Our 2018 Artists’ Biographies
MICHAEL BEGAY. composer, guitarist, radio producer, writer. A graduate of Grey Hills Academy in Tuba City on the Navajo Nation, Mr. Begay was one of the first graduates of the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP), Mr. Begay studied recording arts at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe and has worked at Native American radio station KGHR, a National Public Radio affiliate, as a producer and music writer for six years, and has worked in the studio with Grammy award winner Verdell Primeaux, all the while continuing to compose. He joined NACAP as a volunteer assistant composer-in-residence in 2006, working closely with Raven Chacon. He continues studying composition with Mr. Chacon, and officially joined NACAP as assistant composer-in-residence in 2007.
STEPHEN BENSON, guitar. Stephen Benson is a freelance performer who has remained active on the studio, jazz and Broadway scene for over twenty years. Comfortable in a variety of musical settings from jazz and classical music to rock, rhythm and blues, Broadway, bluegrass and klezmer music, he has performed and or recorded with people as diverse as Phoebe Snow, John Sebastian, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Jessica Simpson, Evelyn Blakey, Nick Lachey, and The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and The American Symphony Orchestra. He toured Europe as a member of the Giora Feidman Trio, performing at the Carnevale in Venice, Italy, for two years. He currently performs on Broadway in the orchestra pits of The Lion King, Chicago, Mary Poppins and Hair. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, and a Masters of Music from Manhattan School of Music. He has taught at the Hartt School of Music and the Turtle Bay Music School. He is currently on the jazz faculty at Montclair State University in New Jersey and lives in New York City.
ROBERT BONFIGLIO, harmonica, is founding director of the Grand Canyon Music Festival. Called “the Paganini of the Harmonica” by the Los Angeles Times, he has shown the world what power there is in this little instrument, what possibilities there are for an almost infinite range of expressivity from only about four octaves. Robert holds a masters degree in composition from the Manhattan School of Music, (because there wasn’t a harmonica faculty!). He studied harmonica with noted harmonica virtuoso Cham-ber Huang, and honed his technique through coaching with flutist Andy Lolya. Traveling the world with harmonica in hand, Robert is among a small group of musicians who have raised its status as a serious concert instrument. He has soloed with over 200 Orchestras including the Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Leipzig MDR-Radio Symphony at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Boston Pops, with John Williams on PBS, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., New York Pops, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic at Teatro Colon, to name only a few. Having studied composition with Charles Wuorinen and, as the first recipient of the Mihaud Scholarship at the Aspen Music School, Aaron Copeland, it comes as no surprise that he is an avid supporter and promoter of contemporary music, starting with the World Premiere of the Henry Cowell Harmonica Concerto with Lucas Foss conducting. This season he premiered the Radamés Gnattali Harmonica Concerto in Brazil with Miguel Campos Neto conducting and “Concerto Armonico” with Atlanta Ballet and Tara Simoncic conducting. Outside of the concert hall, he has raised the consciousness of the harmonica among the general public through appearances on many shows such as the CBS Morning Show, CBS Sunday Morning, Larry King and Garrison Keillor. He has recorded on such labels as RCA, Arista, CBS, Sine Qua Non, High Harmony, QVC and Naxos. Robert, along with his wife, flutist Clare Hoffman, founded the Grand Canyon Music Festival. Now in its 35th season, it not only brings top performers to Grand Canyon National Park but also engages in outreach programs to schools in rural areas with the Native America Composer Apprentice Project which has won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
RAVEN CHACON, is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, and an installation artist. Originally from the Navajo Nation, Raven Chacon, born in 1977, is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, and an installation artist. He performs regularly as a solo artist as well as with numerous ensembles in the Southwest and beyond. He is also a member of the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity, with whom he recently premiered the 2-mile long land art/border intervention, Repellent Fence. Chacon’s work explores sounds of acoustic handmade instruments overdriven through electric systems and the direct and indirect audio feedback responses from their interactions. Current and recent collaborators include Laura Ortman, ETHEL String Quartet, Bob Bellerue, John Dieterich, OVO, William Fowler Collins, Ruby Kato Attwood, Jeremy Barnes, Chatter Ensemble, Robert Henke, and The Living Earth Show. As an educator, Chacon has served as composer-in-residence for the Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP), teaching string quartet composition to hundreds of American Indian high-school students living on reservations in the Southwest U.S. Under his instruction, this project was awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2011. Chacon has an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts where he was a student of James Tenney, Michael Pisaro, and Wadada Leo Smith. He has served on the Music and Native American Studies faculties at the University of New Mexico and as a visiting artist in the New Media Art & Performance program at Long Island University. Chacon has presented his work in different contexts at Vancouver Art Gallery, the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, REDCAT, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center, among other traditional and non-traditional venues. Chacon lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
