2016-2017 Concert Season
All programs will take place at the Family Piano Co.
114 South Genesee Street, Sunday Evenings.
Download our season schedule here.
Black Oak Ensemble, October 16, 2016
Kontras Quartet, November 13, 2016
Susan Merdinger and the Sheridan Solisti, March 19, 2017
Musicians from Midwest Young Artists, April 23, 2017
Black Oak Ensemble
October 16, 2016
The seeds of the Black Oak were planted in 2011 when the ensemble first performed for a standing room only audience in Chicago’s prestigious Music in the Loft Series. According to John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, “The flamboyant vitality of the originals lived on in the arrangements as well as the expert performances.”
The founding members, Serbian guitar virtuoso Goran Ivanovic, Grammy Nominated Lincoln Trio’s violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, and cellist David Cunliffe, continued their collaboration with performances at the Latino Music Festival, Chicago Cultural Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Mayne Stage, WFMT Radio, and Windy City Live. In addition, the Ravinia Festival chose the ensemble as their guest artists on the Ravinia tour from Barcelona to Monte Carlo.
“This unique ‘string’ ensemble delivers with great musicianship and sophistication music that is lyrically and rhythmically passionate, blending and contrasting traditional and classical music from a variety of cultures and times, thus, blurring lines between music genres and eras while delivering a unique and captivating sound that thrills the audience” Luciano Pedota, Ravinia Festival Reach*Teach*Play Education Programs
2014 saw the addition of violinist/violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli a founding member of the Spektral Quartet, and the formal naming of the ensemble, Black Oak, a beautiful tree native to their home state of Illinois.
November 13, 2016
Admired for their “superlative artistry” (CVNC Arts Journal), the Kontras Quartet has established an international following for their vibrant and nuanced performances. The “superb Chicago-based ensemble” (Gramophone Magazine) has been described as “a tightly crafted and beautiful instrument” (CVNC Arts Journal) and has been lauded for their “crisp precision” (Palm Beach Daily News) and “enjoyable musical personality” (Fanfare Magazine). Kontras means contrasts in the Afrikaans language – fitting for a string ensemble whose colorful repertoire spans centuries, genres, and continents.
The Kontras Quartet records for MSR Classics and recently released two critically acclaimed albums. The first, Origins, features new and lesser-known works from the quartet’s home countries, including the world premiere recording of Dan Visconti’s Ramshackle Songs. The recording was commended by Gramophone Magazine for the quartet’s “scrupulous shading and control”. The second, Lucid Dreamer, features a septet that Kontras commissioned in 2013 with a generous Chamber Music America-awarded grant. The work treads the line between classical music and American folk and invigorates Kontras’ ongoing collaboration with the esteemed Kruger Brothers trio.
The Kontras Quartet’s recent and upcoming performances include multiple broadcasts on classical radio stations nationwide (including Performance Today and Concierto on NPR); concerts at Chicago’s Symphony Center, the Farnsworth House, and the Juilliard School; television appearances on NBC and PBS; regular appearances on concert series throughout the Midwest and Southeast; and sold out performances at the Telluride, IBMA and MerleFest festivals.
Kontras enjoys educational work of all kinds, and has been the Professional Quartet in Residence at Western Michigan University for two years. In addition to their concert schedule, the quartet will hold teaching residencies at Elmhurst College and Appalachian State University in 2016. They will also continue their work in the Chicago Public Schools with the support of a grant from the Boeing Company. Outside of the Chicago area, Kontras has made a significant educational impact in North Carolina, bringing over 200 innovative and interactive outreach programs to more than 40,000 students.
Formed while the group’s members were string principals in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Kontras Quartet began pursuing a professional career in 2009. Kontras enjoyed immediate recognition, holding their own against seasoned string quartets from around the country to win a four-year chamber music residency with the Western Piedmont Symphony in North Carolina, a full-time position established through Chamber Music America’s Residency Partnership Program. The quartet has received continued training with the Vermeer Quartet and Juilliard String Quartet.
