~ Bio ~
Orkestar Bez Ime [or-KESS-tar behz EE-meh], meaning "orchestra without a name" in Bulgarian, was formed in 2002 to recreate the sounds of the village with a presentation as festive as the music itself. Focusing on Eastern Europe and music of the Rom (Gypsy) people, OBI's repertoire reaches from Albania to Ukraine, with plenty of stops in between. Orkestar Bez Ime is a winner of the 2011-2012 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians administered by MacPhail Center for Music and a recipient of a 2012 Minnesota Emerging Composers Award from the American Composers Forum.
Orkestar Bez Ime is: Colleen Bertsch, Scott Keever, Matt Miller, Katrina Mundinger, Natalie Nowytski, and Eric Ray.
Colleen Bertsch (fiddle, vocals, percussion)
Violinist Colleen Bertsch graduated with a performance degree from Concordia College, Moorhead and a music education degree from the University of Minnesota. She regularly performs with the Ethnic Dance Theatre (EDT), Szászka, and is a founding member of Orkestar Bez Ime (OBI).
In the classical world, Colleen studied string pedagogy with Lucia P. May and violin technique with Mark Bjork. She directed orchestra classes in several public schools and taught violin and viola in her private studio in Northeast Minneapolis. Colleen has been a member of the Northern, Bloomington, Fargo-Morehead, and Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestras and served as concertmaster at Concordia College under the batons of Robert J. Hanson and Bruce Hoglum.
Colleen has had the pleasure of backing rockers Jeremy Messersmith and The Moody Blues, and substituting for The Laurels String Quartet. Her other favorite past performances include the production Heaven at the Guthrie Theater with Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, and an EDT performance of Szátmari (Hungarian) music and dance for the Minnesota Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert series.
As a folk violinist, Colleen has studied with some of the best-known Hungarian táncház primások including István Pál, Ökrös Csába, Hrúz Dénes, and Vizeli Balázs. Of the Romanian village royalty, she has learned from Varga István (Kicsit Csipás) and László Csongor of Kalotaszeg, Kodoba Florin of Palatka, and Mezei Levente (Leves) and Mezei Ference (Csángáló – kontra maestro) of Szászcsávás.
Colleen researches and records village musicians in Eastern Europe, and was awarded an Artist Initiative grant in 2010 from the Minnesota State Arts Board to interpret and record the music that she collected in Transylvania in 2008 with her Hungarian band Szászka. In 2011, Colleen was awarded a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Artists with Orkestar Bez Ime. She is currently a graduate student of Ethno/Musicology at the University of Minnesota. She is a recipient of a 2015 Fulbright Scholarship, which will allow her to take a year's sabbatical to study Transylvanian string techniques in Romania.
Scott Keever (guitar, tambura, percussion, vocals)
Scott Keever is a composer, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer. He has written, arranged and performed music for theatre (Cromulent Shakespeare Company, Blue Umbrella Productions), live comedy (Comedy Suitcase Productions, Idiot Box), podcasts (LBS. Productions), radio (KFAI News Program – 90.3FM) and film (Killing Joke Productions, YAFI Underground). He has also been involved in a number of live music projects, ranging from Motown/funk to jazz to Irish/Celtic, though his main focus is on Solo Guitar, both Acoustic and Electronic Looping.
Scott graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Music from the University of Minnesota - School of Music, where he focused on Composition, with Guitar as his primary instrument. He studied composition under the guidance of Alex Lubet and Doug Geers.
In 1999, he was Music Director for Brave New Workshop (Minneapolis improv comedy theatre) and, for eight years, was composer/arranger and sound designer for Idiot Box, a comedy sketch troupe. Also, for four years, he performed with Celtic folk group Lojo Russo & Funks Grove, with whom he co-produced three albums.
In 2012, he released his first solo album, Salieri’s Revenge, which showcases his interest in guitar looping, electronica, world music and film scoring. He plans to record with another project, Pirates of Dreamtime, which describes itself as "ethereal ambient dream groove," as well as record a solo acoustic guitar album.
Matt Miller (bass, vocals)
When Matt Miller felt the sound of the bass spread through his body and that rumble hit him in the stomach he was hooked for life. Since that incident he has been dedicating his life to finding new music, learning from the masters, and teaching about what he has learned. His main goal in life is to understand all different styles of music and be able to transfer that knowledge to whoever is willing to listen.
He studied technique at the University of Minnesota under Chris Brown, Jim Clute and Peter Lloyd. Participating in as many ensembles as he could, including the New Music Ensemble and performing for the Spark Festival. On the road to where he is now, Matt was a member of the La Crosse Symphony orchestra, the Fargo Moorhead Symphony, and a participant in the Culver/Cunningham production, Ocean.
While in college Matt was introduced Ethnic Dance Theater and was pulled into the traditional music world. He is currently a member of Orkestar Bez Ime, Judith Eisner’s Klezmorim, The Long Straight Forever, La Orquesta Abandonada and has had many side projects exploring pop/indie music as well.
