Now Hear This: an Interview with Jolyon Pegis, cello

Associate Principal Cello of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Jolyon Pegis comes from a musical family (growing up with three violinists), and has a musical family (his wife Donna and son Alex play the cello, too). Mr. Pegis is our featured soloist on the program this Saturday for our Bancroft Family Concert: Baroque & Classical Masterworks. He performs cello concertos that bridge the gap between the two musical eras.

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should we listen for? I’m especially excited about the Vivaldi. It happens to be a family favorite. My wife Donna and son Alex are both cellists and we have enjoyed listening to this piece many times. I’ve always wanted to play it. Also, the Boccherini is so fun and challenging to play. It’s been a lot of work to learn, but totally worth it.

Is chamber music for cello a big part of the repertoire? Yes, it is. These pieces are interesting because they are really chamber concertos. I was surprised to learn many years ago that Vivaldi wrote about 35 of these concertos for cello and Boccherini wrote 15.

How old were you when you started playing cello? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments? I actually started with the violin. I played from ages 5 to 8 and then switched to cello. I’ve always liked the lower register and darker sounds of the cello. I also played the piano throughout high school.

What type of music did you listen growing up? I come from a family of classical musicians so it was strictly classical in our house growing up. With three violinists in the family I heard a lot of violin concertos as a kid. I know we wore out many records from constant playing. Although I preferred playing the cello I really liked listening to certain violinists more than anything. Fritz Kreisler and Pinchas Zukerman were my favorites.

What do you listen to now? I spend so much of my time in rehearsals or performing that sometimes I prefer silence after a concert. The radio stays off on the car ride home! Or I prefer a book on tape.

Your son Alexander, also a cellist, was a featured “Rising Star” performer during the 2016 Basically Beethoven Festival. What’s it like as a father to see him perform? It’s so interesting because on the one hand, knowing his playing as well as I do, I’m completely confident that he’ll be fine in a concert. Despite that, I’m a nervous wreck!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? I really love French music. Especially Faure, Debussy, and Ravel.

What advice would you give 14-year-old Jolyon? If you really want to improve, you need to practice consistently and you need to practice smart. It’s so important to have a plan when you get to work. I wish I learned this at an earlier age.

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? Music is a very demanding profession. If you’re not all in, don’t do it. If you try to do a double major as a “back-up,” you most likely won’t succeed. The most important thing you will do in college is practice – probably 4 or 5 hours a day. Anything that gets in the way of doing that needs to go. After college you aren’t going to get hired because of your degrees, grades, extra-curricular activities etc. You’ll get hired because of how well you play.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical), and your least favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Anybody who has ever spent any time in the Great Lakes region will know what I’m talking about. It you walk along the shore of any of the Lakes after a few days without wind the lake will be so flat it will look like glass. However, right at the water’s edge there will appear tiny wavelets that wash up the shore. They are only a few inches high and make a very soft “brushing” sound. This might be my favorite sound. It’s either that or bagpipes. Believe it or not, I love bagpipes! My least favorite sound is when I step outside on a quiet evening and hear traffic in the distance.

When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear? The slow movement of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony.

Now Hear This: an Interview with Trio Kavanah

Kavanah (pronounced kah-vah-NAH) is an ancient Hebrew word that specifies the intention and sincerity of heart needed for effective and honest prayer.  As Trio Kavanah, violinist Grace Kang Wollett, pianist Trevor Hale, and clarinetist Daniel (Danny) Goldman strive to express that same sincerity in the music they create and share before audiences. Among other musical endeavors, Ms. Wollett plays for The Dallas Opera Orchestra as does Mr. Goldman, and Dr. Hale keeps a full calendar as a Dallas-based pianist.

Trevor Hale, Grace Kang Wollett, and Daniel Goldman

How did the three of you come together to form Trio Kavanah?

GRACE: It started from a casual chamber reading.

TREVOR: Danny and I met with a desire for collaboration, and we decided to form a trio. Danny introduced Grace into the mix, because they knew each other from the Dallas Opera. We have been playing together ever since.

