About The Pure Heart Ensemble

Renowned new age pianist Richard Shulman and four of his musician friends (adding cello, flutes, wordless vocals and crystal bowls) have banded together as The Pure Heart Ensemble and created an acoustic recording, Bliss of Being, that not only celebrates the feeling of bliss, but also the journey getting there.


“To me,” states Shulman, “the ‘Bliss of Being’ is to be so present in the moment that all is experienced as Divine. Bliss is a state of calmness, peace, happiness, health and spirituality, and has a feeling of Life, supercharged.  Our performances are a journey towards bliss beginning with relaxation and healing and moving through feelings of beauty, wonder, joy and presence.  Although bliss as an end result is the ultimate destination, the journey is of great importance because it represents learning, healing and individual growth along the way.  The journey not only gets us there, allows us to arrive, but also prepares us to recognize, utilize and enjoy bliss.”


On Bliss of Being, Shulman is joined by cellist Adriana Contino, flutist Kate Steinbeck, vocalist Dielle Ciesco and crystal bowl player Bob Hinkle.  Their individual journeys, and the experience of creating this recording as part of a group, imbued the music with a special emotional resonance.  “Each of us had to step through the door of trust into that place of pure heart where the music flows in Divine cadence,” explains Shulman.  “As we passed through that spiritual and emotional passageway, to a place of love and bliss, we surrendered our personal selves, opened our hearts to this ecstatic music flowing through us, and allowed the music to express a level of higher consciousness.”


Bliss of Being, on the RichHeart Music label, is available at  www.richheartmusic.com  as well as online sales sites including

CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, and eMusic among others.


In live performance, Kim Hughes sometimes sings with us, Georgia Pressman plays flute with us and cellist Elizabeth Gergel often joins the ensemble, as demonstrated on The Pure Heart Ensemble's Youtube channel here:




Richard Shulman has become one of the leading musicians in the new age genre over the past few decades. But Shulman also was trained in the classical and jazz fields, and regularly performs and records original jazz with his trio. Shulman has 23 albums under his own name as well as more than two-dozen other recordings for which he has provided compositions, performances or production. He studied at the prestigious Eastman School of Music, got his Masters Degree in musical composition from State University of New York at Buffalo, and was a composer-performer for a decade with Theatre of the Heart -- a New York City-based performance group working to bring higher consciousness and environmental awareness to audiences. Although Shulman’s recordings are varied, he is especially known for creating music for healing, alignment and meditation including A Higher Dimension, Light Music, First Rites, Light from Assisi, Keeper of the Holy Grail, Music of Peace and 11:11 Piano Meditations for Awakening. Shulman also has devoted considerable energy to a special project, Camelot Reawakened: A Vision Fulfilled which includes a CD, a DVD-video and a theatrical musical (“A Dream of Camelot”).


Cellist Adriana Contino completed her studies at Indiana University and became the youngest member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (under Andre Previn). She went to New York City and founded the Bach Chamber Soloists, and performed with the New York Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York New Music Ensemble, the jazz group String Fever, and Richard Shulman (they released a duet album, New Beginnings, in 2003). Contino went to Germany and for more than two decades served as professor of cello, baroque cello and chamber music at the Hochschule fuer Musik, and while there also was the principal cellist of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (their first female principal). She currently teaches at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.


Bob Hinkle, Kim Hughes, Richard Shulman, Georgia Pressman

Photo by Frank Zipperer


Bob Hinkle, Dielle Ciesco, Kate Steinbeck & Richard Shulman


Elizabeth Gergel learned to play the cello before she could read. Now that she can do both, she is a passionate performer and teacher. She regularly appears with the South Carolina Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of Augusta, GA, and the Long Bay Symphony in Myrtle Beach, SC. Elizabeth was recently heard in the performance of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring for 13 players, with the Asheville, NC-based Pan Harmonia. Elizabeth also performs with the Asheville-based Pure Heart Ensemble, an ensemble specializing in new-age/meditational music. At the age of 16 Elizabeth debuted with the Asheville Youth Orchestra as soloist in Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1. She is equally active as a cello teacher, currently serving on the faculty of the Palmetto Center for the Arts in Columbia and the Suzuki Strings program at the University of South Carolina. She has taught cellists ranging from 4 to 24 years old. Elizabeth greatly enjoys teaching and aims to learn as much or more from her students as they learn from her.


As the 2014 South Carolina Honors College Artist in Residence, Elizabeth has begun her third film project, having previously performed for two original film screenings in Columbia, SC. In addition to film scores, Argentinian tango music holds a special place in Elizabeth’s heart. She is currently building a tango orchestra in Columbia and plans to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina this summer to study the tango culture.


