2024 Festival

Dates, location

2024 festival

June 27th-30th

Workshops, lodging and daily activities: Williston Northampton School- Easthampton, MA
Concerts: Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity- Northampton, MA

Guest Artists



Cellist Ken James Kubota has shattered perceptions of the typical classical music career. While he is celebrated by The New York Times for “dynamic” and “polished” musicianship, most know Kubota as a YouTuber, social media personality, and for pioneering his unique style of playing the cello like a guitar. As an artist, many know him as one-third of the band Empire Wild, a group now represented by the Concert Artists Guild after receiving their 2020 Ambassador Prize.

Kubota continues to grow a following as the founder and producer of JHMJams, a weekly video series of pop covers by classical and jazz musicians. Described in the National Sawdust Log as an “online powerhouse” of classical music’s online ecosystem, Kubota has earned additional recognition from Glamour, Lionsgate, The Violin Channel, The Strad, and Classic FM. His social media presence has also garnered notable collaborations including Meta, Ray-Ban, TikTok, Halstead, Pirastro, and The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Kubota seeks opportunities to share his experiences with other entrepreneurially minded musicians. His formal speaking engagements include The Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, and CelloBello involving topics around a career in music, social media, cello techniques, and more. Also fond of the relaxed conversations found on podcasts, he can be heard as a guest on Faking Notes, Skip The Repeat, Take Me to Coffee, Good Times with Isabel Hagen, The Conditioned Musician, B4 The Stage, The Artist’s Voice by Petra Sittig, and Forte by Aaron Lipsky.

Kubota holds degrees from The Juilliard School (B.M., M.M.), and has served on faculty at the Peabody Preparatory under Johns Hopkins University. He is currently on faculty at the Lucy Moses School at the Kaufman Music Center.

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Eden Rayz

Eden Rayz is a Boston-based composer, cellist, instrument designer, and extreme vocalist. Her subversive and immersive performances have served as healing spaces that transcend genre and subculture. 

Eden served as a 2023-2024 Artist-In-Residence at historic Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, where she was commissioned to compose, perform, and host a set of musical death awareness meditations and long-form ritual listening pieces. Eden created a new electroacoustic instrument called Argent and Sable from the cemetery’s former pipe organ. Her live album The Cemetery Tapes featuring Argent and Sable, amplified cello, extreme vocals, and percussionist Austin Birdy will be released independently in the summer of 2024.

As a session cellist, she has recorded and performed with bands including Moon Tooth, Third Eye Blind, Marrowfields, The Furies, Geni Skendo, Rachel Sumner, Cradle of Judah, and Wyclef Jean, and improvised on soundtracks like the 2023 Grammy-winning Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök. Her cello performances have been hailed as “terrifying” and “unbelievably special,” by metal reviewers. I Care If You Listen described her work as “…a musical world the listener has stumbled into, not just a representation of something happening in a concert hall.”

In May of 2022, she self-released her debut solo album Corpus Vice which blends death metal and contemporary art music.

The album was written as functional music to aid listeners in processing climate grief. She serves as front person and cellist for death metal band Angel Grinder. Her solo flute works have been performed at Carnegie (Weill) Recital Hall and her chamber works have premiered at Musiikkitalo in Helsinki, Finland and in Cortona, Italy.

Eden holds a masters degree in composition and music theory from Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She has lectured on composition, notation, and string technique at universities including Berklee College of Music, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and teaches students locally and internationally out of her private online lesson studio in Boston.

Listen to her solo works at edenrayz.bandcamp.com and read her writings at substack.com/@edenrayz

Jeremy Harman

(Western Massachusetts)

Cellist, composer, and songwriter Jeremy Harman is always exploring shifting musical terrain; equally at home on acoustic and electric instruments, his distinct sound and approach stems from a broad-based love of music and a desire to explore it through the lens of the cello. With influences including contemporary classical, modern jazz, progressive metal, downtempo, free improvisation, and folk music of all kinds, his musical path has taken him across the globe and to venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Kodak Center to the House of Blues to the Newport Jazz Festival.

