Peter Swing fell in love with music at 14 years old, playing the alluring syncopations of Scott Joplin, and J.S. Bach's sublime polyphonic creations, on piano. By college he began songwriting on the guitar, soaking in American rock and roll and the vast folk and individual poetic musings of the 1960's and 70's; in particular Brian Wilson, Paul Simon, Lennon & McCartney, Page & Plant. But in 1987 after college, on the way to law school, he encountered the powerful music of Zimbabwe, played on marimbas, and to make a long story short, he made that music the focus of his personal and professional life for the next thirty years. Swing's Zimbabwean music training ground was Boka Marimba in Portland, Oregon. They were deep into workshops with Zimbabwean master musicians Dumisani Maraire and Ephat Mujuru. Through these seminal lessons Swing learned the fundamental understanding of playing music the African way. Eventually he went into music business with Dr. Maraire, importing mbiras from Zimbabwe and publishing an instructional booklet on how to play them. He began building marimbas and teaching several notable bands upon moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1996. Fast forward to 2010, five bands later, Swing founded Polyphony Marimba, a group dedicated to the traditional sound and approach he first learned from Maraire. Significantly, that approach includes creating one's own style through original compositions and fresh interpretations of traditional songs; so you will hear influences from the western musical heritage in Polyphony Marimba's sound. Peter and his wife Karyna make regular pilgrimages to Zimbabwe to re-connect with the source of inspiration for their music. Their mission is to spread the Zimbabwean marimba music around the USA and beyond, for increasing the scope and awareness of this music brings to fruition the healing potential that is inherent in its joyful spirit, both for the musicians in the band and those partaking in the musical experience.
Karyna Swing is has been steeped in Music for all of her happy long 54 years. Starting in public school choir in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a shy six year old, she learned to love expression through voice, melody and poetry. Her world was ideal in the beautiful desert country and her home was happy and protected by her precious and loving parents Richard and Helen Boyce. She has always experimented in creative and artistic expression too! As a youth she became obsessed with acoustic and electric guitar and worked with a few youth Music groups and bands singing, playing guitar and writing sweet and also sad songs as she began to see many of the injustices in the bigger world around her. Alongside songwriting and guitar playing she became involved in technical theatre lighting for an exciting and challenging 30 years. She is an extremely sensitive and talented lighting designer for the theatre, dance and rock and roll. Her involvement in Zimbabwean-style Marimba came decades later and once she started to learn, play, and perform there was no turning back! She has been studying, performing and teaching Zimbabwean-style Marimba Music since 1998. Many gifted and precious teachers were able to come to the US from Zimbabwe and she was Blessed to be given this unique and powerful form of Music. For many years she has also studied West African Djembe and Dance, and is currently emerging into local studios as a high-end recycled-materials Artiste.
Jesse Larson began playing marimba at the age of 11 at the Kutandara Center in Boulder, Colorado, and 14 years later is still going strong. Throughout her teen years she continued to study Zimbabwean music with her primary teachers, Randy McIntosh and Amy Stewart McIntosh, as well as many Zimbabwean instructors, and began teaching regularly at her studio. Since then, Jesse has taught throughout the US and in Indonesia, and though she is currently residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she still regularly travels to teach in Colorado, Alaska and around the US. Above anything else, Jesse loves performing, and has been a band member of Kutandara, Ande, Polyphony, Tamba and Supa Kalulu. Sharing this infectious music with both her students and audience is her joy.
Adam Halpin grew up in Spokane, Washington listening to all kinds of music and is a lover of all music. His first instrument was a fiddle but it didn't quite stick. Then in 2009, a Zimbabwean Marimba Ensemble class was offered at his school and in 2010 (as soon as he realized how fantastic it was) he started playing and hasn't stopped since. He first began performing professionally out in the community (and having serious fun) with Musha Marimba, his high school's performing group. By his senior year he was co-directing the band, commissioning songs for the group to play, as well as contributing his own compositions. Post-graduation, he was invited to join up with Polyphony Marimba for their Summer 2018 Tour. He is back again this year and ready for his third great tour with the band!
