The Musicians Play On…Sayumi Harb

Meet Sayumi Harb, one of our first violinists.

I play in the first violin section.  My instrument is a 2010 desk copy of a 1741 Guarneri del Gesu.  It was made by the Italian American luthier Andrius Faruolo and his brother, Alarik Faruolo. I started playing when I was 8 in the strings program at my public school in Huntsville, Alabama. I started playing in the CVSO in September of 2017.

I’ve spent much of this time at home finishing up my term as the Principal of the Japanese Language School of Greater Hartford, and now preparing to enter graduate school in violin performance at the Hartt School of Music.  I am also home-schooling two kids and learning how to garden and preserve food.  This year, in addition to the usual herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, Korean perilla and shiso, I am also growing borage, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, sunflowers, red amaranth spinach, molokhia, kale, collards and cabbage.  Lots of nutritious veggies to keep everyone healthy!  Finally, I have been learning how to play classical Arabic music on the violin and on the oud to diversify my musical skills (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA5VdzRHh-U).  It is a challenge at this age to learn all the microtonal modes, rhythmic patterns and how they fit together, not to mention learning how to improvise!  But it is well worth the effort.  

I’ve been enjoying listening to “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman (actually the whole eponymous album from 1988 seems oddly prescient and relevant for today).  Sarband Ensemble’s collaboration with singer Fadia el Hage, especially their interpretation of “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” from Bach’s St. Mathias Passion was a revelation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUj3LEiMEKE).  Also on my playlist: “Mumtastic” (Album) by Tareq Abboushi and Shusmo, Lhasa de Sela’s “La Llorona,” Johanna Martzy’s recordings of the Brahms Violin Concerto, and everything Vijay Iyer has released so far.  I recently learned that Vijay Iyer studied violin while at Yale with my current teacher, Dr. Stephan Tieszen.  Iyer recently composed a violin piece, Bridgetower Fantasy, inspired by the Afro-European virtuoso who debuted Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (Beethoven had dedicated the piece initially to Bridgetower, but then a rift developed in their friendship…so perhaps the Sonata should be called the “Bridgetower” Sonata, since Rodolphe Kreutzer never even played it!).

My favorite piece during COVID 19 to lift my spirits is: Paganini Caprice No. 24.  

During this COVID 19 period I have been practicing/playing Partita No. 2 in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach on a baroque bow, classical Arabic violin versions of songs such as “Saalouni Nas” by Ziad Rahbani, Paganini Caprices, Sarasate’s Ziguenerweisen, and Prokofiev Concerto No. 2.  I also attended violinist Katie Lansdale’s Bach Promisek workshops via Zoom, and learned how to do Baroque dance moves such as balancé and pas de bourrée – very useful when interpreting baroque music!  

Two techniques I’ve been working on: tenths and left-hand pizzicato.  When I went back to playing violin after a hiatus of 15 years or so, I had to re-engineer my whole left-hand technique so as to avoid hand-pain and injury – this took over 2 years!  The positive upside is that now I can play repertoire and techniques that I could never quite master before.  

I have included a recent photo and video from a socially distanced Father’s Day/ World Make Music Day/ Summer Solstice concert we held.  We live at a traffic light intersection that can get busy/stressful even during COVID times, so we wanted to play short pieces for our neighbors and for folks driving by.  We hope to repeat this kind of driveway/traffic light concert in the future, perhaps during weekday rush hour when the weather is a bit cooler.

The Musicians Play On…Sam Descoteaux

Meet Sam Descoteaux, a member of our low brass section.

I play the Bass Trombone. I started playing when I was 15 years old in a CYO church band located in Wakefield, MA. I started playing in the CVSO in 2014.

I’ve spent much of this time at home cycling, kayaking, and doing small engine repairs. I’ve been enjoying listening to Shostakovich and Stravinsky works.

My favorite piece during COVID-19 to lift my spirits is the Shostakovich Violin Concerto #1 in A minor. During this period I have been practicing Ewazen’s Triple Concerto for Three Trombones and Debussy’s Trois Chansons for Four Trombones.

The Musicians Play On…Stephanie Buggie

Meet Stephanie Buggie, the orchestra’s newest member!