Susan Merdinger and the Sheridan Solisti
March 19, 2017
Performances by Steinway Artist Susan Merdinger have been hailed as “Tender and impassioned” by the Glasgow Herald and “Breathtaking” by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In April 2014, Fanfare Magazine declared that “Merdinger has the magic touch”, and likened her playing to that of the legendary pianists, Leonard Bernstein, Annie Fischer and Nadia Reisenberg.
Among her many honors, Merdinger is a Winner of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, the Artists International Young Musicians Competition and the Dewar’s Young Artist Award in Music. Most recently Merdinger was awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in the 2014 Global Music Awards for her French Fantasy, Carnival and Soirée CDs, all of which have received glowing reviews in publications such as The American Record Guide, Fanfare Magazine, Audiophile Audition, Classical Candor and Classical Sentinel. Performing her sold-out Solo Recital Debut in Carnegie Recital Hall at age twenty-five, Merdinger has continued to grace the stages of some of the world’s best concert halls and her solo, chamber music and concerto performances have been broadcast on radio and television throughout the USA, Europe and Susan Merdinger – Program Biography Canada. Currently, there are over 250 videos of her live concert performances available on her YouTube Channel.
A Visiting Artist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series, Susan has been a featured soloist with numerous orchestras and made her debut at the Harris Theater with The Chicago Philharmonic in 2013, performing Gottschalk and Gershwin. In the 2014-2015 season, Merdinger performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the Highland Park Strings under direction of Francesco Milioto, and returns to The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series on March 22nd, to perform with the CSO Tononi Ensemble works by Field, Glinka and Dvorak. In April, she appears twice at Highland Park High School’s biennial festival, FOCUS on the ARTS. She is also a Founding Member of Chicago’s Premiere Piano Band-Pianissimo!, which will perform on Make Music Chicago Day on June 21st, and make its Official Debut in the Fall of 2015, performing newly commissioned works and arrangements and transcriptions being created expressly for this virtuoso piano ensemble.
Trained at Yale University, the Yale School of Music Fontainebleau (France) School of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music, Susan is currently on faculty at Summit Music Festival in New York, the Burgos Music Festival in Spain and is Artistic Director and Founder of Sheridan Music Studio of Highland Park, Pianissimo! and The Five Greenes.
Musicians from Midwest Young Artists
March 13, 2016, 7:30 PM
The history of Midwest Young Artists (MYA) is a story of a compelling mission, dedication and hard work. The organization was established in 1993 by parents who wanted Dr. Allan Dennis to create an orchestra for their children. Fifty five students showed up for the first rehearsal and were divided into a Junior and Senior Orchestra. A number of the older, more advanced students played in the Senior Orchestras and mentored in the Junior Orchestra, thereby establishing a tradition of cultivating leadership that continues as a core MYA principle today. Initially renting space at the Lake Forest Country Day School, MYA is now housed in the beautifully transformed Old Stockade Building at Fort Sheridan and has grown into the premier music ensemble program in the nation. MYA graduates are accepted into the most selective conservatories, universities and colleges in the country.
MYA reaches over 1,000 students from more than 74 cities in the metropolitan Chicago area, with students ranging in age from 2nd through 12th grades. Featuring 9 youth orchestras, more than 60 chamber music ensembles, 4 choral ensembles, 4 jazz big bands, numerous jazz combos, music history, theory and composition classes, MYA strives to provide the highest quality music experience for young musicians nationwide. In 2011, Early Childhood Development classes were added to introduce toddlers and their families to the joys of music and movement. The focus on family is another of MYA’s core principles.
However, at MYA it’s more than just the music. MYA makes a difference in the lives of its students, their families and their communities by encouraging camaraderie, respect and hard work as well as dedication to the pursuit of excellence. MYA is a place where students are able to grow, using music, in a socially supportive, educationally nurturing, socially responsible and organizationally secure environment.
For more details about Midwest Young Artists, please visit their website.