Sahar Hassan, mezzo soprano & artistic director
Egyptian American mezzo-soprano Sahar Hassan is a gifted and exciting singer. Her lush and vibrant voice is beautifully enhanced by her innate musical sensitivity. Sahar’s talents have taken her to various stages, concert and recital venues throughout New England, the Midwest and West Coast. She made her operatic debut with Fresno Lyric Opera, in California, as Barbarina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and her roles have included Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito, (Mozart); Hero in Beatrice et Benedict, (Berlioz); Despina in Cosi fan Tutte, (Mozart); Abigale in The Crucible, (Ward) and Marianne in Tartuffe, (Mechem). On the East Coast, Sahar has been a soloist with the Sixteen Singers, Spectrum Singers, Andover Choral Society and she was the founder of Ensemble Rossignol for soprano, clarinet/flute and piano. Sahar’s oratorio repertoire includes Haydn’s Theresien Mass, Mozart’s Requiem, Piccolomini Mass and his Coronation Mass, Schubert’s Mass in G, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. She was a guest artist at New England Conservatory, Chappaquiddick Summer Music Festival, Longy School of Music and The French Library & Cultural Center, in Boston. In the Twin Cities, Sahar has enjoyed working with composer David Evan Thomas and was invited to perform Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 at Sundin Hall and at Bravo! Institute. She has been a soloist at Saint Agnes Church in Saint Paul and is a member of the substitute roster for Handel and Haydn Society vocal ensemble. Sahar earned her Master of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music and has studied at the Hochschule für Musik in München, Germany and the Conservatoire de Versailles in France. She has served on the faculties of Wellesley College, Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, New England Conservatory’s Division of Preparatory and Continuing Education, Salve Regina University, in Newport, Rhodes Island as well as the Wellesley Composers’ Conference, where she was a chamber music coach. In the spring of 2012, she was part of the artistic staff, as an Arabic language coach, for the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre’s production of “Parables”. In addition, during the 2012 fall term, she was a visiting professor at College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. Sahar teaches privately at Stillwater Area High School, as well as in her St. Paul studio.
Christohper Brown, bass
Christopher Brown played with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for 34 years as principal bass and appeared as soloist with the orchestra on several occasions. Prior to joining the SPCO, Brown was a bass player with Pittsburgh and Detroit symphonies. Beyond his performance activities, Brown has published a resource book, Discovering Bows, for the Double Bass, and owns The Bow Broker, a business that buys and sells bows throughout the world. In addition to his work in classical music, Brown is a jazz enthusiast, songwriter, and composer, an interest that dates from his high school days at the Interlochen Arts Academy. He once appeared on the cover of Life magazine in his role of Jesus in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Summertime takes Brown to the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson, Wyoming and the Festival of the Lakes in Alexandria, Minnesota. He also performs in recitals throughout the United States. Brown received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. He has three children, Linnea, Wyatt and Amele. He enjoys hiking and camping and is sometimes seen playing his guitar around the campfire.
Mary Burke, viola da gamba
Mary Burke has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician across the US with numerous ensembles, including Consortium Carissimi, the Rose Ensemble, Catacoustic Consort, Bach Society of Minnesota, Ensemble Polaris, the Gregorian Singers, Duo Geminiani, and Camerata Pacifica Baroque, and has toured with the crossover group Ensemble Galilei. She has performed at the Bloomington Early Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival, and the Bach Festivals of Baldwin-Wallace College and the University of Minnesota. Ms. Burke has recorded on Sony Classical, Voces Novae, and treblehook records, and has been heard on Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, WNYC, and Concert FM (New Zealand).
Helen Chang, violin
Violinist Helen Chang Haertzen’s mother asked Helen when she was 5 years old if she wanted to take ballet or violin lessons and she chose the latter. She grew up in the greater Boston area and studied with Roman Totenberg. He was still a wonderful mentor and teacher when he died at age 101 in May 2012. After competing and winning a prize in Poland at age 14, Helen knew that playing the violin would be a great part of what she was to do with her life. She furthered her studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Mozarteum Hochschule in Salzburg, Austria. After five years in Europe as recitalist and member of the Bamberg Symphony, in Germany, she decided it was time to go back to the States. “Playing the violin as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player with the Minnesota Orchestra is most rewarding. And in my free time I am able to enjoy ballet classes!”. In addition to loving her profession, she also loves being a mom to baby Grace-Margaret. Helen says Grace is always in a good mood when listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album. “I am constantly trying to find a balance with family, performing, and practicing. It is extremely helpful and inspiring when I receive advice from others in the orchestra who are amazing mothers as well as first class musicians!”
