Orkestar Bez Ime (OBI)
Orkestar Bez Ime, 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.
OBI is: Colleen Bertsch, Scott Keever, Matt Miller, Katrina Mundinger, Natalie Nowytski, and Eric Ray.
Colleen Bertsch (violin, vocals)
Colleen Bertsch is a violinist and music arranger who specializes in east-central European folk music. She has received multiple Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists Initiative grants, all of which have supported projects relating to folk music found in Romania. To conduct her Ph.D. dissertation research in ethnomusicology, Colleen lived in Transylvania for a year, working side-by-side with string musicians in various folk ensembles. That research was supported by a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Award and a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota. Colleen is the fiddle player for Orkestar Bez Ime, Ukrainian Village Band, and Szászka (Transylvanian string band). She has had the pleasure of backing fantastic acts including Semisonic, The Moody Blues, Jeremy Messersmith, Davis Bain, and substituting for The Laurels String Quartet. Colleen’s favorite theatrical collaborators include Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, Ethnic Dance Theatre, and Minnesota History Theatre. Her website is stringmuse.com.
Scott Keever (guitar, tambura)
Scott Keever is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer. He has written music for theatre, film and dance. He performs as a solo guitarist, specializing in fingerpicking style, and he is also currently the guitarist for Americana/Celtic rock group The Sweet Colleens. He has performed with acts such as Cats Laughing, Pirates of Dreamtime and Funks Grove. He also has performed in theater productions for Plymouth Playhouse, Flying Foot Forum, and has been a music director for Brave New Workshop. Scott graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Music from the U of MN, studying composition with Alex Lubet and Doug Geers. He has produced albums for folk artists Kurt Greisemer and Michael Matheny, and in 2010, released a solo electronic album, “Salieri’s Revenge.” In November 2018, Scott released his first solo acoustic guitar album “Solo Guitar – Vol. 1.” His website is scottkeever.com.
Matt Miller (bass, vocals)
Matt Miller was OBI’s bassist for many years before taking a sabbatical. Now he’s back. He will have more to say soon.
Katrina Mundinger (clarinet, vocals)
Katrina Mundinger is a multi-instrumentalist whose focus is the clarinet. Since 1994 she has studied and performed music of the Balkan Peninsula. Katrina trained classically, earning Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Clarinet Performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Northwestern University, respectively. She received an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2015 supporting her acquisition of a taragot and learning to play it. A selection of her other performance credits includes a solo appearance with the Jewish Community Center Orchestra, ensemble support for the indie rock act DeVotchKa at First Ave, and several solo recitals at memory care units. Katrina has taught clarinet privately since her college years, maintains a private studio in NE Minneapolis and Roseville MN, and is a faculty member at the MacPhail Center for Music. Her website is folkclarinet.com.
Natalie Nowytski (lead vocals, percussion)
Natalie Nowytski is a classically trained performer, award-winning composer, and educator whose superpower is traditional Eastern European vocal styling. Her repertoire spans more than 50 languages, including her native Ukrainian. She has studied and performed with folk luminaries across the US and Europe and has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. Performance highlights include Minnesota Orchestra, The New Standards, Peter Ostroushko, Olga Bell of Dirty Projectors, Mila Vocal Ensemble, Theater Latte Da, The Rose Ensemble, Paris 1919, Follow the Firefly, Flying Foot Forum, Ethnic Dance Theatre, Ukrainian Village Band, AM Supperclub, Country Roads, and as a founding member of Orkestar Bez Ime. Informed by her experiences as a first generation Ukrainian-American, she writes genre-bending folk-inspired music for theater, dance, a cappella choir, and chamber ensembles. Natalie has received performance and composition awards from the American Composers Forum, Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation, SAGE Awards, and Minnesota State Arts Board. You can find her music on Bandcamp.
Eric Ray (accordion, vocals)
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.