Kendall Burks is a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Denver, Colorado. He first discovered Balinese Gamelan in 2009 while studying at CU Boulder, where he graduated in 2012 with a degree in music composition. He joined Tunas Mekar in 2011, and his membership since then has been defined by the continual deepening and expansion of his interest and appreciation of the Balinese musical tradition. This culminated in 2018 with the creation of his composition, “Kayu Sakti” which draws heavily from traditional forms while expanding them into new territory as well. Outside of the gamelan, Kendall is active in the Denver music scene as a versatile collaborator and an adventurous recording artist and performer. He released his debut solo album, Waves, in September 2018, which can be found at his website: kendallburks.com.
Aaron graduated from MSU Denver in 2014 with a degree in music composition. While a student there, he joined Metro’s Gamelan Manik Kusuma, under the direction of Pak Lasmawan. This led him to join Gamelan Tunas Mekar where he has been playing since late 2011. Since becoming interested in gamelan, Aaron has traveled to Bali to study, learn, and perform with Sanggar Manik Galih. Aaron is an active musician within the Denver music scene, performing with his collaborative Witches & Science as well a variety of other projects. He is also a co- founder of the Denver Blade Gang Hang.
Karen joined Tunas Mekar in 2012 with an interest in experiencing the rich musical culture of the gamelan. Karen is an elementary school music teacher, and gets the privilege of imparting the love of music to children every day. Karen is an active member of the Rocky Mountain Orff chapter of music educators. Karen served in the Peace Corps in Moldova and taught at an international school in Honduras.
At the tender age of 16, Russ sold a pig to buy his first guitar. A Texas native transplanted to Colorado, Russ actively performs and teaches in the Denver metro area. Since earning his Master’s Degree, Russ has explored contemporary guitar music in his duo Derelict Hands with Scottish guitarist Calum Borthwick. In July 2016, Derelict Hands recorded their debut album after a tour of Scotland. In May 2017, Russ premiered his latest project with cellist Katie Burns, named Solazur, including the premiere of a large new work ‘Azur’ commissioned for the ensemble. The duo recently returned from a residency at the Zodiac Music Academy & Festival in Cote d’Azur, France. As a dynamic instructor Russ actively expands his teaching studio and currently teaches guitarists of all ages and skill levels, ranging from classical to pop music.
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Ben has been performing traditional Thai music and dance with Colorado’s Thai community since 1999 and is a founding member of the Thai Harmony Traditional Arts Ensemble. After hearing Gamelan Tunas Mekar perform at the same festivals and local events as Thai Harmony for many years, Ben finally had the opportunity to join the gamelan in 2012 after studying with I Made Lasmawan at the University of Colorado at Boulder. A graduate of the Denver School of the Arts, Ben is currently pursuing a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ben is an avid music listener and performer of many genres, and plays various traditional Thai instruments with the Thai Language and Culture School at Wat Buddhawararam and bassoon and contrabassoon with the Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra.
Born in 1995, Aleanna grew up in the Tunas Mekar family. Her mom, Carolyn Oakley, has been a member of the ensemble since 1992. Aleanna began performing with Tunas Mekar in 2011 and spent a month in Bali in both 2013 and 2015 studying with Pak Made in the village of Bangah. Aleanna also plays African marimba and has been a member of the Kutandara Center community, performing with the youth ensemble Shamwari, and with Mukana marimba ensemble in Olympia, Washington.
Joe Engel holds three music degrees: cello performance (Bachelors and Masters), music theory and composition (bachelors). He has been studying cello and other music forms for over 14 years. He was introduced to gamelan in 2015 when he attended a Tunas Mekar concert at the University of Denver. At the urging of Professor Aaron Paige, he attended his first Tunas Mekar rehearsal in August of 2015 and was hooked. Joe is a music educator and performer, and, in addition to cello, has studied guitar, North and South Indian classical musics, Tuvan throatsinging, and other non-western disciplines. Joe feels privileged to be a member of Tunas Mekar, and is constantly inspired by the vibrant and explosive energy of the group.
