Vivant! is a Midwest group comprised of professional musicians whose focus is to share their own unique and original brand of music. All of the multi-talented Vivant! members are international and national prize-winning musicians who initially trained at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. They all have active professional music careers, having performed many concerts throughout the United States and around the world.
The sound of Vivant! combines the richness of the acoustic accordion with the electronic sounds of synthesizers, trombone, and percussion instruments. Their style combines the art of virtuoso accordion infused with jazz, pop, Latin and tango. Vivant! performs their own original contemporary music, as well as tango, jazz, swing, and pop covers. Above all, their music is exciting, captivating and alive!
Karen Fremar: (Accordion/Keyboards/Arranger) Karen was born into a musical family that operated a music studio in Fort Scott, Kansas, and began playing the accordion at age 2, and the piano quickly thereafter. She is the composer/arranger for Vivant! and remembers composing "giant music" on the piano when she was very little, having to stand and reach up to play the keyboard. Karen is a member of ASCAP and also holds a Performance degree from UMKC in Accordion, as well as Masters and Doctorate degrees in Composition and Music Theory from UMKC and the University of Kansas. Karen studied composition with Gerald Kemner, John Pozdro, and Milton Babbitt. She won the US Accordion Championship and a World Accordion Entertainment Championship title in Sweden. Karen has toured internationally with several groups, and was an accordionist with Pavarotti on his World Farewell Tour. Karen's numerous compositions include two test pieces for the Coupe Mondiale-World Accordion Competition and many chamber works. She has given a New York premiere of her compositions, and has received numerous commissions, including the Courtney S. Turner Trust and the American Accordionists’ Association, for composition. Dr. Fremar is Chairman of the Board and President of the Fremar Foundation for Accordion Arts, a non-profit organization formed in 2010, that supports accordion performance, new works for the instrument, and preservation of the instrument's heritage.
Julie Silfverberg: (Accordion/Keyboards) Julie grew up in Ft. Scott, Kansas. When Julie was 8, her mom came home one day and asked her if she would like to learn how to play the accordion. Julie said 'Sure!'..... a couple of years later, she added piano lessons. Margie Fremar was her teacher. Julie successfully participated in many music festivals. She was the Kansas Accordion Virtuoso Champion for three consecutive years. In 1980, Julie received her Bachelor of Music degree in Accordion at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, married Juha from Finland, and they lived in Helsinki for the next five years. They moved back to the States in 1985. Julie is a member of the accordion group, The International Trio (Julie, Juha, and Kevin Friedrich) that has toured in Finland, New Zealand, Estonia and the USA. Julie runs a very successful music studio in Overland Park, KS., where she teaches accordion and piano to students five years to adult. Julie serves on the Board of Directors of the Fremar Foundation for Accordion Arts. She is a past president of Federated Teachers of Fine Arts., Inc. and the Mid-America Music Association (M.A.M.A.)
Melody Stroth: (Piano) – Melody Stroth holds a degree piano performance from Oklahoma Baptist University and a Master of Music degree from UMKC Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Richard Cass. Melody was named the Kansas Music Teacher Association's Teacher of the Year, and the 2010 Missouri Federation of Music Club's Church Musician of the Year. She operates a large private music studio in Overland Park, Kansas, her students having won many prestigious state and national awards. Stroth was the first winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs's Ouida Keck award, given to a teacher who demonstrates superior teaching in the private studio. Stroth is co-organist/pianist at Prairie Baptist Church in Shawnee Mission, Kan., serves as the national chairperson for the NFMC Angie Greer Music in Poetry award, is a past president of the UMKC Conservatory Alumni Board of Directors, and a member of Federated Teachers of Music and Fine Arts of Greater Kansas City.
Judy Johnson (Flute) Judy is a Kansas City native who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Flute Performance from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has been teaching flute in the Kansas City area for over thirty years and is a founding member of the Kansas City Flute Association. She has taught at several Kansas and Missouri colleges and has performed with area chamber ensembles. Judy has given solo recitals across the country and presently performs and records on a free-lance basis in the greater Kansas City area.
Beth (Baker) McCollum (Cello) Beth grew up in San Diego, then took her talents to the Midwest. When she was nineteen she joined the Kansas City Lyric Opera Orchestra. She earned her Bachelor of Music Degree in Cello Performance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City then went on to study at Yale University with Aldo Parisot. She subsequently served as a member of the Kansas City Philharmonic, the Florida Symphony and the Kansas City Camerata. Beth has maintained a studio of private students and performs on a free-lance basis in the Kansas City metropolitan area. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In recent years she has applied her expertise in the restoration of bows through her affiliation with Beckman Violin Shop. She also participates yearly in the Susan G. Komen 60 Mile Walk for the Cure.
Dee Sligar: (Bass Keys) Dee began studying the accordion at the UMKC Conservatory at the age of twelve. She continued studying accordion through college and now her music career is culminating with the Vivant! adventure. Now she is the anchor for Vivant! on Bass Keys, playing a Korg Synthesizer and various other fun toys. Dee had the privilege of touring with a USO tour through Europe and the Azores, was a featured artist with the Young Audiences National Program, and played lots of gigs through the years. She is Secretary-Treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Fremar Foundation for Accordion Arts. Dee is a passionate gardener, loves great food, wine, laughter and fun people...not necessarily in that order.
Janne Silfverberg: (Trombone/Congas/Timbales) Janne is a Kansas City native of Finnish descent. He played the accordion for a few years before switching to the trombone in the 4th grade. Janne graduated from the Conservatory of Music at UMKC with a Bachelor of Music degree in Trombone Performance and is a professional trombonist who also teaches trombone in the KC metro area. Janne is following in the footsteps of his father to become a piano and accordion technician. He is busy tuning pianos and servicing accordions for his growing clientele in Kansas City. Janne is also the accomplished conga and timbale player that adds that Latin buzz to Vivant's music.
Brian Steever: (Drums) Brian is a Kansas City jazz drummer who has made an impact on the jazz scene in the relatively short time that he has been in Kansas City. A graduate in Jazz Performance at UMKC, Brian studied extensively with Bobby Watson and Brandon Draper at the Conservatory. He was named a National Finalist in the 2008 Grammy Jazz Band. Brian has also studied under the likes of Vanguard Jazz Orchestra drummer John Riley, Arts and Crafts Quartet legend Matt Wilson, New York saxophonist Dave Pietro, drummer Tommy Crane, and bassist Curtis Lundy. Steever has played professionally in Missouri since high school, starting out in his hometown of Jefferson City. Brian’s amazing talent is the drive behind Vivant’s unique rhythmic and energetic sound.