Composer Kenji Bunch and pianist Monica Ohuchi named Artistic Director and Executive Director of Portland’s FearNoMusic Ensemble
April 18 Concert
to Feature a Retrospective
of Bunch’s Chamber Music
Kenji Bunch, an acclaimed composer and violist who recently returned to his Portland roots after 22 years of study and success in New York City, will take the artistic helm of FearNoMusic in May; Bunch’s appointment as Artistic Director will be celebrated at FearNoMusic’s “To Brooklyn and Back: A retrospective of the chamber music of Kenji Bunch” at 8 p.m. on April 18 at the Alberta Rose Theatre.
Bunch succeeds violinist Paloma Griffin Hébert, who will step down at the end of the 2013-14 season to expand her teaching studio and pursue other artistic projects. Hébert will continue to perform with FearNoMusic and assist with the organization’s marketing and communication efforts.
Bunch, who has served as the director of FearNoMusic’s Young Composers Project since his return to Portland last June, will be assisted in his new role as artistic director by his wife, pianist Monica Ohuchi, who will serve as the organization’s executive director. Both will also perform at upcoming concerts as members of FearNoMusic’s ensemble of core musicians.
“I was fortunate, early in my career, to have the opportunity to compose a new work for one of FearNoMusic’s legendary Piano Riots (‘Road Trip’ for cello, two pianos and percussion). This year, it has been incredibly rewarding for me to return home and work with a new generation of young composers, through FearNoMusic’s Young Composers Project. And now, to be able to contribute my vision to the next phase of this landmark institution is a true honor and something Monica and I are both enormously excited about,” Bunch said.
“Having Kenji as our new artistic director is a dream come true for all of us and is central to our mission of creating a musical home for composers from the Pacific Northwest,” added Hébert. “I’m grateful for the many opportunities I was given during my time as artistic director and for the incredible support of my colleagues, board and community. I couldn’t be happier to be present for this wonderful new phase for the group.”
Bunch, hailed by The New York Times as “a composer to watch” and recognized by The New Yorker’s classical critic, Alex Ross, in his book The Rest Is Noise, is a composer who has earned wide-ranging praise for the unique blend of wit, exuberance, lyricism, unpredictable stylistic infusions and exquisite craftsmanship of his music. The Oregonian’s David Stabler recently described his music, “Bunch’s music is shiningly original. Call it neo-American: casual on the outside, complex underneath, immediate and accessible to first-time listeners.”
Born and raised in Portland, Bunch graduated from Wilson High School and played with the Portland Youth Philharmonic before studying viola at The Juilliard School. He is the founding violist of the Flux Quartet and won the prestigious Young Concert Artists award in 1998. Bunch’s music has been performed on six continents by 50 orchestras, and has been recorded on big-name labels such as Sony Classical, EMI, and RCA. He and his wife have a 2-year-old daughter, Emmaline.
“New York was amazing in a lot of ways and it was everything the myth says,” Bunch told The Oregonian. “But it got to the point where, with the family, it made more sense to do something like this. We want Emmaline to grow up with the outdoors.”
A dedicated teacher, Bunch also has developed and conducted residencies, workshops and master classes across the country in composition, viola performance, improvisation, music appreciation and arts education to students ranging in age from kindergarten to adult professionals.
“To Brooklyn and Back: A retrospective of the chamber music of Kenji Bunch” will feature performances of five of Bunch’s recent compositions:
- Slow Dance for violin, cello and piano (1996)
- Paraphraseology for violin and marimba (1999)
- Boiling Point for amplified string quartet, bass and drums (2002)
- Drift… for clarinet, viola and piano (2006)
- String Circle for string quintet (2005)
These compositions from Bunch’s New York years reflect his eclectic interests, with infusions of rock, jazz and traditional American folk, elements of the New York avant-garde of John Cage and Morton Feldman, Baroque counterpoint and neo-Romantic expression, all combined to create his unique compositional vocabulary.
In addition to FearNoMusic’s core ensemble of musicians (Kenji Bunch, viola; Monica Ohuchi, piano; Inés Voglar, violin; Paloma Griffin, violin; Joël Belgique, viola; Nancy Ives, cello; Jeff Payne, piano; and Joel Bluestone, percussion) the concert will feature performances by Oregon Symphony musicians Michael Roberts, marimba; Julie Coleman, violin; Sergio Carreno, drums; and Ted Botsford, bass.
Tickets are $20 (general admission) and $30 (reserved), available now online at fearnomusic.org and albertarosetheatre.com; $10 student tickets and $15 senior tickets also are available. The day of the concert, tickets will be available at the theater box office for $25 (general admission) and $35 (reserved).
The Alberta Rose Theatre is located at 3000 NE Alberta in Portland.
Hébert has served as FearNoMusic’s artistic director since 2011. Her three-season tenure was marked by such memorable moments as its buzz-worthy “100 Years of John Cage” concert in 2012, an evening-long musical extravaganza at Southeast Portland’s gritty YU art space celebrating the centennial of the seminal American composer’s birth, which The Oregonian called “an audacious and brilliantly conceived undertaking.”
Since 1992, Portland’s FearNoMusic has been challenging and thrilling audiences with its contemporary performances and earned a reputation for pushing the boundaries of chamber music with extraordinary programs and collaborations.