Four women washing blood out of rags in a bathroom; Stravinsky in an abandoned warehouse; a violinist cutting himself out of duct tape with a razor; a lost John Adams suite at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Conductor and composer Christopher Rountree is standing at the intersection of classical music, new music, performance art, and pop. Mr. Rountree is the founder, conductor, and creative director of the path breaking Los Angeles chamber orchestra wild Up. The group started in 2010 with no funding and no musicians, driven only by Mr. Rountree’s vision of a world-class orchestra that creates visceral, provocative experiences that are unmoored from classical traditions.
“For most people, programming and conducting are about restraint, intellect. I want to get rid of restraint: I want to tear the thing’s guts out. I want to go all the way there,” Mr. Rountree says. “I want to empower musicians. I want to energize an audience. It’s not that I’m a ‘conduit for the score’; everyone in the hall is a part of a circuit that connects the conductor, the musicians, the score and the listeners. A concert shouldn’t leave people when people leave the concert hall.”
This year, Mr. Rountree makes his Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, and Atlanta Opera debuts, returns to the Music Academy of the West, conducts the Interlochen World Youth Orchestra on the New York Philharmonic’s 2016 Biennial, joins Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner with wild Up at the Laguna Beach Music Festival, and conducts Diavolo’s new show “L’Espace du Temps: Glass, Adams, and Salonen.” As a composer, his recent premieres and commissions include a new piece for The Crossing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a re-orchestration of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Foreign Bodies, a choral work for Björk’s choir Graduale Nobili in Reykjavik, Iceland, and a piece for Jennifer Koh on the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial.
Last year, Mr. Rountree founded an education intensive with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, continued an education partnership at the Colburn School, and taught at Bard College’s Longy School. He joined the production company Chromatic, conducted Opera Omaha performing John Adams’ A Flowering Tree, and started a three-year stint as guest conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He made his San Francisco Symphony debut in SoundBox in April 2015. He has also been tapped to curate and create events for contemporary art institutions including the Getty Museum, MCA Denver, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and UCLA’s Hammer Museum, where wild Up was in residence.
Barbara Bogatin joined the SFS in 1994. Previously, she served as principal cello with the Milwaukee and New Jersey symphony orchestras, and she performed frequently with the New York Philharmonic for ten years. A native of Santa Rosa, she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. Along with her husband, neuroscientist Clifford Saron, she frequently leads workshops on meditation and music practice. She has also served as a mentor for the SFS Community of Music Makers program.
Robin Sutherland, occupant of the Jean & Bill Lane Chair, studied with Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School and with Paul Hersh at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While still an undergraduate there, he was appointed Principal Keyboards of the San Francisco Symphony by Seiji Ozawa. Mr. Sutherland was for thirty seasons co-director of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival in Colorado. A frequent soloist with the Orchestra, his harpsichord playing was featured in the San Francisco Symphony’s performances of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D major in October 2014. A re-mastered edition of Robin Sutherland’s 1996 recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations was released last fall on SFS violinist Sarn Oliver’s SarnWorks label. This limited edition release is available at the San Francisco Symphony Store. Mr. Sutherland subsequently commissioned Volante (2012), a three-movement suite for clarinet and piano.
Nicholas Pavkovic received a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in mathematics and a master’s degree in composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), where he studied with Elinor Armer. Mr. Pavkovic has scored more than two dozen narrative features and shorts, and was named a Sundance Composers Lab fellow in 2008. His 2008 Concertino for Piano and Percussion won the grand prize in the Percussive Arts Society composition competition and was premiered by the SFCM Percussion Ensemble. He is active in the planning and administration of the school's annual Hot Air Festival, which hosted the premiere of his chamber opera, Sredni Vashtar, in 2010. In 2011, SFS Principal Viola Jonathan Vinocour and SFS Principal Keyboards Robin Sutherland premiered Mr. Pavkovic's Viola Rhapsody.
Linda Lukas joined the SFS flute section in 1990 and is occupant of the Alfred & Dede Wilsey Chair. She holds degrees from Ohio State University, the University of Iowa, and the École Normale de Musique in Paris. She previously served as principal flute with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra and was a member of the San Diego Opera Orchestra. Ms. Lukas has been principal flute of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in Idaho since 1996, and she is on the faculty of San Francisco State University. She has also served as a mentor for the SFS Community of Music Makers program.
David Goldblatt, occupant of the Christine & Pierre Lamond Second Century Chair, joined the SFS cello section in 1978, having previously played in the Pittsburgh Symphony. Mr. Goldblatt has also been a cellist with the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia (now the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia) and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. He graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. He has also served as a mentor for the SFS Community of Music Makers program.
Gwendolyn Mok studied at the Juilliard School of Music, Yale University, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and has appeared as a soloist with major symphony orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic, among others. A regular guest of the Symphony Silicon Valley, Ms. Mok is also Associate Professor and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at San Jose State. She records for Nonesuch/Elektra, Musical Heritage Society, Cala Records, and EMI, and her recordings are broadcast regularly all over the world as well as locally on KDFC and on Sacramento Capitol Public Radio.
