Kim Perlak is the Founder of Ben & I Play for Peace and the Director of the Austin concert. With performances that are deeply personal and express a breadth of tradition, guitarist Kim Perlak has been recognized as an inspired voice in new American music. Her playing was praised by The Austin-American Statesman as, “thoughtful, enchanting, vivid…a songwriter’s circle without the lyrics,” and by another Austin reviewer as, “moving…the most patriotic thing I’ve experienced in many months.”
Kim’s versatile and inclusive approach to the instrument embraces new composition, scholarship, and public service. Her performances of new classical works and collaborations with jazz and traditional players have been featured on National Public Radio, at the Yale Guitar Extravaganza, on CBS Sunday Morning, and in concert halls across the nation. Her work combining performance, American music history, and outreach has been funded through grants from The Carolina Institute for Leadership and Engagement in Music, The Center for African American Southern Music, and the Yale Alumni Ventures program. The 2011 project in her series, “Music-History-Service” was honored by the PBS program “From the Top” as part of their Arts Leadership series and was officially recognized by the House of Representatives.
Kim has served on the faculty, written curriculum, and directed programs for Concordia University-TX, The National Guitar Workshop, Austin Community College, and the Educational Outreach Program of the Austin Classical Guitar Society. She holds degrees from The University of Texas at Austin (DMA ’08), Yale University School of Music (MM ’01), Stetson University (BM ’98).
Kim Perlak plays guitars by Thomas Humphrey and exclusively uses D’Addario Strings. Visit Kim at her website, http://kimperlak.com.
Martha Lopez-Leschke is the Director of Ben & I Play for Peace- Sarasota. She is a lyric coloratura soprano, performer and educator. First trained as a classical pianist, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in 1997. After commencing her career in music education, she shifted her focus to classical singing and earned a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of South Florida- Tampa in 2006. Upon graduating, Martha studied with renowned voice teacher and author Shirlee Emmons in New York, NY for several years. Martha is frequently heard in recitals, concerts and operas throughout Southwest Florida. An avid art song enthusiast, she loves to promote the art form with interesting, varied recitals, collaborating with instrumentalists to create fun and entertaining performances. Martha serves on the music faculty of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Learn more about Martha by visiting her website, http://marthalopezsoprano.com.
Kirby Kelley is our special guest in Austin for 2013. He hails from St. Louis, Mo. and has settled into the north Texas region in recent years. He travels the states performing his own, indelible brand of Acoustic Americana; drawing from a myriad of influences that ultimately culminate into a warm gumbo of blues inflected soul food. Predominantly a slide guitarist, Kelley also feels right at home with the acoustic finger style techniques of the Mississippi Delta, Texas, Chicago, and Piedmont regions. Pulling from a broad palette, these styles are rendered with a personal stamp that end up all his own. Heartfelt vocals lend a soulful springboard to his solo acoustic guitar approach. When not performing or lending studio support, Kirby is an avid teacher and clinician, and he enjoys educating those interested in learning about all things blues and guitar related. Kirby and Kim met in 2002 at the National Guitar Workshop at a recording session for a cd that honored American veterans.
Cameron Peace is the Director of Ben & I Play for Peace- Seattle. Cameron has been playing guitar for over 16 years in a variety of styles. He started guitar playing blues and rock before attending the University of Washington where he studied classical and jazz guitar, obtaining a BA/BM in guitar performance. He also graduated from The National Guitar Workshop’s intern program and has taught numerous classes with the company as a faculty member. He is an active performer in the Seattle area, playing in a Hip Hop band (Theoretics), an Indie folk band (Golden Tree Story), a nylon string guitar duo (Monarch Duo), and a guitar bass jazz duo (Peace/Pereira Duo). Cameron has also worked as a studio musician for instructional books, instructional DVDs, as well as appearing as a studio sideman on the albums of local artists.
Benjamin Verdery introduced Kim and Ben at his Maui guitar class in June of 2010. He composed the piece “Tibetan Prayer” that Kim and Ben premiered at the 2011 Austin concert, and will be a special guest performer at the 2012 Austin concert. Described as “iconoclastic” and “inventive” by The New York Times and “one of the classical guitar world’s most foremost personalities,” by Classical Guitar Magazine, Benjamin Verdery enjoys an innovative and eclectic musical career.