Harman is the cellist for the Sirius Quartet, which has brought its original compositions and unique sound to audiences throughout the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and South Africa, and appears frequently with instrumental chamber music/indie rock alchemists CORDIS. In 2020, Harman was named artistic director of the New Directions Cello Festival, which has showcased alternative cellists from all over the world for almost 30 years.

Harman has shared the stage with a wide range of artists including Quincy Jones, John Williams, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bobby McFerrin, Lady Gaga, Sir Elton John, Tony Bennett, and Mary J. Blige, among others, and has done session and arranging work for countless indie artists in New England and beyond. A passionate educator, Harman is an associate professor of cello at Berklee College of Music and the creator of the online course Creative Expansion for Cellists.

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Iva Casián-Lakoš


New York-based cellist, singer, and improviser Iva Casián-Lakoš is a versatile performer with repertoire ranging from classical to contemporary works involving choreography, acting,  and improvisation, and she has performed across the U.S., Mexico, and Europe with genre-bending ensembles Bang on a Can All-Stars, eco|tonal, PinkNoise, and Unheard-of//Ensemble. In 2017 Iva co-founded Zagreb-based Ensemble Illyrica, who has been hailed for their creative ecstasy, freshness, tonal harmony and rhythmic clarity” (Novi List). Illyrica has performed in major venues and festivals across Ireland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, and released their first album on Hitchtone Music in 2022.

Iva has recently collaborated with legendary vocalist and composer Joan La Barbara on an upcoming album featuring a new work for singing-cellist, commissioned by Bang on a Can and performed at their inaugural Long Play Festival and Noguchi Museum series. She has also worked closely with composers Christopher Stark, David Crowell, Ana Lopez-Reyes (nnux), Wang Lu, and Erika Dohi.

As a composer and improviser, Iva responds to visual or textual stimuli such as poetry, films, and paintings, and is currently working on a new album-length piece for voice and cello based on Aztec mythology. She enjoys collaborations with visual artists, videographers, and dancers in interdisciplinary projects, including her work with the Vienna based theater collective Synesthetic Project.

Iva holds degrees from Stony Brook University (DMA.), New England Conservatory (M.M.) and Oberlin Conservatory (B.M.) and has served as interim cello faculty at Vassar College. She is currently on faculty at Musart Music, in Syosset New York.

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Catherine Bent


Cellist and composer Catherine Bent, originally from London, UK, has lived in New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and Boston. Her range and musical versatility are reflected in her diverse resumé, which includes recordings, performances and tours with Cirque du Soleil, Joe Jackson, Lee Konitz, Anthony Braxton, Greg Osby, Merce Cunningham Dance, Enya, Vitamin String Quartet, Kanye West, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, Patty Larkin, and poet laureate Robert Pinsky. She has performed in 46 US states and 14 European countries.

In 2008, Catherine started creating choro groups and sessions in Boston even before the first time she arrived in Brazil with her cello, in 2012.

Finding a joyful expression of harmony and groove in a synergetic container akin to chamber music, she made Brazilian instrumental music her primary focus. She performs and collaborates with established Boston musicians, as well as the churning population of students and visiting scholars. She founded the Berklee Clube de Choro, and is on the faculty of Choro Camp New England, in Northampton MA (June 17 – 22, 2024). Director of Rio’s Escola Portátil da Música, Pedro Aragão is among many Brazilians who have recognized Catherine’s mastery of the choro language and repertoire and her preëminence on the cello. 

Venues Catherine has headlined include the Instituto Villa Lobos and Casa do Choro in Rio de Janeiro, Clube de Choro in Brasília, Festival Vale do Café, and the legendary samba club Ó do Borogodó. She was a featured soloist
seven times with Conjunto Época de Ouro (originally Jacob do Bandolim’s band; still the torch-bearers of traditional choro), on Rádio Nacional.

