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Sister soloists Starla and Valery Breshears perform Haydn, Mozart on Jan. 28 with Symphony Parnassus

Symphony Parnassus serves up a rare opportunity at our Jan. 28 concert: The chance to hear two young sisters perform separate concertos with the orchestra.

Sarah Smith, president of the Symphony Parnassus Board of Directors, said, that to her knowledge, this is the first time in the history of the orchestra that two siblings will have shared the spotlight as soloists in the same concert.

“These two young girls play at a level so far beyond their years,” she said. “Those of us in the orchestra were shocked when we heard them for the first time.”

The sisters are winners of the 2017 Symphony Parnassus / San Francisco Conservatory of Music Competition, an annual event that showcases some of the brightest upcoming talent in classical music, and have won numerous other prizes.     

Starla Breshears, 10, will perform Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major; and Valery Breshears, 8, will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major.

Starla, who studies with renowned cellist Christine Walevska, says that her performance with Parnassus will be her second time playing the entire Haydn concerto with an orchestra; she has performed separate movements with other orchestras (including one at the Bear Valley Music Festival, and with the Holy Names University Orchestra). She says she was drawn to the “deep tone” of the cello when she started playing at age 3.    

Valery is excited to perform the entire Mozart concerto with an orchestra for the first time. She has performed the first movement with two other orchestras (Fremont Symphony and Paradise Symphony Orchestra), but not the entire piece. She has been playing violin since age 2 and currently studies with William Barbini at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The sisters also perform with older brother Dustin Jr., 11, a violinist, as the Little Stars Trio, which has toured internationally to festivals and events in Mexico, Argentina and England. This past year in Los Angeles, they performed on “Little Big Shots,” (NBC, Sundays, 8 p.m.) a TV variety show hosted by Steve Harvey that showcases youth performers ranging from musical virtuosos to martial arts experts. The show taped in October and will air in Season 3 sometime this March. They also traveled in November to London to tape an appearance in the British version of the program that will air in the spring in Great Britain. Both versions of the show boast audiences of 8 million viewers in their respective countries.

The Little Stars Trio can often be found performing “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “Simple Gifts,” and other favorites (some pieces they arrange themselves, with the help of their parents) for tourists near Powell and Market streets in downtown San Francisco on most Saturdays after lessons and rehearsals at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, where all three participate in the Pre-College Program for up-and-coming classical musicians.

“I like busking,” Starla said, “because you can see people’s faces and how excited they are.”

Valery, too, likes playing for people walking by. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “It’s not like practicing, but it kind of is...It’s fun to play the pieces when you don’t have to worry if you mess up.”

The Breshears sisters live with their parents Dustin and Julie—both pianists and teachers—and four other siblings in Chico, California. Two of the three youngest, Colin, 5, and Delilah, almost 3, are already taking lessons on the violin and cello, respectively. Serenity, at 1-year-old is the youngest Breshears, will take up the violin, according to Dustin Sr.

“We're planning for Serenity to eventually inherit our 1/64 size violin that Valery and Colin started with,” he said. “Eventually, as some of the violins learn viola, we will have the right instrumentation for duos, trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets!”

It’s safe to say we can expect to hear more and more music from the talented Breshears family.

Meet our new Concertmaster
Kathleen Comalli Dillon,  Concertmaster

Kathleen Comalli Dillon, Concertmaster

Name: Kathleen Comalli Dillon

Instrument: Violin

Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA

Where you live now: Petaluma, CA

Day job: Formerly, diagnostic medical sonographer; now medical editor and patient educator from home

How are you enjoying your role as the concertmaster for Symphony Parnassus?

Playing concertmaster for SyPar is so far one of the most enjoyable and exciting jobs I've ever had. The musicians are outrageously dedicated, making time to rehearse difficult repertoire in addition to their demanding day jobs, and Stephen Paulson is all about phrasing and bringing a singing quality to the sound.

Kathleen Comalli Dillon

Kathleen Comalli Dillon

What is fun / challenging about the music on this concert program? 

This program has one of the most famous and challenging overtures in the repertoire, Rossini's “William Tell.” The strings are required to play ricochet, a type of bowing that involves absolute obedience to the laws of physics! The Barber speaks to me personally of my growing up as an only child with aunts and uncles, the sounds of our town, and the nostalgia of being loved. And the Bartok “Concerto for Orchestra” is like touring a great and mighty palace of ideas.

Do you have a favorite composer or composers? Why? 

I love so many; but I'd have to say Mozart, because every one of his works is not only perfect but ingenious and brilliant; and Verdi, because he brought so many plays and dramas to life with his brilliant and huge variety of operas. Also both composers are difficult and fun to play.

What is a memorable moment from your years of playing? 

I have a moment repeated again and again since I became a professional in the SF Ballet Orchestra when I was 19: the moment when the house lights go down and the line between our daily lives and the magic of music begins. This is more apparent in a pit orchestra, but onstage when I take the A from our oboist and shake the conductor's hand, those of us onstage and every person in the audience are committing to a journey together.  We'll be different when we return.  

Any hobbies of note? 

The NY Times Crossword Puzzle, Monday thru Wednesday; speaking French and Italian; meditation; CATS. Enough said!