Finnish-American Cellist Jesse Nummelin and Japanese Pianist Rie Tanaka met while studying at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. The language barrier challenged them to communicate verbally, but they bonded through playing Classical Music together, and have been performing together for the past 10 years.
Now a married couple, Jesse and Rie’s mission is to to build bridges between people and cultures using the universal language of music. Their duo name “Ihana” is a Finnish word for “wonderful,” acknowledging Jesse’s three-quarter Finnish Heritage, while it could also mean “one flower” in Japanese. The name carries the meaning of two cultures coming together.
Their most recent project is an original multi-cultural program, titled “Folk Music of Classical Composers”. Featured composers are Sibelius, Copland, de Falla, Bartok, Mamiya, and Chopin. All of these composers are widely known for integrating the traditional folk music of their heritage into classical music, and bringing spotlights to the underrepresented cultures throughout Western Music history. The duo hopes to offer diverse and cross-cultural experience to the audience, and show how cultures, although different from one another, can speak to every one of us with a sense of belonging, comfort, and nostalgia.
Jesse Nummelin is a native of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He started Suzuki cello at age three with the Aber Suzuki Center for the Arts and performed with the Suzuki Chamber Ensemble under Mr. David Becker from 2004-2008. Jesse later went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in cello performance at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and then a Masters of Music at Arizona State where he worked as Teaching Assistant to Professor Thomas Landschoot.
Jesse is an avid chamber musician and teacher. He is currently a member of the Des Moines Symphony, Duluth Superior Symphony, and South Dakota Symphony. He has played with orchestras including Phoenix Symphony, Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra, Scottsdale Arts Orchestra, Musica Nova, Tucson Pops and the Tucson Symphony. He has played with the CWSO scholarship quartet, premiered several compositions with string quartet at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Phoenix, AZ and has performed on the UWSP radio broadcast “Acoustic Revival.” He also made a series of Jazz recordings through the Foulger Institute with acclaimed artists Allison Eldredge and Tom Landschoot. Jesse has performed with notable artists including Lang Lang, Andrea Bocelli, Pinchas Zukerman, Anne Akiko Meyers, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Curtis Stigers, the Juilliard String Quartet and John Williams.
He has taught cello to people of all ages and backgrounds through various programs and private studios. He served as a faculty of cello at the Aber Suzuki Center for the Arts at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2016. Jesse currently lives in Mound, MN and teaches cello at the St. Paul Conservatory of Music and Mount Olivet School of Music.
Dr. Rie Tanaka is a Pianist, music educator, and wellness specialist. Native of Osaka, Japan, she is a prize winner of international and national competitions in Japan and the U.S., winning top prizes in MTNA Young Artist Competition, Schubert Club Competition, Chautauqua International Piano Competition, Rosenstock International Piano Competition, to name a few.
Rie maintains a full concert schedule for solo and chamber performances. She has appeared in venues such as NHK Osaka hall, Phoenix hall in Osaka Japan, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Landmark Center in St. Paul, Thrasher Opera House in Wisconsin, among others. She is on the roster of performance artists of the Thursday Musical Concert Series, Schubert Club Courtroom Concert Series, Hastings Arts Center Coffee Concert Series, South Beach Chamber Ensemble, and the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music Coffee Concert Series.
As a chamber musician, she often collaborates with her husband and cellist Jesse Nummelin as Duo Ihana. Their performance has been featured on American Public Radio’s “Your Classical”, Leif Eriksson International Festival, Des Moines Symphony Orchestra’s DMSO at Home, and many local and regional concert series. She also collaborated with ballet dancer and choreographer Yuki Tokuda, co-directing and performing sold-out concerts “MIRAGE,” which was named as one of “week’s best Classical concerts” by StarTribune. She is frequently a guest artist for Miami based chamber group South Beach Chamber Ensemble, and has been featured on Wisconsin Public Radio for their annual “Up North” concert tour.
Rie received her B.M. from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, studying under Dr. Raffi Besalyan, M.M. and D.M.A. from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where she studied with Alexander Braginsky, and served as a Piano Teaching Assistant for five years. She currently teaches Piano at the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music and Mount Olivet School of Music. She lives in Mound, MN with her husband Jesse Nummelin and Bengal-mix cat Munchie.
© 2019 Rie Tanaka – All Rights Reserved
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©T&N Photography by Nino ©Julan Wang Photography ©Saint Paul Conservatory of Music ©Jeremy Alameda