The Cal Poly Symphony works with professional guest artists, composers, other ensembles and artists in other fields who add their creative energy to our concerts and raise the bar for our students. Read on, or click the links above to explore specific areas of collaboration.
We have been fortunate to welcome outstanding professional guest artists to Cal Poly, to work with them in our rehearsal process and to make music together on the stage of the Performing Arts Center.
Tanya Gabrielian, hailed by the London Times as “a pianist of powerful physical and imaginative muscle,” performed Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Symphony in the Fall of 2021. An acclaimed soloist, she has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Boston Pops, among others. Her performance capped a residency devoted to bringing visibility to mental illness.
Robert Thies joined us in the Spring of 2011 to play Gershwin's jazzy Concerto in F, to play a duo piano recital with W. Terrence Spiller, and to teach private students in the Music Department. The Gold Medal winner of the International Prokofiev Competition in Russia, Robert has been called "a pianist of unerring warm-toned refinement, revealing judicious glimmers of power" by the Los Angeles Times.
W. Terrence (Terry) Spiller has performed with the Symphony three times: he played Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in the Fall of 2008, Grieg's Piano Concerto in 2011-2012, both at home and on our tour to Washington D.C., and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 in the Fall of 2016. A prize winner of international competitions, Terry has been praised as "inspired...a musical powerhouse."
Tianshu Wang visited Cal Poly to perform the Yellow River Concerto with the Symphony and to take part in Cal Poly's "World Across the University: China in the 1930s and '40s" in Spring, 2009. A winner of many competitions, she has performed in the United States, China, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan, and has played with major orchestras in China and the US.
Baritone Ryan Bede joined the Symphony for a performance of Maurice Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée in Spring, 2018. He has sung a wide variety of roles in opera and in concert, with such companies as Seattle Opera, Opera Idaho, Tacoma Opera, Early Music Vancouver and Orchestra Seattle. Ryan is a former Young Artist with the Aspen Opera Theater Center, and currently teaches voice at University Of Puget Sound and Tacoma Community College.
In the Fall of 2014, the Symphony was joined by soprano Ciera Lamborn and tenor Christopher Campbell. In addition to presenting solo arias, our guest artists joined forces - as Mimì and Rodolfo - for a concert performance of the first act of La Bohème, from the moment when the two lovers meet.
Mezzo-soprano Jacalyn Kreitzer performed Elgar's Sea Pictures with the Symphony in the Spring of 2006. She has sung with such companies as Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Théâtre du Châtelet, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Chicago Lyric, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera and others.
Persian vocalist Alireza Shahmohammadi performed Bahram Osqueezadeh's Rational Insanity with the Symphony in the Spring of 2023. He is recognized as one of today's most renowned singers in Iran and a master of Persian classical music repertoires.
Many vocalists have performed solos with the Cal Poly Symphony and Choirs in the context of larger works. Mezzo-soprano Dawn Padula performed "Pie Jesu" in Duruflé's Requiem (Spring 2018), Baritone Ben Kazez joined us for Fauré's Requiem (Spring 2016) and baritone Paul Max Tipton sang solos in Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem (Spring 2012). Our Spring 2008 performance of Orff's Carmina Burana included solos by tenor Jonathan Mack, baritone Emil Dorian Cristescu and soprano Mary Sue Gee.
Violinist Brynn Albanese has performed with the Symphony three times. She played Chausson's Poème for Violin and Orchestra in Fall, 2006, J. S. Bach's Concerto for Two Violins (with Paul Severtson) in Fall, 2010, and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending in Fall, 2013. Currently concertmaster of the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Symphony of the Vines and Opera SLO, Brynn has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic and orchestras in the Netherlands.
The crossover band Café Musique joined the Symphony in Spring, 2019 to play tangos by Jacob Gade and Carlos Gardel, and they stayed on stage to perform a set of Scottish dance music all by themselves. Café Musique has performed around the world and shared the stage with Doc Severinsen, the David Grisman Quintet and Los Lobos. They have performed and recorded with Grammy award winner Louis Ortega, musical madman Joe Craven, songwriter Jill Knight and Broadway vocalist Sarah Kleeman.
Saxophonist Dave Becker performed music from the landmark recording "Charlie Parker with Strings" with the Symphony in Fall, 2019. He was joined by bassist Ken Hustad and a student combo. Besides being in demand as a jazz saxophonist, Becker is an accomplished studio musician on several instruments, and an experienced teacher, producer, recording engineer, arranger and composer. He has performed with artists including Dianne Shuur, Wynton Marsalis, Manhattan Transfer, The Temptations and Marvin Hamlish.
