Rahim AlHaj was born in Bagdad, Iraq and began playing the oud at age nine, studying at the Institute of Music in Bagdad. He graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition and a degree in Arabic Literature. In 1991 Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism during the Saddam Hussein regime, and moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee. Rahim’s music delicately combines traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary style, compositions that evoke the experience of exile from a homeland and new beginnings in his adopted country. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the NEA Heritage Fellowship.
Debra Ayers, piano, is a founder of the Montage Music Society. She performs with the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival, Albuquerque Chamber Soloists, Breckenridge Music Festival, Chatter, New Mexico Woodwind Quintet, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Serenata of Santa Fe, Taos Chamber Music Group and Taos Trio. Debra has recently recorded premieres by Ofer Ben-Amots and Jeff Harrington and is featured in the Milken Archive.
Pamela Epple, oboist, is Serenata of Santa Fe’s Artistic Director. She studied at the Juilliard School in New York and maintained an active freelance career there as a member of the American Composer’s Orchestra, P. D. Q. Bach and the Paul Taylor Dance Company orchestra. She was a founding member of the Aspen Woodwind Quintet and the New York chamber group Tafelmusik. In New Mexico she has played Oboe and English Horn with Musica da Camera, the Santa Fe Opera, the Santa Fe Symphony, the Desert Chorale, the New Mexico Symphony, Sunday Chatter, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival Outreach Program. In the summer she is a regular Guest Faculty member at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, New Hampshire.
David Felberg is Artistic Director and co-founder of Chatter Sunday, Chatter 20-21, and Chatter Cabaret. He is concertmaster of the Santa Fe Symphony, Music Director of the Albuquerque Philharmonic, and associate concert master of the New Mexico Philharmonic and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and conducts contemporary music with Chatter. Mr. Felberg teaches at the University of New Mexico, receiving a Master of Music in Conducting from the university. He made his New York debut in 2005. He was awarded a fellowship to the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival. Mr. Felberg plays an 1829 J.B. Vuillaume violin.
Sally Guenther, cello, studied at Indiana University and the Juilliard School. After performing with several major orchestras in the United States, she was appointed solo cellist with Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra where she remained for over twenty years. She was a founding member of the internationally recognized and recorded BIT 20 Ensemble for contemporary music. Since settling in New Mexico in 2006, Ms. Guenther devotes her time to chamber music, performing widely throughout the Southwest. She is also an active teacher, maintaining a private studio.
Colleen Jennings, violin, earned her music degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Rice University. Her teachers include Sergio Luca, Marilyn McDonald and Antonio Pellegrini. As a member of the Kammerorchester Basel in Switzerland, she toured extensively throughout Europe. and recorded several CD’s that included Christopher Hogwood and Emma Kirkby. She also co-founded the chamber ensemble Ex Luce Color, an innovative group that sought to bridge early, traditional, and contemporary music. Most recently, Colleen has played with the New England Piano Quintet, Arcadia Players, the Springfield Symphony, and the Opera North orchestra. She is on the faculty at Smith College. Colleen joined the Apple Hill String Quartet in 2010.
Mike Kelley, viola, graduated from Walnut Hill, Oberlin, and the Juilliard School. His teachers include Leonard Matczynski, Jeffrey Irvine, and Karen Tuttle. A Primrose International Viola Competition finalist at age 18, Mike joined the resident ensemble of Apple Hill three years later, performing and touring internationally with the group for over 20 years. An active composer, Mike has been Teaching Fellow in Electronic Music at Juilliard, and guest lecturer at Harvard on electronic dance music. Under a pop-disco alias, he performed worldwide in clubs such as Webster Hall (NYC), the O2 (London), and Berghain (Berlin), and has written and produced music including Metro Area, Caribou, Madonna, and Pharrell. His albums have been selected for the “best of the decade” music magazine Stylus and Fact, and recommended by Entertainment Weekly, Pitchfork, and the Guardian.
Carla Kountoupes is a member of the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, UP Quartet, and Piazzolla da Camera Piano Trio. She has performed in orchestras and chamber ensembles in several countries and throughout the United States. Carla also enjoys performing and recording Latin, alt-rock, and jazz. She has taught private violin lessons and directs a thriving orchestra program in the Santa Fe Public Schools.
Elise Kuder, violin, called “first rate” by the Boston Globe, is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and The Juilliard School. Her teachers and coaches have included Marilyn McDonald, Joel Smirnoff, David Takeno, Eugene Lehner, Gilbert Kalisch, Robert Merfeld, and Lenny Matczynski. She attended the Tanglewood Music Center where she won the Kohn Award for outstanding musicianship. As a Fulbright scholar, Elise studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. Beginning her association with the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music as a student at the age of 11, Elise became first violinist of the Apple Hill String Quartet in 2000. When away from Apple Hill, Elise teaches at the Keene Community Music Center, and is determined to grow old garden roses in New Hampshire while practicing making the best pizza crust ever.
