February 14, 2011
The young Mondo Trio is looking at the world From the Top lately. Some 18 months ago, violinist Matthew Chow (14 years old) from Los Altos, cellist Ila Shon (13) from Portola Valley, and pianist Hanson Tam (13) from Hillsborough formed their trio in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Prep Division, with coach Doris Fukawa and Machiko Kobialka. Their taping of the prestigious national radio show From the Top, before a full house at the Napa Valley Opera house in late January, was a highlight for the group. Says Shon: “Typically, when you imagine recording for radio, you think of being alone in a studio in front of a microphone. But with a live audience, I felt that with every phrase we were actively interacting with the listeners. I also loved that we were given the chance to share our ideas about the piece.”
And as if that weren’t enough, in early January, the Mondo Trio won the semifinal round of the Mondavi Center’s sixth annual Young Artists Competition in the ensemble category. On the campus of UC Davis, the competition offers cash scholarships and performance opportunities for pianists, instrumentalists, chamber ensembles, and vocalists in grades 4–12, attracting a high level of talent each year. The trio will compete in the finals on March 26, and winners will be presented in a showcase on March 27, at 2 p.m., at the Center. But for Shon and her partners it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game: together. “I think that the best part of chamber music is building communication skills,” she reports. “In the first few weeks we played together, we didn’t talk very much and it was a bit awkward, but we soon realized that sharing our musical thoughts and ideas is essential in getting better as a group. What I enjoy most is the teamwork that goes into every note we play.”
As reported previously by SFCV, the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation (MDMEF) is doing its part to interest youngsters in taking up musical study. Over 1,300 fifth graders in the district will enjoy a trip to the concert hall on Feb. 22 and 23 to hear performers from the California Symphony. They will be treated to a demonstration from the brass section, as well as from a clarinetist and a percussionist.
Educators hope to entice the kids to join the middle school instrumental programs, in the wake of the elimination of instrumental music programs in the elementary schools. Unfortunately, the district faces even more severe cuts for next year, with school closures being debated by the school board today. MDMEF and others are working to promote and support musical study in the district. You can donate to this worthy cause on its Web site.
The beloved technical theater and musical theater director at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, Dan Kryston, died of complications from pneumonia on Feb. 9. The theater and education communities are still reeling from the passing of this gentle giant, who directed the school’s musical theater productions and was in the process of formalizing a new Musical Theater Department at SOTA beginning next fall. Kryston attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco and went on to study theater at Regis University in Denver and at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
His devotion to his students and theater was unsurpassed. He often led efforts to provide sets and technical assistance to various community theater groups, as well. Kryston was directing a production of Stephen Flaherty’s Ragtime at the time of his death. The show will be presented, in an abbreviated form, in late February/early March. Check the SOTA Web site for details.