Percussionist Colleen Bernstein rendered the sound of crackling ice, rockfalls, the knock of a woodpecker, the swish of grass in tall meadows, and hoof beats of a running deer. Some tones were bright and percussive as water over rocks, while the shimmering of chimes she let the wind play was soft and meditative as the trees’ filtered light.
— The Seattle Times
Image by Geoff Sheil.

Image by Geoff Sheil.


Colleen Bernstein is an adventurous musician pursuing her passions as an ambitious percussionist and enthusiastic arts educator. She is an active performer of contemporary solo and chamber music, and is also a concert presenter, producer, pianist, and conductor. Colleen strives to embody boldness and empathy through her work, and is dedicated to unifying and effecting positive change in communities of all ages and backgrounds.

Colleen's performances span from conventional to inventive, reflective to energetic, boundary-pushing to uplifting. She has played on three continents, in venues ranging from Kodak Hall to Hurricane Ridge, 5000 feet above sea level at Olympic National Park. 

Colleen was the recipient of the Ludwig Albert Talent Prize at the 2015 Universal Marimba Competition, held in Sint-Truiden, Belgium. That same year, she performed as a member of the inaugural All-Star Percussion Ensemble by the Percussive Arts Society. In 2016, Colleen was a featured guest artist in duo performances with GRAMMY-winning banjoist Béla Fleck. She also co-founded and toured with Soundmark Project, a percussion quartet, and was a guest performer at the Leigh Howard Stevens Marimba Seminar.

Currently, Colleen is a member of the American Wild Ensemble and Creative Leaps International. She recently performed on the New York Philharmonic's Off the Grid concert series, and was awarded 2nd place in the 2018 Black Swamp Solo Percussion Showcase and 3rd place in the Malletlab International Competition.

Colleen is the Founder and Artistic Director of Strength & Sensitivity, a touring, multimedia concert experience that blends percussion music, poetry, and audience interaction to catalyze dialogue about gender equality and empathy. The inaugural S&S show, in March 2018, featured over twenty artists performing seven world premieres alongside improvisations and existing pieces by powerhouse composers and writers. It was presented in support of HeForShe Arts Week 2018, a global festival celebrating the solidarity efforts of the United Nations initiative. Strength & Sensitivity is dedicated to presenting innovative performances that are customized to feature the voices and perspectives of local artists within the framework of an evocative, inclusive program.

As a certified K-12 educator (NYS), Colleen has extensive experience working in traditional school settings, as well as designing community development projects that meaningfully engage audiences in music learning. She is the Director of Community Engagement/Education for the Silkroad Ensemble’s Global Musician Workshop. In addition, Colleen is currently a Lead Teacher and Site Coordinator for two El Sistema-inspired organizations in Ann Arbor and Detroit, MI. From 2013-2016, Colleen was an Artistic Collaborator at the Strong National Museum of Play, where she designed, curated, and presented a series of educational programs, connecting contemporary music to the museum's exhibits through performances, discussions, and hands-on learning activities. 

Colleen graduated from the Eastman School of Music with degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Education, as well as the Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Certificate and the prestigious Performer's Certificate. There, she studied primarily with Michael Burritt and performed regularly with the school's contemporary music ensembles, Musica Nova and OSSIA, as well as the Philharmonia and the Wind, New Jazz, and Percussion Ensembles. She is currently pursuing Master's degrees in Percussion Performance and Chamber Music at the University of Michigan, where she studies with Joseph Gramley and Jonathan Ovalle.