Conductor, Music, Singer, Soloist, Symphony Orchestra, tenor, Uncategorized

Kyle Stegall in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On Friday, March 6, I will conduct Beethoven’s only oratorio, ”Christus am Ölberge” (”Christ on the Mount of Olives”) at the Mondavi Center with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus, on a program that will also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Andrei Baumann, and the world première of “what remains” by composer Laurie San Martin. Below is a brief Q&A session with one of our three vocal soloists, tenor Kyle Stegall. Click on these links for interviews with Ms. Piccolino and Mr. Yoder.

Christian Baldini: Please tell us about your education and training. How did you start with music, and when did you decide to become a singer?

Kyle Stegall: I’ve been interested in professional singing and in teaching singing since my senior year of high school.  All three of my degrees are in Vocal Performance, and were granted by the Universities of Missouri, Michigan, and Yale.  My passion for communication is what has driven my studies, and the development of my performance and teaching career.

CB: What do you find remarkable about this work by Beethoven? What are your favorite moments in it?

KS: I am so looking forward to performing this dramatic and heroic work with Maestro Baldini and the musical forces at UC-Davis.  I am particularly fond of the moment in which the clarinet introduces the prayer theme in Christ’s opening aria.

CB: What are some of your favorite pieces of music, whether in the operatic realm, chamber music, or on the concert platform? Which works would you like to be singing next?

KS: I am lucky to have a career engaged with a great breadth of the classical repertoire.  I sing opera, recital, and concert work in equal proportions, which is actually quite rare.  I value the opportunity to communicate in such varied stylistic-idioms and performance environments.  Everything from the haute-contre repertoire of the French Baroque to world premieres of new repertoire for the solo voice, to staples of the recital canon, to large orchestrated works such as Christus am Oelberge hold consistent spots in my performance seasons.  I am particularly fond of the Bach evangelists, the cycles of Benjamin Britten, and orchestrated masses/oratorios of the classical and bel canto repertoire.  I’d like to find a spot for Britten’s War Requiem and Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’ete in coming seasons.

CB: What does art, and music in particular, mean to you? Is it relevant in our society today?

KS: Art and music are and will forever be relevant.  Art is an intensely potent force for awakening in large numbers of people a dormant respect for our shared, vulnerable humanity. What our world needs is community. What our world needs is emotional honesty.  Music is the crystallized sonic manifestation of these things.  The question isn’t whether or not art is relevant.  The question is whether or not we will make room in our hearts, budgets, schedules, and priorities for it.


Kyle Stegall2
tenor Kyle Stegall (courtesy photo)

 

Kyle Stegall’s performances around the world have been met with accolade for his “blemish-free production” (Sydney Morning Herald), and his “dramatic vividness” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). A career spanning concert, opera, and recital stages has grown out of successful collaborations with many of the world’s most celebrated artistic directors including Manfred Honeck, Joseph Flummerfelt, Masaaki Suzuki, William Christie, and Stephen Stubbs.

In demand as an opera and concert soloist, Mr. Stegall is a celebrated interpreter of the Bach evangelists, and is often heard in the great oratorios of Handel and Haydn.  His operatic repertoire spans the haute-contre heroes of the French Baroque to modern premieres.

Mr. Stegall  is a proud alumnus of the universities of Missouri, Michigan, and Yale.

@stegalltenor http://kylestegall.com

California, Christian Baldini, composer, Conductor, Music, soprano, Symphony Orchestra, Uncategorized

Jacqueline Piccolino in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On Friday, March 6, I will conduct Beethoven’s only oratorio, ”Christus am Ölberge” (”Christ on the Mount of Olives”) at the Mondavi Center with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus, on a program that will also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Andrei Baumann, and the world première of “what remains” by composer Laurie San Martin. Below is a brief Q&A session with one of our three vocal soloists, soprano Jacqueline Piccolino. Click on these links for interviews with Mr. Stegall and Mr. Yoder.

Christian Baldini: Please tell us about your education and training. How did you start with music, and when did you decide to become a singer?

