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2016-2017 Season

April 27, 2017: Violin virtuoso Vadim Gluzman to hold free masterclass at Green Music Center

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, April 27, 2017

Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, who will perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony for its seasonal finale on May 6-8, will hold a free masterclass at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. The Stradivari violin virtuoso will give an open lessons to two Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra students: concertmaster Alex Chui and Miranda Ronan, both 14.

The public is invited to the open lessons, during which a participating student performs a solo work and is coached by Gluzman. The audience listens and learns and is able to pose questions.

Born in the Soviet Union, Gluzman studied with Zakhar Bron in Russia, Yai Kless in Israel and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School in New York City and was mentored by the late violinist Isaac Stern.

Gluzman, whose latest CD features Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concertos No. 1 and 2, will perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 with the symphony on his 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivari violin, on loan to him through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.

To reserve a ticket to the free masterclass, call 707-546-8742 or stop by the symphony’s Patron Service Office, 50 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. The Green Music Center is located on the Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park.

March 23, 2017: Santa Rosa Symphony ‘brings on the strings’ with principal string players

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, March 23, 2017

For their concert program this weekend, the Santa Rosa Symphony, under Music Director
Bruno Ferrandis, will ask a few of its principal string players to step in front of the orchestra
as soloists.

Concertmaster Joe Edelberg, a 20-year veteran of the symphony, will be joined by Principal
Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s timeless gem, the Sinfonia concertate for violin and viola.
Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns will perform Fauré’s “Elégie,” a delicate work full of
nostalgia.

The works written for solo instruments solo vehicles will be sandwiched between a
contemporary work, Alan Hovhaness’s “Meditation on Orpheus,” and two works by Sibelius:
his brooding and rarely heard Symphony No. 4 and his upbeat “Finlandia.”

Kearns and Prior both joined the symphony five years ago and, like Edelberg, play in a wide
range of ensembles all over the Bay Area, from Monterey and San Jose to the San Francisco
ballet and opera.

Prior, a native of South Africa who lives in San Rafael, will play her Giuseppe Tarasconi viola
from Italy for the Mozart work. She initially was attracted to the viola because of its deep,
rich sound.

“It’s a modern, Italian instrument with a very flexible sound,” she said. “It has a big sound,
and it resonates very well, and it also has a warm, sweet sound. It’s not as nasally as some
violas ... it’s got more brightness.”

Although she started out as a violinist, Prior’s heart was not in playing the violin, a stressful
and often difficult instrument to play.

“I was always attracted to what the inner voices were doing rather than playing the tune,”
she said. “So I demoted myself to the second violin, and then I tried the viola.” 

She is looking forward to playing the Mozart Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola
because she considers the piece as “absolute masterpiece,” with a slow movement that is
particularly beguiling.

“The whole things is like a conversation between violin and viola,” she said. “Mozart really
brings out the sonority of the viola ... He gives the viola the response that brings the
conversation to a deeper level.”

Both the violin and viola play the introduction to the work with the orchestra, so Prior does
not expect to be nervous when she dives into the solo part.

Because the two solo parts are written like separate pieces, the main challenge will be
listening to each other and creating a smooth ensemble with the orchestra, she said.

“I probably will have a moment of fluttering, but I am so looking forward to it,” she said. “I
feel so lucky and honored to play this piece.”

Kearns, a native of San Francisco who started studying the violin at a Suzuki school at age 3,
also was put off by the sound of the tiny violin.

“They are squeaky, and I would drop it on the floor,” she said. “Then I saw a video of Yo-Yo
Ma playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto ... and I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever.”

In the fifth grade, she brought home a cello from school, and that became her life’s passion.
She went on to study performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Kearns will be playing Fauré’s “Elégie” on her French cello, which is about 100 to 150 years
old. She stumbled upon the cello in Japan when she needed to borrow an instrument to
play a concerto.

“I instantly clicked with it,” she said. “It has a very pretty sound with a lot of different colors
... it’s very responsive and sings really nicely and projects well too.”

The Fauré is a short piece that the French composer originally wrote as a slow movement
for a Cello Sonata, which never came to fruition.

“It’s a piece that I probably studied when I was 12 years old,” she said. “It’s a piece that little
kids can start playing, but it has a lot of emotional depths that you can’t fully understand
until you are older.”

Among cellists, Kearns counts Mstislav Rostropovich as her all-time favorite. She played in a
master class for him during college, accompanied him in an orchestra at Tanglewood and
watched him from the audience many times.

She also has played in an orchestra behind Yo-Yo Ma. Once at a party, she got to play Ma’s
DAvidov Stradivarius, the same instrument that the late Jacquelin Dupré played and the
one he famously left in a taxi.

While violists are known as jovial, easy-going folks, Kearns said cellists tend to be a little
more eccentric.

“There’s a little element of craziness in cellists,” she said. “We’re all kind of drama queens, a
little bit. But some of my closest friends are cellists.”

Kearns said leading the cello section of the Santa Rosa Symphony is a joy because all the
players are all top-notch. She also enjoyed serving on the search committee for a new
music director, even though it meant making extra trips all the way up from San Jose for
regular meetings throughout the season.

“It was really fun to be part of the process,” she said. “And I’m thrilled about the candidates
we chose."

You can reach Staff writer Diane Peterson at 707-521-5287.

January 5, 2017: Berlin Philharmonic harpist performs with Santa Rosa Symphony

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 5, 2017

The concert harp is an incredibly complex instrument, with thousands of moving parts housed within a 6-foot-tall wooden frame that is under so much pressure, it can implode if not played regularly.
 