DANNY: I was dying to play chamber music. Orchestra auditions and performance had consumed my life, and I wanted to collaborate with a pianist. Trevor came highly recommended so we met and jammed. Then I decided to randomly invite Grace because we were at Juilliard together and both in the Dallas Opera Orchestra. The energy and vibe was so positive and fun during the first reading that we kept meeting, and then decided to make it into something legit.


How old were you when you started learning your instrument? Why did you chose your instrument? Do you play other instruments?

GRACE: I was 7 when I started on violin, and I was drawn to it just because I really liked it. I moved around a lot, so my parents preferred a small instrument. I can also play piano, guitar, ukulele, records, and some viola.

TREVOR: I started when I was 8, and loved the unique variations of sound on the piano. In addition to piano, I occasionally play harpsichord.

DANNY: I picked up the clarinet at age 11 when the band director presented instruments to students, and I liked the clarinet because it was black and had shiny keys. Plus, my dad used to play clarinet in high school, so it struck a chord. I started on piano, dabbled in accordion (yes, I took private lessons on accordion, don’t judge me). Since clarinets come in various shapes and sizes, professionally I have to play E-flat clarinet (the baby one), bass clarinet, and basset horn from time to time.


What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? 

GRACE: As a child, I listened to classical music and Broadway musicals. I’ve stuck with listening to classical as an adult, and also listen to Christian contemporary and indie tunes.

TREVOR: I grew up listening to classical, jazz, and classic rock. My favorite non-classical musician was rock guitarist Eric Johnson (Cliffs of Dover still one of my all-time favorites). Now I enjoy some pop, hip-hop, and R&B, and obviously I love classical as well!

DANNY: I think a lot of ’80s/90s music like also Annie Lennox, Gloria Estefan, Santana, and Pink Floyd. Now, I go for hip-hop, classical, chill-hop, jazz, some forms of EDM [electronic dance music] but not too intense. Really, I like all sorts of stuff: one moment it could be Coldplay, then the next moment Mozart C Minor Mass (omg so good).


Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play?

GRACE: My favorite for listening is Elgar, and playing is Mozart.

TREVOR: This is tough to choose only one! To listen I would have to go with Beethoven. I love performing Rachmaninoff with Chopin tied for first!

DANNY: To listen, Ravel. To play, big orchestra Mahler. But, I go through phases! Mozart is another favorite to play.


What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self? 

GRACE: It’s okay to feel awkward about everything! Keep finding your voice.

TREVOR: In the real world you have less time to practice, so create effective practice methods early on.

DANNY: Being unsure, low in confidence, shy, confused, even lost, is actually essential at times. Don’t fight it by faking it. Keep finding what you want to do and how you want to do it. Don’t feel pressured to be so assured of your craft, especially at a younger age. Things start to line up and then true confidence kicks in. Then you’ll have the essential ability to be sensitive and emotionally open while being thick-skinned and impervious to the haters and rejection. It’s a weird combo.


What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? 

GRACE: If you can’t imagine doing anything else – if through thick and thin you think you’ll feel the same – go for it with everything you’ve got!

TREVOR: Musical progress is like the stock market. Sometimes you only see the rewards over the long term. Other times you see drastic ups and downs with profits and losses. Music is no different: ride the wave out. Music in college is where you invest in the long term, while soaking up as much knowledge during the short term.

DANNY: Understand that even if you have a successful career in music, you might struggle with money for a period. Be absolutely sure that you are OK with that. And make sure you can handle 50% rejection. Yes, that’s right – about 50% rejection! The good news is that if you follow through with it, your future workdays won’t be work at all: they’ll just be your dream and you’re doing what you love 24/7. It’s pretty sweet.


What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical), and your least favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? 

GRACE: My favorite sound is my 2-year-old son’s laughter. My non-favorite is the engine sound of crazy speeders who cut me off on the highway!

TREVOR: I love the sustained sound of the cello. It is magical. My least favorite would have to be the tuba (sorry tubists!).

DANNY: My dog Oliver’s grunts and snorts when he greets me after a long day at work are my favorite sounds. Non-favorite, if I had to choose one, maybe Dubstep.


When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear?

GRACE: The voices of angels and everyone there singing and praising God.

