Issam Rafea (a master of the Oud, the Arabic lute) and Gao Hong (a leading player of the Pipa, the Chinese pear-shaped lute) met in the spring of 2017 at Carleton College. Both artists came from lands going through political strife — Issam Rafea living through the recent war in Syria, and Gao Hong growing up during the Cultural Revolution. Now, they continue to pursue their musical visions in the United States. They both are performers and composers and love to improvise, just like they have had to navigate their lives to survive. They both use their hearts to play music, and both believe that music needs to come from their souls and deepest feelings. Hence the title of their debut album — Life As Is: The Blending of Ancient Souls from Syria and China.
Praised for her diverse talents, Oberlin-based bassoonist Dana Jessen is highly active as a soloist, chamber musician, improviser and new music specialist. She is the co-founder of the Bay Area reed quintet, Splinter Reeds, and has performed with prominent ensembles including the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Ensemble Dal Niente, Calefax Reed Quintet, Callithumpian Consort, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra and the Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble, among others. “Carve is an eye-opening experience in the ways of an underutilized instrument. Jessen's virtuosity, and selection for this program, make this an intriguing listening experience.” — All About Jazz
Nirmala Rajasekar Minnesota-based artist Nirmala Rajasekar is a world renowned Carnatic veena virtuoso, singer, and educator of South Indian Music. She has performed in venues throughout the world and is a recipient of many awards including a Bush Artist Fellowship, a McKnight Fellowship, Rotary Vocational Excellence award and Best Senior Veena Artiste. She is known for her talents in exploring South Indian Classical (Carnatic) to create collaborative projects with other music traditions including western classical and jazz. In addition to her solo performance at Inn-fest she will present her new multicultural ensemble project, Maithree: Music of Friendship, in preparation for their innova album release this fall.
Through repetition, vocal techniques, circular breathing and unconventional articulation, Nick Zoulek pushes past the typical sound of the saxophone. He is currently pursuing his DMA in Contemporary Music Performance at Bowling Green State University.
"Nick Zoulek has it going on! His album Rushing Past Willow reshuffles our expectations of sound, projecting trancelike cultural memories up a psychic periscope rising into imaginal realms. It’s wickedly contagious, bizarrely beautiful and extraterrestrial all at the same time. In short, it’s magnificent." — Huffington Post
Lauded for providing “a once-in-a-lifetime experience for adventurous concertgoers,” Zeitgeist is a new music chamber ensemble comprised of two percussion, piano and woodwinds. One of the longest established new music groups in the country, Zeitgeist commissions and presents a wide variety of new music for audiences in the Twin Cities and on tour. Always eager to explore new artistic frontiers, Zeitgeist collaborates with poets, choreographers, directors, visual artists and sound artists of all types to create imaginative new work that challenges the boundaries of traditional chamber music. The members of Zeitgeist are: Heather Barringer, percussion; Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds; Nicola Melville, piano.
Patti Cudd is active as a percussion soloist, chamber musician and educator. In addition to performing with Zeitgeist, she teaches percussion and new music studies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the College of St. Benedict/St. Johns University. Other diverse performing opportunities have included Sirius, red fish blue fish, CRASH, the Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble, SONOR, Minnesota Dance Theatre and the Borrowed Bones Dance Theater. She received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Contemporary Musical Studies at the University of California studying with Steven Schick, Masters of Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo where she worked with Jan Williams, undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and studied in the soloist class with a Fulbright Scholarship at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Pat O'Keefe is a multifaceted performer who is active and in demand in a wide variety of musical styles and genres. He has performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras and wind ensembles, wailed away for belly dancers, and rocked samba in the streets. He draws upon this multiplicity of experiences and interests in his performances, which employ a "superb control of extended techniques," and have been described as "passionate," "explosive," and "breath-stoppingly exquisite." He is currently the woodwind player for the contemporary music ensemble Zeitgeist, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. With Zeitgeist he has premiered over two hundred new works, and has performed throughout the United States and Europe. Pat has also performed and recorded with other noted new music groups around the country, including ETHEL, California E.A.R. Unit, and Cleveland New Music Associates, and has appeared often as a soloist at the SEAMUS, Spark!, and the Third Practice festivals. Pat began his career as an orchestral clarinetist, serving as the principal clarinetist for five seasons with the Augusta Symphony in Augusta, Georgia, and he continues to be in demand as an active chamber musician.