In an orchestra, the ancient and much-revered instrument often plays a supporting role, embellishing the melody with its shimmering flourishes but rarely stepping out as the star. This weekend, however, the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis has invited Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal harpist with the Berlin Philharmonic, to perform two well-known solo works for harp: Claude Debussy’s “Danses Sacrée et Profane” for Harp and Orchestra, and Alberto Ginastera’s vibrant Concerto for Harp and Orchestra.
 
“It’s one of our best concertos,” Langlamet said in a phone interview from her home in Berlin. “It shows the many facets of the instrument.”
 
The program, entitled “Heavenly Harp,” opens with Rossini’s Overture to “The Thieving Magpie,” one of the composer’s best operatic overtures, and culminates with two suites from Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé,” one of the most famous French ballets.
 
Met at school
Ferrandis first met Langlamet while both were attending the Conservatory of Nice along with Ferrandis’ brother Jean, a professional flutist.
 
However, they really got to know each in New York, where Ferrandis was studying conducting at Juilliard and Langlamet was working as deputy principal harpist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under James Levine.
 
“I am bringing the best harpist in the world to play two of the most famous harp pieces,” Ferrandis said proudly of his childhood friend.
 
Born in Grenoble, Langlamet grew up in Nice in a music-loving family with a sister who played the guitar. She started studying harp when she was 8. Her first choice had been piano, but the piano class was full, so she chose another instrument that could produce many notes at a time.
 
“It was (important) for me to play all the voices, and I could play it alone,” she said of the harp.
 
“There are not so many instruments like that .... It really was my dream instrument.”

Langlamet received her first musical training at the Conservatory of Nice with Elisabeth Fontan-Binoche, then went on to win top prizes in two international competitions by the time she was 16. At 17, she was hired as principal harpist in the Nice Opera Orchestra.
 
“I was very lucky and had an excellent teacher, with many good students with major positions all over the world,” she said of her quick rise to professional musician.
 
“I was quite fast learning and motivated, and I loved it.”
 
Studied in Philadelphia
A year after joining the Nice Opera Orchestra, she gave up her position to continue her studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where she was able to learn from other musicians and play chamber music.
 
“In France, it’s very separated ... We train soloists, at least at that time,” she said. “In France, there’s lots of solfège and theory. At Curtis, it’s whatever works. I was suddenly thrown into another world of other musicians.”
 
Since 1993, Langlamet has worked as principal harpist at the Berlin Philharmonic, making many recordings with the orchestra while performing worldwide as a soloist with ensembles such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande.
 
In 2016, Langlamet performed the Ginastera concerto with several orchestras to mark the centenary of the Argentinian composer’s birth.
 
The virtuoso concerto, commissioned in 1956 and premiered in 1965 by the Philadelphia Orchestra, veers away from pleasing melodies and harmonies of the 19th-century harp repertoire.
 
“It’s a big piece with a big orchestra behind the harp, and it should be a challenge,” she said.
 
“It shows the many facets of the instrument ... as a folk instrument and percussion instrument, with lots of rhythm. It’s hot blooded.”
 
Diffculty completing
The work was supposed to be premiered in 1958, but the composer had diffculty completing it because of the instrument’s limitations. It can only play seven of the 12 pitches in a chromatic scale at a time.
 
“It was postponed again and again,” she said. “And fortunately, the Spanish player, Nicanor Zabaleta, heard the story and flew to Buenos Aires and sat with the composer to help him through the process.”
 
After intermission, Langlamet will perform “Danses Sacrée et Profane” by Debussy, who helped put the harp on the map with his many works for the instrument. The nine-minute piece will provide a dramatic contrast to the Ginastera piece.
 
“The harp was well understood by Debussy, and he didn’t try to push it beyond its borders,” she said. “It’s never overpowering.”
 
To make the piece work, Langlamet said, the harp needs to be amplified.
 
“It was written for the chromatic harp, not the pedal harp I will be playing,” she said.
 
“It was a commission by Michel Pleyel, who was trying to commission for this new instrument, with white and black key strings, with no pedals. It’s very intimate.”

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

January 5, 2017: Orchestra to play at memorial service for Eugene Shepherd

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, January 5, 2017

A full orchestra, led by Cindy Weichel and Bob Williams, will perform at the memorial service for veteran violinist Eugene Shepherd at noon Saturday, Jan. 7, at Santa Rosa Bible Church.

Shepherd, an influential teacher and conductor, died Dec. 15 at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa at 96 after suffering complications from surgery after a fall.

Shepherd served as concertmaster of the Santa Rosa Symphony for 33 years and founded what became the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Youth Orchestra. During 21 years of teaching instrumental music at Cook Junior High, he mentored many of the leading music teachers working in Sonoma County today, including Sonoma State University’s Director of Bands Andy Collingsworth.

A string quartet will perform at 11 a.m. for the visitation at the church, 4575 Badger Road. The noon memorial service will feature classical and big band music performed by current musicians and alumni of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Baroque Sinfonia and the Sonoma County Junior Symphony.

Two of Shepherd’s most successful students also will perform at his memorial service. Violinist Gary Pozzi, who played with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and who changed his name to  Sid Page, will play Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road.” Violinist Anthony Martin, who performs with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco, will perform with the orchestra assembled for the service.

The orchestral program will include Elgar’s “Elegy” for strings and the third movement of Brahms’ Third Symphony, plus a few big band tunes.

During his basic training in the Air Force, Shepherd was invited by bandleader Glenn Miller to join the Air Force show, “Winged Victory,” on Broadway. The violinist later toured the country with the show and won a speaking role in the movie version.