TREVOR: An entire concert performed by Mozart on violin or fortepiano.

DANNY: I have to go with Trevor on this one: watching and hearing Mozart perform with other expert instrumentalists of his time, and getting to talk to him after.

Now Hear This: an Interview with Angela Fuller-Heyde, violin

Angela Fuller Heyde joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as Principal Second Violin in 2009. An advocate of new music and chamber music, Ms. Heyde leads the ensemble at the Bancroft Family Concert on January 27, 2018. Ms. Heyde and FACP Artistic Director Rogene Russell settled on the idea to stage Franz Schubert’s “Trout,” and the concert program was crafted by adding Duo by Alan Hovhannes to the afternoon. This piece for violin and cello has special significance to the violinist: the work was commissioned by Ms. Heyde’s father for her mother.

Tell us: what is about “The Trout” that made you want to put an ensemble together? This has always been a favorite of mine. I grew up watching a VHS recording (remember VHS?!) of Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré, Zubin Mehta, and Daniel Barenboim performing “The Trout.” The joy and interplay amongst that group of friends was inspiring – and of course the playing was, too!

Why was a Fine Arts Chamber Player concert the place to perform the piece? We felt that the FACP audience would love to hear this favorite.

You started playing violin at age 3, with your mother as your teacher. Why did you choose the violin? How long did you study with your mother, and what was it like transitioning to a different teacher? I chose the violin because that was my mom’s instrument and I wanted to be like her! I studied with her until I was 9. She basically had to drag me to another teacher, I was so afraid of the change. The teacher she brought me to, Sally O’Reilly, was and continues to be a second mom to me, her wit and warmth made the transition manageable.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? As a kid I tried hard to listen to the music my friends listened to (all I can remember at the moment is ’80s Madonna), but in my heart I knew I loved classical music, and that’s what we listened to at home. Now I generally prefer quiet, or in the car I listen to NPR or an audio book. I listen to stuff my husband listens to: U2, Coldplay. I like that a lot but don’t necessarily seek it out myself.

What type of music do your children listen to? I take my 2-year-old to Music Together classes, so we listen to the CD from class together – some classics and some beautiful children’s songs from around the world. My 11-year-old likes pop. I am always amazed to hear her singing along to music that I put on in the car for her! She also is a big fan of the Suzuki Book 3 CD. (Ha!)

Different sections of the orchestra have different roles. Can you explain what the second violin section’s focus is? The role of the second violins is that of backup singers. The first violins are Beyonce, and we are the backup singers. We support, harmonize, and often do the same things as the first violins at an octave lower to fill out the sound. Sometimes we provide more of a rhythmic current, while they get to sing away at the melody. It can be very interesting and rich, though sometimes I would rather be playing the first violin part!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? It is very hard to name a favorite. I love Beethoven: I think his violin concerto is absolutely perfect. I love Shostakovich, and I love Brahms. Brahms is very satisfying to play. As a second violinist I always appreciate Bruckner. He really used the second violins as equals, giving us a lot of incredible material to dig into.

What advice would you give 14-year-old Angela? I would tell 14-year-old Angela to have a little more fun and practice a little less. I was so serious and so focused, I feel like I missed out on normal kid stuff. On the other hand, I might not have gotten to this place in my career!

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? I would tell them to make sure that they are with a great teacher, and make sure that they find a great teacher for college, not just to go to a school with a fancy name. I would tell them to practice well, but live a little, too!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical), and your least favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? My favorite sound is my 2-year-old’s voice when she says, “Hi, Mama.” Least favorite sound is the sound of people chewing. Arg!

When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear? Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.”

New Year. New Logo. Same Mission.

Fine Arts Chamber Players has launched a new logo, marking the most significant change in its visual identity since its formation in 1981. The updated design is bold, modern, and eye-catching. Most importantly, the FACP mission and programs are not changing. FACP continues to provide free, professional, classical music concerts, and free music education programs.

“Our previous logos served us well in communicating that we are steeped in classical music,” FACP Executive Director Rachel Assi explained. “However, our influences reach far beyond one composer or one era of music. We feel our logo should be as unique as our programs. After nearly 40 years, FACP is still the only professional chamber music group in Dallas providing all of its programs for free.”

