Krissy Bergmark is a tabla player, percussionist, composer, and educator. She centers her creative work on bringing tabla to new genres and cross-genres through composition and performance. She has received commissions and grants through the Cedar Commissions, the Jerome Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Minnesota State Arts Board for her tabla studies and compositions for tabla, percussion, and strings. She was also a participant in the International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in 2018 and Silkroad Ensemble’s Global Musician Workshop in 2016. She composes and performs with her progressive folk trio Sprig of That, experimental duo Lo.mocean, and a variety of other artists in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Chicago, and New York. Krissy is a 2010 graduate of Northern Illinois University and a 2012 graduate of the University of Minnesota. She is an Adjunct Professor of Percussion at Gustavus Adolphus College. She studies tabla with Pandit Yogesh Samsi.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a percussionist and educator, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Krissy Bergmark: If I weren’t a musical artist, I would pursue creative writing. I’ve always had an easier time expressing myself in writing than with words. Writing was an early love of mine; I started a school newspaper when I was in fourth grade, and I was a fairly avid reader. I later started writing poetry, which I still do. My favorite poets are Ross Gay and Mary Oliver. It is a love that has served me well; I still find myself writing fairly often, from journaling to grant writing.
R!S: As a freelance artist, what's one of the weirdest gigs you've taken or oddest jobs you've had outside the industry?
KB: I haven’t had too many weird gigs, and I’ve been very lucky to have mostly made my living inside the music industry. Some of my favorite opportunities have been playing a yoga retreat, playing outdoor gigs near the lakes of Minnesota, and playing various weddings. I once played in a Sikh wedding in which the officiant was also the harmonium player I was playing with; I felt like a big part of this couple’s special day! It was a beautiful surprise and such an honor.
R!S: What’s one thing about you that your colleagues or students would unanimously proclaim?
KB: I am a RELENTLESS optimist! It is both my Achilles’ heel and a super power. My optimism interferes when I overestimate what I can get done in a given amount of time. I love playing and collaborating and teaching, and sometimes I agree to too many things! When it is serving as a super power, I think it carries me through the most difficult times and brings a sense of optimism and brightness to my colleagues and students.
R!S: What is your all-time favorite album and why?
KB: My all-time favorite album is The Melody of Rhythm by Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Zakir Hussain — specifically the trio pieces. This album showed me what was possible on tabla and became a North Star for how I want to play and the kind of music I want to make. It still serves that purpose many years later! It is a life goal of mine to make music that inspires the depth of momentum that album has given me.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
KB: I grew up in Orland Park, Illinois. My parents both love music in very different ways, so I grew up listening to a wide variety of pop, rock, classical, and a lot of jazz. Listening to music and going to concerts was always a big part of my childhood. I knew I loved music, but I didn’t actually meet what is now my primary instrument, tabla, until I was 20 years old!