Jeff Berman, dulcimer
Jeff is a multi-instrumentalist, improvising artist, and composer whose work reflects his global musical vision. A native of New York City who now lives in Pittsburgh, he has developed a genre-extending concept on mountain dulcimer, vibraphone, and percussion, that has allowed him to collaborate across stylistic boundaries with a diverse group of artists from across the globe. Josef Woodward has described his music as “a worldly folk-jazz”, and the Los Angeles Times wrote “Berman bends a chord or strums his Appalachian dulcimer…to stunning effect”. Jazziz has written “...hypnotic vibes work...Berman not only plays vibes, he sounds like he created the instrument,” and music journalist Bill Milkowski has called Jeff’s writing “...hauntingly beautiful...”
Jeff has performed internationally both as a solo artist and as a member of various ensembles. Some of the artists he has performed, recorded, and toured with include Andy Statman, Tony Trischka, Robert Een, Susan Mckeown, Lindsey Horner, Osei Koranke, Paul Bley, Linda Thompson, and choreographers Yin Mei and Gia Cacalano to name just a few. He has three recordings on the Palmetto Records label featuring his own compositions, and his music has been used for performance, dance, theatre, and film —including the Academy Award nominated documentary In Our Water.
Jeff is rostered with the Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts as a Teaching Artist and has conducted residencies and professional development sessions across the Western Pennsylvania region. These experiences have ranged from creating world rhythm ensembles with elementary school students, Aesthetic Education workshops with middle school students, lecture/demonstrations on cross-cultural collaboration with college students, and workshops in improvisation for arts educators.
Mimi Jong, erhu
Mimi has a diverse musical background acquired from growing up in Indonesia, being educated in Germany, and immigrating to the United States. Since age eleven, she has been performing on the erhu, an ancient, Chinese, two-string, bowed instrument. By moving beyond tradition and embracing the erhu's versatility, Mimi has performed with jazz, folk and classical musicians, conducted educational workshops, and performed at music festivals.
With the mission of nurturing cross-cultural connections through art, Mimi has co-founded multiple projects. Partnering with artists from China, Mimi was able to introduce traditional Chinese dance and music to schools in the Western Pennsylvania region. Along with Appalasia, she was a featured presenter and performer at the Festival of Woman Composers conference at Indiana University Pennsylvania. Mimi has also been a returning faculty member of Hundington County Art Council's Folk College. With the group “Silk Sound,” Mimi has collaborated with various jazz musicians and tabla master Samir Chatterjee to develop a new voice from ancient and contemporary Asian melodies. Demonstrating her open mind and musical flexibility, Mimi collaborated with Persian santur master Dr. Dariush Saghafi and tombak master Mahmoud Tehrani, creating hauntingly beautiful music that transcends cultures and genres. Bringing erhu to modern movement, Mimi’s cross-disciplinary involvements include collaboration with the Mary Miller Dance Company and artist Jennifer Myers' theatrical productions, creating ground-breaking cinematic performances.
Mimi was a recipient of 2014 "Master Artists and Tradition Bearers Award" from Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. In addition, she serves as the music program director for “Silk Screen Arts and Cultural Organization” and is the board President and founding member of “HarmoniZing,” where her contributions include recruiting renowned artists for local concerts and residencies and providing a platform to encourage diversity in Pittsburgh’s music scene.
Susan Powers, banjo and vocal
Sue Powers grew up outside of Pittsburgh in a family with deep roots in the musical landscape of Western Pennsylvania. She has been singing and playing banjo since high school. Both of her parents were sacred singers, and both her grandfather and her great grandfather were fiddle players who performed for local square dances in the Appalachian "old time" tradition. Powers is a founding member of the group Devlish Merry, where she pioneered the use of the five-string banjo in Celtic music. The group has released three recordings featuring her playing, singing and song writing. Powers has adapted her unique ‘claw hammer’ style to blues, rock and pop music, and is acknowledged as a songwriter whose personal imagery evokes the Pennsylvania landscape. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has written “...the primary element that makes Devilish Merry unusual is the prominent banjo by Ms. Powers... her polyrhythmic...clawhammer style [explores] inside the rhythm... an Afro-blues style applied to Celtic music...”. The Pittsburgh City Paper has written, “[her songs]... convey a sense of drama... her approach to the banjo - a bluesy variation on claw hammer plucking - makes her an original.”
Her music has been used in modern and traditional dance, performance, theater, and film, including the Smithsonian exhibit “Lewis and Clark: Clash of Empires”, Roger Sayers documentary about “outsider” folk-artist Howard Finster, and Jerry Starr's stage play “Burried: The of the Sago Mine Disaster.”
Powers has extended her educational outreach to “Beyond Appalachia” - a workshop and
residency/performance experience that highlights the influence of Appalachian music, from it’s roots in the British Isles and Africa to it’s branches in Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Jazz, and Rock music. She conducts lectures and demonstrations in schools and universities on the aesthetics of cross-cultural collaboration and creativity, and she was a featured presenter and performer at the last Festival of Woman's Composers conference at Indiana University Pennsylvania.