Jacque Piccolino: Throughout my childhood I enjoyed singing and was generally drawn to music and performance. Despite my general shyness as a young child, I would enjoy performing my favorite tunes at family gatherings. I did not have any formal voice lessons till I was 11 years old during which my first voice teacher recognized my potential and helped me enjoy singing from a more technical standpoint. In applying formal vocal technique to my singing, I knew that I was born to sing!  From those early lessons, to my time as an undergrad at the University of Illinois; under the direction of my then teacher and now mentor Cynthia Haymon-Coleman, I continued to hone my craft and discovered that I had a pursuable future in classical music. While still a Junior at U of I, I was invited to the San Francisco Opera Merola program which then led to a spot as an Adler Fellow with SFO. Since then, my passion and spark for singing has grown exponentially and I am dedicated to the discipline and joy an opera career brings.

CB: What do you find remarkable about this work by Beethoven? What are your favorite moments in it?

JP: Christus am Ölberge was completely new to me until Maestro Baldini suggested it as possible collaborative opportunity. I found this work incredibly fascinating, particularly how it highlights Christ’s human state over His divinity. My favorite moment comes from the Seraph’s aria, as it is truly an operatic piece in terms of form and drama. One phrase sung in unison in the Terzetto by Peter, Christ, and the Seraph is exceptionally lovely:

“Liebt jenen, der euch hasset, nur so gefallt ihr Gott” 

“Love those who hate you, only then can you love God”

CB: What are some of your favorite pieces of music, whether in the operatic realm, chamber music, or on the concert platform? Which works would you like to be singing next?

JP: I love many operas, but if I had to choose, I’d say Verdi’s La Traviata, Ernani, and Otello, as well as Puccini’s La Bohème are some of my favorites. Given my particular voice type, I hope to engage in works similar to the aforementioned. I’m currently practicing and preparing the beautifully spirited title role in Dvorak’s Rusalka. The nuances of the Czech language coupled with the dynamics and complexities of the character mesh well with the color and timbre of my voice and my artistry overall. On the concert and art song platform, I adore Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, and Rachmaninoff’s sublime art songs.

CB: What does art, and music in particular, mean to you? Is it relevant in our society today?

JP: Throughout my young career I’ve had the honor to share and express emotion through the gift of music. I firmly believe that music transcends all races, creeds, and backgrounds and has the powerful ability to bring people together from all walks of life. As artists, we are obliged to interlace our own unique experiences and perspectives within our work. In doing so, we pay homage to the great works that came before us. This evolution is a wonderful metaphor for our society today, as we can simply look to music as an active representation of progressive growth.

 

Jacqueline Headshots
Jacqueline Piccolino (courtesy photo)

 

Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino has been hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as having “impeccable technique and stage presence” and as “an artist to watch”. In the 2020 season, Ms. Piccolino will join the roster of the prestigious Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program singing Erste Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and covering the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka. In addition, Ms. Piccolino will perform Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

As a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, she made her San Francisco Opera debut in the summer of 2013 as Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She returned from 2013-2015 as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, Lady Madeline in La chute de la maison Usher, Laura in Luisa Miller, 2nd maid in the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne, Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Clotilda in Norma, Mrs. Hayes in Susannah, and covered Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. As a participant in the 2012 and 2013 Merola Opera Program, Ms. Piccolino appeared as Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and Arminda in La finta giardiniera. She has performed the Israelitish Woman in Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte with Seattle Opera in 2017, as well as Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. Other career highlights include appearing as a Studio Artist with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, a performer in the Napa Festival del Sole’s Bouchaine Young Artist Concert Series and as a participant in the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy.

Ms. Piccolino was recently awarded as a Bursary Recipient from the Opera Awards Foundation. She is also a first prize winner from The American Prize in Vocal Performance, the Igor Gorin Memorial Award from the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and the prestigious Rose M. Grundman Award Recipient from the Musicians Club of Women in Chicago. She has received awards from The Sullivan Foundation, The Shoshana Foundation, The George London Foundation, and was a finalist in the 9th International Stanisław Moniuszko Competition. Jacqueline graduated with a Bachelors of Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Music in 2013 and received the prestigious Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship from her Alma mater. Currently, she resides in the beautiful city of Chicago!

