THE MUSICIANS

 

Guitarist Joe Belmont (Dúo Fusión) plays in a broad range of styles —  classical, jazz, flamenco, and rock. A native of New York City, he played his first gigs and made his first recordings by age 17, and has been performing professionally for over 30 years. In addition to Dúo Fusión, Joe plays with the innovative world beat band Viva Quetzal and the acoustic pop group Satinwood, and leads the Wes Montgomery-styled jazz ensemble, The Fellowship of Wes. Joe has made two solo acoustic guitar recordings in addition to several recordings with ensembles. Joe teaches privately and is on the music performance faculty at Amherst College and Director of Jazz Studies at the Northampton (Mass.) Community Music Center. www.joebelmont.com.

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Soprano Diana Brewer is a frequent soloist with the Pioneer Valley-based  Arcadia Players, Cantabile, and Wistaria. She also tours internationally with Tapestry, a Boston-based vocal ensemble dedicated to medieval and new music. She began studying the violin as a child and fell in love with singing as a teen. As a string player she has performed with the period instrument ensembles AmorArtis of New York, Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, and Foundling Baroque Orchestra. Ms. Brewer earned her BA in music at Smith College, where she studied voice with Soprano Jane Bryden, and her Master of Music in Early Music Performance at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, under the vocal instruction of mezzo-soprano Laurie Monahan. A resident of Amherst she is training as a cantorial soloist at Hebrew College of Newton.

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Sarah Briggs has taught violin at Amherst and Smith Colleges since 2008, and is an active performer throughout western MA. She is first violinist of the Wistaria String Quartet, and performs with the Berkshire and Springfield Symphonies. She was the sole violinist for the premiere run of “Far from Heaven” with the Williamstown Theatre in July 2012. Before moving to Northampton, Sarah was a tenured member of the Colorado (Denver) and Charlotte Symphonies, and  played concerts with the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies, two seasons with the Utah Symphony, toured Japan with the Chicago String Ensemble, and wass principal second violin of the Central City Opera Festival for several summers. She has appeared as soloist with the Colorado Philharmonic, the Bach Aria Festival, Holyoke Civic Symphony, at a dress rehearsal for Midori with the Anchorage Symphony, and with the Amherst College Orchestra.She won first place in the Mid-Texas Young Artists Competition in 1985, after completing a MM  Degree at the University of Texas, Austin. She received her Bachelor’s in Violin Performance from the Eastman School, studying with Zvi Zeitlin and Peter Salaff.

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Violinist Kaila Graef  has performed with a diverse range of groups, including a swing band in Baltimore, the Springfield Symphony, and Washington D.C.’s  Inscape Chamber Music Project. While on faculty of the Vermont Youth Orchestra’s summer festival, she collaborated in performances with the Amabile String Quartet. Kaila holds a Bachelor of Music from Peabody Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music from UMass Amherst, where she was a member of the Graduate String Quartet. Her principal teachers include Shirley Givens and Marylou Speaker Churchill. Kaila is a dedicated teacher, maintaining a large private studio in Amherst. Her students perform in outreach concerts throughout the Pioneer Valley.

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Since making her NYC debut at Weill Recital Hall in 1982 as a winner of the Artists International competition, flutist Alison Hale has performed in Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, CAMI Hall, and many of the major churches in New York City.  Ms. Hale holds both a Master’s  and Doctor of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music  as well as an AB from Mount Holyoke College.  She is currently a member of the Portland (Maine)  Symphony Orchestra and Portland Opera Repertory Theater and is on the faculties of Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

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Greg Hayes, piano, is a busy chamber musician and orchestral keyboard player, and has appeared as soloist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. He plays harpsichord, piano, and celesta regularly for the Symphony Orchestra, and has also performed with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York), and Arcadia Players. He has participated often in the New England Bach Festival and Marlboro Music Festival, and on the Mohawk Trail Concerts series. He is longtime music director for the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence (Massachusetts). Greg is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College and the Manhattan School of Music. His teachers have included Ming Tcherepnin, Kenneth Fearn, Dora Zaslavsky, and Raymond Hanson. He lives in Goshen, Massachusetts and has taught for many summers at Greenwood Music Camp in nearby Cummington.  He is senior lecturer in piano at Dartmouth College, where he has taught since 1991.