JOE DENINZON, violin. Joe Deninzon has been hailed by critics as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Violin,” because of his innovative style on the “Viper” seven-string electric violin. Joe has worked with Bruce Springsteen, 50 Cent, Sheryl Crow, Phoebe Snow, Everclear, Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Skolnick, Smokey Robinson, Les Paul, Peter Criss from KISS, Renaissance, and as a soloist with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New York City Ballet. Joe is the lead singer and violinist for the progressive rock band, Stratospheerius (www.stratospheerius.com), which has just released their critically-acclaimed fifth CD, “Guilty of Innocence,” on Melodic Revolution Records. He can be heard on over a hundred CDs and jingles as a violinist and string arranger. A BMI Jazz Composer’s Grant recipient and winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, he has written a solo piece for renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and in 2015, premiered his Electric Violin Concerto with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra. Joe’s original music has been featured on CMT, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, National Geographic, the Travel Channel, the History Channel, and the Will Ferrell/ Adam McKay- produced film “Virginity Hit.” He also co-wrote the score for the independent film, “What’s Up Scarlet” (Open City Films). Joe is also a member of the Sweet Plantain String Quartet (www.sweetplantain.com), which combines Latin Jazz with hip-hop and Classical music, and has toured throughout Europe and the U.S. Joe has released a CD with his Acoustic Jazz Trio, titled “Exuberance.” As an educator, Joe has taught at Mark O’Connor’s String Camp and Mark Wood’s Rock Orchestra Camp, and makes annual appearances performing at the Grand Canyon Music Festival with renowned harmonica virtuoso Robert Bonfiglio. In 2006, Joe co-founded the Grand Canyon School of Rock, an annual music program for local high school students. He regularly travels as a clinician and has contributed articles to Strings, Downbeat, American String Teachers Journal, and Making Music Magazine. In 2012, Joe wrote a book on electric violin techniques for Mel Bay Publications, titled “Plugging In.” Joe has made the Downbeat Critic’s poll for “rising stars” in jazz/rock violin. Chris Haigh’s book, “Discovering Rock Violin,” lists one of Joe’s recorded solos among the “Top 20 greatest rock violin solos of all time.” Joe holds Bachelor’s degrees in Violin Performance and Jazz Violin from Indiana University and a Master’s in Jazz/Commercial violin from Manhattan School of Music.
“As at home in the world of Grappeli and O”Conner as he is in the world of Steve Vai and Jimi Hendrix, Joe Deninzon may very well be our next national violin treasure!!”-Jedd Beaudoin
CLARE HOFFMAN, flute. Co-founder and artistic director of the Grand Canyon Music Festival, Clare Hoffman has toured the United States, Europe and Asia, performing in a variety of settings from major concert halls to an ancient ampitheatre on the Greek island of Rhodes. Recent engagements include the Berkshire Bach Society (Tanglewood), Bang on a Can Festival (Lincoln Center), Cutting Edge (New York City, Victoria Bond, director), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series), Scandia Symphony, and Bronx Arts Ensemble. She has premiered works by John Corigliano, Seymour Barab, Brent Michael Davids, Arnold Black and Richard Einhorn and recorded for television, film, and RCA and High Harmony Records. Ms. Hoffman’s 2001-2002 season included working with Music Givers, an organization founded by musicians after September 11, 2001, to offer their talents to the relief efforts in the New York City area. Under her guidance, the Grand Canyon Music Festival has been presenting critically acclaimed musicians and outreach education programs to schools in northern Arizona’s rural areas, primarily schools and communities on the Hopi and Navajo Nations, for 28 years, and received funding and recognition from diverse organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, WESTAF, and The Nina Mason Pulliam, Flinn, Compton, ASCAP, and APS Foundations. She is a dedicated advocate for the arts and has worked throughout the United States with students from diverse backgrounds, from inner-city schools in places like Los Angeles and New York City to farming communities in Iowa and Native American communities in Arizona. Her education projects for the Grand Canyon Music Festival include an arts curriculum for fifth graders that integrates music and visual arts with core subjects, developed with Arts Vision and Bank Street College of Education, and the Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP) with composers-in-residence Raven Chacon and Trevor Reed, which was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. She taught at the Turtle Bay Music School in New York City where she developed curriculum for the Flute Certificate Program, and is currently on the faculty of Concordia College Conservatory in Westchester, New York. She studied at the Mannes College of Music with Andrew Lolya, at L’École d’Été in France with legendary French flutists Jean-Pierre Rampal and Alain Marion, and with Samuel Baron and Julius Baker.
