” (2006 doctoral dissertation U of Hong Kong.)  New York Times has called NEXUS “the high priests of the percussion world” and Steve Reich says, “probably the most acclaimed percussion group on earth.” NEXUS is in the Percussion Hall of Fame (along with Ringo Starr) and tours extensively. The group has participated in 60 international festivals, 4 times at the Kennedy Center, twice at the BBC Proms (Royal Albert Hall), 5 times in Carnegie Hall. The group is made up of four master percussionists internationally revered for virtuosity, innovation and extraordinary music out of broadest array of percussion instruments imaginable. Their original compositions and arrangements, high-end commissions from Pulitzer prize-winners Steve Reich and Ellen Taafe Zwillich, Grammy-winner Libby Larsen, and Japanese master Toru Takemitsu, and famed collaborations with the likes of Canadian Brass, Kronos Quartet, and Richard Stoltzman, have created repertoire ranging from novelty ragtime and haunting African rhythms through award-winning improvised film music and ground-breaking compositions. NEXUS delivers a stunningly virtuosic spectacle of sound and rhythm.

NEXUS wishes to acknowledge the generous support of Pearl/Adams and the Canada Council for the Arts.

(September 2016)

INDIVIDUAL BIOS:

BOB BECKER

Bob Becker’s performing experience spans nearly all of the musical disciplines where percussion is found. He has been percussionist for the Marlboro Music Festival and timpanist with the Marlboro Festival Orchestra under Pablo Casals. For several years he toured as drummer and percussionist with the Paul Winter Consort. He has also performed and recorded with such diverse groups as the Ensemble Intercontemporaine under Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble Modern of Germany, the Schoenberg Ensemble of Amsterdam and the Boston Chamber Players. He has appeared as tabla soloist in India and has accompanied many of the major artists of Hindustani music. He is also a founding member of the Flaming Dono West African Dance and Drum Ensemble in Toronto. As a regular member of the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Steve Reich and Musicians, he has appeared as soloist with the Israel Philharmonic, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony and recorded for Deutsche Grammophone, EMI and Nonesuch.

Generally considered to be one of the world’s premier virtuoso performers on the xylophone and marimba, he also appears regularly as an independent soloist and clinician. In particular, his work toward resurrecting the repertoire and performance styles of early 20th century xylophone music has been recognized internationally. Becker has performed and lectured for music departments and percussion programs throughout North America and Europe. His clinics and workshops cover a wide variety of percussion topics including North Indian tabla drumming, West and East African percussion, “melodic” snare drumming, rudimental arithmetic, and ragtime xylophone improvisation concepts.

Becker’s compositions and arrangements are performed regularly by percussion groups world-wide. In the spring of 1997 he was selected to be composer-in-residence for the Virginia Waterfront International Festival of the Arts, which presented the US premier of his orchestral work Music On The Moon, with JoAnn Faletta conducting. His most recent works are settings of poetry by the American author Conrad Aiken, featuring voices and strings as well as keyboard percussion. His most recent composition, Preludes, was commissioned in 2011 by the Banff Centre for the Arts, and was premiered at the Roots and Rhizomes Percussion Residency with Steven Schick conducting.

Bob Becker has been associated with the Malletech company since 1988, and plays the Malletech ragtime/soloist xylophone, which he helped design. He uses the Bob Becker signature line of Malletech mallets. He is also an endorser and designer for the Sabian cymbal company, and was honored with Sabian’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 2006 he was recognized as a “Master Drummer” by the International Association of Traditional Drummers, an organization founded by the legendary rudimentalist John S. Pratt.

BILL CAHN

Bill Cahn has been a member of the NEXUS percussion quintet since 1971, and was the principal percussionist in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 1968 to 1995.  Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Bill has performed with conductors, composers, ensembles, and artists representing diverse musical styles – Chet Atkins, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Chuck Mangione, Mitch Miller, Seiji Ozawa, Steve Reich, Doc Severensen, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Edgar Varèse and Paul Winter.

Since 2006 Bill has been an Associate Professor of Percussion at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.  He is also a faculty artist-in-residence at the Showa Academy of the Arts in Kawasaki, Japan since 1998, and he has been a guest faculty member at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada.

Bill has conducted pops and education programs with symphony orchestras, and his compositions for solo percussion, percussion ensemble and percussion with orchestra/band are widely performed.  His fourth book, “Creative Music Making,” on freeform improvisation was published by Routledge Books in 2005.

