Posts tagged SF Conservatory of Music
Season finale concert features SF Symphony trumpeter Mark Inouye performing Grace Williams concerto

At its final concert of the season on June 9, Symphony Parnassus will feature guest soloist Mark Inouye performing the Grace Williams Trumpet Concerto, a piece that was new to both him and to Maestro Stephen Paulson, who came across the “hauntingly beautiful concerto” on YouTube while he was searching for newer, or less-well-known works for the orchestra to perform.   

Once Paulson found the Williams’ concerto, he asked Inouye, his colleague at the San Francisco Symphony, to be the soloist. (Inouye is principal trumpet and Paulson is principal bassoon at the Symphony.)  

This is Inouye’s first performance with Parnassus, and he looks forward to working with  Paulson. “He’s a great colleague, and I’m more than happy to do this,” Inouye said. “I am flattered that he would ask me to play the concerto with his ensemble.”

Perhaps surprisingly, one of Inouye’s biggest challenges of performing the concerto is taking the center spotlight.

“I’m used to sitting in the back of the orchestra, rather than standing in front,” Inouye said. “I can play the exact same passage in the back of the orchestra. If I have to do it standing in front, well, that’s rarefied air up there.”

But he’s ready for the task at hand. “It’s always good to go outside of your box, or expand your box,” he said. “It’s a good musical challenge.”

The fact that the concerto was unknown to both Paulson and Inouye isn’t as uncommon as one might think.

It happens often, Inouye said, when conductors or other musicians at the symphony find lesser-known pieces and re-introduce them to the public. “It’s always an incredible discovery to find these gems,” he said, “and it’s a joy going through the process of learning the concerto.”

Written in 1963, the trumpet concerto has three movements; the first two are anxious in feeling, but also have a softer lyrical side that comes as somewhat of a surprise with a trumpet, not always the quietest instrument, Inouye said. The third movement is more dance-like and spirited.

“It’s accessible for an audience,” Inouye said, and said there’s even one part that sounds a bit like John Williams’ (no relation) “Star Wars” music.

Inouye has been familiarizing himself with other Grace Williams compositions (including symphonic works, film scores, choral and chamber pieces) by watching a YouTube channel devoted to her music. She is widely regarded as one of the most influential 20th century Welsh composers.

Williams (1906-1977), was born in the coastal town of Barry, Wales, to two schoolteachers. Her father, William, was a well-respected amateur choral director who encouraged his children’s music studies; Grace, who played piano and violin, was the oldest of three children. After graduating from University College, Cardiff, she went to London and studied composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams (no relation) at the Royal College of Music. Grace Williams’ first film score (“Blue Scar,” 1949) also marked the first time a British woman had scored a film.

She was known for her love of the sea, the theater and the trumpet, which figured prominently in several of her pieces. “I found it interesting that the trumpet keeps appearing in a lot of her works throughout her career,” Inouye said.

In addition to playing with the San Francisco Symphony, Inouye keeps busy as a member of the trumpet faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

A native of Davis, Calif., Inouye attended UC Davis for two years as a civil engineering major before transferring to the Juilliard School to study trumpet. He has also played with the New World Symphony and was principal trumpet with the Charleston Symphony before joining the San Francisco Symphony in 1999. When not performing classical music, he likes to play jazz, too.

His solo work with the San Francisco Symphony includes Copland’s Quiet City,  Bach’s Cantata No. 51 and the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, to name a few. He has performed his own jazz pieces with the SFS chamber music series. He has a debut jazz CD here,

In his free time, Inouye enjoys running and surfing, and says he likes to compete against himself to better his own performances. “The competition is always there, but it’s always internal,” he said in this video produced by the San Francisco Symphony. “I’m not necessarily trying to run faster or surf a bigger wave than the guy next to me. I’m trying to surf a bigger wave than I’ve ever done before.”

In the video, he also talks about the parallels between playing in the orchestra and catching waves on a surfboard. “The excitement of catching a wave is very similar to the adrenaline rush of playing a symphony or a climactic moment in the band,” he said.

“It’s awesome. I cannot think of doing anything else.”

Symphony Parnassus in concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall, 50 Oak St., San Francisco, Calif. Also on the program is Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 and “Arthur Machen’s Childhood,” a world premiere from Symphony Parnassus resident composer Preben Antonsen.

Advance tickets are available from BrownPaper Tickets: Cost is $25 for adults; $20 for seniors and $10 for students & under 26.

