Colleen Bernstein is an award-winning percussionist, arts educator, and creative collaborator recognized for her uniquely passionate performances, adventurous musical spirit, and impactful community engagement initiatives. She has performed contemporary solo, chamber, and orchestral music across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Additionally, she enjoys a diverse career as a concert presenter, producer, pianist, conductor, and teacher. Colleen strives to embody boldness and empathy through her work, and is dedicated to unifying and effecting positive change in communities of all ages and backgrounds.
Colleen has been featured in performances with GRAMMY-winning artists including Béla Fleck and members of the Silkroad Ensemble, and was the recipient of the Ludwig Albert Talent Award at the 2015 Universal Marimba Competition. She received 3rd place in the inaugural MalletLab International Online Competition, and was the 2nd place winner of the Black Swamp Solo Percussion Showcase in 2018. Colleen performed on the New York Philharmonic’s Off the Grid chamber music concert series in 2017, and tours actively as Percussionist, Conductor, and Leader of Educational Programming with the ground-breaking American Wild Ensemble, a new music septet. Colleen is also a performer and teaching artist with Creative Leaps International, an interdisciplinary arts collective working with corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions to inspire creativity and leadership development. She has appeared as a guest artist at the Leigh Howard Stevens Summer Marimba Seminar, and twice at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention: as a member of the All-Star International Percussion Ensemble, and with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble.
Colleen is the Founder, Artistic Director, and Producer of Strength & Sensitivity, a mobile concert series promoting gender equality through immersive multi-media events celebrating passion, emotion, and understanding. The first Strength & Sensitivity performance featured seven world premieres, and was part of the United Nations HeForShe Arts Week, a weeklong, global festival honoring the UN Women’s solidarity movement for gender equality. In the 2018-2019 season, Strength & Sensitivity will launch a touring a production as well as collaborative ventures with established ambassador ensembles and artists.
As a recording artist, Colleen’s work can be heard on the debut American Wild Ensemble video album (ArtistShare label), as well as on multiple albums with the Eastman Wind Ensemble (Summit Records), on which she performs both percussion and piano. Colleen has worked as a session and post-production producer for Third Coast Percussion and the Eastman Percussion Ensemble.
Colleen is a champion of equitable education, and she has extensive experience teaching in traditional classroom and private studio environments, as well as designing culturally responsive educational programs for learners of all ages and backgrounds. She is currently the Director of Outreach for the Silkroad Global Musician Workshop, as well as the Lead Teacher in the El Sistema-inspired Michigan Artist Citizen Program and the Site Coordinator for the Crescendo Detroit Pathways Program. From 2014-2016, she curated a series of interactive concerts for multi-generational audiences celebrating local artists and contemporary music at the Strong National Museum of Play. Among these programs was Toy Suite, a project that generated ten solo and chamber works dedicated to toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Over the past five years, Colleen has premiered nearly fifty solo, chamber, and orchestral pieces. She has personally commissioned over twenty works, varying from an electroacoustic solo to a trio for violin, marimba, and narrator, and a theatrical quartet for speaking percussionists, performed on “kitchen instruments.” Colleen is also leading the Richard Albagli Legacy Initiative in efforts to publish the comprehensive works of the nationally-renowned educator and celebrate his myriad accomplishments in the percussion field.
Colleen graduated with Highest Distinction from the Eastman School of Music in 2016 with Bachelor’s degrees in Applied Music and Music Education, a Certificate in Arts Leadership, and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. She will receive Master’s degrees in Percussion and Chamber Music from the University of Michigan in 2019. Her primary teachers include Michael Burritt, Joseph Gramley, Jonathan Ovalle, Richard Albagli, and Mark Foster. Colleen is a Presser Undergraduate Scholar and a member of Pi Kappa Lambda (National Music Honor Society), the National Association for Music Education, and the Percussive Arts Society.
- Founder & Artistic Director, Strength & Sensitivity Concerts
- Percussionist & Conductor, American Wild Ensemble
- Director of Community Engagement/Education, Silkroad Global Musician Worskhop
- Percussionist & Teaching Artist, Creative Leaps International
- 3rd Place Winner, 2018 MalletLab International Online Competition
- 2nd Place Winner, 2018 Black Swamp Percussion Solo Showcase
- Duo performances with Béla Fleck on tour, 2016
- Winner, Ludwig Albert Talent Prize, 2015 Universal Marimba Competition
- Inaugural International All-Star Percussion Ensemble member, 2015