Alex Granger

Heralded as “superb” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, violinist/violist Alex Granger enjoys a wide variety of performance opportunities from solo recital appearances to studio recordings, and performances with some of Los Angeles’ most exciting ensembles. An experienced performer of music by living composers, Alex has premiered over 50 works in the past 5 years as a soloist, concertmaster, and chamber musician, working directly with some of the world’s foremost composers.

Recent festival appearances include the Breckenridge Music Festival, the Eastern Sierra Summer Festival, the Carlsbad Music Festival, and a world premiere of Lucas Floyd’s Violin Concerto at the Hot Air Festival in San Francisco. Alex is a faculty member of Porterville Strings, a founding member of the Ubuntu String Quartet, and a graduate of the Biola Conservatory of Music and USC’s Thornton School of Music where he studied with Henry Gronnier, Bing Wang, and Midori Goto.

Alex joined the Long Beach Symphony viola section in 2019 and resides in Huntington Beach with his wife, Chiai, and their sweet little dog, Ella.

Jonah Sirota

Composer and violist Jonah Sirota is a new breed of multi-talented musician. Equally at home writing concert music, scoring soundtracks for TV, film, and videogames, and performing on the concert stage and in recording sessions, Jonah creates and recreates vivid music for a wide variety of audiences.  His debut solo recording STRONG SAD, a 2018 National Sawdust Tracks release, features premiere recordings of new elegies for the viola by Nico Muhly, Paola Prestini, Arthur Joseph McCaffrey, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Robert Sirota, Kurt Knecht, and Jonah himself.  His orchestral work Grounded was recently performed by major youth orchestras in New York and Massachusetts, and his soundtrack to the Public Television documentary Return of the American Bison was nominated for a 2019 Heartland Emmy Award.

Jonah was the violist of the recently-disbanded Chiara String Quartet for all of its 18 years. With the Chiara Quartet, he toured internationally, recorded seven albums and played in numerous major venues worldwide. The Chiara Quartet performed much of the string quartet repertoire from memory (‘By Heart”), including the complete string quartets of Béla Bartók, a recording of which was released in 2016 on Azica Records. The group was honored with a Grammy nomination (2011, Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Jefferson Friedman’s 3rd String Quartet on the New Amsterdam label), the ASCAP/CMA Adventurous Programming Award, the Guarneri Quartet Award, top prizes at the Paolo Borciani Competition and the Astral Artistic Services Audition, and a Gold Medal at the Fischoff Competition. Their albums have been featured on N.P.R., and in “Best of the Year” lists from the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. In the 2015-2016 season, the group was in residence at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a venue to which the group returned for their farewell New York concert in May of 2018. As a concert violist, Jonah performs with pianist Molly Morkoski, with organist Kurt Knecht as the improv duo Mondegreen, and as a member of the revived California String Quartet.  He is sought after as a Hollywood session player and regularly plays with major orchestras, including the Long Beach Symphony, where he serves as Assistant Principal viola.

Jonah is also known as a pedagogue. He coaches chamber music at the Colburn School, and gives viola and composition masterclasses and residencies across the country. His “practice self-audit” has been used by many viola students to facilitate the self-evolution their own improvement and creativity in the practice room, while his Practice Tune-Up for professional and adult amateur violists has given many the chance to reconnect with their own inner passion on the instrument. Mr. Sirota has taught at the Juilliard School, at Harvard University, and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music (where he helped build a world-class chamber music program), as well as at Greenwood Music Camp. He resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Photo credit: Walker Pickering

Alexander Knecht

Alexander Knecht, violinist, and violist, born in 1991, is a Juilliard graduate with a passion for virtuosic arrangements of music across genres both old and new. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California under full scholarship, where he studies with Bing Wang and Brian Chen. He holds a master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Masao Kawasaki. Last year, he was awarded a Career Grant upon graduation from Juilliard for his work with original viola transcriptions including Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy. He is a proud alumnus of La Sierra University, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and violin in 2013, studying with Jason Uyeyama. During recent summers, he has been a fellow at the Astoria Music Festival, Montecito International Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West, and the Aspen Music Festival, and has played in masterclasses for Paul Kantor, Paul Coletti, and Donald McInnes. He was a member of the piano quintet Quintessential, winner of the 2013 JCM-USC Chamber Music Competition, and winner as soloist of the 2013 Redlands Bowl Young Artists auditions and La Sierra University Concerto Competition. Apart from school and concert performance, he has volunteered as a musician at the Jerry Pettis Memorial VA Hospital and LLU Medical Center in Loma Linda, and has been a mentor teaching strings in the CKC-Music community engagement program in San Bernardino, CA since its founding in 2008. Outside of music, he has recently worked as a mathematics instructor at La Sierra University. He maintains a busy private music teaching schedule and is also active as a private academic tutor.

