Celtic mythology is the genesis for this band’s name and its attitude. The band’s leader and principal vocalist, Kelly McDermott, embodies attributes of Nessa, the Celtic goddess who transformed from a sweet, unassuming lass to a firebrand that any women’s empowerment group would love to have as its leader. She went about righting wrongs and turning bad situations to good.
Kelly has done some transforming, as well. She trained as a classical flutist, reaching the top of her profession as a performer and teacher, but her soul called for something more adventurous and whimsical. Well into her career, while preparing for a classical “Flute and Guitar Duo” concert one day, her performer-partner asked if they could sing a folk duet at the concert. She declined, claiming not to be a singer. After much coaxing, though, she agreed to join in.
She admits that her life “changed forever” that night and she became a vocalist, band leader, composer and arranger, as well as a flutist. She gathered around her a band of highly trained and active classical and jazz performers. The result? “Our music often includes a few jazz chords, and improvisation. We use imaginative combinations of instruments, such as a sruti box, didgeridoo, umbra, temple bells, song bowls, ocarinas and more,” Kelly says.
All the members of Nessa, feel blessed to be musicians and to have the opportunity to share their creations with audiences and to elevate their spirits. “Our hope is that during a show people will transcend to another time and place, to experience ancient mythological stories and beings, to be uplifted with our positive messages, to be energized by our dances, to feel primal sensations through our world-beat drums and didgerdoo, and to laugh at our banter. We want people to leave our shows feeling goodness, healing and hope.” Most often this “is” the reaction that Nessa receives from its audiences.
Kelly researches and writes much of the band’s music. She and husband Rob (Nessa’s bass player) arrange the Celtic ballads and put their unique flavor into the music. The band is categorized as “World Music-Celtic-inspired,” but it incorporates sounds and rhythms from the Caribbean, Africa, India, Irish traditional, jazz, classical, minimalist, funk, and folk genres. The built-in versatility makes Nessa able to focus on a single style, or to mix things up in fun and unexpected ways.
Also essential to the performance is Kelly’s banter, which mixes history, myth, and interesting facts. “I talk with the audience about the types of stories I sing about – love songs, sad stories, obscure sea creatures, saints, festivals, and more. My mission is for people to experience magic and hope through our positive music.”
Nessa’s fans have a universal demographic: men and women, 20- to 80-year-olds (and even older and younger), all ethnic groups. This is heart and spirit music that appeals to nearly everyone. Listeners can expect the dreamy quality of Loreena McKennit, the drive of traditional groups like Solas, and the innovation of Pentangle.
NESSA BAND INDIVIDUAL BIOS
Kelly McDermott has traveled the U.S., Canada and Europe as performer, teacher and student. She has a Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance and music therapy from Michigan State University. She also has a Master of Music and Professional Studies degree in flute performance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Ms. McDermott participated in the Aspen Festival in Colorado, Teton Festival in Wyoming, Sarasota Florida Chamber festival, AIMs orchestra in Graz, Austria and others.
She studied with William Bennett in England and made frequent trips to Ontario for teacher training in the Suzuki Flute Method. After her training she remained in Philadelphia for many years working as a chamber and orchestral musician around the east coast.
Her professional work included performing with the Harrisburg Symphony, Haddonfield Symphony and more. Since returning to her native Michigan a few years ago she has worked regularly with The Flint Symphony, Bijou Orchestra, and Michigan Opera Theatre.
Her influential teaching style garnered her an opportunity to teach Suzuki Flute in Berlin, Germany (with workshops in Pfullingen). More recently her musical journey has taken a turn. She found her voice as a lead singer, and is now the leader of “Nessa,” where she sings and plays piano as well as flute. She also finds great joy in composing and researching and arranging old ballads from Europe and the U.K.
Rob Crozier is a multi-instrumentalist performing throughout South East Michigan. Rob holds a BFA for Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation in Double Bass from the University of Michigan. His teachers include Robert Hurst, Diana Gannett, David Friesen and Rufus Reid.
