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The Bardin-Niskala Duo is a classical cello and piano duo comprised of cellist An-Lin Bardin and pianist Naomi Niskala. An-Lin and Naomi met while living and teaching in New Haven, CT, shortly after they finished their studies at the Yale School of Music. An-Lin is of Chinese-American heritage, and Naomi is of Japanese-American heritage. They have been playing together in their piano trio (Trio Kisosen) since 2016, and formed the Bardin-Niskala Duo in January 2021 in response to the sharp rise in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes across the United States. An-Lin and Naomi began approaching ALAANA composers to ask them to use their music to address their sense of identity – to celebrate their racial heritages, to tackle historical or current events in race conflict, or to start their journey towards discovering where and how they belong.
In the last year and a half, the Bardin-Niskala Duo has commissioned the following composers: Taiwanese-American Yiheng Yvonne Wu, Navajo (Diné) Juantio Becenti, Chinese Samoan/Hawaiian Michael-Thomas Foumai, Uruguayan-American Miguel del Aguila, Taiwanese-American Chihchun Chi-Sun Lee, Afghani Seare Ahmad Farhat, Haitian Jean "Rudy" Perrault, Australian-Chinese Melissa Dunphy, and Japanese-American Michi Wiancko. In addition to performing these commissioned works, they also program works by Reena Esmail, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, William Grant Still, and Gabriela Lena Frank.
If you are a composer interested in participating in this commissioning project, please contact us.
Yiheng Yvonne Wu (b.1981, Taiwan) studied composition at the University of California, San Diego (Ph.D., M.A.) and Yale University (B.A.). She has received commissions from the La Jolla Symphony conducted by Steven Schick, Arraymusic, Palimpsest, Michael Mizrahi and the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, Figmentum, Bonnie Whiting, Jessica Aszodi, Carla Rees, Rachel Beetz, and Dustin Donahue. Wu's music has been performed by MIVOS string quartet and Ensemble SurPlus and featured in the WasteLAnd concert series, the University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Festival, New Music on the Bayou, SoundSCAPE Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and Schloss Solitude Summer Academy. Dreams of a Young Piano, for solo piano with chamber ensemble, was awarded the 2018 Judith Lang Zaimont Prize by the International Alliance for Women in Music. Wu's string quartet, Utterance, released on Carrier Records, won the 5th Mivos/Kanter String Quartet Composition Prize. Wu's primary composition teachers have included Katharina Rosenberger, Kathryn Alexander, John Halle, Sophia Serghi, and Steven Takasugi. She teaches composition and music theory and leads the InterArts Ensemble at Beloit College in Wisconsin.
Dr. Wu has written a piece entitled “Three Adaptations” for the Bardin-Niskala Duo. This work “incorporates folk songs from China, Japan, and Taiwan, with the melodies going into and out of focus, as if obfuscated by time and distance. Eschewing a generic, pan-Asian flavor, the setting of the songs is meant to acknowledge the complex relationships that the performers and composer have with their respective Asian ancestries.”
Dr. Wu's piece was commissioned with funds generously donated by Mr. Sean Hayes, and a grant from Susquehanna University.
Juantio Becenti (Diné/Navajo) lives in the four corners area of New Mexico close to his birthplace on the Navajo Nation. He began composing music at a young age and received his first commission from the Moab Music Festival in 1998. He has since received commissions from Dawn Avery (North American Indian Cello Project), Raven Chacon (Native American Composers Apprenticeship Program), Michael Barrett (New York Festival of Song), George Steel (Abrams Curator of Music, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), and others. His compositions have been performed by the Phoenix Chamber Orchestra, Dawn Avery, ETHEL, America’s premier postclassical string quartet, and the Claremont Trio. He has studied at the Walden School for Young Musicians which he attended on full scholarship. He was the recipient of a grant from the First Nations Composers Initiative which he received in order to create original music for the film "Two Sprits", a documentary about the life and murder of Fred Martinez, a transgendered Navajo teenager.