In honor of Shepherd’s military service, bagpiper Martha Yates will play “Amazing Grace” and trumpeter Dan Norris will play “Taps” at the memorial service.

A reception will follow at the church.

Donations in Shepherd’s memory may be made to Lawrence Cook Middle School, 2480 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa 95407, Attention: Jessica Santana.

December 15, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony names a development director

by North Bay Business Journal, December 15, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony has announced the return of Ben Taylor, now as development director. Taylor previously worked in the symphony’s education department for 12 years, lastly as director of education.

Taylor has more than 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on program design and building community relationships. He has been music director for the Albany Community Chorus and the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Santa Rosa.

Also a composer, Taylor’s works have been performed across North America and China by ensembles such as the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, Festival Choir of Madison, Wis., and the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, according to the symphony. He has also sung tenor in Philharmonia Baroque, Berkeley Symphony, Sonoma Bach and the Folger Consort.

“It feels like coming home to family,” Taylor said in the announcement. “It’s very comfortable.”

Currently in its 89th season, the symphony’s performance schedule includes 21 Classical Series concerts (seven sets), seven Discovery Dress Rehearsal concerts, a three-concert Family Series and a four-concert Pops Series, as well as special concerts.

December 1, 2016: New Santa Rosa Symphony choral director tackles ambitious program

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, December 1, 2016

Most everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Bells,” which opens with a holiday scene: “Hear the sledges with the bells — Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells!”

However, Rachmaninoff's setting of the intensely onomatopoetic work — a choral symphony written in
1913 for choir, vocal soloists and symphonic accompaniment — may be a new discovery for many
attending the Santa Rosa Symphony’s concerts this weekend.

“It is not a piece that I have performed before, but I’ve heard it before,” said Jenny Bent, who was named this year as the new Santa Rosa Symphony choral director, taking over the reins from Robert Worth in February. “It’s vocally demanding, and it requires an advanced level of musicianship. These also make it musically satisfying.”

For the past five years, Bent has served as the full-time Director of Choral Activities at Sonoma State, a post she also inherited from Worth. For the 40-minute, four-movement work, she has been rehearsing with about 75 singers drawn from the SSU Symphony Chorus and the SSU Chamber Singers. Bent will also direct an additional 40 singers from the Santa Rosa Junior College Choir, who are rehearsing with their SRJC Choral Director Jody Beinecke.

“We have had some combined rehearsals,” she said. “I’ve been going to the SRJC rehearsals to make sure we are doing all the same phrasing and articulation.”

Although Rachmaninoff originally wrote “The Bells” from a Russian translation of the poem, the choirs and soloists will sing the words in English, which makes it easier to remember but carries its own diction challenges.

“Musically, you have to add voice to certain consonants like D,” Bent said. “You have to say duh. Especially in a hall that size, that can be challenging.”

The piece, like the poem, follows the circle of life, from birth and childhood to old age and death. Oddly enough, the sounds of sleigh bells, wedding bells, alarm bells and mournful iron bells are all made with horns, woodwinds, harp and strings, but not one percussive bell.

“Each movement conveys a different emotion,” Bent said. “They are totally different, with different colors, feelings and so many different ways that the choir and orchestra can musically express themselves.”

The first movement, “The Silver Sleigh Bells,” recreates the excitement and joy of childhood, while the
second movement, “The Mellow Wedding Bells,” offers the guarded optimism of newlyweds.

“The first movement is very playful, with the sleigh bells,” Bent said. “Although the second movement about wedding bells evokes an overall sense of reserved joy and hope, I hear a hint of mourning.”

That mourning may be due to Rachmaninoྫྷ’s incorporation of the ancient melody, “Dies Irae,” traditionally used by composers to convey the doom of Judgment Day. It was one of his favorite compositions.

“The third movement (‘The Loud Alarm Bells’) is a little more bellicose and brash, and it’s by far the most difficult movement,” Bent said. “The fourth movement (‘The Mournful Iron Bells’) explores the many dark and terrifying emotions one can experience as death approaches. However, it closes in a manner that sounds ... like a comforting lullaby.”

In the program, Ferrandis wove “The Bells” together with three other works to create quite a bit of literary resonance.

The concerts open with American composer Augusta Read Thomas’ “Prayer Bells,” written in 2001, and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” written in 1899 as character sketches of the composer, his wife and 12 of their friends.

“Enigma is also the title of one of the most famous poems by Poe,” Ferrandis said. “And Augusta Reed
Thomas has written an entire opera, ‘Ligeia,’ from a Poe story. So she has a strong love for Edgar Allan Poe.”

The concert will close with Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” a song without words for soprano composed and published in 1915 as the last of his “Fourteen Songs.” It is sung using any vowel of the singer’s choosing.

“That’s a very well known piece,” Ferrandis said. “So that’s the bonbon at the end.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

November 25, 2016: SR Symphony Expands the "It’s Elementary!" Program

by Sonoma County Gazette, November 25, 2016

Santa Rosa Symphony’s It’s Elementary! music enrichment program for youth has expanded to include a sixth Sonoma County elementary school. The program is offered to qualifying Sonoma County schools for a term of two years each. During those two years, the teachers and students in the school are enrolled free of charge in the five main educational programs offered by SRS to schools throughout Sonoma County. The following programs are provided without cost to the students in the It’s Elementary! program.

The Elementary School Listening Program provides a 5-minute daily listening piece and scripts to go with each day. The children hear the same piece of music each day for 5 days, with scripts that vary slightly from day to day. For instance, the name of the composer is repeated during the week. By Friday, the script asks the students if they remember the name of the composer. This program is available to all schools in Sonoma County on a fee basis, and is free of charge to the schools in the It’s Elementary! program.