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Harpist Franziska Huhn has given numerous solo recitals throughout the United States as well as in Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Georgia, Russia, Syria, Pakistan and Germany, including several performances for the German President.  She has appeared repeatedly on WGBH and is active in and around the Boston area. She studied with Lucile Lawrence at Boston University and with Ann Hobson Pilot at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she became the first harpist to be awarded the Artist’s Diploma in 2005. Since 2003, she has been the Assistant Director of the Harp Seminar at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute. Franziska teaches harp at the New England Conservatory and Longy School of Music.  www.FranziskaHuhn.com

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Cuban-born guitarist, composer, educator, and folklorist José Manuel Lezcano has performed traditional and South American guitar repertory, and his own solo, concerto, and chamber works, in the US, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, China, Spain, Greece, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Among his numerous professional recognitions, he has earned two Grammy nominations for his CDs, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, twice Composer of the Year of the New Hampshire Music Teachers Association, and a Fulbright Award to Ecuador where he performed as orchestral soloist and pursued research on indigenous guitar traditions.During 2013, José was Artist in Residence at the Studios of Key West, Florida, and composed a commissioned work for the Amaral Duo of Baltimore, and also performed with “Music in Miami” in a third appearance, where his Viola Concerto received its Florida premiere.

In 2012, José’s “Tango-Overture” for strings, conducted by Max Lifchitz, received its debut recording on the North-South label as Cross-Currents. He premiered his second guitar concerto, “Concierto Cubanero,” in 2011 in New York City and in Quito, Ecuador. Jose has also completed commissioned works for the New York State Music Fund and Rochester Folk Art Guild, with which he released a CD (“Latin Landscapes”), and from the Boston Guitar Society and Meet-the-Composer New England.

His first Guitar Concerto (2004), which he premiered in New York City as soloist with the North-South Consonance Chamber Orchestra, was released on the North-South label in 2007 as “Remembrances/Recuerdos.”  José is Professor and Chair of the Music Department at Keene State College, where he has taught since 1991.

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Pianist Monica Jakuc Leverett has performed internationally, and is an active solo and chamber music pianist in Western Massachusetts, with a special interest in women composers and early pianos. She is the Elsie Irwin Sweeney Professor Emerita of Music at Smith College, where she taught from 1969 until 2008.  She has two degrees from Juilliard School of Music in NYC, and has studied with James Friskin, Beveridge Webster, Leon Fleisher, Russell Sherman, and Konrad Wolff. A longstanding member of Wistaria, she is also member of the board and frequent soloist with the Arcadia Players early music ensemble. Her latest CD, “Fantasies for Fortepiano,” includes Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, and is available on cdbaby.com. You can read about her first piano lesson on her “bio” page at www.monicajakucleverett.com. She lives in Florence, Massachusetts.

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Duo pianists Dana Muller and Gary Steigerwalt have been performing the four-hand piano repertoire for more than 25 years across the United States, as well as in Scotland, Argentina and Bolivia. They have appeared at the Beethoven Festival, Oyster Bay, Long Island, performing the complete four-hand works of Beethoven, and at summer festivals such as the Bethlehem Musikfest (Pennsylvania), Music at Penn Alps (Maryland), and the Sevenars Festival and Musicorda Festival (Massachusetts). Orchestral appearances include the Pennsylvania Sinfonia (North American premiere of Jan Mul’s Concerto for Piano Four-Hands and Chamber Orchestra), Orchestra New England, and Mesquite (Texas) Symphony Orchestra.