As a pioneering cellist in choro, Catherine is in demand as a teacher in Brazil. She has given masterclasses at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), and for FIOCRUZ at the Orquestra de Câmera do Palácio Itaboraí.

Catherine holds a Masters in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory, where she studied with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos. Her cello mentors have included Luis Garcia-Renart, Dorothy Lawson and Astrid Schween. She has done listening and presence work with Pauline Oliveiros and Kenny Werner, and she practices the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education.

Catherine has been a professor at Berklee College of Music since 2010, where she developed the first course offerings in choro for the String Department. She has presented on Brazilian music at three American String Teachers Association (ASTA) conferences, and is committed to supporting students and teachers in the world of multi-style string playing. Keen to share her findings on the cello’s role as accompanist (as well as soloist) she is writing the book Creatudes: Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic adventures for strings.

Rupert Gillett

(Cologne, Germany)

Rupert Gillett is a British cellist, singer, multi-instrumentalist & composer.  He specialises in jazz cello and is known for his Jazz Cello Tunes YouTube series, but is adept and experienced at many other styles, including rock, folk and Eastern European music. Like a musical mercenary, Rupert has a chequered career which has carried him from country to country and stage to stage – he has barely done an honest day’s work in his life.

Rupert is now based in Cologne, Germany, but spent much of his career in London, UK, where he caused general chaos and mayhem.  For many years he worked as a double bass player, performing on a relentless basis with groups such as the rootsy R&B quartet Dai & the Ramblers, 20s Jazz showsters The Boneshaker Band, music hall comedy band The Dead Victorians and countless other ensembles, many of which he has forgotten (and some which he would like to). More by accident than design, Rupert ended up floating to the top of the London Klezmer scene and was often caught in concert with bands such as the London Klezmer Quartet and Balkan/Klezmer adventurers She’koyokh.

Despite these shenanigans, Rupert started breaking into jazz and other styles on the cello, stealing many of the ideas he had pilcherred from different instruments and styles.  Guitar picking on the cello? Yeah, why not.  Serious bass usage? Yeah, ok.  Tenor Banjo chord voicings? Yep.  Hence, One Voice, One Cello was born.  No loops, no pedals, swiss army knife cello.  

As a cellist, Rupert performs in the the duo Cellicious with singer/cellist Kate Shortt, the crossover trio Arcopia with cellist Gunther Tiedemann and Violinist Chris Haigh (The Fiddle Channel), chamber-jazz quartet Butterfly’s Wing with the legendary Jacqui Dankworth, the folk/renaissance/jazz trio Whistlebow and his duo One Voice, One Cello & A Mad Belgian, with which he has released 2 live albums. He was (apparently) a member of Modern Nature, where he was featured on 2 albums and an EP for the Bella Union label. He has released a few albums under his own name, including De-constructed Cello Part I (2020), Jazz Cello (2022) and Rupert Gillett (2023).

As a hired gun, Rupert has been ignored at private functions by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, the late HRH Prince Phillip, Jude Law, Jeremy Clarkson, Ray Davies, Charles Dance, Salmon Rushdie and many more. Some of the strangest venues he has performed include Buckingham Palace (as a Scottish folk musician… eek, how did THAT happen?), under a giant Diplodocus skeleton and on the Orient Express.  He has performed on TV and BBC radio under various guises and has played some of the nastiest festivals in Europe.  He did a stint playing banjo on stilts (not a joke) and performed at the 2021 paralympic games.  He has toured UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Norway, Poland but hasn’t been caught yet.

As a composer, Rupert has had various works published by Boosey & Hawkes and Con Moto Publications.  He was commissioned to write the song cycle Memories of the Mayflower (2020) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims.  As a producer and engineer, Rupert has worked on albums by award winning artists such as Katy Carr, Frank Denyer and others.

