ANNUAL ARTISTRY OF STRINGS ARTISTS
Mary Beth Woodruff, Santa Barbara Strings Artistic Director, violin
Ms. Woodruff grew up in Southern California and began studying the violin at the age of 7. At the age of 15 she was accepted at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. While at Interlochen, she served as co-concertmaster of the IAA Symphony Orchestra and was a member of the Honors Quartet with whom she was a prize winner in both the Downbeat Magazine Chamber Music Competition and the Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition. Following graduation, Ms. Woodruff matriculated at the New England Conservatory of Music and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At M.I.T. she majored in both chemistry and music and was awarded an Advanced Music Performance Scholarship. She was honored with membership in the Burchard Scholars in the Arts at M.I.T. and received the Von Ness Scholarship for Best Performer in the Arts. While studying in Boston, she was member of the Boston Philharmonic, Emmanuel Music, the MIT Chamber Music Society, and the New England Chamber Orchestra. She spent summers studying at the Kneisel Hall summer chamber music festival in Blue Hill, Maine.
Ms. Woodruff attended Carnegie Mellon University for graduate school with a full scholarship to study with Andres Cardenes, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony. During this time period, she participated in the Jerusalem International Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival in Israel and was co-concertmaster. Upon receiving her Masters she began teaching at Biola University Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles where she taught violin, viola, music history, strings literature/repertoire, strings pedagogy, and was Head of Chamber Music Studies. During her 7 years at Biola, she led a group of students on a chamber music concert tour of mainland China and soloed with the Biola Symphony Orchestra on a concert tour of Italy, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Upon the birth of her first child Ms. Woodruff left Biola to focus on performing and teaching in Santa Barbara county. In 2009, Ms. Woodruff expanded her work in training young musicians and created SANTA BARBARA STRINGS which not only trains young musicians in orchestral and chamber music ensembles, but also in the composition of works written and performed by the players and the Artistic Director. Ms. Woodruff has performed with the Santa Barbara Symphony, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, was assistant concertmaster for the Opera Santa Barbara and for the past 7 years with the Radian String Quartet. She has also served on the faculty of 'Songfest International' both at Pepperdine University and the Colburn School. She is currently the Concertmaster of the Santa Maria Philharmonic and faculty at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Her principal teachers have included Ronald Copes, James Buswell, Julia Bushkova, Andres Cardenes, and John Harbison. She plays on a Guidantus Florenus made in Bologna, Italy in 1727.
Jane Chung, violin
Jane Chung performs as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician across the United States, Europe, and Asia. She has collaborated extensively with dance for more than a decade, including as resident musician and composer for Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance and with choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. In 2009, Ms. Chung premiered and managed Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's first project with live music—a collaboration for which her playing was praised as "excellent" and "sweet-voiced"—and continues performing with the company in ongoing projects. With the aid of a Yale AlumniVentures grant, she has developed and premiered numerous dance repertoire across the Northeast. Ms. Chung performs on a 1782 Joseph and Antonius Gagliano violin.
Basil Vendryes, viola
Basil Vendryes has been principal violist of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra since 1993. He is a former member of the San Francisco Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Rochester Philharmonic orchestras. As violist with the Aurora String Quartet (1986-95), Vendryes performed extensively, including recitals in New York, London and Tokyo. He currently serves on the faculties of the Lamont School of Music of the University of Denver, the Quartet Program at SUNY Fredonia, New York, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, Vermont. Vendryes has served on the faculties of Biola University (CA), California Summer Music at Pebble Beach, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Green Valley Music Festival, Montecito International Music Festival, Interharmony International Music Festival in Italy and the Music and More Summerfest in Trebinje, Herzegovina. For 18 years, he was the founder/director of the Colorado Young Sinfonia, comprised of some of the best young talent in the Denver area.