Keith Lemmons, clarinet, is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico as Associate Dean, the prestigious Presidential Teaching Fellow, and Professor of Clarinet. He combines an international reputation as a sought after soloist, teacher, adjudicator and chamber musician, performing throughout Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Italy, Sweden and Portugal. Critics acclaim his performances as “virtuosic and amazing,”and as “a consummate artist.” He continues to perform with Serenata of Santa Fe, Taos Trio and the Taos Chamber Music Group.
Ruxandra Simionescu-Marquardt attended the George Enescu Conservatory in Bucharest. She has performed as soloist in Bucharest, Syracuse, Jacksonville, and Boston among others, and has participated in chamber music festivals of Bayreuth, Eastern and the Grand Tetons. Ms. Simonescu-Marquardt is a dedicated violin teacher, coach, and clinician. In 2012, she moved to New Mexico with her husband, Paul Marquardt, a composer and pianist with whom she is a musical partner in recitals and chamber music.
Shanti Randall attended the New England Conservatory in Boston. He has performed frequently with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and on the “Sundays Live” radio broadcasts. Shanti Randall was assistant principal violist with the Ojai Chamber Music Festival, and has performed in over three hundred fifty motion picture scores (Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, The Incredibles, A Beautiful Mind.) As a member of the Hollywood Studio Orchestra, Mr. Randall worked extensively with John Williams, Randy Newman, James Horner and the late Jerry Goldsmith. Mr. Randall plays a 1790 Cuypers viola.
Laura Manko Sahin has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. She was formerly the principal violist of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, violist of the Boston Harp Trio, and a member of the Bilkent (Ankara, Turkey), Knoxville, and Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestras. She regularly performs with the New Mexico Philharmonic, Santa Fe Pro Musica, and the Hubbard Quartet. Dr. Sahin completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Music from Bilkent University, and earned her Artist Diploma and Master of Music from Boston University.
Nathan Salazar, piano, holds a Masters degree in Collaborative Piano from the University of Michigan and vocal and piano degrees from the University of Kansas. He has performed in Europe as well as the United States. Nathan has been featured at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Carnegie Hall in New York City. He was invited to participate in Marilyn Horne’s 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall. Nathan performs with Coro de Camara, Sangre de Cristo Chorale, New Mexico Performing Arts Society, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Santa Fe Opera.
Gail Springer, soprano, has performed as a singer, dancer, actress, and pianist since her first public appearances at the age of five on Albuquerque television’s Dick Bills Show. She attended Chicago’s Sherwood Music School and received her music degrees from the University of New Mexico. For many years Springer served as professor of theatre and voice at the College of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where she envisioned and developed one of the first Musical Theatre BFA undergraduate programs in the country. She has directed and music directed over 50 Greer Garson Theatre Company productions, including last season’s very still and hard to see and Heathers the Musical.
Ron Strauss, composer, composes for theatre and dance as well as for the concert hall. For a number of years he served as music director, accompanist, composer and arranger for a variety of productions in New York and San Francisco. He is a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, His most recent chamber work for soprano, three strings and oboe , “A La Luna”, was commissioned by Serenata of Santa Fe for their 2016–2017 season.
Scott Temple, french horn, began his career in Philadelphia, playing with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia and with a chamber music residency at the University of Delaware. In New York City he played with the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. In New Mexico, Scott has played with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Santa Fe Pro Musica, Canticum Novum, and Music From Angel Fire.
Rupert Thompson, cello, made his solo debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at age 18 and studied with Mihaly Virizlay and Timothy Eddy. Holding degrees from the Peabody Institute and SUNY Stony Brook, he received a career grant from the Concert Artist Guild, and the C.D. Jackson Award of Merit from Tanglewood. He became a resident artist with Apple Hill in 2000 and is currently the cellist of the Apple Hill String Quartet, touring around the world through Apple Hill’s Playing for Peace program. In addition to his active concert schedule, Rupert is also a photographer, a screen writer, and served as film composer for the award-winning movie Sensation of Sight.
Dana Winograd, cello, received her Masters degree from the Juilliard School. She led an active freelance career in New York, performing in a range of venues from Carnegie Hall to Broadway. Since moving to Santa Fe in 1999, Dana has been a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic, and is principal cellist of the Santa Fe Symphony. She performs with Chatter, the Taos Chamber Music Group, Albuquerque Chamber Soloists. She is a mentor in Santa Fe Public Schools, and coach for the Santa Fe Youth Symphony.
The Apple Hill String Quartet: Central to the mission of Apple Hill is Playing for Peace, an innovative outreach program founded in 1988 that focuses on social change and conflict resolution through music. The Apple Hill String Quartet leads chamber music workshops in areas where there is a history of conflict: the Middle East, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, the West Bank/Palestine, the Greek and Turkish areas of Cyprus; England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland; the Eurasian Caucasus, and in many cities in the United States. Playing for Peace assigns musicians to play in small ensembles alongside musicians from conflicting communities. For example, Arabs study and perform music with Israelis, Catholics with Protestants, Greeks with Turks, and African Americans with Caucasian Americans. Each ensemble is coached in the skills of chamber music – listening, watching, adjusting, being sensitive and flexible – the same skills needed to work and function effectively in today’s contentious world.