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The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra Performs Its 75th Concert! — Fall Season Kicks Off Wednesday, September 24 at Shapeshifter Lab

The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra kicks off its fall season on Wednesday, September 24 at 7pm at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn with the 75th performance since its inception in 2011. The KBIO is an orchestra of 30 or more professional string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists who turn improvisational ideas developed in the open workshop/rehearsals at 7:00 pm into fully formed performances that begin at 8:15.

The KBIO Orchestra Fall Schedule:

  • Wednesday, Sep 24, 7pm at Shapeshifter Lab (75th KBIO performance)
  • Saturday, Oct 4, 7:30pm at El Taller (final concert there)
  • Thursday, Oct 9, 7pm at Shapeshifter Lab
  • Thursday, Nov 20, 7pm at Shapeshifter Lab

Shapeshifter Lab,, is at 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215, (646) 820-9452.

Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed at the legendary Creative Music Studio, the Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra of extraordinary improvisers explores original compositions by Karl Berger as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions, and themes written by visionaries such as Don Cherry or Ornette Coleman, as well as musical ideas that arise spontaneously in solo/duo/trio improvisations by the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s uncanny vocalizations and poetry.

The growing roster of KBIO musicians include: percussionists Warren Smith, Joe Hertenstein, Lou Grassi, John Pietaro, Hollis Headrick;  bassists Ken Filiano, Max Johnson, Adam Lane, James Liam Annett; cellist Tomas Ulrich;  violists Judith Insell, Chern Hwei Fung, Jason Hwang;  violinists Frederica Krier, Sana Nagano;  trumpeters Thomas Heberer, Brian Groder, Steven Bernstein;  trombonist Westbrook Johnson; euphonium Yasuno Katsuki; shakuhachi flute Ken Ya Kawaguchi; flutes Sylvain Leroux, Yukari Watanabe; piccolo flute, baritone sax Bill Ylitalo; clarinets Blaise Siwula, Jason Candler, Miguel Malla; bass clarinet Michael Lytle, Josh Sinton; oboe Ed Rollins; bassoon Sara Schoenbeck; soprano sax Catherine Sikora, Avram Fever; alto sax, Welf Dorr, Patrick Brennan, Mercedes Figueras; tenor sax Peter Apfelbaum, James Brendon Lewis, Ras Moshe, Yoni Kretschmer;  baritone sax Sean Sonderegger; guitar Harvey Valdes, Kenny Wessel; mandolin John Ehlis; voice Thomas Buckner, Ingrid Sertso; and keyboards  Karl Berger.

KBIO performances benefit the Creative Music Studio Archive Project, preserving, digitizing and re-mastering over 400 historic CMS concert recordings from the 1970s and 80s. Some artists heard in these recordings include: Dave Holland, Don Cherry, Jimmy Giuffre, Wadada Leo Smith, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, George Lewis, Carla Bley, Nana Vasconcelos, Trilok Gurtu, Collin Walcott, Kalaparusha, Oliver Lake, Ismet Siral, Ed Blackwell, and Cecil Taylor. The CMS Archive is being housed for posterity at Columbia University Library and has received support from the Grammy Foundation.

News and Events


Creative Music Studio Workshop – Spring 2016

Featured Video

Karl Berger’s Stone Workshop Orchestra

CMS Opens Workshop Concerts To The Public — Four Concerts September 29 – October 2 Offer Intimate Setting to Hear Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Indian Music Masters and More

Over a dozen world-class musicians taking part in the Creative Music Studio’s Fall Workshop, including multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich, drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, and Indian music masters Steve Gorn and Badal Roy, are participating in four concerts Monday, September 29 through Thursday, October 2 at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. The concerts start each night at 8:30 pm in The Roadhouse, an intimate setting to see artists who often play large concert halls that seat thousands.  A donation of $20 to CMS is required at the door.  Seating in the Roadhouse is limited.

 Guiding Artists at the CMS Workshop will join CMS co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, in concerts that will also feature musician/educators Warren Smith,  Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Ken Filiano and more.

The CMS Fall Workshop concert line up is expected to be:

Monday, September 29: Karl Berger (piano, vibes), Ingrid Sertso (voice), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Warren Smith (drums), and Ken Filiano (bass).

Tuesday, September 30: John Hollenbeck (drums), Steve Gorn (Indian flutes), Badal Roy (tabla), Kenny Wessel (guitar), Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Kirk Knuffke, Warren Smith, and Ken Filiano.

Wednesday, October 1: Marty Ehrlich (reeds), Ken Filiano, Omar Tamez (guitar), John Hollenbeck, Steve Gorn, Badal Roy, Kenny Wessel, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, and Kirk Knuffke.

Thursday, October 2: Marty Ehrlich,  Ken Filiano, Omar Tamez,  John Hollenbeck, Badal Roy, Kenny Wessel , Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, and Kirk Knuffke.

Directions or information about the Full Moon Resort is available at or by calling 845.254.5117. More information about the Creative Music
Studio’s Fall Workshop is available at:

Like CMS workshops held at the Full Moon Resort in 2013, the Creative Music Studio’s Fall Workshop will feature four days of intensive workshops, master classes, concerts and informal jam sessions that inspire deep listening, personal expression, improvisation and musical exploration. Musicians of any instrument, including voice, are welcome as are non-musicians.  Adults who played music earlier in their lives can benefit from this lifelong learning opportunity that offers participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from and play with music masters, and to simply spend time with them in an informal, personal setting.

CMS Meets Kickstarter Goal; Project Still Needs $2,000 To Finish

CMS’s Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign raised $4,130 and reached its minimum goal but falling about $2,000 short of what’s needed to complete restoring, preserving, digitizing and re-mastering concert recordings from the CMS Archive. Though the Kickstarter campaign has ended, you can still make tax-deductible donations by visiting the Support section of this site.

The Kickstarter campaign aimed to raise $6,240 to finish preserving, restoring, digitizing and re-mastering recordings of over 400 concerts that took place at the Creative Music Studio between 1973 and 1984.  In 2012 and 2013, CMF fundraised and successfully completed preserving 300 tapes. In the past year, it has raised $22,000 from the Grammy Foundation and other sources to preserve 74 of the remaining 100 tapes.

Some of the artists in the CMS Archive include: Jimmy Giuffre, Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry, Oliver Lake, Olu Dara, Colin Walcott, John Cage, Lee Konitz, Frederic Rzewski, Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor, as well as CMF co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, among hundreds of others. The tapes of these concerts are old and brittle; some are no longer playable. It’s a race against time to save these tapes before they deteriorate. The sooner CMF can digitize and re-master them, the lower the risk of losing this historically and musically important archive will be minimized.

The CMS Archive Project has three goals: 1) to restore, preserve and digitize the tapes for posterity; 2) to return the re-mastered versions to the musicians who made them, free of charge; and 3) to share the music with fans, musicians and scholars around the world by producing a series of 3-CD box sets, the Creative Music Studio Archive Selections Series, which is being packaged and distributed by the American Composers Forum/Innova Recordings.

Please help us by generously supporting the CMS Archive Project. Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

September 29, 2014

With autumn colors blazing the hills that cradle Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY, the CMS Fall 2014 Workshop began auspiciously. As usual, CMS co-founder Karl Berger opened the session, explaining the origins of CMS and talking about the need for creative space is greater than ever. “Who would have thought my Improvisers Orchestra would play more than a few times? Last week we played our 75th concert in three years,” he said. “That demonstrates the need for a community of musicians to come together and play; that’s what we’re doing here at CMS workshops.’  After each person introduced themselves, a cocktail party and a delicious dinner, there was performance featuring Karl on piano and vibes, Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Ken Filiano (bass), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Harvey Sorgen (drums) and Omar Tamez (guitar). Often as bright as the spectacular autumnal trees, the music resounded in the room and echoed throughout the hills in the quiet early fall night, offering a wonderful warm up for the week to come.


Tuesday, September 30:

As is customary at all CMS workshops, the day started out with Basic Practice.  Body Awareness, lead by Savia Berger, awakened the body, getting it ready for a day of music making.  As a dancer and Pilates instructor, Savia knows a thing or two about bodies.  Following her, Ingrid Sertso took the group through vocal exercises, emphasizing ‘your natural voice; don’t try to sing.’ Karl Berger was next, introducing the group to the CMS’s rhythm practice, the gamalataki system, by explaining that all the world’s rhythms are additive and can be organized in twos and threes, taki’s and gamalas.  He took the group through the practice, sometimes tossing in koans such as, “Singing and voice is a tool to connect with your spontaneous mind;’ ‘Every sound contains every other sound;’ “What you don’t play is more important than what you play – the silences leave room for the listener;’ ‘Thinking is too slow for music.’ And so on in Karl’s impish style.

