Nani Agbeli, known for his energy, athleticism, and precision on stage, is one of the leading Ghanaian dancers of his generation. Born into a family of prominent dancers and drummers in Ghana’s Volta region, Nani was trained by his father, the late Godwin K. Agbeli, who performed with the Arts Council of Ghana Folkloric Company and later served as chairman of the Ghanaian National Association of Cultural Groups. Nani went on to study with various artists at the National Arts Center in Accra and, for many years, led the award-winning cultural troupe Sankofa Roots II. For nine years, he served as the lead drum and dance instructor at the Dagbe Cultural Center, a school that trains domestic and international students in Ghanaian traditional arts. In the United States, Nani has taught Ghanaian drumming and dancing and led performing ensembles notably at Tufts University and Harvard University among others. In addition, he has taught at Berklee College of Music, the Edna Manley School in Jamaica, Bowling Green University, and the University of Virginia, and has held artistic residencies at many other colleges. While teaching at Tufts and Harvard, Nani served as Artistic Director and Lead Dancer of the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society, a community-based group in the Greater Boston area founded by Professor David Locke of Tufts University (www.agbekorsociety.org). Nani Agbeli leads study tours to Ghana in July and August and is available for performances, workshops, residencies, and lecture-demonstrations. Nani currently lives in Los Angeles where he is a Professor and Director of Ghanaian West African Music, Dance and Arts at The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts. While he is best known as a dancer, Nani is a gifted and multi-talented artist who also works in textiles, painting, and computer graphics.
Nani Agbeli (Ghanaian drumming)
Gregg August (bass)
Bassist and composer Gregg August spans the classical, jazz, Latin jazz, and avant-garde scenes, making him one of the most versatile musicians on the scene today. In 2015 and 2013 he was chosen in the Downbeat Critics Poll as a "Rising Star." He is Principal Bass of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and plays regularly with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Gregg is the bassist with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Their recent recording Offense of the Drum won a Grammy in 2015. He's also a member of the critically acclaimed JD Allen Trio.
As a composer Gregg recently completed a commission from the American Composers Orchestra/Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute for a new full length orchestra piece which was premiered in 2013 by the Buffalo Philharmonic. In 2003 he formed his own group, and has recorded three critically acclaimed albums of entirely original music: Four by Six (Iacuessa Records 2012), One Peace (Iacuessa Records, 2007), and Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005). A former member of Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit, Gregg has also played with Chick Corea, Ornette Coleman, and Paquito D’Rivera. Gregg earned his degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Juilliard School, and is on the faculty at the University of Connecticut, New Jersey City University, Queens College, and Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA.
Ashley Bathgate (cello)
American cellist Ashley Bathgate was born in 1985 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and began cello studies at age 12. As a recitalist and chamber musician, she has appeared at the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, Barge Music, Le Poisson Rouge, Merkin Hall, and Carnegie's Zankel Hall, to name a few. She made her official New York Debut in Carnegie's Weill Hall with noted pianist Todd Crow in 2008. Ashley has also been a featured artist on WMHT FM, WQXR FM's 'Young Artist Showcase', and NPR's 'Performance Today'. She has frequently been invited to perform as a soloist with orchestra, including appearances with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Windham Chamber Players and in performances of the d'Albert and Barber cello concertos with the American Symphony Orchestra, directed by Leon Botstein. Most recently she appeared as a guest artist with the Greater Newburgh Symphony and the Yale Philharmonia. She is also a member of the internationally acclaimed new music ensemble, the Bang on a Can All Stars. Ashley was a full scholarship student at Bard college and recently received her Master's Degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale University School of Music where she studied with renowned cellist and professor, Aldo Parisot. Among her many awards are a grant from the New York Philharmonic Players Fund sponsored by Stephen and Elaine Stamas, top prizes in the Lois Lyman concerto competition ('99 & '01, an unprecedented achievement), the Hugo Kauder Memorial Strings competition in 2006 and the 2008 Yale University School of Music Woolsey Hall concerto competition. Most recently, Ashley's newly formed Lorien Trio received the Bronze Medal at the 2009 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Vicky Chow (piano)
