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Program for Current: The Illustrated Pianist

Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 8 pm

Download a copy of the program here.

Current: A Piano Festival

presented by Old First Concerts and the Ross McKee Foundation

A Concert of Imaginative New Works for Piano and
Visual Installation, inspired by science fiction

Produced & curated by Nicole Brancato

Compositions & performances by
Nicole Brancato, Monica Chew, Jed Distler, Jerry Kuderna,
Keisuke Nakagoshi, Nicholas Pavkovic, & Dee Spencer

Visual & sound installation by Cory Todd


Nicole Brancato
Tricks of Light — inspired by The Veldt
      in honor of Carol Paster, dedicated to Rachel Paster

Nicholas Pavkovic
Moving Pictures — inspired by Prologue: The Illustrated Man

Jed Distler
Rocket Rockit Rockette — inspired by The Rocket Man
      dedicated to Anthony S. and Georgine E. Brancato

Dee Spencer
Earthly Grace — inspired by The Other Foot

Monica Chew (performed by Jerry Kuderna)
Pitter Patter — inspired by The Long Rain
      dedicated to Jerry Kuderna

Nicole Brancato
No Matter — inspired by No Particular Night or Morning
dedicated to Dr. Salvatore and Mrs. Annamaria Brancato

Keisuke Nakagoshi
Numb — inspired by The Last Night of the World

Jed Distler
Città desolata — inspired by The City

Nicole Brancato
for someone / for no one / for anyone at all — inspired by Kaleidoscope

Visual & Sound Installation by Cory Todd

We want to extend enormous, heartfelt gratitude to all of our generous commissioners, The Ross McKee Foundation, their director Nicholas Pavkovic, Old First Concerts, Matt Wolka, Rick Bahto, and the many supporters who made this event possible. These are extraordinary times, and without your support, none of this would have been possible. Thank you!

About the project

Hailed as “ingenious,” “mysterious,” and “inspiring,” The Illustrated Pianist combines science-fiction and adaptive visual installation in an imaginative concert of piano music, inspired by the timeless book The Illustrated Man.

This unique multimedia event, assembled by the pianist and composer Nicole Brancato for the Old First Concerts, honors the centenary, in 2020, of the iconic American science-fiction author Ray Bradbury and the seventieth anniversary, this year, of his celebrated story collection. The program comprises distinct new works by seven accomplished composing pianists, including Nicholas Pavkovic, Jed Distler, Monica Chew, Dee Spencer, Jerry Kuderna, Keisuke Nakagoshi, and Brancato herself, paired with visual elements designed by Cory Todd.

The acclaimed New York City premiere of The Illustrated Pianist was featured in The New Yorker and boasted the commission of eighteen new works for piano. In this new edition at the historic Old First Church, five new piano commissions and new visual design are made possible by the Ross McKee Foundation. We invite you to reflect on the tales that inspired these new works of art, or to envision your own stories!

Through these unique sonic and visual collaborations, the project connects diverse perspectives to ponder our past, speak to us about our present, and wonder about the future. The themes presented transcend age and time — and perhaps, in some ways, speak to us even more loudly now than in previous decades…

About the musicians

As a forward-looking force in today’s music world, Nicole Brancato has crafted an imaginative career, merging curation, composition, performance, improvisation, education, and collaboration across the arts. The innovative endeavors of the award-winning “piano virtuoso” (The Daily Gazette) have taken her throughout the Americas and Europe. Her engagements include Lincoln Center, the Guggenheim, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and New York Public Radio, as well as the cutting-edge performance spaces in New York City, with features in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and the international network Rai Italia. She is a champion of creative and conceptual performance, and in all of her endeavors, she creates a connective, intellectual, and inspiring experience for her audiences. To learn more about Nicole Brancato, visit

Monica Chew ( is an Oakland pianist and composer. In 2017 she released her first solo album, Tender and Strange, featuring works by Bartók, Janáček, Messiaen, Takemitsu, and Scriabin. A “gifted player with an affinity for deeply sensitive expression” (Whole Note), her playing is “wonderfully delicate, like tissue” (International Pianist). She has been a featured artist on radio stations worldwide. She started composing in 2017 and couldn’t be happier about it. Her work has been featured by Gabriela Lena Frank’s Creative Academy for Music, Hot Air Music Festival, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s Intersection. Her first string quartet, Delayed Send, was premiered by Friction Quartet and reviewed as “monumental” and “stunning” by San Francisco Classical Voice. Prior to 2015, she neglected piano for nearly a decade to work as a principal software engineer on security and privacy at Mozilla and Google after receiving her Master of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley. She lives in Oakland with her husband, an 1899 Steinway B, a clavichord, and a disused violin. In spring and summer of 2020 she gave free twice-weekly live concerts on her Facebook and YouTube channels.