I play bassoon in the orchestra as well as a few other instruments outside the orchestra, such as flute and guitar.

I started playing bassoon when I was 9 at Park Avenue Elementary School in Danbury, CT, because no one else was playing it. The bassoon was larger than the oboe, which was the other instrument that no one else was playing, so I decided to go for the larger one. We had to look them both up in our dictionary, way before Google existed!! In-between then and now, I had one large hiatus of 17 years which ended about 6 years ago.

I started playing in the CVSO one month prior to the COVID lock-down!!

I’ve spent much of my free time at home praying, meditating, contemplating questions of existence & the purpose of living, prioritizing life activities, eating, sleeping, walking the dog & cooking for my family when I haven’t been trying to reach students as a part of my role as an ESL teacher at Eli Whitney Tech High School in Hamden. Most recently, bike-riding and at last, swimming at LA Fitness!!

I’ve been enjoying listening to Ottmar Liebert, the guitarist, in my car.

My favorite piece during COVID 19 to lift my spirits is anything composed by the enlightened master, Bach.

During this COVID 19 period, I have been practicing my new upright Kawai piano that I purchased at ReStore in Wallingford a few weeks ago. I love the Classical literature, such as Clementi and Kuhlau.

One technique I’ve been working on is expressiveness within my phrasing, which is very challenging on a keyboard, because you’re just pressing down keys, so the expressiveness is found when you vary the dynamics within the melody, or “in-between the notes,” if that’s possible. 

The Musicians Play On…Erika Compton

I began to study the cello in elementary school in the Newington (CT) public school music program. When I was a junior in high school, my family moved to Pittsburgh. There I became a student of the principal cellist of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Michael Grebanier. Shortly after that I became principal cell of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony. 

I gained my conservatory training at the Cleveland Institute of Music. There I studied the solo repertoire with Alan Harris, a distinguished professor of cello. I studied the orchestral repertoire with the principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Stephen Geber. During the summer months I participated in the Aspen Music Festival and worked as a free-lance cellist in Cleveland.

In 1982 I won the position of principal cello of the Charleston (SC) Symphony Orchestra. During my years in Charleston, I performed as soloist with both the Charleston and Florence Symphonies, and I co-founded the Charleston Symphony String Quartet, which hosted its own concert series at the College of Charleston. I also performed regularly as assistant principal cellist with the Savanah Symphony, and for two seasons I performed as a principal cellist in the Spoleto Festival, and as a section cellist in the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.

In addition to enjoying teaching private lessons at home, I taught cello at The College of Charleston, and I was on the faculty of Symphony School of America. My love of teaching has never left me, and I would like to begin offering private lessons to aspiring  cellists.

I am delighted to have joined the CVSO in 2015, and I am truly looking forward to making music again, and in person, with the members of the CVSO.

I have been lucky enough to have a job that was not affected the Covid-19 pandemic, so I have never left the workplace. I have been spending a lot of time practicing and was motivated to learn all of the movements of the Bach Six Suites that I not learned in school…so far I’ve checked only three off of my list, but it’s a long summer! The piece I have enjoyed most during the shut-down is the piece that inspired me to tackle the balance of the Cello Suites – the Prelude to the Third Bach Cello Suite. I hope you enjoy listening to it here.

The Musicians Play On…Leah Nollenberger

Leah Nollenberger plays in the first violin section and is the orchestra’s secretary.

I play the violin. I started playing in third grade when I was 8 as part of my elementary school’s music program. I started playing with the CVSO in April 2016 when I moved to the Hartford area.

I’ve spent much of this time at home working. My office closed in mid-March and is only just starting to re-open now, in mid-June. I’ve been doing lots of walking and hiking with my dog while I’ve been home, and she will be very disappointed when I’m back in the office full time!

I always have music on at home. My music tastes are varied, from alternative rock to musical soundtracks to classical. I love listening to podcasts when I’m out for a walk. Vitamin String Quartet is another favorite.

I have finally started practicing my violin again. I’m going back to basics, and also plan on revisiting some pieces I’ve played in the past like Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole and the Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. I’m trying to keep my fingers and brain ready to get back to playing with the CVSO!