“The kids and teachers love the Listening Program! I was surprised to discover how much they look forward to it each day. Students will remind their teachers to play the music if they don’t start at the appointed time. The listening program gives students time to center and focus, which supports the development of mindfulness. Mindfulness practices cultivate emotional resilience, self-awareness and empathy, which are essential life skills and traits we all need,” commented Betha MacClain, Principal at Jack London Elementary School and a member of the Santa Rosa Symphony Board of Directors.

The Meet Our Families Assemblies bring in four chamber groups representing the four orchestra families (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) to perform in each It’s Elementary! school over the course of the two years. The programs are interactive and lively. For example, the percussion trio actually brings bucket percussion for the students to try. At the end of the second year, one of the three youth orchestras of the Symphony performs in each school. This final concert is a great way for the students to see kids approximately their own age performing. This program is provided free of charge to the It’s Elementary! schools, and is available to other schools for a fee.

Kaesa Enemark, former Steele Lane Elementary Principal, said of the program, “Steele Lane students and staff loved the personalized concert. It was adorable to see the students in awe of the music and musicians. [It] warmed my heart as I sat on the cafeteria floor amongst my wiggly first graders and kindergartners. I almost wept with happiness.” 

Youth Discovery Cards provide a free ticket for each child and one adult companion to attend dress rehearsals of the Santa Rosa Symphony classical series concerts at the Green Music Center throughout the year. These complimentary tickets give children an opportunity to see the orchestra at work! Youth Discovery Cards are made available free of charge to ALL elementary schools in Sonoma County. 

The Free Concerts For Youth program brings students to the Green Music Center during the school day for a concert by the SRS Youth Orchestra, Repertory Orchestra or the Santa Rosa Symphony. The Symphony underwrites the cost of transportation to the concerts for schools in the It’s Elementary! program; other schools provide their own transportation to these free events.

Each year the final Free Concerts For Youth includes a segment called IGNITE! Teachers learn how to teach fundamental music concepts to their students using a curriculum provided by the Santa Rosa Symphony with support from SRS Education staff. The curriculum prepares students to play recorder or sing along with the orchestra. The cost of this program, including the loan of recorders for the students to play, is free for the schools in the It’s Elementary! program. Other elementary schools in Sonoma County can also participate in the IGNITE! program through the SRS.

It’s Elementary! partner schools are chosen based on criteria set by the SRS, which take into account the kind of music education already available to the students and the percentage of the students considered to be disadvantaged. As a result of increased understanding of the importance of the arts in the core curriculum being shown at the both state and district level within California, the SRS has seen a leap in interest in the It’s Elementary! program here in Sonoma County. In 2015, the Symphony decided to increase the number of schools in the program to a total of six per year; nine schools applied for the three new spots. Steele Lane Elementary, Helen Lehman Elementary and Jack London Elementary are in their second year. Bellevue Elementary, Olivet Elementary Charter School and Woodland Star Charter School joined the program this year. With the addition of Woodland Star, the It’s Elementary! program has expanded geographically to include Sonoma.

November 3, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony names finalists for new music director

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, November 3, 2016

The Santa Rosa Symphony announced the names of its five music director finalists Thursday evening during a private event held at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, where the symphony serves as the orchestra in residence.

The five finalists, who were chosen from a wide field of applicants and represent three different nationalities, will be introduced to the audience during the 2017-2018 Santa Rosa Symphony Season as guest conductors and potential successors to outgoing Maestro Bruno Ferrandis.

“This music director search has been an amazing, world-wide endeavor, with 60 well-quality applicants, whom we researched and vetted extensively,” said Jim Hinton, Music Director Search Committee Chair.

The search committee, made up of five board members, four orchestra members and Santa Rosa Symphony Executive Director Alan Silow, have spent months pouring over resumes, viewing videos, conducting phone interviews and even flying across the country to view some of the candidates
in action.

The finalists will try out during the first, five concert sets of the 2017-2018 season, and the selection will be announced by March 2018. Each candidate will spend about eight days in Santa Rosa, conducting all rehearsals and performances and meeting with community leaders, media, board members, staff and musicians.

The new music director’s tenure will begin with the 2018-2019 season. Outgoing Music Director Bruno Ferrandis will conduct the final two concert sets of the 2017-2018 season.

This weekend at the symphony’s performances in Weill Hall Nov. 5-7, the audience will be able to watch a video showcasing each finalist screening 90 minutes before each of the three concerts.

Here are the five finalists, in the order in which they are scheduled to conduct:

Francesco Lecce-Chong — Oct. 7, 8 and 9, 2017
A native of Boulder, Colorado, Lecce-Chong began conducting at the age of 16 and graduated from the Mannes College of Music in New York with a B.A. with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. He also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied as a fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller.

He is based in Pittsburgh and currently holds the positions of Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra.

As a guest conductor, he has worked with orchestras around the world, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a composer, Lecce-Chong embraces innovative programming and supports arts education. As a conductor, he has earned a reputation for dynamic, forceful performances that have earned him the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award.

Mei-Ann Chen — Nov. 4, 5 and 7, 2017
Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen is considered one of America’s most dynamic guest conductors, with a reputation as a compelling communicator and educator who has redefined the orchestra experience with her innovation and imagination.

Since 2011, she has served as music director of the 2016 MacArthur Awardwinning Chicago Sinfonietta in Chicago, where she is based. She also serves as Artistic Director and Conductor of the 2016 National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Orchestra Festival.

