Posts tagged Herbst Theatre
Violinist Vivian Ling finds friendship amid music in her adopted home of San Francisco
Vivan Ling, violin

Vivan Ling, violin

Imagine being barely in your teens, and traveling halfway around the world by yourself to live in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language.

Five years ago, that’s what faced Boxianzi “Vivian” Ling, 19, when she left China to come to the U.S., continuing her violin studies at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts in San Francisco, and graduating from high school at San Domenico High School in San Anselmo.

“When I first got here, I was alone and lonely,” she said. “I feel much better now. I can talk to people. I have a lot of friends and I play in an orchestra.”

Many of those friends and colleagues are her fellow musicians at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is a freshman studying violin performance with teachers Wei He (who acted as her guardian when she first moved here), and Ian Swensen.

Vivian Ling in rehearsal

Vivian Ling in rehearsal

On March 19, Vivian—winner of the 2016 Parnassus–San Francisco Conservatory of Music Competition—will perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major with Symphony Parnassus. 

With its lyrical melodies and dramatic passages, the Beethoven is a beloved concerto that presents plenty of challenges for its soloist. “It looks simple, but it’s very hard to control everything technically or emotionally,” Vivian said. She has played it once before, and estimates that she will probably spend between three and six hours a day practicing for the concert.

Vivian looks forward to the concert; it is just her second time performing with a full orchestra. “I’m really excited to play with Symphony Parnassus,” she said.

Vivian was born in Hunan province in southern China, and began studying violin at age 5. She said that “right away” her teacher knew she had a gift, and told her parents to send her to Shanghai or Beijing to study music.

Her parents stayed behind in Hunan because of their jobs, but she left home at age 7 with her grandmother to live in Shanghai, where she attended a prestigious elementary school affiliated with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. At age 12, she was featured on China National TV playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto; she has also soloed with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra.

Her musical background comes from both sides of the family: Her mother “plays a little piano,” and has taught music; her father likes to sing and is a music lover who played a lot of classical music recordings when she was growing up. Mozart is her favorite composer because “it reminds me of my childhood in China. My dad liked to play recordings and Mozart was his favorite.”

The musical lineage goes further back to her grandmother, who was a dancer, and a grandfather who was a conductor who played a Chinese instrument similar to a small violin.

Winner of the Young Artists Concerto Competition with Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra in 2012, Vivian served as concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2014-2016. She participated in the SFSYO European tour, performing in the Berlin Philharmonie and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.  

'Awaken to the joy' of Mahler with singer Silvie Jensen
Silvie Jensen, mezzo soprano

Silvie Jensen, mezzo soprano

Mezzo soprano Silvie Jensen always knew that she wanted to be a singer, and recalls knowing as early as age 4 or 5. “The voice is everyone’s first instrument, and the depth of emotion one can express with it is what drew me to singing,” she says.

Silvie will perform in the finale of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 (the song, Das himmlische Leben, which presents a child’s vision of heaven), and in his Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) four-song cycle at Symphony Parnassus’ season-opening concert on Sunday, Nov. 6 (3 p.m.) at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

“I love this music very much for the beauty of the melodies,” she says, “and for the depth of feeling — sad, happy, loving and tender, harsh and wounded, optimistic, yet despairing…and for its masterful use of the colors of the orchestra. I feel ecstatic being able to sing it.”

Silvie says she feels honored to perform with Symphony Parnassus. “I hope our performance moves people deeply,” she says. “The last line of (Mahler’s) Fourth Symphony says ‘The voices of the angels stir the senses, so that everyone awakens in joy.’ I hope both audience and performers will be so stirred, that we will all awaken into joy together!”

A native of Hollister, Calif., she currently lives in San Francisco, after having moved back from New York City last year to be closer to family and to participate in the Bay Area’s vibrant arts scene. She has sung with San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera, plus she has performed with many opera companies and symphonies in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and on tour and at festivals in Canada, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

She began singing seriously at age 10 and later went to Columbia University and also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College of Music in New York. A highly sought oratorio soloist, she won 2nd place in the 2014 Oratorio Society of New York Solo Competition, and that year also made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in a sold-out concert of Handel’s Messiah.