California, Christian Baldini, composer, Concerto, Conductor, Experimental, Jean Ahn, Korea, Music, Symphony Orchestra, Uncategorized

Composer Jean Ahn in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On February 1, Jean Ahn’s work “Woven Silk”, for haegeum and orchestra will be performed by Korean haegeum virtuoso Soo-yeon Lyuh and the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra as part of the Taproot New Music Festival. I had the chance of asking Jean some questions about her music and training. Her answers are below.
Christian Baldini: Dear Jean, many years have gone by since you were selected as a participating fellow in the first edition of our New Music Festival at UC Davis (nowadays called Taproot New Music Festival). It is wonderful to welcome you back, and to perform one of your compositions, in this case, a Concerto for Haegeum and Orchestra, titled “Woven Silk”, and written for the astonishing Soo-yeon Lyuh, who will be our soloist at our upcoming concert. Could you tell us what it feels like for you to be back, and could you provide some background about your piece?
Jean Ahn: I had my orchesta piece “Lulu, Lulu” played by Maestro Baldini and the UCD Symphony Orchestra. It was a wonderful performance and it definitely helped me get more performance opportunities. The best thing about the UC Davis music festival was the community it built during few days. The whole department, UCD faculty and graduate students were all together with the fellow composers. The discussions were always interesting, to the point, still very comfortable and open. I remember talking a lot more than usual, and we all did!I am so excited to be part of the festival again by sharing “Woven Silk”.
Woven Silk is a tribute to the TWO strings of haeguem. Haeguem is one of the oldest fiddles from Korea. With only two strings, the versatility and the intensity of haegeum is limitless.
After many collaborations with haegeum master Sooyeon Lyuh, I decided to make an orchestra piece, featuring what these strings can do. The motive of the piece is Perfect 5th interval (the usual tuning of the two strings) and string crossing method (explicitly showing the difference of the two strings, a cliche technique in western music, but not in Korean music).

CB: Tell us, where did you grow up, and how did you first become involved with music? When did you decide to become a composer?

JA: I was born in Seoul Korea. My mother was a piano teacher so I started playing the piano at a very young age. However, I hated reading notes, so I memorized everything. Having perfect pitch and learning how to write music boosted my confidence so I was determined to be a composer at age 6 and never changed my mind.CB: What are some of the most important influences to you as a performer, and as a composer?

JA: Up to my Ph.D. degree, I was only interested in being a composer, not a musician. I would write something, give it to a performer, often argue and have unpleasant outcome. After graduation, I became much more involved as a conductor, performer, singer or page turner! That truly changed by writing. Today, I can call myself a musician and I feel so much less insecure about my composition.CB: You have founded Ensemble Ari, a group of Korean musicians in the Bay Area. Could you tell us about the mission and importance of such an ensemble?

JA: I had been organizing many concerts here and there already. In 2014, my friends and I decided to make it more formalized and start an ensemble. It happened naturally. The musicians are all Korean American, so we often collaborate with Korean composers or Korean traditional musicians. Most of our repertoire is western music and our focus is to bridge different culture and different audience. We have collaborated with many different groups, including a children’s choir, an adult choir, an early music ensemble and a poetry group. On January 25th and 26th, we are collaborating with Soprano Rhoslyn Jones and two young singers from the Bay Area Vocal Academy. We are doing all female composers work. Our audience always learn something new through our concerts. It is fun to continuously surprise them.

CB: Thank you for your time, Jean. We look forward to performing your piece at our upcoming concert.

JA: Thank you for this invitation, I very much look forward to the performance!

Jean Ahn

 

Born in Korea, Jean Ahn began to study piano and composition at a very early age.

Her creative output includes works ranging from solo instruments to full orchestra, as well as choral, dance and electroacoustic music. Jean’s music was featured at Aspen Music Festival, June in Buffalo, New Music Miami, IAWM Beijing Congress, SEAMUS, Spark Festival, Women Composers Conference in Australia, New York City Electronic Music Festival, among others. Commissions include works for the SF Bach Choir, Leftcoast Chamber Ensemble, Volti Chamber Choir, SF Choral Artists, Gayaguem Soloist JUL, Locrian Chamber Players, and Pianissimo, among others. Her works have been performed by Oakland Symphony, Earplay, Enhake, Untwelve, Berkeley Symphony, Diablo Valley Symphony, Ensemble Sur Plus, pianist Lisa Moore (Bang on a can), Contemporaneous Ensemble, Invoke String Quartet and others.

Jean’s ongoing research  “Folksong Revisited” has been presented at many conferences.  This collection shows her vision to introduce Korean songs and techniques to professional performers in the US. Jean has also studied electronic music at CNMAT and has been working on hyper-koto series that exaggerate gestures from Asian traditional music.

She finished her B.A. and M.M. at Seoul National University and Ph.D at UC Berkeley where her teachers included Edmund Campion, Cindy Cox, David Wessel, Jorge Liederman and Richard Felciano.