A sought-after guest conductor around the world, she was named one of Musical America’s 2015 Top 30 Influencers and won the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras. Chen served as guest conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony in January 2016, where she
made a positive impression on both audience members and musicians.

Chen has served as assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, and with the Oregon Symphony.

Andrew Grams — Dec. 2, 3 and 7, 2017
A native of Severn, Maryland, Grams began playing violin age 8 in the public school system, Grams attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and won a position in the violin section of the New York City Ballet while enrolled at the Juilliard School in New York.

He pursued conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller, and served as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra from 2004-2007, where he worked under the guidance of Franz Welser-Most.

Grams is currently music director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Illinois, where he has built a reputation for long-term orchestra-building and community outreach. His tenure there was recently extended through 2022. He lives outside Cleveland.

Known for his combination of intensity, enthusiasm and technical clarity, Grams has led orchestras throughout the U.S. and the world, from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony to the Orchestre National de France and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

Graeme Jenkins— Jan. 13, 14 and 15, 2018
English conductor Graeme Jenkins is an opera, choral and orchestral conductor who is known for the breadth of his repertoire and interpretations of Mozart and Richard Strauss as well as for conducting major choral works.

After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, he was appointed Music Director of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where he assisted Bernard Haitink and Sir Simon Rattle. He also served as music director of the Dallas Opera from 1994 to 2013. He was Principal Guest
Conductor of the Koln Opera from 1997 to 2002.

Jenkins has conducted for major UK orchestras such as g the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as for European orchestras such as the Lyon Symphony. Last year, he conducted two productions at the Vienna State Opera, marking his 184th opera production of 117 different titles worldwide.
He lives in Dorset County in southern England.

In the U.S., he has worked with the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Minnesota, Utah and San Antonio. He has collaborated with the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University in Texas on a 10-year project of Handel oratorios.

Michael Christie — Jan. 10, 11 and 12, 2018
A graduate of Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio with a B.A. in trumpet performance, Christie currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife Alexis, a physician, and their two children.

Equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, Christie first came to international attention in 1995, when he was awarded a special prize for “Outstanding Potential” at the First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition in Helsinki, Finland. Following that competition, he was invited to
become an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera.

Since 2012-2013, he has served as music director of the Minnesota Opera, where he has shown a deep commitment to bringing new works to life, such as the 2011 premiere of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer-Prize winning “Silent Night.” In August 2012, he was named by Opera News as one of 25 people believed to
“break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade.”

Christie is known as a thoughtfully innovative conductor who is focused on making the audience experience entertaining and enlightening. According to the New York Times, “Michael Christie is a music director open to adventure and challenge.”

Christie served as guest conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony in January 2015, where he led a performance of fiddler Mark O’Connor’s own “Fiddle Concerto.” A licensed pilot for more than 15 years, he often flies his Mooney Airplane Company single-engine aircraft to conducting engagements across the U.S.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

October 28, 2016: Weaving music with myth at Santa Rosa Symphony talks

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 28, 2016

This season, fans of the Santa Rosa Symphony will get a close-up view of the psychological and mythic underpinnings of classical music during a handful of preconcert lectures presented by Kayleen Asbo. The cultural historian has two masters degrees — in psychology and piano performance — and a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies.

For the past decade, Asbo has lectured at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes all over the Bay Area, weaving together myth, psychology, poetry and history with her own intense passion for classical music.

“I give a glimpse into the minds of the composers and the choices they make and what it symbolizes to them,” said Asbo, 48. “That brings the music to life. Without that, it’s like going to a movie in a foreign language without subtitles.”

Last December, Asbo gave a stirring, preconcert lecture for the Santa Rosa Symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony. This season, she will give four preconcert lectures, starting with the upcoming concert set on Nov. 5-7, featuring pianist Orion Weiss.

This season she plans to analyze composers within the framework of two Greek gods: Apollo, the god of music and mathematics, represented by Classical composers such as Haydn and Mozart; and Dionysius, the god of ritual madness and religious ecstasy, represented by Romantic composers like Lizst and Schumann.

“It’s Sting vs. the Rolling Stones, elegant vs. unbridled,” Asbo said. “In the (Nov. 5-7) concert, they are all crazy Dionysians ... Liszt became a monk and an exorcist. The Bartok piece has been known to drive people insane; Schumann was mentally ill. It will be a very juicy program.”

Here’s a look at Asbo’s journey, from her childhood as a budding pianist to her ultimate career as professor of music at the San Francisco Conservatory, workshop leader and lecturer around the country and the world.

Q: How did you get started in music?
A: I began asking for piano lessons when I was 3, and I finally got my heart’s desire for my seventh Christmas. We didn’t have money for an instrument, so I’d ride my bike to my grandmother’s home after school to practice.

At 12, I performed the Mozart Concerto in A Major with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. At 16, I performed the Third Beethoven Concerto with the Santa Barbara Symphony. I was on track to becoming a serious pianist. Then, at 18, I suffered a very serious hand injury from overuse.

I have harpsichord hands, very small. I was told I would never play again. I lost my full scholarship to UC Santa Barbara and lost the use of my hands to tendinitis.

Instead, I went to Smith College and studied English literature and women’s studies and finished my degree in development psychology at Mills. I wanted to work with children.

When I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, I went to the Mendocino Music Festival and listened to an open rehearsal of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a piece I have an intense visceral connection with, and I remembered how much joy I had known as a soloist myself. I bought an upright piano and did physical therapy. Then I got accepted at the San Francisco Conservatory and studied piano performance with Paul Hersh.

