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‘OK’ music is definitely above par

October 12, 2018

Their name might be OK, but their music is superb. The OK Factor, a violin and cello duo that fuses the precision and twang of classical and folk, will come to Rochester for a residency with the Choral Arts Ensemble that features public performances.

Comprised of cellist Olivia Diercks and violinist Karla Colahan, the young duo has recorded three albums, been featured by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), and launched their ATLAS education initiative, a program that Colahan says “gives students of all ages the tools they need to think creatively with their instrument and find their musical voice.”

Diercks and Colahan became friends in college before they ever composed music together, and this friendship shines through their genre-blurring playing and composition style. “We love the ‘what if...’ mystery of putting a ‘classical’ melodic line with a rockin’ folk groove,” says Colahan.

Rick Kvam, the Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Ensemble (CAE), and Bob Giere, the CAE’s Executive Director, met with the OK Factor in Minneapolis to explore and discuss partnerships. “It turned out they were excited about the opportunity to collaborate with a choir—as Luther grads, they were very familiar with that sound,” says Kvam.

The OK Factor’s residency with the CAE will include an educational component lead by Rochester Public Schools string teacher Lori Ringen. Working with the CAE, she coordinated the OK Factor’s ATLAS education initiative to create a collaborative arrangement of the traditional fiddle tune “Cripple Creek” with students.

The OK Factor’s residency also includes a Lunch and Learn session with the Rochester Music Guild, an appearance at the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestra’s annual gala, and two performances of “Heartland,” a concert with the CAE, on October 13th at 7:30 p.m. at the Zumbro Lutheran Church and a 3 p.m. matinee in Winona on October 14th.

The OK Factor/CAE Heartland concerts will highlight a cappella works from the 17th-20th century, combined with the OK Factor’s Celtic, bluegrass, and classical instrumental music. Kvam says the concert will include a Mathhew Erpelding composition called “The Gift of Song,” commissioned by the Sinnwell family to honor their parents. Kvam also promises a performance where the choir and musicians move around the hall “singing around and with the audience” that includes a Beatles sing-along.

The Education Chair of the Rochester Music Guild, Scott Kruse, thinks guests will see the OK Factor’s “fingers fly” during the noon Lunch and Learn session at Zumbro Lutheran on Friday, October 12. Kruse describes the session as partly lecture and partly performance with a Q&A component. He says the OK Factor’s ATLAS educational initiative fits well with the guild’s goals of education, scholarship, and advocacy, goals that provide community grants to groups like the CAE and nearly $10,000 in scholarship awards to young SE Minnesotan musicians.

The only strings attached to the OK Factor’s musical tour of the Rochester area will be the kind you rosin. Diercks and Colahan are excited to connect with Rochesterites. “Our passion for musical creativity is what we want to share with students,’ says Colahan. Considering the impact of their residency, Diercks adds, “When the focus is shifted away from us and onto the community and the people who inhabit it, it gives our live performances a much deeper purpose and meaning.”

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