An international performer, teacher and music producer, flutist Kate Steinbeck www.katesteinbeck.com is the founder and director of Pan Harmonia http://pan-harmonia.org, a professional collective based in Asheville NC, which produces world-class classical and ethnic-world-fusion music.  Kate studied with William Hebert at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio.  As a Fulbright scholar, she earned a First Prize in chamber music from the Belgium Royal Conservatory in Liege and later performed and taught music in Germany for several years.  She holds a Master’s Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory where she studied with Tim Day.  Kate has produced two CDs, Light in the Corner and Luminescence and plays exclusively on a modern wooden flute manufactured by her husband, Chris Abell.


Georgia Pressman is a native North Carolinian, raised in Sanford NC and living in Asheville since 1989. Georgia studied flute performance at Florida State University with the late Charles O. Delaney and received her Masters in Flute Performance at Duquesne University, studying under Bernard Goldberg, former first flutist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Georgia has performed in various symphonies, chamber ensembles, contradance bands, folk rock bands, church bands and jazz ensembles throughout her musical career. She also holds a Masters in Clinical Social Work from UNC and has been in private practice as a child and family therapist for the past 20 years. Georgia believes her two greatest accomplishments are her children, Elizabeth Lindsay, 26 and Jacob Pressman, 21.


Vocalist Dielle Ciesco specializes in the transformational power of the voice to heal and connect us with our own Divinity.  She says, “I am passionate about every voice, be it the one we use everyday to communicate, the ones we hear inside our heads, the silent voice of wisdom, voices raised in song, or the ones that call us to awaken.”  She was a featured vocalist with Visionary Music (creators of DNA Activation Music) on their TLC Series.  Ciesco also is the author of the book The Unknown Mother: A Magical Walk with the Goddess of Sound.  More information is available at http://DielleCiesco.com.


Kim Hughes sang opera in New York City and was privileged to perform leading roles in such great works as "Madame Butterfly", "Tosca", "The Marriage of Figaro", and "La Boheme". Sacred music and improvisation are two of her passions as well, so Kim is excited to perform for the first time with Pure Heart Ensemble. She sang in Richard Shulman's "A Dream of Camelot" production, has performed with him at White Horse Black Mountain (a music venue she owns in Black Mountain, NC) and is also the soloist at St. James Episcopal Church in Black Mountain.


Crystal-bowl performer Bob Hinkle has worn many hats during his lengthy musical career -- singer, songwriter, poet, recording artist, composer/lyricist, corporate executive, consultant, artist manager, executive producer and record label founder-president.  He recorded numerous albums with his trio, The Good Earth, and had a solo album, Ollie Mogus.  He performed with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.  As a manager he worked with The J. Geils Band, Etta James, Harry Chapin, Patti Lupone, Kenny Rogers and many others.  He founded both The Children’s Group (Classical Kids music) and Zoom Express (children and family entertainment such as Early Ears).


These five musicians came together to form The Pure Heart Ensemble and record the Bliss of Being CD (and perform select concerts).  Shulman began the musical adventure by composing the lead-off track, “The Bliss of Healing,” and arranging the nearly 11-and-a-half-minute piece to accommodate the other musicians.  The rest of the music initially derived from Shulman and Contino improvisations (they have a strong rapport from having worked together previously).  “I took three of our shorter improvs -- ‘Remembering the Goal,’ ‘Remembering the Bliss’ and ‘When We Go Home We Go Together’ -- and arranged parts for flute and/or voice turning these pieces into more structured compositions,” explains Shulman.  “However, the other eight tunes are group improvisations straight from our hearts.”


“When I began the album,” explains Shulman, “I had in mind music that could help people relax and heal, and after starting to write the first track, I found that this music was powerfully helping me come to a state of release and gratitude.  There is an experience I have had many times where I bring my awareness in a compassionate, loving and non-judgemental way into an area of pain or density in my body.  I find that in the acceptance of the situation, a grace may come in which presence and love allow the opening of communication with the tension or pain which can then become a communion with Life or God.  The purpose of this music is to create a musical soundtrack in which this process can be awakened live for ourselves and audiences.  For me, the bliss of healing is that visceral experience of moving from pain to bliss as tension melts in the presence of Agape or Divine Love.  During recording and our performances, as each of us surrenders our limitations and finds our bliss, it makes it possible to create this music, and we hope that translates into a healing process and natural inner alignment for the listener as well.”


Bio compiled by Richard Shulman and Randall Davis of the Creative Service Company CreatServ9@aol.com 719-548-9872


The Pure Heart Ensemble / Bliss of Being was nominated for a Zone Music Reporter award of Best New Artist in 2014!