Q: How did you transition into teaching and lecturing?
A: I’ve taught preschool, done research in child development, and I was teaching 30 to 40 piano lessons a week. There were fabulous musicians who also were trying to make a go of it and not making it. It was so sad to see a gap between students who wanted to learn and teachers who didn’t know how to bridge the gap. So for the past 18 years, I’ve taught a course at the San Francisco Conservatory on the Psychology of Teaching Music.

Q: How did you connect with the Santa Rosa Symphony?
A: I started teaching nine years ago for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley, Dominican University and at SSU’s Oakmont campus. There are several symphony board members who live in Oakmont, and it developed into a nice working relationship.

Q: What is your goal for the symphony lectures this year?
A: The talks are designed to give a deeper look. We’ve almost lost the reference points for what composers are doing. We’ve lost a lot of cultural references. If you don’t know the myth of Orpheus, you won’t know what’s going on with (Alan) Hovhaness’ “Meditation on Orpheus” (in the sixth concert set).

For the future, it’s important that classical music is not a bust. It’s a music for the deepest passions within and gives us a way to touch the depths of the human experience. My hope is that people will fall in love with the music and composers but will also discover something about themselves.

Q: How do you prepare for your lectures?
A: I never speak with notes. I memorize the material so that I can be in the moment. I try to make people fall in love, and I do that by finding what I’m passionate about.

Q: Are you working on anything else for the Santa Rosa Symphony?
A: I love what the symphony is doing for youth. The developmental window for music closes at age 9, according to neurological studies on the plasticity of the brain. Like a foreign language, you won’t have the same comfort and naturalness after that. If we lay down the basics of those pathways in children’s minds, they will be there.

The symphony’s Simply Strings program takes a cue from El Sistema (Venezuela’s string program for underprivileged youth). I’m doing a music history series at the Petaluma History Museum, and 20 percent of the proceeds will go to Simply Strings.

Q: Do you still perform?
A: I will do benefit concerts for a cause I believe in, but it can’t be only a concert. I have to weave the story into it or it’s not satisfying. For me, music is a sacred thing, so it needs to allow people to have a transcendent experience or be in the service of humanity.

Q: Why do you regard music as sacred?
A: Music is meant to benefit the world. It’s about human depth. I want people to connect to the essence of their humanity, not just enjoy and appreciate its aesthetic qualities. It’s not just entertainment. It helps us remember what is beautiful, true and good.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

October 5, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony presents new and familiar faces, repertoire

by Diane Peterson, Press Democrat, October 5, 2016

When Music Director Bruno Ferrandis strides to the podium to kick off his final full season with the Santa Rosa Symphony this weekend, the 56-year-old conductor will be pulling out a familiar bag of tricks designed to dazzle and delight.

During the symphony’s 89th season, famous friends will be joining him as soloists; programs will have radical contrasts in styles; colorful works will draw from theater, opera and dance; and a few contemporary works will balance out familiar warhorses by Brahms and Beethoven.

“The most important to me are the allusions to opera, theater and ballet,” Ferrandis said in a phone interview from his home in Paris. “I like to mingle the arts — I like that mix of the world — and not to be in an Ivory Tower.”

New faces this season include Jenny Bent, who directs the SSU Symphonic Chorus and has been named the new Santa Rosa Symphony choral director; and music historian Kayleen Asbo, who will give four out of the seven pre-concert lectures.

“It’s nice to change traditions and to evolve,” said Ferrandis, who will host the first pre-concert lecture in October with his brother, flutist Jean Ferrandis; with harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet in January; and with violinist Vadim Gluzman in May.

This year marks the 11th season for Ferrandis, who shepherded the orchestra through its tricky transition into Weill Hall in the Green Music Center five years ago while overseeing the hiring of a new generation of young players.

“I’m so proud because we built it up, brick by brick,” he said of the orchestra. “There was a renewal and an increasing improvement and popularity of the orchestra.”

This November, the symphony’s 10-member search committee is expected to announce names of the five finalists as Ferrandis’ successor.

After the finalists try out during the 2017-2018 season, Ferrandis will return for the final two concerts to bid adieu to the orchestra, the staff and the people of Sonoma County at the end of 2018.

“I will terribly miss Northern California, the wines, the people, the scenery and the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “I have a strong relationship as an artist with the public. In Europe, you don’t have that unless you stay 30 years in the same place.”

A final decision on Ferrandis’ successor will be announced in February 2018, said Alan Silow, executive director of the Santa Rosa Symphony.

“The audience will give their feedback through an online survey,” Silow said, “and the board makes the final decision.”

Meanwhile, here’s what to expect during this season’s Classical Series:

“The Magic of the Flute,” Oct. 8-10

Ferrandis’ younger brother, flutist Jean Ferrandis, returns to perform two works with the orchestra for the season opener: the Mozart Flute Concerto No.1 and Bernstein’s haunting “Halil,” a work for flute and chamber orchestra written in 1981 to commemorate a young Israeli flutist who was killed in 1973.

“Jean said, ‘We have to do “Halil,” ... because we both had ties with Bernstein at the time,” Ferrandis said. “It’s very melodic, but then you can feel the explosions of war.”

The flutist last performed with the symphony in 2012, during the orchestra’s final concert at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Since that time, he has become a tenured professor of music at CSU Fullerton.

“He’s more seasoned and adapted to California now,” Ferrandis said of his brother.

Rounding out the program will be Beethoven’s light-hearted but not lightweight Symphony No. 8 and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes,” an appealing piece that gives a nod to Ferrandis’ love of opera.

