The TOPAZ Ensemble was founded in 2005 by prominent American violist and composer Mimi Dye. The ensemble performs primarily music composed by the founder, all of which is dedicated to peace, understanding, and celebration. The ensemble has also collaborated with other performing groups, including the VNote Ensemble (folkloric music of Venezuela) and Sukay (traditional Andean music).
Key projects include recording a CD of original jazz/world compositions, “River in the Sun,” performing at the Jazz Lab at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, and performing a world premiere, “One Beautiful Light” (for jazz viola, TOPAZ ensemble, and strings) with the San José Chamber Orchestra at Le Petit Trianon Theatre in San José, California. The ensemble has performed numerous times in the TOPAZ Concert Series in Palo Alto, the Bing Concert Series at Stanford Hospital, and at Strings and Anna's Jazz Island in Berkeley, Peña Pachamama in San Francisco, and for “Global Week” at Castilleja School in Palo Alto.
Mimi Dye, prominent American violist, composer and artistic director of TOPAZ, is well known to audiences throughout the United States as a soloist, chamber musician, and jazz performer.
Born in Oklahoma, she graduated from Mills College and Brooklyn College, where she was a student of Itzhak Perlman. As a classical soloist, she presented her New York debut recital at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, was presented by Four Seasons Concerts in her San Francisco debut at Herbst Theatre, and has appeared as a soloist with orchestras and music festivals across the continent. Her numerous orchestral credits include playing in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, touring with Barbra Streisand, and recording movie scores in Los Angeles.
Her explorations into jazz and composition have given her the opportunity to work with many distinguished players, including Eddie Gale, Wayne Wallace, Terry Disley, Seward McCain, and Peter Barshay. Her first CD of original jazz compositions, “River in the Sun,” was released in December 2007, and her jazz viola concerto "One Beautiful Light" was commissioned by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and performed in October 2008.
Members of the TOPAZ Jazz Ensemble are world class musicians residing in the Bay Area. Donna Viscuso on flute and saxophone, Jim Schneider on piano, Saul Sierra on bass, and Michaelle Goerlitz on percussion are the core members of this ensemble, which often expands to include other great players, depending on instrumentation — Jackie Rago, cuatro and bandola; Lali Mejia, percussion; Vic Schrader, guitar; and Sam Bevan and Seward McCain on bass are often included as members for various occasions.
TOPAZ is an affiliate of, and fiscally sponsored by, the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.