Bill has received the Rochester Philharmonic League’s FANFARE AWARD (1988) for a “significant contribution to music education in Rochester,” Mu Phi Epsilon’s MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD (1993), and with NEXUS, the TORONTO ARTS AWARD in music (1989), the BANFF CENTRE FOR THE ARTS NATIONAL AWARD (1997), and induction into the Percussive Arts Society’s HALL OF FAME (1999). In 2006 Bill received a GRAMMY Award as part of the Paul Winter Consort on the DVD titled, “2004 Solstice Concert.”

RUSSELL HARTENBERGER

Russell Hartenberger began his percussion studies in Oklahoma City with Alan Abel. After Mr. Abel left Oklahoma City to join the Philadelphia Orchestra, Russell studied with Tom Gauger and K. Dean Walker. He received his B.Mus degree from Curtis Institute where he studied with Fred D. Hinger. Upon graduation from Curtis, he joined the U.S. Air Force Band and toured throughout the US, Europe and South America as xylophone soloist. While in the Air Force Band, Russell received his M.Mus degree from Catholic University where he again studied with Alan Abel.

Russell holds a PhD in World Music from Wesleyan University where he studied mrdangam with Ramnad Raghavan of South India, tabla with Sharda Sahai of North India, Javanese Gamelan with Prawotosaputro and West African Drumming with Abraham Adzinyah. He is Professor of Percussion at the University of Toronto and is currently Acting Associate Dean and Chair of the Performance Department.

He has been a member of the Oklahoma City Symphony, Philadelphia Lyric Opera Co., percussionist at the Marlboro Music Festival, Principal Percussion of the New Haven Symphony, timpanist with the Canadian Opera Company and performs often with the Toronto Symphony. He has performed with the Paul Winter Consort, Ensemble Modern of Germany, John Wyre’s World Drums, Woodstock Beat, and New Music Concerts of Toronto. He also has worked and/or recorded with such diverse musicians as Gil Evans, Jimmy Garrison, John Cage, John Adams, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Glen Velez, Iannis Xenakis, Pablo Casals, Canadian Brass, Kronos String Quartet, Peter Serkin, Trichy Sankaran, Richard Stoltzman and Yo-Yo Ma.

Russell has been a member of Steve Reich and Musicians since 1971, and with them he has recorded for ECM, DGG and Nonesuch Records. He performed on the Grammy Award-winning recording of Music for 18 Musicians. With the Reich Ensemble, Russell has toured throughout the world and performed with the New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Cologne Radio Orchestra, London Symphony and Brooklyn Philharmonic. The conductors he has played under include Zubin Mehta, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, Peter Eotvos, Paul Hillyer, Brad Lubman and George Manahan.

Russell lives in Toronto with his wife, artist Bonnie Sheckter and their two daughters, Laura and Carla.

GARRY KVISTAD

Garry Kvistad has been a member of NEXUS since 2002 and has toured and recorded with the ensemble Steve Reich and Musicians since 1980.  Garry is one of 18 musicians to win a Grammy award for the 1998 recording of Steve Reichs Music for 18 Musicians.  Garry attended the Interlochen Arts Academy and earned his BM from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.  He received an MM from Northern Illinois University where, in 1993, he was honored with its Distinguished Alumni Award.  In the 1970s, Garry worked with composer/conductor Lucas Foss as a Creative Associate in Buffalo, New York, after which he joined the faculties of Northern Illinois University and the University Of Cincinnati College Conservatory Of Music with the Blackearth Percussion Group. Kvistad has served as the timpanist and percussionist with the Chicago Grant Park Symphony, was a summer Tanglewood Fellow, and a percussionist with the Cabrillo Music Festival Orchestra, California. The Balinese Gong Kebyar Gamelan ensemble, Giri Mekar, which he formed in 1987, is currently in residence at Bard College where Garry serves on the Faculty of the Conservatory of Music.  Garry served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, NY (board member for 20 years) where a building was named in his honor in 2008.  Garry is the founder and CEO of Woodstock Percussion, Inc., makers and distributors of Woodstock Chimes and musical instruments for children sold worldwide.  In 2010, Garry was presented with the inaugural ICON Honors Achievement Award from the Atlanta Gift Mart.  Garry is on the advisory board of the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice and the creator/Executive Director of the Drum Boogie Festival which was held in 2009 and 2011.

 

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