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Phoenix Quartet

The Phoenix String Quartet is looking forward to working with chamber groups at Peaks to Plains' Advanced Chamber Camp this July. Members of the quartet have known one another for years, but for this camp they will gather from all over the United States. Violinist Gabriel Bolkosky lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he teaches children of all ages and heads a nonprofit arts organization, The Phoenix Ensemble, that holds two chamber music workshops each summer. He will be joined by Steffani, Akemi and Laura..


Akemi Takayama Headshot Akemi Takayama, Violin, VA
      Praised by Isaac Stern as a “true musician,” violinist Akemi Takayama is known worldwide for her musical artistry and passion, as well as for the extensive range and versatility of her repertoire. Currently concertmaster of both the Roanoke Symphony and the Williamsburg Symphonia, Takayama is an Associate Professor at Shenandoah Conservatory, holding the Victor Brown Endowed Chair in Violin.
      Beginning her performing career at age 15 in her native Japan, Akemi Takayama studied with Toshiya Eto and Ryosaku Kubota at the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance. She was then awarded a Professional Studies degree at the University of Wyoming, studying under Brian Hanly, and became a teaching assistant to Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she earned both an Artist Diploma and the degree of Master of Music.
      Takayama was invited to participate in the Marlboro Music Festival in 1997, and was a member of the internationally celebrated Audubon Quartet for 14 years. Recent collaborations include the New Orchestra of Washington, as well as duo recitals with pianists Silvan Negrutiu and John O'Conor.
      An inspiring educator and arts advocate throughout Virginia and beyond, Takayama has served as the chair of the College Advisory Committee for the Virginia String Teachers Association. In addition to joining the faculty of the Shenandoah Conservatory in 2007, she has also served on the faculties of the Chautauqua Institute (New York), the Idyllwild School for the Arts (California), the Brevard Music Center (North Carolina), Virginia Tech, and Shenandoah Performs (Virginia). In 2012, while continuing on the faculty of the Shenandoah Conservatory, Takayama accepted an invitation to teach at the Oberlin Conservatory (Ohio) in the fall semester.
      Akemi Takayama has taught countless violinists who now have successful careers performing chamber music, teaching, and playing in orchestras. Her CD most recent is available under the Centaur Records label.



Steffani Kitayama Headshot Steffani Kitayama-Bolkosky, Violin, MI
      Violinist, Steffani Kitayama has performed and taught throughout the country. She holds performance degrees from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory Music and Northwestern University studying with Won-Bin Yim and Blair Milton.
      As a performer, she has been a part of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, National Repertory Orchestra, Orchestra Iowa, and the Aspen Music Festival. While playing with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, she was a member of the community outreach based MusiCorps Quartet and worked closely with Yo Yo Ma for two years. Currently residing in DC, she performs with Grammy nominated Inscape chamber orchestra, the New Orchestra of Washington, and various chamber collaborations throughout the States. A passionate chamber musician, she has studied with some of the greatest quartet players, notably Mathias Tacke of the Vermeer Quartet and members of the Takács, the Tokyo, and the St. Lawrence String Quartets. Recently, she has performed with Peter Salaff, members of the Cavani Quartet, and is the second violinist of the Phoenix Quartet with Gabriel Bolkosky, Andrew Duckles, and Miriam Bolkosky. The members of the Phoenix Quartet perform and teach around the country and are involved in PhoenixPhest, a chamber music festival intent on creative environment based in collaboration, self-confidence and joyful artistic expression. As a teacher, she has taught in a variety of settings from public school outreach to group classes and private lessons. She currently maintains a private studio at the Washington Conservatory of Music, coaches chamber music and teaches at institutes across the country.



Gabriel Bolkosky Headshot Gabriel Kitayama-Bolkosky, Viola, MI
      Gabriel Bolkosky has performed and taught across the United States and abroad. He performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works with different collaborative artists from many genres of music making. Gabe is the executive director of The Phoenix Ensemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a musical resource for artists and educational institutions. Gabe also founded and directs PhoenixPhest! and PhoenixPhest! Grande, two amateur chamber music festivals held each May and August, and maintains a private violin studio.
      Gabe’s performances have focused in the areas of contemporary music, jazz and tango as well as traditional classical music. In 2008 he performed in the premiere of Fredric Rzewski’s “Natural Things” for Carnegie Hall’s Making Music Series. He has also collaborated with other composers, among them Fredric Rzewski, William Bolcom, John Harbison, Thomas Ades, Bright Sheng, William Albright, Andrew Kirshner, Lars Holmer, Carter Pann, Michael Daugherty, George Tsontakis, Derek Bermel, and Bernard Rands.
      As a jazz and tango musician, Gabe has worked with great artists such as John Lindberg, Peter Soave, Tad Weed, Ed Sarath, Chris Howes, Andy Bishop, and was a founding member of The Oblivion Project. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Gabe began his violin studies at age three. His primary teachers were Michael Avsharian of Ann Arbor, Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan, and Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Gabe earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance and a master’s degree in chamber music, as well as studying improvisation at the master’s level, at the University of Michigan. At the Cleveland Institute he earned a Professional Studies degree, served a year as Weilerstein’s teaching assistant and won the school’s prestigious Darius Milhaud prize. He attended the Aspen Music Festival from 1991–98 on fellowship, first playing with the Aspen Chamber Symphony and then the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble for four years. During those four years he premiered hundreds of new works, and with his group, Non Sequitur, conducted workshops and concerts for thousands of students in the Aspen valley as well as at schools such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Brandeis and Princeton.
      Gabe has released seven CDs that show his breadth as a musician. His debut solo album, This and That, features classical and jazz music. Other albums include The Shape of Klez to Come with the klezmer group Into the Freylakh; The Orchestra Is Here to Play, a live recording teaming the Gemini children’s-music group with a full orchestra; The Oblivion Project Live, showcasing the music of Astor Piazzolla; Non Sequitur, contemporary and experimental music, including one of his own compositions; Home from Work, an eclectic mix of jazz, folk and blues in collaboration with San Slomovits, and as sideman on John Lindberg’s recording Two by Five. His most recent CD is Bonne Nuit, which includes the Debussy Sonata and other small works for violin and piano with Michele Cooker.
Gabe was guest artist at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor teaching violin and chamber music for six years. He has worked with all ages of young musicians in most of the 50 states and parts of Asia.




Laura Usiskin Headshot Laura Usiskin, Cello, AL
      Cellist Laura Usiskin has performed throughout North America and Europe in such venues as Alice Tully Hall, Palazzo Chigi Saracini (Italy), Weill Hall, Barge Music, and many others. Notable performances include the complete J.S. Bach solo suites in Los Angeles and Connecticut and concertos of Dvoràk and Takemitsu with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. With a penchant for music both old and new, she worked as a Baroque cellist through the Yale Baroque Ensemble and has also premiered dozens of works as well as commissioned works in her name. In 2011, Usiskin founded the Montgomery Music Project, an El Sistema strings program for students in Montgomery, Alabama. The program has given intensive string instruction to hundreds of low-income children across three counties. Usiskin has held orchestral positions with the New Haven Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, and currently serves as Principal Cello of Orchestra Iowa. She also performs regularly as a founding member of the New York-based Arté Trio. Usiskin resides in Birmingham, AL, where she is on faculty at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Birmingham-Southern College. Through UAB, she founder the series “Chamber Music @ AEIVA,” which presents free concerts connecting music with visual art. Usiskin graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University, Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and Doctor of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music, where she was awarded the Aldo Parisot Prize



 

 

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