Mr. Crozier’s twenty year musical career has included sharing bills with rock groups like Blues Traveler and Credence Clearwater Revisted, and jazz greats like Perry Robinson and Tony Malaby.
Rob is the leader of “The Rob Crozier Ensemble” where he composes, plays jazz bass, didjeridoo and ethnic percussion. This ensemble tours the midwest as a featured artist in various festivals in support of his second CD, “Ocean Blue”.
In addition to upright bass, Rob is sought after in Michigan as an electric bassist and plays with ensembles with styles such as Americana, folk, rock, pop, cajun, African and Celtic.
He also performs regularly a “solo act” where he sings, plays guitarist, and harmonica. Mr. Crozier also actively performs and records with many exotic instruments such as didjeridoo, mbira, ethnic hand drums, For many years he was the curator of the live radio show, “Music is Freedom” on WCBN 88.3FM (U of Michigan radio) where his groups performed long, uninterrupted sets of improvised music.
Rob is a main component of Nessa, where he helps Kelly arrange the ballads of the U.K.
Daniel Palmer is an active guitarist, composer, and educator based in southern Michigan. He performs throughout the Midwest in a wide variety of settings, including, jazz, classical, improvised, Celtic, acoustic fingerstyle, folk, rock, and other various genres.
Dan is currently performing throughout the Midwest with Celtic/world fusion group, “Nessa”, progressive jazz ensemble, “Talking Ear”, and the jazz/folk group “Estar Cohen Project”, in addition to numerous freelance gigs.
He is endorsed by Godin Guitars and Cusack Music. Dan holds a B.A. in Music Performance from Albion College, as well as an M.M. from the University of Toledo. He has studied with Charles Tomlin, Jeff Haas, Larry Williams, Jay Rinsen Weik, Michael Gulezian, Gunnar Mossblad, Tad Weed, Bobby Streng, and Mike Pelham. Dan is currently a professor of music at Albion College and Hillsdale College, located in southern Michigan.
Stefan Kukurugya “What can you say about a guy whose musical credentials are longer than his name! Stefan Kukurugya brings smiles to all who know him, play with him, or witness his performances.
Stefan has the most diverse background a musician can have: from being the touring keyboardist for the late David Ruffin of the Temptations to providing sound effects for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; from conducting L.A. recording sessions at Capitol studios to making Las Vegas appearances; from Bandleader to solo and Dueling pianist.
Stefan learned how to play piano primarily from friends, learning music theory from Matt Michaels (the great pianist and arranger then later educator at Wayne State University) and Timothy Flaharty (jazz guitarist who studied jazz at Oakland University and now music store owner). Michael Bierylo was an early influence before he went on to run the Electronic Music program at Berklee. Howard Lucas and Maria Meirelles helped with technique.
He was lucky enough to work with the best players of Detroit. In addition to performing, he provides custom keyboard sounds and sound effects for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Stefan is one of the great studio keyboardists in Detroit, where he also produces and engineers.
Being known as a versatile musician he has been asked to either play or produce music in many styles (and sing in a number of languages). Arabic, Yiddish, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Albanian, Japanese and of course all popular musical styles.
His primary musical focus is interactivity among the players. He says: ” There’s nothing better!”
Mike List is a globalized percussionist based out of Metro Detroit playing both western and non-western instruments from around the globe. Mike has performed in a variety of musical settings including rock, jazz, classical, contemporary art music, and world music fusion ensembles. He currently works with the percussion group ‘Rela,’ Celtic fusion group ‘Nessa,’ world jazz group ‘Inscribe,’ and is a regular performer with Rick Robinson’s CutTime Simfonica and the Classical Revolution Detroit series.
He has also worked with Mediterranean fusion ensemble ‘Wisaal’ and the marimba/world percussion duet, ‘To Hit.’ Mike holds a Master of Music and Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from Central Michigan University and has also studied tabla, mbira, and Arabic percussion. Along with performing, Mike teaches privately, accompanies modern dance, and teaches courses on the ‘History of Rock and Roll’ and ‘World Music.’ He can also make you a mean cup of coffee.