Conductors, soloists selected for Classics in the Cohan series

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

SLO SymphonyEach conductor will lead a classics concert as part of the selection process for the symphony’s new music director

–The San Luis Obispo Symphony’s music selection for the 2016-17 Classics in the Cohan season will showcase the talent of its orchestra, five music director candidates and internationally renowned soloists.

In its 57th year of bringing live, timeless classical music to the community, the symphony readies for a singular transformative year. For the five concerts, the concertos and soloists were selected with the help of Maestro Nir Kabaretti of the Santa Barbara Symphony and the overtures and symphonies were built around the concertos and selected by the music director candidates. The season will feature well-known classical compositions, as well as lesser known classical/contemporary gems.

“The 2016-17 Classics in the Cohan promises to be an exceptional season with world-class conducting and timeless, inspirational live music that will fill the soul,” says Francie Levy, SLO Symphony general manager. “The orchestra, Board of Directors and staff are all extremely excited to bring this season to life. It’s going to be one to remember and experience.”

The opening night concert on Saturday, October 8

The opening night concert will be on Saturday, Oct. 8. Audiences have the opportunity to enjoy the diverse talents of internationally renowned conductors and musicians as never before. After each concert, season subscribers will have a chance to “chime in” on a survey of the music director candidate. The survey results will be used as part of the selection process for the final candidate chosen.

Maestro Andrew Sewell will open the Classics season with Rossini’s lively and melodic overture from the comedic opera The Barber of Seville. Internationally renowned violinist, Giora Schmidt will collaborate with Sewell on Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole for Violin and Orchestra. The concert’s finale will be one of the most recognizable and frequently played symphonies in the world, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor.

Maestro Sewell has enjoyed fifteen seasons as Music Director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in Madison. His previous appointments include Music Director with the Wichita Symphony, Mansfield Symphony (OH), and Resident Conductor of the Toledo Symphony. A native of New Zealand, Maestro Sewell received his music training on the violin, piano and cornet, and began conducting at age 16. Praised by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “impossible to resist, captivating with lyricism, tonal warmth, and boundless enthusiasm,”

Soloist Giora Schmidt has appeared with many prominent symphony orchestras around the globe including Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Canada’s National Arts Centre, Toronto, Vancouver and the Israel Philharmonic.

Saturday, Nov. 12, Classics in the Cohan brings Maestro Jose-Luis Novo and Grammy Award winning cellist Sara Sant’ Ambrogio to the Performing Arts Center. The program begins with Jubilee from Symphonic Sketches by G.W Chadwick. Jubilee is the first of four movements inspired by a scene depiction, much like snapshots in an album, drawings, or vignettes. Maestro Novo collaborates with Sant’ Ambrogio on Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a beautiful, contemplative piece written after World War I. The evening’s finale is J. Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op.43, a full, melodic piece and one of the composer’s best-known works that premiered in 1902.

Music Director and conductor of the Binghamton Philharmonic in New York and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Maryland, José-Luis Novo began his musical studies at the conservatory of Valladolid—his hometown in Spain, obtaining the degree of Profesor Superior de Violín. He continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, where he earned a First Prize in violin. In 1988, he came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar, obtaining both Master of Music and Master of Musical Arts Degrees from Yale University.

Sara Sant’Ambrogio first leapt to international attention when she was a winner at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Violoncello Competition in Moscow. Sant’Ambrogio has appeared as a soloist with such orchestras as Atlanta, the Beijing Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Budapest, Chicago, Dallas, Moscow State Philharmonic, the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Osaka Century Orchestra (Japan), The Royal Philharmonic, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle.

Maestra Nan Washburn will be joined by trumpet soloist Phil Snedecor for Classics in the Cohan III on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. The evening begins with Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, a fast-paced, big brass piece inspired by Russian literary works and legend. For the first time in at least two decades, the evening’s program will feature a trumpet solo. Phil Snedecor will perform Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat, written in 1803 for Viennese trumpet virtuoso and inventor of the keyed trumpet, Anton Weidinger. The Symphony will end the night playing Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, a lush, cheery and lyrical piece that drew inspiration from the Bohemian folk music that Dvorak loved. The symphony was composed on the occasion of Dvorak’s election into the Bohemian Academy of Science, Literature and Arts in 1889.

