Multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bontrager from the United States but based in Cologne, Germany, since 2012, is at home in a variety of musical styles ranging from Renaissance music to the traditional music of the Appalachian mountains to avant-garde jazz. He spent his younger years, alongside technical and classical lessons, playing in rock and pop bands and singing a cappella sacred music. After focusing on technical development as an undergraduate and Masters student in classical cello, Bontrager quickly branched out into a variety of genres as a professional performer.
While completing Masters studies at the University of Maryland, Bontrager became interested in Baroque cello and viola da gamba studying both with Dr. Kenneth Slowik of the Smithsonian Institute. He has concertized on both instruments throughout the United States and Europe in both performance practice ensembles and in experimental and folk contexts. Bontrager completed Masters degrees in Germany in both Baroque cello and viola da gamba and is a founding member of the Cologne-based viol consort, the O’Henry Consort. Current projects include the trio “Medieval Raga”, which explores the improvisational connections between Indian classical music and Medieval European music.
Years spent living in New Haven, Connecticut plunged Bontrager into the world of improvised music. With the improvised and chamber music trio, Broadcloth, he performed throughout the United States and composed numerous pieces. In addition, he performed and collaborated regularly with Anthony Braxton, Carl Testa, Joe Morris, the Tri-Centric Foundation, among others. During these years he also became a proficient interpreter of Appalachian traditional music on the fiddle and banjo as well.
In 2012, Bontrager moved to Cologne, Germany. He quickly became an active part of the European music scene and tours regularly throughout the continent and the UK as well as remaining active back home in the USA. Always involved in starting new and relevant projects, Bontrager is an original member of Impakt, the collective for improvised and contemporary music in Cologne, and the Rundfunk Tanzorchester Ehrenfeld, Germany’s only active television orchestra. In demand with both local and visiting ensembles, he regularly tours and performs with Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians, the acclaimed production of Robert Wilson’s “Der Sandmann” as well as various traditional and folk performers and ensembles. Current bands and projects include the James Ilgenfritz Quartet (feat. Gerry Hemingway), Hen’s Teeth, ENSO, the O’Henry Consort, the Octopus, and many others.