Recent performances in Los Angeles include concerts with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra where he is principal second violinist, and performances with the new, conductorless Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra. Recent concert appearances in New York City include performances with Juilliard alumni at the Center for Jewish History, the Apollo Music Café, and Subculture. Throughout his time at Juilliard, he was a member of the Church of the Advent Hope in Manhattan, where he served as a musician as well as organizer and performer in their Carnegie Hill Concert Series. He was invited to participate as a finalist in the second George Gershwin International Music Competition, in addition to the 2015 Hudson Valley Philharmonic Concerto Competition. He has also been featured as a chamber musician in the Focus! contemporary music festival in 2015 and 2014, and among other pieces, participated in the U.S. premiere of Akiko Yamane’s Plastic Babys for violin, viola, and cello. He is a devoted advocate of new virtuosic arrangements both for solo instrument and piano and for chamber groups, many of which are featured on his youtube channel.

Photo credit: Alice Qiao

Hyeree Yu

Hyeree Yu, originally from South Korea, started playing the viola at the age of eleven when she was fascinated by the viola sound in her youth symphony orchestra in Seoul. After she earned her Bachelor of Music degree at Seoul National University with Professor Eunsik Choi, her passion for music brought her to the United States in 2012. She went to the Yale School of Music, completing both a Master of Music degree and an Artist Diploma with Mr. Ettore Causa. She won the 2015 Chamber Music Competition and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. during her time at Yale. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Georgina Lucy Grosvenor Memorial Prize, which goes to the violist whose performances exhibit the highest potential for success as a soloist or chamber musician. From East to West Coast, she received an Artist Diploma at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Mr. Paul Coletti in 2017.

Ms. Yu joined the Long Beach Symphony in September of 2018. She began her orchestral career with the New West Symphony as a substitute violist in 2016 and then the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as a section violist. In 2017, she won the seat for the Fresno Philharmonic as a principal violist.

Hyeree Yu’s love for playing solo, chamber, and orchestral music led her to the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival in Maine, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Connecticut, and the Gstaad String Academy in Switzerland. She attended the Music Academy of the West as a Zarin Mehta Fellow, performing Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 with the New York Philharmonic in January 2017.

She is an avid coffee drinker and dog lover. One of her cherished outside activities include sharing classic and gospel music at the local homeless shelter and at her church.

Andrew Duckles

Canadian-born violist Andrew Duckles leads a diverse musical life as a recording artist, soloist, chamber musician, and teacher. From a very tall family of musicians, Andrew is the “runt” of the
Duckles family, standing at mere 6’4”. Formerly principal viola of the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet orchestras, Duckles now makes his home in Southern California and has just been appointed the principal violist of the Long Beach Symphony. Duckles began his orchestral career with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has made appearances as principal viola of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, among others. An enthusiastic chamber musician, Duckles appears regularly as a guest artist on a number of chamber music series throughout the United States and Europe, frequently sharing the stage with the Alexander String Quartet and the Los Angeles-based Debussy Trio. For over fifteen years, Mr. Duckles has been in high demand as a recording artist for a multitude of studio recording projects for television and motion picture soundtracks, including the recent Star Wars films.

Andrew Duckles is married to culinary genius, master educator, and French horn player extraordinaire Laura Strand. Together, they live in Long Beach, California with their two young sons, Aidan and Kiefer.