Harpist Marcia Dickstein performed with the Symphony in Fall, 2018. As a soloist, she performed Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane, and she joined Suzanne Duffy to play Hanson's Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings. She supports new music written for the harp, mostly with her group The Debussy Trio, plays actively in the studios in Los Angeles (performing on more than 400 movie soundtracks so far), is on the faculty at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, and performs with the Long Beach and San Luis Obispo Symphonies.
Flutist Suzanne Duffy joined the Symphony in Fall, 2018 to play Hanson's Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings, and in Spring, 2015 to perform Charles Griffes Poem for Flute and Orchestra. Currently principal flute for Symphony of the Vines and second flute/piccolo for Opera Santa Barbara, she has performed with Opera San Luis Obispo, the Palm Beach Opera, Santa Barbara Symphony, Florida Philharmonic, and the New World and Indianapolis Symphonies, among others.
The Madrone String Quartet joined the Symphony in Fall, 2022 to play Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, as well as Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80. The quartet included violinists Emily Lanzone and Valerie Berg-Johansen, violist Michael Whitson and cellist Laura Gaynon.
Mandolinist, Composer and Educator Jeff Midkiff performed his own Concerto for Mandolin and Orchestra, “From the Blue Ridge” with the orchestra in Fall, 2017. The concerto showcases bluegrass and jazz music, which Midkiff has played extensively, as well as the orchestra, which he knows intimately as an orchestral clarinetist.
Multi-instrumentalist, scholar and composer Bahram Osqueezadeh performed his own Concerto for Santur and Orchestra with the orchestra in Spring, 2023. Osqueezadeh was the co-founder and director of the Drvak Institute of Music in Iran, as well as co-founder of the Drvak Ensemble. As a soloist, composer and conductor, he has appeared on many radio and television programs in Iran and has toured the country, performing his original compositions. He also received the Gold Award at the Eighth Nationwide Fajr Music Festival.
Violinist Paul Severtson played J. S. Bach's Concerto for Two Violins (with Brynn Albanese) in Fall, 2010. He has played in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera Orchestra, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival/Festival Mozaic Orchestra and San Luis Obispo Symphony. Paul has also played in rock bands and plays the Hardanger Fiddle, a Norwegian folk instrument.
The Amelia Piano Trio visited Cal Poly in the Fall of 2007 to present the West Coast premiere of Daron Hagen's Orpheus and Eurydice: Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra. While here, they also presented a chamber music master class with student ensembles. The trio has performed in Carnegie Hall, Ravinia in Chicago, Seattle’s Meany Hall, the Library of Congress in Washington DC. and at the Caramoor Music Festival in NY, La Jolla Chamber Music Society, NPR’s St Paul Sunday Radio, Calgary Pro Musica, Merkin Hall, and Barge Music.
Antonio (Greg) Barata composed "Great Wings" for the Cal Poly Symphony, which gave the premiere in Fall, 2015. Greg is an active composer in both traditional genres and electroacoustic music, and is chairman of the California State University Music Academic Discipline Council. Two of his recent compositions have been released on a compact disk entitled "American Cantata."
Meredith Brammeier composed "Blow, Winds, Rage, Blow!" for the Cal Poly Symphony and Choirs. It was premiered in Spring, 2016 and was performed on our Central Europe tour in June, 2016. Dr. Brammeier’s piece for women’s chorus entitled “Ocean Country” won the 2002 California ACDA’s Choral Composition Competition and her compositions have been premiered by groups in the US and Canada.
Daren Hagen was commissioned by the Amelia Piano Trio to write a new work for performance in 2007. With the Trio, the Cal Poly Symphony gave the West Coast premiere of his Orpheus and Eurydice: Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra in the Fall of that year. Daron is one of America's most prominent, prolific, and respected composers. All of his major operas are currently in production or revival in the U.S., Europe, or Asia. His orchestral, chamber, and vocal works are programmed internationally.
Mandolinist, Composer and Educator Jeff Midkiff performed the West Coast premiere of his own Concerto for Mandolin and Orchestra, “From the Blue Ridge” with the orchestra in Fall, 2017. The concerto showcases bluegrass and jazz music, which Midkiff has played extensively, as well as the orchestra, which he knows intimately as an orchestral clarinetist.