“Keyboard Brilliance,” Nov. 5-7

One of the world’s most virtuosic pianists — 35-year-old Orion Weiss — will perform the Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2, a thorny challenge for soloist and orchestra alike. The Hungarian, who also played the piano, is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

Opening the concert will be a work by another Hungarian pianist, Lizst’s symphonic poem, “Les Préludes.” The symphony will close the concert with Schumann’s “Symphony No. 2,” one of Ferrandis’ favorite works, also written by a pianist.

“I’m a Gemini, and he’s the epitome of a Gemini — very mercurial, impetuous and hard to predict,” he said. “The first theme is solemn, but the finale is bursting with joy.”

“Poetic Bells,” Dec. 3-5

There is a hidden, literary theme in this vocal concert — American poet and short story writer Edgar Allen Poe.

The concert includes Edward Elgar’s beloved “Enigma Variations,” which is also the name of one of Poe’s most famous poems, “An Enigma.” Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony, “The Bells,” features the SSU Symphonic Chorus directed by Jenny Bent and is based on a poem by Poe.

“We are going to sing it in English, for practical reasons,” Ferrandis said. “To memorize it in Russian is more complex.”

The concert opens with “Prayer Bells” by contemporary composer Augusta Reed Thomas and concludes with a tasty bonbon: Rachmaninoff’s beloved “Vocalise” for soprano and orchestra, featuring soprano Jenni Samuelson.

“Heavenly Harp,” Jan. 7-9

Ferrandis invited Berlin Philharmonic Principal Harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, an old childhood friend who attended conservatory with him, to perform two contrasting concertos: the Ginastera Harp Concerto and the Debussy’s “Dances Sacred and Profane.”

“The Ginastera is very technical and percussive and dance-like and Argentinean,” he said. “On the contrary, the Debussy is very mellifluous and lyrical.”

And to add to the French flavor, he added two suites from one of the most famous French ballets, Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloé,” and an operatic curtain-opener, Rossini’s Overture to “The Thieving Magpie.”

“Tales of Lovce,” Feb. 11-13

As a love letter to Shakespeare, the symphony will present two works inspired by his most famous tragedy, written by two of the best orchestrators in the world. As the curtain-opener, Ferrandis chose Berlioz’s Introduction to “Roméo et Juliette,” and as a closer, he will conduct Prokofiev’s Selections from “Romeo and Juliet.”

“That’s my theatrical touch,” Ferrandis said. “The Berlioz piece is quite famous but not played that often.”

The centerpiece of the concert will be Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, a mighty masterpiece performed by Italian pianist Alessio Bax. In October 2014, Bax came to Santa Rosa to accompany violinist Joshua Bell in a gala recital hosted by the symphony.

“Bring on the Strings,” March 25-27

A showcase for a few of the principal string players in the symphony, this concert highlights Concertmaster Joe Edelberg and Principal Violist Elizabeth Prior in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante and Principal Cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns in Fauré’s “Elégie” for Cello.

After intermission, Ferrandis chose to perform two works by Sibelius: His audacious Symphony No. 4, written during a dark time of his life before World War I; and his sparkling “Finlandia,” a popular tone poem that evokes the natural splendor of the composer’s native country.

As a mirror of the symphony’s meditative quality, the concert will open with Alan Hovhaness’ “Meditation on Orpheus.”

“Orpheus is the god of mysteries, rituals and magic,” Ferrandis said. “And the Sibelius symphony is extremely mysterious as well.”

“Vadim Returns!,” May 6-8

Russian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, who opened the symphony season in 2008 with the Beethoven Violin Concerto, returns for this all-Russian program, tackling the athletic heights of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

The program opens with Khachaturian’s Suite from “Masquerade,” a piece written for a stage play by Russian playwright Mikhail Lermontov. The season finale will be Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, “The Year 1905,” written in 1957 about the insurrection against the Tsar.

“All three composers knew each other very well,” Ferrandis said. “It was a small circle of famous Russian composers.”

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

August 10, 2016: St. Vincent Violinist Jin Headed to Brown University

by Argus Courier, August 10, 2016

One of the most talented young musicians in the North Bay is headed for Brown University in Rhode Island — to study international relations.

Calvin Jin, a St. Vincent de Paul High School graduate, has won honors for his violin virtuosity from Oakland to Santa Rosa, but he doesn’t plan on making music a career.

“I’m certainly going to keep playing, but I don’t think music will be my profession,” he says. “I’m looking at taking a business approach to my international relations study.”

Entering college, Jin takes with him an array of academic and music awards.

In his four years at St. Vincent he was a National Honors Society Member and a member of the California Scholarship Federation. He performed many hours of volunteer services, most, but not all, music related. Outside the realm of music he provided tech support for the Korean Presbyterian church in San Rafael and was an administrative intern for the Petaluma Historical Museum.

He used his musical talents to serve as an administrative intern for the Santa Rosa Symphony, organized and performed in “The Young Soloists’ Night in Sebastopol.

Whew!

There is more — much more.

Jin won the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2015 and 2016; took second in the Music in the Vineyards Solo Instrumental Competition; was third in the United States Open Music Competition Instrumental Ensemble Senior Division; won the Senior String Division in the Etude Competition; won the Music in the Vineyards Solo Instrumental Competition; and was the winner of the Napa Valley Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.

He was concertmaster for the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra, concertmaster for the Young People’s Chamber Orchestra; co-concertmaster for the Napa Valley Youth Symphony; first violin for the Napa Valley Youth Symphony’s Chamber Ensemble; and concertmaster for the Sinfonia String Orchesta.