BRYAN STONE, drums, graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1993 with a degree in Percussion. He’s had an active career since then, playing with various groups including Exit 64 since 2012.
JOHN VAIL, bass, studied music at New Mexico Military Institute and attended University of Colorado Boulder under the music education program. He has stayed active, playing bass locally with the group EXIT 64 since 2001.
CATALYST QUARTET. Hailed by the New York Times at their Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…playing with earthy vigor,” Catalyst Quartet is comprised of top Laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition. Known for “rhythmic energy, polyphonic clarity and tight ensemble-playing,” the ensemeble has toured throughout the United States and abroad, including sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Miami’s New World Center and Stern Auditorium at Carnegie hall. The quartet has also appeared as concerto soloists with the Bogota Filharmonica, The Sphinx Virtuosi, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Catalyst Quartet has held concert residencies at the University of Michigan, University of Washington, Rice University, Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Virginia Arts Festival, and Pennsylvania State University. International residencies where they perform and teach master classes have included the In Harmony Project in England, the University of South Africa, and the Teatro de Bellas Arts in Cali, Colombia. Their recordings span the scope of their interests and artistry, including The Bach / Gould Project – Catalyst Quartet’s debut recording featuring the members’ own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations paired with Glenn Gould’s seminal String Quartet, on the Azica label. Also Strum, featuring string works by CQ violinist, composer Jessie Montgomery, Bandaneon y cuerdas, tango inspired music for string quartet and Bandaneon by JP Jofre, and Dreams and Daggers, Cecile McLorin Salvants tremendous 2 disk album, featuring the Catalyst Quartet in a unique musical role. CQ has performed on numerous television and radio broadcasts for Detroit Public Television, American Public Media’s Performance Today, and Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Vermont local stations. The ensemble was also featured in The Strad and Strings Magazine. Founded by the Sphinx Organization, the Catalyst Quartet combines a serious commitment to diversity and education with a passion for contemporary works. In October 2016 the Quartet completed their sixth national tour as principal players and featured ensemble with the Sphinx Virtuosi. Catalyst Quartet members serve as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Roosevelt University.
The Catalyst Quartet proudly endorses Pirastro strings: www.pirastro.com. Additional information with links to audio and video performances can be found on their homepage:
MANHATTAN CHAMBER PLAYERS. The Manhattan Chamber Players is a chamber music collective of New York-based musicians who share the common aim of performing the greatest works in the chamber repertoire at the highest level. Formed by Founding Artistic Director Luke Fleming, MCP is comprised of an impressive roster of musicians who all come from the tradition of great music making at the Marlboro Music Festival, Steans Institute at Ravinia, Music@Menlo, Yellow Barn and Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festivals and Perlman Music Program, and are former students of the Curtis Institute, Juilliard School, Colburn School, New England Conservatory, and Yale School of Music. Individual members of MCP all have impressive independent careers – as soloists and as members of professional ensembles – who share a desire to come together and perform the great chamber repertoire. In addition to presenting their own series of chamber concerts in New York and an outreach/mission-centric festival in New Orleans, the Crescent City Chamber Music Festival, they also travel to music festivals, chamber music series, private homes, and other alternative venues across the world to perform together and share the sheer joy of making music together.