This CMS Workshop features a new format: basic practice in the morning followed by a 90 minute session with the day’s Guiding Artist, and after lunch another two and a half hour session with the same artist. Today’s special artist was drummer/composer John Hollenbeck.  John realized the group was ready to play and got right into it, taking them through a variety of exercises designed to introduce them musically to each other, encouraging them to keenly listen to each other. “Try to listen to the group, not yourself. What you play will be more beautiful.”  He took them through another exercise designed for rhythmic precision and concentration. “Concentration goes right into your sound. Think about Miles or Coltrane. Think about your sound, get close to finding a sound you like.” John shared a story about rehearsing with a band, not really concentrating, and going off and staring at his hands, wondering about the invention of cymbals, basically talking to himself and not really playing or listening. “These were all interesting things for my mind, just not for that moment in performance,” he said to laughs. He had to learn how to practice so he could be fully ready to perform. “My mind loves getting in the way. I had to find a way to practice mindfully, to be more engaged.” He shared some of those practices with the group and then it was time for a well-deserved lunch.

After another great meal, John got the group together, teaching them an unrecorded tune, ‘Forced Empathy,’ by having them sing it first, something Karl discussed in the morning session relating to teaching Indian classical music. Based on a rhythm John demonstrated on his drums, it’s an exercise in precision and discipline. Just as the group was catching on, he tripled the time, making economy and precision even more critical.  As the participants began to play the tune on their instruments, John said, “How can you find your place in this sonic palette? By playing your sound, your voice, your timbre, your range. Be distinct.”  The music builds additively, with different participants joining in one at a time, playing off each other’s phrases, interweaving them behind individual improvisations.  “It’s exciting for me as a listener when I don’t know what’s going to happen next.’

John provided a perfect foundation for the first of three Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra workshops.  As always, he explains: “Play the whole group, the whole orchestra, feel the sound and stay with it. Play what you feel.”  And, “You can harmonize any sound with dynamics and pitch, tuning.”  After taking the group through a few of these harmonizing exercises, he taught them a Turkish tune. “I want you to learn it by heart because that way it’s in your heart and not on paper.” The rest of the 90 minute workshop was spent playing the tune, playing the orchestra, a thrilling first time experience for many of the participants.

The ‘listen to the sound disappearing’ meditation ended the day. “We usually hear sounds coming at us, rarely sounds disappearing,” said Karl.

The evening’s performance was truly history making, with many of the Guiding Artists playing together for the first time: John Hollenbeck, Kirk Knuffke, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Ken Filiano, Kenny Wessel, Omar Tamez and tabla player, Badal Roy.  After a stunning set that sounded  like an acoustic version of electric Miles Davis, Kirk dropped out and was replaced by Steve Gorn, giving the group a very different feel.  Musically, it was a concert reminiscent of the old CMS with a real world music groove and feel.  And, as in the past, we’re sure some new musical bonds and partnerships were formed.

After the performance, the participants were too worn out, too exhausted to jam, hoping to rest up enough for another day.

On a personal note, I want to share a funny story. At dinner, John, Kirk and I were discussing music and not surprisingly Sun Ra came up.  I shared with them a story of donning a suit and crashing  someone’s wedding 20+ years ago where the Arkestra was the band, recalling a half hour long ‘Hava Nagila.’  John wanted to know whose wedding it was and since I didn’t know I emailed the friend I crashed with.  Later, just before the evening performance I was having a conversation with one of the participants, Bob Bresnan, and again Sun Ra came up. I told him about seeing the Arkestra on one of those ‘booze cruises’ around Manhattan and he said he could top that: “I got the Arkestra to play at my wedding!” I nearly fell down, “I crashed your wedding!.” Later I checked my email and my friend wrote back, “Robert Bresnan.”  Coincidence?

Wednesday October 1:

A rainy day has not clouded over the workshop. After a night of splendid music participants were eager to get going, immersing themselves in the CMS basic practice: body awareness; vocal training; and rhythm training. “You can’t rely on the drummer to keep time,” warned Karl. “We all need to play from our own sense of time, feel our time.”

The workshop with Indian music masters Badal Roy and Steve Gorn followed.  Before teaching the group to sing Indian scales, Steve gave some introductory remarks. “The universe hangs on sound,” as he’s said many times. “Our job is to make the right sound, in the right place, at the right time.”  He went on to explain a Japanese teaching about music and art integrating and synchronizing a human being. And, when that person plays with another, they synchronize each other.  And, ultimately in the larger sense, it can synchronize everyone with the planet and  the land. “Every note we play can awaken that connection,” he intones.

As he started to teach the morning raga, Steve encouraged the group: “Your own voice is your best voice. Participation is more important than virtuosity.”  He turned on a digital drone machine, making the traditional tambur sound, and through call and response lead the group for thirty minutes singing a lovely morning raga.  “The drone gives us the bottom, let’s us settle in and relax, helps us listen better. Its resonating helps us find the pitches to play or sing.”  This was followed with Badal giving a demonstration on the tabla, showing its syllables and language.

The afternoon session was a deep dive into Rag Yamin. As is traditional, Steve taught the scales and the rag by asking everyone to sing it, slowly adding new phrases, working the group over and over. “The ragas are like anchors, helping you improvise by providing continuity and form,” prodded Gorn. “There are three facets to them: on the outer level is its name and scale; the inner level is the melodic contours and grammar; and the third facet – the secret part – offers information on intonation, tuning and timing that moves you in mysterious ways.”

After playing the rag together and really working it, Steve and Badal invited Kenny Wessel to discuss how takes the melodic information from ragas and uses them harmonically as a soloist and an accompanist.  He discussed how the rags helped him think of music ‘in shapes that have their own internal logic’ and offered, “Because they’re not concerned with harmony, ragas have very rich melodic and rhythmic content.”  He demonstrated the ways that Indian music is about ‘embellishment, shapes, colors, sliding notes and ornamentation,” and talked about using it systematically to work this language into his practice, and ultimately in performance. Steve (on soprano sax) and Kenny played a duet that twisted and varied the raga, again showing the participants all the ways they could employ this musical language.

Karl started the Improvisers Orchestra by discussing overtone scales and a way blue notes may have originated.  Realizing the participants were eager to put down pens and pick up instruments, Karl introduced them to a few tunes that they played together. As is usual after a couple of days at the workshop, the group came together faster, played together more fluidly, and began to speak a shared musical language.

  After a sumptuous meal, we were treated to another history-making concert, again featuring artists who hadn’t played together before.  It started small and quiet and built from there. Badal and Steve played a duet, less classical Indian music and looser than a traditional raga form, and added Kenny Wessel, who picked up from his remarks in the workshop and played his guitar more like a sitar, sliding and bending notes in Indian scales. Omar Tamez and Ken Filiano joined next, with Omar adding textures with his guitar, using it as a percussion instrument and Ken employing some of the raga scales learned earlier in the day. Steve switched from Indian flutes to soprano sax and invited tomorrow’s Guiding Artist, Marty Ehrlich, to join. Sitting on the stage at first, Marty’s clarinet, playing something between Indian and eastern European scales, complemented Steve’s sax, entwining, playing off each other. Karl, Ingrid, Kirk and John Hollenbeck were added, creating a swirling, tense and intense sound. It was an honor to be in the Roadhouse hearing such wonderful music.

After the main performance Kirk led the participants through a ‘Conduction,’ the Butch Morris method of improvisational conducting that Kirk taught in a workshop last year.  It took a while for the group to get it but once they did, Kirk dropped out and the group conducted itself, featuring beautiful ensemble and solo playing and vocals. It ended on a vamp with CMS alum Bill Ylytalo introducing members of the band – and just about everyone else in the Roadhouse – with an uproarious schtick appropriately reminiscent of borscht belt Catskills stand up comedy. A fitting end to a long day.


Thursday, October 2:

In this Fall 2014 workshop, many of the participants have expressed great satisfaction with the morning movement/body awareness  and vocal classes, with several saying it’s already had profound changes in their music:  how they breathe, how they hold their instrument, how they ‘sing’ through it.  A highlight for many is singing with Ingrid Sertso, finding new freedom in voice and breath.

