Composer Profile: Stefan Cwik
 Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence for Symphony Parnassus, studied composition and guitar performance with Dusan Bogdanovic, and composition with David Conte, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He studied with composer Michel Merlet at the European American Musical Alliance summer program in Paris, France, and completed his graduate studies in composition with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School in New York.

Bassoonist Paula Brusky premiered Cwik’s Eight Miniatures for Chamber Ensemble (Hommage a Stravinsky), a winner of the 2010 Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition. It was also was premiered at the 2011 International Double Reed Society Conference. It is published by TrevCo Publishing with a recording on the MSR classics label. Cwik’s piece Acrobats for four-hand piano, commissioned by the ZOFO duet of San Francisco, and winner of the 2013 BMI Student composer award, will be recorded and released on the Sono Luminus label.

While at Juilliard, Stefan won the Orchestral Composition Competition for two consecutive years. His orchestral work Terpsichore was premiered and recorded by the Juilliard Orchestra, and was given honorable mention at the 2012 Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute. The Illusionist, his second winning piece, was given honorable mention at the 2013 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

Stefan has already collaborated four times with Maestro Stephen Paulson and Symphony Parnassus, premiering his Concert Dances for Orchestra (2009), his Piano Concerto with soloist Scott Foglesong (2011), his English Horn concerto The Sword in the Stone featuring soloist Russ DeLuna (2016), and Luz Dorada (Golden Light) in 2017. His final commission as composer-in-residence for Symphony Parnassus is Relics: Dances for Percussion Quartet and Orchestra, to be premiered on today’s program.

Stefan Cwik is currently professor of music theory and musicianship at SFCM. Stefan is a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). Examples of his music can be found on his website, www.StefanCwik.com, and can be requested by contacting him via email at stcwik@gmail.com.

On fourth return as soloist, Parnassus favorite Alina Ming Kobialka to play Brahms Violin Concerto
  Alina Mink Kobialka, violin

Alina Mink Kobialka, violin

Symphony Parnassus is thrilled to welcome back one of our favorite soloists, Alina Ming Kobialka, who will perform the Brahms Violin Concerto on March 18 with the orchestra.

“Alina is simply amazing,” said Symphony Parnassus Board President Sarah Smith. “You can hear right off the bat that she is destined for a great career. We are so lucky she had time in her busy schedule to perform with us.”

A native of San Francisco, Alina looks forward to returning home from college in Chicago. “I am very excited to come back to my hometown and play with Symphony Parnassus again,” she said. “I have many fond memories from the previous times. I hope that the orchestra is as excited as I am; I have no doubt that this will be a fantastic concert.”

This is Alina’s fourth concert with Parnassus; her prior appearances were in 2010 (at age 13), 2013 and 2015, performing the Barber concerto, the Sibelius concerto and Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, respectively. Playing the Brahms this time around is an opportunity she has sought for years. 

“This is one of the most collaborative violin concertos, as it involves a lot of chamber music between the soloist and the orchestra,” she said. “Brahms is also one of my favorite composers in general, and I am so excited to perform this amazing piece.”

She loves all types of music, but Romantics—like the moody and spirited Brahms—are her favorites. “I feel that I am a very emotional player, and that type of music resonates with me the most,” she said.

At just 20, Alina already has an impressive career as a soloist and her impressive list of accomplishments includes:

  • Debut with the San Francisco Symphony at the age of 14 for their 100th Anniversary Reunion Concert
  • Touring with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in Europe
  • Second prize at the inaugural 2017 Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition as the youngest competitor
  • Performing in the Shanghai International Arts Festival Gala Concert
  • Attending the 2017 Marlboro Music Festival as its youngest member
  • Performing with the Macau Youth Symphony Orchestra for their New Year’s Concert in 2015
  • Chosen to go the Marlboro National Tour in 2019 and 2020

Alina grew up in a musical family and as a child, certainly heard a lot of the violin repertoire being played: She is the daughter of San Francisco Symphony second violinist Chun Ming Mo and retired SFS principal second violinist Daniel Kobialka. 