Andrew Picken

Andrew Picken (B.A. University of California at Los Angeles, M.M. Northwestern University) teaches viola at the prestigious Colburn school in Los Angeles as well as from his private studio. Mr. Picken is Principal Viola of the Pasadena Symphony, Associate Principal Viola of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Principal Viola of the Los Angeles Master Choral Orchestra. He has lent his talents to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Mr. Picken is a dedicated pedagogue. His students have matriculated in to many of the top music schools in the country including Juilliard, Oberlin Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Boston University, Colburn Conservatory, and USC. His students have won awards at numerous competitions, including the Johansen International, Mondavi Center Young Artists, Voce, Fischoff Chamber Music, Palisades Young Artists Award, and the Kiwanis Solo Competition in Los Angeles.

An avid chamber musician and founding member of the Pasadena String Quartet, Mr. Picken has performed with the Music Guild concert series in Bel Air, the Gold Coast Chamber Music Festival, the Rocky Ridge Music Festival, Chamber Music Unbound, the Green Lake Music Festival, Sunday’s Live at LACMA, Lake Chelan Bach Festival, the Nevada Chamber Music Festival, the South Bay Chamber Music Series, the Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival, the Enlightenment Chamber Music Series, and has been an invited guest artist with the Felici Piano Trio, and the LaFayette String Quartet.

Mr. Picken also served as conductor of the Rocky Ridge Music Festival in Estes Park, Colorado, and he is the recipient of two Grammy Awards (Best Classical Recording and Best Opera Album. 2009) for LA Opera’s production of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, released on DVD on the EuroArts label.

Sara Behar

Sara Behar has been a violist in the Long Beach Symphony since 1986. Her violin accomplishments include Pasadena Symphony, Tanglewood Institute, and Congress of Strings where she was concertmaster under Daniel Lewis. Her viola accomplishments include the Long Beach Opera, Pro Arte Chamber Ensemble, and solo appearances including “Harold in Italy” with the Beach Cities Symphony, and a recital with Zita Carno, former pianist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ms. Behar has studied with fine teachers including Manuel Compinsky of “The Compinsky Trio”, Glen Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and Alan De Veritch, former principal violist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Sara’s education includes California Institute of the Arts, (performance), California State University Northridge, (performance, child development), and California State University Long Beach, where she specialized in Music Therapy. Sara has been teaching violin and viola at all levels for over twenty five years, and uses her diverse education to create a unique personalized experience for her students. She has also worked as a Music Specialist in pre-schools and elementary schools in the Los Angeles area. Sara has written and composed “song stories” in which she uses the violin as her accompaniment, integrating these stories into her Music Specialty work.

Colleen Sugata

Colleen Sugata joined the Long Beach Symphony in October of 2011. She has been a resident of Los Angeles, CA since 2008, where she has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Riverside County Philharmonic. During the summers she is the principal violist of the Lyrique-en-Mer Opera Festival in Belle Île, France. Prior to moving to California, Ms. Sugata performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony for three years. She has recorded with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the Deutsche Grammophon label and the Brahms cycle with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Colleen has attended various music festivals including Aspen, Sarasota, and Round Top and was selected as a performer with the Music at Menlo Institute, where her performances were broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. She was also selected to perform Aaron Copland’s original 13 instrument version of Appalachian Spring at Carnegie Hall, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

Colleen received both her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with Jeffrey Irvine and Lynne Ramsey. Aside from performing, Colleen enjoys teaching, sewing and taking care of her rescue dog, Thomas.

Erik Rynearson

Native to southern California and dual citizen of France, Erik Rynearson has enjoyed performing across the Americas and Europe. Having earned a Master’s degree with Performer’s Certificate from Indiana University as the teaching assistant of Alan deVeritch, four years were spent in Miami Beach as a fellow of the New World Symphony. In his eleven years of professional orchestral playing, Erik has performed with the Charleston and Kansas City Symphonies as well serving as first-call substitute in the Phoenix and Detroit Symphonies. The Los Angeles Philharmonic frequently calls for substitute work. International tours include those with the New World Symphony and entertaining close to 1 million ecstatic audience members playing Star Wars in Concert.

When not wielding his 1970 Alfio Batelli viola, made for then Principal of the Philharmonic Jan Hlinka, Erik employs his Nikon to professionally capture life one frame at a time. He is a founding member of the Firebird Orchestra in Miami, plays with the IRIS Chamber Orchestra of Memphis, has been a member of the Pacific Symphony since 2010 and the Long Beach Symphony since 2011.

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