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Marimba virtuoso will give two concerts in June
Thursday, June 13, 2013

Japanese marimba virtuoso, Keiko Abe, performs at 2012 Fredonia Marimba Academy with her students. Sensei Abe will give public performances at Fredonia June 17 & 21.

The SUNY Fredonia School of Music is delighted to present the second annual Keiko Abe Marimba Academy on the Fredonia campus, June 17-21.  Hailed by The New York Times as “a rare virtuoso,” Japanese marimba artist Keiko Abe is regarded world-wide as the leading marimba master of our time, and will spend five days working with Academy participants in master classes and giving public concerts. The Opening Concert of the Academy will take place on Monday, June 17 at 8 p.m. in Rosch Recital Hall.

This opening ceremony will feature Keiko Abe performing her own compositions, and the evening will take a musical journey through the development of the history of the marimba, with performances by the SUNY Fredonia Mexican Marimba Ensemble and the Gyil Ensemble. 

Sensei Abe will also perform Friday, June 21 on the closing concert, along with the most advanced members of the Academy, who are chosen by Keiko Abe herself during the week as a special honor for the best students. A spectacular showcase highlighting Keiko Abe and the most advanced participants, the  Friday evening concert will feature rare performances of arrangements of Keiko Abe’s repertoire.

Tickets are available online at or by phone at 716-673-3501.  Tickets will be available at the door if not sold out in advance. Receptions will be held after each performance.

Always a pioneer in the music world, Keiko Abe has that rare combination of virtuosic technical talent and extraordinary musical sensitivity.  By both pioneering new technical skills and expanding the literature, Keiko Abe has transformed what was once considered a primitive “Folk” instrument into a full-fledged concert instrument welcome in any of the most prestigious concert halls.  In addition to her work as Professor of Marimba at Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, Abe maintains a full schedule of composing and touring.  Sensei Abe was at the fore of the development of the concert grand five octave marimba, consulting and guiding the development of the first concert grand five octave marimba that set the standard for the current state-of-the art instruments that we embrace today. 

“Keiko Abe’s presence on our campus last summer was truly life changing.  She enriched the cultural life of our students, our community, and many other participants who attended the Academy and we are confident that this will be another innovative and inspiring week,” said Kay Stonefelt, SUNY Fredonia percussion professor and lead organizer of the Keiko Abe Academy.    “While Abe brings with her the highest degree of performance and the very essence of Japanese marimba music, she also brings an enthusiasm for life and a dedication to excellence that is undeniably infectious.” 

During the 1960s and 80s, Sensei Abe gained attention and respect for exploring and bringing to public attention the works of Japanese composers such as Miyoshi, Ishii, Sukegawa, Takemitsu, Miki, and Tanaka.  A member of the Percussive Arts Hall of Fame, Keiko Abe has developed her own style of composition that is regularly performed in concert halls around the world. 

A truly international event, the Academy is drawing students from Japan, Peru, Taiwan, and China, as well as from various locations in the US. The 20+ participants will attend workshops and performances with Keiko Abe and her collaborative teachers.  The Academy will feature morning sessions addressing specific issues of marimba performance and history offered by Rebecca Kite, marimba artist, historian, and author of the book that details the life and music of Keiko Abe; active sessions in Mexican Marimba Ensemble offered by Tiffany Nicely of the Fredonia percussion faculty; a presentation by Larry Dubill, Fredonia alum, who studied Japanese marimba music with Keiko Abe in Japan through an international grant; and opportunities to participate in Dagara gyil (the traditional xylophone of the Dagara that may have started the whole marimba movement through Mexico to present day) ensemble, led by Matthew Aubuef, who has studied for several summers in Ghana and at Fredonia with Bernard Woma.

In addition to the importance of the Fredonia Keiko Abe Academy, there is a rich history and series of connections that tie this marimba master to SUNY Fredonia.  According to SUNY Fredonia Percussion Professor Emeritus, Ted Frazeur, SUNY Fredonia was the first college campus on which Keiko Abe ever performed, which was during the 1980s.  In the US, the first Keiko Abe Master Class/Workshop was a privately sponsored event, organized by Kay Stonefelt and Rebecca Kite in New Harmony, Indiana, in 1985. 

The Keiko Abe Academy at SUNY Fredonia is generously supported by: Yamaha International Corporation, Fred W. Boelter, Christian R. Granger '66, the SUNY Fredonia School of Music,  the Fredonia College Foundation’s Carnahan-Jackson Humanities Fund, Fredonia Student Association, and Percussion Guild.   For more information about the Keiko Abe Academy, visit

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