She is the director of Ensemble ARI and Lecturer at UC Berkeley. www.jeanahn.com

California, Christian Baldini, Concert Hall, Concerto, Germany, Jean-Paul Gasparian, Music, piano, Soloist, Symphony Orchestra

Jean-Paul Gasparian in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On December 18, Jean-Paul Gasparian will be our soloist for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in a concert that I will conduct in Bad Salzuflen (Germany). I had the opportunity of asking Jean-Paul some questions, and below are the answers:

Christian Baldini: First of all, it is a pleasure to be collaborating with you on this wonderful concerto by Rachmaninov. Tell me, since you have played this concerto before, what is so special about it? Would you consider it to be one of the main pieces of the repertoire for you? What are some of the features in this concerto that you find particularly attractive?
Jean-Paul Gasparian: First of all I would like to say that I am extremely happy to play this concert with you and the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. Rachmaninov’s Concerto n.2 is actually one of the concerti that I play most often and it is one of the very first that I learned when I was a child. So this concerto accompanies me since many years – almost since the beginning, in a way. And I totally agree with you : it is definitely one of the most glorious and emblematic works of the repertoire. My former professor Michel Beroff told me an interesting anecdote about Stephen Kovacevich: someone asked him “what is your favorite concerto ?”, and instead of answering Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms (as expected), he said “Rachmaninov n.2!”. Which is quite surprising as it is not a repertoire that we often associate with him. But this little anecdote proves that this work produces an incredibly powerful effect on the audience. On any audience I think – even on people that are not familiar with classical music by the way. This concerto is a sort of quintessence of romanticism. It has memorable melodies at every corner, it has epic breath from the beginning to the end, but also very melancholic and elegiac character. Of course this is a work that has been played and recorded thousands of times. So we will do our best to propose an interpretation that is fresh and authentic.
CB: What are other composers that inspire you, and that you enjoy performing? (and which works?)

JPG: There are of course composers that are particularly close to my heart and that I play very often: Rachmaninov is definitely one of them, but there is also Chopin (to whom I dedicated my second CD, with the 4 Ballades, among other pieces), Scriabin, Debussy, Beethoven…

Concerning Beethoven by the way, I will participate in an integrale of his sonatas next year at the Maison de la Radio in Paris, for the 250th anniversary, playing 4 of his sonatas. For the moment I try to keep a large spectrum of repertoire: I also play more modern or contemporary music from time to time (this year I played pieces by Messiaen and Boulez for example).
CB: What corners of the repertoire, or which pieces have you not played yet, but you would like to have the opportunity to perform (either a concerto with orchestra or a solo piece)?

JPG: Yes there are pieces and composers that I adore but I didn’t have the occasion to play a lot for the moment : for example I would very much like to play more Brahms in the coming years, especially the 2 concerti, the Ballades, the 3rd Sonata…

Talking about concerti I would love to have the opportunity to perform Schumann’s concerto, Prokofiev’s N.3, as well as Rachmaninov’s N.1, among others.
CB: How did you get started with music, and who have been some important people in your musical upbringing? What and who has inspired you? 

JPG: I began to play the piano at the age of 6, first with my parents, who are both pianists themselves. They played a very important role, by giving me the basics of the art of piano playing, by making me discover the repertoire (including the symphonic repertoire, the operas, the chamber music etc.). They still continue to give advice, to come to my concerts when they can…

Then I also studied with different teachers that had strong influence on me. I could say that my background is a mix of French and Russian school. Because on the one hand I studied during 8 years at Paris National Conservatoire, with teachers such as Jacques Rouvier, Michel Beroff, Michel Dalberto, Claire Désert, and on the other hand I participated regularly in masterclasses with teachers from the Russian school, such as Tatiana Zelikman (the teacher of Daniil Trifonov) and Elisso Virsaladze who is herself a great soloist. And I think that one can feel this combination of influences in my playing, in my sensibility and also in my repertoire.
CB: Besides music, what do you enjoy doing in your daily life?

JPG: I read quite a lot since many years : especially philosophy, but also literature and poetry. I am very fond of cinema and have quite an important collection of movies at home, especially European cinema of the 60s and 70s, as well as American cinema of course. I am also doing sport quite regularly and love to follow football and tennis events. And as everyone I enjoy going out with friends!