Vendryes was born in 1961 to West Indian parents, and began his musical training in the public schools at the age of 11. He received scholarships to the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Sally O'Reilly, Francis Tursi and Heidi Castleman. He has appeared as soloist with the Colorado, Aurora, Jefferson, Littleton, Lamont, Centennial, and Biola Symphonies, among others. Festival appearances include Spoleto, Heidelberg, Sunflower, Midsummer Mozart, Ouray, Lake Winnepesaukee, Las Vegas, Taconic and the Grand Tetons. Working with promising talent is one of his passions, and Vendryes has given classes in viola and chamber music throughout the United States. Vendryes has been a juror for several competitions, including the Sphinx Competition for African American and Latino string players and the Hong Kong International Music Festival. He has also served as guest principal violist for the the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Vendryes has recorded for Columbia, Phillips, Decca, RCA, BIS and Nonesuch, as well as chamber music for the Ariel, Cadenza Music, Centaur, CRI and Naxos labels. Vendryes plays on a rare Italian viola made in 1887 by Carlo Cerruti.
Andrew Smith, cello
Cellist Andrew Smith is an Associate Professor of music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the Principal Cellist of The Las Vegas Philharmonic. He is an original member of the Camerata Deiá, a group founded in 2001 to be the resident ensemble with The Festival Internacional de Deiá , a summer festival in Majorca, Spain. He was also a founding member of The Adriatic Chamber Music Festival, a summer music program in southern Italy, where he taught and performed from 1998 - 2008. An active recitalist, Andrew has collaborated with pianist Alfredo Oyagüez in cello/piano recitals in Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Argentina, and Japan, as well as in Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia. Recent recitals include performances at the Emilia Romagna Festival, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The Smith/Oyagüez duo recently released a CD entitled, “Spanish Music for Cello and Piano,” on the Delos label in January, 2017. Of the CD, the American Record Guide said the duo plays “with verve and sensitivity,” and recommended the program “without reserve.”
During summers, in addition to The Festival Internacional de Deiá, in Spain, and The Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Italy, Smith has taught and performed in several music festivals, including the Marrowstone Music Festival, Festival Mozaic in San Luis Obispo, CA, the Rocky Ridge Music Center, the Blue Mountain Festival, Dakota Chamber Music, The Green Valley Chamber Music Festival, the Tuacahn Summer Arts Institute, and The Las Vegas Music Festival.
Mr. Smith is a recipient of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was a member of the Young Artists String Quartet. He has also earned a Master's degree from The Mannes College of Music in New York, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, CT. He has studied cello with Timothy Eddy, Bernard Greenhouse, Leslie Parnas, Ron Leonard, and Geoffrey Rutkowski.
Robert Thies, piano
A pianist of “unerring, warm-toned refinement, revealing judicious glimmers of power,” [Los Angeles Times] Robert Thies (pronounced "Theece") is an artist renowned for his consummate musicianship and poetic temperament. He first captured worldwide attention in 1995 when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. With this victory, Thies became the only American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famed triumph in Moscow in 1958.
This victory brought accolades from the White House, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Pete Wilson, and Mayor Richard Riordan. The Los Angeles City Council declared February 16, 1996 "Robert Edward Thies Day," and Robert was featured on the July 1996 cover of Piano and Keyboard magazine. His win was announced in the International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times wrote a feature article, "Another American Pianist Invades Russia, Successfully."
Conductor Jorge Mester hails Robert "a genius", and Maestra JoAnn Falletta touted after a recent performance, "Conducting the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Robert Thies was one of the most beautiful and deeply satisfying musical experiences of my life."
Praised for his “thoughtful and intensely moving interpretations” Thies enjoys a diverse career as an orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He has already performed forty concerti with orchestras all over the world. In one season alone he performed thirteen different concerti, garnering consistent critical acclaim. He has appeared with such orchestras as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Liepāja Symphony (Latvia), Mexico City Philharmonic, the National Symphony of Mexico, Auckland Philharmonia (New Zealand), Louisville Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Pasadena Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, and the Naples Philharmonic. His concerts have been broadcast throughout the United States, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Bolivia, Hungary, Mexico, and New Zealand.
As a Steinway artist and frequent recitalist in the United States and abroad, Mr. Thies has developed a reputation as a genuine and sincere artist, creating delicately balanced programs and performing in a manner to draw focus to the composer rather than to himself. Under the sponsorship of Community Concerts, he completed a forty-city tour of the United States in 2001. In May 1999, he was honored with a special invitation to perform in the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, built for Empress Catherine the Great. His South American debut occurred in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2002, and he has given recitals in Mexico, Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
A dedicated chamber musician, Thies is highly sought after as a collaborator, and he has shared the stage with many esteemed musicians, including those from the LA Philharmonic and the LA Chamber Orchestra. In March 2012 he was the official pianist for the International Piatigorsky Cello Festival at USC, at which he performed over 25 works in one week and played a recital with renowned cellist, Thomas Demenga. In May 2016 he will reprise this role. An avid proponent of art song, Thies has also appeared with many outstanding singers in recital, most recently in Los Angeles with LA Opera baritone, Ryan McKinny in a performance of Schubert’s great opus, Winterreise. Over the past decade he founded the Thies Piano Quartet, the Pantoum Trio, and most recently, The Thies Consort. The Consort performs a wide range of works of varying instrumentation and size, thus allowing for innovative and unique programming with musical continuity based on a style, composer, or other concept.