Claudia Chen, piano
Pianist Claudia Chen enjoys an active career as performer, coach and teacher. Making her solo debut with the Denver Symphony Orchestra at age 14, Ms. Chen has performed assoloist and chamber musician throughout United States, Canada, Eastern Europe and Chile. Ms. Chen often collaborates with her husband, cellist Arek Tesarczyk. Together the duo has given numerous recitals in the U.S., Canada, Chile and Poland. In 2008, their performance was awarded a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Artists. Her performances have been aired nationally in Canada on CBC and in the USA on National Public Radio. Equally at home in contemporary works as in standard repertoire, Claudia has given numerous premieres of solo and chamber works by several American and Canadian composers. She has been a guest on the The Grand Teton Music Festival, Bowdoin Festival, Contrasts International Contemporary Music Festival in Ukraine; as well as The Winnipeg Chamber Music Society, Agassiz Chamber Music Festival and Centara International New Music Festival in Canada. Since her move to the Twin Cities, she has been a frequent guest on the Chamber Music Series of both the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra at MacPhail, Sommerfest, and the Bakken Trio Series. She has collaborated with Osmo Vanska, Jorja Fleezanis, Tony Ross, Stephanie Arado among others. Claudia has served on the faculty of the University of Manitoba in Canada, as Assistant Professor of Piano and Chamber Music. Currently, she teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul, and maintains a private studio. Ms. Chen received degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the University of Minnesota. Her principal teachers have been Julian Martin, Margo Garrett, Doris Pridonoff Lehnert and Patricia Parraguez. She has also worked with Leon Fleisher, Lydia Artymiw, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Richard Goode and John Perry.
Phillip Rukavina, lute
Phillip Rukavina has performed widely as a lute and vihuela da mano soloist, ensemble performer, and as a continuo lutenist. He has appeared on many major concert series, including Early Music Now, Early Music Columbus, Music in the Park, Seattle Early Music Guild, La Guitarra California, and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. He teaches regularly on the faculty of the Lute Society of America’s Seminars at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, directing the event in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Phillip has also directed the lute program at the Amherst Early Music Festival in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In 1998, Phillip received a Travel Study grant from the Jerome Foundation and was awarded a second Jerome grant in 2003. He is a founding member of the Venere Lute Quartet, appearing on their two critically acclaimed compact discs Sweet Division (2003) and Palestrina’s Lute (2007). He has performed with various ensembles, including the Newberry Consort, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and the Rose Ensemble. Phillip studied lute with Pat O’Brien in New York and with Hopkinson Smith at the Academie Musical in Villecroze, France and in Basel, Switzerland.
Arek Tesarczyk, cello
Cellist Arek Tesarczyk joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 2004 and made his solo debut with the Orchestra in 2006, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. He gave the world premiere performances of Rautavaara’s Cello Concerto No. 2, Towards the Horizon, under the baton of Osmo Vanska in fall 2010. He has presented a full range of concerto repertoire, including works by Dvorak, Elgar, Saint-Saens, Haydn, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Goldschmidt, as soloist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Silesian Chamber Orchestra, Orchesta Sinfonica de Chile and Concert Artists of Baltimore. Winner of a 2008 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, he has participated in many Minnesota Orchestra chamber concerts, performing works by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Grieg, Chopin, Messiaen, Dohnanyi, and Shostakovich among others. In 2006 Arek became a member of the American String Project, a Seattle-based conductorless ensemble made up of 15 solo string players. In addition, he has performed at chamber music festivals in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center and Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and Merkin Hall in New York. For three years he has performed as principal cello and taught at Indiana University’s Summer Music Festival. Other performances have taken him to Finland, Switzerland, Germany, England, Scotland and Russia. He has collaborated with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, Martin Beaver, and Scott St. John, and has recorded Brahms’ g minor Piano Quartet with Jon Kimura Parker for the Bravo television network. He has also performed widely with his wife, pianist Claudia Chen, giving recitals in the U. S., Canada, Chile and Poland. Born in Poland into a family of musicians, Tesarczyk won three consecutive first prizes in the annual Polish National Cello and Chamber Music competitions before graduating with honors from the Karol Szymanowski School of Music in Katowice. Continuing his studies in the U.S., he worked with the late Stephen Kates at the Peabody Conservatory, where he received the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Scholarship and earned two artist diplomas: one in cello performance, the other in chamber music as a member of the Peabody String Quartet. Before joining the Minnesota Orchestra he was principal cello of the Winnipeg Symphony for 11 years. While living in Canada he taught at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and Brandon University. Tesarczyk plays a cello crafted in 1997 by an American maker, Christopher Dungey, and uses two French bows, one made by E. A. Ouchard and the other by Victor Fetique. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Claudia Chen and their children Viktor and Katia.
Sharon Carlson, managing director
Sharon Carlson, Managing Director of Ladyslipper Ensemble, has been closely connected to the Twin Cities arts community for many years. As Assistant to the Director of The Schubert Club, she worked with its Executive Director Bruce Carlson from 1975 until his death in 2006.
Sharon is a graduate of Augsburg College where she majored in French and minored in Latin. She completed requirements for her B.A. degree after attending summer courses at the University for American Universities in Avignon, France. Before beginning her employment at The Schubert Club she spent a month in Paris with St. Olaf College’s interim French language program, and lived in Lyon where she worked as an ‘au pair’ for a family with four children.
Upon retiring from The Schubert Club in 2010 Sharon has remained active in the local arts community. She is presently Chair of The Edvard Grieg Society, a small arts organization devoted to promoting Norwegian art and culture, including the music of Edvard Grieg. She is on the Board of Norway House, and a member of the Cultural Arts Committee of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Sharon is active at First Covenant Church of Saint Paul, and is a member of the Servants Team at Community Bible Study.