Music Active Strings Instructors
Westmont Strings Instructors
An internationally recognized double bass soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist, Nico Abondolo was appointed principal double bass of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the 2011-12 season. He made his debut at age 14 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in 1983 became the first double bassist to win first place in the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva, Switzerland. He has since appeared with orchestras and in recital throughout the United States and Europe.
Mr. Abondolo regularly performs chamber music at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest and the Ojai and St. Barts festivals, and with the experimental chamber ensemble Concert Nova. Recent highlights include performances of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Schubert’s Trout Quintet with the Brentano String Quartet, John Adams’ Shaker Loops, and Tan Dun’s Quintet, the latter two with the composers conducting. He has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has toured with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Claudio Abbado, Sir Georg Solti, and Lorin Maazel.
Mr. Abondolo has premiered solo works by Sofia Gubaidulina and Henry Brant, and has received composition commissions from Concert Nova and Chamber Music Unbound. He was the double bassist for the New York-based ensemble Continuum and for eight seasons served as principal bass for San Francisco’s Grammy-nominated New Century Chamber Orchestra. He has composed for several New York and West Coast dance companies, performing with them at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Merce Cunningham Studio, and the La MaMa Experimental Theatre (New York). He was the composer for two PBS documentaries, “Half the Sky”, and “A Path Appears”. He has also served as principal bass for many motion picture composers, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, and Thomas Newman.
Maintaining a busy schedule of masterclasses at music schools throughout the country, Mr. Abondolo is currently on the faculty of Westmont College, and previously was a faculty member at the USC Thornton School of Music and UC Santa Barbara. He studied with Dennis Trembly, Peter Mercurio, and Gábor Rejt at USC; David Walter and Albert Fuller at Juilliard; and Franco Petracchi in Italy.
A native of Los Angeles, Christopher Ahn has appeared in solo and chamber music performances across the U.S. as well as abroad in Europe, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, Canada and Central America. Recent performances include solo recitals at the Brand Library and Art Center, UCLA, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and Santa Monica College. He has also performed chamber music on the Dilijan, L’Ermitage Foundation, Music Guild, Trinity Lutheran, and Chapman University concert series, and has performed numerous times for live radio broadcasts on the Sundays Live recital series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Chris has enjoyed frequent collaboration with the Lineage Dance Company, most recently presenting a performance of the Bach Cello Suites with dance choreography on the Brand Library and Art Center Dance Performance series. He has also worked closely with several Los Angeles based composers, premiering new works for solo cello and chamber ensemble on new music series throughout the Los Angeles area.
Chris has been invited to summer programs at the Aspen Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Banff Centre Masterclasses, Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, and the Rencontres Musicales Camerata Lysy in Montepulciano, Italy. He has collaborated with members of the St. Lawrence, Ysaye, and Amar string quartets, and has performed in masterclasses for such distinguished musicians as Anner Bylsma, Ralph Kirshbaum, Lynn Harrell, Rohan de Saram, Paul Katz, Raphael Wallfisch, Matt Haimovitz, Ani Kavafian, Ida Kavafian, and members of the Takacs, Cleveland and Borodin string quartets. Chris pursued his studies at UCLA, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Michigan, where his principal teachers included Antonio Lysy, Richard Aaron, Stephen Geber, and Colin Carr. He resides in Los Angeles, where he maintains an active and varied freelance career playing with orchestras, chamber ensembles, and recording for film and television. He was appointed Principal Cello of Opera Santa Barbara in 2018, and he currently serves as a member of the string faculty at Westmont College.
Jim Connolly, string bass instructor, is a composer and performer living in Santa Barbara, California. He writes music for The Gove County Philharmonic, The Gove County String Quartet and Lit Moon Theatre. He has composed for choir, musical saw, five string violin, string quartet and various chamber ensembles. He plays the double bass, saw, banjo, piano and sings. He attended New England Conservatory. Jim has received nine Independent Theater Awards, numerous commissions, grants, ASCAP Plus Awards and in 2001 was listed as one of the twenty-five most intriguing people in Santa Barbara. He has collaborated or performed with Nate Birkey, Gilles Apap, Jeff Kaiser, Brad Dutz, Headless Household, Jeff Bridges, Vinny Golia, Eugene Chadbourne, Cougar Estrada, Anna Abbey and his brother Kevin Connolly.
Marcia Dickstein, renowned harpist, is enticing new audiences to harp in chamber music and harp solo with orchestra, and inspiring composers to write new works in classical and jazz genres. As founder/artistic director of the Debussy Trio, she has performed worldwide in the United States, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan, over NPR radio and on commercial and PBS television.
Adjunct professor of harp at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Marcia holds master classes throughout the United States and maintains a private studio in Los Angeles. Her transcriptions and scholarly editions of solo and chamber music for professional and student harpists are published by Fatrock Ink.
Marcia has been featured as solo and chamber music harpist at festivals, in film and television, and as a recording artist. Her most recent recordings are “Look Ahead” and “Three by Three” (Klavier label), which feature 10 new works especially written for the Debussy Trio (Klavier label) and “Chill Dog” (Pupsnap Music).