Since 1980 Benjamin Verdery has performed worldwide in theatres and at festivals, including Theatre Carré (Amsterdam); the International Guitar Festival (Havana, Cuba); Wigmore Hall (England); the 92nd Street Y, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera (NYC). His tours regularly take him to Canada, Europe, Asia and throughout the United States. He has recorded and performed with such diverse artists as Andy Summers, Frederic Hand, William Coulter, Leo Kottke, Anthony Newman, Jessye Norman, Paco Peña, Hermann Prey and John Williams. Several composers have composed music for him including Ezra Laderman, Martin Bresnick, Daniel Asia, John Anthony Lennon, Ingram Marshall, Anthony Newman, Roberto Sierra, Van Stiefel and Jack Vees. Of particular nothe commissioning by the Yale University Music Library of a work by Ingram Marshall for classical and electric guitars. Benjamin and Andy Summers premiered Dark Florescence at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra and atthe Belfast Festival (Ireland).
Benjamin has released over 15 albums, his most recent being: Happy Here with William Coulter (Mushkatweek) and Branches with works by J.S. Bach, Strauss, Jimi Hendrix, Mozart and the traditional Amazing Grace (Mushkatweek). His recording, Start Now (Mushkatweek), won the 2005 Classical Recording Foundation Award. Other recordings of note include Some Towns & Cities which won the 1992 Guitar Player Magazine Best Classical Guitar Recording and his collaborations with John Williams (John Williams Plays Vivaldi) and Andy Summers (First you Build A Cloud).
A prolific composer, many of Benjamin Verdery’s compositions have been performed, recorded and published over the years. Most recently, the Assad Duo premiered Ben’s newest work, What He Said. Commissioned by the 92 St Y, the work is dedicated to the late luthier Thomas Humphrey. Other recent works have included Now and Ever (for David Russell,Telarc), Peace, Love and Guitars (for John Williams and John Etheridge, SONY Classical), Capitola (John Williams, SONY Classical) and Give (for eight guitars). This last was composed specifically for Thomas Offermann and the guitar ensemble of the Hochschule for Music and Theatre (Rostock, Germany) and dedicated to the memory of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. Ben’s Scenes from Ellis Island, for guitar orchestra, has been extensively broadcast and performed at festivals and universities in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Europe, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet included it on their CD Air and Ground (Sony Classical). Doberman-Yppan (Canada) is currently publishing his solo and duo works for guitar and Workshop Arts (distributed by Alfred Music) has published the solo pieces from Some Towns & Cities as well as instructional books and video.
In addition to his performance tours and recording, since 1985, Benjamin has been chair of the guitar department at the Yale University School of Music and Artistic Director of the bi-annual Yale Guitar Extravaganza. Benjamin Verdery has also been Artistic Director of Art of the Guitar at the 92nd St Y (New York City) since 2006 and was appointed an honorary board member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas in 2007. Each summer Benjamin holds his Annual International Master Class on the Island of Maui (Hawaii).
Benjamin Verdery uses D’Addario strings and guitars by Greg Smallman and Christopher Carrington. Visit his website at http://benjaminverdery.com.
Robert Summers is the Student/Sponsorship Coordinator for Ben & I Play for Peace. He is a Texas native who graduated from Dripping Springs High School in 2000. He later joined the United States Army and graduated from Airborne School where he was awarded his jump wings. Summers was then assigned to the 5th Battalion 7th Air Defense Artillery unit in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He married in 2007 to Sharon Summers, also a native Texan, and a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. Together, they resided in Germany for 5 years where they traveled throughout Europe and obtained much of the German culture and history. Summers competed against numerous soldiers from over 7 battalions throughout Germany and won the prestigious title of Soldier of the Year in 2008. Summers completed his tour in Germany where he was honorably discharged with an impact Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) from Active Duty and joined the Army Reserves. Summers currently reports to the 994th Medical Detachment unit in Round Rock, Texas. Summers is finishing up his first semester at Concordia University in Austin, Texas as a Sophomore. His emphasis is Political Science with a minor in Pre-Law. Summers wants to become an attorney for the United States Army to continue his services to his fellow soldiers and country.
Tenly Williams is the Director of Ben & I Play for Peace- Denver. Tenly is a member of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, principal oboist of the Steamboat Springs Orchestra, and founding member of the Mountain Music Ensemble. Her career has included positions with the Binghamton Philharmonic and Fort Collins Symphony, as well as performances with the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Denver Municipal Band, Colorado Symphony, Greeley Philharmonic, Austin Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, and San Antonio Symphony Orchestras.
A Colorado native, Tenly is happy to be living in Denver after completing her Master of Music degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 and her Bachelor of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in 2001. She has performed at numerous summer festivals around the world from Dublin, Ireland to Banff, Canada.
Also an active educator, Tenly teaches students of all ages and abilities at Parlando School for the Arts in Boulder, and the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette. A commercial reed maker for Midwest Musical Imports since 2004, Tenly presents reed making workshops in addition to master classes, entrepreneurship seminars, and recitals.