Pushback Ensemble - Photographer Lynn Lane - Hi Res-4

Photo by Lynn Lane

Pushback is a modular contemporary music ensemble founded in 2018 by Ben Roidl-Ward (bassoon) and Ally Smither (soprano). Our objective is to commission and present a new body of work featuring bassoon and soprano that addresses, interacts with, and exposes social and political issues within our communities. This goal arose from a growing frustration with what we see as an unnecessary and harmful dislocation of our artistic practice from the realities of our lives. Pushback was formed from a desire for a close collaboration between two unusually paired voices; this spirit of collaboration expands to a deep desire to form meaningful relationships with composers of our generation, and to actively participate in the creation of new work that challenges performers and listeners alike.

Our first commissioning project featured the premieres of four new works: three duos for bassoon and soprano by LJ White, Karim Al-Zand, and Binna Kim, and one sextet for bassoon, soprano, and string quartet by Theo Chandler. We are grateful to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, whose generous support made these commissions possible and our performances throughout 2018 and 2019 possible. Our programs in the 2019-2020 season will include new works by Sepehr Pirasteh and Yi-Ting Lu.



Photo by Viola Chan

Formed in the summer of 2017 at the Spoleto Festival USA, Aviary (Isidora Nojkovic, cello and Ben Roidl-Ward, bassoon) is committed to expanding the duo repertoire for cello and bassoon by working with living composers and using non-standard instrumental techniques and electronics. In the winter of 2017/18, Aviary embarked on an international tour, with concerts in New York City (presented by NYU’s inaugural Precarious Sounds/Sounding Sanctuary conference), Tacoma, WA, and Vancouver, BC. Their 2018/19 season will include premiers of four newly commissioned works funded by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, as well as concerts in Chicago, IL, and Denver CO.



Photo by Natalie Lin

Wolftone is a duo project comprised of Will Overcash (violin) and Ben Roidl-Ward (bassoon).With the goal of exploring and expanding the possibilities of the violin/bassoon pairing, this duo is commissioning a bold new repertoire of works. Ben and Will met as students at the Oberlin Conservatory, where they were frequent collaborators, notably as members of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and as founding members of the student-run contemporary music collective Semble N. They formed a duo in 2017 while studying in Rice University, and debuted with a successful US tour supported by the Sviatoslav Richter Fund and the Lovett Traveling Fellowship. This year, Wolftone presents concerts in Frankfurt and Chicago.



Photo by Lisa Atkinson

Zachary Good and Ben Roidl-Ward first met as students at Oberlin in 2011, and performed together in a variety of Oberlin Ensembles, including tours to the World Financial Center with the Contemporary Music Ensemble in 2012 and to Carnegie Hall with the Oberlin Orchestra in 2013. They performed with the ensemble Chartreuse on a six-concert tour featuring new works for string trio and winds in January of 2015, supported by a Oberlin Conservatory Initiative Grant. Their interest in performing together as a duo arose from a close friendship, many  improvisation sessions, and a shared dedication to expanding the repertoire and the musical capabilities of their instruments.