This Season's Featured Soloists (in order of appearance)
Marek Szpakiewicz, Cello
Polish-born cellist Marek Szpakiewicz has been described by Yo-Yo Ma as an artist whose "energy, motivation, earnestness, and generosity of spirit are evident through his work." Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Corigliano stated, "(Szpakiewicz’s) performance of my 'Fancy on a Bach Air' is absolutely gorgeous." Polish and American radio stations have broadcasted his live performances, including the one-hour special program dedicated solely to his music on KUSC-Los Angeles, the largest non-profit classical music station in the country. Dr. Szpaciewicz began cello lessons at the age of six in Lublin, Poland. In his early years, he studied with Ryszard Losakiewicz and Stanislaw Firlej. He later studied with Stephen Kates at the Peabody Conservatory. He completed his doctorate degree under the tutelage of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. He also studied with such distinguished cellists as Daniil Shafran, Lynn Harrell, and Siegfried Palm. Dr. Szpakiewicz currently teaches cello and chamber music at Azusa Pacific University, where he serves as Director of String Studies and Chamber Music. He is also on the faculties of Idyllwild Arts Academy Summer Program and Montecito International Music Festival. His students have won top prizes at numerous international and national competitions, including International Cello Competition in Chile, the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, among others. In addition, his former students have been accepted by such schools as Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and USC Thornton School of Music. Dr. Szpakiewicz has contributed his talent to film orchestration as a collaborator with Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Among the scores he has worked on, the music for the critically acclaimed movie Finding Neverland received the 77th Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2005. In 2011, Dr. Szpakiewicz received recognition from Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich for organizing a musical event to raise relief funds for the March 11 earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Dr. Szpakiewicz has been supporting the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan, organized by El Sistema Japan, since its inception in 2012 through various charity concerts. Visit Dr. Szpaciewicz's website at szpakiewicz.com.
Gary Bovyer, Clarinet
Gary Bovyer is principal clarinetist of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Orange County’s Mozart Classical Orchestra, the Los Angeles Master Chorale Sinfonia, and the Santa Monica Symphony. In addition to his orchestral responsibilities, Mr. Bovyer is much in demand as a soloist. In 2007 he gave the world premiere of David Newman’s Concerto for Winds with the Long Beach Symphony and premiered Solo Movement for Clarinet and Orchestra, also by David Newman, with the Santa Monica Symphony. He has performed as soloist several times with the Santa Monica Symphony in Weber’s Concerto no. 1, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and the West Coast premiere of Dan Welcher’s Concerto for Clarinet. Mr. Bovyer was a member of Pacific Classical Winds, a period instrument ensemble, which recorded several albums for New World Records. He was formerly a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Winds and was principal clarinetist with the Los Angeles Opera for several seasons. He was principal clarinetist of the Jerusalem Symphony for three seasons and was a founding member of the Ariel Ensemble Jerusalem, which recorded several works for the Israel Broadcasting Authority. He is the founder and former co-director of Long Beach Symphony’s chamber music program "Sounds & Spaces." Mr. Bovyer has been an active clarinetist in the Los Angeles recording studios for over 25 years and can be heard as principal clarinetist on many of the motion picture scores of James Horner, Danny Elfman, David Newman, and George Clinton. A native of Oakland, California, Mr. Bovyer received his Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School, where he was a pupil of the legendary Joseph Allard. He also studied with the British virtuoso clarinetist, Gervase DePeyer.
Monika Beal, Soprano
Soprano Monika Beal's recent performances include Antonia in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann and Suor Genovieffa in Puccini's Suor Angelica with Repertory Opera Company; Miss Wordsworth in Britten's Albert Herring with Chicago Summer Opera; and Gretel in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel with Riverside Lyric Opera. Committed to arts education, Ms. Beal performed the title role in The Diary of Anne Frank for Long Beach Opera’s Education Outreach program, giving multiple performances for over 7,000 students and teachers during her residency that began in 2014. In 2015 she was engaged to sing the role of Lily in The Playground King, an opera for children. That same year she was selected to participate in the Opera Viva! Verona program in Italy, where she appeared as a soloist in concerts throughout the summer. Ms. Beal has appeared in Long Beach Opera’s productions of John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer; Shostakovich's Moscow, Cherry Town; Philip Glass's Akhnaten; and Ricky Ian Gordon's Orpheus and Euridice. She also performed with the South Pasadena Community Chorus in its 16th annual Messiah Concert and the NEXTET Ensemble for their 2016 performance of Augusta Read Thomas’s Of Being is a Bird. As a champion of contemporary composers' work, she frequently makes concert appearances as a soloist with the Los Angeles-based LA Choral Lab and the Pasadena Alumni Chapter of SAI "American Composers Concert." Ms. Beal received her Bachelor of Music, Vocal Arts degree from the USC Thornton School of Music and currently resides in Los Angeles. More about Ms. Beal can be found on her website at www.monikabeal.com.
