Music Active Strings Instructors
Westmont Strings Instructors
An internationally recognized double bass soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist, Nico Abondolo was appointed principal double bass of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the 2011-12 season. He made his debut at age 14 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in 1983 became the first double bassist to win first place in the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva, Switzerland. He has since appeared with orchestras and in recital throughout the United States and Europe.
Mr. Abondolo regularly performs chamber music at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest and the Ojai and St. Barts festivals, and with the experimental chamber ensemble Concert Nova. Recent highlights include performances of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Schubert’s Trout Quintet with the Brentano String Quartet, John Adams’ Shaker Loops, and Tan Dun’s Quintet, the latter two with the composers conducting. He has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has toured with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Claudio Abbado, Sir Georg Solti, and Lorin Maazel.
Mr. Abondolo has premiered solo works by Sofia Gubaidulina and Henry Brant, and has received composition commissions from Concert Nova and Chamber Music Unbound. He was the double bassist for the New York-based ensemble Continuum and for eight seasons served as principal bass for San Francisco’s Grammy-nominated New Century Chamber Orchestra. He has composed for several New York and West Coast dance companies, performing with them at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Merce Cunningham Studio, and the La MaMa Experimental Theatre (New York). He was the composer for two PBS documentaries, “Half the Sky”, and “A Path Appears”. He has also served as principal bass for many motion picture composers, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, and Thomas Newman.
Maintaining a busy schedule of masterclasses at music schools throughout the country, Mr. Abondolo is currently on the faculty of Westmont College, and previously was a faculty member at the USC Thornton School of Music and UC Santa Barbara. He studied with Dennis Trembly, Peter Mercurio, and Gábor Rejt at USC; David Walter and Albert Fuller at Juilliard; and Franco Petracchi in Italy.
A native of Los Angeles, Christopher Ahn has appeared in solo and chamber music performances across the U.S. as well as abroad in Europe, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, Canada and Central America. Recent performances include solo recitals at the Brand Library and Art Center, UCLA, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and Santa Monica College. He has also performed chamber music on the Dilijan, L’Ermitage Foundation, Music Guild, Trinity Lutheran, and Chapman University concert series, and has performed numerous times for live radio broadcasts on the Sundays Live recital series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Chris has enjoyed frequent collaboration with the Lineage Dance Company, most recently presenting a performance of the Bach Cello Suites with dance choreography on the Brand Library and Art Center Dance Performance series. He has also worked closely with several Los Angeles based composers, premiering new works for solo cello and chamber ensemble on new music series throughout the Los Angeles area.
Chris has been invited to summer programs at the Aspen Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Banff Centre Masterclasses, Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, and the Rencontres Musicales Camerata Lysy in Montepulciano, Italy. He has collaborated with members of the St. Lawrence, Ysaye, and Amar string quartets, and has performed in masterclasses for such distinguished musicians as Anner Bylsma, Ralph Kirshbaum, Lynn Harrell, Rohan de Saram, Paul Katz, Raphael Wallfisch, Matt Haimovitz, Ani Kavafian, Ida Kavafian, and members of the Takacs, Cleveland and Borodin string quartets. Chris pursued his studies at UCLA, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Michigan, where his principal teachers included Antonio Lysy, Richard Aaron, Stephen Geber, and Colin Carr. He resides in Los Angeles, where he maintains an active and varied freelance career playing with orchestras, chamber ensembles, and recording for film and television. He was appointed Principal Cello of Opera Santa Barbara in 2018, and he currently serves as a member of the string faculty at Westmont College.
Jim Connolly, string bass instructor, is a composer and performer living in Santa Barbara, California. He writes music for The Gove County Philharmonic, The Gove County String Quartet and Lit Moon Theatre. He has composed for choir, musical saw, five string violin, string quartet and various chamber ensembles. He plays the double bass, saw, banjo, piano and sings. He attended New England Conservatory. Jim has received nine Independent Theater Awards, numerous commissions, grants, ASCAP Plus Awards and in 2001 was listed as one of the twenty-five most intriguing people in Santa Barbara. He has collaborated or performed with Nate Birkey, Gilles Apap, Jeff Kaiser, Brad Dutz, Headless Household, Jeff Bridges, Vinny Golia, Eugene Chadbourne, Cougar Estrada, Anna Abbey and his brother Kevin Connolly.
Marcia Dickstein, renowned harpist, is enticing new audiences to harp in chamber music and harp solo with orchestra, and inspiring composers to write new works in classical and jazz genres. As founder/artistic director of the Debussy Trio, she has performed worldwide in the United States, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan, over NPR radio and on commercial and PBS television.
Adjunct professor of harp at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Marcia holds master classes throughout the United States and maintains a private studio in Los Angeles. Her transcriptions and scholarly editions of solo and chamber music for professional and student harpists are published by Fatrock Ink.
