Skip to main content
Press Release

Cal Poly Symphony to Feature Madrone String Quartet on Dec. 4

Contact: Michele Abba

805-756-2406; [email protected]

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly Symphony will begin its concert season with the Madrone String Quartet at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, in the Performing Arts Center’s Christopher Cohan Center.

The Madrone String Quartet will join the symphony for a collaborative season opener that features side-by-side performances, captivating chamber music and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”

four portraits of the individual muscians
Madrone-String-Quartet — Clockwise from left are Emily Lanzone, Valerie Berg-Johansen, Laura Gaynon and Mike Whitson.

The concert will begin with a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” for double string orchestra and solo string quartet. This antiphonal work will feature the strings of the symphony, separated into two groups, and the Madrone String Quartet. The guest artists will then perform Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80.

After intermission, the concert will conclude with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World,” which he wrote during his stay in New York City as director of the National Conservatory of Music. Known for incorporating folk songs and dances of his native Bohemia, Dvořák was eager to encourage American composers to find their own voice. Symphony No. 9 reflects his exploration of African American spirituals and Native American and American folk music he encountered during his stay. It is, as he put it, his “impressions and greetings from the New World.”

Three of the Madrone String Quartet’s members — Emily Lanzone, violin; Mike Whitson, viola; and Laura Gaynon, cello — serve as applied faculty members in the Music Department. With guest artist Valerie Berg-Johansen, violin, all four musicians bring rich experience in performance and education to this collaboration, which is part of their residency. In addition to performing, the musicians will coach students of the symphony in orchestral and chamber music.

While serving as a graduate teaching fellow with Eugene Symphony and the University of Oregon, Berg-Johansen earned her doctorate in violin performance and violin and viola pedagogy. She teaches at her private studio in San Luis Obispo, performs often with local symphonies and serves on the board of Redfish Music Festival.

Lanzone is concertmaster of the San Luis Obispo Symphony and a member of the Santa Cruz Symphony, Santa Maria Philharmonic and Oregon Coast Music Festival. She is a past member of the Eugene Symphony, San Francisco Conservatory Baroque Ensemble and Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.

Whitson has shared the stage with Itzakh Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder and many others. As a regular studio musician, he has performed on numerous movie scores, such as “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Despicable Me” and “The Lego Movie.” He also performs with numerous ensembles, including the Los Angeles Opera. 

Gaynon has performed on both modern and baroque cello in concert halls across Canada, China, Europe and the U.S. She has performed with the American Bach Soloists, the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra and San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, as well as with major artists. She has performed at numerous festivals, including the Toronto Summer Music Festival and St. Lawrence String Quartet Seminar.

Tickets to the event are $15 and $20 for the public and $10 for students. Event parking is sponsored by the PAC. Tickets are available at the Cal Poly Ticket Office between noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To order by phone, call 805-SLO-4TIX (805-756-4849).

The event is sponsored by Cal Poly’s Music Department, College of Liberal Arts and Instructionally Related Activities program.

 For more information, visit the Music Department’s calendar website, email [email protected] or call 805-756-2406.