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Isaac holds degrees from The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of Denver, Westmont College, and The Cleveland Institute of Music’s Preparatory College. He has performed with the Omaha, New World, Santa Barbara, and Yakima Symphony Orchestras. Isaac is a member of Lincoln Center’s partnership program, Lincoln Center Stage, which brings quality classical music to the open seas. He has performed over 400 concerts aboard the M.S. Westerdam and the M.S. Rotterdam ships, traveling to all corners of the globe. As a chamber musician, Isaac has performed alongside Robert Chen, Stephen Waarts, Augustin Hadelich, Simone Porter, Alex Kerr, Dr. Han Soo Kim, Jeremiah Shaw, and Jean-Michel Fonteneau. He has appeared as a soloist in Vienna’s Das MuTh Konzersaal, and The Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall. Isaac has performed at The Mozarteum, Rudolfium, Severance Hall, Harvard University, Harris Hall, throughout Italy and Germany, among many others. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School for many summers, and while there was one of 10 students awarded the Center for Orchestral Leadership Fellowship. He served in principal positions with the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Aspen Opera Center Orchestra, as well as performing with the Chamber Symphony and Festival Orchestra. Other festival appearances include The Brevard Music Festival, Stringendo School for Strings, and Credo Chamber Music Festival. He is a studio musician as well, and can be heard on anything from video game soundtracks to documentaries. Isaac has been featured as a performer on PBS Television (Colorado) in the documentary Return to Aspen, in addition to being heard many times on his childhood classical music station, WCLV-Cleveland. Isaac is on the teaching faculty at Westmont College, and is an educator with Santa Barbara Strings. He has also been a teaching-artist with Aspen Music Festival and School’s PALS Program. Isaac performs on a 1765 Gustav Helmer violin on a generous loan from the Riesenfeld family of Santa Barbara, California.
Barry Newton, a Los Angeles native, studied at the University of Portland and received his B.F.A./ M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. He has studied extensively with notable bassists including Tommy Thompson, Fred Tinsley, and Peter Rofe. His orchestral credits include Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic. Barry has worked with such eminent conductors as Leonard Bernstein, John Mauceri, John Williams, and Boris Brott. He has accompanied Yes, Chicago, Moody Blues, The Scorpions, Elton John, Brian Wilson, The Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli, among others. Barry’s dedication to contemporary performance practice has included regular premieres of new works in the Southern California area. His jazz experiences have lead him to performances with Peter Erskine, Anthony Braxton, Buddy Childers and the Dave Pell Octet. As a practicing composer and improvisor, Barry often works with various Rock/Pop projects on the west coast. His current group ‘Kiss the Frog’ is an assortment of pop, electronica, and experimental improvisation. Dedicated to music education, he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Westmont College, Pepperdine University, Ventura College, Schwab Academy of Music, and Kadima Conservatory. Barry has been the recipient of scholarship awards by the Ahmanson Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust Foundation. He currently lives with his child Hannah in Topanga, California.
Alex Park is an artist, international concert guitarist, and educator. He has played concerts throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Alex has received numerous competition awards including first place in the Thomas M. Osborn Concerto Competition. He was also a prizewinner for the Parkening International Guitar Competition, Philadelphia Classical Guitar Competition, Miami GuitArt International Competition, and Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theory Competition. In 2019, Alex released his debut album, Classical Guitar, and has received positive reviews from critics and press. Classical Guitar Magazine wrote the album is "Fantastic!" and Fanfare wrote, "a winning combination of technical assurance, versatility, and interpretive finesse."
Alex received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine University studying under Christopher Parkening, and received his Master of Music degree from California State University Fullerton studying under Andrew York. He is currently attending the University of Southern California to pursue his Doctor of Musical Arts degree studying under Scott Tennant and Adam del Monte. Alex is a recipient of the USC Thornton Ensemble Award as a member of the Park Brothers Guitar Duo with his brother Wesley.
In addition to the classical guitar, Alex has worked on film and media projects as a session guitarist and film composer. Most notably, he recorded on the guitar for the soundtrack of Lew Wallace: Shiloh Soldier, Ben Hur Bard, an Emmy Award winning documentary in the Musical Composition/Arrangement category. Alex uses and is endorsed by Augustine Strings.
Emily Sommermann, violinist, received her Master of Music Degree in violin performance from SUNY Stony Brook under the tutelage of Isidore Cohen of the Beaux Arts Trio. She has been a member of orchestras in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and Germany. In Santa Barbara she has performed as section violinist with the SB Symphony and SB Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Sommermann is the musical director and principal violinist with the Santa Barbara String Quartet performing frequently for private events. Pursuing excellence as a teacher, Emily has received training through the Suzuki Association of the Americas and attended conferences in Orff and Kodaly. She has been on the faculty of Laguna Blanca School, SB Music and Arts Conservatory, and Westmont College. Ms. Sommermann maintains her private violin studio at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara mentoring the next generation of musicians in the art of violin playing.