Michelle Rice, Mezzo-Soprano
Michelle Rice has performed more than 40 roles and dozens of orchestral works for companies across the country. Highlights include the roles of Herodias (Salome), Emilia (Otello), and Antonia’s Mother (Les contes d’Hoffmann) for West Bay Opera; the Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors) for Monterey Symphony and Livermore Valley Opera; and roles such as Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Secretary (The Consul), Lola (Cavalleria rusticana), Carmen (Carmen), Witch / Mother (Hansel and Gretel), Dorabella (Così fan tutte), and Sesto (La clemenza di Tito) with companies such as Opera San José, Festival Opera, Fresno Grand Opera, Annapolis Opera, Pasadena Opera, and Opera Cleveland. As mezzo soloist with Washington Concert Opera, MidAmerica Productions at Carnegie Hall, Masterworks Chorale, Prince George’s Philharmonic, Billings Symphony, and others, Ms. Rice has performed works such as Elgar’s The Music Makers, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Career highlights include Mrs. Grose (Turn of the Screw) with Lorin Maazel at the Kennedy Center; and the Verdi Requiem with Sharon Sweet and James Morris.
Bernardo Bermudez, Tenor
Bernardo Bermudez started his musical education at The Conservatory of Music Juan Manuel Olivares in Caracas, Venezuela. Operatic roles performed include Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Diego Rivera in Frida, Silvio in Pagliacci, Escamillo in Carmen, Valentin in Faust, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, the title role in Don Giovanni, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Vidal Hernando in Luisa Fernanda, Schaunard in La Boheme, and Aeneas in Dido & Aeneas. He participated as a voice fellow in Summer Festivals at The Music Academy of the West, Opera North, and Opera NEO. Mr. Bermudez was a Finalist in the Burbank Philharmonic Hennings-Fischer Opera Competition, an Opera Buffs Grant recipient, semifinalist in the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition, recipient of the Doug Acker Memorial Vocal Scholarship, and second place winner in the Virginia Hawk Vocal Competition. For more information on Mr. Bermudez, visit www.bernardobermudez.com.
Phil Meyer, Bass
Phil Meyer is pleased to be making his debut with the Claremont Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Meyer is a founding member and frequent mischief-maker at the Pacific Opera Project. He has sung leading roles (old guys, bad guys, and funny guys) in many local opera companies, including the Independent Opera, Celestial Opera, LA Met, Center Stage Opera, Angel City Opera, Lyric Opera of Los Angeles, and Repertory Opera Company. This past summer, he was bass soloist in Verdi’s Requiem at the Mendocino Music Festival in Northern California. In his spare time, Mr. Meyer directs an HIV education program for medical professionals at Charles Drew University; runs a small non-profit that implements HIV prevention and services in the Rwandan and Angolan militaries; teaches in the School of Social Work at USC; and is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice.
Jonathan Recomanta, Clarinet
Jonathan Recomanta is a freshman at Etiwanda High School, where he is a member of the marching band. He has been playing clarinet for four years and studies with Kira Golombek. He will perform the first movement of Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra by Aaron Copland.
Joel Clifft, Piano
As a collaborative pianist, Joel Clifft has performed in concert with many world-class musicians, including violinist Midori, erhu player Ma Xiao Hui, and clarinetist Ken Grant. He has extensive international performance experience, appearing in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Brazil, Korea, China, and Singapore. In addition, he has performed by invitation at the United Nations headquarters in New York, both as a collaborative pianist and as a soloist. In addition to his performances in the classical genre, Dr. Clifft frequently performs in the widest variety of settings, including musical theater, ballet, sacred music, jazz, and popular music. He also occasionally works as a studio vocalist, performing for clients such as Universal Pictures, The Paramount Group, and Dreamworks. Dr. Clifft is Director of Keyboard Studies at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches piano, music theory, accompanying, and ear training courses. A highly respected pedagogue, he frequently serves as a judge for competitions, including MTAC, MTNA, Classical Masters Music Festival, local, regional and state competitions. As a software developer, Dr. Clifft created Music Theory Pro, an incredibly successful iPhone app for music education. MTP teaches music theory and ear training using cutting-edge technology. To date, the app has received more than 130,000 downloads from over 100 countries. A complementary app, Music Theory Pro was released in March 2017. Dr. Clifft earned his doctoral degree from the University of Southern California while studying with Dr. Alan Smith and Bernadene Blaha. His primary area of emphasis is keyboard collaborative arts, with minor fields in solo piano, music theory, and composition. He graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and was chosen as the “Most Outstanding Graduate” at both the Master’s and Doctoral levels. He attended USC on a full scholarship and in addition, was a recipient of the Gwendolyn Koldofsky scholarship.
Robert Sage, Piano
Robert Sage is Music Director of the Claremont Symphony Orchestra and the Claremont Youth Symphony Orchestra. He has been a member of CSO for over 30 years as both piano soloist and Associate Conductor, during which time he has performed a substantial portion of the piano concerto repertoire and has conducted a number of concerts during both the regular and summer seasons. Dr. Sage recently retired after 33 years as Professor of Music at Azusa Pacific University, where he taught Piano Performance and Music Literature. His Master's and Doctoral degrees in Piano Performance were both taken at the University of Southern California, under the tutelage of Lillian Steuber. He also studied with Harry Datyner, of the Geneva (Switzerland) Conservatory, and has taken master classes in conducting under the direction of Herbert Blomstedt and David Willcocks. Dr. Sage is grateful for the mentorship of our late Music Director Emeritus, Dr. James Fahringer.