Rupert co-directs the 100 piece Cello Orchestra at the Celloakademie Rutesheim, Germany.  Over the years, he has given numerous workshops in cello improvisation or Klezmer/Balkan Music at the Royal Academy of Music Junior Dept., the New Directions Cello Festival, various folk festivals and even the Royal Marines Band (no idea how that happened).  He has written his own children’s environmental music project: „Singen Kann Was Bringen“ together with his partner, Valerie Rathmann with whom he also performs in the duo “Heart Strings Duet” as a singer/guitarist.

Schedule (Subject to Change)

More detailed info re: workshops coming soon!

All events will take place on the WIlliston Northampton School Campus unless specified otherwise


Pre-festival concert/welcome for early arrivals
*please email us before registering if you are interested coming Wednesday so we can make arrangements


Arrival and Registration for Early Arrivals:  Williston Northampton School


Welcome Concert: Luca Cialrla, violin

Williston Theatre



Early arrivals can join any of the Strings Without Boundaries sessions throughout the day)


Arrival and Registration for Participants– Williston Northampton School




Official Welcome and Open Mic Night for all New Directions and Strings Without Boundaries participants hosted by youth program faculty Allissa Jackman- Williston Campus Center (please get in touch with us if you’d like to play, the more the better! We will have amps, mics, etc)



Participants can join any of the Strings Without Boundaries sessions (optional)

10:00-11:15 Workshop Block 1

Catherine Bent: Brazilian Forró on Cello (Dodge Room)
The infectious partner dance music of northeastern Brazil is rooted in African rhythm and European song. Forró is typically lots of percussion plus vocals, accordion, and/or rabeca (fiddle). In this workshop we will learn tunes by ear, and generate ideas for accompaniment.

Jeremy Harman: The Altered Scale (Dance Studio)
The Altered Scale, derived from the melodic minor scale, is a great way to add tension and color to your lines when improvising over 2-5-1 progressions. Participants will learn the scale, how it is generated and well as the various tensions that it adds to dominant 7 chords. Everyone is encouraged to play and try out these ideas!

11:30-12:45 Workshop Block 2

Rupert Gillett: Jazz Improvisation on Cello (Dodge Room)
Do you like cello? Do you like jazz? Well, this workshop could be for you. While brass and wind-players have the historical advantage as jazz improvisational instruments, could the cello be the jazz voice of the future? Improvisation and jazz in particular can often seem insurmountable to many classically trained musicians. In this course, we will work on the first steps to overcome reservations about improvisations as well as some cello-specific “neat tricks” to navigate the harmonic minefield that is “jazz”. We will also work on phrasing, rhythm & bowing and how the three are interconnected as well as how to “steal” the best bits from other instruments!

Eden Rayz:  Free Improvisation in a Post-Genre World (Dance Studio)

Ever wonder what possibilities reveal themselves when you allow silence to take the wheel? For this period of time, we’ll release the boundaries of genre and idiom to explore the power of our most fundamental instincts as musicians. Learn techniques to incorporate free improvisation into your creative process. Access the innovation and creative expression that comes with fully trusting and allowing every noise that comes out of you and your collaborators.



2:00-3:15pm- Workshop Block 3

Iva Casian Lakos: Free Improvisation Part 1- Introduction to Improvisation (Dodge Room)

This workshop is an introduction to free improvisation, and how to overcome fears that may come with it. Topics include Silencing your Inner Critic, Taking Risks, and Creating Limits (to let your ideas flow). Participants will play in group improvisation exercises. Topics include: Silencing your Inner Critic, Taking Risks, and Creating Limits.

Ken James Kubota: I’ve been known to mistake a cello for a guitar (Dance Studio)
Unlock the expressive potential of your cello! This introductory course delves into the techniques and setups necessary to emulate the versatility of a guitarist. Learn fundamental adjustments to posture and hand positioning, master movable and fixed chordal handshapes, and discover tips for voicing chords with balance and resonance. Through hands-on exercises and repertoire studies, you’ll develop the skills to accompany yourself, collaborate with other musicians, and expand your musical palette with newfound creativity and versatility.


Made up of both guest artist and participant cellists, the cello big band will rehearse 3 times, culminating with a concert on Sunday afternoon in conjunction with Strings Without Boundaries. We’d love to have as many cellists take part as possible! We will reach out about this to all registrants as the time gets closer with more info.




