Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cuyamaca College launches groundbreaking new concert series

An East County benefactor who has helped transform the San Diego chamber music landscape is underwriting a new series of concerts at Cuyamaca College’s Performing Arts Theatre featuring renowned international musicians who have impressed audiences as far away as the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.

            The concerts are part of a newly launched ECHO Chamber Music Series, with ECHO being an acronym for the East County Harmonics Organization. The series begins Feb. 17 with Bomsori Kim (violin) and Drew Petersen (piano). Kim captured the 62nd ARD International Music Competition, a prestigious classical music event in Munich, Germany; Petersen won the 2017 American Pianists Award for classical music.

            The ECHO Chamber Music Series is being underwritten by Sam Ersan, a vice chair at the San Diego Symphony’s Board of Directors who established the Sam B. Ersan Chamber Music Fund at UC San Diego and whose philanthropy includes founding two chamber music groups, the Camera Lucida piano quartet and the Myriad Trio.

              Ersan said he was looking at venues for a new chamber concert series in the East County and settled on Cuyamaca College largely because of the welcoming reception he received from college administrators.

            “It’s important to provide an opportunity for audiences in the East County to enjoy remarkable music,” Ersan said. “This will be a full-fledged series. Right now the focus will be on building the audience. As we do that, we will bring in very well-known classical musicians.”

             To encourage attendance at the Feb. 17 concert, set to begin at 2 p.m., free admission is being offered to the first 100 people to reserve a ticket by calling (619) 660-4288. General admission tickets at the door are $15 each. Student admission is $5.

             “I firmly believe that the arts are central to every community,” said Taylor Smith, Cuyamaca College’s Chair of Performing Arts. “By presenting the ECHO concerts, we are giving our neighbors an opportunity to hear musical masterpieces performed by the worlds most accomplished musicians. As such, we want as many of our neighbors as possible to join us.”

            This isn’t Ersan’s first foray at Cuyamaca College. He underwrote an Oct. 3 performance by the Camera Lucida Piano Trio, which comprises pianist Reiko Uchida, who teaches at Columbia University in New York and who has appeared as a soloist with a number of orchestras around the world; violinist Jeff Thayer, who holds the Deborah Pate and John Forrest Concertmaster Chair of the San Diego Symphony; and internationally renowned cellist Charles Curtis, a graduate of Juilliard who teaches at UC San Diego.

            “Cuyamaca College has one of the most impressive performing arts centers in the region, and we are honored that Mr. Ersan is providing the support and the funding to establish the ECHO Chamber Music Series that is bringing world-class musicians to our beautiful campus,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes. “This is a unique opportunity for chamber music aficionados to enjoy some of the best classical music being performed in San Diego County.”

            The Feb. 17 performances features a pair of the most talented young classical musicians in the world. Kim began gaining attention in 2010 as the youngest prizewinner of the 4th Sendai International Music Competition, which led to an internationally acclaimed concert debut that same year. As a soloist, Kim has appeared at numerous venues worldwide. Petersen did his undergraduate and graduate music studies at the Juilliard School, and his decorated career includes being prizewinner in the Leeds International Piano Competition, the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Competition and the New York Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. 

             The Feb. 17 concert will be followed Feb. 21 with a performance by the Szymanowski String Quartet. The quartet was founded in Warsaw in 1995 and has developed into one of the most exceptional international string quartets of its generation. Concerts set for April 9 and May 20 remain in the planning stages.