CB: Thank you for your time. I very much look forward to our Rachmaninov collaboration in a few weeks in Germany.
JPG: Thank you, I am very much looking forward to our collaboration, see you in Bad Salzuflen!
Jean-Paul Gasparian
Jean-Paul Gasparian (Biography)

Born in Paris in 1995, he studied at Paris’ National Conservatoire with Olivier Gardon, Jacques Rouvier, Michel Béroff, Laurent Cabasso, Claire Désert and Michel Dalberto. Jean-Paul has been member of international piano masterclasses with Pavel Gililov, Elisso Virsaladze and Tatiana Zelikman, selected for the Verbier Academy 2014 and Prize Winner of the Salzburg Academy 2010. From September 2017, he started an Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music in London, with Professor Vanessa Latarche.

He is the winner of the Bremen European Competition 2014, and has been a laureate at many other international competitions including the José Iturbi Competition 2015 (4th Prize and special prize for the best performance of a contemporary piece), the Lyon International Competition 2013 (3rd Prize), the Hastings International Concerto Competition 2013, the Tel-Haï Concerto Competition 2012, and semi-finalist of the Geza Anda Competition in 2015. He is also the piano laureate of the Cziffra Foundation Prize 2014 and the l’Or du Rhin Foundation Prize 2016.
Moreover, he received the 1st Prize in Philosophy at the Concours Général des Lycéens de France in 2013.

Jean-Paul has played with orchestras such as the Orchestre National d’Ile-de-France, the Bremen Philarmonic Orchestra, Musikkollegium Winterthur, the Robert-Schumann Philharmonie, Orchestre de l’Opéra de Rouen, Orchestre Régional de Normandie, Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine, the Serbian Radio-Television Orchestra, the Montenegro Symphonic Orchestra, Toulouse Chamber Orchestra the Murcia Symphonic Orchestra, the Valencia Symphonic Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Caen, the Alliance Orchestra, the Ostinato Orchestra, performing Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, Tchaïkovski, Rachmaninov and Gershwin concertos.

He has given recitals at important festivals, among them : Festival Chopin de Bagatelle, Flâneries de Reims (broadcasted live on Medici.tv), La Roque d’Anthéron, Lisztomanias, Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo, Nohant Festival Chopin, Touquet Piano Folies, Août Musical de Deauville, Festival Radio-France de Montpellier, Liszt en Provence, and has played in important venues such as the Salzburg Mozarteum, Zürich’s Tonhalle, Bremen’s Die Glocke, London’s Royal Albert Hall, Belgrade’s Kolarac, the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, the Louis Vuitton Foundation (broadcasted live on Radio Classique), the Maison de la Radio, the Salle Cortot and the Salle Gaveau in Paris.

Upcoming concerts include recitals in Holland, United Kingdom, Colombia, Germany, Spain, as well as in France at the Radio-France Festival Montpellier, Piano aux Jacobins in Toulouse, Festival de l’Épau and many others. He began 2018 by replacing at last minute famous pianist Christian Zacharias in Chemnitz, Germany, and playing two times Mozart’s 24th Concerto under Leopold Hager.

His Schumann G Minor Sonata Live in Nohant 2015 has been released last year, together with Aldo Ciccolini’s last recital, as the first album of the Nohant Chopin Festival Archives. Moreover, the “Classica” Magazine has ranked Jean-Paul among the 10 most promising young pianists of his generation. The “Pianiste” Magazine also dedicated a large portrait to him this year.

His first studio CD was released in 2018 for the Évidence Classics label, with a Russian program : Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Prokofiev, and was highly praised by the press.

Since September 2016, Jean-Paul is artist-in-residence at the Singer Polignac Foundation, together with Shuichi Okada and Gauthier Broutin, with whom he founded the Cantor Trio.

Jean-Paul is supported by the Safran Foundation for Music. He is also, since this summer, a Steinway Artist.

