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”. 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.
Based in New York City, Ugandan-American cellist and composer Niles Luther bridges the gap between the artistic and musical idioms of the contemporary era.
Luther is the Musical Director for the Kehinde Wiley Studio where he serves as resident cellist, composer, contractor, and producer. Wiley and Luther have collaborated on the production and site-specific installation of several art films, each in representation of Wiley’s latest body of work at galleries in New York, London, and Paris. Additionally, Luther has performed with OneRepublic on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Most of these performances were on the subjects of racial equality and social justice. Luther’s primary teachers are Ole Akahoshi of the Yale School of Music, and Wolfram Koessel of the Manhattan School of Music (B.A.). He has won prizes in the Lilian Fuchs Chamber Music Competition and the Ruth Widder String Quartet Competition.
Luther believes that ultimate purpose and meaning lie within the divining of truth through art, music, and specifically the violoncello. However, he still finds time to pursue his many and varied interests which include fashion, design, psychology, philosophy, space travel, renewable energy, bushcraft, and high-altitude winter mountaineering!
Luther writes about his proposed piece: "I can only see the blessings I have been dealt by both sides of my family… this gratitude leads ultimately to my belief that past the suffering and pain, there is a beauty and wholeness we might experience collectively…I wish to provide an intimate musical account of the impact my father, and the Father ideal has on my identity: I. Innocence: Too Young to Know, II. Loss: A Being with NoTeacher, III. Healing: The Given Song."
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."
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 mediation on the composer’s personal journey of finding identity and place."
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. "
Described as “stunning,” and a “musician to keep an eye on” by the New York Times, cellist An-Lin Bardin currently freelances and teaches both music and math in the greater NYC area. 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. 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 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.