The Meridian Arts Ensemble (mae) is an American chamber music ensemble based in New York City, specializing in the performance of new works for brass and percussion. Their Instrumentations consists of 2 trumpets, French horn, Trombone, Tuba, Percussion.
The MAE was founded in 1987. The original members of the group wanted an opportunity to play challenging works, to experience control of their ensemble, and to find creative outlets for their musicianship. MAE received its early education in the American Brass Quintet's brass class at the Juilliard School, and then launched its professional career. The ensemble performs regularly as part of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which is held annually in New York City.
In the late 1980's, the MAE won a string of four competitions: Artists International, Chamber Music Chicago, New York Brass Conference, and finally, in 1990, Concert Artists Guild. The prize for the latter was extremely important to the ensemble - not just the cachet of winning, and not just the prize money, but management by Concert Artists Guild's booking department, a commission from a composer of the ensemble's choice (Stephen Barber's work Semahane, for brass quintet, percussion, and piano), and a recording for Channel Classics Records. In 1990, MAE traveled to the Netherlands to record its first compact disc, part of Channel's Winning Artists Series. That CD contained works by Alvin Etler, Taxin, Alexander Arutiunian, Jan Bach, and Paul Hindemith, and was released in 1991.
The MAE 's second CD was released in 1992. Entitled "Smart Went Crazy" (from a poem by Allen Ginsberg), this disc established MAE's reputation as an innovator in the field of brass chamber music and new music in general. There was substantial interest in this disc, leading to an interview with the group on NPR's Weekend Edition program. Brisk sales of the disc helped to cement Meridian's relationship with its recording label. 7 more discs have now been released, all to critical acclaim. The most recent, "Brink" (released in 2006), and "Timbrando" (released in 2008) were recorded in the Super Audio CD (SACD) format.
In the years since 1987, MAE has performed in every state of the U.S. except Hawaii, and in the Netherlands, Belgium, Romania, Germany, Finland, Taiwan, Japan, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. The group has commissioned over 50 new pieces, performs three New York recitals every year, tours extensively, and has recently joined the faculty of Manhattan School of Music's Contemporary Performance degree program.
The current membership of the ensemble is:
Trumpets: Jon Nelson and Tim Leopold Horn: Daniel Grabois Trombone: Benjamin Herrington Tuba: Raymond Stewart Percussion: John Ferrari.
Personnel changes since 1987:
The trumpet chair originally occupied by Rolf Holly quickly went to Richard Kelley, who appears on Meridian's first three CDs. Following Mr. Kelley's departure, a string of trumpeters performed with the group: Alex Holton, Darryl Shaw, Kevin Cobb, Wayne DuMaine, and Terry Szor. After a national audition, Josef Burgstaller joined and performed with the group for six years before joining the Canadian Brass. Brian McWhorter joined in 2001 and departed abruptly in 2010 for unknown reasons. Tim Leopold, a NYC freelance artist joined immediately after, and is a full fledged member of the Ensemble.
Trumpeter Jon Nelson is a founding member of the group. His one-year sabbatical was filled by Charles Lazarus, who is now a member of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Hornist Daniel Grabois came to the ensemble in 1989, following a string of horn players. Tracy Leonard was the original hornist, followed by Lisa Aplikowski, Peter Reit, and Chris Komer. Mr. Grabois' six-month sabbatical was filled by Ann Ellsworth.
Trombonist Benjamin Herrington has been in the group since its founding.
Tubist Raymond Stewart was a founding member. His half-year sabbatical was filled by Marcus Rojas.
Percussion: the group was founded without a percussionist. The first drummer to play with the ensemble was Mo Roberts, who appears on the "Smart Went Crazy" CD. John Ferrari took over shortly thereafter, and has been with the group since.