Composer/pianist and Steinway Artist Jed Distler taught for more than 20 years at Sarah Lawrence College. Early in his career Distler gained acclaim for his transcriptions of jazz piano solos by Art Tatum and Bill Evans, while his new music piano recitals have offered premiers of works by Virgil Thomson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Curran, Lois V Vierk, William Schimmel and many more. Distler’s presenting organization ComposersCollaborative, Inc earned a Guinness Record for world’s largest keyboard ensemble, featuring an original work for 175 electronic keyboards. Distler records prolifically for the high resolution Spirio player piano, while TNC Music released Distler’s most recent solo piano CD Fearless Monk. (available from Bandcamp).

As Artist-in-Residence for WWFM.Org The Classical Network, Distler is the creator, host and producer of the 2017 ASCAP Deems Taylor Virgil Thomson Award radio program Between the Keys. Distler contributes reviews and articles to Gramophone and, and has written numerous CD booklet notes for Sony/BMG and Universal Classics. Most importantly, Distler turned down the position of Music Department Chair at Trump University.

Jerry Kuderna received his initial training in piano and conducting in Denver with Antonia Brico. While studying the music of Webern and Schoenberg with Rudolf Kolisch he performed works by the 2nd Viennese school with soprano Bethany Beardslee. He studied piano with Adele Marcus at Juilliard and Robert Helps at the New England Conservatory. He has taught at the University of Louisville and at Princeton University where he met Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt. His doctoral studies at NYU included a Ph.D dissertation on the piano works of Babbitt. He also taught music literature at Diablo Valley College.

As a solo recitalist and founding member of the Maybeck Trio, California-based pianist Jerry Kuderna embraces traditional repertoire and new music with boundless virtuosity and fierce commitment. He has been presented by Group for Contemporary Music, The American Society of University Composers, The New Jersey Composer’s Guild, The Los Angeles SCREAM Festival, Earplay and Cal Performances. Kuderna has premiered works by composers such as Milton Babbitt, Claudio Spies, John Selleck, Robert Helps, Ross Bauer, Daniel Brewbaker, Richard Swift, Edwin Dugger, Phillipe Manoury, Herb Bielwa, Ann Callaway and Kurt Erickson, many of whom have written especially for the pianist. Kuderna recorded Babbitt’s Phonemena for Soprano and Piano (with Lynne Webber) for the New World Records historic anthology of American Music series. In January 2006 he gave the West Coast premiere of Elliott Carter’s Piano Concerto with the Berkeley Symphony under the baton of George Thompson. He has premiered works by American composers including Milton Babbitt, Richard Swift, Alden Jenks, Robert Helps, Ann Callaway, Judith Shatin, and Herb Bielawa.

He recently celebrated twenty years of regular lecture- recitals given under the auspices of The Berkeley Arts festival.

Keisuke Nakagoshi has received training from Emanuel Ax, Gilbert Kalish, Menahem Pressler and Paul Hersh and he has performed concert stages across the United States including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and Hollywood Bowl. In 2014, he made a solo debut with San Francisco Symphony on Ingvar Lidholm’s Poesis with Herbert Blomstedt conducting. Keisuke and Swiss pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann formed a piano duet, ZOFO and their first CD was nominated for Grammy award for best chamber music/small ensemble in 2013. Aside from ZOFO, Mr. Nakagoshi is a pianist in residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and he also serves as pianist in the production team for Opera Parallèle.

Nicholas Pavkovic ( is a composer, a pianist, and the Executive Director of the Ross McKee Foundation. His film scores have received accolades and he is a Sundance Composers Lab fellow. He studied and taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he was also honored with the Highsmith Award for orchestral composition.

Dee Spencer is a Professor of Jazz and Musical Theatre in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Dee founded the Jazz Studies degree program in the School of Music at SFSU and served as Director for five years. As an active contributor to the music community, she founded the SFJAZZ education program, and she served as East Bay Center for the Performing Arts program director.

Her performance credits encompass a star-studded roster including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Ledisi, Lenny Williams John Handy, Jimmy Scott, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Regina Carter, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Bernard Purdie and X-Factor star Jason Brock. Her latest recording Tranquility was released in 2018.

Cory Todd is a multimedia artist and engineer living in Berkeley. His work combines programming, audio and video production, real-time data, and other experimental practices to explore themes of emotionality, abstraction, and memory. Projects have included national and international tours with renowned artists of various disciplines, collaboration in a multitude of settings, and extensive studio work.

Old First Concerts has volunteer opportunities available!

Our concerts rely on the generosity of volunteers to assist with simple tasks like:


distributing programs

box office

set-up and clean-up

Scheduling is flexible — you choose when to work! We especially need helping hands for our Friday and Saturday night performances.

An excellent opportunity for students, seniors, or anyone who possesses a love for music!

If you’d like to consider volunteering with Old First Concerts, please contact for more information.