California, Christian Baldini, Music, Symphony Orchestra, Uncategorized

Leyla Kabuli in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On November 23, Leyla Kabuli will return to the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra (in which she was a member of the first violin section years ago, for two seasons) as our piano soloist for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Below is an interview with Leyla.
Leyla grew up in Davis, California, and she went through the public school system. During her time at Harper Junior High School, she was concertmaster of the school orchestra, directed by Greg Brucker. I had the opportunity of asking Mr. Brucker about his recollections of Leyla as his student, and this is what he had to say about her:
“When she [Leyla] was a part of the Harper Orchestras from 7th -9th grade, she was by far one of the most talented raw musicians and musical minds the school and our program had seen, if not the best musician to come through the program to date. Her talent on the violin was incredible, and that was her second instrument. When she played the piano for the class, we were all absolutely moved. It was magical. […] There is no question we were witnessing a true musical prodigy on the piano. Her kindness, care and concern for others, and her connection to those around her showed a deep wisdom and compassion far beyond her years. And it has been a true pleasure to follow her growth and progress as a musician since, from her amazing performances while at the high school, SF Conservatory, and since throughout Northern California and beyond. She is a true talent, and one of the great prides of our program historically. It was an honor to be a teacher to her, and a true pleasure.”

Christian Baldini: Leyla, it is such a pleasure to welcome you back to the Mondavi Center, and this time in a different capacity. You will be our soloist for this very beautiful and demanding Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov. How does it feel to be back?
Leyla Kabuli: Thank you very much for inviting me to play my favorite piano concerto with my favorite orchestra.  It came as a big surprise, and I am honored to be a soloist with the UCDSO. It’s super exciting to rehearse and perform at the Mondavi Center again.
CB: What are some of the features that define this Piano Concerto? What speaks to you in it, and are there any recordings that you really like of it?
LK: This is the ultimate emotional piece that touches the hearts of everyone in the orchestra and the audience.It’s technically demanding, with wide-spread chords. I especially like how the piano relates to the orchestra throughout; at times it’s role is to accompany the other instruments as in the simple flute and the clarinet accompaniments in the second movement. The energy in the third movement is incredible. How could Rachmaninoff express so many feelings in those notes? Among the many recordings, my favorite is the one by Sviatoslav Richter and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1959; it’s the composition of one genius performed by yet another genius.
CB: Let’s talk about repertoire. Who are some composers that have influenced you as an artist? Which composers have you had the chance to explore in depth (even at your young age, you are quite an experienced performer!)? And who are those composers and/or works that you’d like to explore more?
LK: I learned many, many pieces from every different era of classical music, but I found that exploring Bach in depth was most beneficial also for appreciating the works of other composers. In recitals, I like to include the works of composers whose beautiful piano music is not part of the standard repertoire. Interestingly, some of the pieces I discovered in recent years were suggested by non-musicians. For example, I got introduced to the piano works of Nikolai Medtner by a friend’s father, who is a famous plant biologist at the Carnegie Institution. Whenever I play Medtner, I also play a few shorter pieces by his extremely supportive friend Rachmaninoff, who tirelessly helped to promote Medtner’s music.
CB: You have already been involved in important social justice work, including your committed performance on From the Top, which was a tribute to Syrian refugees, of “Black Earth”, by Turkish composer/pianist Fazil Say. What is the meaning of music to you? Does it have a role in society? Why is it so important nowadays?
LK: Following my performance on NPR’s From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley, I collaborated with the show on other projects. The music video of my shorter arrangement of Fazil Say’s “Black Earth” was intended to raise awareness for two organizations that help refugees, especially in the Mediterranean region. It surprises me that so many people have seen that video and contributed to these organizations, and some even sent me very touching letters, which all prove that music has the power of uniting communities. The arts connect people in ways that nothing else can, and our cultural diversity serves to enrich our experience. Music provides a means for communication and expression beyond any spoken language. It transcends boundaries, barriers, and all perceived differences between people. I’d like to repeat Leonard Bernstein’s famous quote: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
CB: Besides being a remarkable pianist and an excellent violinist, you also play the bassoon. In addition, you are pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley, and I am pretty sure you must be a great athlete. How do you find time for everything, and how do you organize yourself?
LK: I really couldn’t claim to be any of those things. I did prepare for the junior high school basketball team tryouts until my violin teacher asked if basketball meant so much to me that I would risk breaking my fingers, which would mean the end of piano. I tried wrapping my fingers with bandages for a while, but had to quit before the tryouts. In general, I’m not that well unorganized, and my to-do list is hopelessly long. My classes and work as a teaching assistant twenty hours a week are prioritized, and then I try not to get stressed out about the many other things that can’t be finished. One day I hope to find a way to multi-task and parallel-process piano practice with other homework.
CB: Tell us about your first few steps in music. How did you start, and when? Who were the main influences (people, teachers, and also musical experiences) in your life so far?
LK: Actually, performing at the Mondavi Center is very meaningful to me. When I was almost seven, my mom took me to a concert of Itzhak Perlman. Although we listened to classical music at home all the time, the live performance was a completely different experience. I probably understood that Perlman was the main star of the concert, but I was fascinated by his piano accompanist Rohan de Silva and the gigantic concert grand piano. It was very disappointing that I wouldn’t be allowed to climb on the stage and play the big piano right after the concert, and more shockingly, according to my mom, one needed many lessons to play it. In the months that followed the concert, I demanded those lessons, assuming they would take place right there on the Mondavi stage, and that de Silva would be the teacher. Finally, my mom was convinced and we bought an electric keyboard with a wobbly stand from everyone’s favorite wholesale store. Then my life changed when I got accepted by a fantastic teacher in Davis, Angelia Lim, who taught me the joy of playing the piano and even convinced my mom to buy a used baby grand after a couple of years of lessons. When I was ten, in addition to weekly lessons with Mrs. Lim, I started the Pre-College program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) as a scholarship student, first with John McCarthy, and then with Yoshikazu Nagai. In the next seven years at SFCM, I studied  violin with Doris Fukawa, and bassoon with Dr. Yueh Chou. I also had exceptional chamber music coaches there, including  Machiko Kobialka. Many great pianists coached me in masterclasses and summer programs such as Piano Texas, BU Tanglewood, Colburn Academy, Oberlin, Southeastern Piano in South Carolina, and IIYM in Kansas. As the keyboardist of San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra for four seasons, I was coached in orchestral piano by SF Symphony’s Robin Sutherland; I got to play the piano, celeste and organ in Davies Symphony Hall. I have been so very lucky to receive the gift of music from these extraordinary musicians.
 