The Cal Poly Symphony exists in an environment rich in student performances and student ensembles. We perform a joint concert every other year with the Cal Poly Choirs and have undertaken joint performances with Orchesis, Cal Poly's oldest concert dance organization. The Symphony continues to seek out new opportunities for collaboration within the university and beyond its borders.
The Symphony performs regularly with the Cal Poly Choirs. The full ensembles have given concerts featuring a wide range of choral-orchestral repertoire, including Duruflé's Requiem, Fauré's Requiem, Brahms' Schicksalslied ("Song of Destiny"), John Williams' Battle of the Heroes, Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and Concert Suite No. 2 from West Side Story, Orff's Carmina Burana and Brahms' Rhapsody for Alto, Male Chorus and Orchestra (Jacalyn Kreitzer, alto). (web site)
Members of the Chamber Choir and Symphony also perform together in the culminating event of Cal Poly's Bach Week. Look out for more joint ventures to come!
Our first collaboration with Orchesis dance company occurred in Winter, 2013. While members of the company danced on stage, the Symphony played on a lowered stage - a "pit." Together, we performed Smetana's The Moldau, with original choreography by faculty member Michelle Walter, and Marquez' Danzón No. 2, with original choreography by faculty member Diana Stanton. We performed together again in Winter 2015, and added Christy McNeil to the choreography team. Make sure to catch Orchesis' annual production in late January and check out their web site for more information. (web site)
During our Central Europe Tour in June, 2016, we collaborated with the Prelude Choir of Budapest (Hungary), Charles University Choir (Prague, Czech Republic), Prague Singers (Czech Republic) and Cantus Novus Wien (Vienna, Austria)
The Stockdale High School Symphony Orchestra joined the Symphony for our Winter 2018 concert. Not only did this guest orchestra play their own repertoire, but their string section played side-by-side with the Cal Poly Symphony strings to perform Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The Stockdale orchestra went on to perform in Carnegie Hall later the same year! (web site)
Beginning with the 2012-2013 season, the Symphony has sought opportunities to collaborate with artists in fields besides music. Below are those that have worked with the Symphony or are in the process of developing projects with the Symphony.
Photographer Sky Bergman created an original (and stunningly HD) projection of images to accompany our performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in Fall, 2012. Bergman’s fine art work is exhibited nationally and internationally, and is included in a number of permanent collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, France.
(web site) ("Lives-Well-Lived" web site)
In Fall, 2019, students from the Art and Design Department, with the guidance of Sky Bergman, produced large screen projections for music from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet. The students worked in small teams to curate their own photographs and videos, which together illuminated each movement of the music.
In Fall, 2019, a student team from Cal Poly's Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) program developed original, multi-surface projections to accompany our performances of Tetris Theme, Advent Rising – Muse, and Final Fantasy – Liberi Fatali. The students projected images onto the main screen above the orchestra, the organ pipes, and the President's box. The team presented their ideas over the course of the quarter, incorporated feedback, and delivered a stunning product.
Choreographer Diana Stanton created an original dance for our joint performance with Orchesis of Arturo Márquez' Danzón No. 2 in Winter, 2013. Her choreography has been presented professionally in many venues including Jumpbrush Pacific Dance Convergence, McCallum Theatre's Choreography Under the Stars Festival in Palm Desert (CA), UC Irvine, CU Boulder, Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop and many others.
Michelle Walter created original choreography for our joint performance with Orchesis of Smetana's The Moldau in Winter, 2013. She is a Cal Poly graduate and Orchesis alumna. She received an M.A. in Dance Education from Stanford University. Michelle is the founder of the Cuesta College Dance Company, Entourage.
Choreographer Christy McNeil had her first collaboration with the Symphony in Winter, 2015, with her original choreography of The James Bond Theme. Christy earned her BFA in dance from Cornish College, and her choreography was chosen to represent the college at the American College Dance Festival. At age fifteen, she performed in the Rudolf Nureyev Ballet Festival in Kazan, Russia as a member of Evergreen City Ballet and was honored to dance at the Artissima Festival of Art in Turin, Italy with Chamber Dance Company in 2010.
Tyler Whipple created a coordinated, multimedia set of projections to complement our performance of Respighi's Botticelli Triptych in Fall, 2012. At the time, he was a student in the Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies program and one of our violinists! Tyler has worked at Cal Poly's Center for Expressive Technologies, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and as concertmaster of the Central Florida Community Arts Orchestra.
Here is a photograph of Tyler's work: original animated projections on the organ pipes and President's box, with a slowly unfolding animation of Botticelli's paintings on the screen.