Rhianna holds a degree in violin performance from the University of Denver. She became interested in gamelan while a student in Aaron Paige’s class and joined Gamelan Tunas Mekar shortly thereafter.
The gamelan bug bit Miranda when she took Evan Ziporyn’s World Music class back in 1995. She toured Bali with Gamelan Galak Tika in 2005 and continued to play with Tunas Mekar until her first son was born in 2010. Since then she joins the group when she can muster the energy to keep up with the intense rehearsals!
Michael Fitts, President
An innovator in the world of digital media distribution, Michael designed, sold, and deployed TouchMedia, one of the nations largest networks of digital media stations. Mr. Fitts has a proven track record as an entrepreneur in the music and technology sectors. His first success was the development of a powerful software application or the cost-effective management and tracking of music promotion campaigns. This application led to his forming INDIEgo Promotions in 1992, which went on to become a nationally recognized provider of marketing and promotions services for independent artists and labels. In 1996 he created the label Synergy Music as a progressive home for Art Lande, Paul McCandless and other internationally renowned jazz artists. Through a series of acquisitions in conjunction with industry veteran Paul Schulman he launched Synergy Distribution (SD) in 2002. Michael has been a member of Tunas Mekar since 1991, performed with the group in Bali in 1996 and has been its President since 2000.
Jill holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance from the University of Denver. As a drummer, Jill has performed with Larry Coryell, Marvin Stamm, Red Rodney, Bill Watrous and has recorded albums with Lee Konitz, Spike Robinson, Ellyn Rucker, and Brad Terry. She joined Gamelan Tunas Mekar in October 1989 and has since traveled to Bali numerous times to study with traditional teachers. In the Spring of 1993, Jill instructed the gamelan angklung at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She is also a member of “Catur Eka Santi,” the Denver-based gender wayang orchestra used to accompany the Balinese shadow puppet play.
I Nyoman Tangkas Aji Guyasa
Aji was born in 2001 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Currently in his final year at Harrison High School, he plays soccer and basketball, percussion in the marching and jazz bands. Aji is an old soul who speaks Chinese, Spanish, English, and Bahasa Bali. He was raised on gamelan (as were his brothers, Putu and Ade).
Tara is a student at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO where she is a biology major and music minor. She has been studying gamelan with Pak Made Lasmawan since the fall of 2010 and plays in the Colorado College gamelan, Tunjung Sari, in addition to Tunas Mekar. She joined Tunas Mekar in the fall of 2011.
After growing up in Great Falls, MT, Jordan moved to Rochester, NY to study at the Eastman School of Music. While at Eastman, Jordan completed a Bachelors of Music in Violin Performance, a Bachelors of Music in Music Education, a Masters of Arts in Ethnomusicology, and also completed secondary studies in Vocal Performance and World Music. Jordan was fortunate to study violin with Prof. Lynn Blakeslee, voice with Dr. Louima Lilite and Professor Carol Webber, Ethnomusicology with Dr. Ellen Koskoff, and Balinese gamelan with I Nyoman Suadin.
Jordan moved to Denver, CO in 2012 to continue playing and studying Balinese music with master Balinese music teacher I Made Lasmawan. Jordan plays with Gamelan Tunas Mekar in Denver and Gamelan Chandra Wyoga in Larmie, WY. Jordan now lives in Laramie, WY, and teaches classes relating to World Music and Balinese music at the University of Wyoming. Jordan’s main job is running a business he founded that sells the chin rest for violin Jordan invented, called the Kreddle.
is a percussionist and composer originally from Exeter, California, now based in Denver, CO. Born in 1994, Chris moved to Colorado in 2012 to study percussion at Colorado State University, and has since become an active musician in several Northern Colorado circles. A His recent performances have been with jazz singers, free improvisers, funk bands, church choirs, and Balinese gamelan orchestra Tunas Mekar.Hewitt’s compositions have an adventurous yet accessible sound: his original music blends pop melodies with free improvisation, hard grooves and whimsical, demented themes. His recent works include pieces for jazz ensemble, percussion quartet, and a group of phone savvy non-musicians. Hewitt’s multi faceted approach to composition and performance has delighted and amused audiences in many of Northern Colorado’s creative music venues.
