The MasterGuild Series
Cordula Merks, violin
German violinist Cordula Merks, newly appointed concertmaster of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra comes to us as the former assistant concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony. Before moving to Seattle, she held concertmaster positions with Germany’s Essen Philharmonic, Bochum Symphony and Bergische Symphony. She has served as a guest concertmaster for many orchestras, including the Dresden Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, West German Radio Orchestra, Cologne Opera and Portuguese National Opera. This last summer she played as part of Claudio Abbado’s famous Lucerne Festival Orchestra and toured in Europe as concertmaster of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
When not playing in the orchestra, Sha enjoys playing as a soloist and especially as a chamber musician and has performed in the US, Israel and all over Europe. Merks was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Holland. She started playing the violin at the age of 6 and was accepted by the Young Talent Department of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague at the age of 12. Her teachers have included Shmuel Ashkenasi and Herman Krebbers, among others and she holds degrees from the Amsterdam Conservatory and Northern Illinois University. She has won prizes at all Dutch national competitions, at various concerto competitions and at several international competitions, including the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Austria.
Amy Hiraga, violin
Violinist Amy Hiraga was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra from 1991 until 1999. She is currently a permanent member of the San Francisco Symphony. Ms. Hiraga has performed and recorded with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the New York Chamber Orchestra and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared as soloist with the Seattle Symphony, the Aspen Philharmonia, Solisti New York, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra and the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. In addition, she has performed chamber music at the Caramoor, Bard, Olympic, Chamber Music West, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals, as well as with the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Chelsea Ensemble and the Partita Chamber Ensemble. Her teachers include Emanuel Zeitlin in Seattle, and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School. Amy Hiraga lives in Mill Valley, California with her husband, Peter Wyrick, and their two daughters, Mayumi and Mariko.
Nancy Ellis, viola
Nancy Ellis received her training at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Oberlin College and Mills College, where she studied with Nathan Rubin. Ms. Ellis has been a member of the San Francisco Symphony since 1975, and has also performed with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and as a chamber music player with Music from Marlboro, as well as part of a quartet in support of rock singer Van Morrison.
Peter Wyrick, cello
Peter Wyrick is the Associate Principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony. He has performed as chamber musician and soloist with renowned chamber groups and orchestras throughout the world. Mr. Wyrick was a member of the acclaimed Ridge String Quartet whose recording of the Dvorak Piano Quintets with pianist Rudolf Firkusny on the RCA label won the French Diapason d’Or and was nominated for the 1993 Grammy Award for the Best Chamber Music Performance. He has participated in Finland’s Helsinki Festival, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., and Spoleto, Italy, as well as the Vancouver, Bard, Chamber Music West, La Jolla and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festivals.
He has performed as soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, the Aspen Chamber Symphony, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Queens Philharmonic, the American and the Oklahoma City Chamber Orchestras, and the Kozponti Sinfonicus in Budapest, Hungary. was the Principal cellist of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center and the Associate Principal of the New York City Opera Orchestra. His recordings include the cello sonatas of Gabriel Fauré with pianist Earl Wild for dell’Arte records, as well as performances for Stereophile and Arabesque records. Mr. Wyrick was one of the last students of Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School, and plays on a David Tecchler cello made in Rome circa 1724.
Jean-Michel Fonteneau, cello
Jean-Michel Fonteneau is a founding member of the Ravel String Quartet, winner of two prizes at the Evian String Quartet International Competition in 1989, and of the first French Grammy Award “Les Victoires de la Musique Classique” in 1993. They toured extensively around the world and single-handedly created the first ever string quartet residency program in France.
Highly sought after, Mr. Fonteneau performs frequently with such renowned artists as Leon Fleisher, Menahem Pressler, Gilbert Kalish, Claude Frank, Peter Frankl, Kim Kashkashian, members of the Amadeus, Juilliard, Pro Arte, and Fine Arts Quartets.
A passionate and devoted teacher, Jean-Michel Fonteneau served on the faculty of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Lyon, France, until 1999, when he moved to the United States to join the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His students have won national and international competitions, appeared on “From the Top”, and been honored as a Presidential Scholar.
He appears regularly at summer festivals including the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Domaine Forget, Oberlin at Casalmaggiore, MYA, and the Morges Summer Academy in Switzerland.
Mr. Fonteneau’s recordings can be found with Musidisc-France and Albany Records.
Daniel Smith, bass
Daniel G. Smith was appointed Associate Principal Bass of the San Francisco Symphony in 2017. He previously served as principal bass of the Santa Barbara Symphony from 2014 to 2017, and he was a member of the San Diego Symphony from 2015 to 2017. He has served as guest principal and associate principal bass with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and guest principal of the Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd, MN. He has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Hawaii Symphony, and New World Symphony. Mr. Smith received his Bachelor of Music from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music under the tutelage of Timothy Pitts.
