Crossover classical duo baritone Jean Bernard Cerin and pianist Veena K. Kulkarni- Rankin fuse classical and world music with storytelling into transformative concert experiences. With Indian-Filipino-American and Haitian backgrounds, Veena and Jean Bernard synthesize their broad cultural heritage with western classical training. Kuwento (KWEN-toh), Filipino for “story” and Mizik (mi-ZEEK), Haitian Creole for “music” capture exactly what they do: art songs, popular songs, stories and folksongs from around the world, contemporary classical music, and Kuwento Mizik’s own original work all have a spotlight. With colorful and inclusive programs, Kuwento Mizik fosters intercultural appreciation. Themes ranging from nature, magic and love to history bring evocative and memorable music to audiences of all backgrounds.
Pivoting for the pandemic, Kuwento Mizik put on a virtual recital as part of the Live from the Stone Chalet series in March 2021. That same month, the duo won Best Performance of a Folk Song in the 2021 Canto Latino Virtual Song Competition. They regularly collaborate with percussionist John Churchville and will release their first album, Lua Nova (New Moon), also with Churchville, in 2022.
Formerly known as a Duo 1717, Kuwento Mizik has performed at the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Based in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Kuwento Mizik has performed throughout the Philadelphia area, including Andrea Clearfield’s Salon, David Hartt’s Live Activation Series at historic Beth Sholom Synagogue and Lincoln University. Other northeast concerts include the Sparks & Wiry Cries series in Brooklyn, the Haddonfield Center & School for the Performing Arts, and the Foulkeways retirement community. Kuwento Mizik’s Midwest performances include the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the LOFT Recital Series in Minneapolis, and the Stroede Center for the Arts (Defiance, OH). Their many performances in Ann Arbor, MI include the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Kerrytown Concert House, and the Faculty Women’s Club of the University of Michigan. Community outreach includes concerts at the Hands-On Museum, Community Action Network, and All Seasons in Ann Arbor. Kuwento Mizik is proud to be on the roster of Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates.
Lead Instructor at the Faber Piano Institute in Ann Arbor, VEENA KULKARNI-RANKIN is a solo & collaborative performer, activist and arranger. Veena won Best Liszt Interpretation in the 2011 Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition. She regularly performs in Peace All-Stars concerts for the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and also leads contemporary worship at the Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church. This season will bring more performances for social justice that showcase repertoire from the Romantics to composers living today. Veena was the pianist for Eero Trio, whose CD Wolf Glen, released in 2010, features the premiere recording of Christopher Dietz’s Fumeux fume, for clarinet, cello & piano. Veena holds a doctorate in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Michigan and has also taught at Madonna University and the University of Windsor. She enjoys all types of musical improvisation, the spirit of play and discovery in children, and the great outdoors.
Praised for his “burnished tones and focused phrasing,” (Chestnut Hill Local) baritone JEAN BERNARD CERIN has charmed audiences throughout the United States, France, Austria, and his native Haiti. An avid recitalist, his engagements have taken him to venues such as the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, The Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington D.C., Beethovenhaus in Baden bei Wien, Boston’s Jordan Hall and Carnegie Hall in NYC among many others. In 2018, he won the Gerard Souzay Prize for best performance of a French Mélodie at the Joy in Singing International Song Competition in NYC.
Jean Bernard also specializes in early music, particularly the music of J.S. Bach. In 2021, however, he created the Lisette Project which researches and records Haitian classical music, some of which was written in the 18th century. He has performed with leading early music ensembles including Les Delices in Cleveland, the American Bach Soloists in San Francisco, and Tempesta di Mare, Piffaro Wind Ensemble, Bach Gamut Ensemble, Night Music, and the Philadelphia Bach Festival in Pennsylvania.
Jean Bernard regularly interprets music written by composers of today including Byron Au Young’s “Turbine” at the Philadelphia Water Works, Almondo Bayollo’s “Last Breaths” for baritone and Wind Ensemble and Ted Hearne’s “Katrina Ballads.” In 2017, Jean Bernard premiered works written for him and cellist Eve Miller by Don St. Pierre and Mark Rimple.
Jean Bernard completed a doctorate from the University of Michigan. He holds a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Arts from St. Joseph's University. He makes his home in southern Pennsylvania where he serves on faculty at Lincoln University, the nation's first degree-granting Historically Black College/University.