Marcia has been featured as solo and chamber music harpist at festivals, in film and television, and as a recording artist. Her most recent recordings are “Look Ahead” and “Three by Three” (Klavier label), which feature 10 new works especially written for the Debussy Trio (Klavier label) and “Chill Dog” (Pupsnap Music).
Barry Newton, a Los Angeles native, studied at the University of Portland and received his B.F.A./ M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. He has studied extensively with notable bassists including Tommy Thompson, Fred Tinsley, and Peter Rofe. His orchestral credits include Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic. Barry has worked with such eminent conductors as Leonard Bernstein, John Mauceri, John Williams, and Boris Brott. He has accompanied Yes, Chicago, Moody Blues, The Scorpions, Elton John, Brian Wilson, The Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli, among others. Barry’s dedication to contemporary performance practice has included regular premieres of new works in the Southern California area. His jazz experiences have lead him to performances with Peter Erskine, Anthony Braxton, Buddy Childers and the Dave Pell Octet. As a practicing composer and improvisor, Barry often works with various Rock/Pop projects on the west coast. His current group ‘Kiss the Frog’ is an assortment of pop, electronica, and experimental improvisation. Dedicated to music education, he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Westmont College, Pepperdine University, Ventura College, Schwab Academy of Music, and Kadima Conservatory. Barry has been the recipient of scholarship awards by the Ahmanson Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust Foundation. He currently lives with his child Hannah in Topanga, California.
Wesley Park is a concert classical guitarist and educator from the Los Angeles area. Because of his colorful playing and enjoyable programs, he has played professional concerts internationally in countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, and Austria. Wesley is a protégé of the American classical guitar virtuoso Christopher Parkening who claimed that “Wesley makes beautiful music on the guitar, using tonal colors and contrasts, and utilizes the entire range of the guitar to bring out the intrinsic beauty of the instrument.” Wesley’s goal with the guitar is to carry on the legacy of the great Spanish guitarist, Andrés Segovia, and Christopher Parkening.
Wesley is in the Park Brothers guitar duo with his brother Alex, and is signed under the artist management label, Jean Schreiber Management. Together, they perform many concerts and events throughout the world. One these includes performing a tribute concert honoring the great Spanish guitarist, Andrés Segovia, alongside the Grammy® Award winning artists, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and Andrew York in 2019. They are also the recipient of the USC Thornton Ensemble Award for making a significant contribution to upholding the long tradition of guitar ensemble excellence.
Wesley is currently teaching the guitar at both Westmont College and Pepperdine University as an Adjunct Professor of Music. On top of his work at these universities, he has a private studio of dedicated students. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California studying under Scott Tennant, and he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine University studying under Christopher Parkening. He has also studied privately with the Spanish Guitar Virtuoso, Angel Romero. When not engaged in musical activities, Wesley also enjoys surfing, trying out new restaurants, and participating in the devotional activities at his church, Citizens LA.
Emily Sommermann, violinist, received her Master of Music Degree in violin performance from SUNY Stony Brook under the tutelage of Isidore Cohen of the Beaux Arts Trio. She has been a member of orchestras in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and Germany. In Santa Barbara she has performed as section violinist with the SB Symphony and SB Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Sommermann is the musical director and principal violinist with the Santa Barbara String Quartet performing frequently for private events. Pursuing excellence as a teacher, Emily has received training through the Suzuki Association of the Americas and attended conferences in Orff and Kodaly. She has been on the faculty of Laguna Blanca School, SB Music and Arts Conservatory, and Westmont College. Ms. Sommermann maintains her private violin studio at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara mentoring the next generation of musicians in the art of violin playing.
Steve Zander is in frequent demand as a studio musician, orchestral violinist, and chamber music collaborator. Based in Malibu, CA, Steve is a member of the Santa Barbara Symphony, associate concertmaster of Opera Santa Barbara, and performs in many other professional orchestras in the Los Angeles area, including the Pasadena Symphony, New West Symphony, Pacific Symphony, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In recent seasons, Steve has also appeared as a concerto soloist with the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra, and the Malibu Coast Chamber Orchestra. While still in music school, Steve was a member of the Madison Symphony and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, as well as a substitute with the Houston Symphony. An avid chamber musician, Steve has collaborated with principal members of the Boston Symphony, Houston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and with members of the Pro Arte Quartet. Steve can also be heard on many motion picture and television soundtracks, including “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Logan,” and “A Quiet Place.” Steve began his violin studies at the age of four at the Aber Suzuki Center in Stevens Point, WI. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin‐ Madison, as well as a Master of Music from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. His principal teachers were Patricia D’Ercole, Vartan Manoogian, and Sergiu Luca.