Young Artists Orchestra
Young Artists Orchestra Series
EMF Conducting Fellows
Allegro con spirito
Randall Ellis, oboe
George Sakakeeny, bassoon
Nigel Armstrong, violin
Neal Cary, cello
Bassoonist George Sakakeeny has appeared as a soloist with orchestras throughout North and South America, Europe, and the Far East, including engagements in Vienna at the historic Musikverein, at Severance Hall with members of the Cleveland Orchestra, and a nationally televised concert in Japan under the baton of Seiji Ozawa. Three major works for bassoon and orchestra have been commissioned for him. Libby Larsen’s full moon in the city (2013), Peter Schickele’s Bassoon Concerto (1998), and Viennese composer Alexander Blechinger’s Faggottkonzert (1997.) As a soloist, he has recorded Blechinger’s Faggottkonzert for the Harmonia Classica label as well as his latest solo CD, “full moon in the city” on the Oberlin Music label which features four previously unrecorded works for solo bassoon and orchestra.
Sakakeeny is Professor of Bassoon at the Eastman School of Music, and formerly held the same position at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He also holds the titles visiting professor for graduate studies at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela, and guest professor of the Central Conservatory of Music of Beijing, China. He is principal bassoonist of the Eastern Music Festival and a faculty member at the Round Top Festival Institute each summer. In the past he held the principal bassoon positions of the New Japan Philharmonic, the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston, the Opera Company of Boston, Boston Musica Viva, the Promusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, and CityMusic Cleveland. He has also served as principal bassoonist of the Grand Teton Music Festival, the New Hampshire Music Festival, the Peninsula Festival, and performed extensively with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras.
Many of Professor Sakakeeny’s former students have gone on to hold positions in symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, and universities throughout North and South America and the Far East. He has three times been invited to teach master classes at International Double Reed Society conferences and is regularly invited to serve as a jury member for international and national competitions. For seven years he served in an ongoing capacity as wind coach and bassoon teacher in the Venezuelan National Youth Orchestra System, known as “El Sistema.” His contributions included teaching master classes to orchestra members, leading wind sectionals, and providing training to the bassoon teachers of El Sistema through his position as guest professor of the Latin American Bassoon Academy.
He has given numerous solo recitals and taught master classes at leading institutions such as the Paris Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy in Kiev, Rice University, and the Tokyo University of the Fine Arts. He has also performed longer-term teaching residencies at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the New World Symphony, Seoul National University, and the Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse of Lyon, France.
A veteran chamber music performer, he has appeared on four continents with various ensembles, including the Oberlin Reed Trio, Boston Musica Viva, the bassoon quartet Men Who Don't Bite, and the Boston Wind Octet. As a chamber music artist he is featured on numerous recordings, most notably the International Double Reed Society’s 25th anniversary CD in a performance of the Villa-Lobos Duo for oboe and bassoon with oboist Alex Klein.
He is the author of the iBook Making Reeds Start to Finish with George Sakakeeny.
Grant Cooper has served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra since 2001, where he has conducted close to 750 public performances. He was formerly Resident Conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra for ten seasons. He also serves as Artistic Director of the Bach and Beyond Festival, and for several summers led the Anchorage Festival of Music in Alaska. As a conductor, Mr. Cooper is noted for his affinity for the music of virtually every era.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, the son of a professional opera singer, Cooper sang and acted in his first opera at age four. After completing his degree in Pure Mathematics at the University of Auckland, his performing career as a trumpeter took him to Beijing, London, and many major concert halls of the world. In 1976, Mr. Cooper accepted a fellowship from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council for trumpet study with Bernard Adelstein and Gerard Schwarz in the United States, where he also held a fellowship at Tanglewood.
Mr. Cooper was guest conductor of the XIVth Commonwealth Games closing ceremonies, appearing with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as soloist. Mr. Cooper's collaborations with artists such as Hilary Hahn, Midori, Elmar Oliviera, Barry Douglas, and Deborah Voigt have prompted critical praise for his skills as an accompanist.
Mr. Cooper has been a frequent guest conductor for many American symphonies, including Houston, Buffalo, Rochester, Spokane, Kansas City, New Mexico, and Chautauqua. In recent seasons he made his debut appearances as guest conductor with the Jacksonville, Elgin, and Wichita symphonies. A gifted opera conductor, his recent repertoire includes Cosi fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, Tosca, La bohème, and Carmen. For several summers, he has conducted the ballet season at Chautauqua Institution, NY, featuring Charlotte Ballet’s recreations of George Balanchine’s choreography.
As a composer, Cooper’s recent original music includes A Song of Longing, Though…, for soprano and orchestra and On the Appalachian Trail, a ballet. Mr. Cooper’s original scores for two Charlie Chaplin films: The Immigrant and Easy Street, was premiered in March, 2009 and has since been performed by several orchestras on their Pops and Coffee series.
