2024 GUEST ARTISTS
FRANK ALMOND - VIOLINIST
Roosevelt University in Chicago
Violinist Frank Almond held the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. He has also held the Concertmaster position with the Rotterdam Philharmonic with Valery Gergiev and Guest Concertmaster of the London Philharmonic with Kurt Masur. Frank regularly performs as a soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and as soloist and chamber musician throughout the US and Europe. He is the founder of his own chamber music series in Milwaukee, Frankly Music, consistently recognized for innovative programming and its ability to attract leading performers from around the world, most recently including Lynn Harrel, Orion Weiss, and the Miró Quartet. At 17, Frank Almond was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was documented in an award-winning PBS film. His extensive recording discography includes a wide range of repertoire on various labels that have garnered multiple Grammy nominations. His most recent series of recordings, A Violin’s Life, chronicles the extraordinary history and lineage of his current violin, the 1715 Lipiński Stradivarius. This instrument has direct ties to Giuseppe Tartini, Edvard Grieg, Johannes Brahms, and Robert and Clara Schumann. On January 27, 2014, the “ex-Lipiński” Stradivarius was stolen from Mr. Almond in an armed robbery after a concert. The violin was recovered nine days later, and the story continues to make headlines around the world. The robbery and recovery are the subject of a new documentary film, “Plucked,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April (2019). Frank was also featured at Lincoln Center on “The Moth Radio Hour,” the critically acclaimed story-telling program heard on Public Radio stations nationwide. Community outreach and giving back to the Milwaukee community are also at the heart of Frank Almond’s artistic priorities. He mentors young musicians of all performing levels and backgrounds, and performs in nontraditional venues where classical music has a rare and unusual presence. Frank holds two degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Dorothy Delay, Michael Tseitlin, Felix Galimir, and Joseph Silverstein. He currently serves on the Faculty at Roosevelt University in Chicago and is the Johnston Family Artist-in-Residence at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony, one of the largest youth arts programs in the United States. Previous teaching positions include positions at Northwestern University and Texas Christian University. Frank Almond writes an online column, as he admits, “instead of practicing.” Nondivisi offers his thoughts, hopes and expectations for the present and future of classical music and other topics. More information about Frankly Music, A Violin’s Life and the Lipiński Stradivarius is available at frankalmond.com.
PAUL LARAIA - VIOLIST
Boston Conservatory at the Berklee School of Music
1st Prize winner of the 13th Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, 1st Prize winner of the 14th National Sphinx Competition, and Gold Medalist with High Distinction at the 5th Manhattan International Music Competition, violist Paul Laraia has established an international career performing as soloist and chamber musician. Acclaimed by the Strad for his "eloquent” and "vibrant" playing, Paul has been soloist with major orchestras such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Filharmonica de Bogata, New Jersey Symphony, Nashville Symphony, New Haven Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sphinx Virtuosi, and has been featured soloist at London's Wigmore Hall, the Shalin Lui Performance Center in Rockport MA, the 40th International Viola Congress, the Kennedy Center in DC, and in various venues across NYC, Philadelphia, and Boston. Paul has given hundreds of performances globally in venues such as Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, the Kennedy Center in DC, Detroit's historic Symphony Hall, Seoul Arts Center, Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, Auditorio Leon de Greiff in Colombia, and at New York's Lincoln Center. Additionally, he has been an invited artist at major festivals such as the Yellow Barn, Sarasota, Vail International, Festival Del Sole, incheon music hic et nunc!, Hong Kong Generation Next Arts, Macau International, Sitka, Banff, Grand Canyon, and Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest, where he is artist in residence for the 2022-2024 seasons. The 2022-2023 season also features Paul’s string quartet, Catalyst Quartet, as artists in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where they curated a series of inspired collaborations and performances throughout the year. Paul has performed and collaborated with some of the greatest artists of our times such as Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell, Anthony Mcgill, Yo-Yo Ma, Jorg Widmann, Vadim Repin, Edgar Meyer, Donald Weilerstein, Khatia Buniatishvili, Kim Kashkashian, Anthony Marwood, Zlatomir Fung, Paul Huang, JP Jofre, and incredible artists of other genres such as Herman Cornejo, Cecile Mclorin Salvant, Aaron Diehl, Machine Dazzle, Caleb Teicher, and Calvin Royal. An avid new music proponent, Paul has worked directly with many of the leading voices in composition such as Jessie Montgomery (played together in Catalyst Quartet), David Ludwig Serkin, Gabriella Lena Frank, Richard Danielpour, Jimmy Lopez, Todd Machover, and maintains an especially close artistic partnership with Taiwanese composer Shiuan Chang, with whom he is crafting a new work as a requiem for peace in our troubled times. Paul comes from a Philadelphian viola lineage, beginning studies with Brynina Socolofsky (student of Leonard Mogill), and then continuing with Choon-jin Chang (Principal, Philadelphia Orchestra) and Che-hung Chen, through Temple University’s Center for Talented Youth and the Settlement Music School. In 2007, Paul entered the New England Conservatory of Music with full merit scholarship and began the most central stage of his training under Kim Kashkashian for 4 years, making musical friends and colleagues that continue to influence him to this day. Other major musical influences from his time at NEC include Dimitri Murath, Roger Tapping, Donald Weilerstein, Paul Katz, and after NEC, Steven Dann at the Glenn Gould School. Paul believes that it is crucial to expose the highest level of classical music to all people, and actively engages in community performances, gives masterclasses, performs new music, and explores the boundaries of how classical music is traditionally presented. Paul has brought music to inner city schools, Native American Reservations, hospitals, nursing homes, and has presented concerts to areas and communities with limited access to live concert music. As of 2023 Paul has joined the faculty of the Boston Conservatory at the Berklee School of Music in order to pass on his belief in music’s power to heal and to connect people. Paul is also a recipient of the Sphinx Organization's 2019 MPower artist-grant for his innovative work in self produced/engineered recording projects. Paul’s musical work, as well as his musical writings have been featured in the NYtimes, Strad Magazine, on NPR, and WQXR multiple times. Paul performs on a beautiful Hiroshi Iizuka viola in the ‘viola d’amore’ style, a prized Belgian bow by Pierre Guillaume awarded by the Bishops Strings shop in London, and is a proud supporter of Pirastro’s Eva Pirazzi Strings.
BRANDON VAMOS - CELLIST
Brandon Vamos, a Grammy-award winning cellist, has performed solo and chamber music recitals both in the U.S. and abroad to critical acclaim. Called a "first-rate cellist" by the Chicago Reader and praised for his "gutsy bravura" by the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Vamos has appeared as soloist with orchestras worldwide, including performances with the Taipei City Symphony, the Suwon Symphony in Seoul, the Samara Symphony in Russia, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Vamos has collaborated with many distinguished artists, including Paul Katz, Michael Tree, Yo-Yo Ma, Menahem Pressler, and the Emerson Quartet, and has recorded for Cedille, Naxos, and Cacophony Records. Awarded a Performer’s Certificate at the Eastman School of Music, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Music Degree as a student of Mr. Katz, Mr. Vamos has also studied with distinguished artists such as Tanya Carey in Macomb, Illinois, and Aldo Parisot at Yale University, where he earned a Master of Music Degree. As a member of the Pacifica Quartet, with whom he performs over 90 concerts a year, he won a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance and the Cleveland Quartet Award, in addition to being named Musical America’s 2009 Ensemble of the Year.