Mr. Becenti writes "music is a healing force and a mode of expression that people universally fall back onto for healing and other fundamental human needs...I've selected a Navajo song called Shi Naasha that was composed after the Navajo left Ft. Sumner where they have been imprisoned for numerous years after conflicts with the US, Mexico, and various other Native American tribes aligned with the US.After a period of conflict the Navajo were rounded up in 1864 and forced on a walk from our traditional homelands to an internment camp 300+ miles away. Many Navajo died during that journey and those that survived were imprisoned until 1868 when a treaty was signed. The Navajo homeland is bordered by 4 mountains with the southernmost being called Tsoodzil (turquoise mountain) or Mt. Taylor in New Mexico. When the returning Navajo saw the mountain they were overcome with joy and composed Shi Naasha. It talks about going in beauty and freedom."
Mr. Becenti's piece is being commissioned with funds generously donated by Tsing Bardin and a grant from Susquehanna University.
Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987) is a composer of contemporary concert music and educator with work focusing on storytelling and the history, people and culture of his Hawaiʻi home. His music has been performed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, George Manahan and the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, and in the summer of 2021, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra presented a festival of his music with over 30 performances conducted by Rei Hotoda, Lidiya Yankovskaya, Sarah Hicks and JoAnn Falletta. Honors for his music have included a Fromm Foundation Grant from Harvard University, the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year Award, the Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, and three BMI composer awards. Foumai holds multiple degrees in music composition from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (BM) and the University of Michigan (MM,DMA).
Dr. Foumai will write a piece "incorporating music from the Hawaiian Kingdom, with music from Samoa, China, and the United States of America. The work will explore similarities and differences between these musical cultures as dialogues between piano and cello, forming a meditation on the composer’s personal journey of finding identity and place."
Dr. Foumai's piece is being commissioned with funds generously donated by Lili and Wilson Ervin.
Three-time Grammy nominated American composer Miguel del Aguila has established himself among the most distinctive and highly regarded composers of his generation with over 130 works that combine drama, driving rhythms and nostalgic nods to his South American roots. His music, which enjoys over 200 performances annually, has been hailed as “brilliant and witty” (N.Y. Times) and “sonically dazzling” (L.A. Times).
He is currently composer-in-residence with Denmark’s Ensemble Storstrøm, following a 2020 residency with Orchestra of the Americas. New and upcoming releases of his works include CDs by Norwegian Radio Orchestra; the Louisiana Philharmonic, Augusta Symphony, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and the Eroica Trio, on Naxos, Albany, Bridge and Centaur. 2020-2021 collaborations include performances by Chicago Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Brazil’s Theatro São Pedro orchestra, São Paulo Dance Company, and Stavanger Symphoniorchestrer, Norway.
Besides three Grammy nominations, He has received a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, Magnum Opus Award, grants from New Music USA/Music Alive, the Copland Foundation and Lancaster Symphony Composer of the Year award. His music, recorded on 52 CDs, has been performed by over 100 orchestras and by thousands of ensembles and soloists worldwide. He graduated from San Francisco Conservatory and Vienna’s Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. His music is published by Peermusic Classical, Theodore presser and self-published.
Taiwanese-American composer, Chihchun Chi-Sun Lee’s works are described as “eye-openingly, befittingly, complex, but rather arresting to hear” by Boston Globe, and “exploring a variety of offbeat textures and unusual techniques” by Gramophone. The winner of the 1st Biennial Brandenburg Symphony International Composition Competition in Germany and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, Dr. Lee is originally from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She has received numerous honors including commissions and grants from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the Barlow Endowment, the Taiwan National Culture and Arts Foundation, Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (NTSO), National Orchestra of Korea (NOK) and Taiwan National Chinese Orchestra and the Theodore Front Prize from International Alliance for Women in Music, among others. In 2017, she was honored with an Alumni Achievement Award in Music in Recognition of Outstanding Contribution to Music at Ohio University’s 100th anniversary of music department. She has composed over forty works for traditional Chinese/Korean/Japanese instruments, and performances of her works have been performed extensively on the international stage and broadcast worldwide.