NDCF 2024 CONCERT #1Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity (Northampton) FEAT. Ken James Kubota, Catherine Bent, Rupert Gillett and guests.



Participants can join any of the Strings Without Boundaries sessions (optional)

10:00-11:15 Workshop Block 1

Eden Rayz: Collaborating in the Recording Studio (Dodge Room)
Whether your studio is in your bedroom, Abbey Road, or anywhere in between, you can foster powerful collaborations as a recording artist. Learn techniques to effectively communicate with recording clients, establish custom sonic palettes for their tracks, and set expectations that ensure a fulfilling session for everyone. (Dodge Room)

Catherine Bent: Brazilian Choro on Cello (Dance Studio)
*some advance preparation recommended

Brazilian choro musicians approach melody in a way that is simultaneously rhythmic and dramatic. Learn how to contribute to the groove while playing expressively. Catherine will guide you in articulation and bowing choices, ornamentation, and an introduction to rhythmic comping approaches.

11:30-12:45 Workshop Block 2

Jeremy Harman: A Modal Exploration of Thumb Position (Dodge Room)
*recommended for intermediate or advanced cellists
When improvising, it’s easy to get stuck in our comfort zone and stick to playing in the lower positions, but developing improvisational and creative skills in thumb position can help us access a broader range of our instruments, both in terms of register, color and energy. The various possible handshapes of thumb position can be explored extensively by working through modes of the major and natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales as well as the many ways in which they can be connected.

Iva Casian Lakos: Free Improvisation Part 2- Mindfulness and Group Improvisation (Dance Studio)
This workshop focuses on the principles of group playing, and the value of silence and concentration. The workshop will begin with a mindfulness improvisation exercise as a warm up, then the participants will experiment with the different actions one can take in a group improvisation: Join; Supply Counterpoint; Expand the frame; Rest (Tacet); Assume Lead Voice.



2:00-3:15pm- Workshop Block 3

Ken James Kubota- Flip the cello on its side…Expansion pack (Dodge Room)
*recommended for intermediate or advanced cellists
Elevate your cello chordal mastery! Tailored for intermediate to advanced cellists, this course delves into intricate right-hand techniques such as fingerpicking, strumming, and percussive techniques, infusing rhythmic vitality and dynamic flair into your playing. You’ll explore advanced chord embellishments like hammer-ons, pull-offs, suspensions, harmonics, and bass lines enriching your musical palette with color and depth. By the course’s end, you’ll wield an extensive arsenal of techniques, poised to captivate audiences with your innovative chordal arrangements and emotive performances. Whether you aspire to lead the vanguard of contemporary cello expression or simply seek to deepen your musical journey, this course empowers you to redefine the boundaries of your artistic expression and embark on a thrilling new chapter in your cello-playing journey.

Rupert Gillett- Songwriting (Dance Studio)
When you think of some of the great singer-songwriters of the 20th and 21st century, most of them used the cello as their main accompanying tool. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones all made their way through Bach & Popper before writing their finest songs… No wait…

In this workshop, we will be looking at different ways the cello can be used as both an accompanying tool and a tool to help develop your own songs. There is more to “replacing the guitar” than putting the cello on your knee and strumming those Bach Prelude shapes…. What special techniques can we use? What things are special about the cello that work particularly well? What should we maybe NOT play? How can the cello help us develop our own song ideas?


Cello Big Band Rehearsal #2




NDCF 2024 CONCERT #2- Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity (Northampton)
FEAT. Eden Rayz, Iva Casian-Lakos and Jeremy Harman and guests



Participants can join any of the Strings Without Boundaries sessions (optional)


Cello Big Band Rehearsal #3- Williston Theatre




Strings Without Boundaries/NDCF Cello Big Band Concert
Williston Theatre (Free and open to public)


Post-festival hang/jam at Ana Bandeira Chocolates in Northampton