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,, and can be requested by contacting him via email at

Pianist Wuu connects with deep feelings in Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody'
Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano soloist for the Symphony Parnassus June 11 concert, loves the deep feelings evoked by Rachmaninoff, the great Russian Romantic composer who also happens to be his favorite.

“I feel like I can connect with the strong emotions. I adore his heart-wrenching harmonies,” Elliot says.

Elliot, 17, lives in Fremont, Calif., and attends Valley Christian High School in San Jose. He studies piano with Yoshikazu Nagai at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Division, and when not practicing, he likes to play with gadgets and technology, and also loves to swim and play basketball. He has been studying piano since age 6.

His love of music began early: His parents told him that as a baby, he frequently slept next to the piano bench while his sister Rebecca practiced; she is now preparing to graduate with a piano degree from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

And as for Elliot, all those naps next to the piano bench, plus many years of practice have paid off.   

Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

He is excited to play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the upcoming concert. “I am ecstatic to perform with Symphony Parnassus,” he said. “I hope I will be able to share my love of music with the audience, and to inspire them too!”

“I really like Rachmaninoff's creativity throughout this piece,” Elliot says. “He uses numerous ways to vary the Paganini motive to compose unique textures and expressions in each variation.”

The Rhapsody—one of Rachmaninoff’s most popular pieces—is actually a set of 24 variations on the 24th and last of composer Paganini's Caprices for solo violin. In 2015, Elliot performed it to win the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. That achievement is one of many national and international prizes he has won in his young career, including:  

  • 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist Winner
  • 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts candidate
  • 2014 Lang Lang International Music Foundation Young Scholar (2014-2016)
  • 2016-2021 Music Teachers Association of California Young Artist Guild, the highest honor bestowed to California music students
  • Two-time first prize winner of the Pacific Musical Society Competition, whose past winners include violinist Yehudi Menuhin and pianist Leon Fleisher
Painter's use of light and color inspires composer Cwik's 'Luz Dorada'
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Q&A with Stefan Cwik, Symphony Parnassus composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, Symphony Parnassus composer-in-residence, is proud to present his latest work, Luz Dorada: Music After Three Paintings by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado in a world premiere with Symphony Parnassus.

Stefan, 30, who was named composer-in-residence in 2016, has collaborated three times before with Symphony Parnassus, premiering his Concert Dances for Orchestra, Piano Concerto, and his English horn concerto, The Sword in the Stone.

He is professor of music theory and musicianship at the San Francisco Conservatory, from which he also has a bachelor’s degree in composition. He also has a master’s in composition from The Juilliard School, where he won the orchestral composition competition twice, with his works Terpsichore and The Illusionist. 

Originally from Chicago, he now resides in the Bay Area.

How did you become acquainted with Eduardo, the artist who inspired your music? What is it about his paintings that drew you in?

Finding Eduardo's paintings was a happy accident. I was browsing through abstract art on my computer. I hadn't intended to come across a living artist since I was looking through older art from the late 1800s and early 1900s. A picture of one of Eduardo's artworks made its way into my search. That led me to his website where I learned about him as an artist and as was able to explore some of his works. I was immediately drawn in by the extraordinary use of fragmentation of forms and sensitivity to color and light. Upon reading his artistic statement, I immediately connected with him as an artist, specifically this line (taken directly from his website) "In most of my paintings I represent the human form or some sort of human element and our connection to another plane of consciousness."

Was it unusual to find inspiration in paintings? Have you done this before?

I had never before used visual art as an inspiration for a piece of music. I have always loved art museums and the process of experiencing and receiving a visual work of art but had not directly used art for my music.

Which composers inspire you and why?

I tend to listen to Igor Stravinsky, Britten, Ravel, Esa Pekka Salonen, and Thomas Adès. I like them all for different reasons, but I would have to say that what links them together is their ability to draw from the music that came before them for inspiration and innovate with an enormous creative sensibility that allows them to compose in an instantly recognizable style.

How has it been to work with Symphony Parnassus this time around?

It has been great working with Symphony Parnassus. The orchestra has been picking up the music rather quickly. The music seems to sit well with all of the instruments, which has been good to experience because it shows a general improvement in my orchestral writing. It is a very playable piece.

The challenges are always the same. Generally they are specific things such as bowing and phrasing for the strings, which is something that I consider a weak point in my orchestration skills. Although it is happening much less this time around, in the past it always takes a little bit of time to communicate the affect of the music to the players if the notated music does not communicate that obviously.

Steve helps an awful lot with this because he is such a sensitive musician that he can look at the score and understand what the underlying musical intention is. It is really an honor to work with him every time I get the chance.