Trillium Marimba Ensemble was founded by Peter and Mikaela Swing in 2001. We blend our background in folk, classical and ragtime music with our love and years of study in the music of Zimbabwe. This creates a sound which is both traditional and original. A key insight resulting from this study is how the music rooted in tradition may be reflected in an artist's own personal voice. This idea permeates Trillium and permits us to feel part of a tradition not originally our own, while adding our own voice to it.
In 1988, we found our way to Zimbabwean music by different means, but at the same time and place. Echo Theatre in Portland, Oregon is a fond memory for us as we found ourselves there over and over again playing music and dancing. We both were members of Boka Marimba and Peter eventually became Music Director, beginning his love of composition and arrangement, and learning the rewards, responsibilities and perils of band leadership.
Boka Marimba emerged out of a series of workshops with Dumisani ("Dumi") Maraire, a master musician from Zimbabwe gifted in making his traditional music understandable to Westerners. He always wondered if it was possible for people outside his culture to take it seriously enough to really get it--"You have to live it" he would say. Though Dumi has passed from this world, his guiding spirit and keen musical intelligence remains a cornerstone of Trillium's music.
At Echo Theatre Mikaela found dance as she had never known it before and became a quick enthusiast for mbira music and song from Zimbabwe. During this seminal period she had a passion to understand tribal life, with family playing a central role. She began a life-long journey into the heart of that elusive thing called "community". She perceived the central role of music in creating and holding a community together.
For eight years in Portland, we lived, ate and drank the music of Zimbabwe. We moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico when our first-born, Quianna, was one (1996), responding to the call of Peter's childhood friend, Dan Pauli, to join his professional marimba band, which became "Jaka". With a leap of faith, we devoted all of our time to becoming music professionals, using village as a model to live by.
Peter was enthusiastically (though unexpectedly) welcomed for the marimba music he could effectively share--especially with youth--and for his skill as a craftsman building marimbas. Tatenda Youth Marimba Ensemble naturally formed around the marimba music. These kids, their parents and the Swings all joined in their love for Zimbabwean music and created an exciting musical group that lasted 6 fruitful years.
With Mikaela as the community organizer (in the midst of being a full-time mom and birthing our second child, Raven, in 1999) we founded Tatenda Music Center. Former students of Tatenda are currently core members of two established marimba bands in Santa Fe: Ande' Marimba Band and Kumusha Women's Marimba Ensemble. The key players in Trillium are friends and former students who have reached a high level of musical accomplishment, and have a solid commitment to the study of Zimbabwean marimba music. They have become Trillium's extended family: Lauri Benblatt, David Schaldach, Karyna Cragin, Jesse Garcia, Daniel Lockley and Jordan McKittrick.
Quianna and Raven have grown up in a village-like atmosphere, with Zimbabwean music always in the air, and are now students at Tatenda and members of Trillium. They are growing up witnessing thier papa making marimbas and teaching music to their friends, and their mother creating events that bring people together. This gives them a trade and provides them with a role model of effectively working in the world which may serve them for a lifetime.
Trillium blooms out of our love of family, music, homeschooling our children, building community and living simply on the land. We are commited to bringing our musical expression to the highest possible level, in service to Spirit, in honor of those who gifted us and those we pass the music on to. With newly purchased land in the Cerrillos Hills just south of Santa Fe we now have a land base, reminiscent of Zimbabwe, where we extend our work. We have received blessings for the right use of the land from both Zimbabwean elders and the pastor of the church that houses Tatenda Music Center.
The powerful call of the muses-- southern African, European and American--grows ever stronger, revealing more depth and understanding of this musical conversation of joy, beauty and overcoming adversity which Trillium Marimba Ensemble joins. It is this we desire to share with you.