Did you know that SPCO violinist, Daria Adams, and her husband, Minnesota Orchestra violist, Michael Adams, are co-directors of a summer chamber music festival in Napa Valley?

How many years has the chamber music festival existed?

This summer will be our 20th season.

What made you want to start your own chamber music festival?

Michael and I love to play chamber music, and have played in many festivals over the years, but decided it was time to create our own festival.  This was an easy idea to come up with, but not so easy to accomplish!

Why did you pick Napa Valley?

Actually, our first idea was to start a festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, but that didn’t work out.  We have family in the Napa Valley area, and have visited the area often, so we thought it would be a great place to start a festival.

Where do you perform?

We perform in different wineries every year, although some are regular venues.  We play at Clos Pegase Winery every year.   The daughter of Walt Disney, who recently passed away, was the owner of the Silverado Winery, one of our biggest supporters.  Other regular venues are Hess, Beringer, Frog’s Leap, Markham, and Merryvale.

spco-violinistWhat are the dates?

This summer we Read More

What do four musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have in common? They all play on instruments made by the Brooklyn-based luthier, Sam Zygmuntowicz.

It is rare to have so many musicians in one orchestra own instruments by the same maker, but violinists, Steven Copes, Ruggero Allifranchini, Nina Fan, and cellist, Joshua Koestenbaum are all proud owners of Zygmuntowicz instruments.

Click on this link to see a video of Sam Zygmuntowicz at work.


Nina –

I remember reading about Sam in Strings magazine a long time ago. It seems that David Finckel, the cellist of the Emerson Quartet, had brought into rehearsal a cello by some young New York maker, and it shocked the other members with its quality. Soon they were converts, as were many of the top players around, including Isaac Stern and Cho-Liang Lin. Nowadays it’s hard to get your hands on a “Sam.” (I’ve heard that there’s a bumper sticker around that says, “My other instrument is a Strad”!)

Mine is not brand-new; it was made in 1994 (still a baby, by violin standards). It is made on a Guarneri del Gesu model, though not a copy of a particular instrument. I love how responsive it is, and how “healthy” and powerful the sound. It’s also nice to know it’s in perfect condition, with no hidden cracks or repairs–and if something happens to it, I can go back to the maker and have him fix it!

Sam is a brilliant man. He is very interested in the science Read More

SPCO Flutist, Alicia McQuerrey, talks about her experience as a Suzuki student, one of the first flutists to be taught in this method in the US.

Alicia, how old were you when you started the flute?

I was 7. I started piano at 5 and was better at piano until I was about 13 or so.  Now the only thing I can play on the piano is The Hokey Pokey!

How did you decide on the flute as your instrument?

At 7 my dad asked me what instrument I wanted to play in addition to the piano.  He was a high school band director and had a majorette in his high school band that was very nice to me.  She played the flute so I said, “flute, like her!”

When did you learn to play the piccolo?

I didn’t add piccolo until I was 15.  Our high school band didn’t have many at the time and every marching band needs a piccolo, although really, one is plenty!  My mom took me to the National Flute Association Convention in DC the summer before 10th grade and we found a used piccolo that did the trick.  My first was a wood Emerson.

Is it very different from playing the flute?  

The principles are the same but the embouchure aperture is much smaller.  The fingering system is the same however, piccolo players use “fake” fingerings.  These are special fingerings that don’t always work or aren’t needed on flute but that make intonation much better.  I didn’t have a piccolo teacher until Jack Wellbaum, former piccolo player of the Cincinnati Symphony, while attending UC-CCM for undergrad.  I enjoyed piccolo before but he helped me love it.  We had weekl Read More

Ever wonder what kind of wood a bassoon is made from? Here is our 2nd bassoonist, Carole Mason Smith, to answer some questions about her instrument.

cms-professional-photoWhat kind of wood is a bassoon made from?

Maple is the preferred wood for making a bassoon, and it has to be aged and processed before it is ready to be made into a finished instrument.   A bassoon can be stained different colors such as mahogany, black, brown or even light brown, but maple is the material. However, student model bassoons are often made of polypropylene, a sturdy plastic more advantageous to durability than tone.


What are reeds made from?

Bassoon reeds are made from the same material as other woodwind reeds, a variety of cane known as arundo donax.   Many professional bassoonists make their own reeds, tailoring the reed to their own specific ensemble, repertoire, concert hall, and even the requirements of a particular piece of music.


img_20140228_103452_605How long does it take to make a reed?

To transform a tube of arundo donax into a bassoon reed can take several months since there are several procedures and the cane benefits from some rest between the proce Read More