I Putu Tangkas Adi Hiranmayena
Putu, born in Surakarta, Java, is a graduate of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs with a degree in Visual and Performing Arts and has a Masters in Integrative Studies from University of California San Diego. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Putu was formerly Gamelan Director at the University of San Diego, Gamelan Instructor at The Museum School of San Diego and a Percussion Instructor at Broadmoor Academy of Music. He continues to study Balinese music and dance with his father Pak Lasmawan, and assists in teaching ensembles at UCCS, Colorado College and CU Boulder. Putu has performed with Gamelan Tunas Mekar—as both musician and dancer—and the gamelan orchestras of UCCS, the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado College, Naropa University, the University of Wyoming, Metropolitan State University of Denver, California Institute of the Arts, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Vie Lim (dancer)
Vie Lim is a Denver native. She began studying Balinese dance at Colorado College with her teacher, Ni Ketut Marni. While there, she performed with Gamelan Tunjung Sari. Several years after graduating in 2008, she joined Gamelan Tunas Mekar as a dancer.
Liz began studying gamelan with Pak Lasmawan in 1996 while a student at Colorado College. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from UCLA, where her research addressed the function of music tourism in the recovery and rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans and Bali after the 2002 and 2005 terrorist bombings. Her current research focuses on I Made Lasmawan, Ni Ketut Marni, and the music and dance traditions of their Balinese village, Bangah. In conjunction with Pak Lasmawan and Ibu Marni, she leads study abroad programs on the arts and culture of Bali on location in Indonesia at Sanggar Manik Galih. Liz joined Tunas Mekar in 2017 when she returned to Denver as Visiting Teaching Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Denver Lamont School of Music. Currently an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Metro State University of Denver, she has previously taught at Skidmore College (where she founded Gamelan Banyu Wali), UCLA, Chapman University, and CalArts.
Luke is a Colorado native with a B.A. in world and experimental music from Wesleyan University and a J.D. (law degree) from C.U. Law. When he can break free from his day job as an attorney, Luke enjoys playing music, traveling, and exploring the great outdoors with his wife Julia and their two dogs.
Carolyn is a musician, graphic artist, Second Life entrepreneur and Mom living in Boulder, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Music, Piano Performance from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she studied classical music with an emphasis on the contemporary, and electronic music composition. She has played in numerous new music ensembles from Massachusetts to California including The Time and Motion Project and Plateau Ensemble. She has taken workshops with Meredith Monk, Art Lande and others. Carolyn has performed with Tunas Mekar since 1992, and is a member of the international Second Life improvisation ensemble Avatar Orchestra Metaverse.
Aaron Paige is an ethnomusicologist, folklorist, performing artist, and educator. He is currently the Director of Folk and Traditional Arts at ArtsWestchester. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University where he is also finishing up his doctoral dissertation “From Kuala Lumpur to Kollywood: Music, Language, and Identity in Tamil Rap.” Most recently he completed a three-year Visiting Assistant Teaching Professorship at the University of Denver where he designed and taught courses on Global Hip-Hop, Music, Race and Gender, South Indian Classical and Folk Music, and West African Drumming and Dance. His research interests include music and social justice movements, folk and classical musics of South and Southeast Asia, hip-hop, transnational and diaspora studies, and minority studies. Aaron has spent years in the field conducting ethnomusicological research in the USA, India, Malaysia, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Turkey. He is also a performer of South Indian classical and folk music, Ghanaian music and dance, Arabic classical music, Klezmer, as well as Javanese and Balinese gamelan. His research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation, the Watson Foundation, the Society for Asian Music, the US Department of Education, and the American Institute for Indian Studies. He is currently acting Vice President for the Society for Ethnomusicology-Southwest Chapter.
Indira Sandika (dancer)
Indi is a senior at Rangeview High School in Aurora, CO. She began studying Balinese dance with Ibu Ni Ketut Marni at a young age, and is an active performer along the Front Range.