David Onstott began playing marimba in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he was eight years old, taking marimba classes with other kids taught by Peter Swing. David played in a marimba ensemble with homeschool kids called "Fangura". He then moved to Ecuador and Spain with his family for a couple of years, where he enjoyed getting involved in the very rich cultures of those countries. When he moved back to the States it was hard for him to find a marimba band to play in again. However after a few years, David came in contact with Polyphony Marimba in Santa Fe and was invited to start practicing and performing with them, so his passion and skill on the marimbas was renewed. He is now a member of the band, touring around the country, playing music professionally. David lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he goes to college majoring in sports medicine. This is his third national tour with Polyphony Marimba, and he is very excited for this year's tour!
DeeDee Wells started playing music at the age of six, growing up in Joplin, Missouri. She is classically trained in piano and violin, studying both on a regular basis until recently. Beginning in ninth grade she began studying voice and in eleventh grade had the honor of participating in a choral performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, singing Fauré's Requiem. (DeeDee was fortunate to repeat this amazing experience last year, in June 2019!) Upon graduating from high school, she joined the MSSU Concert Chorale. Besides loving to sing, DeeDee grew up around the marimba music of Zimbabwe. About seven years ago she took up the marimba seriously, joining Kufara Marimba's youth and adult groups. Through performing widely in community events, and learning a great deal from director Maria Minnaar-Bailey, whose father directed Kwanongoma College of Music in Zimbabwe, DeeDee has become very proficient on the marimbas and hosho (gourd shakers). In 2018 she accepted Polyphony Marimba's invitation to go on a national tour, and is very excited to get back on the road-- and into the recording studio-- with the band!
Tessa Wells has been surrounded by the joyous Zimbabwean music since she was three and a half years old, growing up in Joplin, Missouri. Her mom, Ree Wells, has played in Kufara Marimba, the Zimbabwean-style marimba ensemble in Joplin, for 20 years. As a young child, Tessa became very familiar with the unique sound of the mbira and African style marimbas. In 2012, she joined Kufara's youth and adult bands, taught by Maria Minnaar-Bailey, who grew up in Zimbabwe. Kufara performed in all kinds of community events, and for many years they enjoyed being the only ensemble in the Midwest performing this type of music. In 2018, Tessa toured with Polyphony Marimba to many different states. She truly enjoyed performing and adventuring with other talented musicians, and she is honored to participate again in 2019. Besides marimba, she is classically trained in piano, cello, and voice. She studied and performed great works with several ensembles, including the Ozark Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Missouri Southern Symphony. She won several state awards for the cello, performing intense works such as Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1. In 2015 she had the high honor of participating in a performance of Faure's Requiem in Carnegie Hall, New York City. Along with music, Tessa is strongly committed to visual arts, having won many regional awards for her artworks. She just began college in St. Louis, MO to further pursue her passion in both music and art.
Conrad Rice is from Eugene, Oregon, and is now studying at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He has been playing marimba at the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center in Eugene since he was seven years old, and he has loved the music since day one. Having successfully toured with Polyphony in 2019, he is so excited to play again this summer! He is a percussionist at heart, and aside from marimba he plays the drums. Some of his other interests include photography and exploring the natural wonders of the pacific northwest. He can't wait to travel with Polyphony and get a taste of what so many different parts of the country have to offer. He loves how much energy and excitement this music has to offer, and he is so looking forward to sharing that on tour!
Having being born and raised in the small town of Blackfoot, Idaho, as a young child Branson Seamons had very few musical opportunities until age seven. At that time his family relocated to Coeur d'Alene, where he began to surround himself with musical groups and opportunities at school. In second grade, he joined the school's choir and drumming program, which he continued for the next three years. Then Branson's family moved again and his new school offered even more music, including a marimba ensemble class. After seeing the marimbas and hearing the music originating in Zimbabwe, he included himself in their marimba program and ever since that time, he hasn't put his mallets down! Fortunately the class teachers, Sally Sorenson and Tina Gospodnetich, also directed two performing marimba groups by the names of Coeurimba and Coeur d'Alene Youth Marimbas. Not surprisingly, Branson was soon a member of both groups. Together with various other band classes in his high school career, he has continued to participate in both marimba bands to this day, and serves in a leadership role assisting the band directors. Branson is thrilled to have an opportunity to play professionally on tour with Polyphony Marimba for the second year in a row, and is seriously contemplating opening a community marimba center in the future.