Payton MacDonald directs the program, and he is also currently Chairperson of the WP Music Department. Colleen Bernstein, John Ferrari, and Mika Godbole teach percussion lessons and conduct ensembles and classes. M’bemba Bangoura teaches West African drumming, sharing his deep knowledge of Guinean music. All the faculty members have toured the world and made many recordings and are highly-regarded professionals. Students have the opportunity to work with all five faculty members, thus expanding their range of knowledge. Please read their professional biographies below to learn more about their experience.
Payton MacDonald, Area Coordinator
Payton MacDonald is a percussionist/composer/improviser. The New York Times described him as an “energetic soloist.” The Los Angeles Times described him as an “. . . inventive, stylistically omnivorous composer and gifted performer . . .” His music has also been described as “. . . engaging and utterly beautiful.” (Sequenza 21) As a performer MacDonald has toured the world with Alarm Will Sound and as a soloist, performing in the finest concert halls and recording on some of the most notable record labels, including Nonesuch, Cantaloupe, Infrequent Seams, and Equilibrium. MacDonald has released over 100 recordings, and also finished his Sonic Divide project, which saw him ride his mountain bike from Mexico to Canada, 2,500 miles, self-supported, while premiering 30 new pieces of music in the wilderness and making an award-winning film. MacDonald studied music at the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. His composition teachers include Sydney Hodkinson, Robert Morris, Dave Rivello, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas. His percussion teachers include John Beck and Michael Udow. Further percussion studies include tabla with Bob Becker and Pandit Sharda Sahai. www.paytonmacdonald.com
M’bemba Bangoura is revered worldwide for his high level of mastery of the djembe drum. M’Bemba began drumming at a very young age in his native Guinea, West Africa. Guinea has many parts with many different styles of drum and dance. Growing up in Conakry, M’Bemba was exposed to all of these styles in the cultural melting pot of the city. By the age of 21, he was an acclaimed and accomplished drummer and was invited to play for Ballet Djoliba, the National Ensemble of Guinea. After playing with Djoliba and other groups in Guinea for 13 years, M’Bemba moved to the US in 1992. He has choreographed and developed repertoire for dozens of dance companies in New York City and abroad. An integral part of many drum and dance conferences and workshops nationwide, M’Bemba teaches and performs regularly in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.
Colleen Bernstein is an award-winning percussionist, educator, and creative collaborator recognized for her passionate performances and impactful community engagement initiatives. As an active freelance performer in New York City, Bernstein currently plays for Broadway musicals and with acclaimed groups including American Symphony Orchestra and Talea Ensemble. She has previously collaborated with notable artists and GRAMMY winners such as Béla Fleck, International Contemporary Ensemble, Sō Percussion, Sandbox Percussion, and Silkroad Ensemble. As a soloist, Bernstein has performed a concerto with the Albany Symphony (NY), presented sets at MATA Festival, New Music Gathering, World Vibes Congress, and Oh My Ears Festival, and won prizes in international competitions including the Universal Marimba Competition (2015). Bernstein is also an original member of American Wild Ensemble, a septet that celebrates American stories and natural spaces through new music. She is the producer of Strength & Sensitivity, an initiative that utilizes contemporary music and poetry to advocate for gender equality. Alongside numerous commissioned works and solo concerts, Bernstein has directed large-scale touring productions of the project in Boston, Chicago, and Ann Arbor, MI to date. Beyond her work as a performer, Bernstein is a professor at William Paterson University and Hunter College, and the Director of Percussion/Conductor of Percussion Ensembles for the New Jersey Youth Symphony organization. She serves as Community Engagement Coordinator for the Silkroad Ensemble’s annual Global Musician Workshop, and is currently a member of the 2023 Global Leaders Program cohort, where she is pursuing an MBA in Arts Innovation. Bernstein holds degrees, certificates, and awards from the Eastman School of Music and University of Michigan, and is an artist endorser for Black Swamp Percussion and Malletech.
John Ferrari is active in classical, jazz, pop, Broadway, film, television, dance music, and the avant-garde. He has performed and given master classes nationally and abroad, and appears on dozens of recordings as percussionist, drummer and conductor. He is a founding member of Naumburg Award winning New Millennium Ensemble and has toured and recorded extensively with Meridian Arts Ensemble. Ferrari has appeared as guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Northwest, Band On A Can Allstars, The Group for Contemporary Music, Da Capo Chamber Players, Cygnus, Patrick Grant Group, Talujon Percussion, among others, as well as the New Jersey Symphony and other regional orchestras. In fall 2007 he joined the faculty of Manhattan School of Music’s Masters in Contemporary Performance Program, and has been artist faculty at Princeton University since 2010. In 2013 Ferrari also joined the music faculty of Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, NJ. He holds DMA and MM degrees from SUNY Stony Brook, and a BM from William Paterson University where he has also served on the performing arts faculty since 2002.
Malavika, or Mika, Godbole is known for her enthusiastic support of new music, emerging composers, and is equally at ease traversing the subgenres of orchestral/large instrumental repertoire, chamber music, and niche avant garde. She has premiered several works as a member of Mobius Percussion and has recently joined the New York-based Mantra Percussion. Her musically-adjacent activities include being Artistic Director of Unruly Sounds, Princeton’s first and only new music festival, and is currently the Vice President of the NJ Chapter of Percussive Arts Society. Freelance activities include performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Network for New Music, Richmond Symphony, Delaware Symphony, Orchestra 2001, Bay Atlantic Symphony, Ocean City Pops Orchestra, and Lancaster Symphony as well as a recent appointment as Principal Timpani of the Bay Atlantic Symphony. Recent accolades include a Grammy nomination for Thomas Lloyd’s Bonhoeffer with The Crossing and winning the 2016 Bessie Award with Dan Trueman, Mobius Percussion, and Sō Percussion for Outstanding Musical Composition/Sound Design. As a pedagogue, she maintains an active studio of private students and has recently begun teaching at Trenton Music Makers, an El Sistema-based program, in addition to adjunct positions at Rowan University and William Paterson University.