Jake WherryJake first became interested in gamelan while a student at MSU Denver in Gamelan Manik Kusuma. In addition to joining Tunas Mekar, he has also spent time studying in Bali at Sanggar Manik Galih.
Katy Wherry is a flutist whose passion for varying genres of music has provided her with opportunities to collaborate with outstanding musicians including LeVar Burton, Sir James Galway, Brook Ferguson and others. Katy has studied with distinguished flute players such as Sir James Galway, Christina Jennings and Brook Ferguson. She received a Masters degree in Flute Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2014.
Katy has performed recitals throughout the world, including tours of England and Brazil. She has experience performing with multiple symphony orchestras including the Colorado Symphony, the award winning Lamont Symphony Orchestra and the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Katy has experience performing multiple styles of music including improvisation, electronic music, Balinese Gamelan and Steel Pan. She recently premiered a piece written for Flute and Balinese Gamelan at MIT with Gamelan Galak Tika and is a featured soloist on the steel drum album “Altered Perception” by Pan Nation.
I Made Tangkas Ade Wijaya
Ade was born in Denver, Colorado in 1999. Currently a a first year at the University of Denver, he is an avid soccer player, a pianist, a jazz drummer, and a skilled Balinese gamelan musician, composer, and dancer. His composition style is inspired by his teachers – academic, athletic, and social. In particular, Ade looks up to the strong traditional musical styles of Pak Wayan Beratha, Pak Nyoman Windha, and most certainly his father, Pak Made Lasmawan.
Jim began his musical life as soon as he picked up his first pair of drumsticks in the 4th grade. Having played in just about every band needing percussion in high school Jim was pretty confident he was going to be the next Buddy Rich, Neil Pert or perhaps Questlove. Then life happened and Jim ended up trading his sticks for a camera. He became a successful photographer with clients as diverse as Disney, Playboy and Westword. Music become more about listening to and singing along with, whether the tunes were in the shower, the car, at karaoke or even at his own wedding. Jim also has a passion for theatre and film and has been in several productions in Colorado, most recently playing Giles Corey in The Crucible.
Jim also began telling artist’s stories as a journalist while working at Disney. His love of story has continued with the Boulder Weekly to LoDo Magazine and even his own CRAVE Magazine Podcast. Jim loves to share the stories of amazing artists. This desire to experience and share great art led him to a Tunas Mekar performance in 2017. Wanting to experience more of the Balinese music Jim stayed in touch with the group with the intent of having them as guests on his podcast. He was invited to a rehearsal in August 2018 and has been showing up ever since.
Victoria Zero (musician and dancer)
Vicky works as an environmental consultant. She was first introduced to gamelan through The California State Summer School for the Arts as a high school student in 2000 at the California Institute of the Arts. She stumbled upon gamelan again a decade later at the University of Wyoming in 2011, when she joined Gamelan Candra Wyoga. Vicky has been playing with Gamelan Tunas Mekar in Denver since 2013. She plays multiple instruments and dances.
I Made Sumayasa
Made was born in the small central Balinese village of Batulantang, where he lived until November, 2002 when he moved to Hawai`i to join his wife. Made has played gamelan all his life and was a leader of his community gamelan group until he moved to the U.S. Made is also an accomplished artist in the traditional Balinese style and, despite his village’s isolation from the centers of art in Bali, his work is sought out by gallery owners and collectors throughout Bali. In Bali, Made is known for his unique affinity for the Barong, and, his Barong paintings are highly sought out by other Balinese. Made has shown his paintings in the 2004 Artists of Hawaii juried exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and at the Gallery On The Pali in Honolulu. Made played with Tunas Mekar in 2008-2009 when he lived in Denver with his wife and two small children. At that time, Made built and hand-painted the Candi Bentar (stage set) now used by Tunas Mekar.
Made says of his art: “I am from the island of Bali located in the Indonesian Archipelago. Art and music are very important to my culture and are used for many ceremonial purposes as well as entertainment. Our primary religion is Hindu-Bali. As Hindus, we are a minority in Indonesia, but we are very proud of our culture and religious beliefs. Take a look at some examples of what makes my island so special.”