Their recording of four-hand works by early twentieth-century European composers (Centaur CD 2127) was hailed “an outstanding disc” by Fanfare. The disc includes Lucien Garban’s transcription of La Valse by Maurice Ravel, Paul Hindemith’s Sonata, the complete four-hand works of Alfredo Casella, and collections of shorter pieces by Georges Auric, Arnold Schönberg, and Ferrucio Busoni. Also released by Centaur are a disc of nineteenth-century Romantic compositions by Anton Rubinstein, Josef Rheinberger and Frederick Shepherd Converse (CRC 2390) and Volumes I (CRC 2272) and II (CRC 2305) of a series of compact discs devoted to the four-hand works of Franz Schubert.

Gary Steigerwalt has been on the music faculty of Mount Holyoke College since 1981.  Dana Muller has both a DMA and a JD and is a licensed attorney in Arizona, Connecticut and Massachusetts. www.muller-steigerwalt.com

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A native of Buenos Aires, pianist Estela Kersenbaum Olevsky has performed on five continents and collaborated with violinists Aaron Rosand, Leon Spierer and Julian Olevsky, sopranos Phyllis Curtin and Lucy Shelton, tenor Jon Humphrey, flutist Carol Wincenc, and with diverse chamber music groups including the Lark Quartet (2007) and members of the Berlin Philharmonic (1999 and 2009). Often invited to give master classes, she has been a guest teacher in music schools in the USA, Latin America and, in 2003 and 2006, at the Beijing and Shanghai Conservatories.  Her discography covers repertoire ranging from Mozart’s complete works for violin and piano to piano music of Latin America. She is Professor Emeritus of Piano at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  www.estelaolevsky.com

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Baritone David Perkins, founder and artistic director of Wistaria, has sung for many years as a church and concert soloist, recitalist, and member of  many choral ensembles, including the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus.  Since moving to Massachusetts in 2001, he has also performed in recital with pianists John Van Buskirk, Edward Rosser, and Tanya Blaich. In 2008, he performed Schubert’s “Winterreise” at Wistariahurst with Ms. Blaich, against a backdrop-slideshow of original student photography. He has been invited twice to sing as a bass soloist with the Keene Chorale in Keene, New Hampshire and has participated in many of Wistaria’s programs as a soloist. In 2013 he helped create Wistaria’s partnership with Concerts at 7 in Plainfield and Music at Centre Church in Brattleboro VT.

He writes about classical music, theater and dance for the Boston Globe and other publications. A graduate of Yale and Cambridge universities, he has taught writing and journalism at Duke and N.C. State universities, and, most recently, UMASS-Amherst. where he was a Senior Lecturer in the Journalism Department.

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Pianist Edward Rosser pursues an active and varied career as soloist, chamber musician and teacher. He earned his master’s degree in piano performance at Boston University, following a decade of studies with Anthony di Bonaventura, from whom he learned the Vengerova technique of piano playing. He debut recording for the Connoisseur Society, “Visions of Beyond: Late and Last Piano Works,” was named of one of the best recordings of 2010 by MusicWeb International.

 

 

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Eileen E. Ruby, mezzo-soprano, has performed as a soloist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, The Pioneer Valley Symphony, The Holyoke Civic Symphony, Keene Chorale, Arcadia Players Baroque Orchestra, and Commonwealth Opera, and with all of the Pioneer Valley’s Five Colleges.  She teaches voice at Mt. Holyoke College and Holyoke Community College and at her home studio in Greenfield.  Ms. Ruby holds a Master of Music in Classical Voice Performance and a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education, magna cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts where she studied with soprano, Paulina Stark. She learned to read music sitting in her mother’s lap as she taught piano lessons to neighborhood children.