Canadian pianist Vicky Chow has performed extensively as a classical and contemporary soloist, chamber musician, and ensemble member, and has been described as “brilliant” (New York Times), “a monster pianist” (Time Out New York) “virtuosic” (New Jersey Star Ledger) and “sparkling” with a “feisty technique” (MIT Tech). Joining the All-Stars in 2009, Vicky has also performed with other groups such as Wordless Music Orchestra, Opera Cabal, Wet Ink Ensemble, ai ensemble and AXIOM. Her passion has propelled Vicky to work with an A-to-Z of leading composers and musicians such as John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Bryce Dessner (The National) Philip Glass,Glenn Kotche (Wilco), David Longstreth (Dirty Projectors), Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth). Her first solo piano album of music composed by Ryan Francis has been released under the ‘tzadik’ label. She has also recorded for the Cantaloupe and altzVoz labels. In addition to performing, Ms. Chow also produces and curates “Contagious Sounds”, a new music series focusing on adventurous contemporary artists and composers at the Gershwin Hotel in New York City. Originally from Vancouver Canada, Ms. Chow studied at The Juilliard School with Yoheved Kaplinsky and Julian Martin (B.M, M.M. ‘Piano Performance’) before continuing studies at Manhattan School of Music (M.M., P.S. ‘Contemporary Performance’) with Christopher Oldfather. Starting the piano at age 5, she was invited to perform at the age of 9 at the International Gilmore Music Keyboard. She made her orchestral debut at the age of 10 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra made her last orchestral appearance at Alice Tully Hall with the Juilliard Symphony performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Ms. Chow resides in New York City. www.vickychow.com
David Cossin (percussion)
David Cossin is a specialist in new and experimental music. David has worked across a broad spectrum of musical and artistic forms to incorporate new media with percussion. He has recorded and performed internationally with composers and ensembles including the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Steve Reich and Musicians, Philip Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, Meredith Monk, Tan Dun, Cecil Taylor, Talujon Percussion Quartet, and the trio Real Quiet. Numerous theater projects include collaborations with Blue Man Group, Mabou Mines, and director Peter Sellars. David was featured as the percussion soloist in Tan Dun's Grammy and Oscar winning score to Ang Lee's film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. David has performed as a soloist with orchestras throughout the world including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestra Radio France, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sao Paulo State Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Hong Kong Symphony, and the Singapore Symphony. David ventures into other art forms include sonic installations, which have been presented in New York, Italy and Germany. David is also an active composer and has invented several new instruments, which expand the limits of traditional percussion. David is the curator for the Sound Res Festival, an experimental music festival in southern Italy and also teaches percussion at Queens College in New York City.
Joe Gonzalez (Latin percussion)
Joe Gonzalez is a New York-based bongocero who recorded with the Mario Bauza Orchestra and performed for many years with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra.
Joe has played and recorded with artists such as Hilton Ruiz, Paquito D’Rivera, and Bebo Valdes, and he is a featured bongo player on the both of the Conga King recordings with Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Candido Camero, and Giovanni Hidalgo.
Michael Gordon (composer, Bang on a Can Co-Artistic Director)
Michael Gordon's compositions demonstrate a deep exploration into the possibilities and nature of rhythm and what happens when rhythms are piled on top of each other, creating a glorious confusion. John Adams, who has conducted Gordon's works with the London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern, calls these raw and complicated sounds "irrational rhythms." Gordon's special interest in adding dimensions to the concert experience has led to frequent collaborations with artists in other media. For example, in DECASIA, a multimedia orchestra piece with films by Bill Morrison and spectacle by Ridge Theater, the audience stands in the middle of a three-tiered, triangular structure surrounded by an orchestra and large projection scrims. DECASIA was commissioned by the Basel Sinfonietta and premiered at European Music Month 2001. Gordon's most significant recent project is a new CD for Nonesuch, "Light is Calling". The music here is sonic and sensual with layers of violins, electric guitars and voice in counterpoint with studio-based electronic creations. Other recent works include POTASSIUM for the Kronos Quartet, TRANCE for Icebreaker, and WEATHER, written for the young Hamburg-based string orchestra Ensemble Resonanz. Gordon's music has been presented at BAM, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Royal Albert Hall, the Bonn Oper, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, and the Holland, Rotterdam, Edinburgh, St. Petersburg, and Settembre Musica festivals, and in choreography of The Royal Ballet, Eliot Feld, Emio Greco/PC, among others. His CDs include LIGHT IS CALLING (Nonesuch), DECASIA (Cantaloupe), WEATHER (Nonesuch) and LOST OBJECTS (Teldec).
