The JugendZupfOrchester NRW (JZO NRW), based out of the state of Northrhine-Westfalia, is Germany's premier mandolin and guitar orchestra. It features gifted young musicians ages 15 to 27, many of whom are prize winners at the "Jugend Musiziert," Germany's major youth musical competition.
Founded in 1977, the JZO NRW is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the German Music Council, and the German Mandolin and Guitar Association. The orchestra has been invited to many national and international festivals, such as Dundee Guitar Festival 2000 (Scotland), Eurofestival Zupfmusik 2002 (Germany), Philharmonia Gdansk (Poland, 2002), International Mandolin Festival Takamatsu (Japan, 2003), and International Conservatoire Week 2006, Rimsky-Korsakow Conservatory, St. Petersburg, Gnessin-Music Academy Moscow.
Their concert programs include music in Baroque, Romantic, Latin and Contemporary style by composers like J.S. Bach, Yasuo Kuwahara, Steve Reich, Eduardo Angulo, Raffaele Calace, Klaus Wustoff, Christopher Grafschmidt, Uwe Kunstler, Thomas Allen LeVines, John McGann, and many more. In addition, various soloists contribute to a rich and eclectic mix of instrumental sounds. The latest CD productions are, Live in Japan and Back from Russia.
The orchestra is conducted by Christian de Witt, head of the famous Folkwang Music School and professor at the Folkwang College in Essen. Moreover, he directs the Collegium Musicum Essen, various choirs, and is in charge as the head of the state commission Jugend Musiziert in NRW. De Witt performs as a pianist in chamber music recital halls all over Europe. Since 1995, he has been conducting JZO NRW.
Mandolin virtuoso and former Berklee student Annika Lückebergfeld coaches the mandolins of the JZO. She has studied mandolin in Germany with professors Caterina Lichtenberg and Marga Wilden-Hüsgen, and Gertrud Weyhofen at the College of Music Cologne (Department Wuppertal/Germany). She completed her instrumental teaching diploma and her artistic performance diploma with honors. She received a full scholarship from Berklee, where she studied music performance with teachers such as John McGann. She is a prize winner of numerous national and international music competitions, teaches and conducts at national and international master classes and festivals, and performs as a mandolin-soloist and as a member of several chamber-ensembles or orchestras all over Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States.
The manager of the JZO NRW is mandolin virtuoso Silke Lisko, who is also instructor for mandolin. She performs in concert venues all over Europe, Japan, and Russia. Valerij Kisselow coaches the octave mandolins and Rupert Gehrmann, international concert guitarist and accompanist at the College of Cologne, instructs the guitars.