The first, entirely improvised NEXUS concert in 1971 marked the formation of a group that would touch and entertain people of all levels of musical learning, in all genres of percussion music. Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Russell Hartenberger and Garry Kvistad are virtuosos alone, and bring elements of their knowledge and character to a distinct and powerful whole. They stand out in the contemporary music scene for the innovation and diversity of their programs, their impressive history of collaborations and commissions, their revival of 1920’s novelty ragtime xylophone music, and their influential improvisatory ideas. NEXUS’ firm commitment to music education and a steady output of quality CD recordings and compositions by its members continues to enhance the role of percussion in the 21st century.
NEXUS’ music, with its widespread appeal, has taken the group on tours of Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Brazil, Scandinavia, Europe, and regularly to the United States and Canada. NEXUS is proud to have been the first Western percussion group to perform in the People’s Republic of China. They have also enjoyed participating at international music festivals such as the Adelaide, Holland, Budapest Spring, Singapore Arts, Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Blossom Music Festivals, as well as the BBC Proms in London, Music Today and Music Joy festivals in Tokyo, and many World Drum Festivals. NEXUS is the recipient of the Banff Centre for the Arts National Award and the Toronto Arts Award. NEXUS was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999, just before celebrating their 30th anniversary season.
Especially renowned for their improvisational skills, NEXUS was called upon to create the musical score for the National Film Board’s “Inside Time”, which won the 2008 Yorkton Golden Sheaf award for best social/political documentary and the 2008 Robert Brooks award for cinematography. TV and radio broadcasters such as the CBS TV, PBS, and CBC have regularly featured this leading percussion ensemble. NEXUS also created the chilling score for the Academy Award-winning feature-length documentary “The Man Who Skied Down Everest”. NEXUS’ list of high-profile collaborations includes Steve Reich, the Kronos Quartet, the Canadian Brass, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.
Toru Takemitsu, a great friend to NEXUS, composed one of their signature pieces, “From me flows what you call Time”. This work, written with each NEXUS member’s personality in mind, was premiered for Carnegie Hall’s centennial celebration in 1990 with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra (recorded on Sony with the Pacific Symphony). In 2005, Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich composed “Rituals” for NEXUS and Chamber Orchestra. New Music Box calls it “one of Zwilich’s most exciting compositions to date…[a] blockbuster piece!” The recording features NEXUS and the IRIS Orchestra.
Among notable NEXUS events have been their 2007 performances at the Ojai Festival in California that reviewer Charles Donelan called “thrilling” and said would “certainly stand as one of the most memorable of 2007 in any venue, anywhere”, followed by their 2008 performances at Ojai where the L.A.Times music critic commented, “Ojai felt, for that hour, like holy ground.”. In 2007 and again in 2009 NEXUS honored John Cage at Bard College’s Fisher Center in New York, and was asked to give the U.S. premiere of Dance Music for Elfrid Ide (1940), which had been rediscovered in 2005. In 2008 NEXUS toured summer festivals: Colours of Music, Cool Drummings, Collingwood, Kincardine, and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festivals, and the Woodstock Beat and Drum Boogie Festivals in New York. In November that year, NEXUS premiered The Eternal Dance of Life, a newly commissioned concerto by Eric Ewazen for percussion quintet and wind ensemble, and in April 2009 a new work by marimba virtuoso Gordon Stout. In the fall of 2009 NEXUS enjoyed residencies at Bowling Green State University and the University of Windsor as well as performances with the Windsor Symphony. A solo CD entitled “Wings” was also released in 2009. The group’s previous solo CD was the Juno-nominated “Drumtalker”. NEXUS launched their 40th season with the April 2010 premiere of the new co-commissioned Steve Reich Mallet Quartet, followed by sell-outs at the Minnesota Beethoven Festival and in Japan, and tour dates in New York, including three concerts with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra in February 2011. NEXUS' 40th season also includes a new recording of John Cage works with Adrienne Clarkson and others, a March performance of The Eternal Dance of Life with the University of Toronto Wind Ensemble, a residency at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, and appearances with the Austin Symphony Orchestra.