Wooden Cities | contemporary music ensemble


Wooden Cities is a collective of performers and composers based in Buffalo, NY. The group frequently collaborates with and draws musicians from Buffalo's rich local scene, as well as other artists from throughout Western New York and the wider United States.

Wooden Cities
Brendan Fitzgerald
Brendan Fitzgerald, director

As a performer, educator, and composer, Brendan Fitzgerald has presented music throughout the United States East Coast for the past decade. As a percussionist and student of Tom Kolor, Brendan has been part of performances and recordings across popular and art genres, premiering dozens of new works over his career. He has served as performer, producer, and songwriter for Auger and Doe/Buck while also directing and arranging for his own contemporary chamber ensemble, Broken Branches. Having earned a Masters in Conducting Performance at the University at Buffalo studying with Tony Arnold and Daniel Bassin, he currently serves as the conductor of the New Buffalo Jazz Octet, guest conductor of the University at Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, and continues to present research on John Zorn at conferences and workshops. Now as Director of Instrumental Music at Canisius High School, Brendan's latest work focuses on presenting and educating audiences on contemporary music through his chamber ensemble, Wooden Cities.

T.J. Borden
T.J. Borden, 'cello

Tyler Borden, known as T.J. to many, is a cellist comfortable in many different settings, whether it's improvising in an art gallery or performing in a concert hall. Growing up in Rochester NY, he began classical training at age 6 and later decided to pursue it full-time: first at Ithaca College and now at the University at Buffalo. His fondness for contemporary and experimental music has led to him working with numerous composers, including Steve Mackey, Tony Conrad, and Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky. In addition to performing the works of others, T.J. is also an improviser, performing in this respect in several places from the East coast to the West. His improvisations will be used in an upcoming film by Cleveland-based Guggenheim fellow Kasumi. Also a fledgling composer, T.J. was commissioned by the Cleveland Institute of Art to write and premiere a piece for solo cello for their 2011 Commencement Ceremony.


Evan Courtin
Evan Courtin, violin

Evan Courtin is a violinist from Buffalo, New York. He began playing violin at the age of 5 and hasn't stopped since. After briefly attending the Mannes College of Music in New York City, he moved back to Buffalo where he helped form Peanut Brittle Satellite, a progressive rock band that was renowned for their unique harmonies and intrinsic rhythms. In 2008 they were awarded a Buffalo Music Award for Best New Original Music. In 2009 he composed/produced/scripted Oscar and the Hooker, which premiered at the Buffalo Infringement Festival that year, where it was named Best New Musical. In 2011 he assisted in the formation of Wooden Cities and has since enjoyed playing the music composed by his peers.

He is currently a member of Shubbaluliuma (aka Will Folk For Food), a trio of 2 violins and percussion that serves to proliferate the music of Béla Bartók and Eastern European folk music in general. In 2012 he was bestowed a Western New York Music Award as one of the region's best instrumentalists. Additionally, he performs with the Buffalo State College Philharmonia, and a band called Ramforinkus.

Jacob Gotlib
Jacob Gotlib, electronics & composer

Jacob Gotlib was born and raised in Louisville, KY, and has written music for instruments, electronics, dance, and multimedia. His music is regularly played in North America and Europe, most recently at the Wellesley Composers Conference (Wellesley, MA), the Acht Brücken Festival (Cologne, Germany), and June in Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). His works have been premiered by a variety of American and European ensembles, including Ensemble SurPlus, Ensemble Linea, and the Crossfire Percussion Duo.

Jacob has studied at the Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and currently studies with David Felder at SUNY at Buffalo. He has a pet hedgehog named Ormsby.


Esin Gunduz
Esin Gündüz, voice & composer

Esin Gündüz is a composer and singer. Currently residing in Buffalo NY, while luckily pursuing a PhD in music composition under the tutelage of David Felder, she is having her music played by small chamber ensembles which often include herself as a performer. Her music has been performed at June in Buffalo (2013), SoundSCAPE (2009), The 1st Viola and Chamber Music Festival (2010), and more… As a singer for the MUJE big band, she performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and the Jazz a Juan Festival, Nice. As a performer and improvisor, she is one of the founders of the unique improvisational trio resAUnance, and is also a proud member of Wooden Cities of Buffalo.

Originally from Istanbul, Esin holds a BA in jazz performance and composition from Istanbul Bilgi University, and a MA in music composition from Marshall University. Additionally, she coordinated two chamber music festivals, as well as a new music ensemble in Istanbul. She is a proud member of Donne in Musica, PEO and Opus Zero Inc. She is a dedicated voice-teacher, incorporating techniques and understandings from yoga in her teaching, in connection to her fascination with nature's -and humans'- (sound-like) flexibility for adapting and ever-changing!