Cello 'a good fit' for Elena Ariza
Elena Ariza, soloist

Elena Ariza, soloist

Cupertino teen to perform Dvořák concerto on March 20

The cello—beautiful but unwieldy—seems like an unusual instrument for a child to start playing when she is barely out of diapers.

But when you grow up in a musical family and they need a cellist for the piano trio, why wait?

Elena Ariza

Elena Ariza

Elena Ariza, now 17, began cello lessons when she was just 4 years old.

It turns out her mom, Nagisa, a professional pianist and piano teacher, wanted Elena to join her and Elena’s older brother Yujin, a violinist, in a trio, so Elena began lessons. She seemed to have found her instrument right away.  

“I think it really fits me,” she says. “I like the register of the instrument…I guess the cello is more like human voice. It speaks to me more.”

Elena is due to graduate in June from Menlo School in Atherton, Calif., and has been very busy this winter, flying across the country from one music school to the next for a half-dozen auditions to determine where she will advance her already impressive music career.   

On March 20 (3 p.m. at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco), she will share the stage with Symphony Parnassus to perform what she calls the “king of all cello concertos,”—the Dvořák Cello Concerto.

“I really love how it expresses everything from noble character to depression and mourning,” she said, “and how it has a lot of variation inside the concerto.”

She is thrilled to be performing with Symphony Parnassus. “It’s a really great honor to be given this opportunity,” she said. “It’s not often as a high-schooler that you get to perform solos with an orchestra.”

This is her fourth performance of the Dvořák piece.

Elena—winner of the 2015 Parnassus-San Francisco Conservatory of Music Competition—has won many other prizes, including the Music Teachers National Association’s California State Competition, Menuhin-Dowling Competition, and the Diablo Valley Orchestra and South Valley Symphony Concerto Competition. She studies cello with Eric Sung in the SFCM Pre-College Program, and plays with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.  

As a chamber musician, Elena plays in the Cambiata String Quartet, which was featured on the NPR radio program “From the Top,” and won first place in the Sacramento State Chamber Music Competition in 2015.

Elena lives in Cupertino with her parents, who emigrated from Japan in 1993 to the South Bay and have been there ever since. Her dad, Michiharu, is a software engineer, and, like his musical wife, seems to have passed down his gifts to his children: son Yujin, 21, has a computer science degree (from Columbia University) and is now studying for a master’s degree in violin performance at Julliard School of Music; Elena, in addition to her musical interests, lists computer science as her favorite subject at school. “I really enjoy coding,” she says. “It feels like a type of puzzle-solving. I get addicted when trying to figure out a glitch in a program.”

She shows equal excitement for cello playing, especially when it involves performing with an orchestra. “It’s very exhilarating,” she said. “Sitting in front of orchestra, I feel like there is this great powerhouse behind me. It’s always a great experience to collaborate with orchestra and conductor.”

Q&A with Hope Briggs, Nov. 22nd Concert Soprano Soloist
Hope Brigss,  Soprano

Hope Brigss, Soprano

Soprano Hope Briggs, a Bay Area favorite, joins Symphony Parnassus at Sunday’s (Nov. 22) concert to sing Samuel Barber’s heartfelt piece, Knoxville: Summer 1915. We wanted to learn a bit more about Hope, and chatted with her in this Q&A.


Hometown: Jersey City, N.J.

Home: My family relocated to San Francisco when I was 5. So I guess you can say that I really am a San Franciscan. 

When did you realize you wanted to be an opera singer? 

I was studying voice as a music major at CSU Fullerton. I was actually interested in musical theater, contemporary Christian music or jazz, but the emphasis of the program was classical. To my amazement, after my first semester, I was told by the voice faculty that I “had the goods for a professional career in opera," and the rest is history!

Favorite opera role and why? 

I feel a special connection with the character Aida, and my voice just seems to know where to go naturally when I am singing the role. 

What makes Knoxville a special piece for you?

Like Aida, I feel a special connection with Knoxville. I love the text, and how atmospheric it is. The orchestration, paired with the vocal line, helps to transport not only the singer, but it is my hope that the audience is also transported back a time when life was more simple. There is such humanity in the piece. It truly is one of the most beautiful works I have ever heard, let alone performed.