Ensemble East, a trio of celebrated musicians, will bring an ancient art to Poughkeepsie on Saturday, November 3, at 8 p.m. in Vassar College's Skinner Recital Hall. The concert, "Sankyoku: An Evening of Japanese Music," is free and open to the public. James Nyoraku Schlefer will play the shakuhachi, an end-blown bamboo flute played in Japan for over 1,200 years. The only instrument associated with the practice of Zen Buddhism, it was played by wandering monks during the Edo Period, 1600-1868, in exchange for food or alms.Traditionally, shakuhachi music was performed solo, producing an effect similar to meditation. It combines breathing and silence with rhythm and melody to create a captivating and unique art form. For over three hundred years, the shakuhachi has often been accompanied by the shamisen, or three-stringed lute, and by the koto, a 13-stringed harp. Together the instruments are often an intimate part of the Japanese tea ceremony. The three musicians enjoy national and international distinction. Schlefer has performed at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera House. He has two solo recordings, including "Wild Heart," which was on board the MIR Space Station for more than a year. Schlefer received the Dai-Shi-Han Master's Certificate in 2001, one of only a handful of non-Japanese to receive this high level award.
An instructor of the koto at Wesleyan University since 1992, Masayo Ishigure grew up in Japan learning the ancient instrument. Since coming to New York, she has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, in Lincoln Center's Merkin Hall, at the Japan Society, and nationally from Alaska to Florida. She has recorded music for the 1998 Nagano Olympics and for television commercials, and has appeared on various recordings, from jazz to classical music. Completing the trio is Mutsumi Takamizu, contributing vocals. An active performer in the New York area, she began her musical career under Yoshie Shino, a master in the Miyagi branch of the Ikuta School in Japan. For more information, call the Vassar College Department of Music at (845) 437-7294. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Cathy Jennings, Office of Campus Activities, (845) 437-5370, as far in advance as possible to request reasonable and appropriate accommodations for the event.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.