MEMBERS OF MANHATTAN CHAMBER PLAYERS:
LUKE FLEMING, viola. Praised by The Philadelphia Inquirer for his “glowing refinement,” violist Luke Fleming‘s performances have been described by The Strad as “confident and expressive…playing with uncanny precision,” and lauded by Gramophone for their “superlative technical and artistic execution.” Strings Magazine said of a recent performance by Mr. Fleming: “With tender lyrical lines, the viola’s richness suited the music wonderfully…I wished I could put [him] on repeat.” Festival appearances include the Marlboro Music School and Festival, the Steans Institute at Ravinia, Perlman Music Program, the Norfolk and Great Lakes Chamber Music Festivals, the Melbourne Festival, Bravo!Vail, Festival Mozaic, and the Virginia Arts Festival, as well as concerts and residencies across North and South America, Europe, and Asia. From 2009 – 2015, Mr. Fleming was violist of the internationally acclaimed Attacca Quartet, with whom he served as Quartet-in-Residence for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School. Mr. Fleming was also awarded First Prize at the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition and top prizes at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, as well as the National Federation of Music Clubs Centennial Chamber Music Award. In 2015, Mr. Fleming became the Founding Artistic Director of both the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based chamber music collective, and the Crescent City Chamber Music Festival, a mission/outreach-centric festival held every summer in his hometown, New Orleans. Mr. Fleming has been featured on a Live from Marlboro CD release on the Archiv Music label, and his recordings with the Attacca Quartet on Azica Records were released to widespread critical acclaim. He has performed as a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Sejong Soloists, Ensemble Connect, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York Classical Players, and the Serafin and Canterbury String Quartets, and has given masterclasses at UCLA, Louisiana State University, Ithaca College, Syracuse University, Melbourne University, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, among others. He has served on the faculties of the Innsbrook Institute, Renova Music Festival and Houston ChamberFest, and Fei Tian College, writes frequently for Strings Magazine, and is currently Director of Outreach Activities at Louisiana State University’s School of Music and Dramatic Arts and Lecturer-in-Residence for Project: Music Heals Us. Mr. Fleming holds the degrees of Doctor of Musical Arts, Artist Diploma, and Master of Music from the Juilliard School, a Postgraduate Diploma with Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and a Bachelor of Music summa cum laude from Louisiana State University. He is represented by Arts Global, Inc. lukefleming.com
SIWOO KIM, violin. An “incisive” and “compelling” (Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times) violinist Siwoo Kim performs as both a soloist and chamber musician. He the founding co-artistic director of VIVO Music Festival in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. He is the recipient of the 2012 King Award for Young Artists and has been prizewinner of the Corpus Christi, Chengdu, Hellam, Ima Hogg, Juilliard, Schadt, and WAMSO competitions. As a soloist, Mr. Kim made his New York concerto debut with the Juilliard Orchestra in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, made his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut shortly after, and gave the world premiere performance of Samuel Adler’s only violin concerto. Next season, Mr. Kim will be recording the work in Berlin and making his South African debut with the KZN Philharmonic, Cape Town Philharmonic, and the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestras. As a chamber musician, Mr. Kim has been a violinist for Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect and Marlboro Music Festival for the past several seasons. Aside from founding his own chamber music festival, Siwoo also founded Quartet Senza Misura. They have taken their “whip-smart performances” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker) from Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center to South Korea, Spain and Venezuela. Mr. Kim has also shared the stage with Itzhak Perlman, Joyce DiDonato, Jeremy Denk, Kim Kashkashian, Stefan Jackiw, Richard O’Neill, and Anna Polonsky. Mr. Kim studied with Roland and Almita Vamos at the Music Institute of Chicago. He went on to receive both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from The Juilliard School, where he studied under Robert Mann, Donald Weilerstein and Ronald Copes. Mr. Kim Performs on the 1690 “Stephens” Stradivarius violin on generous loan from Florian Leonhard Fine Violins. siwookim.com
SUJIN LEE cello, has established herself as a versatile young artist, having performed at world-renowned venues including the Louvre Museum, Kennedy Center, Zankel Hall at Carnegie, Lincoln Center, and Mechanics Hall. In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, she has been a frequent artist at the Caramoor, Marlboro, Music@Menlo, Perlman, Ravinia, Yellow Barn, and Verbier festivals. First Prize winner of the 2017 National Federation of Music Clubs Competition, Ms. Lee has also won top prizes at the 2016 Schadt, 2015 Hudson Valley, 2009 Klein, and 2006 Johansen International competitions. She has collaborated with world-renowned artists and mentors including Leon Fleisher, Pamela Frank, Miriam Fried, Nobuko Imai, Itzhak Perlman, and Donald Weilerstein. From Newton, Massachusetts, Ms. Lee holds a Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory, where she was a Presidential Scholar and concurrently on faculty at the NEC Preparatory School. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University and completed her undergraduate music studies at the Juilliard School and Paris Conservatoire, where she was a recipient of the Carla-Bruni Sarkozy Foundation Scholarship. Her principal cello teachers have been Laurence Lesser, Paul Katz, Timothy Eddy, and Laura Blustein. Ms. Lee is featured in the documentary, “Talent Has Hunger,” and plays on a 1790 William Forster II cello. She currently resides in New York City.
ED MELL, visual artist. Born in Phoenix, Mr. Mell graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration. He began his career in New York as an art director for a prominent advertising agency. He also ran his own illustration studio in New York in the early seventies. After spending two summers working with children’s arts programs on the Hopi Indian Reservation, he developed his interest in Southwest landscape. Mr. Mell returned to Phoenix in 1973. He devotes his full time to working in oils, his main emphasis on Western landscapes and subject matter. In addition, he paints southwestern florals and sculpts western figures in bronze. His pieces are found in many corporate and private collections nationally and internationally.