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Cellist Astrid Schween is internationally recognized as a soloist and chamber musician. She was a member of the world-renowned Lark Quartet for 20 years and currently serves as professor of cello at the University of Massachusetts and the Hartt School of Music. She is a Valade Fellow and senior faculty member at the Interlochen Arts Center, a regularly featured artist at the Interharmony International Music Festival in Germany, and the Aria International Academy. With the Lark Quartet, she won the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and the gold medal at Russia’s Shostakovich competition, appeared at some of the world’s prestigious concert venues, commissioned dozens of new works and recorded numerous CDs for Arabesque, New World, CRI, Point and Decca/Argo labels. She has appeared at the Marlboro Music Festival, on tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and performs regularly with the Boston Chamber Music Society.

She received her degrees at the Juilliard School, and studied with Leonard Rose, Harvey  Shapiro, Bernard Greenhouse, and in London with Jacqueline DuPré and William Pleeth. Maintaining an active performance schedule, she tours regularly as a concerto soloist and in recital throughout the US and Scandinavia with duo partner Gary Hammond. Other recent collaborations include performances with composer Gordon Green and their 2010 commission, Music for Electric Cello and Electronics, and a series of original collaborative works with choreographer Kim Neal Nofsinger.

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Tenor Peter W. Shea has sung professionally since 1972 throughout New England and the Hudson Valley. He often appears as a featured soloist with choral societies, orchestras and chamber music ensembles, is a member of the vocal ensembles Novi Cantori and Cantabile, and gives frequent solo recitals. Since 1990 he has sung regularly with Arcadia Players, a period-instrument ensemble based in Northampton, Mass., and has been a member of that organization’s board since 1998. Peter is cataloger of music and foreign languages at the W.E.B. DuBois Library, UMass-Amherst, and is an authority on musical settings of the German poet Heinrich Heine.

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A native New Yorker, flutist Sarah Swersey (Dúo Fusión) has performed widely as an orchestral musician as well as a soloist.  After receiving degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Yale University School of Music, she toured as co-principal flute with the American Soviet Youth Orchestra, performing under the baton of Leonard Slatkin and other notable conductors. She then spent seven years as principal flutist of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, performing throughout  Europe with the orchestra and as a guest soloist. Since returning to the United States, Sarah has performed at the Lincoln Center Festival, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and the Tanglewood Music Festival. In the past decade, her music has expanded beyond classical, sparked by her participation in jazz cellist David Darling’s improvisation studies program, Music for People. Sarah performs on several recordings by the Grammy Award-winning Darling, who co-produced Sarah’s CD, Nightingale. Sarah teaches privately and at the Northampton Community Music Center.  www.sarahswersey.com.

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  Violist Delores Thayer is the assistant principal of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.  She also performs with the Berkshire Symphony at Williams College, Arcadia Players (Baroque viola), and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.  Currently on the viola faculty at Amherst College and the Northfield Mount Hermon School, she has headed the chamber music department at Deerfield Academy and served as guest instructor of viola at Mt. Holyoke College. Delores has performed in summer music festivals in Ayamonte and Santander, Spain; Spoleto, Italy; Tanglewood; and the Yale Norfolk Music Festival.  She has also performed at Alice Tully Hall, Kennedy Center and in numerous premieres and recordings.  A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Yale School of Music, her teachers and mentors were Frank Bundra, Raphael Hillyer, Walter Trampler, Joseph Silverstein, and Karen Tuttle.  Delores resides in Northampton, MA.

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Soprano Junko Watanabe has performed in opera, oratorio, and recitals in the New England area and in her native Japan, including solo appearances with the Boston Lyric Opera, Chorus Pro Musica, Masterworks Chorale, Boston Classical Orchestra, Key West Symphony Orchestra, and Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra. She participated in the Marlboro Music Festival from 2004 through 2007.  Originally from Osaka, Junko Watanabe holds master’s degrees from Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., and Osaka College of Music. She is on the faculty of Amherst College, Brattleboro Music Center, and The Rivers School Conservatory. She was a finalist in the Oratorio Society of New York Solo Competition and winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition Professional Division in Boston.