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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2004

Group expands traditional borders of music

Imani Winds Imani Winds
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When flutist and composer Valerie Coleman envisions the future of classical music she hears timbres that are anything but "classical." The music is hip, the roots are global.

Coleman is working to make the future now. Her ensemble, the Imani Winds, which she founded in 1996 , is solidly positioned at the forefront of the next wave.

Imani Winds (Imani is Swahili for "faith") perform at 8 p.m. Thursday in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center.

"Part of our mission is to make a difference in terms of perceptions," said Coleman earlier this week.

"As an ensemble of African American and Latin American heritage, we want to show that we too have a place in classical music. Even more, we want to become role models for those who follow."

That is important, she said.

"As classical performers, we didn't have many black role models. Sure there was Winton Marsalis, but he is primarily a jazz musician. And what about the other wind instruments? Part of our mission is to change that situation, to become role models for those that follow," she said.

So far, so good. Already Imani Winds has found a place on the roster of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Umoja, their first CD, earned critical accolades.

Coleman wants to bring the world to the concert hall. Repertoire includes music by composers from four continents. New to the repertoire is music by Cuban composer Tania Leon. A foray into the sounds of India is in the future.

"The world is a big place and we have only been together for a short time. Our exploration is an exciting endeavor, but we aren't trying to dive into everything at once. Each style takes time to learn."

Whenever possible, the ensemble hunkers down with the composer, or someone deeply connected to the style. For example, in preparation for arrangements of music by tango master Astor Piazzolla, musicians worked with Argentine bandoneonist Daniel Binelli.

"He worked us until our fingers were swollen and lips were bleeding," said Coleman.

But the results were terrific, she added.

But Coleman says the group is just getting started. Who afterall, would have predicted so much acclaim for a wind quintet?

"It takes a lot of faith to be in this business, but I'm a pie-in-the-sky dreamer. With every chamber group at first you practice a lot and you don't get any gigs. But eventually things have to take their natural course. There is a natural evolution. Down the road I believe we will win a Grammy..., or two or three," she said.

Imani Winds performs music of Coleman, Leon, Piazzolla, and others at 8 tonight in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center. Tickets are $32, $24 and $16. Information: 419-372-8171 or 1-800-589-2224.

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