As is typical, Karl led the morning rhythm class, playfully interjecting koans such as:  “ There are no downbeats, just upbeats;’ ‘In music we lose self consciousness and join as one mind;’ Beat for beat attention is a practice’ and ‘Every note we play is an offering to the world.’ These pepper the gamalataki training. “We do the inspirational part in class but then it’s time to get to work, and practice mindfully.”  He went on to describe how and when people can practice rhythm: walking down the road in fives; listening to the car window wipers in seven, etc.  It was a way to bring the theoretical back to daily practice anyone can do anywhere anytime.

Marty Ehrlich discussed his concept of ‘comprovisation,’ composed improvisation not dissimilar to what Karl does with the Improvisers Orchestra or what Butch Morris did.  He explained using a tune he composed based on west African rhythms, “Agbeka,” working the group through it many times, in many variations. Ken Filiano and John Hollenbeck joined in, too. “When you come in listen, breathe, be open.  Think about using contrast as an expressive device. Think about dynamics.  Think then play, just don’t think too much,” he suggested, continuing, “It’s always about emotion and also about the mind; listen to the totality of what’s going on musically.”

After some more playing and wonderful stories about growing up in St. Louis and getting involved with the Black Artists Group and Julius Hemphill, Marty shared, “Being a collective improviser is different than being a soloist. As Albert Ayler said, ‘It’s not about the notes but the feelings.’” He went on to demonstrate this, using the orchestra as a backdrop to his soloing.

Marty shared a hilarious story about Anthony Braxton encouraging his group to ‘bring the audience into the music by playing softly,’ only to see this theory fail miserably before a very loud party at a front table at a club where they were playing. Braxton tried to coax them in with soft notes, eventually giving it up, rolling out his mammoth contrabass clarinet, and literally blowing away the loud party of non-listeners. Still, he remembered Braxton’s advice: “Remember to play the softer softs.”  He also discussed the importance of creating space around notes, a theme continually echoed by CMS Guiding Artists.

Marty took the group through more of his compositions, deciding to stitch them together to create a suite of music for the orchestra to perform in concert tonight. One of the tunes is based on eastern European Jewish modes. He said it was influenced by a long out of print book, “Harmonizing the Jewish Modes,” that was particularly influential to John Coltrane.  “In liturgical music – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, it doesn’t matter – solos are like preaching. Think of music as words; get a narrative going,” he said, talking about his time playing gospel infused music with Julius Hemphill.  “Ultimately, making music is about imitating the human voice on our instrument, our voice.” At the end of the Jewish piece, he got the orchestra to shout a hearty, “Oy.”

Karl’s last Improvisers Orchestra session picked up just where Marty left off: talking about music as language, sounds as ‘words’ and the importance of silence to help make the sounds and voicings distinct.  Here’s just a few more koans:  “Silence around the notes is as important as the sounds;” “Let’s play the silence and think of the sounds as frames;” “Make meaningful silence to create balance;” “Music needs space in which to travel.  It communicates through space around notes;” and finally, “ Like any language music only works with pauses between words and sounds.” He took the orchestra through some round-robin type exercises, not unlike Marty’s, to help them find space between notes and become more sensitive to silence. And, when the Orchestra started playing a recent KB composition, “Omi Theme,” the sense of spaciousness and fluidity grew. The participants had really learned that playing the silence is just as important as the sounds, which would be music to the ears of one of the Creative Music Foundation’s original board members: John Cage.

This evening’s concert was another history-making event, with premieres of a trio, quartet and orchestra. The night opened with a trio of Marty, John Hollenbeck and Ken Filiano who played daring, driving music. Other than this week, Ken and John hadn’t played together since working on a puppet show at LaMama in the late 1990s; Marty and John had never played together; John and Karl had never played together. Tonight they all did. Karl turned the trio into a quartet and the music went in a different and much quieter direction. After a brief pause, we were treated to the world premiere of the Marty Ehrlich CMS Orchestra.  Conducted by Marty who also composed all the tunes, the group played what it worked on in the workshop and everything gelled. Space between notes and players; deft uses of dynamics and silences; ear opening improvisations…everything they had been working on all week culminating in a gorgeous set of music. Kart whispered, “I think we’re making an album here tonight.’ Hopefully all the technology worked and our recording engineer, Max Siegel, found the sound.

It was another special, thrilling, deeply immersive week of music here in the Western Catskills still ablaze with fall colors. Thanks to our wonderful group of generous Guiding Artists; Amy Carpenter and everyone at Full Moon, especially the chefs; our tireless videographer Don Mount; Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso for their vision, inspiration and wisdom.

Rob Saffer, Executive Director, Creative Music Foundation



Testimonials from CMS Fall 2014 Participants:

“CMS always gives a chance to see what is old in a new light. It’s kind of like a spiral going upward, returning to familiar places over and over, but at an ever higher level, a higher perspective.”

“It is an environment in which the process of opening one’s self up and allowing the music to come out is paramount. The process of getting out of one’s own way—removing or negating fears, doubts, bad habits, and plain-old thinking—is the greatest education.”

“I loved all of the workshops. But the number-one thing for me is to be in an environment where my sole purpose is to play music. The little bits of impromptu sessions before and after the workshops are great.”

“CMS provides an environment in which anyone can discover whatever music is within and discover the thoroughly natural process of letting it come out.”

“The bottom line is, I really don’t know how it could have been better. It just felt perfect to me. I just would have liked more. I am deeply grateful to all who are responsible for keeping CMS alive.”

“I learned how to listen better and how to listen for the music instead of my ego trying to make something happen.  At the Jamey Aebersold camp, I had a lot of people telling me things like, “You can’t play those voicings, play it this way, etc.”   I left this workshop inspired to play and inspired to trust the music instead of listening to criticism from the jazz police.  It was the best musical experience I have had.  I learned a lot on an emotional level, not just an intellectual level, which is difficult to put into words.  So it’s hard to say more.”


“I thought the most recent workshop was outstanding, and I whole-heartedly endorse the new format of having fewer guiding artists and getting more time with them.  John’s and Marty’s sessions were particularly good, and I loved having the opportunity to work with them on some of their compositions.   I also got a lot out of the day with Steve and Badal (esp. the time Kenny Wessel spent giving practical tips on how to adapt and incorporate some of the concepts Steve and Badal had been discussing).  It was also great having Kenny, Kirk, Ken and Omar around to participate in the performances and help with the workshops.  And, as always, the Improvisers Orchestra sessions were outstanding and the morning sessions with Karl, Ingrid and Savia were excellent.  Things really seemed to be firing on all cylinders this time.”

“I learned to trust my musical instincts more.”

“I loved seeing how great musicians approach new music,  and playing alongside them is very educational.”

“You create a welcoming tone for us. You (the CMS folks) and the other guiding artists are open and available. I never am made to feel “one step down.” You attract fine musicians as teachers who are also fine human beings.

“I learned the value of listening in collaborative composition, a most wonderful experience, all around.”

“I loved it all.  I was really pleasantly surprised by the whole event.  The location was beautiful and the food was great.  All of the artists were great.  It was great to be able to have informal conversations with them at meals.  The other participants were all great. Karl an Ingrid were absolutely wonderful.”

“I can’t wait for the Spring 2105 session!”

“I loved the workshop where the guiding artist introduced that odd rhythm, and then little by little, it came together. Rules were presented, and then we were free to break them.”

“I got a deeper look at the odd meter stuff that I seldom come across.”

“The vibe was probably the best thing. It always felt positive.”

“It’s a workshop where you get to learn from some really amazing musicians in a really beautiful environment along with like-minded people that you get to know, all with a really positive/engaging vibe. Zero competitiveness among participants. It was an amazing learning experience. Thanks for everything!”

“I learned to think in terms of the whole ensemble as a unit.  I enjoyed the enthusiasm of all the participants, as well as the instructors.”

CMS Premieres Music from the CMS Archive Project; Open Studio Listening Session at 4pm on Sunday, November 23

The Creative Music Studio will host an ‘Open Studio’ Listening Session where music from its archive of over 550 rare concert recordings made in Woodstock in the 1970s and 1980s will be played. A Q&A with CMS co-founder and artistic director, Karl Berger, will follow and light refreshments will be served. The Open Studio Listening Session, Sunday, November 23 from 4:00 – 5:30pm is free and open to the public. It will take place at CMS’s studio in Woodstock. Seats are limited and an RSVP is required. Call 845-679-8847 or email

Some of the artists in the CMS Archive include: Woodstock’s Marilyn Crispell and Dave Holland Jimmy Giuffre, Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry, Oliver Lake, Olu Dara, Colin Walcott, John Cage, Lee Konitz, Frederic Rzewski, Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor, as well as CMF co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.