He found time to serve as president of the St. Vincent French club and was a key member of the nationally recognized St. Vincent debate team, earning a National Forensic League Degree of Excellence Award.

Did we mention that he was Valedictorian of the St. Vincent de Paul High School graduating class of 2016?

That Jin is a violinist at all is something of a compromise. His mother, Ji-Young Jin, started him playing the piano at about age 6. 

“My mom found out it wasn’t easy teaching her own son,” Jin explained. “We found a friend who was a violin teacher, so we decided to try that.

“Initially it was quite hard. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do now.”

That has changed. Jin now enjoys his part in playing the music he loves.

“My musical taste has always been classical music,” he explains. “I find joy in playing music I enjoy. It is an honor to play the works of great composers.”

He acknowledges that he practices “quite a lot,” but is quick to note it is not a sacrifice.

“I love music and I want to play the great works,” he said. “If I am going to play them, I might as well give it my all.”

His church, the Korean Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, has been a big part of Jin’s life, not only spiritually, but musically. He plays at the church, sometimes accompanying by his mother as she plays the piano, and also gives free private lessons to children in the church who cannot afford private teachers.

Jin is technically not a native Petaluman, but he is about as close as you can get, moving with his parents from San Diego before he had reached his second birthday.

His elementary education was at a Montessori school and later Harvest Christian School. Given that background, it was only natural that he continue his education at a small private high school, and Jin said he enjoyed his time at St. Vincent, where everyone knows everyone else.

Now, it is on to the next big step in his life — Brown University — where music will remain part of his life, but education will sit in the first chair.

July 25, 2016: Santa Rosa Symphony brings music appreciation to underserved

by North Bay Business Journal, July 25, 2016

By Alan Silow, North Bay Business Journal

In the middle of a 2014 school day, a group of second grade Shepard Elementary students from the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Simply Strings ensemble confidently walked onto the stage of the new Weill Hall and readied their violins and bows to play a Beethoven composition.


On stage with them were some of the Bay Area’s most seasoned classical musicians of the Santa Rosa Symphony (SRS).

Nearly 1,000 of their peers in the audience joined Simply Strings in their performance, playing recorders and singing a joyous rendition of Beethoven’s infamous theme “Ode to Joy” at the Symphony’s Free Concerts for Youth.

This may be an unusual scene in the 21st century for children — even adults — to be exposed to and embrace classical music.

But for the Santa Rosa Symphony, our goal is to inspire a lifelong love and appreciation for music and moreover bring about positive social change.

Since its founding in 1928, the Santa Rosa Symphony has helped keep the musical arts alive in Sonoma County. Now the Resident Orchestra of the Green Music Center, the symphony is the third-oldest such professional group in California and the largest California regional symphony north of Los Angeles, growing through the years from a community ensemble to a nationally-known,award-winning orchestra.

But beyond the concert hall, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s reach is seen — and heard — far throughout Sonoma County.

The symphony’s mission is to serve the community we reside in through far-reaching music education and community engagement programs in the North Bay. In that role, it has been a key provider of free or low-cost music education and instrument training programs for more than 70 years, currently serving 20,000 children and youth across the North Bay including Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties.

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board reported that arts education in the county’s 40 school districts has declined in recent years and access to arts education is uneven from school to school. According to the report,“Arts education in Sonoma County is an equity issue.”

Through our numerous free or low-cost music education programs, the symphony works hard to offer solutions to Sonoma County’s arts education equity gap. Our Training Young Musicians program provides youth with intensive music training coupled with exciting performance opportunities through instrument training classes and four youth ensembles, and our growing Music in Our Schools programs, are bringing music education back into the county’s underserved schools.

The symphony strives not only to provide our youth with quality music training but to help them develop crucial life skills for a successful future. Our newest music education program, Simply Strings, provides free, intensive music training for Santa Rosa’s underserved elementary school students. Inspired by Venezuela’s free music immersion program El Sistema, it has dual ambitions of serving as both a music training and a social development program, using music to help students achieve academic success, emotional health, and positive social skills.

“This is a very special kind of program that is not offered anywhere,” a Simply Strings parent said. “Not only do I like the program but I also like all the results that music brings to an individual, like how she can develop capacities, can start to see the world from different points of view, and can grow and have good self-esteem and value herself.”

In addition to providing music education for our youth, the symphony aspires to make classical music accessible to our entire community, reaching out to populations that might not otherwise be able to attend.

Each season we give away hundreds of tickets to local schools, young musicians and, through our new Social Impact program, to recipients of local, youth-oriented social service agencies.

Through a fruitful partnership with the Sonoma County Library System, the symphony has developed a free performances series begun in 2015 of informal and educational concerts by our musicians. Hundreds of people have attended these library performances, enjoying hour-long programs designed for children and adults.

The symphony opened its doors to the community for a free concert in July 2014 at Weill Hall as a gift to the community in appreciation for 87 years of support. The free concert featured SRS with special guest artists Mariachi Sol de México, considered one the nation’s premier mariachi ensembles. This jubilant event drew more than 5,000 people from the community including new audiences from the Latino community. Given the overwhelming popularity of the event, the symphony now offers a free summer concert for the community annually in partnership with the Green Music Center.

In sum, our music matters. In this day and age of discord and division, we serve as a fundamentally important unifying force. Through the transformative power of our music, we change lives for the better and provide renewed hope that the next generation can build a better world.

Contact Us

Santa Rosa Symphony
Administrative Office:
50 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Administration: (707) 546-7097

Patron Services Hours: 
M-F - 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
W – 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Patron Services: (707) 546-8742