World-renowned marimba virtuoso to lead workshop at SUNY Fredonia

The SUNY Fredonia School of Music is will 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 worldwide as the leading marimba master of modern time, and will spend five days working with academy participants in master classes and giving public concerts.

Always a pioneer in the music world, Abe has that rare combination of virtuosic technical talent and extraordinary musical sensitivity. By both pioneering new technical skills and expanding the literature, 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 are embraced today.

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, Abe has developed her own style of composition that is regularly performed in concert halls around the world.

“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.”

The five-day event begins on Monday, June 17 with a kick-off concert in the beautiful and acoustically impeccable Rosch Recital Hall at 8 p.m. This concert will feature a performance by Abe, some of her advanced students who are traveling from Japan to attend the Academy at Fredonia, and SUNY Fredonia’s ensembles of Mexican marimba, Ghanian gyil and balafon of Guinea. General admission tickets for this concert are $10 (students with ID $8).

The week-long Academy culminates with a Gala Performance and Reception with Sensei Abe on Friday, June 21 at 8 p.m. in Rosch Recital Hall. A spectacular showcase highlighting Abe and the most advanced participants from the weeklong residency will present a rare performance of arrangements of Abe’s repertoire. General admission tickets are $15 (students with ID $12). A 20 percent discount is available when both concerts are purchased together. Special package price is $20 for general admission; $16 students with ID.

Both performances are open to the public. Tickets are available by calling the Fredonia Ticket Office at 673-3501 or online at Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

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-plus participants will attend workshops and performances with 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 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 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 SUNY Fredonia current student 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 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 Stonefelt and Kite in New Harmony, Ind., 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, and the Fredonia College Foundation’s Carnahan-Jackson Humanities Fund. For more information about the Keiko Abe Academy, visit