Artist Spotlight: Nexus Percussion

The first, entirely improvised NEXUS concert in 1971 formed a group that touches and entertains people worldwide. Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Russell Hartenberger and Garry Kvistad are virtuosos alone and bring their knowledge and character to a distinct and powerful whole. NEXUS stands out in the contemporary music scene for innovation, program diversity, an impressive history of collaborations and commissions, their revival of 1920′s novelty ragtime xylophone music, and influential improvisatory ideas.

NEXUS’ widespread appeal has taken the group to Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Brazil, Scandinavia, Europe, and regularly to the USA and Canada. NEXUS was the first Western percussion group to perform in the People’s Republic of China and have participated in 60 international music festivals world-wide. NEXUS has received the Banff Centre’s National and the Toronto Arts Awards. NEXUS was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the CBC in Concert Canadian Musician Hall of Fame in 2019.

In summer 2022 NEXUS was the featured attraction for a ten-day residency at the Sound Symposium in St. John’s, NL, and performed in concert with Paul Winter and Henrique Eisenmann in New York. Upcoming events will find them in Rochester NY, Woodstock NY, and Toronto. The covid performing shutdown did not stop NEXUS but found the group continuing their output of new compositions, recordings, articles, podcast appearances and educational work via Zoom. NEXUS’ newest album called simply Steve Reich (June 2021) features NEXUS with Sō Percussion. The two groups joined forces to make a historical video-recording by Four/Ten Media of Steve Reich’s Drumming – a rare opportunity to gather up two of the world’s best percussion groups to celebrate the iconic work’s 50th Anniversary and Steve Reich’s 85th. The end result is both sonically and visually beautiful. NEXUS’ 2019 album Requiem features Toronto’s TorQ and vocalists Lindsay Kesselman and Cory Knight in an 8-movement composition by NEXUS’ Russell Hartenberger.

In 2018 NEXUS and New York’s Sō Percussion honoured Steve Reich in a special event at Princeton University and in 2019 NEXUS & Friends were celebrated at the Rochester Fringe Festival with guests John H. Beck, Michael Burritt, Conrad Alexander, Ruth Cahn, Ray Dillard, Gordon Stout and Brian Stotz. Both events were sold-out.

Previous albums Home celebrates ecological sustainability, and The City Wears A Slouch Hat rediscovers once-lost works by John Cage that NEXUS was asked to resurrect and premiere for The John Cage Trust. NEXUS’ album Persian Songs features beloved Iranian vocalist and sitar performer Sepideh Raissadat, following on the NEXUS solo CD Wings and Juno-nominated Drumtalker.

In 2017 NEXUS members Russell Hartenberger and Bob Becker were honoured with the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts and Musical America’s “Mover & Shaper” award, respectively. The World Cultural Council’s citation says, “Hartenberger is considered a musical visionary and one of the most prominent figures in percussion history”, while Musical America named Becker one of “the Top-30 Professionals in Music” and said, “As a composer, arranger, and founding member of the NEXUS percussion ensemble, Bob Becker has influenced virtually every aspect of percussion performance and repertoire in the profession.”

Especially renowned for improvisational skill, NEXUS created the music for the National Film Board’s award-winning Inside Time, and the chilling score for the Academy Award-winning feature-length documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest. NEXUS’ high-profile collaborations include the Kronos Quartet and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and commissions from Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Grammy winner Libby Larsen, Peter Schickele, and many others, including the co-commissioning of Steve Reich for his Mallet Quartet. Toru Takemitsu, a great friend to NEXUS, composed their signature piece From me flows what you call Time…written with each member’s personality in mind. It was premiered for Carnegie Hall’s 1990 centennial conducted by Seiji Ozawa with the Boston Symphony (recorded on Sony with the Pacific Symphony).

NEXUS wishes to thank Pearl/Adams and The Canada Council for the Arts for their ongoing support.

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