The Creative Music Foundation has partnered with Columbia University’s Library to preserve the CMS Archive for posterity. CMS is giving Columbia the full archive of recorded tapes, along with memorabilia and photographs from CMS. The digitized, re-mastered recordings will be available at the Columbia University Library for scholars or others who want to enjoy and learn from them.  A prestigious grant from the Grammy Foundation also supported the restoration and preservation of the CMS Archive Project.

As part of its nonprofit mission, CMF is offering Guiding Artists who made these rare recordings a digitized version for their unrestricted use free-of-charge.  At the discretion of the Guiding Artists, selections of the re-mastered, digitized recordings will be made available in CD compilations to help raise money for the Creative Music Foundation and its music education programs. CMF is partnering with American Composers Forum and its Innova recording label to release these compilation recordings. Each volume will feature three compact discs full of rare recordings divided into small ensemble, orchestral and world music performances. The first edition went on sale in spring 2014 and is available on iTunes and

More information about the CMS Archive Project can be found at:

CMS and Karl Berger Recordings Reviewed

Downbeat Magazine (December 2014) reviewed the first recordings from the CMS Archive, CMS Archive Selections Vol. 1 (Innova).

Read the PDF here

And, Karl Berger’s recent trio CD, “Gently Unfamiliar” (Tzadik) and his duets with Ivo Perelman, “Reverie” (Leo), were reviewed in the November, 2014 issue of the NYC Jazz Record.

The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra Performs Its 78th Concert! — Thursday, November 20 at The Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, NY

The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra continues its fall season on Thursday, November 20, at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn with the 78th performance since its inception in 2011. The KBIO is an orchestra of 30 or more professional string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists who turn improvisational ideas developed in the open workshop/rehearsals at 7:00 pm into fully formed performances that begin at 8:15.

Shapeshifter Lab,, is at 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215, (646) 820-9452.

Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed at the legendary Creative Music Studio, the Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra of extraordinary improvisers explores original compositions by Karl Berger as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions, and themes written by visionaries such as Don Cherry or Ornette Coleman, as well as musical ideas that arise spontaneously in solo/duo/trio improvisations by the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s uncanny vocalizations and poetry.

The growing roster of KBIO musicians include: percussionists Warren Smith, Joe Hertenstein, Lou Grassi, John Pietaro, Hollis Headrick;  bassists Ken Filiano, Max Johnson, Adam Lane, James Liam Annett; cellist Tomas Ulrich;  violists Judith Insell, Chern Hwei Fung, Jason Hwang;  violinists Frederica Krier, Sana Nagano;  trumpeters Thomas Heberer, Brian Groder, Steven Bernstein;  trombonist Westbrook Johnson; euphonium Yasuno Katsuki; shakuhachi flute Ken Ya Kawaguchi; flutes Sylvain Leroux, Yukari Watanabe; piccolo flute, baritone sax Bill Ylitalo; clarinets Blaise Siwula, Jason Candler, Miguel Malla; bass clarinet Michael Lytle, Josh Sinton; oboe Ed Rollins; bassoon Sara Schoenbeck; soprano sax Catherine Sikora, Avram Fever; alto sax, Welf Dorr, Patrick Brennan, Mercedes Figueras; tenor sax Peter Apfelbaum, James Brendon Lewis, Ras Moshe, Yoni Kretschmer;  baritone sax Sean Sonderegger; guitar Harvey Valdes, Kenny Wessel; mandolin John Ehlis; voice Thomas Buckner, Ingrid Sertso; and keyboards  Karl Berger.

KBIO performances benefit the Creative Music Studio Archive Project, preserving, digitizing and re-mastering over 400 historic CMS concert recordings from the 1970s and 80s. Some artists heard in these recordings include: Dave Holland, Don Cherry, Jimmy Giuffre, Wadada Leo Smith, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, George Lewis, Carla Bley, Nana Vasconcelos, Trilok Gurtu, Collin Walcott, Kalaparusha, Oliver Lake, Ismet Siral, Ed Blackwell, and Cecil Taylor. The CMS Archive is being housed for posterity at Columbia University Library and has received support from the Grammy Foundation.

Karl Berger’s new trio album, “Gently Unfamiliar” is now available in the new Spectrum Series of John Zorn’s Tzadik label. On Friday, November 21, the trio, featuring Harvey Sorgen on drums and Joe Fonda on bass, will play music from this CD release at the Community Music School, 127 State Street, in Springfield, MA. The concert begins at 7:30 PM.

After celebrated festival appearances in Europe, the Karl Berger Project “In the Spirit of Don Cherry”, featuring Steven Bernstein, tp, Peter Apfelbaum ts, Mark Helias, bass, Tani Tabbal, drums, Ingrid Sertso, vocals and Karl Berger, piano/vibes will perform on Sunday, January 4, at The Falcon, Malboro, NY. This exciting project features Don Cherry Compositions and originals “in the spirit of DC”.

More information is available at

Autographed Ornette Coleman Photo Fundraising Campaign

To help incentivize year-end, tax-deductible donations to the nonprofit Creative Music Foundation, Elliott Landy, the world famous photographer and long-time Creative Music Foundation supporter, has generously donated six,limited-edition,  signed and numbered prints of this celebrated photo, taken with infrared film, of Ornette and Denardo Coleman in 1969. Both Ornette and Elliott have signed them! These six, 17”x22” artist-quality photographs will be given to supporters for donations of $1,500 or more.

© Elliott Landy

2014 was another momentous year for the Creative Music Foundation.  We created and produced an enormous body of work that received attention worldwide. In addition to attracting the finest Guiding Artists such as Joe Lovano, Henry Threadgill and Marty Ehrlich, musicians from South and Central America, Europe and Asia participated in CMF workshops, recordings and performances.

The list of accomplishments is long and impressive.  Rather than telling you more ourselves, we thought it best to let others speak for us to demonstrate the value of our work and educational programs.

The two well-attended workshop intensives we conducted in spring and fall featured nearly two-dozen Guiding Artists from Brooklyn to India.  The impact these workshops have is powerful. One participant wrote, This workshop should be a prerequisite before entering the real world of performing.  My gratitude runneth over.  I have my own band and they noticed a significant change in my playing and leadership.”  Another wrote: “I left this workshop inspired to play and inspired to trust the music instead of listening to criticism from the jazz police.  It was the best musical experience I have had. I learned a lot on an emotional level, too.”

Of the CMS Archive Project, one of the nation’s leading music archivists said: “This archive is a unique collection that documents cross-cultural musical expression, as well as creative improvised and composed music, and it includes many of the most important names in that era. It’s imperative that the collection be properly preserved so that scholars, musicians and academics might have access and use it for educational and other purposes. This collection will contribute to our understanding of late 20th century musical streams, and I hope it will be available to inspire musicians in this century as well.”   It’s for these reasons that the Grammy Foundation and Columbia University are enthusiastically supporting the CMS Archive Project, not to mention the scores of supporters of CMF crowd-sourcing fundraising campaigns.

The first edition of the CMS Archive Series CD set was released this year on Innova Recordings.  The recordings received lots of radio airplay and critical reviews worldwide, including one in Downbeat Magazine that summarized, ‘There is a lot to take in on these three varied CDs, but what is consistent throughout is the relaxed yet committed exchange between the musicians and between the musicians and the students.”

While our workshops prepare musicians for future artistic growth and the archival projects document CMF’s legacy, ongoing concerts led by the Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra continue to set the standard for today’s new music. Ben Ratliff in the New York Times wrote in 2014 that the Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra is an ‘incubator of jazz improvisation’ and that ‘Mr. Berger worked rigorously to get a realized ensemble sound and numerous solos or duets out of a band that included two basses, two violins and a viola; an oboe; two soprano saxophones; two bass clarinets; a mandolin; and a laptop.” It’s for these reasons and others that the KBIO has thrilled audiences with 78 performances since 2011.

None of this could have been done without your support. One-third of the workshop participants were on full or partial scholarships. The CMS Archive Project received critical funding to continue restoration, digitization and preservation activities. And, all the musicians in the Improvisers Orchestra donate their time, helping raise funds for CMF.

It’s clear: our work is indispensible in this era where great musicians are graduating universities and conservatories but need a place to develop their own unique voice in their compositions and improvisations.  We accomplished all this without any major financial support.  Thankfully, we’ve been graced by volunteers who work mightily to get everything done: webmasters, producers, sound engineers, orchestra musicians, and video editors.  Even our executive staff has generously donated thousands of hours to further the Creative Music Foundation’s mission and vision.