Roy Bogas, piano
A student of Ada Clement, Adolph Baller, Hedwig Rosenthal and Rosina Lhevinne, Roy Bogas received his training in chamber music with the Griller Quartet and the Alma Trio. At the age of 19 he became accompanist to Yehudi Menuhin, playing over a hundred concerts with him throughout North and South America. He has also played with many other artists including Zara Nelsova, Ruggiero Ricci, Michael Rabin, Jaime Laredo and Joseph Szigeti, with whom he recorded a number of 20th century works for Mercury Records.In 1962 he was a prizewinner at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, making his New York and London debuts the following year. In addition to recital work, he has performed as soloist with virtually every orchestra in California as well as many other orchestras in this country and abroad. He is also principal solo pianist for San Francisco Ballet and Diablo Ballet. Currently a member of the music faculty at Holy Names College, he is very active as a chamber music performer, having appeared on the San Francisco Symphony Chamber Music Series at Davies Hall, as well as with the Sierra Chamber Series, the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento, Chamber Music Sundaes and the new Masterguild Series at Holy Names College.
Joy Fellows, viola
Joy Fellows joined the San Francisco Opera in 2008, and was recently appointed Assistant Principal of the San Francisco Ballet. Previously, she was Associate Principal Viola of the Indianapolis Symphony, and has also been a member of both the St. Louis Symphony, and the New World Symphony in Miami. Joy has been a resident chamber musician at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Italy. She has participated and taught at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, as well at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Central City Opera (Colorado), Pacific Music Festival (Japan).
Ms. Fellows holds a Bachelor degree from the University of Oklahoma and a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School. Joy studied chamber music with Robert Mann, Nicholas Mann, Earl Carlyss, Joel Smirnoff, and Sam Rhodes. Her principal teachers included Wayne Crouse, Matthew Dane, and Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard String Quartet.
Jeremy Constant, violin
After winning the Grand Prize in the 1979 Du Maurier competition in Canada, Jeremy studied in New York with Ivan Galamian and then with the great violinist Itzhak Perlman before making the San Francisco Bay Area his home. He became a member of the San Francisco Symphony in 1984, with whom he continues to perform as Assistant Concertmaster. He has been Concertmaster of the Marin Symphony since 1994 and in 2000 was named Concertmaster of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. He is a frequent soloist with the orchestra and participant in the Edgar M. Bronfman Chamber Series.
As an active soloist and chamber musician both here and abroad, Jeremy has performed on radio and television around the world. He was violinist in the San Francisco Piano Trio, and a founding member of the Navarro Trio and Navarro Quartet. He can be heard as Assistant Concertmaster on Grammy Award winning releases such as the continuing Mahler cycle by the San Francisco Symphony and can been seen on their ongoing television project Keeping Score.
Jeremy plays the ex-Heberlein Stradivarius, from the year 1700. This Stradivarius was donated to the San Francisco Symphony for his exclusive use. Residing in Oakland with his wife Sharon, Jeremy is a pilot who took over 7 years to build a plane which he currently enjoys flying.
Laura Albers, violin
Colorado native Laura Albers is the Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and the violinist for the Albers Trio, a string trio with sisters Julie and Rebecca.
Laura began studying Suzuki violin with her mother, Ellie LeRoux, at the age of two and later spent a month in Japan studying with Dr. Suzuki. From an early age, she loved the stage and soloed with many Denver-area orchestras. Laura received her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and The Juilliard School, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein and Ronald Copes.
In Cleveland she worked extensively with the Cavani Quartet and Peter Salaff in the Intensive Quartet Seminar and as an assistant music therapist in the Cleveland University Hospitals. While attending Juilliard, Laura toured with the Astor String Quartet and the Wild Ginger Philharmonic and taught Suzuki violin at the Diller-Quaile School of Music.
While pursuing her education, Laura returned to the mountains during summers for the Aspen Music Festival and the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge. She and her sister, cellist Julie Albers, performed the Brahms Double Concerto with the NRO. They also recorded the Kodaly Duo in Munich for the Bayerischer Rundfunk.
Laura spent several summers performing in the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island as an artist in the Newport Music Festival. Her more recent summer festivals include the Grand Tetons Music Festival in Wyoming, Festival Mozaic in California and the Strings Festival in Colorado.
Laura spends a month or more during each off-season living in Israel and performing with pianist, Batia Murvitz. Recent appearances include recitals at Felicia Blumenthal Music Center and the home of the Austrian Ambassador, and headlining International Violin Day at the Or Akiva Music Center. She and Batia will perform this spring at BYU’s Jerusalem Center, atop Mount Scopus. Laura is an age group triathlete and food lover. She grabs spare moments between work and motherhood to train and prepare delicious meals with her husband.
Laura Griffiths. oboe
Laura Griffiths is Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. She was previously Principal Oboe of the Cleveland Orchestra.
After graduating, Laura became Principal Oboe of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, a position she held for nine years. During this time she also was the woodwind chamber music teacher at the Eastman School of Music.
Laura has been guest Principal Oboe of several major orchestras across the country, including the Boston Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony. She was also Acting Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra for three seasons.
Laura was Principal Oboe and soloist with the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra in San Diego for nine summers. She was also Principal oboe of the Britt Festival Orchestra for four summers. This is Laura’s tenth season as Principal Oboe of the Midsummer Mozart Orchestra.
Laura graduated with honors from the Eastman School of Music, where she was a student of Richard Killmer.