“When we started out,” Co-founder and Artistic Director Rogene Russell explained, “our initial programs were our free, professional classical music concerts. Now, our music education programs are a vibrant part of what we do in the community. This new logo is more representative of what we do.”

Looking at the new logo, musical influences are clear: the “F” is a forte notation and resembles a string instrument’s f-hole, a quarter note is nestled in the negative space of the “A,” the “C” and “P” meld to form a stringed instrument, and the tail of the “P” completes the “f-hole” structure. FACP worked with Celeste Rader-Philips at Rader-Philips Design on the new logo.

Members of the media, arts organizations, and community partners should contact Communications Manager Emily Guthrie at for an image file of the logo.

Now Hear This: an Interview with Colin Davin, guitar

Guitarist Colin Davin, on faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music, enjoys a robust performance career which brings him to Dallas on November 11 to perform alongside Emily Levin, principal harp for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The program features new and known works: music they have arranged for their instruments, and a contemporary piece the duo premiered at the 2017 Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival. A performance clip of Mr. Davin and Ms. Levin can be seen here.

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? The whole program has been a true delight to rehearse and perform, but I’m particularly excited for the finale, Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo. It’s our own transcription of this magnificent Spanish ballet score, and it’s full of incredibly beautiful lyricism, flamenco-inspired harmonies and rhythms, mystical storylines–what more could we ask for? Given the richness of the original orchestral score, it’s also a wonderful opportunity and challenge for us to present the vast range of instrumental colors and effects on our two instruments.

Is chamber music for guitar a big part of the repertoire? What is a typical performance for you: solo, chamber ensemble, orchestra, etc.? Chamber music is a huge part of what we do as classical guitarists. Personally, I’ve always thrived on collaboration, and relish working with great musicians who bring out new elements in my own playing, the vibrant discussions about how to realize a phrase, match dynamics or rubato in a certain way, and so on. As for a typical performance, there’s no such thing! This fall alone I’ve been a concerto soloist, given a solo recital, performed duos with Sharon Isbin (who was my teacher at The Juilliard School) and with Emily Levin (prior to this concert, that is), and performed with the new music ensembles Present Music (Milwaukee) and Talea Ensemble (New York City). My parts for the last of those called for three different guitars, mandolin, Appalachian dulcimer, autoharp, and a curious Turkish instrument resembling a banjo called the cümbüş.

You are based in Cleveland and Emily Levin, your duo partner, is here in Dallas. How did you two connect and start working together? How do you work on music together? Is there a lot of traveling, or do you Skype? After first meeting at the Aspen Music Festival through our mutual friend Grace Browning, another wonderful Dallas-based harpist [editor’s note: Ms. Browning performed with Ms. Levin as part of the Dallas Harp Quartet for FACP’s Bancroft Family Concert in October 2016], Emily and I began working together while both living in New York City. Lucky for me, I saw a solo recital she was giving, so I pretty quickly had the thought that this was someone I’d love to work with. Shortly after we had decided to make our collaboration a serious duo, we were each offered wonderful opportunities outside of New York–Emily with the DSO, and me teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, both in Northeast Ohio, where I grew up. Rather than let the duo fade out as might be expected, we doubled our efforts and put in some serious work to solidify our full-length program.

I’m allergic to Skype rehearsals–potential issues of delay, sound quality, etc. drive me crazy–so I’d rather take a few days off and come to Dallas, or find time in New York together, where we are both still active.

How old were you when you started playing the guitar? Why did you choose the guitar? I started playing guitar at the age of 7, and unusually, I started on classical. Most kids, of course, want to play electric rock/pop guitar, but at that early age I hardly knew any better! My father had long played the guitar as a hobby, and is an enthusiast of many styles of guitar playing. One of his favorite players, the brilliant folk-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, had suggested in an interview that beginners should start with classical, and could then easily adapt that technique and musical understanding to other styles. In my case, classical stuck early on, and has been my passion in life since the early days!