2105 is already shaping up to be another historically and musically important year for CMF. We’re planning the next workshops and CD releases, and are working with Columbia and the Grammy Foundation on more preservation projects.  But we cannot do this without increasing our operating budget and financial support. That’s where you come in. Please help us continue to reinvigorate the Creative Music Foundation and its Creative Music Studio programs. Please consider making a year-end tax-deductible donation to the Creative Music Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.  As always, you can securely donate online via the link below, or simply send a check to Creative Music Foundation, PO Box 671, Woodstock, NY 12498. And, for any contribution of $50 or more, we’ll send you an autographed copy of the CMS Archive Series CD set (just ask for it!).   And, if you’re feeling generous, don’t forget the limited edition, signed copy of the Ornette Coleman photo by Elliott Landy.

With your contribution, we can offer additional workshop scholarships, continue to preserve the CMS Archive, and perform thrilling orchestral concerts in 2015, all of which will reach more people with more music.

Thank you.

Karl Berger                        Rob Saffer

Amir ElSaffar, Steven Bernstein, Warren Smith and CMS Co-Founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso To Lead Spring 2015 Workshop, June 8-12

Register Now!

Daily Schedule

Guiding Artist Biographies

About Full Moon Resort


Pricing and Registration

* Directions/Transportation

Composer/multi-intrumentalist/vocalist and educator Amir ElSaffar, composer/trumpeter/bandleader and CMS veteran Steven Bernstein, and percussion master Warren Smith join Creative Music Studio Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS Spring 2015 Workshop intensive, June 8 – 12, at the ear-inspiring Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY.  The CMS Fall 2015 Workshop is scheduled for October 5-9 featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy Martin and Peter Apfelbaum.

Based on feedback from past workshops, CMS’s Spring 2015 Workshop will feature a new format designed to create more opportunities for participants and Guiding Artists to interact directly, formally and informally.  CMS tested this format in Fall 2014 and received excellent feedback from participants. This workshop, during long spring days and nights, features one Guiding Artist(s) working with participants in two workshops each day versus past CMS workshops that offered multiple workshops with three or more Guiding Artists each day. As in the past, there will be daily CMS basic practice (body movement, breath work, rhythm and vocal training), as well as 90 minutes each day with Karl Berger leading an orchestra of improvisers.   Additional Guiding Artists will be on hand to work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily.  These will be named soon.

“Surveys with workshop participants provide the insights we need to continually tweak the workshop format,” said Rob Saffer, Creative Music Foundation’s executive director.   “We heard that both participants and Guiding Artists wanted to work more deeply. By simplifying the format, we gave artists and participants a better chance to get to know each in both formal workshop settings and more intimate informal settings such as meals.”

CMS Workshop Guiding Artists in 2013 and 2104 included: Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Apfelbaum, Tony Malaby, Cyro Baptista, Marilyn Crispell, Steven Bernstein, Jason Hwang, Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Steve Gorn, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Thomas Buckner, Judi Silvano, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Ken Filiano, Badal Roy, Omar Tamez, and John Menegon, in addition to Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.

CMS Workshops feature four days of intensive workshops, master classes, intimate concerts and informal jam sessions that inspire active listening, personal expression, improvisation and musical exploration. Musicians of any instrument, including voice, are welcome as are non-musicians.  Adults who played music earlier in their lives can benefit from this lifelong learning opportunity that offers participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from and play with music masters, and to simply spend time with them in an informal, personal setting.   The non-traditional atmosphere of the Creative Music Studio Workshop encourages participants to experiment, push beyond limits, genres and categories, to take risks, and to develop their own deeply personal musical expression.

“All our workshops have a different feel,” said Karl Berger, CMF’s artistic director. “This workshop promises to be both conceptual and practical. These artists are great alchemists and at the same time, will offer insights into the art and craft of making original, creative music.”

A recap of all CMS Workshops, along with highlight videos, is at:

A typical day at the CMS Workshop is:

8:00 – 9:30                   Breakfast

9:30 – 10:00                 Body Awareness

10:15 – 11:00             Rhythm/Voice Awareness, including GaMaLa Taki rhythm practice

11:30 – 1:00                 Master Class/Workshop

1:00 – 2:15                   Lunch

2:30 – 5:00                   All Instruments Workshop

5:15 – 6:30                   Improvisers Orchestra

6:30 – 7:00                   Listening Meditation

7:00 – 8:15                   Dinner

8:30 – 10:00                 Concert with Guiding Artists

10:00 – ?                       Participant concerts and jams, unscheduled sessions

Late night consists of playing music, unscheduled sessions, conversations, bonfires, or simply stargazing at Full Moon’s gorgeous location in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, with the historic Esopus Creek running through the expansive property.

CMS’s parent nonprofit, the Creative Music Foundation, is fundraising in order to offer full and partial scholarships for the workshop. For more information and online registration, please call the Full Moon Resort, 845-254-8009, email:, or click this link to register:

Register Now!

Full Moon contact info:

Telephone: 845-254-8009
 Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (EST)


Daily Schedule (subject to improvisation)

Monday, June 8

  • Opening orientation in the main building, hosted by Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and other Guiding Artists
  • Introducing featured artists and any special guests
  • Brief review of daily workshops, activities, performances
  • Meet and Greet on Front Lawn with Open Bar and Hors D’Oeuvres
  • Dinner
  • Opening night performance in the “Roadhouse” performance space
  • Late night jams among participants  


Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, June 9 -11

8:00 – 9:30                      Breakfast

9:30 – 10:00                    Body Awareness

10:15 – 11:00             Rhythm/Voice Awareness, including GaMaLa Taki rhythm  practice

11:30 – 1:00                    Master Class/Workshop

1:00 – 2:15                      Lunch

2:30 – 5:00                      All Instruments Workshop

5:15 – 6:30                      Improvisers Orchestra

6:30 – 7:00                      Listening Meditation

7:00 – 8:15                      Dinner

8:30 – 10:00                    Concert with Guiding Artists

10:00 – ?                          Participant concerts and jams, unscheduled sessions


Friday, June 12

  • Breakfast
  • Farewell and Departure

(return to top ^ )

Register Now!


Guiding Artist Biographies: 

Amir ElSaffar, trumpet, composer, vocalist, santur 

Trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar has distinguished himself with a mastery of diverse musical traditions and a singular approach to combining Middle Eastern musical langauges with jazz and other styles of contemporary music. A recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artists Award, ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music without doing either harm,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune).

ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the microtones found in maqam music to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody. Described as “an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble,” (All About Jazz), ElSaffar is an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making.

His recent Quintet release, Alchemy (2013, Pi Recordings), received significant acclaim, including from veteran jazz writer Howard Mandel, who dubbed ElSaffar an “exquisite alchemist,” noting his ability to surmount the difficulties of bringing jazz and maqam together, “a challenge that he’s accomplished with aplomb.” The album was described as a “milestone session,” in Point of Departure, and “radically contemporary in its sound even as it connects with music’s most ancient roots” by the Irish Times.

ElSaffar appeared with his Quintet this past summer at the Newport Jazz Festival, following his debut the previous year with Two Rivers that was later broadcasted on Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Jazz Set on NPR. A recent flurry of European performances included premieres of a new work, Ashwaaq, composed for string quartet, santur, and voice, at the prestigious Aix and Avignon Festivals. Subsequent performances included his Quintet at the Saalfelden Jazz Festival, a week of shows in Berlin, and a performance with Aka Moon and South Indian percussion master, U.K. Sivaraman.

In addition to performing and composing, ElSaffar is Music Curator at Alwan for the Arts, New York’s hub for Arab and Middle Eastern culture, which hosts semi-monthly concerts and the annual Maqam Fest. In 2013, he collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum to create a festival of Iraqi culture in 2013. He also teaches maqam classes at Alwan, and is the director of the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at Columbia University, where he also teaches jazz ensembles.

Born near Chicago in 1977 to an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother, ElSaffar was drawn to music at a young age, listening incessantly to LPs from his father’s collection, which included Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Blues Brothers Soundtrack (but interestingly, no Iraqi music). His first musical training was at the age of five, singing in a Lutheran church choir at the school he attended. His mother, an avid lover of music, introduced him to the music of Bach and Haydn, and taught him to sing and play American folk songs on ukulele and guitar. ElSaffar eventually found his calling with the trumpet in his early teens.