Thies’s “grace and unsurpassed lyricism” are in high demand at festivals and special celebrations. In 2002, in conjunction with the Hollywood premiere of Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist, he performed Władysław Szpilman’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. That same year Thies earned national recognition for his collaboration with noted cultural historian and author, Joseph Horowitz, in the Pacific Symphony’s Dvořák in America festival. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Arnold Schoenberg’s death, Thies was invited to Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes in 2001 to perform the composer’s seldom-heard Piano Concerto with the National Symphony of Mexico, a memorized performance for which he received high critical acclaim. During the fall of 1997 Mr. Thies worked alongside distinguished late Polish composer Henryk Górecki in the United States premiere of his Piano Sonata. This collaboration was later documented in a 2012 Polish documentary entitled Please Find Henryk Mikołaj Górecki. In a commemorative gesture just after Górecki's recent passing, Thies's performance was broadcast on KUSC 91.5 FM Classical Radio. Thies has performed at the music festivals of Ravinia, Aspen, Sedona, Cape May, Music Academy of the West, Mostly Mozart, the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, High Desert Chamber Music, and the Port Townsend Chamber Music Festival.
In Los Angeles, Thies has worked with film composers James Newton Howard, the late James Horner, Danny Elfman, Mychael Danna, John Williams, and Lalo Schifrin, among others. His playing can be heard prominently in the 2015 film, Concussion, as well as in Mychael Danna’s Oscar winning score to The Life of Pi. In 2017 he was a featured soloist in Philip Glass’s score to Jane, a documentary about Jane Goodall, which was played live to picture at the Hollywood Bowl. He was a featured pianist on Danny Elfman’s concert piece: Serenada Schizophrana, and in 2015 and 2016, he was a featured musician in live performances of Elfman’s A Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2010 the Grammy winning conductor, Lucas Richman, invited him to join a full symphony orchestra on a North American tour of John Williams’ Star Wars in Concert.
In February 2006 Robert released his debut solo recording Live in Recital. That same year he recorded a crossover improvisational album, Difference, with Croatian flutist, Damjan Krajacic. This collaboration led the groundwork for the release of two critically reviewed albums for Gentle Rain Records in the Fall of 2012 and 2016: Blue Landscapes and Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries, both collections of original compositions and improvisations. The latter CD won a Global Music Award.
Mr. Thies is sought after as a master class teacher, chamber music coach, lecturer, and adjudicator across the globe. As a private teacher, his students have won competitions and been accepted to major music conservatories around the country. In 2017 he was appointed Artistic Director of the South Bay Chamber Music Society, founded in 1963, and one of the premier presenters of chamber music in Los Angeles. In June 2015 Thies presented a program of Scandinavian music at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden as a member of the College Music Society. In 2013, he was appointed Director of Chamber Music at the European American Musical Alliance (EAMA) in Paris, France. In May 2012, he gave a webinar simultaneously to three universities in the United States and Mexico, and spoke about developing one’s musicianship to open up various music career options. He is also a frequent guest lecturer to various branches of the Music Teachers Association of California. From 2003-07, he was a member of the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria, and worked beside his former teacher, Harold Heiberg, an authority on German art song. There Thies coached singers and pianists on the works of the great Germanic composers of Lied: Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and Strauss. His article on collaboration “I am Not an Accompanist” was published in the Fall 2017 edition of the California Music Teacher’s magazine.
Though born on the East Coast, Thies makes a home in Los Angeles. His teachers have included Robert Turner and Daniel Pollack, both protégés of the legendary Russian pedagogue Madame Rosina Lhevinne, and the great pianist Josef Lhevinne. For more information, visit Robert Thies at: www.robertthies.org.