Matt ventured out to Serbia in 2012 summer to study in a Rom village with OBI, courtesy of the 2012 McKnight Fellowship. Further out, Matt wants to explore the traditional and spiritual music of Eastern Asia and release a CD that will hopefully display his wide variety of interests and not be too confusing to listen to.
Katrina Mundinger (clarinet, saxophone, flute, percussion, vocals)
Katrina Mundinger considers herself a “Clarinet Evangelist” who will go to great lengths to increase knowledge of and participation in great clarinet playing. She began classical training in 1979 and obtained a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music in Clarinet Performance from Northwestern University. After a three-year hiatus from the instrument she discovered Eastern European folk music in 1994 and hasn’t stopped playing since. Her primary classical teachers were Lawrence McDonald, Robert Marcellus, and Clark Brody. More recently she has traveled far and wide to study with the likes of Ivo Papasov, Ivan Milev, Gezim Halili, and Jim Stoyanoff to develop her folk music skills.
Katrina has performed as a soloist with the Jewish Community Center Orchestra, as orchestra director and clarinetist for the Ethnic Dance Theatre Folk Orchestra, with Wild Hollow, and with Orkestar Bez Ime. She has presented recitals in Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio, and teaches privately in the Minneapolis area. She is a receipient of a 2015 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, which will allow her to study the Romanian taragot.
Natalie Nowytski (vocals, percussion, flutes)
A classically trained vocalist and award-winning composer and performer, Natalie has dedicated herself to the study and performance of traditional folk music since the early 1990s. She has traveled to Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France and Ukraine to study culture and folk music from professional musicians and villagers alike, including Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares soloists Svetla Karadjova Ivanova and Lilyana Galevska. Natalie sings in more than 40 languages and in nearly 20 distinct vocal styles. Through her performance and research, she has become respected as a master artist of Eastern European vocal styling.
Though she is mostly known for her stylistic work, Natalie is often sought out for language coaching just as often: She frequently conducts multi-level vocal workshops, coaches performing ensembles, guest lectures for college-level music schools, and teaches a diverse roster of private voice students. She is a regular workshop leader for New England-based Village Harmony and has served as consultant for various choral groups, including the Twin Cities-based Rose Ensemble and Mila Vocal Ensemble (which she also directed for many years), the Massachusetts-based Boston Harmony, and the San Francisco-based KITKA.
Natalie's compositions have been performed at The Guthrie Theater, The Southern Theater, the University of Minnesota's Rarig Theater, and the Fine Line Music Cafe. In addition to winning the 2011-2012 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians with Orkestar Bez Ime, she is also part of a team that won the 2011 SAGE Award for Dance for Outstanding Design (music and score for the Flying Foot Forum's production of Heaven). She received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in 2012 to develop an album of Czech and Slovak bluegrass (Amerikana), and again in 2015 to compose new Ukrainian folk songs based on her great-grandmother's poetry. Natalie also received a JFund from the Jerome Foundation and American Composers Forum to compose the score for a new production of East of the Sun, West of the Moon.
Her performance credits include appearances with Peter Ostroushko, Ruth MacKenzie, Dean Magraw, The Rose Ensemble, Flying Foot Forum, Lau Hawai'ian Collective, Ethnic Dance Theatre, Szászka, Ukrainian Village Band, and others. She has performed on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and at the prestigious Koprivshtitsa folk festival in Bulgaria, both with Mila Vocal Ensemble. Although she calls the voice her main instrument, Natalie is also a multi-instrumentalist: She is the vocalist/percussionist/flautist for Orkestar Bez Ime, vocalist for the traditional Bulgarian dance band Traki, and bassist/vocalist for Bavarian string band Die Alte Streich. In a departure from her folk music life, Natalie also writes, performs and records indie rock/pop/electronica with Reid Kruger as AM Supper Club and creates ethnic-referenced rock with Rose Ensemble instrumentalist David Burk. Natalie’s website is www.natalien.com.
Eric Ray (accordion, vocals)
Accordionist Eric Ray graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. During his four years of study he concurrently toured the United States and Canada with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans, the country's longest-running company dedicated to the performance of eastern European music, song, and dance.
Originally a classically trained pianist, Eric has pursued both classical as well as numerous folk genres of accordion performance, having received instruction from such renowned performers as Dee Langley, Vladimir Mollov, Peggy Müller, Viatcheslav Semionov, Joe Smiell, and numerous others. He performs regularly on three classes of free reed instruments, including piano accordion, Russian chromatic accordion (Bayan), as well as Austrian diatonic button accordion (Steirische Harmonika). Eric's performance highlights include appearances with the 2006-2007 MMEA All-State Orchestra, Flying Foot Forum, Ethnic Dance Theatre Folk Orchestra, Szászka, as well as Mila Vocal Ensemble.
As a performer of folk music, Eric specializes in the performance idioms of upper Bavarian and Austrian folk music, as well as those of Balkan and eastern European styles of accordion performance. In addition to regular solo work and numerous collaborations, Eric has also performed with the Minneapolis-based Ukrainian Village Band, of which he is a founding member, as well as Almkaffee, a duo specializing in the traditional instrumental music of the mountainous regions of upper Bavaria and Austria.