Chicago offered many opportunities for the young trumpeter: he attended DePaul University, earning a degree in classical trumpet, and had the opportunity to study with the legendary principal trumpeter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bud Herseth. As a trumpeter of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, ElSaffar worked with esteemed conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Daniel Barenboim, and recorded on the latter’s 1999 Teldec release “Tribute to Ellington,” with members of the Chicago Symphony and Don Byron. Additionally, ElSaffar gained experience playing regularly in Chicago’s Blues, Jazz, and Salsa clubs.

He moved to New York at the turn of the century where he performed in the ensembles of jazz legend Cecil Taylor. He also performed with Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, who were in the early stages of their careers, making forays drawing upon their ancestral background toward forging a new sound.

Amir gradually found himself drawn to the Musical Heritage of his Father’s native country: Iraq. In 2001, after winning the Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition, he funded a trip to Baghdad to find and study with the few surviving masters of the Iraqi Maqam. Some were still in Baghdad, but he discovered that most had left the country. Amir spent the next five years pursuing these masters across the Middle East and Europe, learning everything he could about the tradition. During this period he learned to speak Arabic, sing maqam, and play the santoor. His main teacher during this period was vocalist Hamid Al-Saadi, currently the only living person who has mastered the entire Baghdadi Maqam tradition.

In 2006 founded Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format. Later the same year, ElSaffar received commissions from the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia and from the Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT), to compose Two Rivers, a suite invoking Iraqi musical traditions framed in a modern Jazz setting. ElSaffar has since received commissions from the Jazz Institute of Chicago (2008), the Jerome Foundation (2009), Chamber Music America (2009), Present Music (2010), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2013), The Newport Jazz Festival (2013), Morgenland Festival (2013) and the Royaumont Foundation (2014), creating works integrating Middle Eastern tonalities and rhythms into an contemporary contexts.

He currently leads four critically-acclaimed ensembles: Two Rivers, which combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz; the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, performing ElSaffar’s microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation; Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing and preserving the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format; and The Alwan Ensemble, the resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts, specializing in classical music from Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq. In addition, he has worked with jazz legend Cecil Taylor, and prominent jazz musicians such as Mark Dresser, Gerry Hemingway, Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes, and Oliver Lake. ElSaffar has appeared on numerous recordings, and has released five under his own name, Maqams of Baghdad (2005), Two Rivers (2007), Radif Suite (2010), Inana (2011), and Alchemy (2013).


 Steven Bernstein

Steven Bernstein is a trumpeter/slide trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, and composer who lives outside of musical convention. He has released four critically acclaimed CDs; Diaspora Soul, Diaspora Blues (featuring the Sam Rivers trio), Diaspora Hollywood, andDiaspora Suite. All four are on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.

His band Sex Mob has been together since 1995 touring the world, winning numerous awards, and has had their music featured on MTV, Saturday Night Live and NPR. Sexotica, recorded for Thirsty Ear’s Blue series, was nominated for a Grammy in 2006. Their most recent CD, Sex Mob meets Medeskiwas recorded live at the Willisau Jazz Festival.

His nine-piece ensemble, the Millennial Territory Orchestra, has released two CDs, MTO Vol 1 and We Are MTO. Their upcoming CD, MTO Plays Sly, features Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid, Antony, Martha Wainwright, Dean Bowman, Sandra St. Victor and Shilpa Ray, and is slated for a September 2011 release. MTO was formed in 1999 for a series of Midnight shows at Tonic, and spent a year and a half long residency at the Jazz Standard. Bernstein also arranged and co-produced Baby Loves Jazz,featuring vocalists Sharon Jones and Babi Floyd, along with keyboard master John Medeski. The CD is available on Verve records.

Bernstein was the musical director for I’m Your Man, a documentary on Leonard Cohen that focuses on a tribute concert held at the Sydney Opera house, released by Lions Gate films in spring 2006. He was the musical director for the live sequences in the 2009 Bill Withers documentary Still Bill. Other DVDreleases include Solos, originally a Canadian Television program featuring solo performances by musicians including Andrew Hill, Joe Lovano, and John Scofield, as well as Lou Reed’s Berlin (directed by Julian Schnabel) and Levon Helm Ramble at The Ryman. Bernstein was also the subject of a feature entitled “Creative Spaces” on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and was interviewed by Terry Gross onNPR in 2002.

Since November 2004 Bernstein has been a member of the Levon Helm band, playing at the Midnight Rambles in Levon’s home in Woodstock. Bernstein wrote horn arrangements for Levon Helm’s Grammy winning 2009 recording Electric Dirt, as well as Bill Frissel’s Grammy winning 2004 recordingUnspeakable. Other arranging credits include Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Marianne Faithfull, Elton John, and Marvin Pontiac.

In 1992, musical iconoclast Hal Willner produced the eponymous debut CD by Spanish Fly, a cooperative trio with Bernstein, slide guitarist Dave Tronzo and tubaist Marcus Rojas, and they have been collaborating ever since.

Bernstein has worked as musical director on many Hal Willner projects, including tributes to Leonard Cohen, Doc Pomus, and Harold Arlen, and created the music for Robert Altman’s film Kansas City. He was also the musical director for the touring version of the Kansas City band, which included David “Fathead” Newman, Don Byron, James Carter, Christian McBride, and Nicholas Payton.

During his 10 years as a member of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards he arranged the music for Get Shorty, Clay Pigeons, Fishing With John and many more film, television and commercial projects with Mr. Lurie.

For composer/Foetus mastermind Jim Thirwell, Bernstein arranged Steroid Maximus to be performed live by a 21 piece ensemble.

Bernstein’s work as a composer includes the documentaries Keep the River On Your Right andBalloonhat, Nickelodeon’s hit TV show The Backyardigans (including an ANNIE nomination for his score to “International Super Spy”), live scores to silent Laurel & Hardy films, theatre scores for Mae West’s Sex and Trouble in Paradise, dance pieces for Alvin Ailey, Body Vox, the Donald Byrd Dance Company, the Flying Karamazov Brothers and the San Francisco Ballet, and commercial jingles.

Bernstein has played trumpet with a diverse group of artists including My Morning Jacket, Linda Ronstadt, David Murray, David Berger, Digable Planets, Sting, Medeski Martin and Wood, Courtney Love, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Don Byron and Mocean Worker.

Awards include:

*DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL 2006 (#1 Rising Star Arranger, #4 Rising Star Trumpeter)
*DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL 2005 (#1 Rising Star Arranger)
*DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL 2004 (#1 Arranger, #2 Big Band – Millennial Territory Orchestra)
*DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL 2002 (Sex Mob #1 Beyond Group, #1 Acoustic Jazz Group)


Karl Berger, PhD
 — Composer/Arranger/Conductor/Pianist/Vibraphonist/Consultant 

Founder and director of the nonprofit Creative Music Foundation, Inc., and creative leader of the legendary Creative Music Studio, Karl Berger is dedicated to the research of the power of music and sound and the elements common to all of the world’s music forms. In addition to his composing and playing, Karl is known around the world for educational presentations through workshops, concerts, recordings, and with a growing network of artists and CMS members worldwide.

Karl Berger is a six time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, recipient of numerous Composition Awards (commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, European Radio and Television: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy. SWF-Prize 1994). Professor of Composition, Artist-in- Residence at universities, schools and festivals worldwide, PhD in Music Esthetics.

Karl Berger became noted for his innovative arrangements for recordings by Jeff Buckley (“Grace”), Natalie Merchant (“Ophelia”), Better Than Ezra, The Cardigans, Jonatha Brooke, Buckethead, Bootsie Collins, The Swans, Sly + Robbie, Angelique Kidjo and others; and for his collaborations with producers Bill Laswell, Alan Douglas (“Operazone”), Peter Collins, Andy Wallace, Craig Street, Alain Mallet, Malcolm Burn, Bob Marlett and many others in Woodstock, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris and Rome.

He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts in the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Phillippines, Japan, Mexico and Brazil.

His recordings and arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Columbia Double Moon, Douglas Music, Elektra, EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, In&Out, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, Pye, RCA, SONY, Stockholm, Vogue and others.


Warren Smith, percussion, drums, composer 

Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family; his father played saxophone and clarinet with Noble Sissle and Jimmy Noone, and his mother was a harpist and pianist. He studied clarinet under his father from age four. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957, then took a master’s in percussion at the Manhattan School of Music in 1958.