Do you plug in and play electric? I do play some other styles, and occasionally, quite a few other instruments in the plucked family. Over the years I’ve played electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, oud, rubab, dulcimer, and a good handful more. Often, these are in contemporary-classical contexts, but I’ve certainly had opportunities to play rock, jazz, and some other “popular” genres. In fact, I’m a member of a semi-active folk/Americana band called Cathedral Parkway.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? As a kid, I was raised on the great folk and rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Joan Baez, etc. As I got into middle school and high school, I was a big fan of REM, The Beatles, YES, King Crimson, and a whole swath of jazz musicians. That said, I was absolutely listening to a lot of classical music as well, with a particularly affinity for the Beethoven Symphonies, Rachmaninov Piano Concertos, and anything in the hands of the English guitarist Julian Bream.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? This is a tough one–there’s so much brilliant music that’s all so different, beautiful, and exciting! So if you’ll indulge me, I’ll go with one “old” and one “new” for each question. Favorite composer of the past to listen to: still Beethoven, though the experience of hearing his music has come to mean so much more to me as I’ve matured. Close second, or maybe even tied: Benjamin Britten. To play: J.S. Bach, whose music continues to reveal its depth and complexity every time I come back to an old piece or start to work on a new one.

Favorite modern composer to listen to: my friend Caroline Shaw, who somehow manages to weave intricate processes into expressions of absolutely sublime sound and emotion. Her music is nothing short of a revelation. Favorite composer of today to play: Joan Tower, whose solo guitar piece “Clocks” and flute and guitar duet “Snow Dreams” are both evocative, exciting, and a real journey in sound. It’s terribly difficult music to play, but deeply rewarding and worth the energy.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I’ll offer a musical favorite and a non-musical one. Musical: the sound of the last note of a large orchestral work (let’s say Mahler’s 9th Symphony) ringing in the concert hall, the audience’s collective breath held as the final hint of that resonance and the silence that follows are savored. Non-musical: the sound of a busy city waking up in the morning, before the sounds of people and traffic are yet boisterous enough to drown out the birds. And for reasons mostly of professional anxiety, the sound of speakers feeding back or loudly popping is truly awful.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? This is another tough one! I would love to see Mozart lead a performance of Don Giovanni, or the peak of Beatlemania.

Acclaimed duo on November’s Bancroft Concert to perform for DISD students

Fine Arts Chamber Players is pleased to present guitarist Colin Davin, faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Emily Levin, principal harp of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, on stage Saturday, November 11, for a free Bancroft Family Concert. Ms. Levin and Mr. Davin will perform music by Philip Glass, Maurice Ravel, Dylan Mattingly, and Manuel de Falla arranged for their instruments. Mr. Davin holds numerous prizes in international competitions, including the Guitar Foundation of America International Solo Competition. Regular FACP concert attendees will remember that Ms. Levin opened the 2016-2017 Bancroft Family Concert season with the Dallas Harp Quartet. She also has earned extensive professional awards and accolades, including Bronze Medal of the 9th USA International Harp Competition.

“We have never had a guitar-harp pairing on a program before,” FACP Co-Founder and Artistic Director Rogene Russell said. “And, it’s unusual for FACP to have a guest artist from outside of North Texas on our stage, but we are so excited to champion the creative ventures of our local artists. When Emily and I were talking about her work with Colin, all the pieces came together to give them a performance opportunity in Dallas.”

Held in the Horchow Auditorium at the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood Street, Dallas 75201), the Saturday program begins at 3 p.m. with doors opening at 2:30 p.m. As always, the concert is FREE TO THE PUBLIC with no tickets required. Families with children are welcome. For more information, please visit our FAQ page or call 214-520-2219.

In addition to their concert, Mr. Davin and Ms. Levin coordinated with FACP to perform for students in the instrumental programs at Dallas ISD’s W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy. The duo will play an excerpt from the Bancroft program, and will visit with the music students as well.

“Emily and Colin are excellent role models for young, aspiring musicians,” explained FACP Executive Director Rachel Assi. “We are excited to be able to work with Emily and Colin, and with the music faculty at Greiner, to present a program that will provide a unique experience for Greiner students.”