Dr. Lee writes: "2020 to 2021 has been a very unique time for American minorities. My new commission is specifically tailored to address the awareness of unfortunate Asian Hate Crimes that continue since COVID started. By incorporating traditional folk songs and children’s songs from their originating Asian countries, I hope people can gain understanding, appreciation and respect towards our Asian-American heritages. "
Seare Farhat (b. 1996) strives to create music that connects a listener to the visceral imagination, energy, and transformation within narrative forms. Starting out his musical endeavors in Afghan folk music, he later built on these valued experiences in the western classical tradition combined with other interests, such as mathematics. Seare has received commissions from the JACK Quartet, IU New Music Ensemble, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Quintessence Wind Quintet, and the Oberlin Sinfonietta, and served as the young composer-in-residence of the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings in 2019. He has received honors such as FLUX Quartet's 2019 call for scores and being a finalist for Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra's 2019 call for scores. Seare has also held residencies at Avaloch Farm Music Institute in 2022 with percussionist Morgan Sutherland and with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music as a Balhest Eeble Composer Fellow for the 2021-23 cycle with mentors Nathalie Joachim, Charles Overton, and Haruka Fujii. Seare holds a B.M. in Composition and B.A. in Mathematics from Oberlin College and Conservatory, a master’s degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he held the position of Assistant Director of the New Music Ensemble, and is currently pursuing a D.M.A. at Cornell University studying with Elizabeth Ogonek, Kevin Ernste, and Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, performer, conductor and composer, Jean (Rudy) Perrault is a sought-after educator/clinician, composer, performer, and conductor, nationally and internationally. His compositions have been commissioned for, and performed by, world famous musicians and ensembles. His most recent compositions include a work for string orchestra (Sometimes, I Feel…) depicting the events surrounding the George Floyd murder, a Duo for flute and Double Bass entitled “Caged”, and a Piano Trio (We Three Kings) marking the 100th anniversary of the 1920 Duluth lynching.
Current projects include a Duo for Violin and Cello (Dialogues for Violin and Cello), a Duo for Cello and Hand Drum (Peze Kafe), a work for 13 Instruments, and an arrangement of Ludovic Lamothe’s Danza #4 for Violin, Cello and Hand Drum. Future projects include a Duo for Cello and Piano, setting to music three poems of world-renown author Edwidge Danticat, and a ballet (Seremoni). For more than a decade, Rudy has been collecting, digitizing, and editing the piano works of Haitian classical composers.
Rudy is Professor of Music, and Director of Orchestras, at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a frequent judge/panelist at festivals and competitions in all corners of the world. He is a founding member of the Kako Foundation (kakofoundation.com), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing music to at-risk youth in the US and Haiti. Rudy makes his home in Duluth, Minnesota.
Mr. Perrault's work is being commissioned with funds generously donated by Mary P McKillip Pautz.
Raised in a Chinese-Australian family, Melissa Dunphy moved to the USA in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention when her large-scale work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The Rachel Maddow Show. Dunphy is the recipient of an Opera America Discovery Grant for Alice Tierney, a new opera commission by Oberlin Conservatory premiering in 2023. Recent commissions include works for the BBC Singers, VOCES8, and Mendelssohn Chorus. Dunphy is also a Barrymore Award-nominated theater composer and Director of Music Composition for the O'Neill National Puppetry Conference. Dunphy has a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. from West Chester University and teaches at Rutgers University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Matt; the Dunphys are co-hosts of the popular podcast The Boghouse about their adventures in Philadelphia colonial archaeology.
A versatile and highly imaginative collaborator, performer, and composer, Michi Wiancko has been commissioned by artists and ensembles throughout the country, and both her creative and organizational work prioritize not only artistic discovery, but community resilience and social change.
Recent commissions and projects include works for Boston Chamber Music Society, Parker Quartet, Ensemble Connect, SPCO, Aizuri Quartet, Jupiter Quartet, American Ballet Theater, Anne Akiko Meyers, Cleveland Lyric Theater, and Experiments in Opera, among many others.
