Founded in 2005 by prominent American violist and composer, Mimi Dye, the TOPAZ 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 Jose Chamber Orchestra at Le Petit Trianon Theatre in San Jose. The ensemble has performed numerous times in the TOPAZ Concert Series in Palo Alto, the Bing Concert Series at Stanford Hospital, at Strings and Anna's Jazz Island in Berkeley, Peña Pachamama in San Francisco, and for “Global Week” at Castilleja School in Palo Alto.
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.