Guest Artists

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Jon Nakamatsu, piano

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 3:00 PM
"From the Northern Lights"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

American pianist Jon Nakamatsu continues to draw unanimous praise as a true aristocrat of the keyboard, whose playing combines elegance, clarity, and electrifying power. A native of California, Mr. Nakamatsu came to international attention in 1997 when he was named Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the only American to have achieved this distinction since 1981. Mr. Nakamatsu has performed widely in North and South America, Europe, and the Far East, collaborating with such conductors as James Conlon, Marek Janowski, Raymond Leppard, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Osmo Vänskä and Hans Vonk. He also performed at a White House concert hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Nakamatsu's extensive recital tours throughout the U.S. and Europe have featured appearances in New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Paris, London and Milan. He has worked with various chamber ensembles - among them the Brentano, Tokyo, Kuss, Jupiter, Cypress, Prazak and Ying String Quartets - and has toured repeatedly with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. Together with clarinetist Jon Manasse, Mr. Nakamatsu tours continually as a member of the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo. The Duo also serves as Artistic Directors of the esteemed Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival in Massachusetts.

Mr. Nakamatsu records exclusively for harmonia mundi usa, which has released thirteen CDs to date. His all-Gershwin recording with Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic featuring Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F rose to number three on Billboard's classical music charts, earning extraordinary critical praise. Other acclaimed releases include an all-Liszt disc featuring the "Dante Sonata"; a recording of Brahms' Piano Sonata in F minor; and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Mr. Nakamatsu's 2008 recording of Brahms' Clarinet Sonatas with Jon Manasse was chosen by the New York Times as one of its top releases for the year; his latest disc with Mr. Manasse, released in August 2012, includes both the Brahms Clarinet Quintet and the Piano Quintet with the Tokyo String Quartet. Of his most recent release on the label, a 2014 solo disc of the piano works of Robert Schumann, BBC Music Magazine states that "Nakamatsu clarifies Schumann's mid-range saturated textures to a remarkable degree, reveling in its fantastic imaginings with rapier-like precision and effortless command."

Since 1997, Mr. Nakamatsu has served on multiple international piano competition juries and has also been invited as a guest speaker at numerous institutions including the Van Cliburn Foundation, Stanford University and the Juilliard School.

Mr. Nakamatsu studied privately with Marina Derryberry and has worked with Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the great pianist Artur Schnabel. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in German Studies and a master's degree in Education.


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Darrell Johnston, guest conductor

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 3:00 PM
"From the Northern Lights"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Darrell Johnston founded the San Jose Wind Symphony at San Jose City College in September 1958. After retiring from SJWS in the summer of 2001, he was appointed conductor emeritus. Maestro Johnston earned his master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music after graduating from Sacramento State College. He is active in the art of chamber music and has been a clinician and director of honor bands throughout the state of California. He has coached ensembles at both Humboldt State University and the University of Southern Oregon during the summer months. 


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Michelle McDaniel, soprano

Sunday, October 15, 2017, 3:00 PM
"Basically Bernstein"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Michelle McDaniel is relatively new to the Bay Area, but not new to the stage. Two weeks after graduating magna cum laude from California Baptist University with two degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education in April 2016, she was offered a teaching position. She currently teaches weekly general music to about 800 elementary students throughout the northern part of the peninsula and enjoys it immensely. Yet Michelle has always had a passion for performance, and grew up singing on musical theater stages throughout Southern California, Peru, and Italy. During her time at University of Nevada, Reno, Michelle discovered a passion for opera and classical choral singing, and has spent the last six years pursuing a professional career in that field. In May 2012, she was honored to perform Ola Gjeilo's Sunrise Mass at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Dr. Paul Torkelson. However, she is very excited to return to her roots for this performance of Maria with the San Jose Wind Symphony, and hopes it will be the start of many future performances with this ensemble. 


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Alexandra Sessler, soprano

Sunday, October 15, 2017, 3:00 PM
"Basically Bernstein"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “superb” and delivering a “tender, radiantly pure-toned” sound, soprano Alexandra Sessler has garnered a reputation as a powerful leading lady, a dedicated actress, and an ambassador of classical vocal music. In addition to her active performance schedule, Alexandra dedicates time to sharing her knowledge with younger generations of singers, holding a teaching studio and music directing at Spindrift School of Performing Arts in Pacifica, Ca.  She frequently performs recitals with her pianist fiancé, and they have two opera-loving cats. 