One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a vibraphonist in 1957. He found work in Broadway pit bands in 1958, and also played with Gil Evans that year. In 1961 he co-founded the Composers Workshop Ensemble, a New York-based jazz composition and performance ensemble. In the 1960s Smith accompanied Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Lloyd Price, and Nat King Cole; he worked with Sam Rivers from 1964–76 and with Gil Evans again from 1968 to 1976. In 1969 he played with Janis Joplin and in 1971 with Tony Williams Lifetime. He was also a founding member of Max Roach’s percussion ensemble, M’Boom, in 1970. In the 1970s and 1980s Smith had a loft called Studio Wis which acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake. Through the 1970s Smith played with Andrew White, Julius Hemphill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, Count Basie, and Carmen McRae. Other credits include extensive work with rock and pop musicians and time spent with Anthony Braxton, Charles Mingus, Henry Threadgill, Van Morrison, and Joe Zawinul. He continued to work on Broadway into the 1990s, and has performed with a number of classical ensembles.

Smith taught in the New York City public school system from 1958 to 1968, at Third Street Settlement from 1960 to 1967, at Adelphi University in 1970-71, and at SUNY-Old Westbury from 1971.


Ingrid SertsoVocalist, Poet 

Through her work with such avant-jazz musicians as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso established herself as a captivating, adventurous vocalist, capable of blending jazz, African, South American and other worldbeat influences into a distinctive, hypnotic sound.

Although Sertso didn’t become well-known until the release of Dance with It in 1994, she spent over 20 years honing her art. During the late ’60s, she lived in Europe, leading her own trios and performing with the likes of Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Karl Berger and Leo Wright; she also worked as a music teacher at several institutions in Europe. In 1972, she became a permanent resident of the United States and she released her first album, We Are You, on Calig Records. Over the next few years she taught, while she performed in North America and Europe with the likes of Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Moses, Dave Holland, Perry Robinson and Jumma Santos. In 1974, she released Kalaparush on Trio Records in Japan. It was followed in 1975 by Peace Church Concerts on India Navigation/CMC Records.

In 1975, Sertso became a faculty member at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She stayed there through 1975 and 1976, before moving to the Banff Centre of Fine Arts in Calgary, Canada. She had two residencies at Banff before moving to the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, where she became the co-director. While working at the Creative Music Studio, she began singing in the Art of Improvisation with Berger and David Inzenon. In 1979, she toured major European cities as a solo artists, supported by the Woodstock Workshop Orchestra. She also released an album on MPS Records that year.

During the early ’80s, Sertso remained a co-director at the Creative Music Studio, while continuing to record and perform with a variety of musicians, including such mainstays as Don Cherry and Karl Berger, as well as Paulo Moura, Nana Vasconcelos, Steve Gorn, Dan Brubeck and Mike Richmond. In 1984, she performed with the Music Universe Orchestra at the Kool Festival in New York and released a duet album, Changing the Time, with Berger on Horo Records in Italy. She also toured Europe twice during this time and she also toured West Africa with Olatunji and Aiyb Dieng.

Sertso’s career picked up momentum during the latter half of the ’90s. She held a series of concerts and workshops in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and she regularly tour the US on club and festival circuit. Sertso also toured Europe twice and sang solo vocals on Berger’s orchestral ballet, The Bird. She was one of the co-leaders of Rhythm Changes, who released the Jazzdance album on ITM Records. During these five years, she also performed and recorded with a variety of artists, including Pauline Oliveros, Lee Konitz, Frank Luther, Anthony Cox, Leroy Jenkins, Jimmy Cobber, Linda Montano and Karl Berger.

In 1990, Sertso catapulted back into the mainstream jazz spotlight through her version “Until the Rain Comes” on Don Cherry’s Multi Kulti album. Shortly afterward, she began working on a new album, but she became sidetracked by collaborating with Karl Berger and guitarist Paul Koji Shigihara. The trio blended original compositions with Sertso’s poetry, improvisations and interpretations of traditional tune. Sertso also regularly performed poetry readings at the Tinker Street Cafe in Woodstock and the Knitting Factory in New York, and she also regularly played clubs along the Northeast coast. In 1994, she released her comeback album Dance with It, which earned postitive reviews. – Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)


Ken FilianoBass

Bass player, composer, improviser, Ken FIliano has been performing throughout the world for thirty years, collaborating with leading artists in multiple genres, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness. Ken leads two quartets, Quantum Entanglements, and Baudalino’s Dilemma (Vinny Golia, Warren Smith, Michael TA Thompson), and is a co-leader of The Steve Adams/Ken Filiano Duo and TranceFormation (Connie Crothers, Andrea Wolper.) His extensive discography includes a solo bass CD, “subvenire” (NineWinds), and “Dreams From a Clown Car” (Clean Feed), which presents his compositions for his quartet, Quantum Entanglements (Michael Attias, Tony Malaby, Michael TA Thompson). Ken has performed and/or recorded with Karl Berger, Bobby Bradford, Anthony Braxton, Connie Crothers Quartet, Bill Dixon, Ted Dunbar, Giora Feidman Quartet, Vinny Golia ensembles, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jason Kao Hwang, Joseph Jarman, Raul Juanena, Joelle Leandre, Frank London, Tina Marsh, Warne Marsh, Dom Minasi, Barre Phillips, Roswell Rudd, ROVA Saxophone Qt., Paul Smoker, Fay Victor Ensemble, Pablo Zielger, and many more. Ken is on the teaching roster at the New School in New York, and is a guest artist lecturer at School of Visual Arts and Hunter College (New York). He teaches master classes in bass and improvisation, and has a private bass studio in Brooklyn.


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About Full Moon Resort

Full Moon, located one half hour west of Woodstock, New York, “the most famous small town in the world,” is a year-round mountain resort located in the heart of the “Forever Wild” Catskill Forest Preserve.  Dedicated to the celebration of nature, music and the arts, this one hundred-acre wonderland of mountains, fields, and streams is a world of its own.

Full Moon is an alternative to more traditional country inns and resorts – with educational, recreational and artistic workshops, weekend-long destination country weddings, cutting-edge music camps, and art exhibits all part of its magical landscape.

“Music and art in nature” is a central theme at Full Moon Resort. Music is always in the air with the Music Masters Camp series, a special mid-week interactive musical experience with world renowned artists – complete with superb dining, comfortable country inn accommodations, and camping options.

Lovingly prepared, fresh, healthy cuisine served by a friendly, professional staff is the trademark of Full Moon Catering.  The menus offer a full range of possibilities – hot buffet breakfasts and lunches, down-home country barbeques …tantalizing hors d’oeuvres and formal gourmet dinners in the Tent Pavilion.  Fresh, natural ingredients (often organic) are the common thread throughout.

Accommodations are charming in their simplicity, with guest rooms available in a variety of lodges  – some in a simple B&B style with shared hallway baths and others with private bath options.

In all, Full Moon Resort, with its picturesque grounds, cozy guest accommodations, excellent cuisine and friendly, professional staff, sets the stage for highly memorable experiences for those attending the Music Masters Camps.

Full Moon contact info:


Telephone: 845-254-8009

Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (EST)

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When will my deposit be run?
Your deposit will be run at the time of your registration.

What gear do I need?
Bring your instrument(s) if they fit! Amps are not required. For more information, email to see what will be provided.

Can I still come if I’m not a musician? 
Non-musicians are more than welcome and encouraged to attend.  Vocalists and dancers are encouraged, too.

What skill level is required to attend?
Classes and curriculum are developed to accommodate all ranges of playing. All classes are optional and open to everyone.

Is there an age requirement?
No. Minors are required to submit a parent/legal guardian consent form.

Are meals included?
Three gourmet meals a day and snacks are included in your tuition.

If I want to bring my spouse, but they don’t want to attend classes, can I?
Yes. In order to bring a non-participant, you would need to purchase a “single occupancy” package. Non-participants have access to all meals, but no classes or workshops. Additional fees apply.

When is check in and check out?
Check in is at 3pm on arrival day and check out is at 11am on departure day. Due to Full Moon’s busy event calendar, it is generally not possible to check in early or check out late.

How do I get there?
 Please see the ‘Directions/Transportation’ section below.

Is there cell phone reception at camp?
There is no cell phone reception at Full Moon Resort.  Complimentary phone service for all calls within the U.S. is available at all times at the Inn. Also, there is complimentary Wi-Fi available throughout the facility.

How do I make my final payment?
Your final payment will be automatically run on the credit card on file on the due date noted in your registration form. You may provide an alternative method of payment as long as it is received before the due date.

Can I take photos, video or audio recordings? 
Yes. You may be required to sign a waiver stating all recordings, footage and/or photos will be used strictly for personal use and not commercially.