Ethan Hayden
Ethan Hayden, voice & composer

Ethan Hayden was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, but raised primarily in the North Texas area. In 2008, he graduated from the University of North Texas magna cum laude with B.M.s in Composition and Theory, and recently received his M.A. in composition from the University at Buffalo. His principal composition teachers include David Bithell, Andrew May, Joseph Klein, Jeffrey Stadelman and Cort Lippe. Still at UB, Ethan is currently a Ph.D. candidate, in the process of completing his dissertation. Also active as an experimental vocalist, Ethan regularly performs with Babel Vocal Ensemble and with Wooden Cities, a Buffalo-based new music/improvisation ensemble. His book on Sigur Rós' ( ) for the 33⅓ series will be published by Continuum in August 2014.


Nathan Heidelberger
Nathan Heidelberger, horn & composer

Nathan Heidelberger composes diverse instrumental and vocal music. He is currently a Presidential Fellow and PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo, and he also holds undergraduate degrees in Composition and English from Oberlin College and Conservatory. His primary teachers have included David Felder, Lewis Nielson, and Richard Carrick. He has participated in the Aspen Music Festival and the Copland House Cultivate Institute, and this summer he will be a composition fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center. Sometimes a pianist and horn player, Nathan focuses on performing the contemporary repertoire. He is a founding member of Wooden Cities.


Megan Kyle
Megan Kyle, oboe

Megan Kyle is newly arrived in Buffalo from Chicago, where she earned a Master of Music degree from DePaul University as a student of Eugene Izotov. She was most recently a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and has performed with the New World Symphony in Miami and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. As a member of Oberlin Conservatory's Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME) she performed works by Jonathan Harvey, Harrison Birtwistle, and John Luther Adams on a "Fromm Players at Harvard" concert in 2011 under the direction of Tim Weiss. Also with the CME, she played on Richard Hawkins' recording of Elliott Carter's Clarinet Concerto released on the Oberlin Music label in 2012. She has worked extensively with Michael Lewanski, conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente in Chicago. Highlights of the past year include a month of performances in Japan and China as a 2012 academy member of the Pacific Music Festival, a solo recital at the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall, and a chamber music performance with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Michael McNeill
Michael McNeill, piano

Over the past four years pianist Michael McNeill has become an integral part of the creative music scene in Buffalo, participating in jazz projects ranging from the solidly mainstream to the outer reaches of the avant-garde, as well as playing in the Wooden Cities New Music Collective. McNeill also performs with and composes for the New Buffalo Jazz Octet, "...a veritable who's who list of killer regional jazz players" (The Buffalo News). Passageways, McNeill's debut CD as a leader, features renowned improvisers Ken Filiano (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). Notable performances in the 2012-2013 concert season include an original film score with the New Buffalo Jazz Octet, a trio concert in New York City with Phil Haynes and bassist Drew Gress, and a Buffalo concert with the virtuoso bass trombonist David Taylor.


Zane Merritt
Zane Merritt, guitar & composer

Currently a Ph.D. student at SUNY Buffalo, studying with David Felder under a Presidential Fellowship, Zane Merritt received his M.M. in composition from Butler University under Michael Schelle and James Aikman. He has performed in a variety of venues and recently performed his own work alongside pieces by Elliott Carter and Hifumi Shimoyama in Nagoya, Japan. He performs frequently as an improviser.


Katie Weissman
Katie Weissman, 'cello

Katie Weissman began playing the cello at the age of three after seeing Yo-Yo Ma appear on Sesame St. She holds a Bachelors of Music in Cello Performance from Boston University, and her principal teachers include Feng Hew, Michael Reynolds, Amanda Truelove, and Roman Mekinulov. Katie is one half of the cello and oboe duo Parvenue, cellist and singer in the chamber-folk band Tiny Rhymes, and Part Time Professor of Cello and Philharmonia Section Leader and Buffalo State College. She can also be heard on many projects as a member of English Rose Orchestrations, an innovative composition and recording team run out of Buffalo's own GCR Audio.

"It has been my pleasure to hear Wooden Cities performing a wide variety of contemporary music on numerous occasions. Having run my own new music ensemble for over 25 years, I understand the challenges of starting a group from scratch, developing and maintaining a solid artistic identity, and creating a niche for a unique musical product. Wooden Cities is more than up to the task, and I look forward to hearing and seeing what they present in the future. I have the highest admiration for this ensemble."

Jon Nelson
Professor, University at Buffalo
Music Department
Founding Member/Trumpet,
Meridian Arts Ensemble