Michi performed her violin solo debuts with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, and her recital debut in Weill Hall. She released her solo album, Planetary Candidate on New Amsterdam Records, and the solo violin works of Émile Sauret on Naxos. A passionate collaborator and advocate for new music, Michi has worked with Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli, Vijay Iyer, Judd Greenstein, William Brittelle, Qasim Naqvi, Jessie Montgomery, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich, Emmanuel Ax, Silkroad, East Coast Chamber Orchestra, The Knights, A Far Cry, Alarm Will Sound, and International Contemporary Ensemble.
Her mentors include Donald Weilerstein and the late violinist and composer Robert Mann. Michi is the director of Antenna Cloud Farm, a festival, retreat, and community organization, and she recently launched The Experimental Institute in collaboration with Mazz Swift and PaviElle French.
Described as “stunning,” by the New York Times, cellist An-Lin Bardin currently teaches cello and chamber music at Sarah Lawrence College, freelances in the greater NYC area, and moonlights as a math tutor. As the cellist of the Vinca Quartet, she performed extensively throughout Europe and the US, including Carnegie’s Weill Hall, Aspen, and Vilar Performing Arts Center. Bardin’s performances have been broadcast on Deutschlandradio and WNYC. She is a laureate of several international quartet competitions, including the Paolo Borciani Quartet Competitions in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and the Fischoff, the Plowman, the Yellow Springs, Chesapeake, and the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competitions in the United States. She served as Artist-in-Residence for the Perlman Music Program in Florida. A recipient of a DAAD fellowship which enabled her to work with the Vogler String Quartet in Stuttgart, Germany, Bardin also studied extensively with Gunter Pichler and Valentin Erben of the Alban Berg Quartet, Walter Levine, Heime Mueller, and the Artemis String Quartet under the auspices of the ProQuartet Odyssée Program in Paris, France, and with the Emerson String Quartet through the Carnegie Hall Chamber Music Workshops. She was a graduate assistant to the Takacs Quartet at the University of Colorado at Boulder for two years as part of the graduate quartet residency program. A strong proponent of music education, Bardin was a founding member of Music Haven, an intensive mentorship program serving youth from low-income neighborhoods in New Haven, Connecticut. She also founded two ongoing music educational programs in rural Washington State through the Gorgeous Sounds Residency Program. Raised in California by two nuclear physicists, Bardin began her cello studies at the age of eight with Irene Sharp. She holds a B.S. from Yale University in Geology and Geophysics, and an M.M. from the Yale School of Music, where she studied with Aldo Parisot and was a member of the Grammy-Award-winning Yale Cellos.
A soloist and chamber musician who has appeared in Europe, North America, Russia, Israel, Thailand, and Japan, pianist Naomi Niskala's performances have been broadcast on BBC Radio, Deutschlandradio, RTV Germany, and NPR’s Performance Today. Niskala performs regularly with Spectrum Concerts Berlin, one of Germany’s leading chamber organizations, and has also recorded two discs with them. Recent performance highlights include the San Francisco Symphony Chamber Series at Davies Symphony Hall, soloist with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic of Russia, and solo and chamber performances with Spectrum Concerts Berlin in the Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal of Berlin, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, in Thailand, and in Kosovo. Her release of the only complete recordings of American composer Robert Helps’s solo piano works on two discs with Albany Records in 2007 was met with high acclaim, and she has also recorded piano chamber works of Robert Helps and Ursula Mamlok with Spectrum Concerts Berlin for two discs on Naxos, as well as the world premiere of Mamlok’s 2015 quintet “Breezes” for Bridge Records. Niskala is featured in the 2013 German rbb television documentary entitled Sehnsucht Musik (Searching for Music), documenting the work of four members of Spectrum Concerts Berlin towards improving the harsh conditions for young musicians at a music school located in Prizren, Kosovo. Born to Japanese/Finnish-American parents, she began studying piano at the age of three, raised in Rochester, New York and then later in Tokyo, Japan. Niskala holds degrees from the Yale School of Music, Stony Brook University, and the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Claude Frank, Gilbert Kalish, and Patricia Zander. She also worked with pianists Leon Fleisher, Menahem Pressler, Peter Serkin, and Maria Louisa Faini, and violinists Louis Krasner and Eugene Lehner. Niskala is currently Associate Professor of Music at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches piano and theory, and leads a summer chamber music exchange program to Japan.