4 musicians/ensembles and 4 composers win 2015 McKnight Fellowships

Photo by Shelly Mosman
Atlantis Quartet – drummer Pete Hennig, guitarist Zacc Harris, saxophonist Brandon Wozniak and bassist Chris Bates – formed in 2006.

Four Minnesota musicians and ensembles and four composers have won 2015 McKnight Fellowships, announced Wednesday. MacPhail Center for Music manages the musicians’ fellowships (formerly called McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians), and the American Composers Forum is the administering partner for the composers. Each winner receives an unrestricted cash award of $25,000.

The 2015 McKnight Musician Fellows are the modern jazz group Atlantis Quartet, whose members live in Minneapolis, New Hope and St. Paul, and emcee/songwriter King Fuvi (Troy King), clarinetist Pat O’Keefe and cellist Wilhelmina Smith, all of St. Paul.

Atlantis Quartet – Zacc Harris on guitar, Brandon Wozniak on tenor saxophone, Chris Bates on bass and Pete Hennig on drums – formed in 2006 and quickly gained ears and a following for their exciting live performances and strong original compositions. So far, they have released four critically acclaimed albums. About the McKnight, Bates said in an email, “This award gives us a way for the band to raise our profile beyond our current situation. We can plan and coordinate and budget for the future. We’re planning a big push in 2016 with a new album and promotional campaign. We’re also looking into touring more and getting ourselves into the view of jazz festivals and performing arts centers.” Atlantis will perform at the Iowa City Jazz Festival over the Fourth of July weekend.

King Fuvi

King Fuvi (Foov-eye) came to St. Paul via New York and North Carolina. His Kickstarter-funded 2013 debut album, “I Want My Name Back,” followed a 2011 mixtape, “The Minnesota Experience.” A rapper, songwriter, and hip-hop artist, he’s finishing up a new EP.  In 2013-14, he worked for Springboard for the Arts. He received an Irrigate Initiative Grant and wrote what was probably the first song about the Green Line.

Pat O’Keefe

O’Keefe is the woodwind player for the new music ensemble Zeitgeist, alternating between clarinet and bass clarinet. He also performs with the groups Choro Borealis, Batucada do Norte and Biera Mar Brasil. At home in a wide variety of musical genres, he’s been a soloist with symphony orchestras, accompanist to belly dancers and improvising musician with free jazz players. A past recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Initiative grant and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council NextStep grant, O’Keefe teaches at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls.

Smith made her solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra while a student at the Curtis Institute of Music. In 1997, she was a prizewinner in the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition. A strong supporter of new music, she has worked often with composers such as Esa-Pekka Salonen and is a founding member of Music from Copland House, the resident ensemble at Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home in New York, and the Variation String Trio. Her solo CD of sonatas by Britten and Schnittke with pianist Thomas Sauer was released on Arabesque in 2006.

Photo by Joe Zizzo
Wilhelmina Smith

Five McKnight musician finalists received $1,000 each: trumpeter Adam Meckler (Minneapolis), vocalist/guitarist John Mark Nelson (Excelsior), the Minnesota Percussion Trio (Robert Adney, Eric Barsness, Paul Hill; St. Paul and Richfield), the Quey Percussion Duo (Tim Broscious, Gene Koshinski; Duluth), and Tonic Sol-fa (Greg Bannwarth, Jared Dove, Shaun Johnson; Woodbury, South St. Paul, St. Cloud).

The new McKnight Composer Fellows are St. Paul’s Abbie Betinis, Golden Valley’s David King, Northfield’s Reinaldo Moya and Peter O’Gorman of White Bear Lake.

Abbie Betinis

Betinis has been commissioned by more than 40 music organizations including Cantus, Dale Warland Singers and the Schubert Club, where she has been composer-in-residence since 2005. She holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the U of M and studied at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris. She has received grants and awards from the American Composers Forum and the Jerome Foundation, among others, and has also held residencies with The Singers and The Rose Ensemble.

King, a composer and drummer, is a founding member of the jazz groups The Bad Plus and Happy Apple and is active in countless other projects (one of our personal favorites: Real Bulls with fellow drummer JT Bates). He has written and performed for modern dance (with Mark Morris), New York fashion week shows (Isaac Mizrahi), and film. In 2010, the Walker featured him and six of his projects in “King for Two Days.”

Photo by John Whiting
Dave King
Reinaldo Moya

Moya is a Venezuelan-American composer whose music has been performed by orchestras in Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Australia and throughout the United States. He was commissioned by the Minnesota Opera to write the score for a new opera, “Memory Boy,” based on the best-selling book by Will Weaver, that will have its world premiere here in 2016. Moya is on the faculties of St. Olaf College and Interlochen Arts Camp.

O’Gorman is a composer, percussionist, author, teacher and interdisciplinary artist. His works have been performed by Bang on a Can All-Stars, Amy Knoles of the California Ear Unit, and numerous others. His recent commissions and premieres include “Three Cajons” at the Guthrie and “Mouthing Off” at Middlebury College in Vermont. A new, still untitled work will be premiered at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in July of 2015. O’Gorman has received support from the American Composers Forum, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the McKnight Foundation and others.

Peter O’Gorman

Two artists from outside Minnesota have been selected as Visiting Composers. Each receives $15,000 to spend a minimum of two months in Minnesota pursuing a self-designed community residency project. Clarice Assad of New York will work with female adolescents in a Twin Cities public school; Wayne Horvitz of Seattle will tour 21 towns and cities throughout the state, inviting residents to play his “ship’s piano” (a small instrument with only 67 keys).

In still more McKnight news, the Artist Fellowships for Dance and Choreography are moving from Northrop to the Cowles Center. You might recall that these funds were once administered by the Southern Theater, which used them to pay for operating expenses, a big no-no that nearly shut the Southern down. (The theater survived its financial crisis, and with Damon Runnals as general manager, now hosts ARTshare and the annual Twin Cities Horror Festival.)

Dancing around the cities, the McKnights took up temporary residence at Springboard for the Arts before being welcomed in August 2011 by Northrop, then directed by Ben Johnson. An International Artist Fellowship was added, broadening the program.

At the time, the Cowles was just about to open in downtown Minneapolis. Almost four years later, it’s home to more than 20 performing arts organization. McKnight president Kate Wolford said in a statement, “The Cowles Center has grown into a flagship for dance in Minnesota and a great match for the stewarding of these fellowships.”

In a statement, Northrop’s director Christine Tschida said, “Northrop has been pleased to serve as the administrative home for the McKnight Fellowships for Dancers and Choreographers, and to host the McKnight fellowship dancers as some of the very first performers on the new Northrop stage in our first season.”

Composer and Sage Award winner Mary Ellen Childs will continue to serve as program director for the Dancers and Choreographers fellowships. 

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