Posts in Interview
Violinist Sean Mori loves the challenge of Tchaikovsky’s beloved concerto
Sean Mori, violin

Sean Mori, violin

The violin cast an early spell on Sean Mori, who began taking lessons at age 3 after seeing a violinist in concert in San Francisco.

He doesn’t recall the exact details of that first experience, but he remembers the feeling: “I thought it looked cool. I wanted to play the violin,” he said. His parents listened, got him into lessons, and two years later, he gave his first solo performance.

Sean, 16, lives in Palo Alto, Calif., with his parents Takeshi and Sachiko, and younger sister Jennifer, 13, who studies the cello; neither of their parents are musicians. Sean does high-school coursework through the School of Independent Learners in Los Altos, and attends the Pre-College Program at the SF Conservatory.

He enjoys bicycle riding for a hobby, and though he admits it’s a little bit dangerous, he finds it “a good way to let off steam.”

Sean says he says he is drawn to the way music, and especially the violin, can express emotion and stories, particularly in the towering Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which he will perform with Maestro Stephen Paulson and Symphony Parnassus at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco. (Purchase Tickets)

“Tchaikovsky had the ability to put in all these different colors and conflicts, and it has so many difficult emotions intertwined,” he said.   

His appearance with Symphony Parnassus marks the first time Sean has performed with an orchestra. He is a 2018 winner of the Symphony Parnassus / San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concerto Competition.

“It’s a great honor to be selected to play,” he said. “It’s a big risk to bring in someone who has never performed the Tchaikovsky concerto with an orchestra before. I’m honored that they had the trust in me.” 

Though it’s his first time performing as soloist with an orchestra, he’s no stranger to the concert stage, having played throughout the world, from Prague to New York to Japan, and is a scholarship student of Ian Swensen and Elbert Tsai at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

This past year, he was a quarter-finalist in the under-15 division of the 2018 International Menuhin Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. He has won many first-place prizes as well: the United States International Music Competition, DVC/HNU Young Artist String Competition, Pacific Musical Society competition, Galante Music Festival, Nova Vista Concerto Competition, and was invited to perform at Steinway Society of the Bay Area’s Young Artists Concert.

Sean admits to being “a little nervous” about his upcoming performance with Symphony Parnassus, but looks forward to “showing people what I can do.”

Guest Artist: Dustin Breshears
Dustin Breshears, violin

Dustin Breshears, violin

Dustin Breshears in rehearsal

Dustin Breshears in rehearsal

Dustin Breshears 3

Dustin Breshears looks forward to performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Symphony Parnassus this coming Sunday.

It’s just the second time he will have played the concerto in concert with an orchestra, and he relishes the challenge. “You have to fit in, as well as lead the orchestra,” which is more complex than practicing with piano accompaniment or alone, he said.

Dustin, 11, is the winner of the 2018 Symphony Parnassus / San Francisco Conservatory of Music Competition, an annual event that features some of the brightest upcoming talent in classical music.

In addition to the Mendelssohn, Dustin is also performing a violin solo within Hindemith’s “Symphonia Serena” with the orchestra. (Also on the program is Khachaturian’s Waltz from “Masquerade.”)

The concert, led by guest conductor Emil de Cou, is on Sunday, Nov. 18 at the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco. (The concert is at 3 p.m. and tickets are available here.)

Symphony Parnassus has the honor of once again showcasing a talented member of the Breshears family; last season, Dustin’s younger sisters Starla, 10, a cellist, and Valery, 9, a violinist, both had won the Parnassus / SFCM competition and were soloists with the orchestra, performing Haydn and Mozart concertos, respectively.

“I was sort of jealous,” Dustin says with a smile, though he did get to perform with his sisters during an encore at the January concert. The trio of young musicians perform as Little Stars Trio, and frequently busk for tourists in San Francisco’s Union Square.

The trio has toured internationally to festivals and events in Mexico, Argentina and England. This past year in Los Angeles, they performed on “Little Big Shots,” an NBC-TV variety show hosted by Steve Harvey that showcases youth performers ranging from musical virtuosos to martial arts experts. The show aired in March this past year.

 Dustin and his sisters also participate in the Pre-College Program for up-and-coming classical musicians at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and all attend the Crowden School, a music school for grades 4-8 in Berkeley.

The Breshears parents Dustin Sr. and Julie—both pianists and teachers—along with their six children formerly resided in Chico but relocated to San Pablo this past summer to be closer to music opportunities in the Bay Area. Two of the three youngest, Colin, 6, and Delilah, 3, are already taking lessons on the violin and cello, respectively. Serenity, at 19 months is the youngest Breshears, will take up the violin, according to Dustin Sr.

Dustin Jr. says he likes living in the Bay Area and being close to all of the music opportunities for his growing career. He’s enjoying his new school and having fun at the conservatory, where in addition to studying violin performance, he is learning to compose. He also enjoys drawing when not playing the violin.

This Sunday’s concert will be special for Dustin, not only because of his performance of the Mendelssohn concerto, but because it is his 12th birthday. Happy birthday, Dustin!

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

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.