“...versatile and musically adventurous, way more than classical...”
— Capital Gazette
“If the goal was to make classical music relevant, it couldn’t have proven the point any more clearly.”
— Columbia Free Times
Described as “...not anything but everything: Classical, Folk, Bluegrass, Americana and a sound yet to be termed seamlessly merged into a perfect one” (David Srebnik, SiriusXM Classical Producer), Invoke (Nick Montopoli, violin/banjo/vocals; Zach Matteson, violin/vocals; Karl Mitze, viola/mandolin/vocals; Geoff Manyin, cello/vocals) strives to successfully dodge even the most valiant attempts at genre classification. The multi-instrumental quartet encompasses traditions from across America, including bluegrass, Appalachian fiddle tunes, jazz, and minimalism. Fueled by their passion for storytelling, Invoke weaves all of these styles together to form a unique contemporary repertoire, featuring original works composed by and for the group.
Invoke was selected to be the Young Professional String Quartet in Residence at the University of Texas at Austin from 2016-2018. Since being selected as Interlochen’s Emerging Artists Quartet in 2014, the group has been a featured artist and on faculty at the Interlochen Adult Chamber Music Camp. The group also participated in the Emerging String Quartet Program at Stanford, and was selected as an Artist in Residence at Strathmore and the Fellowship String Quartet at Wintergreen Performing Arts. In 2018, Invoke was named a winner of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition in New York, NY, received First Prize at the M-Prize International Chamber Arts competition in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and received First Prize in the Coltman Competition in Austin, Texas.
Invoke has shared the stage with some of the most acclaimed chamber groups in the country, including the Westerlies, Miró and Ensō Quartets, and the U.S. Army Field Band. Other professional highlights include performing in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Lincoln Center, the Phillips Collection, and the Green Music Center, a concerto appearance with the Brevard Sinfonia, a residency at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Institute, and performances on the NextNOW Festival at University of Maryland, and Festival Amadeus in Montana. Additionally, Invoke has appeared with musicians from various genres, including chamber rock powerhouse San Fermin, to indie sensation Never Shout Never, to DC beatboxer/rapper/spoons virtuoso Christylez Bacon. The group has also performed with composer-performer Clarice Assad and will offer a collaborative program with her for the 2024-25 season.
Invoke’s discography includes Souls in the Mud (2015), Furious Creek (2018), and Fantastic Planet (2021). Its debut release, Souls in the Mud, begins with original works that conjure images of America, including the fast-paced opening track “Travesty” and “The Trace” (inspired by bourbon whiskey). The third and title track, “Souls in the Mud,” is an American transformation of a 16th century motet featuring banjo, mandolin, and a bluegrass-influenced boot-stompin’ finale. To round out the EP, Invoke accompanies a historic recording of a haunting traditional English ballad, and finishes with two compositions by prolific American composer Danny Clay. Invoke’s second EP Furious Creek is their first record to include vocals. The title track explores the relationship between humanity and nature with an evocative chant bookending energetic instrumental interludes. A fast-paced tune, “Dogs,” spotlights the banjo with a finger-picking, bluegrass-inspired undertow, and Karl’s elegiac setting of the Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!” features Nick’s recitation. The EP closes with Invoke’s arrangement of the Stephen Foster classic, “Hard Times,” which has become a favorite closer among concert audiences. In 2019, the Austin Chamber Music Festival commissioned Invoke to compose its own original score to the 1973 French animated feature, Fantastic Planet, performed live with a small orchestra of Young Artists from the Festival’s Workshop. Invoke released Fantastic Planet, the companion album to the project, in 2021. The album features improvisation and adventurous instrumentation, including the electric cello and the igil, a horsehead fiddle from Tuva, Siberia, evoking moody electric soundscapes of the film’s futuristic setting. Invoke’s next album, Evolve & Travel, will be released in fall 2023 on Sono Luminus.
Invoke is strongly committed to championing diverse American voices through commissioning and highlighting new music. Invoke’s ongoing commissioning project, entitled American Postcards, asks composers to pick a time and place in American history and tell its story through the group’s unique artistry. They have commissioned eight new works since 2017, including the latest addition to the initiative, The Lessons of History, by Jonathan Bingham, which premiered in summer 2021.
In addition to American Postcards, Invoke has performed and recorded numerous world premieres, including works by Joseph C. Phillips Jr., Armando Bayolo, and Geoff Sheil. The group’s recording credits appear on bassist/composer Ethan Foote’s solo album Fields Burning, singer/songwriter Marian McLaughlin’s Spirit House, jazz/soul singer Rochelle Rice’s EP Wonder, and many more. Invoke has also worked extensively with composer Graham Reynolds and his non-profit organization, Golden Hornet, a composer laboratory for the 21st century which aims to reimagine classical music through collaborative creations and adventurous programming with commitments to justice and innovation. Through Invoke’s collaboration with Graham Reynolds and Golden Hornet, they’ve recorded volumes IV-VI of String Quartet Smackdown, Marfa: A Country & Western Big Band Suite, and the 2019 film, Where’d You Go Bernadette.
Invoke endorses the Buffalo Trace line of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Soda Shaq cream sodas, and Kirkland brand everything.
“Not classical...but not not classical.”
// Viola, Mandolin, Vox
When he isn’t performing and teaching with Invoke, Karl enjoys baseball, board games, and walking his dog Max. A huge baseball fan, he follows the Cincinnati Reds avidly and listens to as many games as possible, usually when running at the park. Karl is also kind of a nerd: he’s a weekend Xbox player, loves fantasy novels, and enjoys anything Dungeons and Dragons related. You can often find him enjoying a beer at a trivia night somewhere in Austin, TX.
// Cello, Vox
Geoff is passionate about scrumptious vegan food, always searching for Austin's best tacos, Thai, or tofu scramble. Don't forget about good drink too - just be sure to think twice before asking him about mezcal or whisk(e)y. An avid videogamer, you'll often find him enjoying a role-playing game, a story-rich one-off, or whatever may strike his fancy that month. Sometimes though, all he needs to be happy is a stroll through a local park on a crisp afternoon, a great Netflix show, or a nice chat with an old friend.
// Violin, Vox
A man of many origins (i.e. Maryland, Siberia, Montana), Zach is proud to call Austin, TX his home base. When he's not making tunes with Invoke, you can find him at a a local coffee shop writing down some haikus, slurping down ramen from Ramen Tatsuya, or adding to his crazy collection of shirts from the local goodwill.
// Violin, Banjo, Vox
When he's not banjo pickin' or fiddle scrapin' with Invoke, you might find Nick at the recording studio of composer Graham Reynolds, where he works as Graham's assistant, or pumping iron at the Montopoli Barbell Club. He also loves kicking back with a prime bourbon, relaxing to the soothing tones of power metal, or stalking around the stage of a reunion show as lead singer of the former D.C. hair metal band, Sextacy.