Virtuosic yet contemplative, propulsive yet intimate, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet has captivated audiences throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. From J.S. Bach to Piazzolla to Prince, MGQ’s inventive and eclectic programs are enlivened by a bravado and synchronicity that have been honed through decades of classical training and concert experience. The foursome—Joseph Hagedorn, Maja Radovanlija, Ben Kunkel and Wade Oden—builds an uncommon rapport with its audiences through its engaging stage presence and distinctive humor. “More than a guitar quartet, more than superb musicians, and more than a great chamber group,” says composer/performer Daniel Bernard Roumain. “They are ambassadors of sound, style, and substance.”
The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet’s highly varied repertoire includes their own acclaimed arrangements of music by Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi, Finnish folk musician Maria Kalaniemi, and classical composers Joaquin Rodrigo, Alberto Ginastera, and Modest Mussorgsky. Their numerous commissions include a new work for guitar quartet and flute by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer and Ian Krouse’s StarWaves, an exhilarating fusion of rock and classical music based on a song by British pop/rock musician Nick Drake.
MGQ’s diverse and innovative collaborations include their new program for guitar quartet with choir featuring the recently commissioned work Music of Love and the Stars by notable choral composer Jeffrey Van in addition to arrangements of well-known works by Gabriel Fauré; programs with flamenco dancer Sachiko “La Chayí” featuring music of the great Spanish composers Joaquin Rodrigo and Enrique Granados and contemporary flamenco guitarist/composer Ben Abrahamson; and a full program with Gao Hong, master of the Chinese pipa (akin to a lute), which successfully traverses both character and culture from East to West.
The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet has toured throughout the United States and Mexico, with recent and upcoming tours in China, Serbia, Montenegro, Germany, Macedonia and Bulgaria. Among its notable engagements are residencies at UCLA and Princeton, San Francisco’s Omni Foundation Dynamite Guitar series, Tianjin Grand Theater and Chongqing Guotai Arts Centre. Concerto appearances include the Austin Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra and Columbus Symphony. MGQ has been heard on the nationally syndicated radio program Saint Paul Sunday, and on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and has garnered unanimous international critical acclaim from its five CDs on the Albany, GSP, and innova labels.
The cultural accessibility of the guitar makes it a natural for MGQ's various educational and community engagement programs like its popular "Guitar Talk" for all ages. As Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio during the 2014 season, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet performed for elementary school students throughout the Twin Cities. MGQ's newest educational offering is its “Guitar Ensemble Crash Course”, a 90-minute class introducing participants to the "hands-on" experience of guitar ensemble playing, culminating in a live performance. All members of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet are collegiate faculty members and frequently conduct master classes and workshops at festivals and universities throughout the United States.
Photo by Leslie Shank
Serbian-born Maja Radovanlija has performed extensively as an international solo and chamber musician, touring Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Macedonia, Greece, Tunisia, Switzerland, and other European countries. She joined the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet in 2012, bringing an eclectic musical background including performances with Mu Daiko Japanese Theater and improvised concerts with guitarist/composer Alex Lubet, as well as participating in workshops led by famous jazz musician Vojin Draskoci. Maja was awarded First Prize at the International Competition for Classical Guitar in Kyustendil, Bulgaria. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Belgrade as a student of Prof. Srdjan Tosic. Maja came to the United States to study at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music where she received both her master’s and doctoral degrees under Ernesto Bitetti, as well as studying early music with lutenist Nigel North. Maja won Second Prize in Indiana University’s Annual Competition in the Performance of Music from Spain and Latin America. In 2011 Maja was appointed to the guitar faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Music. Visit her website: www.majaradovanlija.net
Born in Mankato, Minnesota, Benjamin Kunkel has the distinction of being the newest member— and the first native Minnesotan—of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. Benjamin is an active solo and chamber musician, appearing in concert across the United States, frequently collaborating with the acclaimed Minneapolis-based choral group, The Mirandola Ensemble. Recently, he has been featured with the Minnesota Guitar Society, Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, Cleveland Composers Guild, Greater Cleveland Flute Society, Heights Arts, and Chamber Music Midwest. Benjamin is a passionate advocate of new music and works closely with composers to premiere their works and expand the classical guitar’s repertoire. Benjamin earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Minnesota and his Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with renowned guitarists Jeffrey Van and Jason Vieaux, respectively. At CIM, he twice was awarded the Rosalia Ablan Memorial Prize in Guitar. A dedicated teacher, he is currently on the faculty of Century College and St. Joseph's School of Music.
A passionate performer, composer, arranger, and teacher, Wade Oden was born in Lubbock, Texas and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has performed widely as part of the Voce y Cuerdas duo in varied repertoire including music of Brazil, Hawaii, Spain, and Italy, as well as in new works by composers Chris Gable, Libby Larsen, Carol Barnett and Todd Harper. In 2008, Wade toured with The Rose Ensemble vocal group—performing sacred and secular music—to the Festival d’Ile de France. This performance was recorded and broadcast on Radio France. Wade’s composition Aquam Effunde for piano, bass clarinet and marimba won First Prize in the 2005 Eric Stokes Song Contest. In 2003 and 2006, as director of the Space Station Alpha experimental pop ensemble, he released Love Songs for Andromeda and fLora. Wade is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Guitar Performance at the University of Minnesota, where he also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Wade’s guitar teachers include O. Nicholas Raths, James McGuire and Jeffrey Van. He currently directs the guitar program at Normandale Community College where he has premiered many arrangements and original compositions for the Normandale Guitar Ensemble.
As one of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet’s founding members, Joseph Hagedorn has largely been responsible for the growth and development of this ensemble since its inception in 1986. His gift for arranging has produced dozens of musical opportunities for the MGQ, from the sought-after Windy by Piazzolla and Danzas Argentinas by Ginastera to the recent arrangements of jazz and pop music by Hiromi and Prince. He also performs on all of the group’s five recordings. Joseph’s solo and concerto appearances have taken him to more than 25 American cities and to Canada. He has been heard twice on the nationally broadcast radio program Saint Paul Sunday, once with the MGQ and again with violinist Leslie Shank. In 1990, Joseph was the winner of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America solo competition, resulting in a national concert tour. This native Iowan received his Bachelor of Music degree from Cornell College and his Master of Music degree from the University of Minnesota. Joseph was a student of Richard Stratton, Christopher Carrington, Nelson Amos, and Jeffrey Van. He has been on the music faculty of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls since 1988.
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