What is the weather like at camp?
Weather in the Catskills varies. In the spring, you can expect warm days (low 60s to upper 70s) and cooler nights (lower 40s to lower 60s).

What do you suggest I bring with me?
Audio recording devices
Clothes & Toiletries (toothbrush, soap, shampoo etc…)
Tent Campers- don’t forget towels, sleeping bags, tarps, etc.!
Insect Repellent
Writing Utensils & Note Paper
Water bottle
Cash for evening bars (There is no ATM on-site.)

Do you provide equipment storage for tent campers?
This can be arranged on an as needed basis.

Can I select my own roommate?
Yes – if that person is signed up as well. We cannot hold a spot for someone unless they have already registered.

How does the facility select my roommate?
Full Moon Resort selects roommates based on age and gender. You will always be placed with a same-sex roommate.

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Pricing and Registration

Camp Packages are All-Inclusive!

Monday to Friday you will have access to all workshops, seminars, gourmet meals, performances, and camp activities. The only thing you have to do after signing up is get here!

All camp activities will be held at Full Moon Resort. Full Moon features an eclectic array of comfortable, rustic country-inn accommodations including simple B&B style guest rooms with shared hallway baths and guest rooms with private baths. “Primitive” campsites are also available. All accommodations are just steps away from daily music camp activities. The grounds offer one hundred acres of meadows, forests and streams providing a natural backdrop for an unforgettable, enriching experience.

Guest rooms at Full Moon do not have telephones, TV’s, air conditioning or daily housekeeping service. Wi-Fi, cable television and complimentary phone service are all available at the Inn (please bring a phone card for international calls).   Enjoy the spring-fed swimming pool, on-site access to the Esopus Creek, and explore the splendors of the Catskills on the nearby network of hiking trails.

Please Note: There is no cell phone reception at Full Moon Resort or in Big Indian.

Package Pricing
  Note: Prices do not include applicable taxes

Full Moon Resort Accommodations:

Note: Prices include Full Moon Resort lodging, food and CMS workshops. Prices do not include applicable taxes.


  • $695 Tent Camping
  • $895 Double Occupancy, Shared Bath
  • $995 Double Occupancy, Private Bath
  • $1,295 Single Occupancy, Shared Bath
  • $1,595 Single Occupancy, Private Bath
  • $495 Non-participant rates for spouse/children

Registration, Payment and Cancellation Terms and Conditions:

Your decision to register for Full Moon Resort Music Masters Camps constitutes your acknowledgement of and consent to all of the registration, payment and cancellation terms and conditions listed below.

Registration and Payments:

  • All rates are per-person
  • All rates are subject to a 2% county tax, 8% New York State Tax and a 1.5% online registration fee
  • Upon registration, a non-refundable deposit of $350 is charged to your credit card
  • 100% of the remaining balance due is automatically charged to the credit card on file on May 19, 2015
  • Any registrations received after May 19, 2015, must be paid in full at the time of registration


  • All payments and deposits are non-refundable, except when approved by the Creative Music Foundation.
  • Cancellations received before May 19, 2015 will not be charged the remaining balance
  • Cancellations received after   May 19, 2015 will be charged the full remaining balance

Due to the nature of our events and strict cancellation policies, Creative Environments, LLC DBA Full Moon Resort strongly suggests purchasing travel insurance.

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Full Moon contact info:


Telephone: 845-254-8009

Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (EST)

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All Music Masters Camps are held in Big Indian, New York which is centrally located in the heart of the “Forever Wild” Catskill forest preserve.

Full Moon Resort
1 Valley View Road
Big Indian, NY 12410
Directions to Full Moon Resort

By Car:
Car parking is complimentary to all participants.

From Albany and points North:
Take the New York State Thruway (I-87) South towards New York City
Take Exit 19, Kingston (see below)

From New York City and Points South:
Take the New York State Thruway (I-87) North/West to Exit 19, Kingston
After toll, merge slightly right onto Route 28 West (towards Pine Hill)
Travel approximately 30 miles on Route 28 West to Big Indian/Oliverea
Turn left onto County Route 47 (just after a brown sign on Route 28 which says Oliverea 3 miles)
Proceed 5 miles on County Route 47 (Oliverea Road)
You will see signs for Full Moon on the right-hand side.

By Plane:
The closest airports to Big Indian are one hour and thirty minutes away:
Albany International Airport and Stewart/Newburgh International Airport

Albany International Airport (ALB):
737 Albany Shaker Rd
Albany, NY 12211
Phone: (518) 242.2222

Stewart-Newburgh International Airport (SWF):
1180 1st Street
New Windsor, NY 12553
Phone: (845) 564-2100

JFK and LaGuardia Airports in New York City are approximately two and a half hours from Big Indian.

Airport Car Services:
Woodstock Town Car Service: (845) 679-6656
Black Diamond Transportation: (845) 338-8426

By Bus:
Adirondack Trailways buses run from NYC and Kingston, NY. There is a stop on Route 28 at the Big Indian post office just five miles from Full Moon Resort. Email us to arrange a pick up from the Big Indian bus stop to Full Moon Resort.

NYC buses depart from the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan at 9.30am, 12.30pm and 3.30pm (EST) daily and take approximately three hours to reach Big Indian. One way fare is approximately $35, return is approximately $70.
For additional schedule information and bus stop locations, visit or call 1-800-776-7548

Big Indian Bus Stop Located At the Big Indian Post Office:
8279 State Route 28
Big Indian, NY 12410
*Email to let us know when you will be arriving and we will be sure to have a shuttle waiting to bring you to camp!

By Train:
The closest train station is in Rhinecliff, NY which is approximately one hour away from Big Indian.

Rhinecliff Amtrak Station (RHI)
Hutton St. and Charles St.,
Rhinecliff, NY 12574
Phone: 1 (800) 872-7245
Station and Service Hours: Open 7 Days a Week: 5:30am-10:30pm

**Carpooling is suggested!

CMS Archive CDs Receive Critics’ Praise

The first three-CD set from the Creative Music Studio Archive Project has gotten critically positive reviews around the world.  “Creative Music Studio Archive Selections Volume 1” was positively reviewed in the media below.

CD Sets are available for sale via Innova Recordings, website, Amazon or via iTunes



JAZZIZ (November 2014 feature story) – see PDF

DOWNBEAT  (December 2015) – see PDF

NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD (December 2014) – see PDF


JAZZ WEEKLY (July 2014)

CHRONOGRAM (December 2014)



CADENCE (Jan. 2015) – See PDF

Named “Best of 2014, Historical Jazz Album” in Cadence Magazine by Michael G. Nastos

“What an absolute treat this one is. … [A] treasure trove. … Izenzon’s solos are very robust and occasionally quizzical, as when he mimics knocks on a door and answers gruffly ‘go away, I’m practicing.’ It’s a great opportunity to hear this distinctive bassist unfettered. … The bracing, complex piano duo is a real archival find, and the two ‘classical’ musicians (each of whom has well-known and lengthy associations with improvisers’ collectives) create some seriously dynamic music. And the duos for Jenkins and Emery are exquisite, filled with real lyricism, lush lines and chords, and palpable empathy. … One of the greatest pleasures is the opportunity to hear archival stuff from Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society, with funky interaction between Drake and Marsh’s electric bass, and loads of zesty kora and percussion. Best is the brisk, danceable ‘Demba,’ but the mid-tempo ‘Disco Gate’ features the most expressive work from Suso, and a winning explanation of his instrument’s lineage to the audience. It’s a fine conclusion to this release, one I imagine most readers will enjoy considerably.”

Jason Bivins


“[S]o much noteworthy music here … [E]verything is of extraordinary interest for those who dig the advanced new music/avant jazz scene. If you are you will no doubt be as glad as I am to have this set to listen to repeatedly. It is a treasure! I look forward to subsequent volumes.”

Greg Edwards

MONSIEUR DELIRE (July 9, 2014)

“Volume 1 covers a lot of ground. … [T]his stuff truly deserved to be let out of the vault. Curious to see what the next volumes have in store.”—Francois Couture


JAZZ TIMES (Jan. 2015)

Named Best of 2014, Historical/Reissue by Shaun Brady

Shaun Brady 
”Best of 2014” – Historical/Reissues:  
1. John Coltrane Offering: Live at Temple University (Resonance/Impulse!) 
2. Creative Music Studio Archive Selections Vol. 1 (Innova) 
3. Miles Davis Miles at the Fillmore—Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Columbia/Legacy) 
4. Frank Lowe Quartet Out Loud (Triple Point)



THE WIRE (June 2014) – See below: