Skip to page content

 

Since its first concert on May 21, 1971, NEXUS has been a rare commodity in the world of chamber music. The ensemble’s five members – Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Robin Engelman, Russell Hartenberger, and Garry Kvistad – continue to delight audiences with a repertoire that includes contemporary percussion masterworks, ragtime, world music, group improvisations, and compositions by the members themselves.

The group’s extensive travels have included tours of Australia, New Zealand, Asia (they were the first western percussion group to perform in the People’s Republic of China), Brazil, Scandinavia, and Europe, as well as regular appearances throughout the United States and Canada. Nexus has been featured at international music festivals such as the Adelaide Festival, the Holland Festival, the Budapest Spring Festival, the Singapore Arts Festival, the Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Blossom Music Festivals, the BBC Proms in London, the Music Today and Music Joy festivals in Tokyo, and World Drums Festivals in Vancouver, Brisbane, Calgary, Hamburg, and Hannover. International tours during the 2001/2002 season included performances in Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.

Nexus created the evocative musical score for the Academy Award-winning feature-length documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest. They have been featured on the national TV program CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt and Eugenia Zukerman, on numerous PBS broadcasts, and are heard regularly on CBC radio. Their collaborations with other leading performers and ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, the Canadian Brass, and Richard Stoltzman have received critical acclaim.

Nexus has garnered international renown from their many performances of From me flows what you call Time, created for them and the Boston Symphony by Toru Takemitsu under a commission from Carnegie Hall for its 1990 centennial celebration. Recently, Nexus performed this work with the Chicago Symphony under Christoph Eschenbach, the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Robert Spano, and the Cincinnati Symphony with Junichi Hirokami.

Nexus began the 2002/03 season with a reprise of the concerto with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the Toronto Symphony. A compact disc recording of the piece featuring Nexus and the Pacific Symphony conducted by Carl St.Clair was released in March 1998 on Sony Classical. The ensemble is presently working with the distinguished composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich on a new concerto to be premiered with the Iris Orchestra of Memphis, conducted by Michael Stern.

Nexus’ growing discography includes Gavin Bryars’ One Last Bar, Then Joe Can Sing (Point Records), which the ensemble premiered at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in November 1994; Garden of Sounds (BIS), featuring Richard Stoltzman on clarinet; and the recently released twelfth CD on the group’s own Nexus label, Lullaby, with works by Robin Engelman, Jo Kondo, and Bill Cahn.

Nexus received the 1997 Banff Centre for the Arts National Award and the Toronto Arts Award in 1989, and, in November 1999, Nexus was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society’s Hall of Fame.

BOB BECKER 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 Intercontemporain under Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble Modern of Germany, the Schoenberg Ensemble of Amsterdam, and the Boston Chamber Players. He has appeared as a 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 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 Grammophon, EMI, and Nonesuch.

Generally considered to be one of the world’s premier virtuoso performers on the xylophone and marimba, Becker has appeared as xylophone soloist at the Blossom Festival, the Eastern Music Festival, the Meadow Brook Festival, as well as with orchestras and concert bands throughout the United States. In the fall of 2002 he was a jurist for the Geneva International Music Competition in Switzerland.

Becker’s compositions and arrangements are performed regularly by percussion groups world-wide. Five of his compositions are included on his solo CD album, There is a Time, released in 1995 on the Nexus Records label. 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 U.S. premiere of his orchestral work Music on the Moon. His most recent works are settings of poetry by the American author Conrad Aiken, and feature voices and strings as well as keyboard percussion.

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, BILL CAHN has performed with conductors, composers, ensembles, and popular artists representing diverse musical styles – among them, Chet Atkins, John Cage, Carlos Chávez, Aaron Copland, Jimmy Durante, the Chuck Mangione Orchestra, Marian McPartland, the Marlboro Music Festival, Mitch Miller, Seiji Ozawa, Steve Reich, Doc Severinsen, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Edgard Varèse, and the Paul Winter Consort. He was the principal percussionist in the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic Orchestra from 1968 to 1995, and he has appeared as soloist with symphony orchestras and at music festivals throughout the world.