Jeffrey Anderson joined the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Tubist in 2002. Prior to joining the SFS, he held positions with the New Mexico Symphony and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. He is currently on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he teaches tuba and coaches chamber music. He studied at Indiana University and the Arizona State University.
Olive Mitra, narrator, is a Bay Area musician, composer, and actor. He is currently composing music for the California Shakespeare Theater’s upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing, and he has composed and performed original music for the company’s recent touring production of The Tempest. As an actor, he most recently played “The Old One” in the We Players 2015 production of Ondine, and he has performed with San Francisco Playhouse (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), Shotgun Players (Beardo, Sea of Reeds, and Daylighting), Killing My Lobster, and Speechless, an improvisation PowerPoint-based comedy show. Mr. Mitra composes for and leads The Eggplant Casino, a theatrically-driven, genre bending cabaret band and he is the bassist and singer for the Freeze, an improvisational hip hop group performing monthly with the Bay Area chapter of the national literary show, Mortified.
Jesse R. Fleming lives and works in Los Angeles. He has exhibited internationally in public spaces, and non-profit and commercial galleries, and in art institutions such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Creative Time in New York, the National Film Museum of Frankfurt, Germany, the University of Austin, Texas, the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles, UCLA, and 356 Mission Road Los Angeles. His work is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul Turkey, and he was voted as one of the top ten artists of 2014 in Artforum Magazine. Mr. Fleming also has more than a decade of meditation training and practice and holds a teaching degree from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
The artist offers this statement:
I’m interested in an artistic practice, which through its design, elicits concentrated states of awareness leading to self-realization. I’m influenced by my exposure to meditation practices in which the user is given tools [technologies] that they can utilize to explore themselves, their world, perception, and relation to other through direct experience. In adopting this model, I see the potential to transmute our perceived boundary between self and other—to lower that conditioned perception long enough to have one of those ah-ha moments of here it all is!—and to realize that maybe there never really was a wall at all.
Lewis Pesacov is a musician, composer, and producer based in Los Angeles. As a composer, he is inspired by the transcendent potential in sounds. His works have been featured in festivals, museums, and galleries including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the 2013 Biennial of the Americas in Denver, and in performances by the Colorado Symphony and at Machine Project in Los Angeles with the Calder Quartet. His work has also been performed internationally at the Darmstadt Ferienkursen and the Trossingen Conservatory of Music in Germany, the Dissonanz Festival in Switzerland, and by the Orchestre de Sceince-Poiltiques Paris. In 2015, Mr. Pesacov was a guest composer for Los Angeles-based opera company The Industry's critically acclaimed mobile opera, Hopscotch. In 2012, his chamber opera The Edge of Forever, inspired by the ending of the Mayan long count calendar, was performed by Los Angeles chamber music ensemble wild Up, conducted by Christopher Rountree, at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles.
Adam Larsen is a filmmaker and projection designer. His work has been seen in Hal Prince’s LoveMusik on Broadway; The Gospel at Colonus at the Athens, Edinburgh, and Spoleto festivals; The Wind Up Bird Chronicle at the Singapore and Edinburgh festivals; Brief Encounters and My Fair Lady at the Shaw Festival; The Women of Brewster Place at Alliance Theatre and Arena Stage; Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and Native Guard at Alliance Theatre; big at Atlanta Ballet; Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and Balletlujah at Alberta Ballet; Janáček’s From the House of the Dead at Canadian Opera; Lily Plants a Garden at Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; Saariaho’s Maa with Atlanta Symphony and GloAtl; Adams’s A Flowering Tree and Handel’s Agrippina at Opera Omaha; Handel’s Semele with Pacific Musicworks; Quartet at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Seed at Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; Cage’s Second Hand and Foss’s Phorion with New World Symphony; Black Whole at Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center and Moog Music; and Peter Grimes, Peer Gynt, and Debussy’s Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, as well as several SoundBox performances with the San Francisco Symphony. Mr. Larsen holds a BFA in cinematography from North Carolina School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical aired on the PBS series POV.
Pablo Santiago is the Winner of the Stage Raw Award 2015 for Best Lighting Design for his work on The Brothers Size at Fountain Theater. He has been nominated for the Ovation Award and for the LA Weekly Award. His designs have been seen at ODC in San Francisco, and at Teatro Brava, Su Teatro in Denver, LATC, MOCA-Geffen, the Broad Museum, REDCAT, COC Performing Arts Center, and the Broad Theater among others. Recent projects include collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of their Green Umbrella project (with Chromatic Productions) and in Falla’s El amor brujo, with Gustavo Dudamel and choreographer Siudy Garrido at Disney Hall; La Olla with the Latino Theater Company at Getty Villa in Los Angeles; Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage in Washington DC; Los Atlantis with the Future of Storytelling, a collaboration between Google and REMAP/UCLA; and the ongoing installation Pearls of the Planet, at the Annenberg Space for Photography for Explore.org. Upcoming projects include Missy Mazzoli’s opera Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia.