Stephen Balderston was Assistant Principal Cello with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for ten years after ten years with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He performed as soloist with both orchestras and was an artist-in-residence at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Balderston began his studies on the cello with Gabor Rejto in his native southern California, and earned both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Lynn Harrell. Known internationally as a soloist, chamber musician and coach, Balderston regularly participates in clinics, chamber music concerts and festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad. In recent years, Balderston has performed solo works and chamber music with Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Christoph Eschenbach, Lynn Harrell, Yo-Yo Ma, Menahem Pressler, Gil Shaham, Joseph Silverstein and Pinchas Zukerman. He debuted as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2000. Since 2002, he has been a teacher, coach and soloist at a number of prestigious summer venues, including the Marrowstone Music Festival, the International Festival – Institute at Round Top, the Midwest Young Artists Festival, the ARIA International Festival and the Northwestern University High School Institute.
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Walter Gray is in his 28th season as a member of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and has been featured several times as a soloist, most recently in the world premier of a new concerto by David Kechley. "Gray played with his usual intensity and flair...the cello's lyrical possibilites are realized."(The Seattle Times) Mr. Gray attended the Curtis Institute of Music and was a founding member of the Kronos Quartet. He has been on the faculty of Western Washington University, Cornish College of the Arts and in 1998-99 he spent a highly successful year as a member of the Artist Faculty at the University of North Texas.
Mr. Gray has recorded for Delos, CRI, New Albion, Klavier and Mode. He has also served as Recording Producer for the London Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, and the New Performance Group. As a founding member of the new music ensemble Quake, Mr. Gray produced and performed on the CD Seven Mirrors, music of Chinary Ung, on New World Records. Quake was featured last spring in a performance at the Zagreb Biennale, Zagreb, Croatia. During the summer Mr. Gray has performed at the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival. He has been Principal Cello with the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra for 22 years and recently premiered Voice of the Wood, a concerto for cello quartet and orchestra by Russell Peck. He has also participated in the Marrowstone, Waterloo, Mostly Mozart, Mt. Gretna, Olympic, Cabrillo, and Tidewater Music Festivals.
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John Friesen is known for his exciting and passionate performances. He has appeared in New York, Washington, D.C., Moscow, Montreal and Tokyo. His solo recordings have received critical acclaim for their beauty of tone and depth of expression. Of his playing, the Seattle Times wrote, “Friesen has the technique to negotiate Bach’s demands with relative ease, he plays with obvious enjoyment and commitment, letting Bach speak through his strings.”
John has won prizes at the Montreal Symphony Competition and the Eckhardt-Grammatte National Music Competition. He is a recipient of Canada Council Awards and the Lincoln Center Fund Awards and has been heard on CBC national radio and television, CTV national television, WNYC Radio, New York and BBC Radio (UK).
Aside from the world of classical music, John has collaborated with musicians in popular and commercial music. This includes performing solo cello on several kd lang albums, notably, the Grammy award-winning album, “Ingenue.” Music from John’s album, “Sotto Voce,” appeared in Oscar award winning actor, Ben Kingsley’s movie, “Fifty Dead Men Walking.” He also performed the solo cello parts in Amy Grant’s movie, “A Song from the Heart,” a film about a blind cello professor. John has experimented with improvisation where he as appeared in the electronic music genre with Corey Fuller on the New York based 12K label as well as Dragon’s Eye Recordings.
After earning a bachelors degree at the University of British Columbia with Eric Wilson he obtained a masters degree at the Juilliard School in New York under Harvey Shapiro and Channing Robbins. He went on to complete a doctorate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles with Lynn Harrell. Besides performing, John is active as a teacher, clinician and adjudicator. He is currently a Visiting Associate Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia as well as Associate Professor of Music at Western Washington University.