Now Hear This: an Interview with Eunice Keem, violin

Eunice Keem is the Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, a position she’s held since 2014. Ms. Keem was the driving force along with FACP Artistic Director Rogene Russell in putting together the Bancroft Family Concert series season opener on October 14.

Was there one piece on the program that you especially wanted to perform, or were you equally interested in all three (Szell, Strauss, Piazzolla)? I definitely wanted to perform the Strauss and Piazzolla – the Szell was suggested to me by Rogene. I had no idea it existed until recently!

Why was a Fine Arts Chamber Player concert the place to perform the pieces? I feel like it is the ideal situation for a chamber music concert – presenting the lesser known works, in addition to more popular pieces, to an audience who is open and perceptive to experiencing them is always fulfilling for a musician.

How old were you when you started playing violin? I started playing violin when I was 4. It was technically chosen for me – I received it as a gift for my third birthday. Actually, I didn’t know what a violin was; I was just enamored by the little black violin case wrapped with such a huge shiny red bow (I guess one could say I am a sucker for packaging!). I also played piano briefly for a few years, as well as flute for very short period of time. Violin was the one that really stuck!

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? I grew up listening to mostly classical music – my family always had the classical radio station on in the mornings. I first started branching out in my teens, and listened to a whole slew of genres. These days, I enjoy most kinds of music. The only genre I am not terribly keen on is country. Am I allowed to say that in Texas?

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical violinist like? According to others, violinists apparently are: self-centered, perfectionist, neurotic divas who always leave their practice door open just a little bit so everyone can hear how brilliantly and virtuosically they are playing (I can’t take credit for this line: thanks to “Toby Appel’s Irreverent Guide to the Orchestra”). However, I’d like to think we are simply musicians who care a whole lot about what they are playing and sound like!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? It’s impossible to name just one! They all provoke such different experiences, both as a listener and a player. Of course, Bach is always a winner. Cleanses both the ears and the soul, and I find it so wonderful for centering and keeping oneself in playing shape.

What advice would you give 14-year-old Eunice? For 14-year-old Eunice, I would have given two pieces of advice: (1) Ask this question in times of insecurity (it’s an oldie but goodie) – what would you do if you weren’t afraid? (2) If what you have been doing so far is not working for you, it might be time to consider trying something different. You’ll make a whole new set of mistakes in the process – which often ends up being a good thing!

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college? Besides working and practicing as hard as you possibly can, expose yourself to as many different musical experiences as possible. Play as much chamber music as you can (all different groups), participate in orchestra, attend all kinds of concerts, and not just the ones for your instrument! Travel, if at all possible. It doesn’t mean having to spend lots of money on lavish trips, but getting as much exposure as you can to different cultures and languages and experiences will enrich one’s soul as well as their music making. And finally, I do strongly believe it is always good to have a long-term goal in mind. However, keep an eye on the process of how you will get there. Oftentimes, that will lead to doors opening in other amazing directions you may not have anticipated.

Season Announcement for Bancroft Family Concerts, 2017-2018

Community connections highlighted in free concert series

Fine Arts Chamber Players (FACP) proudly announces the 2017 – 2018 season of its free Bancroft Family Concert series. As always, audiences will experience inspired, virtuosic playing at seven unique programs by the D-FW area’s top professional musicians. All concerts begin at 3 p.m. with doors to the performance space opening 30 minutes before. Concerts are performed in the Horchow Auditorium at the Dallas Museum of Art. No tickets are required, and general admission to the DMA is also free. Families with children are welcome. Please consult our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

On several of the programs, FACP’s relationships with other local arts groups, such as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Dallas Opera, are highlighted.

October 14, 2017: The season opens with a quintet led by DSO Associate Concertmaster Eunice Keem, performing the seldom-heard Piano Quintet in E Major, Op. 2 by George Szell, best known as the Cleveland Orchestra music director (1946-70). The program also includes Richard Strauss’ String Sextet from Capriccio, Op. 85, and Piazzolla’s Grand Tango for violin and piano. The performers joining Ms. Keem are Aleksandr Snytkin, violin, DSO; Christine Hwang, viola, DSO; Sarah Kienle, viola, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Joseph Kuipers, cello; Nan Zhang, cello, DSO; and Jonathan Tsay, piano.