CB: We are the lucky ones to witness and appreciate your talent first hand, Leyla! Thank you very much for your time, and for sharing your extraordinary talent and wonderful energy with our musicians and our audience. I very much look forward to sharing this with everyone at our performance on the 23rd of November!
LK: I really appreciate it that you are giving me this opportunity. I look forward to Rach at the Mondavi Center!

Leyla_3

Leyla Kabuli is a third-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences and Music. She graduated from the Pre-College Division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2017, where she studied piano, violin, and bassoon as a scholarship student for seven years. She was the keyboardist of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2015 to 2019. Leyla’s piano awards include three consecutive National YoungArts Awards in 2016, 2017, 2018, the American Prize in Piano Concerto, and the US Chopin Foundation scholarship. She won first prizes in the Los Angeles Young Musician International, eMuse, American Prot´eg´e, Wildflower, Pacific Musical Society, MTAC, CAPMT, Kruschke, Mindell, Ghiglieri, Classical Masters, East Bay, Berkeley Etude Club, US Open, and Junior Bach competitions. Other awards include top prizes in Virginia Waring International Concerto, Seattle International, Enkor International, MTNA Piano Duet, Ross McKee, USIMC, and Zeiter competitions. She was also a semi-finalist in the prestigious International Piano-e-Competition, Cooper International Competition, Hilton Head International Piano Competition, Yamaha USASU International Piano Competition, and the First International Arthur Rubinstein Youth Piano Competition. She has performed at Davies Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Benaroya Hall, McCallum Theater, Zipper Concert Hall and other major venues. In addition to the national broadcast of her featured performance on NPR’s From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley in 2016, Leyla collaborated with the show on a benefit video and performed at From the Top’s 2017 Gala. Her Bay Area performances included San Francisco’s Noontime Concert Series as the Helen von Ammon Emerging Artist Award recipient, Ensemble SF Concerts, and Concerts at the Presidio. She was a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Waring Festival Orchestra, Nova Vista Symphony, El Camino Symphony, South Valley Symphony, Bay Area Soli Deo Gloria, Sonoma Philharmonic, and Palo Alto Philharmonic. Leyla has studied piano with Angelina Lim and John McCarthy, and currently studies with Yoshikazu Nagai of SFCM and with Michael Orland at Berkeley. She attended many festivals, masterclasses and summer programs, including PianoTexas, Southeastern Piano Festival, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Colburn Academy, and IIYM. As a soloist, active chamber musician and collaborative pianist, she organizes and frequently participates in benefit and outreach events in California and around the country.