David Lang (composer, Bang on a Can Co-Artistic Director)
David Lang received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the little match girl passion, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the vocal ensemble Theater of Voices, directed by Paul Hillier. His recent works include reason to believe, for Trio Mediaeval and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra; death speaks, for Shara Worden, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Owen Pallett; writing on water for the London Sinfonietta, with libretto and visuals by English filmmaker Peter Greenaway; and the difficulty of crossing a field, a fully staged opera with the Kronos Quartet. The CD of the little match girl passion, on Harmonia Mundi, won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang is co-founder of New York's legendary music festival Bang on a Can.
Brad Lubman (conductor)
Brad Lubman, conductor/composer, is founding co-Artistic Director and Music Director of Ensemble Signal, hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most vital groups of its kind.” Since his conducting debut in 1984, he has gained widespread recognition for his versatility, commanding technique, and insightful interpretations, in repertoire ranging from classical to contemporary works.His guest conducting engagements include major orchestras such as the DSO Berlin, WDR Symphony Cologne, NDR Symphony Hamburg, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, Residentie Orchestra Den Haag, Taiwan National Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and the St Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has worked with some of the most important ensembles for contemporary music, including London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, musikFabrik, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, and Steve Reich and Musicians.He has recorded for AEON, Albany, BMG/RCA, Bridge, Cantaloupe, CRI, Kairos, Koch, Mode, New World, NEOS, Nonesuch, Orange Mountain, and Tzadik. Lubman’s own compositions have been performed in the USA and Europe and can be heard on his CD, insomniac, on Tzadik. Lubman is Associate Professor of Conducting and Ensembles at the Eastman School of Music since 1997, where he directs the Musica Nova ensemble, and is on the faculty of the Bang-on-a-Can Summer Institute. He is represented by Karsten Witt Musik Management.
Nicholas Photinos (cello)
Nicholas Photinos (cello) is a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning, Chicago-based new music ensemble eighth blackbird. Formed in 1996, the ensemble performs throughout the world, giving 50-60 concerts annually, and has been featured on CBS’s Sunday Morning and in the New York Times. During the 2011/12 season eighth blackbird tours Australia twice, making debuts at the Sydney Opera House and the Brisbane Festival, and performs with the symphony orchestras of Melbourne and Tasmania. The ensemble plays in New York (SONiC festival), Washington DC's Kennedy Center, Kansas City, Ithaca and Princeton, and appears with the Cincinnati Symphony. Nicholas teaches at the University of Richmond and the University of Chicago, and since 2007 has taught at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival. He has also performed as a member of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and Canton and Columbus Symphony Orchestras, and performed and recorded with artists including Björk, Wilco, Autumn Defense, violinist Zach Brock, bassist Matt Ulery and singer Grazyna Auguscik. Nicholas is a graduate of Northwestern University, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He has recorded for the Nonesuch, Cedille and Naxos labels, among others.
Vicki Ray (piano)
Described as “phenomenal and fearless” pianist Vicki Ray has commissioned and premiered dozens of new works by today’s leading composers. She is a long time member of the award-winning California E.A.R. Unit, Xtet and a founding member of Piano Spheres. As the head of keyboard studies at the California Institute of the Arts she was named the first recipient of the Hal Blaine Chair in Musical Performance. Vicki has appeared on numerous international festivals and is a regular member of the faculty at the Bang On a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA. She performs regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has been featured on the Green Umbrella Series as soloist and collaborative artist. Her widely varied career covers the gamut of new and old music: from Boulez to Reich, Wadada Leo Smith to Beethoven. Notable recordings include the first Canadian disc of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the Blue Rider Ensemble, the premiere recordings of Steve Reich’s You Are (Variations) and the Daniel Variations with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the first recording of Cages Europeras 3 and 4. New releases include Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet with Eclipse Quartet on Bridge Records, David Rosenboom’s Twilight Language on Tzadik and Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things on Microfest Records which received a 2013 Grammy nomination.