November 11, 2017: DSO Principal Harp Emily Levin and guitarist Colin Davin perform commissions and orchestra transcriptions for their instruments. A faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Mr. Davin holds numerous prizes in international competitions, including the Guitar Foundation of America International Solo Competition.

January 27, 2018: University of Texas at Arlington voice professor David Grogan, baritone, joins members of the DSO for Schubert’s chamber music gem, the “Trout” Quintet. The quintet players are Angela Fuller Heyde, violin, DSO; Ann Marie Brink, viola, DSO; Marie-Thaïs Levesque Oliver, cello; Brian Perry, bass, DSO; and Gabriel Sanchez, piano, DSO.

February 24, 2018: Dallas Opera Orchestra Principal Cello Mitch Maxwell joins guest pianist Keith Cerny, the Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO of the Dallas Opera, for Beethoven’s Variations on a Theme from The Magic Flute. The afternoon includes the Dallas Opera Orchestra’s Stewart Williams on English Horn performing Wagner‘s Tristan and Isolde, opening of Act III; and Dallas-based ensemble Trio Kavanah playing Bartok’s Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, and Poulenc‘s L’invitation au Chateau, Op. 138. The members of Trio Kavanah are Daniel Goldman, clarinet, Dallas Opera; Grace Wollett, violin, Dallas Opera; and Trevor Hale, piano.

March 10, 2018: DSO Associate Principal Cello Jolyon Pegis performs three concerto masterworks by JC Bach, Vivaldi, and Boccherini, bridging the span between the Baroque and Classical periods. He is joined by Mark Miller, violin; Shu Lee, violin, DSO; Elizabeth Elsner, violin; Ute Miller, viola; Jeffrey Hood, cello, DSO; Nicolas Tsolainos, DSO Principal Bass; and Jonathan Tsay returns to the Bancroft series playing harpsichord for this program.

April 14, 2018: DSO Principal Bassoon Ted Soluri and pianist Valerie Trujillo partner to celebrate the recent release of Soluri’s first CD “Sempre Libera” – opera arias arranged for bassoon and piano, including favorites from Mozart’s “Voi che sapete” to Verdi’s “Sempre Libera.”

May 12, 2018: Dr. Rebecca Glass, viola, originally of Plano, will perform in recital with pianist Alicja Basinka for the 12th annual Charles Barr Memorial Concert. Blind since birth, Dr. Glass recently completed her Doctor of Musical Arts in Viola Performance at the renowned Cleveland Institute of Music.



Bancroft Family Concerts are made possible in part by Sue and Christopher Bancroft, Dallas Museum of Art, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, TACA, Texas Commission on the Arts, Dallas Arts District Foundation, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, and the Sammons Center for the Arts. Since its inception in 1981, FACP has provided music education experiences for more than 225,000 children and performed for over a half-million residents of North Texas. In addition to the Bancroft Family Concerts and music education programs, FACP presents the free Basically Beethoven Festival on Sundays in July at Moody Performance Hall.

Now Hear This: an Interview with Shields Bray, piano

You may know Shields Bray as principal keyboard of the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestra (he’s held the position since 1986) and as host of the FWSO pre-concert discussion series (since 1993). Get to know him this Sunday, July 30, as a critical piece of the chamber music ensemble for our final Basically Beethoven Festival concert “Americana!”

Bray, Buddy 2017 bwWhat piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? They’re all such beauties, but I’m especially attached to Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio. It appeals to musicians because it’s so well-written, and to audiences because it communicates so directly. That’s true of all her work. The Bernstein clarinet sonata is perfect in front of the trio: it’s one of his earliest pieces, and one of his most appealing. He knew the character of instruments, and how to bring that character forth. Copland was one of Bernstein’s mentors, so I like having that connection in the program. Appalachian Spring is, of course, one of the great achievements in American music. It started life as a ballet for Martha Graham, and it really has never been out of the mainstream since. 

