About Us

About the New Directions Cello Festival

Since 1995, the New Directions Cello Festival has provided an international forum for the exchange of music and ideas for creative and alternative cellists of all ages, levels and backgrounds. With a “big tent” ethos, New Directions embraces all styles of music, particularly those not commonly taught at conservatories and music schools and especially those that incorporate improvisation. Cellist participants come from all over the US and abroad for a weekend of workshops, concerts, panels and jam sessions with some of the most innovative cellists working today.

Since its inception at New York City’s Knitting Factory, the annual festival has presented a veritable who’s who of creative cellists in New York City, Boston, Connecticut, Wisconsin, California, Cologne, Germany, Ithaca, NY, and now Northampton, MA. Over 100 cellists and their groups have graced the stages of the festival over the years including David Darling, Eugene Friesen, David Baker, Mark Summer, Tomeka Reid, Zoë Keating, Vincent Courtois, Mike Block, Leyla McCalla, Seth Parker Woods, Stephan Braun, Nathalie Haas, Andrew Yee, Zachary Brown, Ben Sollee, Vincent Segal, Jaques Morelenbaum, Stephen Katz, Ernst Reijseger, David Eyges, Akua Dixon, Rushad Eggleston, Rufus Cappodocia, Jane Scarpantoni, Chris White, Erik Friedlander, Jake Charkey, Jeremy Harman, Dawn Avery and Robert Een and many others.

The New Directions Cello Association and Festival Inc. (NDCA& F) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has created a network for the growing field of contemporary and alternative cello. The goals of the NDCA&F are to encourage interaction among creative cellists and to promote awareness among all cellists and the musically oriented public about the contributions that cellists are making in many styles of contemporary music. 

The NDCA&F publishes an e-newsletter called Cello City twice a year which contains interviews, reviews, articles, and other information related to contemporary and alternative cello.

Board of Directors:

Chris White, President
Sera Smolen, Vice President
Rex Westen, Secretary
Seth Maerowitz, Treasurer
Jeremy Harman, Festival Director
Phaedre Sassano, Festival Assistant Director
Joel Cohen
Eugene Friesen
Corbin Keep
Stijn Kuppens
Patricia Santos
Gunther Tiedemann

Past Artistic Advisors:

Ron Carter
David Darling
Yo-Yo Ma
Julian Lloyd Webber


Jeremy Harman

Jeremy Harman

Massachusetts-based cellist, composer and songwriter Jeremy Harman is always exploring shifting musical terrain with a continual desire to evolve as both an artist and a person. Equally at home on acoustic and electric instruments, Harman embodies the “post-genre” attitude in his broad-based love of music and insatiable curiosity to explore it through the lens of the cello. Whether playing string quartets, jazz standards, freely improvised creations or hardcore and metal riffs, Harman’s musical voice is as impassioned as it is distinct. Drawing from an ever-changing pool of stylistic influences often 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 and the Kodak Theatre to the House of Blues and the Newport Jazz Festival.

Jeremy is the cellist for the NYC-based Sirius Quartet who have brought their original compositions and progressive sound to audiences throughout the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Africa. Recent collaborators include Tracy Silverman, Uri Caine, Rufus Reid, Linda Oh, Billy Martin, John Escreet, Peter Stan, Frank Almond, and Marlis Petersen. He also appears frequently with instrumental chamber music/indie-rock alchemists Cordis, including performances on NPR’s Mountainstage and concerts throughout the U.S.

Harman has shared the stage with an extremely wide range of artists including Quincy Jones, John Williams, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bobby McFerrin, Lady Gaga, Sir Elton John, Tony Bennett, Mary J Blige, Pinchas Zuckerman, DeVotchKa, Debbie Harry, Bright Eyes, Marc Ribot and Dame Shirley Bassey among others, and has done session and arranging work for countless indie artists in New England and beyond.
A passionate educator, Jeremy is an Associate Professor of Cello at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the creator of the online course Creative Expansion for Cellists, designed to help intermediate and advanced cellists develop their creative and improvisatory skills on the instrument. He lives with his wife and two kids in Western Massachusetts.

Phaedre Sassano

Phaedre Sassano

Phaedre Sassano began studying cello with Eric Dahlin of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and graduated from Boston University where she majored in music education and studied with master cellist George Neikrug. Ms. Sassano holds a master’s degree from New York University in Performing Arts Administration. In her time in New York City, Ms. Sassano was Education Associate for the Manhattan New Music Project where she helped develop and implement school music programs in public and private schools in all five boroughs. She also worked with the World Music Institute where she assisted with the coordination and promotion of international performing arts events. Her graduate studies at NYU culminated with a study abroad program to The Netherlands and Germany where she studied arts administration in the European context. Ms. Sassano has spent time in Trinidad working as a strings specialist with the National Sinfonia for the Orchestral Society of Trinidad and Tobago. Ms. Sassano has worked in the Hingham Public Schools in Massachusetts since 2001 where she is the Director of Secondary Orchestras in addition to having served as department head for fifteen years. Ms. Sassano has conducted regional youth symphonies and is an active member of regional and statewide music festivals where she has acted as orchestra manager, adjudicator, auditions committee member, concert chair and Vice President.


Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a jazz, improvisational and classical cellist based in Ithaca, NY. He is the founder and was the director of the New Directions Cello Festival from 1995 to 2019. Chris performed with his jazz quartet at the first World Cello Congress (June 1988), the Quanzaine de Montreal (April 1992), the New Directions Cello Festival (1995, 1997, 2001, 2019) and at the 6th American Cello Congress in Maryland (May 2001). He also performs regularly as a classical cellist with The Binghamton (NY) Symphony and frequently freelances with chamber and jazz groups. An active cello teacher, Chris is on the faculty of the Community School of Music & Arts 

in Ithaca and frequently gives workshops on improvisation for cellists.

Chris’s most recent release is Song for Rob; other notable releases include First
 with the Cayuga Jazz Ensemble and Grass with the trio Cloud
Chamber Orchestra, available on most streaming platforms. He has published a book and CD method (1997) on improvisation entitled Jazz Cello, also available for violin and viola. White has recorded on the albums of countless other artists in the US and