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Jeanine Renne ’88 is helping Russian rock band White Fort build a following in the United States.


RENNE’S RUSSIAN REUNION Written by KOREN WETMORE


H


er memory resonates like a scene from a romance novel: A handsome Russian musician waves goodbye as a reluctant, young American girl boards a train, catching what she believes will be her


last glimpse of the charming Siberian. Flash forward 25 years and—by sheer gumption and verve—that girl,


Jeanine Renne ’88, has become founder of Cool Hat Records, which just so happens to manage that Russian man’s band. White Fort (www.whitefort.net), a two-man band composed of


violinist Artyom Yakushenko and guitarist Yuriy Matveyev, describes its music as a “unique hybrid of rock, jazz and folk propelled by a Russian ethnic pulse and rocket fuel.” The band has released 12 albums (three in the United States) and took first place in the instrumental category of the 2011 International Songwriting Competition. Heart flutters aside, Renne’s Russian connection is now one of


friendship and support with an eye toward promoting music she loves. “I never forgot how stunningly beautiful this 16-year-old kid played


the violin on the banks of the Angara River—he was that good,” she said. “Then he teamed up with Yuriy, and they were that good, squared. I just couldn’t bear the thought of people here never hearing music so beautiful.” HMC students were treated to White Fort’s music Oct. 24 during a


Wednesday Nighter event on campus. The concert was one of 30 stops on a tour to promote the group’s forthcoming album, “6/8.” Renne met band member Yakushenko during a 1986 student trip to


the former Soviet Union led by the late political science Professor Emeritus Nat Davis. Renne and Yakushenko exchanged addresses and a few letters before losing touch. Twenty-five years later, Renne reconnected with him through Facebook. She discovered that a few weeks after their train station farewell, Yakushenko and his college friend, Matveyev, had entered and won the


“Best New Band” award at a national music festival. The duo went on to become international performers. They composed soundtracks for Russian films and television shows, recorded albums, learned English and released their first U.S. albums (under the name “Two Siberians”). The two men had parted ways, however, and had no plans to regroup


until Renne convinced them to give their art another try. Last year, she became White Fort’s manager and launched Cool Hat Records LLC to produce and promote the duo’s music. They released the album “Two Kings,” distributing it online through


Tunecore. Renne built an English website for the band, drafted a White Fort Wikipedia entry and created their Facebook page. She also entered them into the international songwriting competition that led to their 2011 first-place award. Recognizing a tour was the next logical step, Renne booked a


show at a Russian nightclub in April 2012. The concert was a hit, and Yakushenko, Matveyev and Renne have been encouraged by the response they have received since, including a standing ovation from Mudders.


FALL/WINTER 2012 Har vey Mudd College


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