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.​

Artist Bio:

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. 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. He is currently the assistant principal cellist of the Des Moines Symphony, and a member of Duluth Superior Symphony and South Dakota Symphony. He has played with orchestras including Phoenix Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Scottsdale Arts Orchestra, Musica Nova, Tucson Pops and Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra. He 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. His versatile musical talent lead him to premiering several compositions with string quartet at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Phoenix, AZ, as well as performing on a series of Jazz recordings through the Foulger Institute with acclaimed artists Allison Eldredge and Tom Landschoot.

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, Rie is a prize winner of international and national competitions in Japan and the U.S. She was the winner of the MTNA Young Artist Competition in the West Central Division, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. She also won top prizes at Schubert Club Competition (1st), Chautauqua Piano Competition (Finalist, Commissioned Piece Award), Rosenstock International Piano Competition (Special Judge’s Award), to name a few. Rie maintains a full concert schedule for solo and chamber performances. She was featured on Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, StarTribune, Des Moines Symphony Orchestra’s DMSO at Home, Leif Eriksson International Festival, among many regional channels and concert series. 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.

As a chamber musician, she often collaborates with her husband and cellist Jesse Nummelin (assistant principal Cellist of Des Moines Symphony Orchestra) as Duo Ihana. She is also a co-founder of “Mirage Performing Arts,” a collaborative group of musicians and dancers, directing and performing sold-out productions in Minnesota. She has been a guest pianist with the South Beach Chamber Ensemble for their annual Wisconsin tour for the past 8 years, performing numbers of major Piano Trios, Quartets, and Quintets. She has collaborated with members of the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Phoenix Symphony, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and many other notable musicians.

Rie attended the prestigious music program at Yuhigaoka High School in Osaka, Japan, which led to the musical tour in Vienna, Austria, performing in Wiener Musikverein. She received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, where she studied under Dr. Raffi Besalyan. While there, she was a recipient of more than 15 scholarships and awards for her excellence in performance and academia. She received a Master’s and Doctor of Musical Art degrees in Piano Performance at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, studying under Alexander Braginsky and serving as a teaching assistant. Rie is currently a piano faculty at the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music, and Mount Olivet School of Music.

© 2021 Rie Tanaka – All Rights Reserved

Photo credits to;

©T&N Photography by Nino ©Julan Wang Photography ©Saint Paul Conservatory of Music ©Jeremy Alameda

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