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.
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.
Patrick Blackwell, Bass-Baritone
Patrick Blackwell made his Los Angeles Opera debut in 2014 as Lieutenant Ratcliffe in Billy Budd. He returned as a member of the Ghost Quartet in The Ghosts of Versailles (2015); the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly (2016); Aye in Akhnaten (2016); and the Second Soldier in Salome (2017). Future engagements include Porgy in Porgy and Bess in Bari, Italy, and his debut with the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg, France, in Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel and The Seven Deadly Sins. Mr. Blackwell's most recent appearances include Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro with Utah Opera, Ferrando in Il Trovatore at Knoxville Opera, and Scarpia in Tosca with Pacific Opera Project. He continues to expand his impressive repertoire in opera, oratorio, and musical theater. During the summer of 2011 he made two important concert debuts as Porgy in Porgy and Bess, under the baton of Lorin Maazel at the Castleton Festival and under Simon Rattle with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. He recently portrayed Porgy in a full-scale production in St. Louis and also on tour in Europe. Other recent appearances includes Tom in Un Ballo in Maschera with New Orleans Opera and Joe in Show Boat with Fresno Grand Opera and with Rockwell Productions in Vancouver. He also made an important international debut with the Munich Philharmonic with Maestro Maazel. Mr. Blackwell made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Anthony Davis' Amistad, creating the role of Burnah in this highly acclaimed world premiere. With the New York City Opera, he appeared as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Colline in La Boheme, Zuniga and Morales in Carmen, and Dr. Grenvil and Baron Douphol in La Traviata. In 2017 Mr. Blackwell was awarded a GRAMMY® for Best Opera Recording for his performance as Opera Box Ghost in the Los Angeles Opera's live recording of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles.
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.