Mark Stewart (electric guitar)
Multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and instrument designer Mark Stewart has been heard around the world performing old and new music. Since 1998 he has recorded, toured and been Musical Director with Paul Simon. A founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the comic duo Polygraph Lounge with keyboard & theremin wizard Rob Schwimmer, Mark has also worked with Steve Reich, Sting, Anthony Braxton, Bob Dylan, Charles Wourinen, Cecil Taylor, Meredith Monk, Stevie Wonder, Phillip Glass, Hugh Masakela, Iva Bittova, Bruce Springsteen, Ornette Coleman, Edie Brickell, Don Byron, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Cliff, the Everly Brothers, Fred Frith, Alison Krauss, David Krakauer, Bobby McFerrin, David Byrne, James Taylor, The Roches, Aaron Neville, and Marc Ribot. He has worked extensively with composer Elliot Goldenthal on music for the films Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Across the Universe, Titus, The Butcher Boy, The Good Thief, In Dreams and Heat, often playing instruments of his own design and construction. He has designed instruments for TFANA's productions of Midsummer Nights Dream & King Lear and is the inventor of the WhirlyCopter, a bicycle-powered Pythagorean choir of singing tubes and the Big Boing, a 24 ft. sonic banquet table Mbira that seats 30 children playing 490 found objects. He is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music & a Visiting Lecturer at MIT. Stewart can be heard on Warner Bros., Sony, Sony Classical, Point/Polygram, Nonesuch, Label Bleu, Resonance Magnetique, Cantaloupe and CRI recordings. He lives in New York City making his living playing and writing popular music, semi-popular music and unpopular music.
Ken Thomson (clarinet, saxophone)
Ken Thomson is a Brooklyn-based clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer. In demand as a composer and freelancer in many settings, he moves quickly between genres and scenes, bringing a fiery intensity and emotional commitment to every musical situation; Time Out NY called him “the hardest-working saxophonist in new-music show business.” He plays clarinets for the Bang on a Can All-Stars. He leads the Asphalt Orchestra - a 12-piece next-generation avant-garde marching band, called “cooly brilliant, infectious... top notch players” by The New York Times. He plays saxophone and is one of the 3 composers in the punk/jazz band Gutbucket, with whom he has toured internationally to nineteen countries and 32 states over fourteen years, and released CDs for Knitting Factory, Enja, NRW, Cantaloupe and Cuneiform Records. He latest project of exclusively his music, called Slow/Fast, released its debut CD "It Would Be Easier If" internationally on Intuition Records in 2010, garnering a feature review in The New York Times highlighting the “intricately wrought and incident-steeped” compositions and “gutsy precision of the playing.” A followup disc, Settle, will be released in 2014. As a composer, he has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the True/False Film Festival, and others, and has received awards from New Music USA, ASCAP and Meet the Composer. His latest CD of his compositions with the heralded JACK Quartet, entitled "Thaw," was released in November 2013 on Cantaloupe Music. The San Francisco Weekly writes about his music, “Thomson’s original compositions are as complex as a beehive, filled with amber-hued nooks and crannies that bear traces of jazz, world music, and classical, without succumbing to any of them.” As a saxophonist and clarinetist, he is a member of the next-generation chamber orchestra Signal (conducted by Brad Lubman), working directly with composers from Steve Reich to Helmut Lachenmann and a performer on CDs for Mode, Orange Mountain, and Cantaloupe Records. He is a frequent collaborator with many new-composed music groups including Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, and more. He has also worked as a music director, notably, directing composer Julia Wolfe's "Traveling Music" at the Bordeaux Conservatory, France, 2009, and has conducted performances of "Music for Airports" with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, choir, and guest musicians in Melbourne and Buenos Aires.
Julia Wolfe (composer, Bang on a Can Co-Artistic Director)
Drawing inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, Julia Wolfe’s music brings a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Her music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. Wolfe's Cruel Sister for string orchestra was commissioned by the Munich Chamber Orchestra was recently released with Ensemble Resonanz (along with her other string orchestra work, Fuel) on Cantaloupe Music. Other CDs on Cantaloupe include Dark Full Ride (music for multiples) and Julia Wolfe – The String Quartets. Upcoming projects include a percussion concerto for Colin Currie and the BBC orchestra, and a new work for the Amsterdam based cello8ctet, and an evening length work for the Mendelssohn Club Choir and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Wolfe has collaborated with theater artist Anna Deveare Smith, architects DillerScofidio+Renfro, filmmaker Bill Morrison, Ridge Theater, director Francois Girard, Jim Findlay, and choreographer Susan Marshall among others. Her music has been heard at BAM, the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, Settembre Musica (Italy), Theatre de la Ville (Paris), Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and has been recorded on Cantaloupe, Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca. In 2009 Wolfe joined the NYU Steinhardt School composition faculty. She is co-founder of New York's music collective Bang on a Can.