MFA in Music Composition

Winter 2018 Anna's Ghost / Visiting Ensemble

Equally at home performing new contemporary and experimental works, playing to picture, improvising on jazz pieces, backing songwriters, and more, Anna’s Ghost plays and performs at most MFA in Music Composition residencies and features an ever-changing roster of multi-talented instrumentalists. This adaptive group reforms itself in different configurations each semester, welcoming back VCFA veteran musicians and introducing exciting new players to the program. Musicians at the top of their field lend their individual artistry to create a cohesive sound.

The ensemble’s name, Anna’s Ghost, refers to the legend of Anna, the resident ghost of Vermont College of Fine Arts, whose story you can read about here.

Anna Webber, saxophone and flute

Composer and improvisor Anna Webber is an integral part of a new wave of the Brooklyn avant-garde jazz scene. A saxophonist and flutist who persistently avoids the expected, Webber’s most recent album, SIMPLE (Skirl Records, 2014), has garnered much critical acclaim including several Best-of-2014 lists.

Russ Johnson, trumpet

Trumpeter Russ Johnson spent 23 years as an important member of New York City’s jazz community. Johnson has worked alongside many legendary figures in jazz including Lee Konitz, Steve Swallow, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lovano. In addition, he has performed and/or recorded with a long list of the prominent musicians currently on the international jazz scene including Ken Vandermark, Myra Melford, and Jenny Scheinman.

John Benthal, guitar

John Benthal is a top-call guitarist in NY who covers many styles and doubles on a huge assortment of fretted instruments. John has done world and U.S. tours with Idina Menzel and Ute Lemper, R&B singer Regina Belle, saxophonist Warren Hill, jazz artists Chico Hamilton, Charles Earland, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and recorded/ worked with many other artists, including: Paul Simon, Peabo Bryson, Harry Connick Jr, Will Downing, Kelli O'hara, Don Byron, Wayne Newton(!), Lenny Picket, Danny Rivera, Giovanni Hildago, Patato Valdes, Alejandro Fernandez, Denny Dougherty, Susan Deyhim, and others. In New York, he has performed with the American Symphony Orchestra, the New York City Ballet, many jingles and film soundtracks, on-camera mandolinist in the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums", and was the principal guitarist in many Broadway shows, including The Lion King.

River Guerguerian, drumset and percussion

River Guerguerian has been inspiring audiences with his ecstatic and versatile percussion for over 30 years. Whether collaborating with world-class artists, supporting symphonies or creating his own dynamic explorations of rhythm, River’s devotion and attention to the vibrant life of the drum reverberate through the mind and soul of the listener. River plays across a remarkable span of musical genres and traditions, both obscure and mainstream. His patient research and unrelenting passion have allowed him to develop a personal and masterful sound from Old World frame drums, Middle Eastern, Indian, Western, African and Afro-Cuban percussion instruments and more.

Jim Whitney, bass

Originally from the mountains of New Hampshire, Jim Whitney is currently a resident of Brooklyn NY. He is actively performing and doing session work as an acoustic and electric bassist, composing new music, and teaching privately. He can be heard playing jazz, bluegrass, rock, country, klezmer, funk, American roots, Brazilian, or any combination thereof. He recently completed his debut recording “Dodecahedron", which features twelve of his original compositions.