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Andrew Metzger, tenor

Sunday, October 15, 2017, 3:00 PM
"Basically Bernstein"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Tenor Andrew Metzger fosters a varied repertoire that ranges from Monteverdi to works newly written. Highlights from his 2016-2017 season include the tenor solos in Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and the role of Lord Cecil in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. In the coming season, the tenor will sing the role of Happiness in the workshop premiere of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Abraham in Flames with the San Francisco International Music Festival. He will also participate in the west coast premiere of Hector Armienta’s Bless me Ultima, singing the role of Pedro. Mr. Metzger is a graduate of the Opera San Jose Summer Program and the OperaWorks Advanced Artist Program. He holds a M.M. in Vocal Performance from the University of Redlands and a B.A. in Music from Santa Clara University.


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Barbara Larsen, flute

Sunday, December 10, 2017, 3:00 PM
"Maestro's Choice"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Barbara Larsen has been the principal flutist with the SJWS since 1981. She performed as soloist at the World Assoc. of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Conference July, 1997 in Schladming, Austria, and in flute masterclasses with Julius Baker, Keith Underwood, Ransom Wilson, Jim Walker and on piccolo with Jan Gippo. She studied under Ina Mae Holt for nearly 20 years; she currently teaches flute and piccolo, and directs the children’s choir at her church.


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Layna Chianakas, mezzo-soprano

Sunday, March 18, 2018, 3:00 PM
"Songs of Life"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Layna Chianakas is in her eighth year as Associate Professor of Voice, Voice Area Coordinator and Director of Opera Theater at San Jose State University.  Most recently, she performed Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra conducted by David Ramadanoff, La Principessa in Suor Angelica and Zita in Gianni Schicchi with Intermountain Opera in Montana, and directed Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld  and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with the San Jose State Opera Theater.  Ms. Chianakas made a role debut of Amneris in Verdi’s Aida with Dayton Opera, made her Carnegie Hall debut with the SJSU Choraliers in April 2015, and directed Carmen for Opera San José.  Upcoming engagements include directing Argento’s Postcard from Morocco and Pasatieri’s La Divina for San José State Opera Theater and Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia for Opera San José. 

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Ms. Chianakas moved to Kassel, Germany, where she taught voice and beginning piano with the Musikschule-Ehlen for four years.  While in Germany, she attended the Mozarteum Salzburg and studied Lieder with some of the foremost coaches in the world.  It is there, she acquired her fluency in German.  She returned to the United States and received a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois.  She currently lives in San José, CA with her husband and two children; her greatest productions.


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Peggy Spool, director, Vivace Youth Chorus

Sunday, March 18, 2018, 3:00 PM
"Songs of Life"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Peggy Spool has worked with children's choruses in the Bay Area for 20 years. She holds a Master's in Voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Certificate in Kodály Music Education from Holy Names University. She is a member of the American Choral Director's Association, National Teachers of Singing, and Organization of American Kodály Educators. Currently, she serves as the Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children's and Community Youth Choruses on the California ACDA Board and sits on the board of Silicon Valley Arts Coalition.


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Vivace Youth Chorus

Sunday, March 18, 2018, 3:00 PM
"Songs of Life"
McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga

Now in its second decade, Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose welcomes young singers from all areas of the community. Led by Artistic Director, Peggy Spool, the core values of the chorus are commitment to choral excellence, regard for each child, kinship among choristers and their families, and respect for the cultures that comprise our diverse community.

Founded in 2003, by Peggy Spool and a group of dedicated parents, Vivace Youth Chorus is a high-quality choral program for children ages four to eighteen. Youth from throughout the Silicon Valley participate in our 6 choral levels. The chorus offers a program that balances vocal training, music theory, and performances. Upper level choirs take part in choral festivals and tours. All choristers gain exposure to various musical genres, from traditional folk to classical, jazz, and contemporary. The chorus collaborates with area composers and musicians, as well as with other ensembles including San Jose Symphonic Choir, Opera San José and Mission City Opera. In addition to weekly rehearsals at all levels, intensive semester workshops and retreats that feature guest clinicians are provided for the upper levels. Vivace's program also includes a one-week optional summer choral music camp for younger students, open to members and non-members. Scholarships and family discounts are available to keep the program accessible to families of all means.

Vivace singers have performed throughout Silicon Valley. Local venues have included the Rotunda at San José City Hall, the 01SJ Festival at St. James Park, Le Petit Trianon, the San José Museum of Art, Villa Montalvo's Carriage House Theatre, the Children's Discovery Museum, the California Theatre, SAP Center and other community venues. They have also participated in festival tours which have included the "Sing A Mile High" Festival in Colorado, the Pacific Rim Children's Chorus Festival in Hawaii, the Pacific International Children's Choir Festival in Oregon and the International Children's Choir Festival in Canterbury Cathedral and London, England.