Nan Washburn is currently the Music Director of the Michigan Philharmonic and was also appointed the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for the Michigan Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, an ensemble that she founded in 2003. She has also served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Hollywood Orchestra, Music Director of Orchestra Sonoma, the Camellia Symphony in Sacramento, Principal Conductor of the Channel Islands Symphony, the Acalanes Chamber Orchestra, the American Jazz Theater, and Director of the San Francisco State University Symphony Orchestra.

Phil Snedecor attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he received the prestigious Performers Certificate and was a member of the premiere brass quintet, the Canterbury Brass. Snedecor is a former member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and has held one-year positions with the National Symphony, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera. He is Principal Trumpet in the Harrisburg (PA) Symphony Orchestra and former Co-Principal Trumpet in the Concert Artists of Baltimore. Snedecor has performed and toured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Working on a theme of great German master composers, the Symphony welcomes Maestro David Handel for the Saturday, March 11, 2017 Classics in the Cohan. The evening begins with Wagner’s overture Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, from the musical opera of the same name. Performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is Canadian virtuoso Timothy Chooi. One of Mendelssohn’s last, large orchestral works, the piece is one of the most popular and frequently performed violin concertos of all time. To cap the evening, the Symphony will perform Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. Composed by one of the greatest symphonic composers in history, Brahms’s Symphony No. 4, his last, is a lush orchestral masterwork with continuously unfolding themes.

A disciple of Kurt Masur and Gustav Meier, David Handel was named Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia at an early age. Building that organization into a model of artistic and organizational growth, Handel was led to further appointments in Argentina, Chile and, now, as Principal Guest Conductor of the Moscow City Symphony – Russian Philharmonic, one of the Russian Federation’s preeminent orchestral ensembles.

Timothy Chooi has been described as “the miracle (Montreal Lapresse).” Recently winning the Bronze Medal Winner of the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, he also recently completed an extensive recital tour with Jeunesses Musicales Canada, performed with Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, recorded his debut album, and was featured at Ravinia Festival in Chicago. He is also a winner of the 2013 Vadim Repin International Scholarship, a recipient of the 2015 Sylva Gelber Award and Grand Prize Winner of the 2010 Montreal Symphony Manulife Competition.

The Symphony’s Season Finale on Saturday, May 6, 2017, will see Maestra Rei Hotoda lead the orchestra in pieces by two famed, contemporary American composers and a master, popular Russian composer. The evening begins with Copland’s An Outdoor Overture, composed in 1938 with its distinct, expansive and adventurous sound. Hotoda, a classically trained pianist, will collaborate with fellow virtuoso pianist Ji on another American classic; Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. Written in 1925, the concerto is fluid and, often played with an agitated tempo and urgency, embodying the emerging, frenetic pace of American life at the time. The evening ends with Tchaikovsky’s famous, big Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op.36. This symphony was patterned off of Beethoven’s 5th with the theme of fate.

Hotoda is currently Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra—the first female to hold this position in the Orchestra’s 75-year history. She has also held Assistant Conductor positions with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Winnipeg Orchestra.

Ji is a superstar in his native Korea, launched to fame at age 10 when he became the youngest pianist to win the New York Philharmonic’s Young Artists Competition. Since then, he’s won a number of high-profile awards and has performed as a soloist with some of the most prestigious symphonies in the world. He is currently gaining notoriety as the the star of a national Android commercial in which he performs Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on two pianos, one that features the usual 88 pitches on a piano, and one that is tuned so that each key plays a middle C.

About the San Luis Obispo Symphony
The San Luis Obispo Symphony was established in 1954 by a small group of 11 musicians called the Morro Bay Community Orchestra. The SLO Symphony was incorporated in 1961 and, in its 55-year history, has grown significantly to become a leading arts institution in the community with 70 orchestra members, a large Youth Symphony program with six ensembles and a music education program that has six school-based programs that have touched more than 16,000 youth per year in it 50-year tenure. In 2016-17, the San Luis Obispo Symphony will audition five finalists during the Classics in the Cohan concert series for the position of Music Director. For further information, visit To subscribe, call (805) 543-3533.

Concert programs are subject to change.

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