Nirmala Rajasekar is one of the most recognized names in the world of Indian Classical music today. She began training in this art form from the age of six and started her career as a concert performer when she was thirteen.
Nirmala’s music is marked by a repertoire which reflects her adherence to rich patanthra (lineage and heritage) of her Gurus and several creative works which explore the veena in the paradigm of world music. Nirmala has been recognized by many institutions around the world—including the Carnegie Hall of India, The Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Madras and the Bangalore Gayana Samaja.
Nirmala has received the Bush Artistic Fellowship, the McKnight Performing Artist Fellowship, and several other commissions and grants from the American Composers Forum, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Meet the Composer New York, et al. Nirmala is a regular performer in Radio and Television around the world. She has performed in venues including Carnegie Hall, United Nations, Bharatiya Vidya, Bhavan London, Musee Rietburg Zurich, and BBC London. Her concert at the International Festival of Music in Konya Turkey was the first veena concert in that country in 50 years. Her performances have been featured at several special events including playing for His Excellency the President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam and Jazz great Ornette Coleman. Nirmala’s concerts are seen every year at the December Festival of Music in Chennai, India, and at many venues and organizations.
Nirmala has recorded extensively over the three decades of her career. She has showcased Carnatic music and performed in a collaborative setting alongside other forms of music including western classical music and jazz. She has been featured as a guest artist by the three-time Grammy award winning group Sounds of Blackness in their album which won ‘Outstanding World Music Album of the Year 2012’.
Merilee Klemp (Oboe, English Horn) received the B.A. in Music Education from Augsburg College, the M.A. in Musicology from the University of Minnesota, and the D.M.A. in Oboe Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music. Her notable accomplishments include an impressive list of featured recordings including Falls Flyer: Music for Oboe and Guitar (Schubert Club), Carols and Lullabies (RCA) and The Music of William Grant Still (Collins Classics) with Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota, The Three Hermits (D’Note) and A Chamber Fantasy (Innova 539) by Stephen Paulus, Singing Wilderness: Music of Cary John Franklin (Singing Wilderness), Fritz Bergmann’s Minnesota Landscapes(Innova), as well as CD’s by Janet Jackson, Elton John, Mariah Carey and Lorie Line. She performs regularly with the Minnesota Sinfonia and has performed with the Guthrie Theater, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, Vocalessence, and is a frequent recitalist and soloist in the Twin Cities. Her principal teacher was Richard Killmer and she received a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for further study with John Mack.
Laurie Hatcher Merz is in her sixteenth year as Second Bassoon/Contrabassoon in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. She is a busy free-lance player in the Twin Cities, performing with VocalEssence, Minnesota Sinfonia and is a guest artist for the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. An MPR Class Notes Artist, Merz performs educational outreach programs with her wind quintet, the Riverside Quintet. She has been a professor of bassoon at Augsburg College since 2002 and is also on the faculty of Century College. Merz received her Bachelor of Music Degree in Bassoon Performance with Distinction from the Eastman School of Music and her Master of Music with Honors from the University of Minnesota. When not performing, teaching, presenting & adjudicating, Laurie manages a home-based business selling her bassoon reeds to clients around the country.
A native of Hong Kong, Mimi Tung began piano studies at age 4. She earned her degree in piano performance from Santa Clara University and was awarded the Performer’s Certificate for outstanding musical performance. She has studied with Hans Boepple, Jean-David Coen, Sheldon Steinberg, and has been coached by John Perry. Though serious about pursuing her passion for music, Mimi has always had a “day job.” Following a successful career in college admissions and university development, she now serves as International Principal Gifts Officer at Mayo Clinic. An accomplished and active musician in the Twin Cities, Mimi has performed numerous times at Schubert Club’s Courtroom Concert series and Thursday Musical’s Artist Series. Mimi is a past member of the Schubert Club’s Board of Directors.