Cahn’s compositions for Nexus and symphony orchestra have been widely performed, and he has produced a number of compact discs, including two with Nexus and orchestra – Bill Moyers Narrates the Story of Percussion in the Orchestra (1992), and Voices (1994) – and one, The Solo Percussionist (1996), containing

his own compositions.

Cahn’s articles and essays on music and percussion have been published in music periodicals and he has authored three books on music. His research into the history of the xylophone has led to the publication of his 280-page discography, The Xylophone In Acoustic Recordings, 1877-1929.

In 1985 Cahn wrote and produced the classical music video March to the Scaffold featuring the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. The video has been seen on public television in the U.S. and Australia, and it was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Cahn is currently an artist in residence at Showa University of Music in Atsugi, Japan.

ROBIN ENGELMAN is an Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Toronto. He studied percussion and composition with Warren Benson at Ithaca College. He is a founding member of Nexus and a member of the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, as well as a recipient of the Toronto Arts Award and the Banff School of Fine Arts Donald Cameron Medal.

In 1968, Engelman became principal percussionist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa and later, Karel Ancerl. During the 1980s and ’90s, he was principal percussionist with the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra.

Three of Engelman’s compositions, Bridge for five percussion, Remembrance for five percussion, trumpet, and two trombones, and Lullaby for Esmé for double lead (steel) pan solo and four percussion, are performed and have been recorded by Nexus. His Music for Soldiers, an arrangement for the Canadian Brass and Nexus of four historic military songs, was premiered in October 2002 at the Glenn Gould Theatre and was featured on the CBC Television program Opening Night, broadcast in February 2003. Also completed in 2002 were arrangements for percussion quintet of four songs by Toru Takemitsu and Handmade Proverbs: Four Pop Songs, which Takemitsu wrote for the King’s Singers.

Engelman conducts and directs the University of Toronto Faculty of Music Percussion Ensemble, which has just released a CD titled Rondino featuring music by Bob Becker, John Cage, Jo Kondo, Terry Hulick, and John Beckwith.

RUSSELL HARTENBERGER began his percussion studies in Oklahoma City with Alan Abel. He later studied with Tom Gauger and K. Dean Walker. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from The 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 U.S., Europe, and South America as xylophone soloist. While in the Air Force Band, Hartenberger received his Master of Music degree from Catholic University, where he again studied with Alan Abel.

Hartenberger holds a Ph.D. in World Music from Wesleyan University where he studied mrdangam with Ramnad Raghavan, tabla with Sharda Sahai, 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.

Hartenberger has been Principal Percussion of the New Haven Symphony and timpanist with the Canadian Opera Company, and he performs often with the Toronto Symphony. 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 Quartet, Peter Serkin, Trichy Sankaran, Richard Stoltzman, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Hartenberger has been a member of Steve Reich and Musicians since 1971, and with them he has recorded for ECM, Deutsche Grammophon, 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, the Israel Philharmonic, the Cologne Radio Orchestra, the London Symphony, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

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

GARRY KVISTAD joined Nexus in the Fall of 2002 when John Wyre, one of the group’s original members, retired. He has been performing and recording with Nexus co-founders Bob Becker and Russell Hartenberger since joining Steve Reich and Musicians in 1980. Kvistad won a Grammy award for the 1998 recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.

Kvistad attended the Interlochen Arts Academy where he studied with Jack McKenzie and Michael Ranta. He earned his Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Cloyd Duff and Richard Weiner, and his Master of Music from Northern Illinois Univer-sity, where he studied music, art, and physics in the pursuit of musical instrument building. In the 1970s, Kvistad worked with Lukas 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. During that time he co-founded the Blackearth Percussion Group which recorded and toured in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Kvistad has been featured in performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Israel Philhar-monic, as well as many others in North America and Europe. The Balinese Gong Kebyar Gamelan en-semble, Giri Mekar, which he formed in 1987, is currently in residence at Bard College.

Kvistad is the founder and, presently, the CEO of Woodstock Percussion, Inc., makers of Woodstock Chimes and musical instruments for children. He is a 1995 winner of Ernst & Young/Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southern New England Region and served as a New York state delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business.

Kvistad lives in upstate New York with his wife Diane, lots of pets, and houseplants. They have two daughters, Tasa and Maya, both following artistic paths.