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John Bertles is an instrument-builder, educator, environmentalist and composer.  A life-long fascination with the science of sound and creating unusual sound sources has led him down some interesting pathways.  He has created instrument designs for the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall and the Smithsonian Institute; and enticed Mister Rogers to play a cardboard tube trombone, Yo-Yo Ma to play a cello made from fishing line, and Wynton Marsalis to blow a plumbing pipe trumpet. Bash the Trash Environmental Arts LLC, founded in 1988 and co-directed by Bertles and his creative partner (and wife) Carina Piaggio reaches over 60,000 students a year in performances and residencies around the country.


He is also an educator, staff developer and curriculum consultant.  In this capacity he has worked in many different roles – including teaching artist, teaching artist mentor, study guide writer, concert narrator/performer, curriculum writer, consultant and advisory board member.  He has worked for the Grammy Foundation, Kennedy Center, the League of American Orchestras, Leonard Bernstein Center, New York Philharmonic, New York City Department of Education, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble among many others.  For 25 years he has taught master classes in Arts Outreach at Manhattan School of Music, and is one of the writers and facilitators of New York City’s arts standards “The Blueprint for the Arts in Education”.  He is a board member emeritus of the New York City Arts-In-Education Roundtable, and on New York State’s review team for the Core Arts curriculum standards.


He is a leader in the field of Environmental Arts Education.  For over 25 years he has been a tireless advocate of sustainability, conservation and living lightly on the planet; always linking the science-based environmental message to arts-making as natural partners.


As a composer he works with combinations of traditional and world instruments along with his own invented musical instruments built from recycled and reused materials, and is a three-time recipient of the ASCAP Plus Music Award for Songwriting.  He has written music ranging from opera to circus tunes, and from symphony to punk rock, as well as for homemade instruments.  The Evils of Pots (1996) written entirely for pots and pans, has been performed at Lincoln Center in New York City, the International Gamelan Festival in Indonesia, and throughout the United States.  His Bash the Trash ensemble performs at Carnegie Hall Family Weekends twice a year, with new songs and music constantly being premiered.  Canton Symphony Orchestra commissioned and premiered his Incline and Trashicaglia for orchestra, homemade instruments and audience members in 2009.  The first Bash the Trash album “Think Big” was released on April 1, 2014 is available on all online and streaming services.

Contact John directly at

View John's Resume here (PDF).

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