As a pianist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony or solo? Learning to play the piano is such a solitary pursuit, and pianists don’t generally have large-ensemble experience when we’re young. It’s why I love playing with instrumentalists and singers. I love that shared experience. It’s also why, after 30 years, I still really love orchestral playing. I like being part of a bigger effort.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments? I was 8 when I started, which is about four years late, really. I think it chose me. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid, and what do you listen to now? I listened to top 40 until midway through high school, and then I suddenly didn’t listen to the radio anymore. Now I do, but to NPR. For music, I listen to singers, mostly. There’s something about the human voice – the immediacy of it, the warmth.

You are based in Fort Worth. What would surprise out-of-towners about Fort Worth? I love Fort Worth. I love that, as a city, it gets behind its arts and stays behind them. I love that Forth Worth has a feeling for its history, too. 

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical pianist like? I wonder if there IS a typical pianist! We do practice an awful lot, and most pianists talk about pianos and what goes on under the hood. 

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? To listen to: Mozart. That’s perfection. I played him a lot when I was young, and I hope I’ll get back to him when I’m 70 or so. He’s a lot to live up to. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve jumped at every chance to play Messiaen. He’s a real original, and I’m fascinated by him.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is the ocean. My least favorite sounds are sirens of all kinds.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I want to hear Mozart play the piano!

Now Hear This: an Interview with Stephen Nielson, piano

Steinway artist Stephen Nielson headlines Sunday’s Basically Beethoven Festival concert, “Stephen Nielson & Friends,” on July 23. He’ll share the stage with violinist Motoi Takeda, the Associate Concertmaster Emeritus for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and with Caroline Nielson. Ms. Nielson is not only an accomplished mezzo-soprano in her own right – she happens to be Mr. Nielson’s daughter! Continue reading to learn about Sunday’s performance and to get to know Mr. Nielson.

Nielson, Stephen pianoWhat piece on the program are you most excited about? The entire program! It is a special treat for me to be on the same concert stage in Dallas with my daughter, Caroline. We’ve purposed to provide the audience with the treat of music for violin/voice/piano, violin/piano, voice/violin, voice/piano – mixing it up, for sure!

As a pianist, what do you love about chamber music? The interaction of the players in an intimate setting; discerning a composer’s weaving of thematic material between the instruments.

How old were you when you started playing piano? As I often say: about nine months before I was born, since my mother was a pianist, church musician, and teacher. I demonstrated an early affinity for the piano and never considered other instruments simply because commitment to serious piano study was so consuming.

What type of music did you listen to as a child, and what do you listen to now? What type of music did you share with your children when they were growing up? Always classical. On Sunday mornings my father played recordings – LPs, you know! – of the legendary organist E. Power Biggs and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Musical education for our two daughters was in place from the beginning. I took our older daughter, Christiana, to her first opera at age 6 – the Dallas Opera’s presentation of Hansel and Gretel.

You have been based in Dallas for most of your career. What would surprise out-of-towners about the Dallas area? What’s your “hidden gem” in Dallas? Except for undergraduate and graduate years at Indiana University School of Music and then seven years as Artist-in-Residence at a college in the Chicago area, Dallas has been my “home base.” Out-of-towners are frequently surprised by the richness of the musical offerings and activity in the North Texas area. Hidden gems? Marvelous people and relationships plus fantastic food possibilities forever changing!

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments. What would you say a typical pianist like? There is no typical pianist, I think. Though as a Steinway Artist I play Steinways often, sometimes in out-of-the-way locales that is not possible, and I must adapt to what the sponsor provides. In piano circles, such a piano is sometimes cynically referred to as a “P.S.O.” – piano shaped object. I’ve played my share of those!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Difficult to answer on both counts! I like the composer whose music I am preparing for the next concert. I’m probably a romanticist at heart, but am overwhelmed by the mathematical brilliance and symmetry of Bach, the depth of Brahms, and the color of the great Impressionists, Debussy and Ravel. I also love the great choral masterpieces of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Berlioz, Mahler, Fauré and Duruflé.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? Favorite is the sound of Caroline’s voice! Least favorite – the yard crew mowing and blowing just outside my studio windows when I’m practicing or teaching.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Hands down –  “Worthy Is the Lamb” from Handel’s Messiah.