As a young child, Alina started playing violin for fun, and her parents saw her potential and she began more intense lessons. “Even though I was not a fan of the practicing part as a kid, I grew to love my instrument and I would not give it up for anything,” she said.

She has studied violin for 16 years and attended Colburn School Academy. Her first teacher was Li Lin and she continued to study with Wei He as a part of the San Francisco Pre-College Division.

Alina now studies music at DePaul University, but will transfer in the fall to Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio to continue studies with renowned violinist and teacher Ilya Kaler.

  Alina Ming Kobialka, violin

Alina Ming Kobialka, violin

  Alina Ming Kobialka, violin

Alina Ming Kobialka, violin

SF Symphony trombonist Timothy Higgins enjoys transition from performer to composer
Higgins-headshot1.jpg

Q&A

with Timothy Higgins

1) What was the inspiration for Sinfonietta?  

I came up with the idea to write this piece as a challenge to myself.  Since the majority of my musical career is performing in an orchestra playing symphonies, I thought it would be a good exercise to try to write something in a symphonic form.  I chose to write for brass and percussion because that is what I am most familiar with, being a trombonist myself!  I drew inspiration from composers like Shostakovich and Bruce Broughton to come up with the harmonic and formal material of the Sinfonietta. 

2) Has this piece been publicly performed before?  

The piece has been performed twice: by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music brass ensemble and the Chicago Symphony Brass section.

3) What inspired you to become a composer after becoming a professional trombonist?  

Music performance is a very specific side of the orchestral world.  Arguably, it is the midpoint between the composer and the audience.  What the composer feels and how the audience feels listening to the composer are all that matter in the end.  Performers are just skilled translators. I chose to explore composition in order to experience another side of the music process. In doing so, it informs my views of music performance.

4) How does it feel to have your SFS colleague—Symphony Parnassus Maestro Stephen Paulson, also principal bassoon for SFS—conducting your work?  

It's a thrill to have such support from Steve Paulson.  We have a very strong community in the SFS, and I am very touched that Steve would give me the opportunity to have my music heard on his program.  

Composer Profile: Timothy Higgins

Composer Timothy Higgins’ piece, Sinfonietta, for brass ensemble and percussion, will open the March 18 concert with Symphony Parnassus. Higgins, principal trombone with the San Francisco Symphony, in the Robert L. Samter Chair since 2008, is a Houston, Texas, native who began composing several years ago for players in the orchestra and other musician friends. His compositions and arrangements have been heard in San Francisco Symphony chamber and holiday concerts.

“I feel like my job as a composer is to create something that will hopefully have its own life afterwards,” Timothy said. “I compare it to parenting: I’m ‘raising’ this piece, then at a certain point you cut the cord and let it go, and hope that it has everything it needs to survive.” 

Prior to his post in San Francisco, Timothy was the acting second trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.  He has a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Northwestern University and has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, Grand Teton Music Festival, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Washington National Opera, and Baltimore Symphony. 

In addition to his busy performing career, Timothy is a sought-after arranger of music. He was the sole arranger of the National Brass Ensemble’s Gabrieli recording. Additionally, he has arranged music for CT3 Trombone Quartet, National Brass Quintet, Bay Brass, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Brass Ensemble. He has also composed works for brass instruments in solo and chamber settings.

His arrangements and compositions have been performed by the Washington Symphonic Brass, the Bay Brass, the San Francisco Symphony brass section, the Chicago Symphony brass section, the Los Angeles Philharmonic brass section, and numerous university brass ensembles . His arrangements and original compositions are available through his publishing company, 415Music.

As a teacher, Timothy been a faculty member of the Pokorny Seminar since 2012, and is currently on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at Northwestern University. He has also led masterclasses in Japan, China, Canada and the United States, including classes at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, the New World Symphony, and the Juilliard School of Music.

In 2005, Timothy won the Robert Marstellar Solo Trombone Competition, as well as the ITA Trombone Quartet competition with CT3.  While attending the Tanglewood Music Center, Timothy was awarded the Grace B. Upton Award for Outstanding Fellow. In 2013, Timothy released his solo CD, Stage Left which is available from his website: www.415-music.com