Mr. Cooper is especially passionate about creating works designed to introduce young audiences to the orchestra, including such works as Rumpelstiltzkin for narrator and orchestra, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Boyz in the Wood, for coloratura soprano and rap singer, and Song of the Wolf, for folk singer and orchestra. His educational music is an eclectic blend of modern and established styles with interactive participation of the audience, a compositional style that reflects his belief that orchestral music is a living, vital, and relevant part of our society, able to be appreciated by all.
Cooper was awarded the National Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Commission following competitive adjudication as part of the 2010 American Residency program of the NSO. His new work, Octagons, for Clarinet and String Quartet, was premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in May of 2012.
Cooper’s dedication to serving the West Virginia arts community was recognized in the spring of 2012 when he received the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts.
Mr. Cooper has recorded for Delos International, Atoll, Ode, Mark, and Kiwi Pacific recordings.
Cellist NEAL CARY joined the EMF faculty in 1984 and has served as principal cellist of the Eastern Music Festival since 1988. He has been principal cellist with the Richmond Symphony since 1988, and has been on the performing artist faculty at the College of William and Mary since 1991. He has also served as principal cellist of the Williamsburg Symphonia since 2002. Since 1989, he has been a member of the Richmond Chamber Players, which performs chamber music concerts every Sunday in August.
Previous to Mr. Cary's employment in the Richmond Symphony, he was co-principal cellist of the Kansas City Philharmonic and assistant principal cellist of the Tulsa Philharmonic, the San Antonio Symphony, and the Denver Symphony orchestras. From 1994 -98, he was on the adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Neal Cary's major teachers have included Robert Newkirk, Channing Robbins, and the world-renowned Leonard Rose. Mr. Cary holds a M.M. from The Juilliard School of Music.
Notable recital performances in the Richmond area include performances from memory of the 40 Popper Études and all the Bach Suites for Solo Cello.
Concerto performances include nearly 50 performances of most of the major cello concertos, unusual works, and a world premier with orchestras on the East Coast. YouTube videos of Mr. Cary include a live performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto, a performance of the Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2, and a video lesson on the Saint-Saëns.
Randall Ellis attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he studied with Ronald Roseman. He is principal oboist of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Little Orchestra Society, and is solo English horn in the New York Pops Orchestra. He is the oboist in Windscape Woodwind Quintet, artists in residence at the Manhattan School of Music. He was principal oboist of the New York Chamber Symphony and received two Grammy nominations, including one for his recording of Howard Hanson’s Pastorale. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and the American Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Ellis has appeared as a guest artist with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and has concertized and recorded with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He has been a soloist with the New England Bach Festival, the International Bach Festival of Madeira, the Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York, and Chamber Music at the 92nd Street Y. Mr. Ellis has freelanced with the Ensemble Wien-Berlin, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the New York Philomusica and the Orchestras of the Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, and the American Ballet Theatre dance companies. Mr. Ellis has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Sunday Morning, and many times on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center. His performances have been heard on National Public Radio, European radio, and NHK Radio and TV in Japan. Mr. Ellis has recorded for EMI/Angel, Columbia, Sony, RCA, Vox, Nonesuch, CRI, Pro Arte, Delos, and Deutsche Grammophon. He has performed with Winton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center and on Broadway in the orchestra for the musical Wicked. He teaches oboe and chamber music at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Nigel Armstrong is emerging as a dynamic and creative artist both within and beyond the realm of classical music. From his musical beginnings as a member of "The Little Fiddlers" in Sonoma, CA to collaborations with tango musicians in Argentina he's enjoyed using the violin in a versatile manner throughout his life.
As soloist Nigel has performed with orchestras such as the Dusseldorf Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, and the Boston Pops, and with conductors including Sir Neville Marriner and Carlos Miguel Prieto. He received the 2nd Prize, the Ole Bull Prize, and the Nordheim Award at the 2010 Menuhin Competition Senior Division in Oslo, Norway, and got the 4th Prize plus the Prize for the Best Performance of the Commissioned Work (STOMP, by John Corigliano) at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition. As a chamber musician his concerts have taken him across the US and abroad--highlights have included opportunities to share the stage with the Tokyo String Quartet and pianist Jonathan Biss.
Nigel feels fortunate to have had the chance to explore great orchestral literature throughout his career. Since 2009 he's appeared as concertmaster with the Colburn Orchestra, LA's American Youth Symphony, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, and the New York String Orchestra in their annual Carnegie hall performances. Beginning in the 2016/17 season he serves as concertmaster of the Santa Cruz Symphony.
A graduate of the Colburn School and the Curtis Institute of Music, Nigel's teachers have included Arnold Steinhardt, Robert Lipsett, Zaven Melikian, and Donald Weilerstein, among others. He also recently had the opportunity to live with and learn from the Plum Village community founded by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, where he spent a year working on their organic farm and taking part in their daily life, an experience for which he continues to be grateful.
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